The New International Encyclopædia/Ziska, John

ZISKA, zĭs'kȧ, Boh. ZIŽKA, zhĭzh'kȧ, John (c.1360-1424). A famous leader of the Hussites. He was born at Trocnoy, near Budweis, Bohemia. He became a page to King Wenceslas of Bohemia|, and spent his youth at Prague. In 1410 he took part as a volunteer on the side of the Teutonic Knights in the great battle of Tannenberg. Later he fought against the Turks and at the battle of Agineourt. Returning to Bohemia, soon after the burning of John Huss, he became prominent among the leaders of the Hussites. In 1419 the Hussites took up arms against the Emperor Sigismund, and Ziska displayed extraordinary activity in organizing their forces. He was soon recognized as their leader. He built a mountain stronghold which he named Tabor, whence the extreme party among the Hussites took the name of Taborites (q.v.). In 1420 he took up a strong position near Prague on an eminence since known as the ‘Zizkaberg,’ and with a few thousand men beat off an army of 30,000 (July 14th). On November 1st he won a victory over the Emperor Sigismund and again on January 8, 1422, he was victorious at Deutschbrod. His course was everywhere marked by the destruction of monasteries, the burning of priests' houses, and the introduction of the communion with both elements. (See Utraquists.) As the leader of the Taborites, Ziska waged a relentless war against the section of the Hussites known as the Calixtines. In 1424 it is said that Sigismund proposed an arrangement with the Hussites, by which full religious liberty was to be allowed and Ziska, who had an interview with the Emperor on the footing of an independent chief, was to be appointed Governor of Bohemia and her dependencies, but if this is true, the war-worn old chief did not live long enough to complete the treaty, for while besieging the castle of Pribyslav* he was seized with the plague, and died October 11, 1424. He was buried in a church at Czaslav, and his iron war-club was hung up over his tomb. A story was long current that, in accordance with Ziska's express injunctions, his skin was flayed off, tanned, and used as a cover for a drum, which was afterwards employed in the Hussite army, in order that even when dead he might be a terror to his enemies. From early boyhood Ziska had been blind in one eye and he lost his other eye in 1421. As he has become a popular hero, it is difficult in many parts of his life to separate fact from fiction. Meissner was the author of an epic poem on Ziska which has passed through more than a dozen editions; and George Sand wrote a prose Life. Consult Millauer, Diplomatisch-historische Aufsätze über Johann Ziska (Prague, 1824); Tomck, Johann Ziska (Ger. ed., Prague, 1882).