Sunday, September 20, 2015

Remembering 9/11: Did Tolkien pattern the Siege of Gondor (3019) from the Battle of Vienna (1683)?

Photo credit: Siege of Vienna 1683 by Frans Geffels (public domain).


Last September 11, we remember the Muslim attacks on the US World Trade Center and Pentagon in the year 2001. This date we also remember as the triumph of Christian armies over Muslim Turks in the Battle of Vienna of 1683. It is interesting to see some parallels of this battle with the Siege of Gondor in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Let's list the down the 8 similarities.

1. The White City: Vienna and Minas Tirith

The name Vienna is associated with the word "white":
  • The English name Vienna is borrowed from the Italian name Vienna. "Vienna" and the official German name Wien, and the names of the city in most languages, are thought[by whom?] to derive from the Celtic word windo-, meaning "bright" or "fair" – as in the Irish "fionn" and the Welsh "gwyn" – but opinions vary on the precise origin. Some[who?] claim that the name comes from Vedunia, meaning "forest stream", which subsequently became Venia, Wienne and Wien. Others[who?] claim that the name comes from the Roman settlement of Celtic name Vindobona (Celtic "windo-bona"), probably meaning "white base/bottom [land]", which became Vindovina, Vídeň (Czech) and Wien.[37] (Wikipedia: Vienna)
Minas Tirith in Gondor is also associated with the word "white":
  • "Even as Pippin gazed in wonder the walls passed from looming grey to white, blushing faintly in the dawn; and suddenly the sun climbed over the eastern shadow and sent forth a shaft that smote the face of the City." (Minas Tirith, Lord of the Rings, p. 751)
  • "Thus men reached at last the High Court, and the Place of the Fountain before the feet of the White Tower: tall and shapely, fifty fathoms from its base to the pinnacle, where the banner of the Stewards floated a thousand feet above the plain." (Minas Tirith, Lord of the Rings, p. 752)
  • Upon the black surcoats were embroidered in white a tree blossoming like snow beneath a silver crown and many pointed stars.  This was the livery of the heirs of Elendil, and none wore it now in all Gondor, save the Guards of the Citadel before the Court of the Fountain where the White Tree once had grown. (Minas Tirith, Lord of the Rings, p. 753)
2. City of Rings: Vienna and Minas Tirith

Historically, Vienna is a circular city surrounded by walls which were later demolished to create the Ring Road:
The street was built to replace the city walls, which had been built during the 13th century and funded by the ransom payment derived from the release of Richard I of England, and reinforced as a consequence of the First Turkish Siege in 1529. The walls were surrounded by a glacis about 500m wide, where buildings and vegetation were prohibited. (Wikipedia: Vienna Ring Road)
The Ring Road is divided into several sections: (1) Schottenring, (2) Universitätsring (3) Dr.-Karl-Renner-Ring, (4) Opernring, (5) Kärntner Ring, (6) Schubertring, (7), Parkring, and (8) Stubenring

Similarly, the city of Minas Tirith is also circular in design, except that the sections are concentric circles:
For the fashion of Minas Tirith was such that it was built on seven levels, each delved into the hill, and about each was set a wall, and in each wall was a gate.  But the gates were not set in line: the Great Gate in the City Wall was at the east point of the circuit,, but the next faced half south, and theird half north, and so to and fro upwards; so that the paved way that climbed towards the Citadel turned first this way and then that across the face of the hill. And each time that it passed the line of the Great Gate it went through an arched tunnel, piercing a vast pier of rock whose huge out thrust bulk divided in two all the circles of the City save the first. (Minas Tirith, Lord of the Rings, p. 752)
 3. Reign of the Stewards: Denethor and Leopold I

During the siege of Vienna, the City is the capital of the Holy Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Emperors think of themselves as the successors of Roman Emperors of the West, the last of which was Honorius, whose reign was ended in 410 by the Sack of Rome by Visigoths led by Alaric. The Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople gained control of the Western Roman Empire, but it was slipping from his grasp because of the invasion of the barbarian hordes. In 480, Emperor Zeno finally abolished the Western Roman Empire. Abandoned by the Roman Emperor, Rome turned to the Pope as the de facto leader of the Western world. Meanwhile, the Pope was also beset by the Lombards in Italy, so he turned to the King of the Franks for support. In 754, Pope Zachary anointed Pepin as Patrician of the Romans, even though Pepin was not a Roman and that he is only a Mayor of the Palace, the same way as Denethor is not a king but only a Steward of Gondor. In 800, his Pepin's son, Charlemagne, was crowned by Pope Leo III as Emperor of the Romans. And the idea of the Holy Roman Empire was born:
On 25 December 800, Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish king Charlemagne as Emperor, reviving the title in Western Europe after more than three centuries. The title continued in the Carolingian family until 888 and from 896 to 899, after which it was contested by the rulers of Italy in a series of civil wars until the death of the last Italian claimant, Berengar, in 924. The title was revived in 962 when Otto I was crowned emperor, fashioning himself as the successor of Charlemagne[10] and beginning a continuous existence of the empire for over eight centuries....The precise term "Holy Roman Empire" was not used until the 13th century, but the concept of translatio imperii[e] was fundamental to the prestige of the emperor, the notion that he held supreme power inherited from the emperors of Rome.[8] The office of Holy Roman Emperor was traditionally elective, although frequently controlled by dynasties. The German prince-electors, the highest ranking noblemen of the empire, usually elected one of their peers as "King of the Romans".....Before 1157, the realm was merely referred to as the Roman Empire.[20] The term sacrum ("holy," in the sense of "consecrated") in connection with the medieval Roman Empire was used beginning in 1157, under Frederick I Barbarossa ("Holy Empire") – the term was added to reflect Frederick's ambition to dominate Italy and the Papacy;[21] the form "Holy Roman Empire" is attested from 1254 onward. 
From this line of Holy Roman Emperors came Leopold I, the Emperor who left the City of Vienna during its siege by the Muslims under Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha in 1683, in the same way as Denethor abandoned the city and prepared his funeral pyre.

3. Alliance of Kingdoms: Gondor-Rohan and Austria-Poland

Because of the rising Muslim menace from the East due Ottoman Turks, the Holy Roman Empire forged an alliance with the Kingdom of Poland in the Treaty of Warsaw of 1683:
Conscious that Poland lacked allies and risked war against most of its neighbours (similar to the Deluge), by 1683 Sobieski allied himself with Leopold I, of the Holy Roman Empire.[27] Both sides promised to come to one's another aid if their capitals are threatened.[22] The alliance was signed by royal representatives on 31 March 1683, and ratified by the Emperor and Polish parliament within weeks.[30] Although aimed directly against the Ottomans and indirectly against France, it had the advantage of gaining internal support for the defense of Poland's southern borders.[27] This was a beginning of what would become the Holy League, championed by Pope Innocent XI to preserve Christendom.[31] (Wikipedia: John Sobieski III)
This alliance of the two kingdoms is similar to that of Gondor and Rohan. And this alliance was forged when Cirion the Steward was helped by Eorl the Young in the fight against the Orcs in the year 2510 of the Third Age:
Foreseeing the storm, Cirion sent north for aid, but over-late; for in that year (2510) the Balchoth, having built many great boats and rafts on the east shores of Anduin, swarmed over the River and swept away the defenders.  An army marching up from the south was cut off and driven north over the Limlight, and there it was suddenly attacked by a horde of Orcs from the Mountains and pressed towards the Anduin.  Then out of the North there came help beyond hope, and the horns of the Rohirrim were first heard in Gondor. Eorl the Young came with his riders and swept away the enemy, and pursued the Balchoth to the death over the fields of Calenardhon.   Cirion granted to Eorl that land to dwell in, and he swore to Cirion the Oath of Eorl, of friendship at need or at call to the Lords of Gondor. (Appendix A, Lord of the Rings, p. 1053)

 4. The Hidden Pass: Kahlenberg and Druadan-Rimmon-Din

When Vienna was under siege, Jan Sobieski III of Poland fulfilled his obligations to the Holy Roman Emperor by preparing a relief expedition on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15). His troops met with those of the other members of the Holy League:
On 6 September, the Poles under Jan III Sobieski crossed the Danube 30 km north-west of Vienna at Tulln, to unite with the Imperial troops and the additional forces from Saxony, Bavaria, Baden, Franconia and Swabia. Louis XIV of France declined to help his Habsburg rival, having just annexed Alsace. An alliance between John III Sobieski and the Emperor Leopold I resulted in the addition of the Polish hussars to the already existing allied army. The command of the forces of European allies was entrusted to the Polish king, who had under his command 70,000-80,000 soldiers facing a Turkish army of 150,000.[10] (Wikipedia: Battle of Vienna)
Sobieski decided to send his troops to the treacherous Mountain passes of Kahlenberg and from there mount his cavalry charge down the Muslim host in the plains before the Gates of Vienna:
The Holy League, under command of Sobieski now began its difficult passage through the Wienerwald, known to us as the Vienna Woods, the 30-miles-long and 20-miles-wide expanse of thickly wooded foothills that dominate the terrain southwest of Vienna. Moving the artillery over steep slopes and rugged ground cut with ravines was particularly difficult, but by the 11th of September the Christian force had reached the Kahlenberg ridge. Looking down on the plain below they saw the countless brightly colored tents of the Ottoman host stretching north toward the city walls. Sobieski also saw that the south slope of the ridge was of the same difficult terrain as the rest of the Wienerwald and was crisscrossed with the high, stone walls of vineyards and farms. The descent to the plain below would be as painstaking as the climb, but also under attack from Janissary skirmishers. (Catholic Answers)
In a similar way, the host of Theoden passed through the hidden road in the Mountain, guided by the Wild Men of the Woods. This road was described by Ghan-buri-Ghan:
Let Ghan-buri-Ghan finish!... More than one road he knows,.  He will lead you by road where no pits are, no gorgun walk, only Wild Men and beasts.  Many paths were made when Stonehouse-folk were stronger.  They carved hills as hunters carve beast-flesh.  Wild Men think they ate stone for food.  They went through Druadan to Rimmon with great wains.  They go no longer. Road is forgotten, but not by Wild Men. Over hill and behind hill it lies still under grass and tree, there behind Rimmon and down to Din, and back at the end of the Horse-men's road.  Wild Men will show you that road. Then you will kill gorgun and drive away bad dark with bright iron, and Wild Men can go back to sleep in th wild woods. (The Ride of the Rohirrim, Lord of the Rings, p. 833)
 5. The City Under Siege: Minas Tirith and Vienna

When Jan Sobieski III arrived at the hill of Kahlenberg Mountain, he gazed before him the City of Vienna under siege by the Muslim host encamped at the gates:
On the evening of September 11th, perhaps not coincidentally the last time a Muslim force threatened the Western World, the combined Christian armies surveyed the battered city of Vienna from their elevated vantage point. An occasional cannon blast or a distress rocket fired from within the fortifications confirmed that the Habsburg capital was not capitulating. In the foreground lay the frightening panorama of the massive encampment of Ottoman invaders, almost 250,000 including slaves, camp followers, and observers. Virtually every element of the Turkish realm was represented, with combatants gathered from Muslim domains in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Their sprawling camp, which included numerous pavilions covering the nearby islands of the Danube, swelled with thousands of horses, camels, tents, assorted luxuries, and accoutrements of war. (Joseph Pisudski)
 Similarly, when Theoden emerged from the forest with his host, he saw before his the City of Gondor under siege by Orcs and Easterlings:
After a while the king led his men away somewhat eastward, to come between the fires of the siege and the outer fields. Still they were unchallenged, and still Theoden gave no signal. At last he halted once again. The City was now nearer. A smell of burning was in the air and a very shadow of death.  The horses were uneasy. But the king sat upon Snowmane,, motionless, gazing upon the agony of Minas Tirith, as if stricken suddenly by anguish, or by dread.  He seemed to shrink down, cowed by age.  Merry himself felt as if a great weight of horror and doubt had settled on him. His heart beat slowly. Time seemed poised in uncertainty.  They were too late! Too late was worse than never! Perhaps Theoden would quail, bow his old head, turn, slink away to hid in the hills. (The Ride of the Rohirrim, Lord of the Rings, p. 837) 
6. The Cavalry Charge of Sobieski and Theoden

What came after is the largest cavalry charge in history led by Sobieski himself:
The allies were now ready for the last blow. At around 6:00 pm, the Polish king ordered the cavalry attack in four groups, three Polish and one from the Holy Roman Empire. Eighteen thousand horsemen charged down the hills, the largest cavalry charge in history.[16]:152 Jan III Sobieski led the charge[10]:661 at the head of 3,000 Polish heavy lancers, the famed "Winged Hussars". The Lipka Tatars who fought on the Polish side wore a sprig of straw in their helmets to distinguish themselves from the Tatars fighting on the Ottoman side. The charge easily broke the lines of the Ottomans, who were exhausted and demoralised and soon started to flee the battlefield. The cavalry headed straight for the Ottoman camps and Kara Mustafa's headquarters, while the remaining Viennese garrison sallied out of its defences to join in the assault.[10] (Wikipedia: Battle of Vienna)
This is similar to the cavalry charge of the Rohirrim led by Theoden:
Suddenly the king cried to  Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it.  After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Eomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in his speed,, and the front of the first eored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Theoden could not be overtaken. Fey he seemed or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like a new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Orome the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the hosts of Mordor wailed, and terror stook them, and they fled, and died, and the hof of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City. (The Ride of the Rohirrim, Lord of the Rings, p. 838)
 7. Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa and the Black Captain

The assault on Vienna was led by the Grand Vizier, Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha. He carries with him the standard of the Sultan himself:
At Belgrade, Sultan Mehmed handed the Flag of the Prophet (a facsimile because the original had been captured by the Venetians at Lepanto a century before) to his Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa and with it command of the Ottoman host. (Catholic Answers)
The Flag of the Prophet is plain black or with white text, which is similar to what is used by the Islamic State.

The sappers of Mustafa Pasha already made several breaches on the City's walls using gunpowder. Victory was already at hand, as the Christian defenders were already preparing for a fight within the City's walls. And yet victory eluded his grasp during the last hour, as the Sobieski's hussar cavalry charged from the hills:
Mustafa Pasha launched his counter-attacks with most of his force, but held back some of the elite Janissary and Sipahi units for a simultaneous assault on the city. The Ottoman commanders had intended to take Vienna before Sobieski arrived, but time ran out. Their sappers had prepared a large, final detonation under the Löbelbastei[25] to breach the walls. In total, ten mines were set to explode but they were located and disarmed.[16]. (Wikipedia: Battle of Vienna)
Similarly, the assault on Gondor was led by the Black Captain, the greatest of the Nazguls, the Witch-King of Angmar. With Grond as his battering ram, he destroyed the gates of Gondor:
The drums rolled and rattled. With a vast rush Grond was hurled forward by huge hands.  It reached the Gate. It swung. A deep boom rumbled through the City like Thunder running in the clouds. But the doors of iron and posts of steel withstood the stroke.
Then the Black Captain rose in his stirrups and cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking in some forgotten tongue words of power and terror to rend both heart and stone.
Thrice he cried. Thrice the great ram boomed. And suddenly upon the last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke. As if stricken by some blasting spell it burst asunder: there was a flash of searing lightning,, and the doors tumbled in riven fragments to the ground. (The Siege of Gondor, Lord of the Rings, p. 828-829)
He rode in and faced Gandalf:
'You cannot enter here,' said Gandalf, and the huge shadow halted. 'Go back to the abyss prepared for you! Go back! Fall into the nothingness that awaits you and your Master. Go!'...
'Old fool!' he said. 'Old fool! this is my hour. Do you not know Death when you see it? Die now and curse in vain!' And with that he lifted high his sword and flames rand down the blade. (The Siege of Gondor, Lord of the Rings, p. 829)
But the cock crowed and the horns of Rohan echoed in the City's walls. Torn between two opponents, the Black Captain chose to deal with this new peril from Rohan:
The darkness was breaking too soon, before the date that his Master had set for it: fortune had betrayed him for the moment, and the world had turned against him; victory was slipping from his grasp even as he stretched out his hand to seize it. But his arm was long. He was still in command, wielding great powers. King, Ringwraith, Lord of the Nazgul, hea had many weapons. He left the Gate and vanished. (The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, Lord of the Rings, p. 839)
8. Triumph of a Woman: Mary and Eowyn

Mustafa Pasha was indeed defeated by the armies of the Holy League, but behind their triumph is a woman: Mary. To see this, we note that Jan Sobieski left Poland on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15. And when he arrived in the mountains of Kahlenberg, he consecrated his troops to Mary on September 11. The Feast of Mary's birthday is September 8, so that September 8-15 is the Octave of the Feast.

September 11 is a date special to Muslims. We already know that they bombed World Trade Center and Pentagon on this date in 2001. But the roots lie deeper: September 11 is the date of Islam's humiliation in its battles against the West. One Peter Five provided the following summary of such events:
  • The Great Siege of Malta which ended on Sep 11, 1565, after the destruction of 30,000 Turks by Sicilian armies and the Knights of St. John.
  • The Muslim Expulsion from Spain which was announced on Sep 11, 1609, gthereby ending the 800-year Islamic rule.
  • The Battle of Vienna (Sep 11, 1683). The Holy Alliance, led by King Sobieski of Poland, defeated the Muslim armies laying siege to Vienna.
  • The Battle of Zenta (Sep 11, 1697) wherein 30,000 Turks were killed together with the Grand Vizier. As a result, Hungary and Transylvania were wrested from Islam through the Treaty of Karlowitz.
In the Lord of the Rings, a woman also defeated the Black Captain: Eowyn. In the year 1973 of the Third Age, there was a prophecy by the Elf-lord Glorfindel to King Earnur of Gondor that no man can slay the Witch-King of Angmar:
Earnur now rode back, but Glorfindel, looking into the gathering dark, said: "Do not pursue him! he will not return to this land. Far off yet is his doom, and not by the hand of man will he fall." These words many remembered; but Earnur was angry, desiring only to be avenged for his disgrace. (Appendix A, Lord of the Rings, p. 1051)
The Black Captain knows this prophecy quite well in 3019. And to his dismay he realized that his end may be near when a woman and not a man faced him in battle:
A sword rang as it was drawn. 'Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may.
Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me.'
Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. it seemed that Dernhelm laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. 'But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eowyn's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.'
The winged creature screamed at her, but the Ringwraith made no answer, and was silent, as if in sudden doubt. (The Battle of Pelennor FieldsLord of the Rings, p. 841)
Indeed, the Black Captain was killed not by a man but by a hobbit (Merry) and a woman (Eowyn). Merry pierced him with the blade of the Westernesse and Eowyn stabbed him with a sword:
'Eowyn! Eowyn!' cried Merry. Then tottering, struggling up, with her last strength she drove her sword between crown and mantle, as the great shoulders bowed before her. The sword broke sparkling into many shards. The crown rolled away with a clang. Eowyn fell forward upon her fallen foe. 
There's a beautiful imagery here: the great shoulders bowed before her.  The Black Captain bowed Eowyn in the same way the Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa bowed in defeat before Mary, the Help of Christians.

A year after the defeat of Muslims in the Battle of Vienna, Pope Innocent XI proclaimed the Feast of the Holy Name of Mary on September 12:
The Feast of the Holy Name of Mary, or simply the Holy Name of Mary, is a feast day in the Roman Catholic Church celebrated on 12 September to honour the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It has been a universal Roman Rite feast since 1684, when Pope Innocent XI included it in the General Roman Calendar to commemorate the victory at the Battle of Vienna in 1683.[1] (Wikipedia: Holy Name of Mary)
Let us end this post with a song for Mary:
Mary! how sweetly falls that word On my enraptured ear! Oft do I breathe in accents low, That sound when none are near. Sing O my lips, and loudly proclaim, O Mary, how sweet is thy name. (Mary How Sweetly Falls that Word)
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