On October 26, 1689, the Austrian General Enea Silvio Piccolomini led a campaign against the Ottomans in Kosovo, Bosnia and Macedonia.
Piccolomini (ca.1640-1689) was an Italian nobleman with his root in Siena in Italy.
During the offensive, the city of Skopje, (present-day capital of the Republic of Macedonia), was plagued by epidemics of cholera.
To prevent the outburst of the disease, or, by other accounts, to retaliate for the siege of Vienna, General Piccolomini ordered the city to be burned. Some accounts of these events state that Piccolomini razed Skopje due to an inability of his forces to occupy and govern a city so far from his headquarters.
On this day, the fire of Skopje started; it destroyed much of the city; only some stone-built structures, such as the fortress and some churches and mosques, were relatively undamaged.
Piccolomini’s intention was not to continue southwards and take Macedonia, but to take Durres and Albania and to reach the sea. But to show the strength of his army and to destroy this important Turkish fortification he decided to burn down Skopje.
Another reason for his decision was cholera epidemic that was raging in Skopje. From the hillsides of the Vodno mountain, Picolomini observed on the blaze:
The fire, which had disastrous effect on the city, was raging for two days and except the massive stone buildings, Skopje was completely destroyed.
Its population declined from around 60,000 to around 10,000, and it lost its regional importance as a trading center.
General Piccolomini contracted the plague himself in Skopje. His army was defeated.
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