Taming Mars: Customs, Rituals and Ceremonies in the Siege Operations in Dalmatia during the War for Crete (1645–69)
The main question of this study is how seventeenth-century European societies attempted to regulate the conduct of warfare. It deals with a peculiar aspect of seventeenth-century siege warfare, namely the customs, ceremonies and rituals that regulated various aspects of a siege, such as the observation of truces and immunities, the negotiation of surrenders, the treatment of prisoners etc. So far, most historians dealing with Early Modern siege warfare have been more concerned with its technical and operational aspects: the digging of trenches, the development of various elements of fortifications, wastage rates of combatants, hardships brought about by lack of food and epidemics, and so on, than they have been with these “decorative elements” of engagement. Nevertheless, these activities, although usually without any obvious operational military value, provided a medium for a discourse between the besieger and besieged and thus, as I argue, played an important role in the final outcome of a siege. Through descriptive analyses of three cases, each dealing with one siege operation in the Dalmatian theater of operations during the War for Crete (1645–69), this inquiry provides an account of customs, rituals, ceremonies and rules of “proper” conduct of a siege, with particular emphasis on the most critical part of a siege: the surrender of a fortified site.
Keywords: Republic of Venice, Dalmatia, Ottoman Empire, military history, War for Crete, siege warfare.