• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Nikolai

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Another massive and well written update. :)
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Near east or Far East? Are the Italians trying to set up a Portuguese/Dutch style trading empire in the Far East spice islands or a big land empire in the Balkans and Anatolia? Both?
 
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roverS3

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Francesco II seems to be a very well-rounded leader. I'm sure the Italian empire will grow and prosper under his guidance.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Knowing what we know about ottoman history, makes sense for the italians to take as many chunks as they can now before everyone else realises that they can in 200 years.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Thanks everyone for the positive feedback. The next update won't take quite as long. I went heavy with the domestic economic and social stuff this time around because the next few chapters will be very heavy foreign policy, as some of you have guessed above.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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I really liked how intensive the chapter was to be honest. The only problem with it is as you say, it takes a while and lots of thinking around the game to write up.
 

Casko

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Another fabulous update.
and glad to see this isn't a dead AAR too.

Thanks everyone for the positive feedback. The next update won't take quite as long. I went heavy with the domestic economic and social stuff this time around because the next few chapters will be very heavy foreign policy, as some of you have guessed above.
So it was indeed calm before the storm. Let's see what's to come in that case. I'll wait warmly for what's next for the Medici dynasty of Italian kings.
 
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Cromwell

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I have just got up to date with this wonderful AAR, it's hard to pick out a high point amongst so many brilliant updates but the seige of Florence, and the fighting in New Italy with the natives were both written masterfully. I can't wait for more.
 
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Jape

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I have just got up to date with this wonderful AAR, it's hard to pick out a high point amongst so many brilliant updates but the seige of Florence, and the fighting in New Italy with the natives were both written masterfully. I can't wait for more.
Dang I thought 'twas an update - nonetheless totally agree, I'm very much looking forward to the foriegn policy chapters @JerseyGiants88
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Just slotting this AAR in for WritAAR of the Week.
 

JerseyGiants88

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Just slotting this AAR in for WritAAR of the Week.
Wow thank you. This is an unexpected (though pleasant) surprise given my paltry lack of writing production lately. I'll use this as motivation to write more. I do expect to have the next chapter up by the end of the week. The next one after that is close too. They will, together, cover the events of the coming war with the Ottoman Empire.

Thanks again, @TheButterflyComposer for this nomination. I will make sure to find a worthy AAR to pass it on to.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Wow thank you. This is an unexpected (though pleasant) surprise given my paltry lack of writing production lately
Given the first time I was awarded this, it was for an aar that had been slow for months, and this time in celebration of an aar having consistent updates, I know well the value of this one as a shot in the arm for writers. I actually quite like giving it to slower burn authors because daily or weekly update aars don't really need more awards than the big end of year ones to keep going.

Thanks again, @TheButterflyComposer for this nomination. I will make sure to find a worthy AAR to pass it on to.
Its all good. We try to spread the love outside of HOI3 and CKII every so often...;)
 
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JerseyGiants88

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Chapter 58: Crusader Kings, 1670-1672
"A prince ought to have no other aim or thought, nor select anything else for his study, than war and its rules and discipline." -- Niccolò Machiavelli

“I happen to be a death-dealing, blood-crazed warrior who wakes up every day just hoping for the chance to dismember my enemies and defile their civilizations.” – Corporal Josh Persons, USMC, Generation Kill


The last stand of the Knights Hospitaller at Acre, 1291

The fall of Acre in 1291 to the Mamluk Empire marked the end of the Crusader States in the Levant. For centuries afterwards, the might of the Mamluk and then Ottoman Empires made the idea of an expedition to the Holy Land seem fantastical. However, by the second half of the Seventeenth Century, the balance of power had shifted west. The combined strength of the Catholic countries in Europe had come to rival those of the great Muslim powers: the Ottomans as well as the Sultanate of Tunis, which ruled the North African coast and much of Egypt, including Cairo and Alexandria.

Still, the two Islamic powers worked in close conjunction, had shared interests, and were linked by dynastic ties between the two main branches of the Imperial House of Osman. Together, they ruled lands from Baluchistan in the east to Morocco in the west. Still, for all their fearsome reputation, the Ottoman Empire had largely been a bastion of peace and stability for the better part of a century. Their European frontier, despite sporadic back-and-forth raiding, had been largely stable since the late Sixteenth Century. The last conflict along the Danube, in 1647-49, was initiated by the Poles and Lithuanians as they attempted and failed to drive the Turks south of the great river. Istanbul’s last major conquest was taking Persia from the Timurid Empire in 1607. Otherwise, Ottoman military exploits were limited to taking lands on the Asian steppes from the Timurids and parts of the Arabian Peninsula from Yemen. The “Lords of the Horizon”, as the Turkish sultans styled themselves, preferred instead to focus on cultural advancement and economic prosperity. These efforts had paid off. Istanbul remained a premier world city and the economy prospered. Sultan Selim I’s father, Mahmut I (r. 1657-66), had been a great patron of the arts before his untimely death. He hosted at his court the renowned poets Seyāḥat-nāme, Karacaoğlan, Llukë Bogdani, Neşāṭī, and Kul Nesîmî, as well as the musicians Hâfız Post and Nayi Osman Dede, among others. The previous sultan had a passion for great architecture projects as well, a trait he successfully passed on to his son. the astronomer Ömer Salih.



The teenaged Sultan Selim I

In North Africa, another young member of the Imperial House of Osman ruled: the twenty-two-year-old Sultan Muhammad V. His realm lacked the wealth and power of his cousin Selim’s but remained a formidable ally. Tunis recognized Istanbul as the senior partner, with Muhammad even referring to his younger Turkish cousin with the honorific Pâdişah. Though the (in)famous Barbary Corsairs were much diminished from the peaks of power they achieved in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries, they still struck fear into the hearts of Europeans all along the Mediterranean coast from Cadiz to Cagliari to Candia. Not only did the Tunisians complement the Ottomans in military terms. They also supplied their allies with a steady stream of learned religious scholars from Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, the world’s premier center of Islamic learning.


Muhammad V, Sultan of Tunis

The Catholic powers, on the other hand, were riven by division and differing strategic priorities, several of which pitted them as adversaries. The historical conflict between the royal houses of Valois and Habsburg had hitherto limited cooperation on any grand projects. The House of Austria also had a rivalry with the Poniatowskis of Poland. A century earlier, during the great religious war of 1571-75, those dynastic enmities had gone so far as to drive France and Poland onto the side of the insurgent Evangelical Union against the Habsburg-led Catholic League. Despite these difficulties, two factors came together to improve the prospects for a Christian mission to Jerusalem. The first was the end of the Counter-Reformation in 1662. This was, however, also a potential double-edged sword. On the one hand, the declared “victory” of the Church and the successful containment of Protestantism to Central Europe, Scandinavia, and the British Isles, instilled a renewed swagger and confidence in the Catholic world. The Church had endured the greatest internal threat to its supremacy since the Great Schism of the Eleventh Century and emerged firmly entrenched as the majority-religion in Europe. On the other hand, lack of a unifying enemy brought about the threat of intra-Catholic warfare. The years since the end of the Counter-Reformation saw a relaxation in tensions between Catholic and Protestant states. This was good for the economies of Europe, especially those of the states most victimized by inter-confessional warfare, like those in Germany and the Low Countries. On the other hand, the prospects of a grand, permanent alliance among the great powers of the faith seemed more remote than ever. Catholic Poland was allied with Lutheran Denmark while Austria, once the prime enforcer of the Counter-Reformation, was allied with Great Britain, Saxony, and Lüneburg. Instead, the main point of tension in Europe in 1670 was between France and Poland on the one side, and Austria on the other. The situation caused the crowned heads in Paris, Florence, Vienna, and Warsaw to all realize the potential of a disastrous intra-Catholic war.


The state of religion in Europe, 1670

With his country prospering, King Francesco II, turned his attention to this great project. He saw the chance to unite the Catholic world and roll back the power of the mighty Ottoman Empire. He also championed the prospect of turning Italy into a truly Mediterranean empire. His goals were a mix of the political, the military, and the economic. Specifically, he targeted the great trading centers at Ragusa, Alexandria, and Aleppo. If Italy was to continue expanding territorially and economically, she would need more money and gaining control of vital trade routes was the best way to get it. If Italy could establish dominance across the Mediterranean, she could expect lucrative windfall that could maintain armies overseas indefinitely. After all, conquering parts of the Holy Land was not enough, they also had to be maintained and ruled. Francesco was supported in this cause by several of the leading trade companies, particularly among the Venetians, who had lost their privileged trading access in Syria and Palestine after their republic was annexed in 1634. When rumors began circulating in 1670 that the king was contemplating a Middle Eastern expedition, the Maggior Consiglio, or Great Council, penned a letter to “Our Most Serene Doge, the King of Italy, Francesco II” pledging full support “in any such endeavor.” Venice, a city once renowned for its crusading zeal, was ready to answer the call to take up the Cross one more time.

Florence, the city that extinguished the Venetian Republic, had now also surpassed Istanbul as the primary naval power in the Mediterranean (in no small part thanks to the industrious production of warships from Venice’s world-renowned arsenale). Italy also enjoyed greater gold reserves than her Muslim rival. Still, senior Italian officers, the king included, knew they were unable to win such a war against the Sultan alone. The Ottomans remained the premier land power in Europe and the Middle East, able to field more well trained and equipped soldiers than any state aside from Ming China. The empire’s sophisticated and highly efficient logistical network was able to keep both its cities and field armies fed and supplied indefinitely, even with disruptions of Turkish shipping networks. Francesco needed a coalition. Thankfully, he found a crucial ally in the man best placed to make such a dream reality.

Even before Francesco II, the Great Crusade was the dream of Pope Paul V. As a cardinal, Camillo dé Medici-Castellina led the hawkish faction within the curia. He was the Italian front man for a group of mostly German and French cardinals who felt the Counter-Reformation ended too early and the Church was remiss not to take a more militant stance against both Protestant and Muslim states. A thin, ascetic, and sickly man who was said to look older than his 58 years, Pope Paul was nevertheless energetic and driven by a fierce religious zeal. Though often unable to walk due to what was likely an arthritic condition in his knees, the pontiff would conduct business from a specially designed golden wheelchair or from his chambers. The revival of the crusading dream was the project that kept the old man going. He admired Pope Urban II, who declared the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont in 1095. Paul knew that it was more by luck than judgment that Europe survived the Ottoman onslaught over the previous two and a half centuries. There had been no true unity of purpose before. Recriminations over failed campaign plans and battlefield defeats left a sour taste after even modestly successful missions. Christendom was still in terrible peril, the Pope said, “from the frontiers of Hungary to the shores of Spain.” Only by unified action could Europe resist the Ottoman Empire and, “if God wills it,” drive it back. No one state alone could defeat “the Turk,” the pontiff insisted. He apparently considered the fact that the Ottomans had not conquered a European province in nearly a century to be unimportant. Paul V focused his mind on succeeding where his predecessors had failed: to wake the Catholic powers from their “dangerous slumber” and align their disparate interests in the formation of a durable Holy League to confront the infidel. He brought the Inquisitor’s zeal to the endeavor.



Paul V calls for a Crusade against the Ottoman Empire

First and foremost, the success of Paul and Francesco’s shared vision depended on finding a way to get France and Poland to stop fighting with Austria. The Pope called for a Holy League Summit to be held in Salzburg in early 1671. Prince-Archbishop Max Gandolph von Küenburg, a close associate and political ally of the Pope, would act as host and guarantee the safety of the attendees. The Papal Nuncio, Cardinal Pietro Priuli, would chair the meetings. The location caused some grumbling among the French and Polish delegations, as they considered it advantageous to the Austrians that the summit was so close to them. The squabbling over the location was a glimpse into the future intra-League conflicts Paul V’s successor would have to navigate. Strong leadership from Rome was going to be essential to keep the alliance together. To set things in motion and coincide with the summit, the Pope issued a Papal Bull: Cogimur Jubente Altissimo. In it, he called for a “Great Crusade” against the Ottoman Empire. As a supplement, he also ordered a treaty drafted, with spaces open for signatures from envoys of the participating states. As appropriate for its time, this Great Crusade was to be not only a declaration of religious fervor, but also a formal deliberation by a body of professional diplomats.

Among the invitees to Salzburg, France was the most hesitant about crusading. Louis XX was not convinced that war against the Ottoman Empire was in his interest. Paris enjoyed cordial ties with Istanbul and there was little to gain for the French from a territorial standpoint. Unlike Italy, France did not aspire to overseas colonies in the Mediterranean. Her navy was robust but lacked the strength to simultaneously challenge Britain and Spain in the Atlantic and the Ottomans and Italians in the Mediterranean. The choice between the two theaters was easy enough. Commerce with the French North American colonies was vastly more important to the state coffers than anything coming through the Mediterranean. Louis, despite his reputation for vanity and frivolity, was a realistic ruler and he did not covet Alexandria, as Francesco did, or Balkan lands like his Polish and Austrian counterparts. He did not even want Tunis or Oran, closer to home. The King of France was known to have a fear of damnation, and perhaps he was spurred on to war by the exhortations of several cardinals in his orbit. Chief among them was Georges d'Aubusson de La Feuillade, Bishop of Metz and a highly trusted advisor to the monarch. As longstanding allies of Paul V, these clergymen may have guilted the King of France into war. Another, enticement he could not resist in the end was the chance to win the gloire of crusading. Louis XX considered himself a great French monarch, and joining the coalition would add him to the ranks of the legendary crusader kings: Philip II and Louis VIII. The Most Christian King of France had to have a place of honor, it would not do to be upstaged by the upstart King of Italy. Before foreign minister Jean de Lauris departed for Salzburg, Louis instructed him to demand that the right to take Holy Land be reserved for the armies of France.



Louis XX de Valois, King of France and Navarre

In Poland, most of the nobility greeted the pious exhortations coming from the west with mild amusement. Unlike their Catholic brethren, the Poles had a long tradition of fighting the Ottomans. While this did not always take the form of open war, the endless skirmishes between hussars and Tatar cavalry along the frontier were a fact of life for both sides. Poland stood to gain a great deal if the Ottoman Empire was weakened. She had Baltic ambitions along with a need to defend against the growing threat of an expansive Russia to the east. Pushing the Turks across the Danube would stabilize the southern frontier and allow her to pay full attention to the north. Maksym Skarbeck, Grand Hetman of Poland, headed the pro-war faction of the Polish Sejm. Poland and Lithuania had attempted to force the Ottomans south during the Danubian War (1647-49) but were eventually repelled despite the great Christian victory at the Battle of Dăbuleni. Trading Lithuania for Italy, France, and Austria as allies meant that success was more likely this time. King Jan IV was favorable toward the war, but he was happy to let Skarbeck lead the charge in the Sejm. When the parliament voted to send an envoy to Salzburg to negotiate the terms of the coalition, Skarbeck volunteered to go himself.

Austria was, like her eastern rival, an ardent war supporter. If anything, the creation of a Holy League would remove the immense pressure of guarding against simultaneous Polish attacks in Hungary and French maneuvers in the Low Countries. Indeed, Archduke Philipp I had married off his favorite granddaughter, Maria Maddalena, to Francesco II specifically to push along the case for war against the Ottoman Empire. The new Italian queen did not need to do much to successfully lobby her husband. In Francesco, she and her Habsburg kin found a ready and willing ally. Her myriad efforts, which included a nearly endless correspondence with Vienna (carried back and forth by a contingent of officers from the elite Mano Nera cavalry regiment) as well as pressuring the wives of prominent men in the political and business spheres to lobby their husbands in support of the war, paid off. The fifty-four-year-old Philipp dreamed of leaving behind a secure Austria to his grandson and heir, Prince Franz. Curbing the power of the House of Osman was a crucial step to turn that aspiration to reality.

King Francesco decided to send his Minister of War, Ginevra Toscani, as his representative to Salzburg. His Foreign Minister, Giovanni Battista Veneroso, was busy building up the navy, and none of Francesco’s top military commanders had the requisite diplomatic credentials to make trustworthy envoys. Toscani, personally groomed for leadership by King Gian Gastone I, possessed the military knowledge to plan a major campaign as well as the diplomatic refinement necessary to get erstwhile enemies to join together on the same side. She was, nevertheless, a bold choice. In a world dominated by men, in which women held no legal rights in many countries, having a woman representing the most crucial of the four powers present was potentially risky. Whether the other delegates would balk at such a prospect was an open question. However, if anyone was up to the task, it was Toscani. A veteran of both the battlefield and the royal court, she made the perfect ambassador for a diplomatic summit that was to double as a war council. Her combat experience during the Iberian War was particularly valuable in gaining respect from the rest of the members. Aside from Maksym Skarbeck, she possessed the most battlefield experience among the assembled delegates, even taking into consideration the broader entourages present at Salzburg. Only a handful of men could boast a comparable military résumé. Despite being the only woman at the summit, the confidence born of these prior achievements left her undaunted. Decades of experience in the cutthroat politics of the Florentine court had her well trained to deal with men who did not consider her their equal. Toscani would prove more than up to the task. Her performance at Salzburg, along with her oversight of the Italian armies in the war to come, cemented her legacy as one of Italy’s greatest statesmen and military minds.



View of Salzburg

The Salzburg Summit, with its vaguely stated public mission of Catholic “unity”, opened on 8 February 1671. Prince-Archbishop Max Gandolph von Küenburg celebrated mass with the assembled delegations and city notables in Salzburg Cathedral before everyone moved across the Kapitelplatz to the offices of the archbishopric’s administration, where the actual negotiations took place. Cardinal Pietro Priuli made note that the first day of the summit fell on the Feast of St. Dorothy of Caesarea, a Fourth Century virgin martyr. St. Dorothy was the patroness of gardeners, brewers, brides, florists, midwives, and newlyweds: a good omen pointing toward fruitful negotiations, according to the Papal Nuncio. The 47-year-old cardinal was Toscani’s greatest ally at the conference. He was one of Paul V’s followers in the hawkish faction of the curia and now he was ready to see through the grim work his mentor started. Toscani was more than ready to leverage papal prestige to Italian ends. She arranged with the cardinal to open the meeting with a dramatic gesture. Priuli spoke first, proclaiming the opportunity for a new crusade to the assembled delegates. He read the full text, in Latin, of Cogimur Jubente Altissimo. He then produced the treaty supplement to the papal bull. The document bore the signature of the pontiff and the seal bearing the Keys of St. Peter. All that was left to do was for “one representative from each state taking up the Cross” to sign below. Priuli placed the document on the table in front of him and sat down. Toscani rose and walked in front of the Papal Nuncio and signed the document. By pledging Italy to the war, she threw down the gauntlet before the other delegates. The fact that a woman did it only served to further ruffle the others’ pride.

Skarbeck rose next, declared that his indignance at not being able to sign the document first was tempered by the fact that he, as a gentleman, was happy to let the lady take precedence. He then also scrawled his signature below Toscani’s. After the Grand Hetman of the Polish Crown sat down, a sense of the moment’s import descended briefly over the room. Nevertheless, there remained an understanding that difficult but necessary business came next, thus tempering any potential triumphalism. Jean de Lauris and Cardinal Stichenstein took their turns after Skarbeck with little fanfare. With all the signatures on the document, the negotiations could begin in earnest. Unlike the euphoric effect caused by Urban II’s proclamation of the First Crusade at Clermont nearly six centuries earlier, the Seventeenth Century version was an affair of state. The exuberance of the Medieval peasant was nowhere to be found at the summit. This was a situation more akin to the genesis of the Third Crusade (1189-92), led by the rulers King Richard I of England, King Philipp II of France, and Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa of the Holy Roman Empire. To further enhance that comparison, with the signing complete, each state’s envoy pledged that their sovereign would personally lead their armies in battle (excepting the ailing Pope Paul V).

From this moment of unity, the talks quickly turned to squabbling. As representative of the only state with good relations with all parties involved, Toscani often served as peace maker. The French envoy declared he was hopeful for a successful venture, but he wanted to know how they meant to defeat such a formidable foe. Though he represented a king who was somewhat hesitant of joining the alliance, Jean de Lauris privately supported the war. He rose to a high position in the French army only after having spent a decade and a half on the North American frontier, operating trading posts in the Ohio River Valley. Still, he did not have an exclusively military or business background. During his time in North America he became enmeshed in Native American politics, negotiating treaties and fighting in their wars, on one side or the other. He thus was also a skilled negotiator. He said in return for his signature, he wanted a promise that Louis be given exclusive rights to take the Jerusalem. The King of France was, according to de Lauris, liege lord of the old Crusader States by rights. He also added further that France had more pressing foreign policy demands, and needed to preserve money to “keep the Germans at bay.” In other words, he was being a shrewd negotiator: displaying his country’s willingness for war, but only at the right price.

Cardinal Stichenstein immediately pointed to de Lauris and declared the French to be untrustworthy allies. His obstinacy was cut short, however when Priuli intervened, chiding his fellow Jesuit for his lack of enthusiasm for the crusading cause and for “caring more about ethereal ideas than the real work of freeing the Holy Land.” The 42-year-old Austrian foreign minister was chastened. All he asked for subsequently were promises of fair treatment for the Archduke in the division of prizes. Both envoys, de Lauris and Stichenstein, despite registering their mutual dislike for the record, agreed that it was important to hammer out details of the war, its goals, and its potential spoils. Skarbeck had a plan he brought with him and was happy to present. Toscani, who brought her own plan, held off revealing the fact. She knew the Italian plan would be controversial, as would her demands for the eventual post-war settlement. However, with the war declaration signed, she was happy to get bogged down in military minutia. That was, after all, her strong suit. Priuli sided with her on this, as did Skarbeck who had the same idea as Toscani. He wanted war just as much as she did, though he had a much different idea of who should get the lion’s share of territory afterwards. Toscani demurred on the question of Jerusalem, since her war plan required Italian, not French-led, operations in the Levant. However, she offered de Lauris a guarantee that “France be given right to capture Istanbul and to secure war repayment by divesting the city of assets as appropriate.” The grimly dark euphemism for “loot and pillage” enticed the Frenchman. If the French could pay for their expedition by simply stealing treasure from the magnificent Turkish capital, then the war would be worth it. To sweeten any deal and smooth over differences, Toscani offered matching war subsidies for both France and Austria. This provision, tossed to the French in lieu of any territorial gains, would have dire consequences for the world’s greatest center of culture.



Maksym Skarbeck, Grand Hetman of the Polish Crown

By 12 February, most of the major points of contention were resolved. Toscani’s plan, which presented the Italian landing in Palestine as a mere diversion, won support over Skarbeck’s plan, which emphasized the Polish army’s role as the main effort. She left out specifics on Italian designs in Egypt and the Levant, including in the treaty only the stipulation that Italy be entitled to “certain overseas territories including in the lands of Egypt or Palestine.” Austria and Poland were both promised lands in the Balkans. France was granted the privilege of leading any attack “against the city of Constantinople.” The following day, all parties present signed the treaty addendum and the Salzburg Summit was officially closed. It established an ambitious timeline: 1 August 1671 was set as the date for the declaration of war. Secret documents were dispatched to each country’s ambassadors in Constantinople and Tunis, ready to be presented to their host’s respective rulers on that date.


The territories of the belligerent states; with the Holy League shown in shades of red, the Islamic powers in green

With the plans for war set in motion, Italy had to move quickly. Thankfully, the country’s armed forces were already close to fully ready. In order for the Holy League to win, it was not sufficient to defeat the Ottomans on land. Victory at sea was going to be an essential ingredient if the Christian forces were to find success. When Francesco II joined Austria in the War of 1670, it was a minor distraction from his more serious foreign policy ambitions. In addition to building up the army, from the time of his coronation, the young king had embarked on an ambitious program of naval modernization and expansion. The impetus for this policy was a young naval officer named Giovanni Battista Veneroso. Veneroso had the advantage of being a personal friend of the king, but, more importantly, he already boasted an impressive resumé. The son of a prominent Genovese merchant family, he bought a commission as an ensign at age 14 and served in the Iberian War. By the end of that conflict, he had so distinguished himself that he was a captain of his own ship, the frigate Santa Caterina. It was during the war that he first came to the attention of Enzo Boncompagni, who mentioned Veneroso in a letter to Gian Gastone I written shortly after the Peace of Lisbon. “Never has one so young struck so much fear into the hearts of Spanish seamen,” the Lord Admiral wrote of Veneroso approvingly to his sovereign. From there, Boncompagni began grooming the young officer for higher command. Boncompagni became convinced of Veneroso’s potential after only a short time working with him. “Even at his age, he has as sharp a mind as my own for logistics and planning,” the admiral wrote to his successor, Carlo Andrea Doria in 1655, “but he also has the mind to come to rival you in tactics, a skill I never mastered.”

When Boncompagni resigned his post as Lord Admiral in protest over the invasions of Bonoman and Air in West Africa, the newly-promoted Doria took Veneroso under his wing instead. The pair got along well, both being of Ligurian extraction, and it also helped that their families were heavily involved in business together back home. Still, despite their mercantile roots, neither Doria nor Veneroso agreed with men like Gioacchino Gori, the foreign minister, over how the fleet should be used. Gori believed the Italian navy was primarily meant to protect trade and escort merchant marine vessels in treacherous waters. In particular, Gori intended for them to protect the increasingly valuable slave trade. The navy’s need to engage in actual combat should be limited to fighting pirates and privateers employed by Italy’s rivals. The two Genovese officers, on the other hand, believed that while trade was important, Italy needed a true battle fleet. Doria began the process of talking Francesco II into a naval expansion, particularly in light of the new monarch’s rumored “eastern ambitions.” However, Doria never got to see the process to the end. In August of 1665, he was killed by a cannon shot while fighting Barbary corsairs off the coast of Malta. With his mentors retired or dead, Veneroso came to the realization that he would need to lead the drive to build the new Italian navy.




Giovanni Battista Veneroso, Count of La Spezia; Foreign Minister and Lord Admiral of Italy

If ever an Italian monarch was well suited to hear Veneroso out, it was Francesco II. The king was a soldier at heart with dreams of winning battlefield glory. However, he was also a student of Boncompagni, as Doria and Veneroso were, and under the influence of his innovative Minister of War, Ginevra Toscani. Both Boncompagni and Toscani were masters of logistics and supply chains. Though she oversaw the army, Toscani understood that the ability to resupply by sea, in particular when conducting campaigns far from the homeland, gave the army a potentially decisive advantage over foes who remained reliant on land-based supply lines. Thus, when Veneroso approached the king about building up the navy, he found an enthusiastic supporter in Toscani. This was also a happy coincidence. Where in many cases a naval reformer would find little more than resistance and hostility from a Minister of War eager to hoard resources for the army, in Toscani, Veneroso found a partner who understood that the whole of the Italian war machine could be much greater than the sum of its two constituent branches. Francesco II decided to name Veneroso Lord Admiral of the Navy at the age of 31, making him the youngest man to ever hold the position.

Veneroso’s vision was to have the Italian navy tower over its rivals, as he was of the belief that such a force could be used to advance Italian interests both in Europe and across the wider globe. As a student of Boncompagni, Veneroso understood that the two arms of the Italian military complex, the army and the navy, would have to cooperate. The admiral took such nuggets of knowledge to his sovereign, who by the late 1660s was assessing how to best place Italy in a position atop the European food chain. There remained unfinished business with Spain, continued upheaval in the Holy Roman Empire, and the rise of enormous powers on the eastern steppes. These were, with the partial exception of Spain, land-base concerns, so the King remained mostly focused on the army for that purpose. Veneroso, nonetheless, was instructed by Florence to proceed with his plans to expand the navy. Italy, at this point in her history, could afford a simultaneous expansion in the naval and land army sectors, thanks to large treasury reserves and a steady income from overseas trade.



The entrance to Venice's arsenale; Italy’s primary shipbuilding depot

The king was to leave the naval side of things to Veneroso, granting him the title of Count of La Spezia to go along with his naval rank. The Italian navy was at a reasonable standard, getting the better of the previously feared Spaniards during the Iberian War. Still, there remained even more daunting foes to fight: namely, the Ottoman Empire and its mighty Mediterranean war fleet. Another lesson the young Veneroso had learned from his mentor, was that creating a navy was not as simple as the construction of ships. The logistical dimensions of the country once again became a factor. Outside of major commercial centers like Venice, Genoa, Livorno, Naples, and Pisa, Italy’s ports were too small, and she also lacked a sufficient naval administration to orchestrate the entire process. Just like he would do with the ships, Veneroso built or expanded these as well. Between 1665 and 1670, the port facilities were improved, expanded, and fortified at Rimini, Pesaro, Ancona, Salerno, Messina, Palermo, Taranto, and Bari. These infrastructure improvements were as vital to the continued expansion and maintenance of the navy as the supply of timber and skilled sailors.

It is striking how by all contemporary accounts, Veneroso seemed unfazed by the task at hand. His duties expanded when he was named Foreign Minister in the wake of Gori’s death in 1668. He tackled professionalization of the navy’s administration and operations before moving to infrastructure development. Thankfully, he did not have to conduct these reforms from scratch. Much like armies depended on legions of intermediaries to represent the crown, and logistics officers to procure the resources and organize affairs on the ground, so too did the navy. These individuals, known as procuratori, were employed in coastal areas of Italy, and as they resided in home territory, they were permanent employees of the crown, rather than the temporary officials hired by armies as they moved during wartime. The necessity of employing such men became clear when it came time to acquire vast stores of timber, or foodstuffs for the men, or gunpowder for the cannons. In place of the hungry horses forcing a quartering during the winter, it was instead the treacherous seas that often interrupted proceedings, and Veneroso had to adapt his expensive investments accordingly. Since the procuratori tended to possess a level of interest, and sometimes personal investment, in several trade routes, the financial and military arms of the navy frequently overlapped, but so long as the vessels were sturdily built this did not necessarily matter. Veneroso sidestepped any potential conflicts of interests by ensuring they received a steady, highly competitive salary paid for by Medici gold. This would pay off in both the construction of well-built ships as well as the rapid and effective port improvements over the next handful of years.

The more formidable challenge facing Veneroso’s naval vision was the sheer lack of proper ports. Ports acted as the garrison towns of the navy, and their importance was paramount. Ports protected navies from harsh storms; it granted them a base to reside, ideally as one force, while grander plans could be put forward. It gave them a recognized point from which they could, as one, refit and replenish their stores, a constant feature of Seventeenth Century naval life and indeed of naval life in general until the late Nineteenth Century. The problem was that most Italian ports were uselessly small for what Veneroso had in mind, namely hosting large numbers of massive war galleons. The largest ports on offer, such as Venice and Genoa, could handle any number of such ships, but most elsewhere, at least part of the fleet would remain exposed, anchored outside the protective walls of the ports. Veneroso would have to redefine not merely the Italian navy, but enhance the Italian relationship with the sea if he wanted to put his plans into action.



Illustration of the Port of Livorno after Veneroso’s modernization plan

Bringing about centralization and the uniform design of ships could only be implemented with direct royal control. First, he moved the principal office of the admiralty to Pisa, a mere day’s ride to the west, but with a seaside location. In turn, the new admiralty would have satellite offices at each of the major ports, all of which would report back to the main location in Pisa. The satellites would also liaise with one another when it came time for construction and then into the future during subsequent operations. The new information network was relied upon to disseminate the updated decrees on vessel size, cannon weight, and sail height. A royal construction council appeared at Rimini, Messina, and Bari between 1670-71, while a royal construction school was founded in 1670 to coordinate and advise these boards further, as well as develop the latest in military theory at sea. Such institutions would help standardize Italian shipbuilding, and their ordinances were handed down to subsequent generations of naval officers.

By the end of 1670, the Italian navy boasted 20 war galleons, 40 frigates, 21 war galleys, and 27 heavy transports. Among them were the new, and spectacular flagship of the fleet: the majestic Venere Armata, boasting 80 guns and a crew of 450. This was good enough to make Italy’s the second largest navy in the world and gave her the strength needed to project power in every corner of the Mediterranean. The problem was that the largest navy belonged to the Ottomans, who boasted an old fashioned but formidable galley-based fleet. While Istanbul’s admiralty could only float 12 war galleons and 9 frigates, they could also send a whopping 125 galleys against their foes. The crucially important Mediterranean theater became not only a struggle between Florence and Istanbul for dominion over what was once the great sea of Classical Antiquity, but also a referendum naval theory. It was a contest to see if superior gunnery and sailing tactics could best the ancient art of galley warfare in the close confines of an inland sea.

Italy and the Ottoman Empire were indisputably the two great maritime forces in the Mediterranean. Spain, the third power in that sea, remained neutral in the war. The two states’ respective allies would contribute to the maritime campaign, but in a minor, supporting role. Historically, the Sultanate of Tunis and its fearsome corsair fleets could hold serve with any rival. However, by 1670, the corsair fleet was a shell of its former self. Years of fighting Spanish and Italian counter-piracy flotillas had severely degraded their capabilities, and each raid felt costlier than the one before in terms of lost ships and lives. Down to only 3 galleons, 7 frigates, and a measly 8 galleys, they didn’t even have the numbers at full strength to make up a wing of an Ottoman war fleet. Italy’s allies were, in theory, more formidable. While France boasted the world’s third largest fleet, in terms of total ships, the numbers were inflated by the large number of lightly armed troop transports in the service. France had 50 such vessels, giving her nearly double the transport capacity of the Italians. However, she also lacked galleys, without a single one left in service by the start of the 1670s. The French did float 19 war galleons and 31 frigates, only slightly behind the Italians. Still, their contribution to the war effort would be sparse. Louis XX was eager to keep his commerce with the Americas going and, thus, dedicated only a grand total of 8 frigates to the fight in the Mediterranean, and even these mostly just escorted French merchant vessels. Austria made more of an effort. However, the Austrian navy paled in comparison to the French. With only 1 war galleon, 7 frigates, and 12 galleys, they were largely left to patrol the Adriatic while the Italians ventured forth to fight the Ottoman fleets in the wider sea. Poland’s navy, which was of comparable size to the Austrian one, was nevertheless absent from the fighting as it was busy defending Warsaw’s interest in the ever-volatile Baltic Sea instead.

On land, the king handled matters more directly. He divided his total land forces into two armies. He would personally command the expedition to the Levant, while Duke of Urbino, General Carlo Grimaldi, would take his men overland and into the Balkans to join the wider Holy League campaign there. The expeditionary force, newly christened the Armata di Gerusalemme, departed from Naples on 27 March 1671, on route to Cyprus. Queen Maria Maddalena attended to give her farewell not only to her husband, but also “to those brave sons and husbands who will risk their lives in this holy cause.” The mighty fleet set sail carrying 22,000 men and their attendant horses, supplies, and cannons. In truth, this represented only half the strength of the expedition. A second wave was waiting back in Italy at Brindisi, to be picked up by the fleet on a second trip. Fully assembled, the Armata di Gerusalemme numbered 41,000 soldiers. Among them were the Reggimento Lagunari and the Reggimento San Marco; two Venetian units specialized in amphibious operations. To them went the honor of being the first Italians to set foot in the Holy Land. Not only were they perfectly suited for the mission, but the regiments’ role also carried on the Venetians’ long and rich crusading tradition. It was appropriate that Francesco II launch his invasion of the Middle East from Cyprus. After all, it was the king’s beloved childhood military tutor, Alessandro di Ferrari, who first conquered the island for the Medici.



The departure of Francesco II and the Armata di Gerusalemme from Naples

At Istanbul’s Topkapı Palace, the men who surrounded the young emperor were aware of the situation and the threat they faced. The armies of Christendom were on the move, and all signs pointed to war. Polish hussar raids into Wallachia increased, Austrian troops were massing on the frontier and less than 40 nautical miles of sea separated an Italian army from Anatolia. The presence of a hostile power in Cyprus had been a major threat to the Ottomans ever since Italy invaded and annexed the island in 1639. The potential for an invasion of the Levant by sea caused a split between military decision makers. Some, like Musa Ayas, the foreign minister, dismissed the threat from Cyprus and considered the Balkans to be the decisive theater of the war to come. On paper, their position appeared far more sensible. 40,000 Italians in Cyprus paled in comparison to the number of soldiers the Holy League could muster along the Danube. Italy alone was likely to contribute a force nearly equal in size to the Armata di Gerusalemme to that theater, on top of the full force of the Polish and Austrian armies. Even the threat of French troops had to be considered (at this point the leadership in Istanbul was unsure whether or not France would join the Holy League, but they certainly planned for the worst-case scenario). Still, some others argued that the threat to the Levant was equally serious. An Italian invasion would threaten supply lines from Persia and Iraq to Anatolia and the capital. From a more military perspective, Tunisian soldiers would most likely have to make the journey to join their allies over land, as the Italian navy would be too great of a threat to Ottoman and Tunisian shipping to risk moving a large army by sea. In the end, they settled on a compromise approach, trying to hedge their bets. The governing style that suited Cüneyt Gazi Pasha in peace time, one that sought always to find compromise and bridge divisions among the ruling elite, would be ill suited for war.

At Cyprus, the king divided his army into two camps, one for each wave of the invasion. The second wave portion of the army made camp to the west of Larnaca, while the king encamped at Limassol, from whose port he would also depart. He chose the site because it was where his childhood hero, Riccardo Cuor di Leone (Richard I of England), and his army stayed during their own Cypriot sojourn. Francesco wrote back to his queen, “here, I can feel the weight of history on my shoulders.” He drilled and marched his armies relentlessly, doing his best to keep them sharp and, more importantly, well-disciplined. The Cypriots had not forgotten the Italians’ brutality during the conquest and subjugation of the island in the years 1639-45. Invasion and annexation impoverished the island and its people, leaving them destitute and on the edge of starvation. The revolt that inevitably followed, struck a brilliant victory over the hated general and governor, Alessandro di Ferrari, Count of Maranello; the man who first took their liberty. Only the personal intervention of King Gian Gastone I, leading the full might of the Italian military, ended the revolt. It took all the skill and effort of the king’s brilliant cousin, Ercole di Canossa, to heal the wounds. Canossa, the illegitimate son of the famous Princess Margherita dé Medici, spent the rest of his life there, even marrying into one of the few remaining families of the Lusignan-era nobility. He built a capable, native-born administration to run day to day politics and his easygoing relationship with Gian Gastone helped open a stronger flow of money and trade privileges for the Cypriot population. He even gained the king’s consent to name a native-born successor: Makarios Papapetrou.

Papapetrou and his own successor, Christodoulos Valentinou, were strong and successful leaders, improving the Cypriot economy and pushing a pro-Florence line with their people. Still, Italians were hardly seen as friends by the general population. There was a strong possibility that anyone over the age of about 30 knew someone killed by Italian soldiers in the initial invasion, subsequent violence, or both. Despite the gains of the economy over the previous two and a half decades, it was still far from its pre-invasion levels. Poverty remained rampant and large groups of armed, unemployed young men roamed the countryside, committing acts banditry and other mischief. The possibility of blood shed between members of such groups and Italian soldiers were extremely high.

Francesco II knew that a sudden outburst of violence, pitting Italian soldiers against their unwilling hosts could wreak havoc for the expedition before it even arrived in the Holy Land. He called upon the current governor, Constaninos Lakkotrypis, a 46-year-old merchant from Famagusta, and the now-retired Ercole di Canossa. The latter of the two, now in his late 60s, remained undoubtedly the most popular Italian in Cyprus and the king considered his advice to be invaluable. The former was perhaps the wealthiest native-born figure on the island. Lakkotrypis was a highly successful businessman with significant connections to Cypriot mercantile leadership. Together, the trio agreed to smother any chance for a flare up with gold: a tried and true Medici method. The son of the king whose iron first crushed the Cypriot Revolt arrived with open hands filled with coins. Along with the army came hefty payments distributed to the leadership of the various cities to improve infrastructure, and, if necessary, import food in case of a crop failures. The king extended the protection of royal subsidies and supplies of grain and other food stuffs. Thus, the same methods used to mitigate the effects of shortages in Italy, were extended to Cyprus. During his first visit to Nicosia, the king appeared in public wearing traditional Cypriot clothing: a burgundy shirt of woven silk atop black pants of thick thimito cotton, called a Vraka. He wore a dark red fez atop his head and a magnificent crimson and gold shawl that was tied at the side. Francesco attended mass in the Greek Orthodox rite at the Cathedral of St. John the Theologian. Most importantly, he kept his soldiers well away from urban centers, and ordered his commanders to restrict soldiers’ movements beyond the limits of their camp unless on official business. The measures paid off. There were few disturbances during the army’s sojourn on Cyprus, and the population got through it largely unmolested. A few under strength regiments were even able to recruit some of the aforementioned unemployed young men to raise their numbers. The king’s deft political maneuvering, which included calling upon knowledgeable and intelligent local sources, helped keep everything running smoothly. The invasion remained on schedule and the army did not need to waste any time putting out flare ups among their host population.



The army staged at Cyprus

By the end of July, all war preparations were set. Over 100,000 Holy League soldiers were in place along the Ottoman Empire’s frontiers with Poland and Austria. The French, despite numerous delays that aroused resentment among their allies, were on their way frontlines as well. Francesco was not the only sovereign leading his troops. As promised at Salzburg, Archduke Phillip I of Austria, King Louis XX of France, and King Jan IV of Poland all commanded field armies. In deference to his subordinate’s superior military experience, the Polish king ceded operational command of the armies to his Grand Hetman: Skarbeck.

On 1 August 1671, the envoys from each of the Holy League states presented declarations of war to Grand Vizier Cüneyt Gazi Pasha. The Vizier, a stoic man, likely of Georgian origin (though this is disputed), knew war well, and he knew that no state was more formidable than his own. Gazi Pasha was bought as a slave in childhood and brought to eastern Anatolia by a Turkish merchant of Tekirdağ, who raised him in that city along with his own sons. He rose through the ranks of the Ottoman military hierarchy, including a stint with Barbary Pirates based in Algiers. When he returned to Istanbul, he was highly praised for his accomplishments and promoted, first to chief of staff and later to grand vizier. His contacts in the Sultanate of Tunis put him in an excellent position to succeed in harnessing the combined power of the two great Muslim powers in the Mediterranean. He had all the qualities necessary to make a successful and important Grand Vizier. With the sultan having just reached majority, Gazi Pasha was the de facto ruler of the empire. However, when faced with the great crisis of Christendom’s counterattack, he was found wanting, much to the detriment of his young master and of the empire’s subjects.



Cüneyt Gazi Pasha, Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire

Two days after the declaration of war, on 3 August 1671, the Pope celebrated mass first thing in the morning at St. Peter’s Basilica. From there, he embarked on a major walking tour, visiting the churches of Santa Maria in Traspontina, Santa Maria in Vallicella, Sant'Andrea della Valle (the city’s newest basilica, built only twenty years earlier in 1650), and the Chiesa del Gesù (the mother church of the Society of Jesus). Such a journey was unusual for Paul, as he had difficulty walking. Some of the attending priests believed it was a minor miracle that allowed the pope to endure the trip. The large group then passed through the Roman forum and by the colosseum, stopped at another church, the Basilica di San Clemente, and finally finished their journey at the Archbasilica of San Giovanni in Laterano. The Pope celebrated another mass there, spoke with members of the curia and the Roman patriciate, and gave out alms to the poor. From there, he and his entourage returned to the Vatican where the pontiff enjoyed a simple dinner of bread, cheese, olives, and wine and then went to bed. The visits, conducted despite the sweltering heat of the Roman summer, must have had a poor effect on the Holy Father. On the morning of the fourth, the Pope’s Camerlengo, Mercurio Bartolotta, found the pontiff dead in his chambers.

The Pope’s death was immediately declared symbolic, though as usual with such “omens”, whether it was supposed to bode well or ill was left up to the individual. Given the state of war now in existence between Catholic Europe and the great Islamic powers of the Mediterranean, the College of Cardinals moved quickly to elect a successor. They elected Umberto Orsini, an ally of both Paul V and the Medici, who took the name Innocent XII. It would be Innocent, who had nephews fighting in both the Italian and Papal armies, to guide the Church to the fulfillment of his predecessor’s vision.



Pope Paul V died just as his lifelong dream, the Great Crusade, became a reality

On 10 August the war at sea began. In a series of skirmishes lasting five days, until 15 August, elements of the Italian navy defeated several flotillas of Ottoman ships. Italian gunnery carried the day each time, successfully keeping the Turkish galleys at a distance and letting the heavy guns of the galleons decide the contests. The most celebrated engagement happened on 13 August off the Palestinian Coast, when Admiral Ludovico Castagna’s flagship, Venere Armata, sank three galleys on her own. By the end of the five-day period, the Ottomans had suffered five galleys and five frigates sank, with an additional two frigates captured by the enemy, without the Italians losing a single vessel. The early losses were far from decisive, but they seriously depressed Ottoman morale. To the astonishment of contemporaries, including the Italians themselves, the Turkish navies spent most of the rest of the war hiding out in their home ports, afraid to venture forth and face volleys of deadly cannon fire. The military leadership, concerned with happenings on land, largely gave up the naval fight as lost and did not push their admirals to do more. Almost inexplicably, Istanbul ceded a crucial theater of the war, the one that touched all the others. The naval expansion and reforms put in place by Veneroso paid off more spectacularly than any Italian could have hoped. With minimal losses, they completely neutralized the formidable Ottoman navy, thus securing sea-lanes for the Holy League for the remainder of the conflict.


Naval battle in the eastern Mediterranean

Back in Italy, the Armata dei Balcani, under the command of General Grimaldi, began its overland march from Treviso to the Balkans. Their first target: the port and trade hub of Ragusa. Controlled by the Ottomans since 1543, Ragusa maintained numerous cultural, linguistic, and religious ties to Italy. Despite being under Istanbul’s rule, Ragusa was left to operate internally much as it did during its time as an independent merchant republic. The Sultans and their advisors had, for generations, understood the importance of the city’s role in the empire’s trade network. Its wealth and volume of trade were second only to the magnificent imperial capital. Thus, they took a hands-off policy, allowing the Senate to maintain effective internal rule over the population of about 40,000. However, despite the generally benign nature of Ottoman rule, two distinct forces helped pull Ragusa toward Italy even before the declaration of the Great Crusade.


Ragusa in 1670

The first came from near the top of Ragusan society: the great merchant dynasties. While some of these remained firmly loyal to the sultan, many eyed their Italian rivals with envy. Not only did the Kingdom of Italy levy fewer tariffs on Mediterranean trade, particularly if the traders involved were Christians (Istanbul issued a de facto surcharge to non-Muslim merchants), but also presented a wider geographical sphere of opportunities. Not only would Ragusa’s dealings in the Mediterranean become potentially more profitable, but they would finally be allowed to do business in West Africa, the Caribbean, and mainland North America. Thus, a pro-Italian faction grew in the Senate, agitating for a union with Florence. When news arrived of the Holy League’s declaration of war, this faction, uncreatively dubbed the Italiani, moved quickly to seize power. From an ethnic perspective, there was no clear-cut line. Despite their name, plenty of Croat (the language was referred to as Illyirian or Slavic vernacular at the time) and Dalmatian speakers supported the faction and many Italian speakers favored remaining loyal to the sultan. Despite an increase in numbers however, this faction remained in the minority and were forced to call upon an unlikely ally to help them succeed.

That ally was the numerous, suffering poor. The Republican Constitution of Ragusa was strictly aristocratic, and the people were divided into three classes: the nobility, the citizens, and the plebeians. This last class was largely made up of artisans and peasants (serfs, coloni, and freemen) without any effective rights. In the areas outside the city, the peasantry still lived much in the same way as they had in the Medieval period and had arguably lost rights in the intervening centuries. The aristocratic Italiani made the bold move of launching a propaganda effort among this disaffected class. Agents went into the countryside to explain to the mostly Croat-speaking peasants the bevy of rights they were likely to gain under Italian rule versus Ottoman. In truth, Istanbul did not care what rights the Ragusan peasants had. The Turkish capital was often content to leave local customs and legal practices alone so long as they did not interfere with the wider empire’s functioning. Still, the Sultan’s government did prop up the power structure that kept the people down. In Ragusa, all effective power was concentrated in the hands of the aristocracy. The citizens were permitted to hold only minor offices, while plebeians had no voice in government at all. Even marriage between members of different classes of the society was forbidden. Thus, unlike in Italy and many other places in Europe, not even a wealthy, successful plebian could “buy” his family’s way into the nobility via either the purchase of titles, a marriage with an aristocratic family, or both. The idea of Italian overlordship, something few peasants had likely ever even considered, suddenly seemed both desirable and realistic.

In early October, as news filtered into the city of the approach of an Italian army, the Italiani faction mobilized. On 5 October riders entered the republic carrying news that Italian soldiers were spotted in Trsteno, less than a day’s march away (a legend later arose that General Grimaldi, an enthusiastic outdoorsman, ordered the army to halt for a full day so that he could visit Trsteno’s famed arboretum; the truth of this story is disputed). The Italiani sent messengers to the army requesting an opportunity to seize the city themselves and then turn it over to Grimaldi. The general agreed and gave them until the night of 8 October. Back in the city, on the night of 7 October, armed men stormed the houses of several leading families and members of the senate. The captives were herded into the lower floors of the Sponza Palace, which at the time served as the city archives and a trading house, and forced them to all pledge loyalty to a newly appointed three member ruling council, unironically named the Peace Committee. In their defense, the entire affair went off with no real bloodshed. The Committee then ordered the gates of the city opened and met the invading army with gifts and cheers. The Italian campaign in the Balkans could not have started better. They had captured one of their two primary war goals in that theater without firing a shot or losing a single soldier. Grimaldi was experienced enough to know that it would only get harder, but for the time being, he was thankful.

By the time Ragusa fell to the Italians, things were already progressing in the Holy Land as well. On 27 September 1671, the first wave of the Armata di Gerusalemme splashed ashore at Caesarea. They represented the first major Christian expedition to the Holy Land since the Thirteenth Century. The king, as an adept politician and propagandist, made sure to give the moment its proper gravity. He sent word back to Italy to select two artists for two separate commissions: one for a painting of the king wading ashore for the Palazzo Pitti and one of the army landing for the Palazzo Vecchio. Public relations value aside, there was no doubting the significance of the moment. Still, from a strategic perspective, it represented only a first step. Only half the army was there. The rest was still on Cyprus awaiting transport. Any delay in the second wave’s arrival, or worse, some disaster at sea, would spell doom for the expedition. Enemy forces were all around them. There was a 35,000 strong army at Gaza to the south, a 20,000 man force assembling at Tripoli to the north, and beyond that, as many as 85,000 additional troops at Antakya and Adana. The army immediately began digging in and securing a beachhead around the landing zone. The citizens of Caesarea, shocked at the sudden arrival of a European invasion army, quickly surrendered the city. The Italians entered in good order and the king forbade any pillaging and ordered harsh sentences for any soldier caught harassing or harming civilians. This was not done necessarily out of magnanimity. Francesco knew that if he and his army were to survive, they needed a host population that, even if not completely friendly, was at least neutral and not resentful.



Disposition of forces in the Levantine theater, end of September, 1671

What the King of Italy did not know, was that most of the Ottoman troops in the Levant and southern Anatolia were preparing to leave the region and head north. The leadership in Istanbul, after considerable back and forth, settled on moving against the “paramount threat” in the Balkans. The League’s armies in that theater combined to number in the hundreds of thousands of men. Forty thousand Italians in Palestine hardly seemed an issue to fret about. If necessary, the Tunisians could add reinforcements. However, Grand Vizier Cüneyt Gazi Pasha did not think even that much would be necessary. 55,000 Ottoman soldiers were to remain in the Levant, split into two armies led by a pair of the empire’s most capable generals. The leadership at court did not only expect a rapid repulsion of the invasion, but, because the Italians were in between the two Turkish armies, fully assumed the foreigners would be completely destroyed.

Hüseyin Alemdar and Mustafa Piyale were very different commanders stylistically but both were battle hardened veterans and skilled in the Ottoman way of war. The latter regularly led from the front and favored seizing the offensive while the former preferred caution and thorough planning. In addition to their divergence in tactical thinking, they were also longstanding rivals at the court. Alemdar was Albanian in origin, taken from a peasant family at an early age and eventually inducted into the janissaries. He rose quickly through the ranks, distinguishing himself in several battles in Persia. Despite his personal bravery, Alemdar grew into a cerebral and level-headed commander, preferring caution and avoiding unnecessarily sacrificing his men’s lives. Piyale, by contrast, came from a wealthy and influential Turkish military family, becoming an officer of Sepahi cavalry in his teens. He too rose through the ranks and earned renowned in battle, but he remained committed to offensive warfare and seizing the initiative. Both men would have made excellent leaders of a strong, unified Ottoman command in the Levant. With separate but equal commands, the personal enmity and tactical divergence of the two men would cause serious problems for the Sultan’s cause.



Hüseyin Alemdar, Commander of Ottoman forces in the Levant

On 11 October that Italians in the Levant took Nablus. In his orders to his troops upon entering, Francesco II, an avid historian, noted that while Nablus was once called Flavia Neapolis (the name given the settlement in AD 72 by the Roman Emperor Vespasian), it was first a Samaritan village called Mabartha or Mamorpha. He exhorted his troops to once again take the example of the Good Samaritan and refrain from harming the city’s inhabitants. The lack of looting caused the soldiers to grumble a bit, but the steady supply of regular pay helped dull most of the protesting. It would not take long for the king’s civilian-friendly strategy to pay off, particularly among the area’s Christian residents. During the Medieval crusades, the Latin Christians were often harsher masters to Eastern rite Christians than their Muslim rivals. It was not long after the establishment of the Crusader States at the end of the Eleventh Century that local Christians began lamenting their loss of rights under the new regime. Thus, when the inevitable counterattack came, the Orthodox and Coptic population stayed neutral or went as far as to side with the Muslims. Francesco knew this history well and had determined to operate differently this time.

In early November, a group of Syrian Christian shepherds arrived at the Italians’ camp to report the movements of a large Ottoman army. The troops they had spotted making camp just to the south of Sidon would turn out to be Alemdar’s men on their way north along the coast to rendezvous with Piyale and his army. Francesco reacted quickly. Instead of continuing on to Jersualem, his ultimate goal located just over seventy kilometers south, he instead ordered his men to move north immediately. He meant intercept the enemy troops before they could join their strength. Following five days of forced marches, the Italians reached the highlands southeast of Sidon, from where they could command all the coastal lowlands leading to Damascus. His scouts were able to see the Turks’ camp and report back on movements and preparations. When Alemdar’s army began to move, the Italians came down out of the hill and swept down onto the plains below, blocking the road. With his foe astride the key coastal road, the Ottoman general had no choice but to fight.

The imbalance in overall troop numbers was not too great, 41,000 Italians against 34,000 Ottomans, but the decisive difference was in artillery. Alemdar lacked any field guns while Francesco’s force boasted eight artillery regiments. These would be the decisive difference. The skill of the sepahi cavalry and the discipline and tenacity of the janissaries could not overcome the massive disparity in firepower. This was reflected in the day’s casualty numbers as well, with the Ottomans losing men at a rate greater than two to one vis-à-vis their enemy. Within a few hours, the Ottoman commander realized the day was lost, that his route to rendezvous with Piyale was blocked, and that they would need to come up with a new way to deal with this invasion force. Alemdar ordered his men to retreat, which they did successfully and in good order. He had left 2,000 men in Damascus as they withdrew east to protect the fortified city and to limit any Italian pursuit of his army. If Francesco attempted to follow and catch them, his supply lines could be threatened by the Damascus garrison. The king, exercising caution given his still-precarious situation, decided to stay put. After all, if Alemdar was going east, that meant that he was getting farther away from Piyale. Now, the Italians had a chance to complete their attack against the Ottoman armies in the Levant.



The Battle of Sidon was the first major engagement between Italian and Ottoman armies

Piyale, now in Gaza with his army, was awaiting the arrival of a Tunisian force from North Africa. However, before they could arrive, he received orders direct from Istanbul ordering him north. He was to go to Damascus first and reinforce the garrison there, and then head further on to Homs, where he would rendezvous with Alemdar and prepare a counterattack. Piyale, only commanding a little over 20,000 men, was concerned about this plan. Aside from his personal dislike of Alemdar, these orders also forced him to potentially expose his army to the Italians, as they would have to march around the invading enemy forces to reach Homs. If they waited for the Tunisians, on the other hand, Piyale could stay in Gaza, where he was well supplied and occupied fortified positions. However, there was no arguing with an order signed by both the Grand Vizier and the Sultan. Piyale advanced slowly as the Italians were still reportedly along the coast. By the start of 1672, the Turks were approaching Damascus, seemingly clear of any foes. However, what they did not know, was that the Italians had been following their movements all along. Their departure from Gaza had been spotted then ferried by sea up to Sidon. Francesco made the correct assumption that the numerically disadvantaged Piyale would not try to force the coastal road but instead head inland. If that was the case, Damascus was likely to be a stop on his march. The king slowly and deliberately moved his army east, over the rugged hills of the Lebanese interior, and took up positions in the highlands to the north of the old Umayyad capital.

On 2 January 1672, Piyale and his men reached Damascus. Though he got reports from friendly shepherds and farmers that there were enemy troops in the area, the Turkish commander did not think it was the entire Italian expeditionary force. On the 5th, his men left the major city to proceed north. They traveled about fifteen kilometers that day and made camp. That night, the Italians swept down from the hills and positioned themselves for a dawn attack. As the sun began to rise, the king’s artillery opened up into the center of the camp. Piyale had badly underestimated the Italians’ ability to maneuver on unfamiliar terrain and had no expected such a surprise attack. His army collapsed almost immediately. Chaos gripped the Ottoman camp, and by the time Piyale had gained some control over the situation, the enemy’s vanguard was already sweeping into his camp, cutting down men left and right. Unlike Alemdar, who kept his composure and successfully extracted his army from a difficult situation, Piyale failed to rally his men. The small pockets of Ottoman resistance that did form were quickly smothered and swept away. By mid-day, Piyale’s army had been wiped off the map. Francesco II had met enemy armies twice thus far in the campaign and had scored resounding victories both times. The entire Ottoman strategy in the Levant crumbled. With enemy resistance in the field neutralized for the time being, the king focused on laying siege to Damascus. If the heavily fortified city could be taken, it could protect the Italians from a counter-attack from the north and serve as an excellent base of operations.

One of Francesco’s personal friends and favorite artists, Salvator Rosa, accompanied the campaign into the Holy Land. A proto-Romantic poet in addition to being a painter and satirist, Rosa was one of those who viewed the Great Crusade as not only a great military and religious undertaking, but an awakening of a new era of European art and literature. He produced several paintings of the war, including A Cavalry Battle, said to depict the attack on Piyale’s camp outside Damascus.




A Cavalry Battle by the artist Salvator Rosa is said to be of the Battle of Damascus


Portrait of the artist Salvator Rosa done while on campaign with the Italian army

The annihilation of a field army nearly caused a crisis back at the Topkapı Palace. The court, on an almost daily basis, absorbed a steady stream of ill tidings from the Balkan front. Ragusa, Buzău, Durrës, Pristina, and Doboj had fallen in succession. Sofia and Varna were under siege by the Austrians and Poles, respectively. The Turks had won their share of victories, but the steady, relentless pressure of the Holy League was starting to take its toll. Gazi Pasha and the war council were openly considering the possibility of losing the capital, a previously unthinkable contingency. The destruction of Piyale’s army, however, threw an even darker tinge to the entire endeavor. The enemy now had a significant force operating in the rear. With the situation in the Balkans becoming more critical by the day, the idea of diverting forces from that theater was unthinkable. Still, something had to be done. After two engagements in the Middle Eastern theater, the Ottomans had suffered over 30,000 casualties in return for just over 5,000 on the Italian side. Francesco II was laying siege to the great city of Damascus. The Sultanate of Tunis had an army headed for Egypt under the command of the Bey of Tripoli, Rasim Bassir, but nobody in the Ottoman ruling circles believed the Tunisians could succeed where the Ottomans had failed. This pessimistic outlook would be proven accurate on 27 February 1672, when Francesco II and the Armata di Gerusalemme decisively defeated Rasim Bassir and 26,000 Tunisian troops at the Second Battle of Sidon. The king had left 10,000 men to maintain the siege lines around Damascus, while he raced back to the coast with the rest of his army to intercept the Tunisians. The gambit worked, and yet another Muslim attempt to link their forces failed.

Unlike the alarming reports reaching the Topkapı, back in Italy a stream of good news about the Holy League’s victories flowed into the Pitti Palace. The good national mood was also enhanced by the effective leadership of a triumvirate of women who ran the country. Queen Maria Maddalena, Interior Minister Elena Cornaro Piscopia, and War Minister Ginevra Toscani guided the country through the war years. Much of this was owed to the planning done before the crusading armies even departed the country. Expecting a long and drawn out war at sea, Cornaro ordered local authorities, supported by government subsidies out of the royal treasury, to stockpile grain, wood, dried goods, and other materials. When the Ottoman navies essentially ceded the Mediterranean to the Italians, the stockpiled materials were instead used to smooth over even temporary economic bumps. Increases in the price of bread in one part of Italy could be offset by shifting stockpiles from other parts of the realm. This was the same system deployed to prevent famines during peace time, only now bolstered by the addition of supplies initially intended to offset the difficulties of war.

To Ginevra Toscani fell the responsibility of coordinating the administrative side of the war. She not only had to keep the Italian armies supplied, but also send subsidies to the French and Austrians, both of whom needed the funds to keep their own soldiers equipped. She coordinated between the Italian navy and army, ensured supplies went to the right ports, were loaded on the correct ships, and then sent to the right place. She did not do this alone, of course. Her close and successful working relationship with Admiral Veneroso helped smooth over any rivalries between the two branches of the armed forces. A bevy of army administrative clerks fanned out across Italy and plied the Mediterranean delivering messages, escorting particularly sensitive supplies, and returning with new intelligence and battle reports. The Minister of War spent her days reading and writing correspondence with a wide range of officials, both at home and abroad. The supply and communication system she had perfected within the War Ministry helped Italy keep pace with the Ottomans’ own vaunted logistical network. At each battle, Italian soldiers had better powder, newer boots, and fuller bellies than their adversaries. That Toscani was able to achieve this feat with her armies even when they were operating as far as 2,000 kilometers from friendly shores is all the more impressive.

The queen managed the public facing side of ruling. It was the norm, going at least as far back as Grand Duchess Sophie Louise, consort to Francesco Stefano I, for Florentine consorts to adopt a plain and modest wardrobe in times of war. It was meant to show shared sacrifice and solidarity with the common women whose own husbands were away fighting. As a skilled political actor, Maria Maddalena readily adopted the custom, appearing in public in wool or linen dresses (depending on the season) and at most two or three discreet pieces of jewelry. Traditionally the Queen of Italy served as a sort of spiritual guide, “a symbol of piety and virtue” in the words of Queen Michalina, Alberto I’s wife. However, Maria Maddalena did not content herself with attending mass and visiting convents, she added to the responsibilities. She wrote long and detailed descriptions of daily political life in Italy to Francesco. She presided over council meetings, including the Consiglio Reale di Finanza, signing financial and political documents and listening to reports on monetary policy and gold supply. The queen otherwise spent her time in church, distributing alms to the poor, and making sporadic trips to Pisa and Livorno to christen newly built warships before they went to sea.

Despite everyone’s attention on the war overseas, political affairs in Italy were far from dull. 1672 began with a scandal that rocked the capital in a fantastic manner. Rumor began to spread through the end of 1671, that a network of agents within the foreign ministry were implicated in funding and providing intelligence to privateers operating in the Caribbean. Privateering was a normal business in the Seventeenth Century, but in most cases the employees did not attack their masters’ vessels. In this case, the crews that operated out of the Lucayan Archipelago mostly preyed upon Italian merchantmen, especially the heavily laden treasure ships sailing from West Africa. These buccaneers were allegedly led by the flamboyant Captain Liberio Barbarossa who, among other things, claimed (doubtful) descent from the (in)famous Mediterranean corsair: Hayreddin Barbarossa. It remains unclear if the crews cooperated because they belonged to a sort of pirate confederacy or simply as allies of convenience.

Sometime in August of 1671, the corsairs went a step too far in the eyes of a large portion of the court. Three vessels sailing the triangular trade route, under the license of the Società della Guinea, disappeared. In this group were the merchantman Camerun, heavily laden with gold, ivory, tropical wood, cloth, and brandy, and the slaver Carolina Cavalcanti, carrying approximately 200 Africans kidnapped and destined for the brutal plantations of the Italian Indies. The latter vessel was named for a granddaughter of the company director and notorious slave trader, Andrea Cavalcanti, one of the most powerful men at court. This pair were escorted by an armed frigate, the San Ranieri, boasting 30 guns and a crew of 142. The ships were on the second leg of a journey that began in Genoa and were headed for Forte Della Palma on the island of Santa Lucia, capital of the Italian Indies’ colonial government. There, the two trade ships would unload their cargo, all of it, including the unfortunate captives, destined for the Forte’s bustling market. In exchange, they would fill their holds with sugar, cotton, dyewoods, and ginger to take back to Italy on the third and final leg of the triangular route.



The slave ship Carolina Cavalcanti in a painting commissioned for the Società della Guinea’s headquarters. She was the largest slaver in the company’s fleet in 1670.

This was not the first time that “those awful brigands” (in the words of a clerk in the service of the Società della Guinea) attacked Italian trade ships. But in previous instances, most of the boarded crews were left alive and only the cargo was seized. In the case of the Carolina Cavalcanti and her companions, they appeared to simply have vanished. Then, the northeast trade winds brought not only the dry season to Santa Lucia, but also tales of “Barbarossa’s mighty exploit”. The pirate captain was said to have “strengthened his grip on the sparsely populated islands of the lower Bahamas” and raided, along with his increasingly formidable fleet, along the coast of British Colombia. Survivors described a ship that appeared to match the San Ranieri. Rowan Marsh, a British colonial official stationed in Trinidad wrote suspiciously: “several survivors reported hearing Italian among the ship’s crew.”

By the start of 1672, all of the rumors made their way back to Italy and, more explosively, to the court in Florence. The Società della Guinea, its subsidiary companies, and their investors had lost huge sums of money as a result of the incident. The Guinea was no longer restricted to an African venture with interests in Africa. Indeed, the name change from the previously used Compagnia della Guinea reflected the fact that the business was now larger and more sophisticated, owning plantations in the Caribbean, ship building firms in Liguria, and extensive real estate interests across Europe and the Americas. The Amsterdam-based Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC) was the only European firm making more profit from extra-European trade. The Società even had its own office in Amsterdam, where its shared sold on the city’s stock market and its money funded trading missions to the East Indies. Confirmation that Carolina Cavalcanti and Camerun were taken by pirates caused a crisis in the companies’ finances. This loss, on top of previous pirate actions in those waters, caused the tension between the trade companies and the regency to boil over. As a longstanding ally and supporter of the Medici, the Società della Guinea rallied support among the other trade houses and shipping firms against the Queen Regent.

On the night of 23 January, after a raucous meeting in the Società’s headquarters in Florence’s Via Magenta, the company’s leadership board marched out of their building and toward the Palazzo Medici. The men had been tipped off that Maria Maddalena was staying there for the night instead of her normal domicile in the Palazzo Pitti. The queen was to spend most of the rest of the day attending special religious ceremonies at Santa Maria del Fiore honoring the Virgin Mary in her role as Queen of Peace. Maria Maddalena was also to distribute alms to the wives and families of soldiers fighting overseas. Rallying other bourgeois elements in the city, the company directors surrounded the Medici’s palace and demanded the Queen Regent “hand over all the vile conspirators.” They presented a list of government functionaries whom they wanted handed over “to experience swift justice.” Among the names was that of Admiral Veneroso, who was lucky enough to be out at sea with the fleet at the time.

Inside the Palazzo Medici, the queen agonized over what to do next. Most of the names were simply those of functionaries within the foreign ministry or the admiralty. The latter group was largely out of harm’s way, as their offices were in Pisa. For the former, however, the danger was very real. While most of the angry crowd of businessmen besieged the queen and royal family, two men, Giacomo Montalto and Giacinto Zanotti, had been dragged from the foreign ministry office in the Palazzo Vecchio. The pair were young apprentices aspiring to work as ambassadors abroad. Their presence at the foreign ministry late in the day was assumed to mean they were conspiring to inform pirates of more Italian ships to attack. The young men were dragged out of the building and into Piazza del Popolo where they were both stabbed to death. Their bodies were then dragged to the Arno and unceremoniously dumped into the river. The city guard, a 2,000 strong force that was theoretically supposed to keep the peace, stood down. Most of their officers were either in the employ of the powerful merchant families or, even worse, members of those same dynasties. Powerless to stop the murders, Maria Maddalena made a difficult compromise. In exchange for a promise from the insurgents to stop the murders, she would order the city guard to round up the named conspirators for a fair trial.



“The Piracy Scandal”, as it came to be known, destabilized the regency for the better part of a year

The queen and her supporters managed to get word out to a few of the potential victims, allowing them to slip out of the city before the mob got to them. For those who were less lucky, the “fair trial” stipulation was quickly laughed off. Within 24 hours, four more men had been arrested, tried, and convicted of conspiring to commit piracy with little to no evidence. The humiliated Queen Regent was forced to watch the executions, done by hanging, of the “traitors.” In practice, “the Piracy Scandal”, was a purge of the foreign ministry by the slave trading faction of the merchant aristocracy. They replaced the deceased with men loyal to the Società della Guinea and the slave trading interest. The infighting that would result within the ministry, as Admiral Veneroso and his supporters struggled with a new hostile faction within their organization, hampered Italian diplomatic efforts for years to come. For the Società, this represented a restoration of their previous strength within the ministry that they had enjoyed during Gori’s tenure.

It did not take long for the queen to begin plotting a counter-attack. She indignantly shrugged off any further criticism, as well as the persistent rumors of her own personal involvement in the piracy scheme. Instead, she worked with Piscopia to quickly restore her political stature. By the summer, the queen and her allies had regained enough confidence to strike back. On 11 August 1672, she listened to a delegation of peasant farmers living in a group of towns around Volterra. They decried a wave of “tyrannical nobles,” seizing all of their crops and leaving them destitute. The petitioners claimed the practice was spreading across the region, as landowners stockpiled food in the event of a price rise due to the war. The queen replied with a promise to “chastise the landowners.” She ordered Ginevra Toscani to go to Pisa, where a detachment of reinforcements headed to the Levant were mustering. The queen wrote personally to their commander, instructing him to seize the lands of a list of landowners in and around Volterra. It was no coincidence that all the heads of the named families had been participants in the 23 January revolt. In a matter of weeks, the soldiers were burning down country estates and standing guard while peasants ransacked homes in search of jewels and food. By intervening on the side of the peasantry, Maria Maddalena not only gained vengeance, but she shored up popular support for the war, all while flexing her muscle for those who still doubted her strength. It took a strong personal and administrative effort, but national stability was quickly restored.

Most importantly for the war effort, the queen also rallied support for a new sugar tariff, another thrust against the heads of the major trade companies, particularly the ones doing trade with the New World colonies. To win their support for the tax, she drove a wedge through the commercial bourgeoisie. She enlisted the support of the Mediterranean trade companies, who would be unaffected by a sugar tax and who would also stand to gain from a quicker, successful conclusion of the war against the Ottoman Empire. Maria Maddalena proved an able negotiator and salesperson, even writing personal letters to the wealthiest sugar planters on Santa Lucia, Domenica, and the other islands. It was then up to Cornaro to put the plan together and then it was sent to Veneroso to enforce. Despite some initial difficulties with non-compliance that required some “tough and effective interdiction” (in the words of the admiral) to stop, the money started flowing in. It was thanks to the effectiveness of the tariff and the continued health of the Italian economy, along with the looting of Ottoman cities, that the kingdom emerged from the war with more money than when it started.



The Sugar Tariff of 1672 proved highly lucrative for the royal coffers.

Back in the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire continued what appeared to be a timid approach to the war. The once proud and seemingly invincible Ottomans appeared flat footed. They were under attack on too many fronts. Their military performance was weakened from the start by the empire’s demographic and climatic catastrophes, such as the flight of the Armenians and the loss of population after a string of remarkably cold winters from 1668-71. Istanbul’s military might on paper masked certain increasingly troubling issues. Even the vaunted supply chains struggled when there was a limited stock of food to draw from. Allied soldiers, particularly the Italians and Poles, tended to be stronger, and better fed than their Turkish foes. This gap was only increased by the allied advantage in supply chains, particularly at sea. All of these factors started to pile up. With each Holy League victory and Ottoman setback, the gap in troop morale, discipline, and equipment continued to grow.

For the Holy League, on the other hand, the war was becoming a parade of victories. The Austrians, led by Archduke Philipp I, marched all the way into Greece and took Athens in March. They then turned to besiege Larissa. The French commander and adventurer, Simon de Saint Germain, along with his colleague Marc de Boissieu, understood the need for speed and surprise, particularly as the Ottoman spy network was least developed and effective in France. Saint Germain marched his army, “like a sapphire caterpillar” in the words of Boissieu, nearly 1,800 kilometers across Europe, from Verdun to Vidin to launch a major attack against a Turkish field army there. By spring, the French reached the Aegean Coast and lay siege to Thessaloniki. The Poles under Skarbeck were bogged down besieging the fortress of Tingoviste, but the defenders were starting to lose hope.



Balkan Theater, June of 1672

The Armata dei Balcani reached Borsh on the Albanian Coast with the New Year. Their real target, however, was Corfu. A small flotilla of fishing boats from Otranto across the Adriatic shuttled the army across the water to the strategic island. On 13 January, they established siege lines around the Venetian-built “Old Fortress.” Corfu represented the second Italian war goal in the Balkans. The island served as a complement to the first: Ragusa. Corfu could protect the valuable Illyrian port as well as Venice and other Italian harbors in the Adriatic. The Ottoman defenders were determined to hold the line. They were well supplied and well-armed. Led by a grizzled old commander named Arkadas Kazak, the island’s 2,000 defenders would keep Grimaldi and his men at bay well into spring.


Siege of Corfu

In the Levant, Damascus surrendered to the Italians on 4 May 1672. This was a crucial moment in the Levantine theater. The Italians now held a fortified position, connected by supply lines to the coast, within striking distance of Jerusalem. They had a strong base to operate out of and one that could protect against any troops coming down from the north.

As the year progressed, the news seemed to only get better. On 7 June, Grimaldi and the Armata dei Balcani captured Corfu after a 146-day siege. This secured a second key objective in the king’s war plan. Control of the island allowed the Italians to close all access to the Adriatic, thus protecting its home coasts, as well as those of its Austrian ally, even more effectively. The Holy League’s strength at sea was amplified by their near complete control of the islands of the eastern Mediterranean. Ottoman fleets, even if they dared venture from their ports, faced an increasingly high likelihood of ambushes and attacks.

The Ottomans were on their heels, but remained a dangerous opponent. The formidable fortifications at Edirne still guarded Istanbul. 130,000 well trained soldiers remained in Anatolia, ready for a counter-attack. The teenaged sultan, Selim I, remained stoic in the face of the crisis. “The Padishah never shows a trace of fear or despair,” wrote the Portuguese ambassador and military observer, Teodósio Soares, “even in the face of difficult news.” Gazi Pasha did not tire either. Whatever history may say about his strategic decisions, the Grand Vizier did not lose for lack of effort. He rode tirelessly between fronts, encamping with the armies, observing them in battle, and speaking directly to commanders and junior officers alike. Many of his regiments had large numbers of battle-hardened veterans. They had weathered difficult winds before, and with enough effort, they could defeat the Christians again, just as they had turned back the Poles and Lithuanians two decades earlier. This time, however, the blows from the enemy kept coming. And as the Grand Vizier and the rest of the empire cursed the news of the fall of Corfu, the most significant moment of the war was only weeks away.
 
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TheButterflyComposer

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Goodness, this is going well. Probably the end of the ottomans as a big power because the Europeans are going to tear them up and keep doing it, as per the game. Definitely the end of the ottomans in europe unless austria and Poland fall out before they finish feasting, and even then austria will eventually be able to take them by themsevles.

All good news for Italy of course.
 

Casko

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IN THE NAME OF THE HOLY LEAGUE - DEUS VULT!!

Great update, and well worth the wait.
 
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