The Longest and Worst Sieges in history

An island fortress under Ottoman attack, believed to be a depiction of the Siege of Candia. Wikimedia

2. The siege of Candia, 1648-1669

Candia (today’s Heraklion, Crete) withstood a more than two-decade siege by forces of the Ottoman Empire, defended by Venetian troops and ships and the fabled Knights of Malta. Ottoman forces occupied most of Crete in 1648, as part of their expansion into the western Mediterranean. Hard-pressed Venetian forces opposed them. During the twenty year siege of the Cretan capital Venice found its power and influence waning, and Catholic France and Spain became the leading opponents of the Muslims. French troops went to the aid of the Venetians at Candia, but in 1669, after 21 years of bombardment and bloodshed, Candia surrendered to the Ottomans.

The siege is notable as one of the earliest recorded episodes of the use of germ warfare. The Catholic Venetians planned to attack the Muslim Ottomans using a serum extracted from the internal organs of plague victims. Venetian commanders hoped to weaken the Ottoman forces sufficiently to cause them to lift the siege. The plan was discovered by researchers in 2015, though there is no evidence that it was carried out. The Knights of Malta fought during the long siege, though unsuccessfully, and their waning influence and power was made apparent by the Ottoman victory. Candia remained under Ottoman control until the end of the 19th century.

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