Siege of Rhodes (1522)

Siege of Rhodes (1522)

Infobox Military Conflict

|conflict=Siege of Rhodes
|partof=the Ottoman wars in Europe
|result=Pyrrhic Ottoman victory, Ottomans capture Rhodes
|commander1=Suleiman the Magnificent
Mustafa Pasha
Kurtoğlu Muslihiddin Reis
|commander2=Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam
|strength1=100,000 menL. Kinross, "The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire", 176] 400 shipsL. Kinross, "The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire", 176]
|strength2=7,500 men
*700 knights
*500 archers
|casualties1=20,000 men?L. Kinross, "The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire", 178]
|casualties2=2,000 men|

The Siege of Rhodes of 1522 was the second and ultimately successful attempt by the Ottoman Empire to expel the Knights of Rhodes from their island stronghold and thereby secure Ottoman control of the Eastern Mediterranean. The first siege in 1480, had been unsuccessful.

The setting

The Knights of St. John, or Knights Hospitallers, had captured Rhodes in the early 14th century after the loss of Acre, the last Crusader stronghold in Palestine in 1291. From Rhodes they carried on their war against the Muslims and harassed Turkish shipping in the Levant. A first effort by the Ottomans to capture the island, in 1480, was repulsed by the Order, but the continuing presence of the extremely hostile knights just off the southern coast of Anatolia was a major obstacle to Ottoman expansion.

In 1521, Philippe Villiers de L'Isle-Adam was elected Grand Master of the Order. Expecting a new Ottoman attack on Rhodes, he continued to strengthen the city's fortifications, work that had begun after the Ottoman invasion of 1480 and the earthquake of 1481, and called upon the Order's knights elsewhere in Europe to come to the island's defense. The rest of Europe ignored his request for assistance, but some Venetian troops from Crete joined the knights. The city was protected by two and in some places three rings of stone walls and several large bastions. The defense of the walls and bastions was assigned in sections to the different "Langues" into which the knights had been organized since 1301. The harbor entrance was blocked by a heavy iron chain, behind which the Order's fleet was anchored.

The invasion

When the Turkish invasion force of 400 ships arrived on Rhodes on 26 June 1522, they were commanded by Mustafa Pasha.L. Kinross, "The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire", 176] Sultan Suleiman himself arrived with the army of 100,000 men on 28 July to take personal charge.L. Kinross, "The Ottoman Centuries: The Rise and Fall of the Turkish Empire", 176]

The Turks blockaded the harbor, bombarded the town with field artillery from the land side, followed by almost daily infantry attacks. They also sought to undermine the fortifications through tunnels and mines. The artillery fire was slow in inflicting serious damage to the massive walls, but after five weeks, on 4 September, two large gunpowder mines exploded under the bastion of England, causing a twelve-yard portion of the wall to fall and to fill the moat. The attackers immediately assaulted this breach and soon gained control of it, but a counterattack by the English brothers under Fra' Nicholas Hussey and Grand Master Villiers de L'Isle-Adam succeeded in driving them back again. Twice more the Turks assaulted the breach that day, but each time the English brothers, aided by German brothers, held the gap.

On 24 September, Mustafa Pasha ordered a new massive assault, aimed mainly at the bastions of Spain, England, Provence and Italy. After a day of furious fighting, during which the bastion of Spain changed hands twice, Suleiman eventually called off the attack. He sentenced Mustafa Pasha, his brother-in-law, to death for his failure to take the city, but eventually spared his life after other senior officials had pleaded with him for mercy. Mustafa's replacement, Ahmed Pasha, was an experienced siege engineer, and the Turks now focused their efforts on undermining the ramparts and blowing them up with mines while maintaining their continuous artillery barrages.

Another major assault at the end of November was repelled, but both sides were now exhausted -- the Knights because they were reaching the end of their capacity to resist and no relief forces could be expected to arrive in time, the Turks because their troops were increasingly demoralized and depleted by combat fatalities and disease spreading through their camps. Suleiman offered the citizens peace, their lives and food if they surrendered; the alternative would be death or slavery if the Turks were compelled to take the city by force. Pressed by the townspeople, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam agreed to negotiate. A truce was declared for 11-13 December to allow negotiations, but when the locals demanded further assurances for their safety, Suleiman was angered and ordered the bombardment and assaults to resume. The bastion of Spain fell on 17 December. With most of the walls now destroyed, it was merely a matter of time before the city would have to surrender, and on 20 December the Grand Master asked for a fresh truce.

The end

On 22 December, the representatives of the city's Latin and Greek inhabitants accepted Suleiman's terms, which were surprisingly generous. The knights were given twelve days to leave the island and would be allowed to take with them their weapons and any valuables or religious icons they desired. Islanders who wished to leave could do so at any time within a three-year period. No church would be desecrated or turned into a mosque. Those remaining on the island would be free of Ottoman taxation for five years.

On 1 January 1523, the remaining knights and soldiers marched out of the town, with banners flying, drums beating and in battle armour. They boarded the 50 ships which had been made available to them and sailed to Crete, accompanied by several thousand civilians.


The siege of Rhodes ended with an Ottoman victory, albeit at high cost: as many as half of the invading force may have perished or been wounded.Fact|date=February 2007 The conquest of Rhodes was a major step towards Ottoman control over the eastern Mediterranean and greatly eased their maritime communications between Constantinople and Cairo and the Levantine ports.

The Knights Hospitaller initially moved to Sicily, but in 1530 obtained the islands of Malta and Gozo and the North African port city of Tripoli in fief from Emperor Charles V.


External links



* Nicolas Vatin: "L'Ordre de Saint-Jean-de Jérusalem, l'Empire ottoman et la Méditerranée orientale entre les deux sièges de Rhodes (1480 - 1522)". (Collection Turcica. 7). Paris 1994. ISBN 2-87723-161-5
* Eric Brockman: "The two sieges of Rhodes. 1480 - 1522". London 1969.

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