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