John III Sobieski, king of Poland, born in the circle of Zloczow, then belonging to the palatinate of Belz, in 1629, or according to some in 1624, died June 17,1696. His father, Jacob Sobieski, castellan of Cracow, carefully attended to the education of his two sons, of whom Marcus was the elder, and to complete it sent them to Paris. Here John entered the ranks of the musketeers of the young Louis XIV. under Conde; but on receiving the news of the death of King Ladislas IV. and the disasters caused by the bloody rising of the Cossacks (1648), both brothers hastened to their country and offered their services to the brother and successor of Ladislas, John Casimir. Both fought bravely, John especially distinguishing himself in the battle of Beresteczko (1651), but Marcus fell soon after. The invasion of Charles Gustavus of Sweden, and the simultaneous dangers which threatened Poland from every quarter, gave Sobieski ample opportunity to display his valor, and next to Czarniecki he was foremost in saving the country from ruin. His services were well rewarded, and shortly before the abdication of John Casimir he received the chief command of the army. In 1672 Poland was invaded by the Turks and Tartars, both of whose armies he successively surprised and defeated.
The new king, Michael Korybut, being besieged by the Turks in the fortress of Kamenetz, concluded an ignominious treaty with the sultan; but Sobieski caused its rejection by the senate, hastened to Podo-lia, and routed the Turks at Khotin (1673). The news of the king's death arrived a few days later, and the commander and his followers hastened to Warsaw to attend to the election of a successor. This resulted, after stormy debates, in the choice of Sobieski, who immediately resumed the war, and rescued the fortress of Trembowla, which had been saved by the heroism of the wife of the commander. Another campaign was terminated less successfully by a treaty with the Turks at Zuraw-no, where Sobieski was nearly compelled to surrender with his comparatively small army.
The rising of the Hungarians under Tokoli, and the invasion of the Mussulmans under the grand vizier Kara Mustapha, having brought Austria to the brink of ruin, Sobieski was persuaded by his wife and the ambassadors of the emperor and pope to hasten to the rescue of Vienna, which was besieged by an army of 300,000 men (1683). The Poles, numbering about one tenth as many, were joined by a somewhat larger body of German troops. Scarcely had they arrived before Vienna when Sobieski gave the signal for attack. The Turks were driven within their intrenchments, and attacked there on the next day (Sept. 12). The charge was terrible, and after a short struggle the Turks were completely routed. Sobieski made a triumphal entry into Vienna, and was hailed by all Europe as the saviour of Christendom. The emperor Leopold alone, who had fled from his capital, was too proud to receive cordially the hero who was "only an elected monarch." Sobieski pursued his success, following the enemy into Hungary, which was soon restored to the emperor.
Returning to Poland, where the intrigues of his wife had created for him a large number of enemies, he made a disadvantageous peace with the czar, in order to be able to turn all his forces against the Turks. The conquest of Wallachia was the aim of this undertaking, in which he failed after various attempts. The last years of his life were embittered by civil as well as domestic troubles. Admired as a warrior, he was little esteemed by the Polish nation as a monarch, and after his death his three sons, Jacob, Con-stantine, and Alexander, were passed over at the election, which gave the crown of Poland to Augustus of Saxony. - The Lettres du roi de Pologne, Jean Sobieski, a la reine Marie Casi-mire, pendant la campagne de Vienne, were published in Paris in 1826.