Siege specialist visits Hill
The department of history brought Dr. Kelly DeVries to the Hill for a presentation on the Sieges of Rhodes in 1480 and 1522. DeVries, who spoke on March 10, is a professor of history at Loyola University in Maryland, a specialist on medieval military history and technology and is commonly featured on the History Channel.
The Sieges of Rhodes were a series of attacks in 1480 and 1522 by the Ottoman Empire, in which the Turkish army attempted to expel the Knights Hospitaller, the Crusading military order, from their walled stronghold. Rhodes, a modern Greek island in the Aegean Sea, is approximately 18 kilometers southwest of Turkey. Its strategic location would have ensured Ottoman control of the Eastern Mediterranean.
Though the Siege of 1480 was unsuccessful, the Turks were ultimately able to capture Rhodes in 1522 after a six-month long ordeal. However, the Hospitallers were able to leave their headquarters freely. The siege was costly to the Ottoman Empire; around 103,000 Turk soldiers were lost – almost half of the invading force.
Nonetheless, Suleiman I, the reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, counted the siege as a major victory. It increased his Empire’s maritime activity between their capital of Constantinople and North Africa.
“[Suleiman I] said he would gladly lose 103,000 more,” DeVries said.
DeVries focused his studies on the Sieges of Rhodes through a close examination of the Knight Hospitaller’s strong city fortification, consisting of stonewalls, bastions and moats. His research was enhanced through fieldwork, maps, photos and diagrams.
“Every historian should use Google Earth,” he said. The computer program helped DeVries understand key structural features concerning the walls and moats of Rhodes, as well as enabled him to locate key geographic features, such as the Tower of the Windmills.
Many historians are interested in the sieges because they believe that the attacks demonstrate an example of revolutionary military technology. However, DeVries argues against the use of such terms.
“[The Siege of Rhodes] is what it was…We don’t use terms like innovative,” he said.
In conducting a historical analysis, DeVries points out that just as soon as one person calls something “innovative,” another piece of technology is discovered from an even earlier time.
DeVries’ newest book, Rhodes Besieged: A Story of Cannon, Stone and Men, 1480 to 1522, co-authored with Robert D. Smith, is currently in press and is set for publication within the next year.