Monday, May 20, 2013

The Long and Holy War: part 2

“Oh East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet, until earth and sky stand presently at God’s great judgment seat.” The Ballad of East and West by Rudyard Kipling.

Iowa – In 1529 the known world was in crisis. The Muslim hoards were running rampant over the near and far East, they had taken Constantinople, and new invasions seemed imminent. But not only was the Christian facing attacks from without, but the Holy Roman Empire and the Church of Rome was in crisis.
The church had lost prestige and become humbled after a schism, and the black plague had swept across Europe. Christian Humanists like Erasmus of Rotterdam were questioning doctrines of the church.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire were old and tired institutions, fraught with corruption. Pope Leo X was rumored to have said “We have the Papacy, now let us enjoy it.” The reformation had begun; the 95 theses had been posted on the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral 12 years before. John Calvin was 20 years old. John Knox was 15. The Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire was afraid of war breaking out with the followers of Islam.
Vienna was under siege. The seat of the Holy Roman Empire, the home of the emperor was in danger of falling. Fear and confusion on the level of the fall of Rome was spreading across Christendom.
Sultan Suleiman I however, did not have the necessary artillery and men to take the city. Mining under the city walls did not work, the tunnels were either stormed and the men beaten back or they were blown up. After heavy rains and snows began to cause trouble for his campaign, Suleiman made an attempt to take the city by a massive frontal assault. They lost to the arquebuses and pikes of the Christians, and had to fall back from the attack. The Janissaries were becoming impatient, and the Muslims fell back from the city without a victory. After over a century of winning they had been stopped, the hordes could no longer advance.
About forty years later the great sea battle of Lepanto was fought, in which the Muslims also lost. The message was received; the followers of Islam were not invincible. Towards the end of the sixteen hundreds a move was begun towards colonization by the European Powers. What began as a quest for monetary gains and exploration in the new world, along with missionary endeavors, turned into a quest for empire.
Now the tides had turned, as the nations of the west began a race for empire. They became like Risk players snapping up all the territories and countries in sight. Nations from India to Nigeria were occupied by the empires of Europe.
However, as the empires continued to expand, they could not help but have friction. The Napoleonic Wars cost hundreds of thousands of men their lives as they fought all over the world, from the high seas to the back wildernesses of America.
However, prosperity in the Western Nations continued to grow. Trade, commerce, arts, paintings, poetry and technology all flourished. Even as the wars continued the modern age was coming quickly. However, the East lingered behind. As the nations of England, France, and the others continued to build empires, the Eastern nations became frozen in time. Battles such as the Battle of the Pyramids between Napoleon and the Mamelukes showed this vividly, as the French soldiers massacred their enemies, while not losing fifty of their own men.
The Long and Holy War continued, as the modern age drew near.

Andrew C. Abbott

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