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Jan Tarnowski

Jan TarnowskiAKA Jan Amor Tarnowski

Born: 1488
Birthplace: Tarnów, Poland
Died: 16-May-1561
Location of death: Tarnów, Poland
Cause of death: unspecified

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Military

Nationality: Poland
Executive summary: Polish general, fought Turks

Polish general and patriot. After a careful education beneath the eye of an excellent mother and subsequently at the palace of Matthew Drzewicki, bishop of Przemysl, he occupied a conspicuous position at court in the reigns of John Albert, Alexander and Sigismund I. As early as 1509 Tarnowski brilliantly distinguished himself in Moldavia, and took a leading part in the great victories of Wisniowiec (1512) and Orsza (1514), where he commanded the flower of the Polish chivalry. To complete his education he then travelled in Palestine, Syria, Arabia, Egypt, and northern and western Europe. While in Portugal he received from King Emanuel the chief command in the war against the Moors, and Charles V rewarded his services in the Christian cause with the dignity of a count of the Empire. Indeed, the emperor had such a high regard for Tarnowski that he offered him the leadership of all the forces of Europe in a grand expedition against the Turks. On the death of Nicholas Firlej in 1526 Tarnowski became grand hetman of the crown, or Polish commander-in-chief, and in that capacity won his greatest victory at Obertyn (22nd August 1531) over the Moldavians, Turks and Tatars, for which he received a handsome subsidy and an ovation similar to that of an ancient Roman triumphator. Heartily attached to King Sigismund I and his son Sigismund Augustus, Tarnowski took the royal side during the so-called Kokosza wojna, or Poultry War, of 1537; and also in 1548 when the turbulent szlachta tried to annul by force the marriage of Sigismund Augustus with Barbara Radziwill. In 1533, however, we find him in opposition to the court and thwarting as much as possible the designs of the young king. Nevertheless Tarnowski was emphatically an aristocrat and an oligarch, proud of his ancient lineage and intensely opposed to the democratic tendencies of the szlachta. A firm alliance between the king and the magnates was his ideal of government. On the other hand, though a devout Catholic, he was opposed to the exclusive jurisdiction of the bishops and would even have limited the authority of Rome in Poland. As a soldier Tarnowski invented a new system of tactics which greatly increased the mobility and the security of the armed camps within which the Poles had so often to encounter the Tatars. He also improved discipline by adding to the authority of the commanders. His principles are set forth in his Consilium Rationis Bellicae (best edition, Posen, 1879), which was long regarded as authoritative. As an administrator he did much to populate the vast southeastern steppes of Poland.

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