A 16th-century engineer whose work almost defeated an Empire
Suleiman the Magnificent earned his epithet, at least militarily. The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire for 46 years, he spent much of his time on campaign. Hungary and Persia felt the brunt of his martial genius, but perhaps his most famous victory was the Siege of Rhodes in 1522. It was a grudge match.
The island of Rhodes was a blemish on the Ottoman Empire’s record. It was held by the Order of St. John (also known as the Knights Hospitaller), and it withstood the Ottoman troops’ siege in 1480. The Order of St. John had first been established to care for sick pilgrims in the Holy Land, but had been beaten back and militarized as Christians lost control over the region. At Rhodes they stood firm, but both sides knew that more conflict was inevitable.
As soon as the enemy boats had disappeared over the horizon in 1480, the Order began raising and thickening the walls around their stronghold. By 1522, their fortifications stood against the barrage laid down by the naval blockade of Suleiman’s military. This did not discourage the Sultan. He knew there was another way in: underground.