Battle of Riade

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Battle of Riade
Part of the Hungarian invasions of Europe
Heinrich I. kampft gegen die Ungarn.jpg
Henry I fights against the Magyars,
Sächsische Weltchronik , c. 1270
Date15 March 933
Central Germany, exact location unknown
Result German victory
East Francia
(Kingdom of Germany)
Principality of Hungary
Commanders and leaders
Henry the Fowler, East Frankish king and duke of Saxony Bulcsú, a harka
Lél and Súr, chieftains
Casualties and losses
Reportedly minor Reportedly minor

The Battle of Riade or Battle of Merseburg was fought between the troops of East Francia under king Henry I and the Magyars at an unidentified location in northern Thuringia along the river Unstrut on 15 March 933. The battle was precipitated by the decision of the Synod of Erfurt to stop paying an annual tribute to the Magyars in 932.

East Francia Former country in Europe

East Francia or the Kingdom of the East Franks was a precursor of the Holy Roman Empire. A successor state of Charlemagne's empire, it was ruled by the Carolingian dynasty until 911. It was created through the Treaty of Verdun (843) which divided the former empire into three kingdoms.

Henry the Fowler German noble

Henry the Fowler was the duke of Saxony from 912 and the elected king of East Francia (Germany) from 919 until his death in 936. As the first non-Frankish king, he established the Ottonian Dynasty of kings and emperors, and he is generally considered to be the founder and first king of the medieval German state, known until then as East Francia. An avid hunter, he obtained the epithet "the Fowler" because he was allegedly fixing his birding nets when messengers arrived to inform him that he was to be king.

Principality of Hungary

The Principality of Hungary or Duchy of Hungary was the earliest documented Hungarian state in the Carpathian Basin, established 895 or 896, following the 9th century Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin.



The Magyars (Hungarians), Eurasian nomads who had originally served as mercenaries under Emperor Arnulf, after his death in 899 began to campaign in the Kingdom of Italy and East Francia. In 906 they broke up Great Moravia and one year later destroyed a Bavarian army under Margrave Luitpold at the Battle of Pressburg.

Eurasian nomads nomadic peoples of the Eurasian Steppe

The Eurasian nomads were a large group of nomadic peoples from the Eurasian Steppe, who often appear in history as invaders of Europe, the Middle East and China.

Arnulf of Carinthia King of East Francia

Arnulf of Carinthia was the duke of Carinthia who overthrew his uncle, Emperor Charles the Fat, became the Carolingian king of East Francia from 887, the disputed King of Italy from 894 and the disputed Holy Roman Emperor from February 22, 896 until his death at Regensburg, Bavaria.

Great Moravia 9th century Slavic state

Great Moravia, the Great Moravian Empire, or simply Moravia, was the first major state that was predominantly West Slavic to emerge in the area of Central Europe, chiefly on what is now the territory of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, and Serbia (Vojvodina). The only formation preceding it in these territories was Samo's Empire known from between 631 and 658 AD. Great Moravia was thus the first joint state of the Slavonic tribes that became later known as Czechs and Slovaks and that later formed Czechoslovakia.

In 924 a Magyar army invading the German duchy of Saxony defeated King Henry I in the field, but an Árpád prince—probably Zoltán—captured near Pfalz Werla allowed Henry to negotiate for terms. A truce of nine years, during which annual tribute was required of the Germans, was declared in 926. [1] During the truce, Henry reorganised the defences of his Saxonian duchy and subdued the Polabian Slavs in the east. At a 926 assembly, Henry secured the construction of new castles and the authorisation of a new form of garrison duty: the soldiery were organised into groups of nine agrarii milites (farmer-soldiers), one of which was doing guard duty at any given time while the other eight worked the fields. [1] In time of invasion, all nine could man the castles.

The Árpáds or Arpads was the ruling dynasty of the Principality of Hungary in the 9th and 10th centuries and of the Kingdom of Hungary from 1000 to 1301. The dynasty was named after Grand Prince Árpád who was the head of the Hungarian tribal federation during the conquest of the Carpathian Basin, c. 895. It is also referred to as the Turul dynasty, but rarely.

Zoltán of Hungary Grand Prince of the Magyars

Zoltán, also Zolta, is mentioned in the Gesta Hungarorum as the third Grand Prince of the Hungarians who succeeded his father Árpád around 907. Although modern historians tend to deny this report on his reign, because other chronicles do not list him among the Hungarian rulers, there is consensus that even if Zoltán never ascended the throne, all monarchs ruling in Hungary from the House of Árpád after around 955 were descended from him.

Werlaburgdorf Ortsteil of Schladen-Werla in Lower Saxony, Germany

Werlaburgdorf is a village and a former municipality in the district of Wolfenbüttel, Lower Saxony, Germany. Since 1 November 2013, it is part of the municipality Schladen-Werla.

King Henry and the Hungarian envoys, 19th century depiction Saxonia Museum fur saechsische Vaterlandskunde I 03.jpg
King Henry and the Hungarian envoys, 19th century depiction

After he believed the necessary reforms had been made, Henry secured the support of the church in reneging on tribute payments in 932. Allegedly he had a dead dog thrown down in front of the Magyar negotiators, which amounted to a declaration of war.


In preparation for the campaign, Henry levied mounted contingents from every region and stem duchy of the German kingdom, though only French chronicler Flodoard of Reims records the Bavarian presence. [2] [3] The Thuringian contingent, though probably mounted, was described as inermes, or unarmed (though probably just poorly armed) by the contemporary chronicler Widukind of Corvey. His Saxon horsemen were described as armed warriors (miles armatus), but "he could not trust his horsemen, because they lacked certain skills and not enough of them were equipped as a miles armatus should be." [4]

Stem duchy

A stem duchy was a constituent duchy of the Kingdom of Germany at the time of the extinction of the Carolingian dynasty and through the transitional period leading to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire later in the 10th century. The Carolingians had dissolved the original tribal duchies of the Frankish Empire in the 8th century. As the Carolingian Empire declined in the late 9th century, the old tribal areas assumed new identities as subdivisions of the realm. These are the five stem duchies : Bavaria, Franconia, Lotharingia (Lorraine), Saxony and Swabia (Alemannia). The Salian emperors retained the stem duchies as the major divisions of Germany, but they became increasingly obsolete during the early high-medieval period under the Hohenstaufen, and Frederick Barbarossa finally abolished them in 1180 in favour of more numerous territorial duchies.

The Hungarian campaigns of 933 against the German Kingdom and the Battle of Merseburg. The Hungarian campaigns in Europe of 933.jpg
The Hungarian campaigns of 933 against the German Kingdom and the Battle of Merseburg.

The Magyars had besieged an unknown town but attempted to withdraw in the night because Henry and his army had camped in the neighborhood at Riade. Henry sent forward a small contingent of footsoldiers with a few cavalrymen as a screen for his main army. [5] The king had learned what to expect from the preceding struggles, where the rapidity of the Magyar light cavalry and archers had brought them success. He confronted their onset with light armoured combatants at first, followed by a massed heavy cavalry attack. According to Widukind of Corvey, the Magyar forces readily fled at the coming of Henry's horsemen and the victorious German troops declared Henry emperor on the battlefield. [2]

The exact location of the battle is unknown and several municipalities in Central Germany claim to be the site of the combat, among them Kalbsrieth, at the confluence of Unstrut and Helme, and the Hunnenfeld near Riethgen. However the place of Riade rendered by Widukind denotes the army camp of King Henry, probably not identical with the battlefield.

Central Germany (geography)

Central Germany (Zentraldeutschland/Mitteldeutschland), in geography, describes the areas surrounding the geographical centre of Germany.

Kalbsrieth Place in Thuringia, Germany

Kalbsrieth is a municipality in the district Kyffhäuserkreis, in Thuringia, Germany.

Helme river in Germany

The Helme is river in central Germany that is about 65 kilometres (40 mi) long and which forms a left-hand, western tributary of the Unstrut in the states of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt.


In Henry's lifetime the Magyars did not dare to make a further raid on East Francia. In 954 they again invaded Germany during a rebellion instigated by Duke Liudolf of Swabia and were finally defeated by Henry's son and successor King Otto I at the Battle of Lechfeld.


  1. 1 2 Reuter, 143.
  2. 1 2 Reuter, 142.
  3. Bernhardt, 16.
  4. Leyser, 5-6. Leyser further notes that historians are unsure if these horsemen were free knights or unfree ministeriales.
  5. Santosuosso, 149–50.


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