Andrew Wheatcroft opens his book with an arresting image that takes the reader straight into the rich world of Ottoman ceremonial:
In the evening of 6 August 1682 the Sultan’s gardeners dug a narrow trench beside the Imperial Gate of the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. At intervals they planted seven long crimson poles, each as thick as a man’s arm; the top section was elaborately carved and gilded, and from the golden globe at the apex hung a cascade of black and coloured horse tails.
These curious artefacts were the Ottoman equivalent of battle standards unfurled as a declaration of war. Mehmed’s gardeners were firing the symbolic opening shot in the Ottoman campaign to capture Habsburg Vienna and storm the frontiers of Christian Europe. It would prove to be the Stalingrad of the age, unequalled