Muslim caliphates dominated much of the North African coast and the Levant areas to the east of the Mediterranean Sea, throughout the Middle Ages. In 1453 the Turkish Ottomans captured the great Christian city of Constantinople and much of the Balkans and South Eastern Europe fell into their hands. The Ottoman Empire began a long, gradual decline when they were turned back at the gates of Vienna in 1683. Britain, which had virtually no strategic interests in the Mediterranean throughout that period, became involved in military and naval engagements in the Mediterranean during the War of Spanish Succession at the beginning of the eighteenth century. From that time Britain maintained a naval presence in the Mediterranean and became involved in matters arising from the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the hegemonic aspirations of France.