Longest siege in history

The siege of Candia is considered the longest in human history. It lasted from 1648 to 1669 and those who were born at the very beginning were able to take part in the final battles for the city. However, Candia did fall. This was the siege by the Ottoman Empire of the main stronghold of the Venetians on the island of Crete – the fortress of Candia (now Heraklion) – during the Turkish-Venetian war of the middle of the 17th century.

It all began in 1648, when a squadron of Knights Hospitallers attacked an Ottoman convoy sailing from Alexandria to Constantinople. The knights made good money on the robbery – still, things were intended for the sultan’s harem – and returned to Candia.

The Turks responded to this daring trick with 60 thousand people who landed on Crete and in four months captured all the main cities on the island with the exception of Candia. The siege of the city itself began in 1648. For several years, the Turks bombed the city, thwarted the attempts of Venice and France to deliver reinforcements to the island, but at the same time they could not do anything with the defenses of Candia.

The first assaults on the fortress were repulsed with huge losses for the attackers. The batteries of the bastions and the guns of the galleys mowed down the ranks of the janissaries, and soon the war went underground. Hiding behind sacks and baskets of earth, the Turkish infantry gnawed into the rocky ground. Positions were created for siege guns, passages were made under the walls.

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The most serious attempts to lift the blockade were made in 1666 and 1669. Both of them failed and practically broke the spirit of the city’s defenders. As a result, only 3,600 people remained at the disposal of the commander of the forces of Candia, Admiral Francesco Morosini, and he decided to surrender. An agreement was concluded between the Hospitallers and the Ottoman Empire, according to which all Christians could freely leave the city, taking with them everything that they could carry. The weapons, however, went to the winners.

In 1868-1869 V. Lamansky worked in the Venetian archives, studying the correspondence of the Council of Ten. They found letters from which it clearly follows that in the period between 1649 and 1651 in Venice a plan was discussed to infect the Ottomans with plague. Doctor Mikel Angelo Salomon, a Croatian Jew, is mentioned twice in the correspondence between the general conductor of Dalmatia L. Foscolo and the state inquisitors. Salomon proposed to make a liquid or powder from the “spleen, buboes and carbuncles affected by the plague” (“the quintessence of the plague”). Foscolo proposed “to sow this quintessence of the plague in the enemy camps in Rethymno, Kanea and San Todero.” To do this, it was necessary to infect fez or other garments. The response from the President of the Council of Ten instructed Salomon to be sent with the drug, properly packaged, to carry out the contamination plan.

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