The empire of Ottoman (Turkish) Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent spread all the way to the gates of Vienna in the 1520s. Could he have taken it, and Europe? Probably not for long, because Christian Europe would likely have united in revolt against the “strange” practices of Turkish Muslims. But in the short term, if unusually long and persistent rains had not delayed the progress of Suleyman’s huge army, he probably would have mounted a much more effective Siege of Vienna much earlier in 1529. It was only 17 days in late September and early October. The Ottomans could have shaken and weakened the expanding Habsburg Empire, possibly leading to other challenges. “One certain loser would have been Martin Luther and his burgeoning but still fragile Protestant heresy,” wrote historian Theodore Rabb of Princeton University. “Henry VIII of England might well have received papal blessing for his divorce from his Habsburg Queen, and there would be no Anglican Church — and no lost Catholic country for the Spanish to try to reconquer half a century later.”
More excerpts from Rabb’s essay, which were published in What If?: The World’s Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been, edited by Robert Cowley.
A half-century later, if France’s King Charles IX in 1570 had joined the Holy League to break the Ottoman Turks’ control of the eastern Mediterranean, the league might have been able to push the Ottomans out of Greece and the Balkans and restore those regions to Christian rather than Muslim rule. If so, the centuries of religious conflict in the Balkans might have been avoided, historian Peter Pierson speculated in a brief essay in What If?: The World’s Foremost Historians Imagine What Might Have Been.