Ottoman Wars in Europe

Ottoman Wars in Europe


The Ottoman wars held in Europe were a series of military confrontations that lasted from the late middle Ages to the early twentieth century between the Ottoman Empire and different European nations. The Byzantine–Ottoman wars, which began in Anatolia in the late 13th century and spread to Europe in the mid-14th century with the Bulgarian–Ottoman wars, were the first major battles. The Serbian–Ottoman wars and the Albanian–Turkish wars were fought by Serbia and Albania against the Ottoman Turks in the mid-15th century. Ottoman expansion into the Balkans dominated most of this period. During the 15th (Fifteen) and 16th (Sixteen) centuries, the Ottoman Empire made more incursions into Central Europe, reaching a pinnacle of Ottoman territorial claims in Europe. Starting in 1423 and extending until 1718, the Ottoman–Venetian Wars lasted four centuries. The fall of Negroponte in 1470, Famagusta (Cyprus) in 1571, the defeat of the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the fall of Candia (Crete) in 1669, the Venetian reconquest of Morea (Peloponnese) in the 1680s, and its loss again in 1715 all occurred during this period. The island of Corfu, which the Venetians ruled, was the only Greek island that the Ottomans did not capture.

In the late seventeenth century, the Holy League was created as European countries began to band together against the Ottomans, undoing several Ottoman territorial conquests during the Great Turkish War of 1683–99. Nonetheless, until the second part of the eighteenth century, Ottoman forces held their own against European competitors. However, the Ottomans faced a rebellion from their Serbian (1804–1817) and Greek (1821–1832) people in the nineteenth century. This occurred concurrently with the Russo-Turkish wars, severely weakening the Empire. The First Balkan War (1912 to 1913), followed by the signing of the Treaty of Sèvres at the end of World War I, marked the end of Ottoman authority.

Rise of the Ottomans (1299–1453)

Byzantine Empire

The Ottoman Empire began its westward expansion into Europe in the middle of the 14th century, after striking a blow to the weakening Byzantine Empire in 1356 (or 1358 - owing to a shift in the Byzantine calendar), which supplied it with Gallipoli as a base for operations in Europe. After the Battle of Varna (1444) and the Second Battle of Kosovo (1453), Constantinople fell in 1453. (1448). In 1461, the last Greek nations were conquered.

Bulgarian Empire

The Ottoman Empire advanced north and west across the Balkans in the second part of the 14th century, ultimately subjugating Thrace and much of Macedonia following the Battle of Maritsa in 1371. After the Battle of Nicopolis in 1396, the capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Tarnovgrad, collapsed in 1382, followed by the northwest remains of the Empire in 1393.

Serbian Empire

The young Serbian Empire, a significant Ottoman opponent, was worn down by a series of campaigns, most notably the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, in which both armies' leaders were killed and which became a central part of Serbian folklore as an epic battle and the beginning of the end for medieval Serbia. By 1459, much of Serbia had fallen to the Ottomans; in 1480, the Kingdom of Hungary conducted a partial reconquest, but by 1499, it had dropped again. Finally, the Ottoman Empire, the Republic of Venice, and Hungary partitioned the Serbian Empire's borders, with the remaining provinces serving as vassals to Hungary until its conquest.

Growth (1453–1683)

The loss at Nándorfehérvár (Belgrade) siege in 1456 halted Ottoman progress into Catholic Europe for 70 years. Finally, however, the Italian town of Otranto was captured for a year (1480–1481), and the Ottoman army attacked Croatia and Styria in 1493.

Wars in Albania and Italy

During the Battle of Savra in 1385, the Ottomans conquered Albania. After the Ottomans took Shkodër in 1479 and Durrës in 1501, the League of Lezhë briefly restored Albania until the Ottomans captured the entire country. Gjergj Kastrioti Skanderbeg, son of a feudal Albanian Nobleman, Gjon Kastrioti, fought against the Ottomans in the Albanian uprising of 1432–1436 headed by Gjergj Arianiti, encountered the most fierce resistance from Albanians. For more than 25 years, Skanderbeg held off Ottoman invasions, culminating in the siege of Shkodra from 1478 to 1479. Albanian tenacity has slowed the Ottoman march along the Western Civilization's eastern edge, sparing the Italian peninsula from Ottoman annexation. Many Albanian victories were won during this period, including the Battle of Torvioll, Battle of Otonetë, the siege of Krujë, Battle of Polog, Battle of Ohrid, Battle of Mokra, Battle of Oranik 1456, and many others, culminating in the Battle of Albulena in 1457, where the Albanian Army led by Skanderbeg defeated the Ottomans decisively. The Battle of Ballaban against Skanderbeg took place in 1465. Its objective was to smash the Albanian resistance, but it failed miserably, and the Albanians triumphed. The Albanian Resistance began to crumble after Skanderbeg's death on January 17, 1468. After Skanderbeg's death, Lekë Dukagjini commanded the Albanian Resistance from 1468 until 1479, although it did not have the same success as previously. Sultan Mehmet II attempted an Italian expedition just two years after the Albanian resistance collapsed in 1479. Still, it failed due to the Christian recapture of Otranto and the Sultan's death in 1481.

Conquest of Bosnia

The Ottoman Empire initially arrived in Bosnia in 1388 but was destroyed by Bosnian forces at the Battle of Bileća, forcing them to flee. Following Serbia's defeat in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389, in which Vlatko Vuković represented Bosnians, the Turks launched a series of offensives against the Kingdom of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Bosnians fought back, but it was a losing battle. In the Bosnian Royal Castle of Jajce, when the last Bosnian monarch, Stjepan Tomašević, attempted to oppose the Turks, the Bosnians fought back bravely. In 1463, the Ottoman army captured Jajce and killed the last King of Bosnia, bringing Medieval Bosnia to an end. The House of Kosaa ruled Herzegovina until 1482. The Ottomans had to wait another four decades to overcome the Hungarian garrison at Jajce Fortress in 1527. In 1592, the Ottomans ultimately captured Bihać and the westernmost parts of Bosnia.


Following the Ottoman conquest of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1463, the southern and central parts of Croatia were left unprotected, with lesser troops stationed in fortified border districts at the cost of the Croatian aristocracy. In the meantime, the Ottomans reached the Neretva River and, after conquering Herzegovina (Rama) in 1482, infringed on Croatia, deftly avoiding the fortified border towns. The Battle of Krbava Field was a significant Ottoman victory that rocked Croatia. However, it did not deter the Croats from making repeated attempts to defend themselves against the Ottomans' overwhelming troops. The victory at the Battle of Sisak signalled the end of Ottoman authority and the Hundred Years' Croatian–Ottoman War after almost two centuries of Croatian resistance to the Ottoman Empire. In 1595, the Viceroy's troops secured the victory by pursuing the fleeing survivors at Petrinja.

Conquest of central parts of Hungarian Kingdom

Ottoman gains also posed a severe danger to the Kingdom of Hungary, which stretched from Croatia in the west to Transylvania in the east. The collapse of the Árpád royal dynasty and its subsequent replacement with the Angevin and Jagiellonian monarchs were the catalysts for such decline. The Kingdom eventually disintegrated in the Battle of Mohács of 1526, following a succession of indecisive battles over 176 years, and most of it was either captured or placed under Ottoman suzerainty.

Conquest of Serbia

The Serbian Empire had disintegrated into many principalities due to significant casualties suffered by the Ottomans at the Battle of Maritsa in 1371. Serbian soldiers were destroyed once more in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389. Various Serbian kingdoms and the Ottoman Empire engaged in continuous battles during the 15th and 16th centuries. The fall of Constantinople to the Turks marked a turning point in history. Following the siege, Smederevo, the interim Serbian capital, collapsed in 1459. By 1499, Zeta had been conquered. Belgrade was the last major Balkan city to be besieged by Ottoman forces. In the siege of Belgrade in 1456, Serbs, Hungarians, and European crusaders overcame the Turkish army. Belgrade, along with the majority of the Kingdom of Hungary, surrendered in 1521 after fighting Ottoman invasions for more than 70 years. The Second Serbian Empire was established in the modern-day Serbian province of Vojvodina, which was one of the last Serbian areas to fight the Ottomans, following the revolt of Serbian military leader Jovan Nenad between 1526 and 1528. The fall of the Serbian Despotate in 1459 marked the end of a two-century Ottoman invasion of Serbian states.

Wars with Venice (1463 to 1503)

In 1463, hostilities with the Republic of Venice began. After the long siege of Shkodra (1478–1479), a favourable peace settlement was concluded in 1479. The Ottomans attacked Rhodes and conquered Otranto in 1480, no longer hindered by the Venetian navy. From 1499 until 1503, the war with Venice was renewed. In 1500, a Spanish–Venetian force led by Gonzalo de Córdoba captured Kefalonia, halting the Ottoman advance on eastern Venetian lands for the time being. After the Ottoman victory at Preveza (1538), fought between an Ottoman navy headed by Hayreddin Barbarossa against a Christian alliance led by Pope Paul III, the assault resumed.

Wallachian and Moldavian Campaigns (1462 to 1483)

During the Night Attack at Târgovişte in 1462, Mehmed II was defeated by Wallachian prince Vlad III Dracula. Hungarian monarch Matthias Corvinus, on the other hand, imprisoned him. Many influential Hungarian individuals and Western supporters of Vlad's victory over the Ottoman Empire (and his early awareness of the threat it posed), including high-ranking members of the Vatican, were outraged by this. As a result, Matthias elevated him to the rank of the distinguished prisoner. Dracula was eventually set free in late 1475 and dispatched to Bosnia with an army of Hungarian and Serbian warriors to reclaim the country from the Ottomans. For the first time, he beat Ottoman soldiers there. Following this victory, Ottoman armies led by Mehmed II invaded Wallachia in 1476. According to some sources, Vlad was assassinated, and his head was delivered to Constantinople to deter future rebellions. After Stephen the Great of Moldavia beat the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II's troops in the Battle of Vaslui in 1475, one of the Ottoman Empire's most significant losses, the Turkish march was temporarily halted. The following year, Stephen was beaten at Războieni (Battle of Valea Albă). Still, the Ottomans were forced to flee after failing to capture any vital fortress (see the siege of Neamț Citadel) due to a plague spreading through the Ottoman army. Stephen's search for European aid against the Turks proved futile, despite having "cut off the pagan's right-hand," as he put it in a letter.

Conquest of the Kingdom of Hungary (1526 to 1566)

Only the southern half of the Kingdom of Hungary was captured after the Ottoman victory at the Battle of Mohács in 1526. Between 1526 and 1556, the Ottoman war continued with minor operations and extensive summer invasions, with forces returning south of the Balkan Mountains before winter. They launched their first major offensive against the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy in 1529, trying to take Vienna (siege of Vienna). Another attempt on Vienna, this time with 60,000 men in the main army, was thwarted by the tiny fort of Kőszeg in western Hungary, which was waging a suicide struggle. The invading forces were detained until winter arrived, and the Habsburg Empire had gathered an 80,000-strong garrison in Vienna. The Ottoman army passed through Styria on their way home, destroying the nation.

Meanwhile, the Ottoman Empire invaded Moldavia in 1538. Another war in Hungary in 1541 captured Buda and Pest (which today form the Hungarian capital Budapest) with a primarily bloodless trick: soldiers assaulted the open gates of Buda in the night after finishing peace discussions with an agreement. The conquest of the western part of central Hungary was completed in the 1543 campaign, which captured both the most significant royal ex-capital, Székesfehérvár, and the ex-seat of the cardinal Esztergom, in retribution for a failed Austrian counter-attack in 1542. However, Suleiman's army of 35–40,000 soldiers was insufficient to launch another attempt on Vienna. In 1547, the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires agreed with a brief ceasefire, which the Habsburgs quickly violated. Two (2) armies took the eastern region of central Hungary in the practical but moderately successful campaign of 1552, pushing the Ottoman Empire's borders to the second (inner) line of northern végvárs (border castles), which Hungary built initially as a defence against an expected second Mongol invasion. Thus, borders on this front changed a little afterwards. Hungarians remembered the 1552 campaign as a succession of sad defeats and some heroic (but pyrrhic) wins, most notably the fall of Drégely (a tiny fort defended to the last man by just 146 men) the siege of Eger. Without outside assistance, the latter was a colossal végvár with almost 2,000 men. They were up against two Ottoman armies, who could not capture the fortress in less than five weeks. Finally, the 1556 campaign established Ottoman authority over Transylvania (previously under Habsburg rule). Still, it failed to progress on the western front, being pinned down in the second fruitless siege of Szigetvár, the southwestern Hungarian frontier fortress. Between 1566 and 1568, the Ottoman Empire waged another significant battle against the Habsburgs and their Hungarian holdings. The fort was ultimately seized in the third siege of Szigetvár in 1566, but the elderly Sultan died, delaying the year's assault for Vienna.

Rhodes, Malta and the Holy League (1522 to 1573)

After two failed efforts, Ottoman armies attacked and conquered the island of Rhodes in 1522. In 1565, the Knights of Saint John were exiled to Malta, which was then besieged. The Ottoman army failed to take possession of all of the Maltese forts after a three-month siege. Ottoman commander Kızılahmedli Mustafa Pasha withdrew the blockade after delaying the Ottomans until poor weather and the arrival of Sicilian troops. The Ottomans failed to take Malta, suffering 25,000 casualties, including Dragut, one of the finest Muslim corsair generals of the day. If Malta had fallen, Sicily and mainland Italy might have been invaded by the Ottomans. The triumph of Malta during this battle, which is now known as the Great Siege of Malta, reversed the tide and inspired optimism and energy throughout Europe. It also highlighted the importance of the Knights of Saint John and their presence on the island of Malta in aiding Christendom's defence against the Muslim invasion. The Battles of Preveza (1538) and Djerba (1538) were Ottoman naval successes during this period (1560). The Ottoman conquest of Cyprus followed the Mediterranean campaign, which lasted from 1570 to 1573. During this time, the Holy League of Venice, the Papal States, Spain, the Knights of Saint John in Malta, and Portugal established an alliance against the Ottoman Empire. The League's victory at the Battle of Lepanto (1571) ended Ottoman control at sea for the time being.

Conquest of Cyprus (1570 to 1571): The Turks struck again in the summer of 1570, this time with a full-scale invasion rather than a raid. On July 2, 1570, Lala Mustafa Pasha led 60,000 soldiers, including cavalry and artillery, to arrive uncontested at Limassol and lay siege to Nicosia. On the day the city fell—September 9—every public structure and palace was plundered in a triumphant orgy. The more vital Ottoman forces spread, and Mustafa seized Kyrenia without firing a few days later. Famagusta, on the other hand, resisted and fought back from September 1570 until August 1571. Thus, the Ottoman era in Cyprus officially began with the fall of Famagusta. Two months later, in the Battle of Lepanto, the Holy League's naval forces, mostly Venetian, Spanish, and Papal ships under the leadership of Don John of Austria, destroyed the Ottoman fleet in one of history's most significant confrontations. However, the victory against the Turks came too late to assist Cyprus, and the island remained under Ottoman administration for the next three centuries. Finally, in 1570, the Ottoman Empire seized Cyprus for the first time, and Lala Mustafa Pasha became the first Ottoman ruler of Cyprus, defying Venice's claims. Simultaneously, the Pope created a coalition with the Papal Powers, Malta, Spain, Venice, and several other Italian states but failed to produce any significant results. As a result, the Venetians withdrew in 1573, eliminating the Roman Catholic Church's authority.

Austria, Venice and Wallachia (1593 to 1669)

  • The Long War (15-year conflict with Austria, 1593–1606) ends with the status quo.
  • Campaign of Michael the Brave against the Ottoman Empire (1593–1601)
  • The conquest of Crete (see Cretan War (1645–1669)) and the war with Venice (1645–1669).
  • The unsuccessful Ottoman effort to defeat and conquer Austria during the Austro-Turkish War (1663–1664).

Poland-Lithuania (1620 to 1621)

Moldavia was the subject of wars. In the Battle of Ţuţora, the Polish army pushed into Moldavia and was defeated. However, the Poles repulsed the Turkish assault in the Battle of Khotyn the following year. In 1633, a new war erupted, but it was quickly resolved.

Conclusion of wars with Habsburgs (1657 to 1683): In 1526, Transylvania, the ancient Hungarian Kingdom's eastern half, achieved semi-independence while paying homage to the Ottoman Empire. Transylvania felt powerful enough in 1657 to fight the Tatars to the east (then the Empire's vassals) and subsequently the Ottoman Empire itself, which had defended the Tatars. The conflict continued until 1662 when the Hungarians were defeated. The western portion of the Hungarian Kingdom (Partium) was conquered by the Ottomans and placed under direct Ottoman rule. In the meanwhile, between 1663 and 1664, another war against Austria was underway. Despite being defeated by Raimondo Montecuccoli at the Battle of Saint Gotthard on August 1, 1664, the Ottomans were recognized for their acquisition of Nové Zámky in the Peace of Vasvár with Austria, signifying the Ottomans' most considerable territorial extent in the old Hungarian Kingdom.

Poland-Lithuania (1672 to 1676)

The Treaty of Żurawno, which surrendered the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth's sovereignty of most of its Ukrainian lands to the Empire, marked the conclusion of the Polish–Ottoman War (1672–1676). The battle revealed the Commonwealth's growing weakness and chaos, which had begun its steady collapse in the second half of the 17th century and would climax a century later with the partitions of Poland.

Stagnation (1683–1828)

Great Turkish War – Loss of Hungary and the Morea (1683–1699)

The Great Turkish War began in 1683 when a 140,000-man invading army led by Protestant Hungarian noblemen revolting against Habsburg rule on Vienna. Another Holy League, Austria and Poland (particularly in the Battle of Vienna), Venetians, and the Russian Empire, was established to resist the invasion. The Ottoman Empire had besieged Vienna for two months. The fight was the first time the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Holy Roman Empire collaborated militarily against the Ottomans. It is often seen as a watershed moment in history when "the Ottoman Turks ceased to threaten the Christian world." The Ottomans lost virtually all of Hungary to the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I during the subsequent conflict, which lasted until 1699. The Holy League took the upper hand and reclaimed Hungary after winning the Battle of Vienna (Buda and Pest were retaken in 1686, the former under the command of a Swiss-born convert to Islam). The Venetians mounted an incursion into Greece at the same time, conquering the Peloponnese. The Ottomans converted the old Parthenon into an ammo depot during the Venetian invasion of Athens (dominated by the Ottomans) in 1687. A Venetian mortar struck the Parthenon, partially destroying it by detonating the Ottoman gunpowder stored within. The Treaty of Karlowitz, signed in 1699, brought the conflict to a conclusion. Prince Eugene of Savoy rose to prominence in 1683 and was Austria's most powerful commander until 1718.

18th Century

Near the Prut, the second Russo-Turkish War took place from 1710 to 1711. Following the defeat at the Battle of Poltava, Charles XII of Sweden initiated it to bind Russia to the Ottoman Empire and obtain some breathing room in the increasingly futile Great Northern War. The Russians were badly defeated but not decimated, and the Ottoman Empire retreated when the Treaty of Prut was signed, allowing Russia to refocus its efforts on defeating Sweden. In 1714, the Ottoman–Venetian War began. It ran concurrently with the Austro-Turkish War (1716–1718), during which Austria captured the remaining territories of the old Hungarian Kingdom, culminating in the Treaty of Passarowitz in 1718. In 1735, a new conflict with Russia began. In 1737, the Austrians entered the competition, which concluded in 1739 with the Treaties of Belgrade (with Austria) and Niš (with Russia). The Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca terminated the fourth Russo-Turkish War, which began in 1768 and ended in 1774. In 1787, a new war with Russia started, and in 1788, a new war with Austria started. The Austrian war ended in 1791 with the Treaty of Sistova, while the Russian war concluded in 1792 with the Treaty of Jassy. Napoleon I of France launched an invasion of Egypt and Syria in 1798–1799, but it was thwarted by British involvement. Following Napoleon's conquest of Malta on his route to Egypt, Russia and the Ottomans formed an unprecedented partnership, resulting in a combined naval campaign to the Ionian Islands. The Septinsular Republic was founded as a result of its successful acquisition of these islands.

19th Century

Serbia was entirely freed by 1867, following the First Serbian Uprising in 1804 and the Second Serbian Uprising in 1815. In 1878, the United States gained official recognition of its independence. The sixth Russo-Turkish War lasted from 1806 until 1812, barely 13 days before Napoleon invaded Russia. The uprising in Moldavia and Wallachia (Romania) (starting simultaneously with the Greek Revolution). The Greek War of Freedom lasted from 1821 to 1832. The Great Powers, notably Russia (Seventh Russo-Turkish conflict, 1828–1829), intervened from 1827 and brought Greece independence; the Treaty of Adrianople ended the war.

Ottoman Decline (From 1828 to 1908)

The following conflicts marked the Ottoman Empire's demise.

  • Bosnian uprisings from 1831 to 1836, 1836 to 1837, and 1841.
  • Albanian uprisings in the years 1820–1822, 1830–1835, and 1847.
  • 1852–1853, war with Montenegro
  • The Crimean Conflict (1853–1856) was the eighth Russo-Turkish war, in which the United Kingdom and France sided with the Ottoman Empire. The Treaty of Paris brought an end to the period.
  • In 1858–1858, the United States fought a second war with Montenegro.
  • In 1862, a war broke out between Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia.
  • In 1866, there was a Cretan uprising.
  • In 1876, there was a Bulgarian uprising.
  • In 1877, the Ottomans withdrew from the Constantinople Conference, and the ninth and last Russo-Turkish War began. Romanians, Serbians, Bulgarians, and eventually Russians joined Romania in declaring independence and fighting Turkey (see also History of Russia (1855–92)). In 1878, Austria invaded Bosnia and Herzegovina. In early 1878, the Russians and the Ottomans signed the Treaty of San Stefano. The Treaty of Berlin (1878) acknowledged significant territory changes following debates at the Congress of Berlin, which was attended by all of the Great Powers of the period.
  • In 1878, Eastern Rumelia was granted limited autonomy, but in 1885, it revolted and joined Bulgaria. Thessaly was given to Greece in 1881, but Greece was defeated in Thessaly after attacking the Ottoman Empire to aid the Second Cretan Uprising in 1897. After the Cretan Revolt (1897–1898), Crete gained independence in 1898.

Dissolution (From 1908 to 1922)

Italo-Turkish War

In 1911, Italy attacked Ottoman Tripolitania (Tripolitania became Libya upon Africa's decolonization), which the Ottoman Empire ruled. Italy annexed Tripolitania at the end of the war. 

IIinden-preobrazhenie Uprising

In 1903, a Bulgarian insurgency erupted.

Balkan Wars (1912 to 1913)

Two Balkan Wars, in 1912 and 1913, resulted in further action in Europe against the Ottoman Empire. After capturing Macedonia and most of Thrace from the Ottoman Empire, the Balkan League split up over the spoils of war. Albania gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1912, following a series of uprisings and rebellions. Turkey's territories in Europe (Rumelia) were reduced to their current limits in Eastern Thrace due to this.

World War 1

World War I, which lasted from 1914 to 1918, was the last cause of the Ottoman Empire's collapse, which occurred in 1922. During wartime operations, however, the Empire stopped the Royal Navy of the United Kingdom from reaching Constantinople, thereby preventing an Entente invasion during the Battle of Gallipoli (1915–1916). Nonetheless, the Empire eventually collapsed under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923).

Last updated: 2021-October-28
Tags: Ottoman Empire
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