In XVII Poland was a mighty force in Europe. The country to be reckoned with stretched from The Baltic to The Black Sea. The power responsible for that might was, among others, the Winged Hussars.
The Polish/Lithuanian Commonwealth encompassed as well Belarus and Ukraine with its nomadic Cossacks. The Eastern Steps had been a witness to constant struggle with the Tartars and Turks with Cossacks joining sometimes one side and sometimes the other.
Western Europe did not threaten Poland much at that time. Polish Kings were often elected from royal families of the neighbouring countries and had seen the importance of keeping their adopted country in strength. Polish parliament at the time consisted of aristocracy who sought to advise the kings on the matters of the country. If sometimes the king could not understand the Polish ways, certainly the parliament was steadily at hand to remedy that.
So it was until the Polish King Sigismund Vasa III tried to claim his right to the Swedish throne. The uneasy relationship with Cossacks and continued fights with Russia made Poland open to the Swedish forces which tried to overtake the country leading to the “Swedish Deluge”. The Polish losses during this five years period are comparable to the losses Poland suffered during the WWII.
Shortly after the family of Vasa ceased to rule Poland, Jan III Sobieski had been elected a king. He was another strong leader and used his military knowledge to bring Poland to its peak. The warrior king is mostly remembered for his great defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the relief he brought to the siege of Vienna (1683) saving the Western Catholic Europe from the attempts of the Eastern Power. However he was as well a great patron of science and art. Among the others, he was a sponsor of Hevelius, an astronomer from Gdansk, who named one of the newly discovered constellations “Shield of Sobieski” (Scutum Sobiescianum) to express his appreciation.
The stormy XVII c is still seen as the heroic age of the Polish history. The next 100 years brought numerous attempts to implement various reforms, which
improved the Polish economy in the second half of this century. The late part of XVIII century saw the evolution of political and social systems culminating in the first European Constitution on 03/05/1788. Unfortunately Polish nobility did not see those changes as improvements and rebelled against the king, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, resulting in his plea for help from Katherine the Great. This directly resulted in the partitions of Poland, thus erasing the country from the map of Europe for almost 125 years.