The romanticism in Tolkien’s great saga was inspired partly by the actions of King Jan Sobieski during the Battle of Vienna in 1683, when Christian Europe stemmed the advance of militant Islam… (click the link below to read the full essay by Dwight Longenecker)
Although the battle which ultimately lifted the Siege of Vienna – capital of the Holy Roman Empire, and the gateway to Europe – by the Ottoman Turks in 1683 began on the 11th of September, I want to use the date to highlight primarily the tragic, yet also at times heroic, events of 9/11/2001. Nonetheless, because the great battle that saved Europe from domination by the Muslim Turks did begin on this day, I am posting this “teaser” on the event! I’ll post more on it tomorrow.
The author of the article quotes historian and biographer Militiades Varvounis:
“Jan Sobieski was one of the most illustrious rulers ever to command an army. He gained glory and fame in his thirties through his exceptional military skills and he was acknowledged as the greatest warrior-king of his time throughout the rest of his turbulent life. His patriotism, his strong faith and hope in God, his military reputation, his taste for arts and letters, and his talents—all these were legendary in his lifetime. Since World War II, no English work has been published about the king who saved Europe from the warriors of Islam at the Battle of Vienna (1683); a battle which was the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic cavalry charge of the Rohirrim that lifted the Siege of Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.”
Since my undergraduate, and a great deal of my graduate, studies were focused on the Middle Ages, I was not until fairly recently familiar with this battle, except as a name for an historical event. And so it was not until fairly recently that I came to realize that it was the Siege of Vienna (1683) – not the Siege of Constantinople, as I had originally thought – that served as the inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Siege of Minas Tirith, and the Ride of the Rohirrim (who, though portrayed as mounted Anglo-Saxons, filled the role of the Polish Winged Hussars which were King Jan Sobieski III’s elite shock troops) which broke it.
Of King Jan of Poland, the original poster of this link had this to say:
“Jan Sobieski was one of the most extraordinary and visionary monarchs of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from 1674 until his death. He was a man of letters, an artistic person, a dedicated ruler but above all the greatest soldier of his time. Popular among his subjects, he won considerable fame for his decisive victory over the Ottomans at the walls of Vienna (1683). For defeating the Muslim invaders, Pope Innocent XI hailed Sobieski as the saviour of Christendom.”
Indeed! Had not King Jan Sobieski succeeded in lifting the Siege of Vienna, the history of Europe, and indeed the world, would have worked out far differently. The first among equals among our own Founders, George Washington, Father of our Country, frequently credited Divine Providence with intervening in our struggle for independence. I agree, but I also think that one of the chief agents of that intervention was George Washington himself. I think that much the same could be said of Jan Sobieski! But it was not the founding of a new nation that was the goal and the outcome, but the preservation of Christian civilization, and of the West itself.
His story should be known and recounted much more widely, in my opinion!