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Observing the Ottomans – Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq in Istanbul (1552-62)

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The Emperor Ferdinand’s plan was the same as that of Fabius Maximus; after estimating his own and Soleiman’s resources, he judged that the last thing which a good general ought to do was to tempt fortune and encounter the attack of so formidable an enemy in a pitched battle. He, therefore, resolved to throw all his energies into the other alternative, namely, to delay and check the tide of invasion by the construction of dykes and ramparts and every kind of fortification.

It is now about forty years since Soleiman captured Belgrade, slew King Louis, and reduced Hungary, and so secured the prospect of possessing himself not only of this province but also of territory farther north. In this hope he besieged Vienna; then, renewing the war, he captured Güns and again threatened Vienna, but this time only at a distance. But what has he achieved by his mighty array, his unlimited resources, his countless hosts? He has with difficulty clung to the portion of Hungary which he had already captured. He who used to make an end of mighty kingdoms in a single campaign, has won, as the reward of his expeditions, some scarcely fortified citadels and unimportant towns and has paid dearly for the fragment which he has gradually torn away from the vast mass of Hungary. He has once looked upon Vienna, it is true, but it was for the first and last time.

It is said that Soleiman has set before himself the achievement of three ambitions: namely, to see the completion of his mosque (n), which is indeed a sumptuous and splendid structure; to restore the ancient aqueducts and give Constantinople a proper water supply; and to capture Vienna. His first two objects have been achieved; in his third ambition he has been baulked—I hope, for ever.

[Busbecq then continues his panegyric of Ferdinand, and describes his public and private virtues.]

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