Vienna had been under siege for two months at the beginning of September of 1683. Count Ernst Rüdiger von Starhemberg, the garrison commander, had declared to the Ottoman Turks who had asked for his surrender that he would “fight to the last drop of blood.”

And blood was running out fast in Vienna those days: The Ottoman army numbered approximately 170,000 men compared to the 11,500 Austrians — and by September the Austrian numbers had dropped to one-third of their original strength. Disease had spread within the city and the damage to the walls was considerable. Yet the defenders had managed to stop 18 Ottoman charges up to that point.

But the Austrians were running out of time and options.

On the Ottoman side, things were not better. They had also suffered casualties from diseases and feared that a Christian army would soon appear to lift the siege.

Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa Pasha hoped that he would be the conqueror of the city. Vienna was the capital of the Holy Roman Empire and an important strategic location to hold. It had interlocking control over the Danubian (Black Sea to Western Europe) and the overland (eastern Mediterranean to Germany) trade routes. Vienna was also the city where the last Ottoman attempt for expansion in central Europe had been stopped in 1529.

The Holy Roman Empire had a treaty of mutual help with Poland from 1683. Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I had left Vienna and had called for help from his allies from Passau.

Thankfully for him and the city of Vienna, his cries for help were not left unanswered. By September 7, a relief force was formed in Tullin Valley, some 30 kilometers northeast of the besieged city.

The armies composing the allied relief force were: John III Sobieski, King of Poland with 18,000 Poles; the Elector Max Emanuel of Bavaria with 11,000 men; Prince George Friedrich von Waldeck with 8,000 troops from Franconia and Swabia; Prince George of Hanover (the future King George I of England) with a bodyguard of 600 cavalry sent by his father Duke Ernst August of Hanover; and John George III von Wettin, the Elector of Saxony, with 9,000 Saxons. Along with Imperial General Lieutenant Duke Charles of Lorraine’s 20,000 Austrians, the allied army numbered over 66,600.