1694-1778 Voltaire.

The works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) online

. (page 19 of 19)
Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireThe works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) → online text (page 19 of 19)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Leopold never risked anything in the wars which
he waged from his closet against Louis XIV. Ger-
many and its allies bore all the burden, and
defended his hereditary dominions ; while, on the
side of Hungary and the Turks, there was nothing
to be expected but trouble and danger. The Hun-
garians were only the remains of a once numerous
nation, that survived the destruction of civil war,
or the sabre of the Ottomans. They, sword in hand,
tilled the soil which was still wet with the blood of
their ancestors. The lords of these unhappy can-
tons endeavored, at one and the same time, to defend
their privileges against the authority of their king,
and their liberty against the Turk, who, whilst he
protected, destroyed the country. The Turks acted
in Hungary exactly as the French and Swedes had
done in Germany; but the Turks were more dan-
gerous, and the Hungarians more unfortunate than
the Germans.

One hundred thousand Turks march, in 1663,
toward Neuhausel. It is true that they were van-
quished, the year after, near St. Gotthard, on the
Raab, by the famous Montecuculi. This victory is
much boasted of, but was certainly far from being
decisive. What was the consequence of this victory,
but a shameful treaty, by which Transylvania, and

Hungary and the Turks. 305

all the territory of Neuhausel is yielded to the Turks,
who raze to the ground the fortifications of the
neighboring citadels ? The Turks give Transylvania
to Abassi, or rather settle him in it, and still devas-
tate Hungary, notwithstanding the treaty.

Leopold at that time had no child but the arch-
duchess, who was afterward electress of Bavaria;
and the Hungarian lords have some thoughts of
choosing a king of their own nation, should Leopold
die. Their projects, their steadiness in supporting
their rights, and their conspiracies, cost Serini, Fran-
gipani, Nadasti, and Tattenback, their heads.

The Imperialists seize on the castles of all who had
befriended these unfortunate men. The great digni-
ties of palatine of Hungary, judge of that kingdom,
and of the ban of Croatia, are suppressed, and the
form of justice gives countenance to rapine. This
excess of severity drives them at first into consterna-
tion, afterward into despair. Emerick Tekeli puts
himself at the head of the malcontents, and all Upper
Austria is in a flame.

Tekeli treats with the Porte, at which time the
court of Vienna soothes the malcontents of Hun-
gary. She re-establishes the office of palatine, con-
firms the privileges for which they had fought, and
promises to restore the estates that had been confis-
cated; but this condescension, after so much
severity, wears the appearance of a snare. Tekeli
believes there is more to be got by adhering to the

Turkish than to the imperial court. He is made
Vol. 33 20

306 Annals of the Empire.

prince of Hungary by the Turks, on condition of
paying a tribute of forty thousand sequins. In the
year 1682, Tekeli, assisted by some troops under the
command of the pasha of Buda, ravages Silesia ; and
the pasha takes Tokai and Eperies, whilst the sultan,
Mahomet IV., prepares the most formidable arma-
ment that the Ottoman Empire had ever made
against the Christians.

We do not see how the emperor could have
opposed the Turks, had they taken this step before
the Treaty of Nimeguen ; seeing after that his resist-
ance was not very great.

The grand vizier, Kara Mustapha, traverses Hun-
gary with above two hundred and fifty thousand
foot, thirty thousand spahis, with baggage and artil-
lery in proportion to so great a multitude. He drives
Charles V., duke of Lorraine, everywhere before
him, and lays siege to Vienna, unresisted.


This siege of Vienna ought to demand the atten-
tion of posterity. This town had been in some meas-
ure the capital of the Roman Empire, and the
residence of ten emperors of the house of Austria
successively; yet it was neither strong nor large.
Had this capital been taken, no place between it and
the Rhine could have held out. Vienna and its sub-

The Siege of Vienna. 307

urbs contained about one hundred thousand citizens ;
two-thirds of whom, at least, inhabited the suburbs,
which were entirely defenceless. Kara Mustapha
advanced upon the right of the Danube, followed by
three hundred and thirty thousand men, including
all that attended this formidable expedition. It is
pretended that it was the grand vizier's design to
take Vienna for himself, and make it the capital of
a new kingdom, independent of his master. Tekeli,
with the Hungarian malcontents, marched on the
other side of the river Danube. The whole kingdom
of Hungary was lost, and Vienna threatened on
every side. Duke Charles of Lorraine had not above
twenty-four thousand fighting men to oppose the
Turks, who hasten their march. A slight combat
ensues at Petronella, not far from Vienna, which
serves only to diminish the prince's already weak

On July 7, the emperor Leopold ; the empress, his
mother-in-law ; the empress, his wife ; the arch-
dukes, the archduchesses, and all their household,
quit Vienna, and retire to Linz. Two-thirds of the
inhabitants follow the court in despair. There is
nothing to be seen but fugitives, equipages, and car-
riages laden with movables ; which last fall into the
hands of the Tartars. The retreat of the emperor
to Linz brings with it only terror and confusion.
The court does not think itself safe there. It flies
from Linz to Passau. The consternation at Vienna
increases. The suburbs are burned, with all the

308 Annals of the Empire.

houses of pleasure ; the body of the town is hastily
fortified and supplied with ammunition and warlike
stores. They were not at all prepared when the
Turks opened the trenches ; which they did on
July 17, in the suburb of St. Ulric, fifty paces from
the counterscarp.

The count of Starhemberg, governor of the town,
had seventeen thousand men in garrison, of whom
there were not above eight thousand effective. Such
of the citizens as remained in Vienna, and even the
students of the university, were armed. The pro-
fessors and scholars mounted guard, and their major
was a physician.

To complete the misfortune, they are in want of
money, and find the raising of one hundred thousand
rix-dollars very difficult.

The duke of Lorraine had vainly endeavored to
preserve a correspondence between the town and his
little army ; but all he was able to. do was to cover
the emperor's retreat. He was obliged to repass
the Danube on bridges thrown over it for that pur-
pose, and was far north of the town, while the Turks
surrounding it pushed their trenches in open day.
He makes head against Tekeli's Hungarians, and
protects Moravia; but Moravia as well as Vienna
seems near falling into the hands of the Turks.

The emperor presses the assistance of Bavaria,
Saxony and the circles ; but above all of John Sobi-
eski, king of Poland, who had been long the terror
of the Turks, while general of the crown, and who


The Siege of Vienna. 309

owed his throne to his victories. Yet this assistance
could not possibly arrive in a little time.

By the month of September they had made a
breach in the body of the place six fathoms wide, and
it seemed to be absolutely left without any hopes of
resource. It might have fallen into the power of
the Turks more easily than Constantinople had done,
but the siege was not conducted by a Mahomet II.
The sluggishness and inactivity of the grand vizier,
but above all his contempt for the Christians, pre-
vented the siege being carried on with spirit.

The space of ground taken up by his tents was
equal to that of the besieged town. He had baths,
gardens, and fountains, and in the midst of the prog-
ress of ruin wantoned in excess of luxury.

John Sobieski at length passes the Danube, some
leagues above Vienna, and the troops of Saxony,
Bavaria, and other allies having also arrived, they
make a signal to the besieged from the top of the
mountain of Kahlenberg, at a time that everything
began to fail them but their courage.

The imperial and Polish armies descend from
Mount Kahlenberg, of which the grand vizier had
forgotten to possess himself, extending themselves
in the form of an amphitheatre. The king of Poland
led the right wing, at the head of twelve thousand
horse and four thousand foot, or thereabouts. Prince
Alexander, his son, was very near him. The infan-
try of the emperor and the elector of Saxony,
were in the left wing. Duke Charles of Lorraine

310 Annals of the Empire.

commanded the Imperialists. The troops of Bavaria
amounted to ten thousand men, and those of Saxony
to nearly the same number.

Never were there seen in any battle greater princes
than in this. The elector of Saxony, John George
III., was at the head of his Saxons ; but the Bava-
rians were not headed by the elector Maximilian
Emanuel. This young prince chose rather to serve
near the duke of Lorraine as a volunteer. He had
received from the emperor a sword enriched with
diamonds, and when Leopold returned to Vienna,
after its deliverance, the young prince, saluting
him with this very sword, showed him what a noble
use he made of his present. He was the same elector
who was afterward put under the ban of the empire.

The imperial cavalry was led by the prince of
Saxe-Lauenburg, sprung from the ancient but un-
happy house of Ascania. The infantry was com-
manded by Prince Herman of Baden, and the troops
of Franconia, to the amount of seven thousand,
under the conduct of Prince Waldeck.

Among the volunteers of this army were three
princes of the house of Anhalt, two of Hanover,
three of Saxony, two of Neuburg, two of Holstein,
a prince of Hesse-Cassel, one of Hohenzollern, and
two of the house of Wurtemberg ; while a third dis-
tinguished himself within the town. The emperor
only was absent.

This army amounted to sixty-four thousand men,
that of the grand vizier to double the number. So

The Siege of Vienna. 311

that this battle may be reckoned among those which
show that the smaller number has generally the bet-
ter of the greater because, perhaps, there is too much
confusion in large armies, and more order in the

On September 12 Vienna was delivered ; and this
battle, if it can be called one, was fought. The grand
vizier left twenty thousand men in the trenches, and
ordered the place to be assaulted, while he marched
against the Christian army. This last assault might
have succeeded, as the besieged began to want pow-
der, and most of the cannon were dismounted ; but
the sight of assistance gave them new strength.

In the meantime the king of Poland, having
harangued his troops from rank to rank, marched
at the head of one wing against the Ottoman army,
the duke of Lorraine at the head of the other. Never
was battle less bloody or more decisive. Two posts
taken from the Turks determined the victory. The
Christians did not lose above two hundred men;
the Ottomans lost scarcely a thousand. This was at
the close of day, and fear spread itself with the night
into the vizier's camp, who retired precipitately with
his whole army. So prodigious was the terror and
stupidity arising from their long security that
they abandoned their tents and baggage; leav-
ing behind them even Mahomet's great standard.
Nothing can equal the vizier's error in this battle,
except that of leaving him unpursued.

The king of Poland sent Mahomet's standard to

312 Annals of the Empire.

the pope. The Germans and the Polanders were
considerably enriched by the Turkish spoils. The
king of Poland wrote to his wife, who was a French
woman, daughter of the marquis d'Arquien, that
the grand vizier had made him his heir, and that he
had found in his tent to the value of several millions
of ducats.

That letter is well known, in which he says : " You
cannot address me as the wives of the Tartars do
their husbands, when they see them come home
empty-handed, ' you are not a man, since you return
without booty.' '

The day following, being September 13, King
John Sobieski causes the "Te Deum " to be sung in
the cathedral of Vienna, and officiates in it himself.
This ceremony was followed by a sermon, the
preacher of which took for his text these words :
" There was a man sent by God, and his name was
John." The whole town thronged to return thanks
to this king, and to kiss the hands of their deliverer ;
as he relates himself. The emperor arrives there on
the following day, amidst acclamations which were
not for him. He visits the king of Poland outside
the walls, and there is great difficulty in conducting
ceremonials, at a time when acknowledgment ought
to have got the better of formality.

The glory and the happiness of John Sobieski was
almost eclipsed by a disaster which was scarcely to
be expected, after so easy a victory. Being about
to subdue Hungary, he intended to march through

The Siege of Vienna. 313

Gran, now Strigonia, in which progress he was to
pass by Barcam, where was lodged a considerable
body of troops under the command of a pasha. The
king of Poland, without staying for the duke of
Lorraine, who followed him, advanced near the place
with his gendarmes. Here the Turks fell upon
the Polish troops, charged them in the flank, slaying
two thousand of them. The vanquisher of the
Ottomans is obliged to fly. He is pursued and
with difficulty escapes, leaving his cloak in the hands
of a Turk, who had overtaken him. Duke Charles
of Lorraine at length comes to his assistance, and,
to the glory of having seconded John Sobieski, king
of Poland, at the deliverance of Vienna, he joins that
of delivering Sobieski himself.

Hungary, on each side of the Danube as far as
Strigonia, soon falls again into the hands of the
emperor. Strigonia is taken. It had belonged to the
Turks nearly five hundred and fifty years. They
twice attempt the siege of Buda, and carry the place
by assault in 1686. This was but the consequence
of a train of victories.

The duke of Lorraine and the elector of Bavaria
defeat the Ottomans in those very plains of Mohacs,
where Louis II., king of Hungary, had perished in
1526, while Solyman II., conqueror of the Christians,
covered the plains with twenty-five thousand dead.

Divisions and seditions at Constantinople, with the
revolts of the Turkish armies, fought also in behalf
of the quiet and happy Leopold. The insurrection of

314 Annals of the Empire.

the janissaries, the deposing of the weak Mahomet
IV., Solyman III. advanced to the throne from a
prison in which he had been forty years confined,
and the Ottoman troops ill paid, disheartened, and
flying before a small number of Germans, were all
occurrences favoring Leopold. A warlike emperor,
seconded by the victorious troops of Poland, might
now have advanced to the siege of Constantinople,
after having been upon the point of losing Vienna.

Leopold judged it better to avenge the fear, into
which the Turks had thrown him, upon Hungary.
His ministers pretend that it would be impossible
to confine the Turkish insolence within bounds unless
Hungary was reunited under an absolute dominion.
Yet they repelled the Turks from Vienna, with the
troops of Saxony, Bavaria, and Lorraine, and other
German princes, who are under no despotic yoke;
particularly with the Polish allies. The Hungarians
might then serve the emperor as the Germans did,
by remaining free like them; but there were too
many factions in Hungary. The Turks were not the
men to make the treaties of Westphalia in favor of
this kingdom, and if they were not now in a condi-
tion to oppress the Hungarians, neither could they
assist them.

The only congress between the Hungarian mal-
contents and the emperor is a scaffold. It is erected
in the marketplace of Eperies, in the month of
March, 1687, and kept standing till the end of the

The Siege of Vienna. 315

If some of the contemporary historians are to be
believed, the executioners were weary of sacrificing
the victims that were, without much distinction,
delivered up to them. Antiquity cannot match a
massacre so long and so terrible. There have been
equal severities, but none of such continuance.
Humanity does not shudder at the numbers that fall
in battle; it is common; they die sword in hand,
and are avenged ; but that for nine long months peo-
ple should see their countrymen dragged, as it were,
legally, to open butchery, must be shocking to human
nature, and so barbarous a sight as to fill the soul
with horror.

That which is more terrible for the people is, that
these cruelties sometimes succeed, and the success of
them encourages tyrants to use men like wild beasts.

Hungary was subdued, the Turks twice repulsed,
Transylvania conquered, and in the hands of the
imperialists. At length, while the scaffold is still
standing at Eperies, the principal Hungarian nobility
are summoned to Vienna, where, in the name of the
whole people, they declare the crown of that king-
dom hereditary. The states afterward assemble at
Presburg, where they confirm the decree, and Joseph
is crowned hereditary king of Hungary at nine years
of age.

Leopold was at this time the most powerful
emperor since Charles V. Many happy circum-
stances concurred to enable him to continue the war
against France till the Treaty of Ryswick, and

316 Annals of the Empire.

against Turkey till the Peace of Carlowitz, con-
cluded in 1699. Both of these were of advantage to
him. He treated with Louis XIV. at Ryswick on
the footing of an equal, which could not have been
expected after the Peace of Nimeguen, and he nego-
tiated with the Turks as a conqueror. These suc-
cesses gave Leopold a manifest superiority in the
diets of Germany, which, though it did not take
away the liberty of votes, made them dependent on
the emperor.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 19

Online Library1694-1778 VoltaireThe works of Voltaire; a contemporary version; (Volume 33) → online text (page 19 of 19)