In 1526, the Ottoman armies of Sultan Suleiman “the Magnificent” defeated the Hungarians at the Battle of Mohacs, setting the stage for a showdown with the Habsburgs, the rulers of Austria, at Vienna. In May 1529, Suleiman’s army of approximately 100,000 soldiers set out from the Black Sea through the spring rains for the culmination of Ottoman expansion into central Europe under his reign. Though somewhat weakened by the loss of equipment to heavier-than-expected rain, they reached the walls of Vienna in September and began the siege. Despite being greatly outnumbered, however, the Viennese defenders were able to repulse each of the Ottoman advances (Figure 4.1).
Eventually, Suleiman was forced to admit defeat and retreat to Constantinople, the former capital of the Byzantine Empire that was also commonly referred to as Istanbul (Greek for “to the city”). Although the 1529 siege of Vienna was a failure for the Ottomans, their bold move greatly alarmed kingdoms across Europe. It also led Suleiman to direct his attention east toward Iran and control of Mesopotamia, areas he thought more important for the security of his existing territory. By the end of his life in 1566, the Ottoman Empire was near the height of its power and territorial control. However, it was not the only large Muslim state to dominate Eurasia. The Safavids in Iran also expanded Islamic military, political, and economic power in the region we call the Middle East.