20 zloty – The Polish Thermopylae – Hodów

Image of 20 zloty coin – The Polish Thermopylae – Hodów | Poland 2018.  The Silver coin is of Proof quality.
Hodów, a village near Pomoryany, about 80 km from Lviv (in the borderland between Halych Land and Podolia; at the present a village in Ternopil Oblast (province) in Ukraine). It is here that on 11 June 1694 a historical battle took place between a cavalry group of the Polish Crown army and the Tatar troops intending to launch a sabotage raid on the Ruthenian Voivodship. Polish forces consisted of cavalry banners from the garrison: Okopy Świętej Trójcy (Holy Trinity Trenches) (at the mouth of the Zbruch River near Kamianets-Podilskyi), among which there were almost 100 hussars and maybe 300 mediumcavalrymen (pancerni). They were commanded by Konstanty Zahorowski. The Okopy forces were supported by 200 Mikołaj Tyszkowski’s cavalrymen from other border fort – Szaniec Panny Marii (Virgin Mary Rampart). Zahorowski’s subordinates distinguished by excellent defensive skills and fortitude. Enemies called them “undefeated men”. The group of cavalry from Okopy, called by their contemporaries “elears from Okopy”, cut across the path of the Tatar invasion near Hodów. Due to the number of the enemy’s troops, estimated by some witnesses at 40 thousand soldiers, the “elears from Okopy” garrisoned rural buildings from where they defended themselves against the Tatars, on foot and using long firearms. Interestingly, when they had run out of bullets, they loaded their arms with heads of Tatar arrows, which hailed down in a huge amount during several-hour-long exchange of fire. According to contemporary reports, all Polish soldiers were wounded during the defence. Despite this, the soldiers from Okopy did not surrender, and the Tatars withdrew, discouraged by the conduct of Zahorowski’s subordinates. Thus their sabotage raid had proved futile. The valiant defenders of Hodów were compared, even in their own times, to the 300 Spartans defending Thermopylae. John III Sobieski, the King of Poland, commissioned a monument commemorating their victory. “They fulfilled their need to demonstrate a steadfast attitude as Spartans did against Persians”, as a hussar, Kazimierz Dłużewski, commented on the soldiers’ attitude.

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The reverse presents a hussar companion sent to “elears from Okopy”. The image of the hussar in full armour, wearing a leopard pelt, with a wheel lock arquebus and 2 wheel lock pistols (according to the guidelines of Stanisław Jabłonowski, Great Crown Hetman, from 1693, on armour and weaponry of Polish hussars from “trench banners”) has been placed against the background of a rough drawing depicting fortification of Okopy Świętej Trójcy. The obverse of all coins of the “The Polish Thermopylae” series depicts Athena, the Goddess of just war and wisdom. Zbigniew Hundert, Ph.D.