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Battles

Discussion in 'Warfare' started by Svíar, 9 September 2014.

  1. Svíar

    Svíar Heroic Member Sustaining Member

    This thread had to be created.
    Post in here the battles you feel is worth mentioning out of various reasons.
    Here we can discuss how these battles formed history as it turned out and and analyze them.

    The Battle of Teutoburg Forest (Compiled by a great facebook page called 'The Traditionalist')

    On this day in 9 AD Schlacht im Teutoburger Wald (the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest), described as clades Variana (the Varian disaster) by Roman historians, took place, when an alliance of Germanic tribes led by Arminius of the Cherusci ambushed and decisively destroyed three Roman legions and their auxiliaries, led by Publius Quinctilius Varus.
    Despite several successful campaigns and raids by the Roman army in the years after the battle, they never again attempted to conquer Germanian territory east of the Rhine River.

    The Roman force was led by Publius Quinctilius Varus, a noble from a patrician family who was related to the Imperial family, and was an experienced administrative official. He was assigned to consolidate the new province of Germania in the autumn of 6 AD. Earlier that year, before Varus was commander on the Rhine, Legatus Gaius Sentius Saturninus and Consul Legatus Marcus Aemilius Lepidus led a massive army of 65,000 heavy infantry legionaries, 10,000–20,000 cavalrymen, archers, 10,000–20,000 civilians (13 legions and their entourage, totalling around 100,000 men) in an offensive operation against Maroboduus, the king of the Marcomanni, who were a tribe of the Suebi. Following their defeat at the hands of Drusus I in 9 BC, they had fled into the territory of the Boii, from which they formed an alliance with the Hermunduri, Quadi, Semnones, Lugians, Zumi, Butones, Mugilones, Sibini and Langobards.

    In 4 AD, Tiberius entered Germania and subjugated the Cananefates in Germania Inferior, the Chatti near the upper Weser River, and the Bructeri south of the Teutoburg Forest, before leading his army across the Weser. However, in 6 AD a rebellion broke out in the province of Illyricum. Led by Bato the Daesitiate Bato the Breucian, Pinnes of Pannonia, and elements of the Marcomanni, it was known as the Bellum Batonianum, and it lasted nearly 4 years. Tiberius was forced to stop his campaign against Maroboduus and recognise him as king so that he could then send his eight legions (VIII Augustan, XV Apollonian, XX Victorious Valerian, XXI Predator, XIII Twin, XIV Twin, XVI Gallic and an unknown unit) to crush the rebellion in the Balkans.

    All told, nearly half of all Roman legions in existence were sent to the Balkans to end the revolt, which was itself triggered by constant neglect, endemic food shortages, high taxes, and harsh behavior on the part of the Roman tax collectors. This campaign, led by Tiberius and Quaestor Legatus Germanicus under Emperor Augustus, was one of the most difficult, and most crucial, in the history of the Roman Empire. Due to this massive redeployment of available legions, when Varus was named Legatus Augusti pro praetore in Germania, only three legions were available to him.

    Varus' name and deeds were well known beyond the empire because of his ruthlessness and crucifixion of insurgents. While he was feared by the people, he was highly respected by the Roman senate. On the Rhine, he was in command of the XVII, XVIII, and XIX legions. These had previously been led by General Gaius Sentius Saturninus, who had been sent back to Rome after being awarded an ornamenta triumphalia. The other 2 legions in the winter-quarters of the army at castrum Moguntiacum were led by Varus' nephew, Lucius Nonius Asprenas and perhaps Lucius Arruntius.

    Following the attacks of Drusus I in 11–9 BC, Varus' opponent, Arminius, along with his brother Flavus, had been sent to Rome as tribute by their father, Segimerus the Conqueror, chieftain of the noblest house in the tribe of the Cherusci. Arminius then spent his youth in Rome as a hostage, where he had received a military education, and even been given the rank of Equestrian. During Arminius' absence, Segimerus was declared a coward by the other Germanic chieftains, because he had submitted to Roman rule, a crime punishable by death under Germanic law. Between 11 BC and 4 AD, the hostility and suspicion between the Germanic tribes deepened. Trade and political accords between the warlords deteriorated. Tacitus wrote that the Chatti were hostile, and subjugated the Cherusci, but were themselves "pacified" between 4 and 6 AD. Velleius Paterculus also reported that in the years 1–4 AD, there was unrest in Germania.

    After his return from Rome, Arminius became a trusted advisor to Varus, but in secret he forged an alliance of Germanic tribes that had traditionally been enemies. These included the Cherusci, Marsi, Chatti, Bructeri, Chauci, Sicambri, and remaining elements of the Suebi, who had been defeated by Caesar in the Battle of Vosges. Using the collective outrage over Varus' tyrannous insolence and wanton cruelty to the conquered, Arminius was able to unite the disorganized tribes who had submitted in sullen hatred to the Roman dominion, and maintain said alliance until the most opportune moment to strike.

    While Varus was on his way from his summer camp west of the Weser river to winter headquarters near the Rhine, he heard reports of a local rebellion, reports which had been fabricated by Arminius. Edward Shepherd Creasy wrote that "...This was represented to Varus as an occasion which required his prompt attendance at the spot; but he was kept in studied ignorance of its being part of a concerted national rising; and he still looked on Arminius as his submissive vassal..."

    Varus decided to quell this uprising immediately, expediting his response by taking a detour through territory that was unfamiliar to the Romans. Arminius, who accompanied him, directed him along a route that would facilitate an ambush. Another Cheruscan nobleman, Segestes, brother of Segimerus and unwilling father in law to Arminius, warned Varus the night before the Roman forces departed, allegedly suggesting that Varus should apprehend Arminius, along with other Germanic leaders whom he identified as participants in the planned uprising. His warning, however, was dismissed as stemming from the personal feud between Segestes and Arminius. Arminius then left under the pretext of drumming up Germanic forces to support the Roman campaign. Once free from prying eyes, he immediately led his troops in a series of attacks on the surrounding Roman garrisons.

    Recent archaeological finds place the battle at Kalkriese Hill in Osnabrück county, Lower Saxony. On the basis of Roman accounts, the Romans were marching northwest from what is now the city of Detmold, passing east of Osnabrück after camping in the area, prior to the attack.

    Varus' forces included his three legions (Legio XVII, Legio XVIII, and Legio XIX), six cohorts of auxiliary troops (non-citizens or allied troops) and three squadrons of cavalry (alae). Most of these lacked combat experience, both with regards to Germanic fighters, and under the prevalent local conditions. The Roman forces were not marching in combat formation, and were interspersed with large numbers of camp followers. As they entered the forest northeast of Osnabrück, they found the track narrow and muddy. According to Dio Cassius a violent storm had also arisen. He also writes that Varus neglected to send out reconnaissance parties ahead of the main body of troops.

    The line of march was now stretched out perilously long — between 15 and 20 kilometers. It was in this state when it came under attack by Germanic warriors armed with light swords, large lances and narrow-bladed short spears called fremae. The attackers surrounded the entire Roman army, and rained down javelins on the intruders. Arminius, recalling his education in Rome, understood his enemies' tactics, and was able to direct his troops to counter them effectively by using locally superior numbers against the dispersed Roman legions. The Romans managed to set up a fortified night camp, and the next morning broke out into the open country north of the Wiehen Hills, near the modern town of Ostercappeln. The break-out was accompanied by heavy losses to the Roman survivors, as was a further attempt to escape by marching through another forested area, as the torrential rains continued. The rain prevented them from using their bows because sinew strings become slack when wet, and rendered them virtually defenseless as their shields also became waterlogged.

    The Romans undertook a night march to escape, but marched into another trap that Arminius had set, at the foot of Kalkriese Hill. There, a sandy, open strip on which the Romans could march was constricted by the hill, so that there was a gap of only about 100 meters between the woods and the swampland at the edge of the Great Bog. The road was further blocked by a trench, and, towards the forest, an earthen wall had been built along the roadside, permitting the Germanic tribesmen to attack the Romans from cover. The Romans made a desperate attempt to storm the wall, but failed, and the highest-ranking officer next to Varus, Legatus Numonius Vala, abandoned the troops by riding off with the cavalry. His retreat was in vain, however, as he was overtaken by the Germanic cavalry and killed shortly thereafter, according to Velleius Paterculus. The Germanic warriors then stormed the field and slaughtered the disintegrating Roman forces. Varus committed suicide, and Velleius reports that one commander, Praefectus Ceionius, shamefully surrendered, then later took his own life, while his colleague Praefectus Eggius heroically died leading his doomed troops.

    Roman casualties have been estimated at 15,000–20,000 dead, and many of the officers were said to have taken their own lives by falling on their swords in the approved manner. Tacitus wrote that many officers were sacrificed by the Germanic forces as part of their indigenous religious ceremonies, cooked in pots and their bones used for rituals. Others were ransomed, and some common soldiers appear to have been enslaved.

    All Roman accounts stress the completeness of the Roman defeat. The finds at Kalkriese, where, along with 6,000 pieces (largely scraps) of Roman equipment, there is only one single item — part of a spur — that is clearly Germanic, indicate minimal Germanic losses. However the victors would most likely have removed the bodies of their fallen, and their practice of burying their warriors' battle gear with them would have also contributed to the lack of Germanic relics. Additionally, several thousand Germanic soldiers were deserting militiamen who wore Roman armour, and would thus appear to be "Roman" in the archaeological digs. It is also known that the Germanic tribes wore less metal, and more perishable organic material, such as leather.

    The victory was followed by a clean sweep of all Roman forts, garrisons and cities — of which there were at least two — east of the Rhine; the remaining two Roman legions in Germania, commanded by Varus' nephew Lucius Nonius Asprenas, were content to try to hold that river. One fort, Aliso, most likely located in today's Haltern am See, fended off the Germanic tribes for many weeks, perhaps even a few months. After the situation became untenable, the garrison under Lucius Caedicius, accompanied by survivors of Teutoburg Forest, broke through the siege, and reached the Rhine.

    Upon hearing of the defeat, the Emperor Augustus, according to the Roman historian Suetonius in De vita Caesarum ("On the Life of the Caesars"), was so shaken that he stood butting his head against the walls of his palace, repeatedly shouting:

    "Quintili Vare, legiones redde!“ ('Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!')

    The legion numbers XVII and XIX were not used again by the Romans (XVIII was rebuilt under Nero, but disbanded under Vespasian), unlike other legions that were restructured – unique in Roman history, except for the XXII Deiotariana legion, which may have been disbanded after heavy losses against the Jewish rebels in the Bar Kokba revolt (132–136 AD) in Judea.

    The battle abruptly ended the period of triumphant Roman expansion that followed the end of the Civil Wars 40 years earlier. Augustus' stepson Tiberius took effective control, and prepared for the continuation of the war. Legio II Augusta, XX Valeria Victrix, and XIII Gemina were sent to the Rhine to replace the lost legions.

    Arminius sent Varus' severed head to Maroboduus, king of the Marcomanni, the other most powerful Germanic ruler, with the offer of an anti-Roman alliance. Maroboduus declined, sending the head to Rome for burial, and remained neutral throughout the ensuing war. Only thereafter did a brief, inconclusive war break out between the two Germanic leaders.

    Germanicus' campaign against the Germans.

    Though the shock at the slaughter was enormous, the Romans immediately began a slow, systematic process of preparing for the reconquest of the country. In 14 AD, just after Augustus' death and the accession of his heir and stepson Tiberius, a massive raid was conducted by the new emperor's nephew Germanicus. He attacked the Marsi in a surprise attack. The Bructeri, Tubanti, and Usipeti were roused by the attack and ambushed Germanicus on the way to the winter quarters, but were defeated with heavy losses.

    The next year was marked by two major campaigns and several smaller battles with a large army estimated at 55,000–70,000 men, backed by naval forces. In spring 15 AD, Legatus Caecina Severus invaded the Marsi a second time with about 25,000–30,000 men, causing great havoc. Meanwhile, Germanicus' troops had built a fort on Mount Taunus from where he marched with about 30,000–35,000 men against the Chatti. Many of the men fled across a river and dispersed themselves in the forests. Germanicus next marched on Mattium (caput gentis) and burned the place down. After initial successful skirmishes in summer 15 AD, including the capture of Arminius' wife Thusnelda, the army visited the site of the first battle. According to Tacitus, they found heaps of bleached bones and severed skulls nailed to trees, which they buried, "...looking on all as kinsfolk and of their own blood...".

    Under Germanicus, the Romans marched another army, along with allied Germanic auxiliaries, into Germania in 16 AD. He forced a crossing of the Weser near modern Minden, suffering some losses to a Germanic skirmishing force, and forced Arminius' army to stand in open battle at Idistaviso in the Battle of the Weser River. Germanicus' legions inflicted huge casualties on the Germanic armies while sustaining only minor losses. A final battle was fought at the Angivarian Wall west of modern Hanover, repeating the pattern of high Germanic fatalities, which forced them to flee. In summer 16 AD, Caius Silius marched against the Chatti with 33,000 men. Germanicus invaded the Marsi a third time and devastated their land.

    With his main objectives reached and winter approaching, Germanicus ordered his army back to their winter camps, with the fleet incurring some damage from a storm in the North Sea. After a few more raids across the Rhine, which resulted in the recovery of two of the three legions' eagles lost in 9 AD, Tiberius ordered the Roman forces to halt and withdraw across the Rhine. Germanicus was recalled to Rome and informed by Tiberius that he would be given a triumph and reassigned to a new command.

    Campaigns of Germanicus and A. Caecina Severus in the years 14-16 AD.

    Germanicus' campaign had been taken to avenge the Teutoburg slaughter and also partially in reaction to indications of mutinous intent amongst his troops. Arminius, who had been considered a very real threat to stability by Rome, was now defeated. Once his allied Germanic coalition had been broken and honour avenged, the huge cost and risk of keeping the Roman army operating beyond the Rhine was not worth any likely benefit to be gained.

    Later campaigns.

    The third legionary standard was recovered in 41 AD by Publius Gabinius from the Chauci during the reign of Claudius, brother of Germanicus, according to Cassius Dio in Roman History Book LX {Book 60} Chapter 8. Possibly the recovered aquilae were placed within the Temple of Mars Ultor ("Mars the Avenger"), the ruins of which stand today in the Forum of Augustus by the Via dei Fori Imperiali in Rome.

    The last chapter was recounted by the historian Tacitus. Around 50 AD, bands of Chatti invaded Roman territory in Germania Superior, possibly an area in Hesse east of the Rhine that the Romans appear to have still held, and began to plunder. The Roman commander, Publius Pomponius Secundus and a legionary force supported by Roman cavalry recruited auxiliaries from the Vangiones and Nemetes. They attacked the Chatti from both sides and defeated them, and joyfully found and liberated Roman prisoners, including some from Varus' legions who had been held for 40 years.

    Impact on Roman expansion.

    From the time of the rediscovery of Roman sources in the 15th century, Teutoburg Forest has been seen as a pivotal clash, which ended Roman expansion into northern Europe. This notion became especially prevalent in the 19th century, where it formed an integral part of the mythology of German nationalism.

    More recently, some scholars have begun to question this interpretation and have pointed out reasons why the Rhine was a much more practical boundary for the Roman Empire than any other river in Germania. Logistically, armies on the Rhine could be supplied from the Mediterranean via the Rhone, Saône and Mosel, with a brief stretch of portage. Armies on the Elbe, on the other hand, would have to have been supplied either by extensive overland routes or ships travelling the hazardous Atlantic seas. Economically, the Rhine was already supporting towns and sizeable villages at the time of the Gallic conquest. Northern Germania was far less developed, possessed fewer villages, and had little food surplus and thus a far lesser capacity for tribute. Thus the Rhine was both significantly more accessible from Rome and better equipped to supply sizeable garrisons than the regions beyond, and there were also practical reasons to fall back from the limits of Augustus' expansionism in this region. Nonetheless, the Severan-era historian Cassius Dio is emphatic that Varus had been conducting the latter stages of full colonization of a greater German province, which has been partially confirmed by recent archaeological discoveries such as the Varian-era Roman provincial settlement at Waldgirmes Forum.

    After Arminius was defeated and dead, Rome tried to control Germania east of the Rhine and north of the Danube indirectly, by appointing client kings. Italicus, a nephew of Arminius, was appointed king of the Cherusci, and Vangio and Sido became vassal princes of the powerful Suebi.

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  2. Svíar

    Svíar Heroic Member Sustaining Member

    Yet another great summary from The Traditionalist

    On this day in 1565 the Knights of Malta lift the Turkish siege of Malta that began on May 18.

    The Great Siege of Malta took place in 1565 when the Ottoman Empire invaded the island of Malta, then held by the Knights Hospitaller. The Knights, with about 400 Maltese men, women and children and approximately 2,000 footsoldiers, won the siege which became one of the most celebrated events in sixteenth-century Europe. Voltaire said, "Nothing is better known than the siege of Malta," and it undoubtedly contributed to the eventual erosion of the European perception of Ottoman invincibility and marked a new phase in Spanish domination of the Mediterranean.

    The siege was the climax of an escalating contest between a Christian alliance and the Ottoman Empire for control of the Mediterranean, a contest that included Turkish admiral and privateer Dragut's attack on Malta in 1551, and the Ottoman utter destruction of an allied Christian fleet at the Battle of Djerba in 1560.

    Image: Lifting of the Siege of Malta by Charles-Philippe Larivière (1798-1876). Hall of the Crusades, Palace of Versailles.

    Account:

    The Knights of Malta.

    The Knights Hospitaller are also known as the Sovereign Order of Saint John of Jerusalem, of Rhodes and of Malta, Knights of Malta, Knights of Rhodes, and Chevaliers of Malta. By the end of 1522, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Sultan, had forcibly ejected the Knights from their base on Rhodes after the six-month Siege of Rhodes. From 1523 to 1530 the Order lacked a permanent home. They became known as the Knights of Malta when, on 26 October 1530, Philippe Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Grand Master of the Knights, sailed into Malta's Grand Harbour with a number of his followers to lay claim to Malta and Gozo, which had been granted to them by Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in return for one falcon sent annually to the Viceroy of Sicily and a solemn Mass to be celebrated on All Saints Day. Charles also required the Knights to garrison Tripoli on the North African coast, which was in territory that the Barbary Corsairs, allies of the Ottomans, controlled. The Knights accepted the offer reluctantly. Malta was a small, desolate island, and for some time, many of the Knights clung to the dream of recapturing Rhodes.

    Nevertheless, the Order soon turned Malta into a naval base. The island's position in the center of the Mediterranean made it a strategically crucial gateway between East and West, especially as the Barbary Corsairs increased their forays into the western Mediterranean throughout the 1540s and 1550s.

    In particular, the corsair Turgut Reis was proving to be a major threat to the Christian nations of the central Mediterranean. Turgut and the Knights were continually at loggerheads. In 1551, Turgut and the Ottoman admiral Sinan decided to take Malta and invaded the island with a force of about 10,000 men. After only a few days, however, Turgut broke off the siege and moved to the neighboring island of Gozo, where he bombarded the citadel for several days. The Knights' governor on Gozo, Galatian de Sesse, having decided that resistance was futile, threw open the doors to the citadel. The corsairs sacked the town and took virtually the entire population of Gozo (approximately 5,000 people) into captivity. Turgut and Sinan then sailed south to Tripoli, where they soon seized the Knights' garrison there. They initially installed a local leader, Aga Morat, as governor, but subsequently Turgut himself took control of the area.

    Expecting another Ottoman invasion within a year, Grand Master of the Knights Juan de Homedes ordered the strengthening of Fort Saint Angelo at the tip of Birgu (now Vittoriosa), as well as the construction of two new forts, Fort Saint Michael on the Senglea promontory and Fort Saint Elmo at the seaward end of Mount Sciberras (now Valletta). The two new forts were built in the remarkably short period of six months in 1552. All three forts proved crucial during the Great Siege.

    The next several years were relatively calm, although the guerre de course, or running battle, between Muslims and Christians continued unabated. In 1557 the Knights elected Jean Parisot de Valette Grand Master of the Order. He continued his raids on non-Christian shipping, and his private vessels are known to have taken some 3,000 Muslim and Jewish slaves during his tenure as Grand Master.

    By 1559 Turgut was causing the Christian powers such distress, even raiding the coasts of Spain, that Philip II organized the largest naval expedition in fifty years to evict the corsair from Tripoli. The Knights joined the expedition, which consisted of about 54 galleys and 14,000 men. This ill-fated campaign climaxed in the Battle of Djerba in May 1560, when Ottoman admiral Piyale Pasha surprised the Christian fleet off the Tunisian island of Djerba, capturing or sinking about half the Christian ships. The battle was disaster for the Christians and it marked the high point of Ottoman domination of the Mediterranean.

    Toward the siege.

    After Djerba there could be little doubt that the Turks would eventually attack Malta again. In August 1560, Jean de Valette sent an order to all the Order's priories that their knights prepare to return to Malta as soon as a citazione (summons) was issued. The Turks made a strategic error in not attacking at once, while the Spanish fleet lay in ruins, as the five-year delay allowed Spain to rebuild her forces.

    Meanwhile, the Spaniards continued to prey on Turkish shipping. In mid-1564, Romegas, the Order's most notorious seafarer, captured several large merchantmen, including one that belonged to the Chief Eunuch of the Seraglio, and took numerous high-ranking prisoners, including the governor of Cairo, the governor of Alexandria, and the former nurse of Sultan Suleiman's daughter. Romegas' exploits gave the Turks a casus belli, and by the end of 1564, Suleiman had resolved to wipe the Knights of Malta off the face of the earth.

    By early 1565, Grand Master de Valette's network of spies in Constantinople had informed him that the invasion was imminent. De Valette set about raising troops in Italy, laying in stores and finishing work on Fort Saint Angelo, Fort Saint Michael, and Fort Saint Elmo.

    The armies.

    The Turkish armada, which set sail from Constantinople at the end of March, was by all accounts one of the largest assembled since antiquity. According to one of the earliest and most complete histories of the siege, that of the Order's official historian Giacomo Bosio, the fleet consisted of 193 vessels, which included 131 galleys, seven galliots (small galleys) and four galleasses (large galleys), the remainder being transport vessels, etc. Contemporary letters from Don Garcia, the Viceroy of Sicily, give similar numbers."

    Estimate of the force this fleet transported: 6,000 Spahis (cavalry), 500 Spahis from Karamania, 6,000 Janissaries, 400 adventurers from Mytheline, 2,500 Spahis from Rouania, 3,500 adventurers from Rouania, 4,000 "religious servants", 6,000 other volunteers and rious corsairs from Tripoli and Algiers. Total: 28,500 from the East, 48,000 in all.

    The Italian mercenary Francisco Balbi di Correggio, (serving as an arquebusier in the Spanish corps), gave the Hospitaller forces as: 500 Knights Hospitaller, 400 Spanish soldiers, 800 Italian soldiers, 500 soldiers from the galleys (Spanish Empire), 200 Greek and Sicilian soldiers, 100 soldiers of the garrison of Fort St. Elmo, 100 servants of the knights, 500 galley slaves, 3,000 soldiers drawn from the Maltese population giving a total of 6,100.

    Arrival of the Ottomans.

    Before the Turks arrived, de Vallette ordered the harvesting of all the crops, including unripened grain, to deprive the enemy of any local food supplies. Furthermore, the Knights poisoned all wells with bitter herbs and dead animals.

    The Turkish armada arrived at dawn on Friday, 18 May, but did not at once make land. Rather, the fleet sailed up the southern coast of the island, turned around and finally anchored at Marsaxlokk (Marsa Sirocco) harbour, nearly 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the Great Port, as the Grand Harbour was then known.

    According to most accounts, in particular Balbi's, a dispute arose between the leader of the land forces, the 4th Vizier serdar Kızılahmedli Mustafa Pasha, and the supreme naval commander, Piyale Pasha, about where to anchor the fleet. Piyale wished to shelter it at Marsamxett bay, just north of the Grand Harbour, in order to avoid the sirocco and be nearer the action, but Mustafa disagreed, because to anchor the fleet there would require first reducing Fort St. Elmo, which guarded the entrance to the harbour. Mustafa intended, according to these accounts, to attack the unprotected old capital Mdina, which stood in the center of the island, then attack Forts St. Angelo and Michael by land. If so, an attack on Fort St. Elmo would have been entirely unnecessary. Nevertheless, Mustafa relented, apparently believing only a few days would be necessary to destroy St. Elmo. After the Turks were able to emplace their guns, at the end of May they commenced a bombardment.

    It certainly seems true that Suleiman had seriously blundered in splitting the command three ways. He not only split command between Piyale and Mustafa, but he ordered both of them to defer to Turgut when he arrived from Tripoli. Contemporary letters from spies in Constantinople, however, suggest that the plan had always been to take Fort St. Elmo first. In any case, for the Turks to concentrate their efforts on it proved a crucial mistake.

    The siege.

    “The darkness of the night then became as bright as day, due to the vast quantity of artificial fires. So bright was it indeed that we could see St Elmo quite clearly. The gunners of St Angelo... were able to lay and train their pieces upon the advancing Turks, who were picked out in the light of the fires." ~ Francisco Balbi, Spanish relief soldier.

    Capture of Fort St. Elmo.

    Having correctly calculated that the Turks would seek to secure a disembarkation point for their fleet and would thus begin the campaign by attempting to capture Fort St Elmo, de Valette concentrated half of his heavy artillery within the fort. His intent was for them to hold out for a relief promised by Don Garcia, Viceroy of Sicily. The unremitting bombardment from three dozen guns on the higher ground of Mt. Sciberras reduced the fort to rubble within a week, but de Valette evacuated the wounded nightly and resupplied the fort from across the harbour. After arriving in May, Turgut set up new batteries to imperil the ferry lifeline. On 4 June, a party of Janissaries managed to seize a portion of the fortifications. Still, by 8 June, the Knights sent a message to the Grand Master that the Fort could no longer be held but were rebuffed with messages that St Elmo must hold until the reinforcements arrived.

    Finally, on 23 June, the Turks seized what was left of Fort St. Elmo. They killed all the defenders, totaling over 1,500 men, but spared nine Knights whom the Corsairs had captured, and a few others who managed to escape. Turgut, however, died shortly after the victory. According to Bosio, a lucky shot from Fort St. Angelo mortally wounded him on 17 June; according to Balbi and Sans, friendly fire from Turkish cannons while he was directing operations on Sciberras was the cause. Balbi says Turgut died before the day was out, while others have him languishing on until the day that St. Elmo fell. Although the Turks did succeed in capturing St. Elmo, allowing Piyale to anchor his fleet in Marsamxett, the siege of Fort St. Elmo had cost the Turks at least 6,000 men, including half of their Janissaries.

    Mustafa had the bodies of the knights decapitated and their bodies floated across the bay on mock crucifixes. In response, de Valette beheaded all his Turkish prisoners, loaded their heads into his cannons and fired them into the Turkish camp.

    Panic.

    By this time, word of the siege was spreading. As soldiers and adventurers gathered in Sicily for Don Garcia's relief, panic spread as well. There can be little doubt that the stakes were high, perhaps higher than at any other time in the contest between the Ottoman Empire and Europe. Queen Elizabeth I of England wrote:

    “If the Turks should prevail against the Isle of Malta, it is uncertain what further peril might follow to the rest of Christendom"

    All contemporary sources indicate the Turks intended to proceed to the Tunisian fortress of La Goletta and wrest it from the Spaniards, and Suleiman had also spoken of invading Europe through Italy.

    However, modern scholars tend to disagree with this interpretation of the siege's importance. H.J.A. Sire, a historian who has written a history of the Order, is of the opinion that the siege represented an overextension of Ottoman forces, and argues that if the island had fallen, it would have quickly been retaken by a massive Spanish counterattack.

    Although Don Garcia did not at once send the promised relief (troops were still being levied), he was persuaded to release an advance force of some 600 men. After several attempts, this piccolo soccorso (Italian: small relief) managed to land on Malta in early July and sneak into Birgu, raising the spirits of the besieged garrison immensely.

    The Senglea Peninsula.

    On 15 July, Mustafa ordered a double attack against the Senglea peninsula. He had transported 100 small vessels across Mt. Sciberras to the Grand Harbour, thus avoiding the strong cannons of Fort St. Angelo, in order to launch a sea attack against the promontory using about 1,000 Janissaries, while the Corsairs attacked Fort St. Michael on the landward end. Luckily for the Maltese, a defector warned de Valette about the impending strategy and the Grand Master had time to construct a palisade along the Senglea promontory, which successfully helped to deflect the attack. Nevertheless, the assault probably would have succeeded had not the Turkish boats come into point-blank range (less than 200 yards) of a sea-level battery of five cannons that had been constructed by Commander Chevalier de Guiral at the base of Fort St. Angelo with the sole purpose of stopping such an amphibious attack. Just two salvos sank all but one of the vessels, killing or drowning over 800 of the attackers. The land attack failed simultaneously when relief forces were able to cross to Ft. St. Michael across a floating bridge, with the result that Malta was saved for the day.

    The Turks by now had ringed Birgu and Senglea with some 65 siege guns and subjected the town to what was probably the most sustained bombardment in history up to that time. (Balbi claims that 130,000 cannonballs were fired during the course of the siege.) Having largely destroyed one of the town's crucial bastions, Mustafa ordered another massive double assault on 7 August, this time against Fort St. Michael and Birgu itself. On this occasion, the Turks breached the town walls and it seemed that the siege was over, but unexpectedly the invaders retreated. As it happened, the cavalry commander Captain Vincenzo Anastagi, on his daily sortie from Mdina, had attacked the unprotected Turkish field hospital, massacring the sick and wounded. The Turks, thinking the Christian relief had arrived from Sicily, broke off their assault.

    St. Michael and Birgu.

    After the attack of 7 August, the Turks resumed their bombardment of St. Michael and Birgu, mounting at least one other major assault against the town on 19–21 August. What actually happened during those days of intense fighting is not entirely clear.

    Bradford's account of the climax of the siege has a mine exploding with a huge blast, breaching the town walls and causing stone and dust to fall into the ditch, with the Turks charging even as the debris was still falling. He also has the 70-year old de Valette saving the day by leading towards the Turks some hundred troops that had been waiting in the Piazza of Birgu. Balbi, in his diary entry for 20 August, says only that de Valette was told the Turks were within the walls; the Grand Master ran to "the threatened post where his presence worked wonders. Sword in hand, he remained at the most dangerous place until the Turks retired." Bosio also has no mention of the successful detonation of a mine. Rather, in his report a panic ensued when the townspeople spied the Turkish standards outside the walls. The Grand Master ran there, but found no Turks. In the meantime, a cannonade atop Ft. St. Angelo, stricken by the same panic, killed a number of townsfolk with friendly fire.

    Fort St. Michael and Mdina.

    The situation was sufficiently dire that, at some point in August, the Council of Elders decided to abandon the town and retreat to Fort St. Angelo. De Valette, however, vetoed this proposal. If he guessed that the Turks were losing their will, he was correct. Although the bombardment and minor assaults continued, the invaders were stricken by an increasing desperation. Towards the end of August, the Turks attempted to take Fort St. Michael, first with the help of a manta (similar to a Testudo formation), a small siege engine covered with shields, then by use of a full-blown siege tower. In both cases, Maltese engineers tunneled out through the rubble and destroyed the constructions with point-blank salvos of chain shot.

    At the beginning of September, the weather was turning and Mustafa ordered a march on Mdina, intending to winter there. However the attack failed to occur. The poorly-defended city fired its cannon at the approaching Turks; this bluff scared them away by fooling the already demoralised Turks into thinking the city had ammunition to spare. By 8 September, the Turks had embarked their artillery and were preparing to leave the island, having lost perhaps a third of their men to fighting and disease.

    The previous day Don Garcia had at last landed about 8,000 men at St. Paul's Bay on the north end of the island. The so-called Grande Soccorso ("great relief") positioned themselves on the ridge of San Pawl tat-Targa, waiting for the retreating Turks. It is said that when some hot-headed knights of the relief force saw the Turkish retreat and the burning villages in its wake, they charged without waiting for orders from Asciano del Corna. Del Corna had no choice but to order a general charge which resulted in the massacre of the retreating Turkish force. The Turks fled to their ships and from the islands on 11 September. Malta had survived the Turkish assault, and throughout Europe people celebrated what would turn out to be the last epic battle involving Crusader Knights.

    Aftermath.

    The number of casualties is in as much dispute as the number of invaders. Balbi gives 35,000 Ottoman deaths, which seems implausible, while Bosio estimates 30,000 casualties including sailors. Modern estimations from military historians using Turkish archives have put the number of casualties at 10,000 from combat and disease, though it is generally agreed that there were likely far more losses amongst the various volunteers and pirates, which the Turkish sources would not have noted. The knights lost a third of their number, and Malta lost a third of its inhabitants. Birgu and Senglea were essentially leveled. Still, 9,000 Christians, most of them Maltese, had managed to withstand a siege of more than four months in the hot summer, despite enduring a bombardment of some 130,000 cannonballs.

    Jean De Valette, Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, had a key influence in the victory against Ottomans with his example and his ability to encourage and hold together people as one man. This example had a major impact, because the kings of Europe realized that the only way to win against the Ottomans was to stop wars between them and form alliances; the result was the vast union of forces against Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto seven years later. Such was the gratitude of Europe for the knights' heroic defense that money soon began pouring into the island, allowing de Valette to construct a fortified city, Valletta, on Mt. Sciberras. His intent was to deny the position to any future enemies. La Valette himself died in 1568 after a hunting trip in Buskett.

    The Ottomans never attempted to besiege Malta again. The failure of the siege did nothing to reverse the increasing dominance of Ottoman naval power in the Mediterranean, but in following a string of Christian naval defeats, such as at the Battle of Djerba, it did deny Ottoman forces the strategically vital island base in the centre of the sea which would have allowed them to launch ever deeper strikes into the belly of Europe.

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