One of the things that still astonishes me is how much stuff I was taught in school that either was wrong or incomplete. Therefore, when Philip Augustine left the following comment behind at this post, DO WE HAVE THE WILL TO PRESERVE OUR CIVILIZATION?, it occurred to me I ought to post something about the man.
Poland! Jan Sobieski!
Why did mention Jan Sobieski? On September 11, 1683, Jan Sobieski led the combined forces of an army that saved Western Civilization. Why the need for a post? I did not recognize the man’s name, and we all should. The Battle of Vienna was that important.
When people talk about the wars between Christendom and the various Islamic Caliphates, what usually comes up are the Crusades. For some mysterious reason many forget that Muslim invaders spread their religion through the Middle East and beyond as conquerors.
So who was Jan Sobieski? Well, he was a decent military commander, but he was not a saint. Since Encyclopædia Britannica is still a respected reference, I checked Sobieski’s bio there. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the 1911 version of Sobieski’s bio. That was even less flattering. So I went with Wikipedia’s description of Sobieski’s role in the great battle.
Sobieski’s greatest success came in 1683, with his victory at the Battle of Vienna, in joint command of Polish and German troops, against the invading Ottoman Turks under Kara Mustafa.
Upon reaching Vienna, with the Ottoman army close to breaching the walls, Sobieski ordered a full attack on 12 September. On early morning of that day, the united army of about 65,000–76,000 men (including 22,000,-27,000 Poles) attacked a Turkish force of about 300,000–350,000 men. At about 5 pm, after observing the infantry battle from the Kahlenberg hilltop, Sobieski led the Polish husaria cavalry along with Austrians and Germans in a massive charge down the hillside. Soon, the Ottoman battle line was broken and the Ottoman forces scattered in disarray. At 5:30 pm, Sobieski entered the deserted tent of Kara Mustafa and the Battle of Vienna ended.
The Pope and other foreign dignitaries hailed Sobieski as the “Savior of Vienna and Western European civilization.” In a letter to his wife, he wrote, “All the common people kissed my hands, my feet, my clothes; others only touched me, saying: ‘Ah, let us kiss so valiant a hand!'”
The war with the Ottomans was not yet over, and Sobieski continued the campaign with the Battle of Párkány on 7–9 October. After early victories, the Polish found themselves a junior partner in the Holy League, gaining no lasting territorial or political rewards. The prolonged and indecisive war also weakened Sobieski’s position at home. For the next four years Poland would blockade the key fortress at Kamenets, and Ottoman Tatars would raid the borderlands. In 1691, Sobieski undertook another expedition to Moldovia, with slightly better results, but still with no decisive victories.
Think about that date. How accurate is the movie? Don’t know. I suppose I have more studying to do, but that date almost certainly meant something to somebody.
Does it sound like an overstatement to say that Jan Sobieski‘s victory at the Battle of Vienna saved Western Civilization? Does it sound absurd to call Jan Sobieski‘s victory highly important for the sake of mankind. Look at that part of the world where Islam rules, and you tell me.