Principality of Hungary

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Grand Principality of Hungary

Magyar Nagyfejedelemség
Europe map 998.PNG
Europe in the late tenth century, Principality of Hungary (cyan)
Capital Esztergom and Székesfehérvár (from the reigns of Taksony and Géza)
Hungarian paganism
Slavic paganism
Government Gyula-Kende sacred diarchy (early)
Tribal confederation
 890's – c. 904
Grand Prince ( Gyula ) 
 c. 895 – c. 907
 c. 907 – c. 950
 c. 950 – c. 955
 c. 955 – c. 972
 c. 972–997
Historical era Middle ages
c. 895
 Coronation of Stephen I
25 December 1000
or 1 January 1001
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Great Moravia
Blank.png Principality of Lower Pannonia
Blank.png Duchy of Glad
Blank.png Duchy of Menumorut
Blank.png Duchy of Gelou
Blank.png Duchy of Salan
Blank.png First Bulgarian Empire
Kingdom of Hungary Flag of Hungary (895-1000).svg
Today part ofFlag of Hungary.svg  Hungary
Flag of Romania.svg  Romania
Flag of Slovakia.svg  Slovakia

The Principality of Hungary [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] or Duchy of Hungary [8] [9] (Hungarian : Magyar Nagyfejedelemség: "Hungarian Grand Principality") [10] was the earliest documented Hungarian state in the Carpathian Basin, established 895 or 896, [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] following the 9th century Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin.


The Hungarians, a semi-nomadic people forming a tribal alliance [13] [16] [17] [18] led by Árpád, arrived from Etelköz which was their earlier principality east of the Carpathians. [19]

During the period, the power of the Hungarian Grand Prince seemed to be decreasing irrespective of the success of the Hungarian military raids across Europe. The tribal territories, ruled by Hungarian warlords (chieftains), became semi-independent polities (e.g., the domains of Gyula the Younger in Transylvania). These territories were united again only under the rule of St. Stephen. The semi-nomadic Hungarian population adopted settled life. The chiefdom society changed to a state society. From the second half of the 10th century, Christianity started to spread. The principality was succeeded by the Christian Kingdom of Hungary with the coronation of St Stephen I at Esztergom on Christmas Day 1000 (its alternative date is 1 January 1001). [20] [21] [22]

The Hungarian historiography calls the entire period from 896 to 1000 "the age of principality". [14]


Part of a series on the
History of Hungary
Coat of Arms of Hungary.svg
Flag of Hungary.svg   Hungaryportal

The ethnonym of the Hungarian tribal alliance is uncertain. According to one view, following Anonymus's description, the federation was called "Hetumoger / Seven Magyars" ("VII principales persone qui Hetumoger dicuntur", "seven princely persons who are called Seven Magyars" [23] ), though the word "Magyar" possibly comes from the name of the most prominent Hungarian tribe, called Megyer. The tribal name "Megyer" became "Magyar" referring to the Hungarian people as a whole. [24] [25] Written sources called Magyars "Hungarians" prior to the conquest of the Carpathian Basin when they still lived on the steppes of Eastern Europe (in 837 "Ungri" mentioned by Georgius Monachus, in 862 "Ungri" by Annales Bertiniani, in 881 "Ungari" by the Annales ex Annalibus Iuvavensibus ).

In contemporary Byzantine sources, written in Greek, the country was known as "Western Tourkia " [26] [27] in contrast to eastern or Khazar Tourkia. The Jewish Hasdai ibn Shaprut around 960 called the polity "the land of the Hungrin" (the land of the Hungarians) in a letter to Joseph of the Khazars. [28]



A detail of the Arrival of the Hungarians, Arpad Feszty's and his assistants' vast (1800 m ) cyclorama, painted to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary, now displayed at the Opusztaszer National Heritage Park in Hungary Arpadfeszty.jpg
A detail of the Arrival of the Hungarians , Árpád Feszty's and his assistants' vast (1800 m ) cyclorama, painted to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the Magyar conquest of Hungary, now displayed at the Ópusztaszer National Heritage Park in Hungary
Europe around 900 Europe around 900.jpg
Europe around 900

On the eve of the arrival of the Hungarians (Magyars), around 895, East Francia, the First Bulgarian Empire and Great Moravia (a vassal state of East Francia) [29] ruled the territory of the Carpathian Basin. The Hungarians had much knowledge about this region because they were frequently hired as mercenaries by the surrounding polities and had led their own campaigns in this area for decades. [30] This area had been sparsely populated [3] [31] since Charlemagne's destruction of the Avar state in 803, and the Magyars (Hungarians) were able to move in peacefully and virtually unopposed. [32] The newly unified Hungarians, led by Árpád, settled in the Carpathian Basin starting in 895. The Balaton Principality, an East Frankish vassal state in Transdanubia, was subjugated during a Hungarian campaign in the direction of Italy around 899–900. Great Moravia was annihilated between 902 and 907 and a part of it, the former Principality of Nitra, became part of the Hungarian state. The south-eastern parts of the Carpathian Basin were under the rule of the First Bulgarian Empire, but the Bulgarians lost their dominance due to the Hungarian conquest. The control prior to the Hungarian settlement of the territory of the Solitudo Avarorum (mostly the northern part of Great Hungarian Plain), where remnants of the Avars lived, has not yet been entirely clarified.

Military achievements

The principality as a warrior state, [1] with a new-found military might, conducted vigorous raids ranging widely from Constantinople to central Spain. Three major Frankish imperial armies were defeated decisively by the Hungarians between 907 and 910. [33] The Hungarians succeeded in extending the de iure Bavarian-Hungarian border to the River Enns (until 955), [34] and the principality was not attacked from this direction for 100 years after the Battle of Pressburg. [21] The intermittent Hungarian campaigns lasted until 970, but two military defeats in 955 (Lechfeld) and 970 (Arcadiopolis) marked a shift in the evolution of the Hungarian principality. [35]


Principality of Hungary in 998 AD Europe map 998.PNG
Principality of Hungary in 998 AD

The change from a ranked chiefdom society to a state society was one of the most important developments during this time. [36] Initially, the Magyars retained a semi-nomadic lifestyle, practising transhumance: they would migrate along a river between winter and summer pastures, finding water for their livestock. [37] According to Györffy's theory [38] derived from placenames, Árpád's winter quarters -clearly after his occupation of Pannonia in 900- were possibly in 'Árpádváros' (Árpád's town), now a district of Pécs, and his summer quarters -as confirmed by Anonymus- were on Csepel Island. [37] Later, his new summer quarters were in Csallóköz [37] according to this theory, however the exact location of the early center of the state is disputed. According to Gyula Kristó the center was located between the Danube and Tisza rivers, [38] but the archaeological findings imply a location in the region of the Upper Tisza. [38]

Constantine VII's De Administrando Imperio, written around 950 AD, tries to define precisely the whole land of the Hungarians, or Tourkia. [39] Constantine described the previous inhabitants of Hungary (e.g., the Moravians), described early Hungarian settlements and neighbors, and located Hungarian rivers (Temes, Maros, Körös, Tisza, Tutisz). [39] Constantine had much more knowledge about the eastern parts of Hungary; therefore, according to one theory, Tourkia did not mean the land of the whole federation, but a tribal settlement, and the source of the description of Hungary could have been Gyula whose tribe populated the five rivers around 950. [39] According to another hypothesis, mainly based on Constantine's description, the Hungarians started to really settle western Hungary (Transdanubia) only after 950, because the eastern part of the country was more suitable for a nomadic lifestyle. [39]

Due to changed economic circumstances, insufficient pasturage to support a nomadic society and the impossibility of moving on, [40] the semi-nomadic Hungarian lifestyle began to change and the Magyars adopted a settled life and turned to agriculture, [29] though the start of this change can be dated to the 8th century. [6] The society became more homogeneous: the local Slavic and other populations merged with the Hungarians. [40] The Hungarian tribal leaders and their clans established fortified centers in the country and later their castles became centers of the counties. [32] The whole system of Hungarian villages developed in the 10th century. [37]

Fajsz and Taksony, the Grand Princes of the Hungarians, began to reform the power structure. [41] [42] They invited Christian missionaries for the first time and built forts. [41] Taksony abolished the old center of the Hungarian principality (possibly at Upper Tisza) and sought new ones at Székesfehérvár [42] and Esztergom. [43] Taksony also reintroduced the old style military service, changed the weaponry of the army, and implemented large-scale organized resettlements of the Hungarian population. [42]

The consolidation of the Hungarian state began during the reign of Géza. [44] After the battle of Arcadiopolis, the Byzantine Empire was the main enemy of the Hungarians. [45] The Byzantine expansion threatened the Hungarians, since the subjugated First Bulgarian Empire was allied with the Magyars at that time. [45] The situation became more difficult for the principality when the Byzantine Empire and the Holy Roman Empire made an alliance in 972. [45] In 973, twelve illustrious Magyar envoys, whom Géza had probably appointed, participated in the Diet held by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor. Géza established close ties with the Bavarian court, inviting missionaries and marrying his son to Gisela, daughter of Duke Henry II. [40] Géza of the Árpád dynasty, Grand Prince of the Hungarians, who ruled only part of the united territory, the nominal overlord of all seven Magyar tribes, intended to integrate Hungary into Christian Western Europe, rebuilding the state according to the Western political and social model. Géza's eldest son St Stephen (István, Stephen I of Hungary) became the first King of Hungary after defeating his uncle Koppány, who also claimed the throne. The unification of Hungary, the foundation of the Christian state [46] and its transformation into a European feudal monarchy was accomplished by Stephen.


The new Hungarian state was on the frontier of Christendom. [40] From the second half of the 10th century, Christianity flourished as Catholic missionaries arrived from Germany. Between 945 and 963, the main office-holders of the Principality (the Gyula, and the Horka) agreed to convert to Christianity. [47] [48] In 973 Géza I and all his household were baptised, and a formal peace concluded with Emperor Otto I; however he remained essentially pagan even after his baptism: [19] Géza had been educated by his father Taksony as a pagan prince. [49] The first Hungarian Benedictine monastery was founded in 996 by Prince Géza. During Géza's reign, the nation conclusively renounced its nomadic way of life and within a few decades of the battle of Lechfeld became a Christian kingdom. [19]

Organization of the state

Until 907 (or 904), the Hungarian state was under joint rule (perhaps adopted from the Khazars). The kingship had been divided between the sacral king (some sources report the titles "prince" [50] or "khan" [51] ), or Kende, and the military leader, or gyula. It is not known which of the two roles were assigned to Árpád and which to Kurszán.[ citation needed ] Possibly, after the Kende Kurszán's death, this division ceased and Árpád became the sole ruler of the principality. The Byzantine Constantine Porphyrogennetos called Árpád "ho megas Tourkias archon " (the great prince of Tourkia), [52] and all of the 10th-century princes who ruled the country held this title. [5] According to the Agnatic seniority the oldest members of the ruling clan inherited the principality. The Grand Princes of Hungary probably did not hold superior power, because during the military campaigns to the west and to the south the initially strong [53] princely power had decreased. [52] Moreover, the records do not refer to Grand Princes in the first half of the 10th century, except in one case, where they mention Taksony as 'duke of Hungary' (Taxis-dux, dux Tocsun) in 947. [52] The role of military leaders ( Bulcsú, Lél ) grew more significant. [52] The princes of the Árpád dynasty bore Turkic names as did the majority of the Hungarian tribes. [14]



There are various estimates of the size of the country's population in the 10th century, ranging from 250,000 to 1,500,000 in 900 AD. There is no archaeological evidence that the Hungarian nobles lived in castles in the 10th century. [55] Archaeology revealed only one fortified building dated to the late 9th century (the castle of Mosapurc). [56] Only excavations of 11th century buildings give certain evidence of castle building. [56] However, the result of the excavations in Borsod may imply that the prelates and nobles lived in stone houses as early as the 10th century. [57] Muslim geographers mentioned that Hungarians lived in tents. [58] Beside tents, the common people lived in pit-dwellings, though there is archaeological proof of the appearance of more-roomed [59] and wood-and-stone house types. [60]

Further theories

Some historians believe that Prince Árpád's people spoke Turkic and the Magyars had been in the Basin since 680. Their main argument is that the newcomers' cemeteries are too small, indicating that the population wasn't big enough to make Magyar the dominant language in the Basin. However, it seems that Árpád led the Megyer tribe, and it would be tricky if the Megyer tribe would have spoken Bulgar Turkic.[ clarification needed ] Of course, in principle anything may happen in a symbiosis. [61]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Hungarian prehistory spans the period of history of the Hungarian people, or Magyars, which started with the separation of the Hungarian language from other Finno-Ugric or Ugric languages around 800 BC, and ended with the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin around 895 AD. Based on the earliest records of the Magyars in Byzantine, Western European, and Hungarian chronicles, scholars considered them for centuries to have been the descendants of the ancient Scythians and Huns. This historiographical tradition disappeared from mainstream history after the realization of similarities between the Hungarian language and the Uralic languages in the late 18th century. Thereafter, linguistics became the principal source of the study of the Hungarians' ethnogenesis. In addition, chronicles written between the 9th and 15th centuries, the results of archaeological research and folklore analogies provide information on the Magyars' early history.

Menumorut or Menumorout was the ruler of the lands between the rivers Mureș, Someș and Tisza at the time of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin around 900, according to the Gesta Hungarorum, a Hungarian chronicle written after 1150 by an unidentified author, referred to as Anonymus. Historians debate whether Menumorut was an actual ruler or a fictional character created by the author, since the Gesta tells of multiple figures, including Menumorut, who are not identified in any other primary sources, and does not name any of the enemies of the invading Hungarians written of in other contemporary accounts of the invasion. According to Anonymus, Menumorut's duchy was populated primarily with Khazars and Székelys, and he acknowledged the suzerainty of the (unnamed) ruling Byzantine Emperor at the time.

Gyula (title)

Gyula was, according to Muslim and Byzantine sources, the title of one of the leaders, the second in rank, of the Hungarian tribal federation in the 9th–10th centuries. In the earliest Hungarian sources, the title name is only recorded as a personal name.


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Glad (duke)

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Magyar tribes

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Grand Prince was the title used by contemporary sources to name the leader of the federation of the Hungarian tribes in the tenth century.

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Name of Hungary

Hungary, the name in English for the country of the same name, is an exonym derived from the Medieval Latin Hungaria. The Latin name itself derives from the ethnonyms (H)ungarī, Ungrī, and Ugrī for the steppe people that conquered the land today known as Hungary in the 9th and 10th centuries. Medieval authors denominated the Hungarians as Hungaria, but the Hungarians even contemporarily denominate themselves Magyars and their homeland Magyarország.

Hungarian invasions of Europe Series of conflicts between Hungary and other European powers

The Hungarian invasions of Europe took place in the ninth and tenth centuries, the period of transition in the history of Europe in the Early Middle Ages, when the territory of the former Carolingian Empire was threatened by invasion from multiple hostile forces, the Magyars (Hungarians) from the east, the Viking expansion from the north and the Arabs from the south.

The Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin, also Hungarian conquest or Hungarian land-taking, was a series of historical events ending with the settlement of the Hungarians in Central Europe at the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries. Before the arrival of the Hungarians, three early medieval powers, the First Bulgarian Empire, East Francia and Moravia, had fought each other for control of the Carpathian Basin. They occasionally hired Hungarian horsemen as soldiers. Therefore, the Hungarians who dwelt on the Pontic steppes east of the Carpathians were familiar with their future homeland when their "land-taking" started.

Michael of Hungary Duke of Nyitra (debated)

Michael was a member of the House of Árpád, a younger son of Taksony, Grand Prince of the Hungarians. Most details of his life are uncertain. Almost all kings of Hungary after 1046 descended from him.

Zerind the Bald was a Hungarian lord in the 10th century. According to modern scholars' consensus, he was a member of the royal Árpád dynasty. He was the father of Koppány, the late 10th-century rebellious Duke of Somogy.


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Secondary sources

  • Balassa, Iván, ed. (1997). Magyar Néprajz IV[Hungarian ethnography IV.]. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN   963-05-7325-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Berend, Nora; Urbańczyk, Przemysław; Wiszewski, Przemysław (2013). Central Europe in the High Middle Ages: Bohemia, Hungary and Poland, c. 900-c. 1300. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   978-0-521-78156-5.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wolf, Mária; Takács, Miklós (2011). "Sáncok, földvárak" ("Ramparts, earthworks") by Wolf; "A középkori falusias települések feltárása" ("Excavation of the medieval rural settlements") by Takács". In Müller, Róbert (ed.). Régészeti Kézikönyv[Handbook of archaeology]. Magyar Régész Szövetség. pp. 209–248. ISBN   978-963-08-0860-6.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Wolf, Mária (2008). A borsodi földvár (PDF). Művelődési Központ, Könyvtár és Múzeum, Edelény. ISBN   978-963-87047-3-3.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

Further reading