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Disiplinlerarası Çalışmalar Dergisi Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies

MILITARY REVOLUTION THEORY AND OTTOMAN SIEGE WARFARE IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY

Centered on military innovations and changes dating back well into the sixteenth century, Military Revolution Theory aims to elaborate the driving forces behind the West emerging as a rising power. Various scholars also use the theory to explain the decline and collapse of the Ottoman Empire. But the theory has been criticized on a number of fronts, including for its broad temporal scope and the degree of generalization it entails. This paper questions one of the theory’s main arguments specific to Ottoman society during the sixteenth century. According to the theory, the construction and spread of trace italienne (Italian-style) fortresses was a major development in period warfare, one that made sieges more difficult and protracted. The presence of such forces is thus used as a key criterion for determining whether a military revolution occurred in a certain region. This article disputes the validity of this criterion. By analyzing sixteenth-century Ottoman fortress sieges, it determines that the presence of trace italienne fortresses did not meaningfully affect siege durations in the period. These fortresses were not able to withstand a number of traditional Ottoman siege techniques, including constructing towers to fire over a fortress’s walls, undermining the walls themselves, and filling in a fortress’s defensive trenches. This study suggests that evaluating each fortress siege with due consideration to its own geopolitical conditions offers a better approach for assessing military advances in a given period. 

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