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It may sound unbelievable, but it’s proven that the ancestors of the Hungarians migrated to Europe from Asia and conquested the Carpathian Basin.
The origin of Hungarians from the Hungarian conquest to Christianity
“The Huns once conquered North-China, Middle Asia and most of Europe. The origins of this nomadic tribe is unknown, chinese sources for example originate them from today’s China.”
This article will give a detailed introduction to the Huns and their descendants, the Hungarians, who conquered the Carpathian Basin and founded today’s Hungary, which is over 1100 years old!
We will help you find what you’re looking for.
Table of content:
- The Huns
- The Great Wall was built because of the Huns
- The migration of the nomads begins
- “Attila, the Scourge of God”
- Attila’s death
- The origin of the Hungarian people
- The battle tactics of the old Hungarians
- The conquering Hungarians
- The Seven Chieftains
- Conquering in 895
- The death of Árpád
- Saint Stephen I.
Somewhere in the steppe of Middle Asia lived a nomad, shepherd ethnic group with horses. They didn’t look like the Mongolians, the Chinese or anyone else, but themselves, at max some of their clothing was similar to the nomadic Mongols.
Back then the fashion wasn’t set by fashion brands, but the necessity and the practicality. The Hun women weaved, braided and decorated their families clothes themselves. The richer used golden twines, which represented ranks as well.
The chronicle described them as a: smart, hard-working, brave people with a healthy lifestyle, who were always ready to fight when their freedom was in danger. Men respected women, which was a big deal back then. They didn’t treat them like their possession, which was common with other Asian groups. They appreciated their friends, but gave no mercy to their enemies.
This bold, but noble-minded group of people who were born to rule, have deeply engraved their name in the world’s history, and were called: THE HUNS. The Huns, whose blood would coincide with the Hungarian blood centuries later, with the blood of the ethnic group that shared their ancestors.
The Huns are mentioned in Chinese sources
The Chinese Shaanxi Province is preparing to declare the ancient Hun capital, Tongwancheng as part of world heritage. This settlement is the only ruin in the world, which was left behind by the Huns.
The officer responsible for the cultural heritages of the Shaanxi Province stated: he would like to declare the asian Huns’ (also known as: xiōngnú) only capital, Tongwancheng as part of the world’s heritage.
Tongwancheng is part of the world’s heritage
Tongwancheng, the ruins was discovered after the turn of the millenium and was a great sensation among archaeologists. Before that, the area was covered by sand from the desert for nearly a 1000 years. The ruins provided numerous valuable finds and scientific discoveries regarding the origins and culture of the Huns.
Hun tribes, who decided to stay behind made Tongwancheng their capital, in about 419. They called their country Daxia and this state also existed around the 5th century.
At the area of today’s China, among the non Chinese tribes, the Huns built the most advanced city. By the way, in the whole world Tongwancheng is the only capital that is connected to the Huns and can still be found today – well, at least its ruins.
This settlement – whose name basically translates to “unite every nation”- was created by over hundred thousands of people. The construction of Tongwancheng proves the determination of the people, who wanted to stay in the desert no matter what. The settlement was found through extensive research, including aircraft surveys and long distance sensors.
The city is made up of three parts
The city of Tongwancheng consists of three parts. Next to the palace district, there is an inner and outer district. The Imperial palace can be found in the palace district.
In the inner district the government offices, as well as the residences of the officials and members, relatives of the royal family are located. The common people lived in the “suburbs”. The city was guarded by towers placed at the town’s four corners. The walls were about 16-30 m thick.
The walls were made of special materials: sand, earth and water that flow through rice fields. The water played a vital role, as the “sticky”, “ricey” liquid glued the sand and the earth together,so the Huns ended up with a stone-like building material.
The layout of the city is special: the north-west part lays higher, but the south-east part is lower. The systematic recovery has already started in Tongwancheng. For example, they already managed to reconstruct the “Yong’an Podium”, where Helianbobo, Emperor of Daxia watched the parading Huns.
The Great Wall was built because of the Huns
The Huns emerged in the 3rd century BC and quickly became one of the most populated ethnicity groups in today’s China. Due to their frequent raids, they made life unbearable for the Chinese groups who were fighting among themselves.
The nomadic hordes (Mongols, Huns, Manchus) could be defeated with weapons, but it was impossible to destroy them. There was no other choice, but to find a way to stop them from entering the Chinese Empire. To avoid them from entering, the Chinese began to build a wall around 280-300 BC. But the walls weren’t only against the nomads! The first walls, with their own clay brick gates separated the Chinese states that were fighting with each other, and as a bonus, scared away the nomads as well. These walls were the world’s most developed defense system at the time.
The Huns later dominated a number of Chinese territories, but during the 1st century BC they were defeated in China by the head of the Western Han Dynasty, Emperor Wu of Han. After this the Huns split up, and during the battles, the southern Huns associated with the Chinese, defeated the northern Huns, around 89-91 BC.
The migration of the nomads begins
It was around 350, when Inner Asia began to wake up, people were dissatisfied, and the ethnic groups began to feel that sharing their territories with other ethnicities were not appropriate.
In the hope of a larger habitat and better living conditions they wanted to get their own houses. This decision was confirmed by the people’s actions in Inner Asia. Almost every group that decided to migrate chose to travel to the West, they considered it the promised land.
Around 370, this is what the Huns, lovers of fields and horses, did as well.
The northern Huns travelled West
Around 374, the originally named Northern Huns kept on travelling towards the west, and started the very first large migration wave, that landed in Europe.
The Huns did not need a leader, they lived peacefully among themselves, focusing on getting their meal each day. It was different when they were going to battle, as for those times, they selected a leader.
And it was also different when they decided to migrate, as now it was necessary to appoint a constant leader, who couldn’t have been anyone else, but the bravest soldier, Balambér. He was the very first Hun king. They chose well. With Balambér’s leadership, the Huns began their migrating journey, following their leader blindly. They crossed the Volga in 374.
First the forerunners visited the area, they checked out what to expect. At the time they did not learn to fight, they relied on their experiences, skills and tricks. They were good with their trickery during battles, as they didn’t lose much while beating down the Alans living on the other side of the creek and quickly learned to respect the Huns. The Huns used this to their advantage and as a reward they became their allies. Together, they made it to Don.
They stopped here, as they found themselves face to face with the Goth Eastern realm, which reached the River Don. They bate the Ostrogoths thanks to their good tactics on horses and their bravery. When the sound of the battle quieted down, they got some rest and the wounded got back on their feet, they went to defeat the West Goths.
News about them filled the world. They never heard of another group so savage. Even their looks were scary. The faces of boys were marked with a sharp knife or by dog bite when they were young, to look even scarier.
They were short, but the sizes of their heads and arms were disproportionately big. Rough canvas robe stitched with fur covered their bodies. Their feet were tucked away in uncomfortable boots, their head was protected by helmet.
Regarding food, they weren’t picky, they are raw roots or raw meat, which they softened by putting it under the saddle. They spent all their lives on horses, they had their markets and meetings on horse backs, they ate and drank on horses, and they slept by leaning on the neck of the horses. Their horses were small and ugly, but they were persistent.
They sat them so confidently, it was like they were nailed there. They lived from being shepherds, hunting and stealing. They attacked their enemies with a loud roar, in messy troops, showering them with bone-headed arrows.
The arrival of the Huns were preceded by news, and the Western Goths prepared in their own ways. They placed a strong army next to the River Dnieper and believed they were invincible. But the Huns, who were not spoilt by the comfort of the western culture, did not just overcome other groups with their enormous bearing capacity or their bravery, they also had their wits: and they acted quick.
A group crossed the river overnight and attacked the Western Goths, exactly at the spot where the King was. The king would escape, and under the shower of arrows the army would run around confused, making them vulnerable. The shattered Goths had no escape, they were attacked from both sides. From one side the Huns and the Alans, from the other the threat of the Romans. They had to pick between two evils. They made a choice and joined the Huns. The army of the Huns kept on growing…
Not much after, Balambér reached Danube, set up tent next to it so he and his people could get some rest. The chronicles don’t mention what has happened with Balambér afterwards, but we know, that the Huns began to attack the Eastern-Roman Empire around 395.
There is no point in beautifying, they have caused destruction and bloodshed.
In the 400s Rua, the Hun King continued the journey, well better say the constant conquering war. Conquering a home was no longer the main goal, but the joy of constant winning and treasures. In 425 Rua, Hun king tired of the constant fighting named the Carpathian Basin to the south of the Danube as his headquarters, and they slowly began to settle.
Rua, Hun King died in 434, and he left the leadership of the Hun tribes to his brothers, Mondzuk’s sons, to Attila and Buda.
Buda and Attila
Buda and Attila equipped with ambition, threw themselves into the dense work of leaders. They demanded Emperor Theodosius II to give out the traitors fleeing to Byzantium. Attila and Buda greeted the Byzantine delegate in Pozarevac (today’s Serbia). Loyal to the Hun culture, made an agreement on horseback.
The two Hun leader were pleased, as they didn’t just get back the runaway tribes, but the Eastern-Roman Empire doubled their taxes, opened their doors for the Hun traders and paid a ransom for the prisoners caught by Huns. With this in mind, the Huns returned to their own realm.
The peace between the Huns and the Romans lasted for five years, in 443 the Huns were once again at the border of the Roman Empire, referring to the agreement, attacking the merchants trading on the northern side of the Danube, due to unpaid taxes. At Constantinople they destroyed the Roman armies, but they had to retreat as they had no equipment to break through the reinforced, massive walls.
The death of Buda
The two brothers peacefully co-ruled for many years, when history (around 444-445) took them on a different path, for the presumably different, more peaceful Buda and the never resting, battle hungry Attila, who was born to be a king.
Attila did not want to share leadership with his brother anymore. The two noble leaders had different ideas, and the weaker one had to lose. Attila killed his brother and became the only leader of the Empire, which by then reached from the Black Sea to the Styrian Mountains and from Danube to the Baltic Sea.
Among his people, other than the Huns, were Germanics, Sarmatians and Slavic people, who looked at him with fear and respect and were ready to follow him anywhere. Attila left their princes alone, and he didn’t hurt their religions and cultures, only demanded that they would follow him into battle and pay their taxes. After the death of Buda, Attila reigned over the Huns, and he kept them together with an iron fist.
“Attila, the Scourge of God”
Attila, Hun king (lived and died 406-453), lived for 47 years. When he was born on this Earth during one of the months of 406, nothing signalled his arrival. The Earth didn’t shake. There were no thunder, no storm went through Europe, and no one expected, that Attila himself, would the the thundering storm that’s going to sweep through Europe, making the earth fertile with blood.
The history of Europe refers to him as a legendary Hun king, but also as a symbol of barbarity.
Attila, like the Huns in general, was a bulky, broad shouldered, large headed, small eyed, flat nosed, rare bearded man. His presence demanded respect: with his chin up, he looked around himself with concern and pride, his face reflecting defiance and satisfaction.
When someone made him angry, his face grew dark and his eyes sparkled, even the bravest grew weak these times. But he was also open and generous. His men respected him for his fairness, and his enemies feared his anger. He liked it when he was surrounded by splendor, but with his own clothes, weapons and lifestyle he enjoyed simplicity.
He was deeply engraved in the minds of others, even after centuries they still talked about him, “The Scourge of God”, as they referred to him. This is how he called himself as well, claiming to wield the sword of the God of War, which was found by a shepherd who gave it to him. Putting the sword in the ground terrified the people – so goes the tale – and Rome and Constantinople shook.
But it wasn’t only with his sword that he defeated his enemies, but also with tricks and cunning. He pretended to be a friend and attacked when they least expected it. It’s for certain, that he was a great man, who was the best among the barbarians, who on the final days of Rome entered history and overthrew the throne of emperors.
There isn’t much known about Attila’s childhood, other than that he had to bear the punishments from his father Mondzuk, who was strong and strict. He barely turned 12 when a huge change happened in his life.
In 418 based on the agreement of the political peace talks at the time, he was sent to the court of Honorius, Roman Emperor as a child prisoner. In return, they received Flavius Aetius, the son of Honorius’ cavalry leader, who later became a Roman Emperor. This exchange of prisoners ensured that the agreement would be respected.
Attila’s childhood in Rome
Both nations wanted to profit from exchanging prisoners. For example the Romans raised Attila in a luxurious lifestyle based on their own traditions, thinking that once he returned to his nation, he will increase Rome’s influence. On the contrary, the Huns hoped that by Attila staying with the Romans could give them a chance to spy on them.
Although Emperor Honorius assured the young Attila, that he would live according to his ranks, he felt like a real prisoner, as the walls of the castle stood in the way to his freedom. He couldn’t identify with the Romans, he suffered every day that he had to spend with them, so he decided to run away.
He made a plan on how to do this, but this attempt failed, and he was lucky to get away with his life.
During these uncertain years he realised, that instead of spending his time on escaping, he could do something productive. For example, getting to know the Roman culture. It seemed, that he has accepted his situation and tried to fit in with the Roman customs.
Although he didn’t have serious plans for the future yet, he spent all his time studying the empire, but he paid attention not to draw attention to himself. After a while he was able to tell the differences in the internal and external politics of the Romans.
He learnt latin, he observed how the diplomatic discussions with other nations leaders took place. He got to know the western protocol, the ruler’s habits, the behaviour of the diplomats, which later had great significance, he recognised the weaknesses of the empire and its signs of disintegration.
No matter how useful he spent these years, the Emperor’s court remained strange to him, and when he reached adulthood he returned to his own nation. By then his view of the world was ripe, which he successfully used later. Attila was considered a charismatic leader due to his nature. With the combination of knowledge of the Roman culture his authority had grown enormously.
In fact, the Hun people also benefited from Attila’s romanization to fit in with this new situation.
Despite all this, the Huns lifestyle remained the simple, nomadic way, just like Attila. They continued to like the meadows, mainly because they could keep animals easily. The common people lived in wooden houses, which were digged, or deepened in the ground. The leaders, depending on the ranks, with more decorated houses.
The heir didn’t avail to luxury he has experienced in Rome either. His house was made of finely cultivated planks, slats and carved columns. The palace’s hall, or reception hall was decorated by wool carpets in rich colours. Apart from Attila’s handmade wooden chair and bed there were no other furnitures.
The bed was also covered by gorgeous, embroidered wool fabrics, indicating skillful women’s work. Attila didn’t represent luxury in his clothing either, he wore a simple, comfortable leather outfit with no gold decorations or jewels.
One time, the Byzantine Emperor’s ambassadors came to the Hun king, who were welcomed by Réka, his first wife, with the western women’s elegance. The mixed feelings of the ambassadors, the admiration and amazement have been recorded as the importance of the Hun women in the lives of the Hun leaders.
Priscus, a historian, wrote:
“Barbarians served their splendid food with not expected luxuries, on silver platters. As opposed to this, Attila only ate cooked meat on a wooden platter, and drank from a wooden cup, while his guests enjoyed the gold and silver.”
In contrast, his spirituality, his tactical genius surpassed everybody. The ambassadors, all around Europe, took these news, that although he is the Scourge of God, he lives in a very cultured environment.
The Hun king had many wives: his first and main wife Réka, mother of his first born son, Ellák and Csaba and Dingizik.
From a Roman lady: Emnedzár and Urinduz.
From German princess, Krimhilda: Aladár and Irnák. After the death of Réka he took on a new wife, Ildikó. Their child together is Geism.
This also shows that Attila’s marriages, more than likely, were influenced by the political considerations. At any rate, Attila’s marriages and the birth of his children are still unclear.
When Attila began his rule alone in 450, he wanted to start an attack against the Visigoths together with Emperor Valentin III. This partnership was beneficial to Emperor Valentin to get the areas taken over by the Visigoths back.
There were legends about the unbeatable Hun king. Emperor Valentin’s sister, Honoria didn’t ignore these legends, and to get out from a marriage that was forced on her, she sent her ring to Attila as a sign of her willingness to be his wife.
Attila understood this message and accepted. However, as dowry he expected half of the kingdom! When Emperor Valentin found out, he exiled Honoria in his anger. Because he owed Attila an explanation, he sent him a letter. He wrote that the marriage offer was unlawful and can not be done.
Attila didn’t accept this explanation, he sent an ambassador to Ravenna, in which he stated that Honoria was innocent, because the marriage proposal was legitimate. He also stated, that he would come and take over what he was entitled to.
The downfall of the Hun Empire
If we take Asia’s, Europe’s history into account, we will notice that every kingdom will once reach it’s peak, from where they began to decline: the peak gets out of reach, it ceases. This also happened to the Hun Empire.
The list of all the areas and towns that Attila took over would be too long, and in these areas the defeated payed a huge amount of tribute. According to historians, during the Italian battles so many people have died that the bodies made small hills, and in the river blood was flowing instead of water.
Attila’s empire grew huge: From Mid-Europe to the Black Sea, from the Danube to the Baltic Sea.
Attila could have been contained here, with expanding his kingdom more, with spending more time on his nation, culture. He dreamed bigger than this, after Italy, the areas beyond the sea: he wanted to take over Egypt, Assyria and Africa. This plan couldn’t happen, Attila’s fate turned out to be different. While the smaller battles and subtle diplomatic talks were taking place in Europe, he gathered his army and headed to the west.
Battle of Catalaun
On the 7th of April 451, Attila with his massive army took over Metz (located at the northwest part of today’s France).
Theodorik I., Visigoth king became allies with Rome so that with their joint forces can stop the growth of the Huns. The two very large army battled in Catalaun, and while Attila didn’t think of it, although he was not defeated, he had to give up on victory due to the amount of men he lost.
With 50-60 thousand dead, the battle was one by the Goth-Roman alliance. King Theodorik also passed away in this battle. Aetius, the victorious didn’t know what to do with his allies’ army. The alliance broke up, and in the cover of the night they left the battlefield and retreated.
When Attila realised that Aetius was left alone with his soldiers, he couldn’t do anything else, but to retreat with his own army.
In 452 he continued his campaign against Italy. They were heading towards the end of this campaign, when (according to the legends) the lengthy siege forced Attila to build his own place. He picked the spot, Aquilé, between the Adriatic Sea and the Carnian Alps, but the flat plain did not meet his needs.
Together with his soldiers, they have created a mountain so he could observe the victory of his troops from above. The soldiers carried the earth in their shields and helmets. The mountain was done in record time (according to the legends, in 3 days). He built the castle, called Udine on this mountain, whose tower is still known as Attila’s tower.
The day Attila would die has arrived in 453, when he was 47 years old. Allegedly, his last wife, Ildikó poisoned him, but it’s only a hypothesis.
According to other stories, Attila wasn’t only great in battle, he also enjoyed tasty wines, after every battle he would knock together his cups with his commanders, ad that wasn’t great for high blood pressure. According to the records, due to the high blood pressure his varicose vein in his esophagus has enlarged abnormally, and on his wedding night it burst and he drowned in the spilled blood.
There were those who hated him and those who loved Europe’s greatest, bravest man, the Hun King. It is acceptable, however, that everyone admired him, even if they were terrified. According to Hungarian legends, the Hun common people showed their respect in their enormous loss, by placing Attila in a triple coffin and buried him in one of the branches of the Tisza.
Attila was buried by the Huns as a great king. The Huns together with their slaves blocked one of the branches of the river (Tisza), where it was branching off to two, so the water would flow to the other branch.
Then, according to tradition, they buried him in a triple: gold, silver and iron coffin in the riverbend. After this, all the slaves were shot by arrows to fall to the riverbend so they could never tell anyone about the burial site. Then they opened up the branch of the river which forever hid Attila’s secret burial place.
When the news of Attila’s death arrived and his family woke up to this shock, the respect for the great Hun King was not priority. The fierce struggle for power has begun. Csaba és Aladár (Attila’s sons) both assumed they would be the legitimate heirs, and the Huns broke apart.
The equal power meant they both begin their reign, which ended in war. The swords reappeared and the Huns battled against Huns in a pointless war.
The German army also gathered behind Aladár, who was born from the German heiress (Krimhilda), and the greek army behind Csaba, who was the son of the daughter of the greek Emperor Honorius.
In the first battle, Aladár had to retreat. The luck left Csaba during the second battle and he lost. However, this battle sealed the future of the Huns: they bled to death. So many has died, that only about 15 thousand people remained in Csaba’s army.
After losing the empire, Csaba had no choice but to flee to Greece with his army. The remaining few thousand Hun in the Carpathian Basin created a community, today’s Transylvania, which they call Székely Land.
Due to the Hun against Hun battles, the Hun empire was destroyed and the german tribes using this opportunity to grow, took over East- and Mid-Europe’s vast areas, along with the Carpathian Basin. The Huns who were now alone scattered in there fear, anywhere they could.
The origin of the Hungarian people
The Hungarians are the descendants of the Huns
There are many arguments for the Hun-Hungarian kinship. These are for example the humanistic factors (the genetic similarity between the thombs), the shared tradition (symbols, religious ideals, legends, value system, cultural kinship and similarities), or the linguistic memories.
Anonymous, the notary of Hungarian King Béla III. wrote:
“The first king of Skithia was Magog… From this king came the famous and powerful King Attila. From this same king came, Ügyek, leader Álmos’s father, whose descendants are Hungary’s kings and leaders.”
The home of the Hungarian people
The homeland of the Hungarians, the “Magna Hungaria” lay on the Bashkortostan. Then the Hungarians lived, at least until the 7th century, within the borders of the Kazan Kaganat, but in 830 they broke away from the empire and began their own political life.
In 895, the Hungarian tribes that familiarised themselves in farming and engaged in semi-nomadic lifestyle appeared in the Carpathian Basin and gradually took over their future country.
The Hungarian people emerge from the families of the Finno-Ugric people, who inhabited the lands from the Ural Mountains to the Baltic Sea. Their homeland together with their language relatives, the ubiugors, probably lay at the area surrounded by the rivers Volga-Kama, at the Ural Mountain’s western side.
With the help of archaeological, linguistic and ethnographic findings, this is how far we can follow the origins of the Hungarians. Presumably, due to the great steppe migration triggered by the Huns (around 300-400) many nomad tribes and groups arrived in this area, and maybe this is when the early Hungarians or a fraction of them arrived at the area of Bashkortostan in West Siberia.
In the future area of Hungary, the “Magna Hungaria” (ancient, old Hungary) was located south of the River Kama, at the past Bashkortostan area at the banks of the Volga. In 1236, when at the expense of King Béla, a monk of the Dominican order, Julianus and three of his companions set off to find the ancestors of the Hungarians, also found the Eastern-Hungarian’s home here, with whom they could converse in Hungarian.
According to the 9-13th century records form east and west, this is the place they name as the Hungarians old homeland. Deciding this argument is pretty difficult, as the researchers don’t have many reliable sources and it’s almost impossible to give a final answer to this question.
The ancestors became neighbours with the people who lived here. In addition to the Iranian-born Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans who lived above the Black Sea, they also contacted Turkish people, who arriving from Asia, settled at the banks of the Volga. Proof of the close relationship with the Turkish people is the name of the Hungarian language used to this day. Hungarus, Hongrois, Ungar and Vengri names came from the Bulgarian-Turkish “ten tribes” (onugor).
During the 820s an internal war broke out, and as a result around 830 the Hungarians broke away from the Khazars. By then the Hungarians themselves, as a nation-forming group, reigned over the groups (who also became Hungarian later) that has joined them.
The groups that joined the Hungarians were the Eszkils, Belszirs and the Karabs.
In 862, the Hungarians step into the area beyond the Carpathian Basin for the first time. They got involved with the internal fights that broke out at the east border of the Frank Empire. The number of Hungarians at this time were 20.000 soldiers, approximately a hundred thousand families, about half a million of people.
The battle tactics of the old Hungarians
No matter how scary and powerful weapon the arrow was, the old Hungarians successful warfare didn’t only rely on this. Without the easy and quick organization of the cavalry, their discipline, skill and most importantly sacrifice, the arrow wouldn’t have been more than a fancy hunting method.
At that time, and for many more centuries afterwards, the outcome of the battles and wars were decided by the preparedness and most importantly the reliability and correctness of the military units and the soldiers within it. Even the technical advancements didn’t push these virtuous out of focus.
The warfare of these tribes who were educated equestrians, were based on the easy cavalry. The key to their success was speed and offence.
They only wore helmets and lightweight leather clothes, which where at most pinned with metal scales, while the western fighters were slowed down and tired out by their heavy armours. Their success as soldiers can also be thanked to:
- Their battle scream “haj”, “haj” and their horses’ neighing were part of their amazing attack psychology. In close fights they used the saber, the shepherd’s axe and the mace, while their horses kicked and bit. However, if it was possible, they avoided close fights. The buckle was also the invention of equestrian people, which played a huge role in the effectiveness of both close and far fights.
- The main virtue in the battles was the maneuver, hit then retreat tactic. The battlefield of the old Hungarians was divided into different battle lines, which helped them maneuver skillfully in a battle. The first battle line mostly just pretended to attack, then they would suddenly run away. Then the enemy would chase after them, but the lightweight Hungarian horseman standing up in their saddles showered their enemies in arrows. The speed of the horsemanship usually allowed the Hungarians to clash with the enemy when and wherever they preferred. They first picked the place of the battle, after examining the area they made a plan, taking into account the size and the equipments of the enemy.
Smaller horseman groups attracted the enemies here. If they could, they broke apart the enemies’ battle lines. By the time the enemy arrived at the planned location, the Hungarians who were secretly waiting easily destroyed them or made them to run away.
If the breakdown of the army’s lines didn’t work, they formed three horseman circles in front of the enemy’s columns, with about a thousand fighter in each circle. They circled around with their horses and they showered their enemies in arrows.
This was followed by an attack, which could have been real or pretend. It depended on the damage that was made to the enemy groups, were they able to breakdown the enemy lines or not. If yes, then the attack was real and the groups who were hidden on each side in the forests also attacked the enemy. But if the enemy lines were still intact, then the attack was only pretend.
Even before clashing with the enemy, they turned around and pretended to retreat, while shooting arrows at their chasers, which was made possible by the stirrup.
If this was successful, the chasers became the fugitives, and the “fugitives” became the winners. The Hungarians broke up the enemy lines with this, who only realised that they were in a trap when the hidden horsemen attacked them from all angles, and the “fugitives” also turned back to fight.
The Hungarian leader was never at the front of the lines, but always at the very back, due to his importance. However, his son, brother or other family member, the heir of the throne was at the front with the leaders of the conquered groups. The army of the Hungarians was built on the number ten, as the military units consisted of tenths, hundreds and thousands. The battle line itself consisted of a strong main unit, and three right- and left wing units.
The conquering Hungarians
The conquering Hungarians, as a traditional livestock group, already knew the process of farming. As the bovine herd quickly grew next to the already large horse and sheep herds, life forced them to produce forage.
They created meadows near the winter homes, which led to the cultivation of other plants. The ploughing of the earth and the harvest made the nation more and more attached to the area. With the settling the system of livestock keeping also changed. They built pens and now next to the bovines they also started to keep animals that aren’t suitable for the nomad lifestyle (pigs, poultry).
At this time, animal husbandry was restricted to a smaller area, and the winter home began to look more and more like a village. According to the records, in the Kazar Kaganatus the Hungarians have lived for over two centuries, and around the 8th century they broke away from their traditional nomad lifestyle, they understood farming, viticulture and they had craftsmen living in their cities. Based on the archeological findings we can safely say, that the Hungarians knew farming before they conquered and their craftsmanship was skillful.
The Seven Chieftains
You can find the statues of the seven chieftains at Heroes’ Square
The Hungarian Federation was held together by seven chieftains. Their names: Álmos, Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba, Töhötöm. Among the seven chieftains, Álmos was the most brilliant warrior. He led the Hungarians towards the promised land, and he led the fights against the intervening attackers, especially the ones against Pechenegs.
In 884 the supply of the Hungarian families and the army was in danger, which had to be sorted by the seven chieftains.
Álmos had no other choice, but to leave towards the west. He first began a campaign against Russia, and with luck on their side, they made it to Kiev.
When the leader in Kiev learnt of the Hungarians successful campaign, the called the Kuns for help. Álmos did not retreat, and placed Kiev under a siege, and bate down the Russians and the Kuns. In the hopeless situation the leftover Russian and Kiev armies surrendered and joined the Hungarians.
In 893, although Álmos completed his tasks as a hero, the time came when he was too old to rule, and there was a need for a younger and more powerful leader. They elected Álmos’s son, Árpád. Álmos passed away in 895, but there is no official record on what has caused his deaths, it’s only explained in different stories.
Chief Árpád, the Founder of the State
Árpád, leader of the Árpád dynasty, born and died around 845-907, lived for 62 years. He had five sons. After selecting Árpád as the ruler, the six chieftains formulated a 6 pointed (non-written) constitutional law.
Instead of having a written agreement, they made a blood oath: they cut a vein in their arm and poured it into a cup.
This blood oath remained the base of the Hungarian law for centuries. They never deleted anything, but as it was required to benefit the people, they expanded them.
The blood oath had 6 points:
- As long as Álmos’s line lives, their leader will always be from the family of Álmos
- Everybody will get a share from any House they acquire
- The descendants of the leaders, who were chosen by the chieftains will always be in the leading positions of the country
- Anybody becoming disloyal against the leader or provoking a rebellion within the nation, shall bleed like their blood poured during the oath
- Course on heir, or any of the chieftains that break this oath
- Anyone who does not attend the nation’s national assembly shall be stabbed through
Conquering in 895
By 894 Árpád signed an agreement with the leader of the Moravians, Svatopluk. The essence of the agreement, that the Hungarians, together with the Moravian army will expel the Eastern Franks from Pannonia.
According to legends, if a Hungarian leader sends a white horse to another nation or tribe, and in returns requests a flask of water, a handful of earth and grass, then the person returning these sold his own territory.
Árpád sent Chieftain Kond’s son, Kusid and his prettiest white horse to the Moravian leader, telling him asking in return for a flask of water from the Danube, a handful of earth and a bit of grass from the meadows.
Svatopluk was happy to oblige, not knowing that according to the Hungarian laws he was selling Árpád his territory. However, there was also a provision, which stated that if one of the parties die, then the legal relationship ends as well.
After the death of Svatopluk things happened quickly, the Hungarians took over the Upper Tisza region. With Árpád at the front of the army, they stepped over the Verecke Pass to the lowlands, to conquer the new home he has dreamed of for his nation.
Until the Tisza the Hungarians occupied the Carpathian Basin, and the next time Árpád called onto his army to fight, he did so to strengthen his leadership in his new home, and to get the people to serve him.
Even after the conquering, the Hungarians continued to live, albeit in a socially divided, in a tribal alliance, under the leadership of Árpád.
The local leaders that joined them were made to kneel at the request of Árpád, and the stubborns were fought in battle and their territories were taken without delay. Within a few generations the original locals mixed in with the conquerors, and became Hungarians. The conquering Hungarians became (with the development of the feudal state order) known as nobility later, and the locals who became Hungarians, later became indigenous.
Unfortunately, the victories changed to tragedies. Árpád lost all four of his sons in battle, but as a small compensation, his fifth son, Zolta, was born in 896.
By settling down, the way of life of the Hungarians began to change, and the economic situation became overwhelming. They tried to fight this with raiding campaigns. They attacked their neighbouring countries suddenly, but not with the purpose to destroy. When they escaped from the shower of the Hungarian’s arrows, they left everything behind that their attackers needed.
The meeting of the conquering Hungarians with Europe was not smooth. The military actions, called adventures were raiding campaigns, even when the Hungarians were hired by one of the parties to attack their enemies. These adventures didn’t mean the lifestyle of the Hungarians, as it wasn’t the semi-nomad livestock keeper or farming common people that were participating in them, but the chiefs and their military escorts.
All signs indicate, that the decisions of the Hungarian warfare were centrally decided, after consulting with the leaders. There was a strict discipline in the Hungarian army, they approached the attacked country’s territory in one or two columns, but in there they broke down into smaller groups to rummage through the cities.
The Hungarian armies got into Germany, Italy, France and in 942 to Spain as well. Their successes at the beginning were due to the weakness of their enemies. The successor states of the Karoling Empire were not able to make a serious opposition. But from when an organised opposition stood up against them, the adventurous armies were defeated more and more often.
They failed in 933 in Merseburg and then in 955 in Augsburg. The western campaigns ended with the two unsuccessful raids, and they couldn’t continue them in the east for much longer either. They left the battlefield in Arkadiapolis against the Byzantine Empire as losers in 970. The era of adventures closed after this.
From the point of view of the conquering Hungarians, the question was whether to break apart like the tribes who used to occupy the Carpathian Basin, or will they be able to join Europe’s state system.
The representative of the political concept change was Árpád’s great grandson, Géza. He married the Sarol, the Christian daughter of the Transylvanian leader, and as a ruler, he realised that his nation was stuck between two large states.
This is why in 973 he sent an embassy of 12 chiefs to Quedlinburg, where he requested compensation from the Emperor. More than likely, Géza has done this as a baptized leader, as he knew that the price of peace and survival was: taking on Christianity.
Unlike the Czech, Polish and Danish leaders, Géza did not personally attend this conference, to further demonstrate, that while Hungary would like to be a part of the Christian Europe, but would remain independent from other states.
After the conference in Quedlinburg the leader pursued to keep the peace with his neighbours, and by the time he got old, he managed to fix the problematic Bavarian-Hungarian relationship.
Victory in Lombardy
In March, 899 the Eastern Frank King, Arnulf sent an ambassador to the Hungarian leader, Árpád and asked him to help him defeat the Italian King Berengar’s armies. As an exchange, if they win the Hungarians get Pannonia which lay beyond the Danube.
This fit into Árpád’s politics, he took the opportunity, and in Lombardy with his 5000 soldiers defeated the Italian King’s army which had 15000 people. We must note, that the victory of the Hungarians wasn’t only based on their advantageous location, but a good amount of luck as well.
Berengar did not know the Hungarian raiders, he only came to his senses when the Hungarians like pagans destroyed some Italian cities and arrived at the Berta river exhausted. When Berengar saw that he was up against 5000 tired pagans, due to his western culture and his large army he got too confident. He allowed his men to be relaxed, get off their horses so they could get some rest and have food and drinks.
This was a great distraction, the Hungarians used it as an opportunity. They got themselves together quickly, crossed the Berta river even quicker and attacked the centre of the enemy. Barely a few thousand got away from Berengar’s army.
The Hungarians raided a few more Italian cities, destroying Milano as well, until the top of Job. After arriving him they took over the Pannon Frank Empire from the west of the Danube. Yes, but the Moravians also had their eyes on this area, and attacked the Hungarians as they were settling. Árpád’s army destroyed the Moravians and as a punishment took over the territories from their Nitra conquests (today’s Slovakia), so by 900s Autumn all of the Carpathian Basin, from the Carpathians to the Drava, near to the River Enns came under Hungarian reign, and the conquest has ended. This land was called Hungary since then.
The death of Árpád
In 907, the Hungarian nation woke up to a devastating day, Prince Árpád has died at the age of 62. There are no records of the cause of his death either, or about his first and second wives.
The personality and humanity of Árpád, the founder of the Hungarian State can’t and never could be praised enough. He proved many times that he didn’t come from east to west to conquer, but to provide a home to his people. While his father, Álmos found the Carpathian Basin perfect, here everything anyone ever wanted could have been found: fertile lands, rich pastures and next to all of that many rivers filled the country.
Árpád never started a fight without a good reason, like the old Huns did after a victory. He didn’t celebrate by finding a reason to kill, he didn’t put men in chains and didn’t sell them as slaves. With a noble gesture, he offered an opportunity to those who surrendered, the refugees so they could live according to the constitution of Hungary. The result of his rational policy were that these people became Hungarian too. They were grateful for being treated as equals, so they never rebelled.
Battle of Bratislava
The Hungarians kept their raiding, nomadic traditions in their new home as well, but they weren’t attacking the eastern territories, they focused their attacks against the west, and did so for over one and a half decade. They mainly raided the Bavarians, Franks and Italians. This era is called the era of adventures.
Raiding partly became important, because Hungarians couldn’t create many necessities, and they were much easier to get from more developed countries. On the other hand, the Hungarians were struck by the acquisition and the maintenance of military victory, and the soldier’s need to fight were fulfilled with this.
It was the Franks who finally got enough of the Hungarians’ advantages. The empire together with the Bavarians sent a massive army to Hungary. But the Franks trusting the superiority of their army, made the mistake of not recognising the power of the Hungarians, their unique fighting method. This is how they lost.
The Hungarians did not wait until the Germans reached the Carpathian Basin, instead they went ahead of them, and on the 4th of July, in 907 the two armies clashed near Bratislave. The chronicles don’t talk about how many soldiers did the Hungarians lost, put this war ended with the superior victory of the Hungarians. But the Germans lost two princes and 3 bishops.
It can be said, that for the Hungarians this was the first war where they were defending their home. Moreover, they grew again, their border now reached the Enns river. According to some historians, this is where Árpád got fatally injured, which has killed him. According to other non-official sources Árpád was already dead before the battle of Bratislava. According to the old historians Árpád was buried in O-Buda, they placed a statue over his grave with this text:
“What was mortal in Árpád, lays here now.”
After the death of Árpád, Zolta, his youngest son inherited the throne.
Prince Zolta (896-949)
Árpád’s youngest son. His four elder brothers have already passed away by the time Árpád died. Due to this, his father while he was still alive, made him take the throne, despite the fact that he was still a child at this point. By doing so, they violated the principle of the senate, as the throne was not inherited by the eldest man of the royal family, but the son of the King.
Later Zolta had to face many problems due to this, and in the end this is what caused his downfall. During the reign of the child prince, the country’s strong commanders, especially Bulcsú became powerful. The power of the prince became weak and was pushed to the background. The surrounding countries wrote in their letters that the Hungarian horde is going to come to the same fate as Attila’s empire. We only know about one of his sons, Taksony. But after his father’s death, Taksony couldn’t seize power, and according the principle of the senate Fajsz came to reign from 949-955.
He reigned: 955-972
In 955 they sent new soldiers to Germany, who ruthlessly looted the area, until they lost a significant battle at Augsburg – this battle later was named the I. Augsburg battle. After this the Hungarians gave up their adventures towards the west. As a result of the lost battle Taksony came into power.
In 958 Taksony’s army lost near Constantinople, and in 961 in Thrace. After a few years the Bulgarians formed allies with the Hungarians, allowing them to cross through the country to attack the Greeks – using this opportunity the Hungarians broke into Greece numerous times.
Prince Taksony, who was never personally at the front line, died in 972. As required by tradition Taksony was buried in Taksony in County Pest.
Géza (945-997) was a Hungarian Grand Prince who ruled between 972-997. His father, Prince Taksony, his mother a noble Pecheneg woman (more than like the daughter of the Pecheneg leader, Tonuzoba).
Géza’s son, Saint Stephen I. is considered the founder of the Hungarian state, who achieved this strongly based on his father’s actions. Around 972, after the death of Taksony he became the Grand Prince of the Hungarians.
In 972, Géza sent a message to Emperor Otto that he would like to be baptized together with his whole family. Otto, who was returning from Rome, crossed the Carpathians during the summer. The baptism was completed by Prunward Sankt, a monk of St. Gallen sent by German-Roman Emperor Otto, as a bishop.
Géza forbade foreign adventures. He acted ruthlessly against tribal leaders who wished to keep their independence against the King, so the records from this time stated that his hands were “defiled with blood”.
By the time of his death, only three tribal leaders (Koppány, Prokuj, and Ajtony) refused to bow down to the King’s will, and they expressed their displeasure for the Christian faith.
In his foreign politics he sought peace so he could focus on the internal problems. He also married off his children in the service of this foreign politics. Grand King Géza married off five of his daughters to the following nation’s kings.
They had particularly good relationship with the Saxon Dynasty, the Ottonians.
It was also due to this relationship with the dynasty that he got into two conflicts with the brawling Prince Henry of Bavaria. But he kept his friendship with the Ottonians, moreover stood with them when they got into fights with the rebelling Prince Henry.
Shaveling Wolfgang, Pilgrim Passaui and St. Adalbert a Prague bishop who predominantly raised the issue of religion in Hungary. Along with the new faith, the principle of a unified monarchy spread. The 25 years long reign of Géza left a deep trace in the life of the nation.
Saint Stephen I.
He reigned: 1000-1038
After the death of King Géza, it was his son’s turn, Saint Stephen I.’s turn to sit on the throne. His original pagan name was Vajk, which meant hero, leader. According to the written records he was 25, or 27 when he was baptised with the name of the first Christian martyr, Stephen, together with Gisela, the daughter of Bavarian King Henry II, before their marriage.
Around 997, right before his death, his father, King Géza made the noblemen swear to support Stephen as the next ruler. After the death of Géza, following the nomad tradition, until the election of the New King the power went to Queen Sarolta, his wife, who was positioned in Veszprém.
Koppány, the son of Géza’s blood relative, Tar Zerind demanded the throne based on the principle of the senate of the steppe people (the royal family’s oldest son would inherit). Based on old Hungarian steppe tradition he wanted to marry Sarolta, Géza’s wife.
On the other hand, Géza’s family based on the principle of primogenity (where the firstborn son would inherit) intended to hand over the power to Stephen.
Koppány launched a war against Veszprém and began to siege it. The deciding battle, according to tradition, took place between Veszprém and Várpalota, more than like in Sóly. Stephen bate the pagan armies.
Koppány also lost his life in the battle, and Stephen cut his body into four. He sticked up the four pieces on the four gates of the castle. After his victory, Stephen wanted to show his power past the borders too. To achieve this, in 999 he sent the Abbot of Pannonhalma, Astrik to Rome to negotiate with Pope Sylvester II., hoping to receive a crown and an apostolic blessing.
In the end Stephen received the sign of a ruler due to his role in spreading Christianity. Pope Sylvester II. crowned him St. Stephen I. on the 25th of December, 1000.
It’s important to mention that the crown that was placed on his head at this time, is not the same as the Saint Crown.
Despite this, the head jewellery gave a unique power to his wearer, who together with the title of King, got the apostolic right to form the country’s church organisation.
The Hungarians view the day of St. Stephen getting his crown the birth of the Hungarian Kingdom, the Hungarian nationality!
St. Stephen I. was one of the biggest Hungarian kings who consolidated the Christian Kingdom’s Institution with his laws and his understanding of his people.