Another unprovoked defence
September 11 was a busy day in history. And as I mentioned in last year’s item for that date, many of them were things Osama bin Laden was bitter about, including the beginning of the end of the 1683 Ottoman siege of Vienna. Evidently he felt that a desperate Christian counterattack against Muslim aggression was a classic unprovoked assault. So how about the end of the siege of Malta?
Yes, also September 11. 1565 this time. And another Christian stronghold under siege by the Ottomans in the name of Allah. Malta was held by the Knights Hospitaller, the same ones who in this July 23’s feature beat the Beylik of Aydin in 1319, a distinctly temporary victory. They had also been driven from Rhodes by, who else, Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in 1522. In 1530 they set up on Rhodes and guess who showed up saying hey, it should be ours, it could be ours, give it to us, it used to be a mosque or something, God said to attack you as He so dependably does for us.
Right. The Ottomans. Still under Suleiman, and still seeking to convert by sword rather than word or example. But this time they didn’t win. The siege lasted over 3 months, from May 18 to September 11. And it was fought by a mighty Ottoman force, tens of thousands strong, one of the largest Armadas since the end of the Roman Empire, against the usual ragtag bunch of knights errant, local militia and in this case Imperial Spanish forces, (yeah, for once I’m praising them reasonably wholeheartedly), maybe 6,000 in total, half of them locals.
It was a scary business and much watched; Queen Elizabeth I of England wrote at the time that “If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom.” But “the Turks” did not prevail.
They didn’t give up either. They kept attacking including the naval assault on the European coast of the Mediterranean that was defeated by the usual ragtag bunch at Lepanto in 1571. And of course they were moving by land toward Vienna until they were defeated by the usual ragtag bunch there in 1683.
Perhaps some would suggest that I am harping and seek to turn the conversation back to the Crusades, an unprovoked attempt to regain holy places the Muslims had, um, seized by force on the grounds that the Temple Mount used to be a mosque or something so God said to attack. But don’t you find that there are a surprising number of such incidents?