Jan Mazeppa, hetman of the Cossacks, born about 1645, died in Bender, Turkey, Sept. 22, 1709. He was the son of a Polish gentleman in Podolia, and became page at the court of John Casimir, king of Poland. On returning to his native province he formed an improper intimacy with a married lady, whose husband caused him, according to the common story, to be tied to a wild horse, which was then let loose on the plains and ran till he reached the country of the Cossacks, where Mazeppa was unbound, and kindly treated by the inhabitants. Another account says that Mazeppa was fastened to his own horse, which brought him back to his own door, and that, unable to endure the disgrace of his position, he left his country and took up his residence among the Cossacks. However he may have arrived among them, his abilities soon gave him great influence, and on the death in 1687 of the hetman Samoilovitch, whose secretary and adjutant he had been, he was chosen to the chief command. He attained to high favor with Peter the Great; but when the Russians began to encroach on the liberties of his adopted country, he entered into secret connection with Stanislas Leszczynski of Poland, and subsequently into a league with Charles XII. of Sweden. These plans failed, Mazeppa being besieged by the Russians in his capital, Baturin, whence he escaped with an inconsiderable force.

The defeat of Poltava (July 8, 1709) put it out of the power of Charles to aid him, and both tied to Turkey.