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European Kingdoms



Magyars (Finno-Ugric-Turkic)

The Magyars were horsemen from the Pontic-Caspian steppe, but horsemen with less-than-usual origins. Despite seemingly serving as auxiliaries of the Khazars - to whom they deferred in their early days - they were far from typical Turkic mounted warriors.

It is generally accepted that this name, 'magyar', is a compound which is made up of the indigenous denomination of the Voguls and Ostiaks, along with a Turkic word which means 'man', although there may be a Finno-Ugric influence which has yet to be fully explored. The Magyar tribal confederation seems to have comprised eight tribes (the traditional seven is a simplification), out of which at least six have names which are of Turkish origin (a complex subject - see below).

They spoke a Uralic language which is ultimately related to the Finno-Ugric of Finns, Estonians, and many other Northern European groups. Most of the latter are now scattered in pockets across the central and northern provinces of European Russia, such as the Mari, and north-western areas of Siberia.

Therefore it is reasonable to surmise that at some point in time the Magyars inhabited the same regions and that they reached what is now Hungary at the end of a long process of migration. It seems that they started off as a Finno-Ugric tribe which was taught - or which voluntarily took up - nomadic horse riding. That in itself is highly unusual.

For them to have reached the Pannonian plain which would become Hungary via their long-accepted steppeland home, they must have spent some time living amongst early-form Turkic-speaking tribes on the steppe. For a century or so those tribes were certainly under the control of the Western Göktürk empire, another Turkic creation. The modern Hungarian language does indeed contain a great number of words which betray a Turkic origin.

This influence may have come primarily through the Bulgar tribal state of Great Bulgaria in the seventh century. It has taken a long time for this view of Magyar origins to be accepted thanks to only a late beginning in the study of the Finno-Ugric connections in the Hungarian language rather than Turkic connections.

Modern Hungarian, therefore, belongs to the eastern, Ugrian, group of Finno-Ugrian languages. Its nearest relatives are Ostiak and Vogul, spoken today by a few thousand individuals in western Siberia. Ostiaks and Voguls are referred to, collectively, as the Ugrians of the Ob.

FeatureThe close relationship which exists between their languages and Hungarian can only be explained at an historic level by admitting an equally close link between the peoples concerned (and see feature link for an examination of the name 'Hungary). Carefully compiled linguistic statistics have shown that only about nine percent of Hungarian word roots are of Turkish origin (a figure which only just surpasses the eight percent of Latin words).

A proportion of these present phonetic features which are peculiar to the Chuvash language. This is an extraordinary Turkish dialect which is now spoken in the Middle Volga region, and it is thought to be the continuation of the language of the Volga Bulgars, revealing a degree of influence by them upon the Magyars.

Seto People of Estonia

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson, from the John De Cleene Archive, from Journal of World History 4(3), 513-540: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory, Denis Sinor, from A honfoglaló magyarság kialakulása, Gy. Németh (Budapest 1930), from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), from Celts and the Classical World, David Rankin (1996), from The Civilisation of the East, Fritz Hommel (Translated by J H Loewe, Elibron Classic Series, 2005), from Europe Before History, Kristian Kristiansen, from Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian History, András Róna-Tas (Central European University Press, 1999), from Keepers of the Keys: A History of the Popes from St Peter to John Paul II, Nicolas Cheetham (New York, 1982), from Hammond Historical Atlas (Maplewood, New Jersey, 1963), from Kingdoms of Europe, Gene Gurney (New York, 1982), from Poland: A Historical Atlas, Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski (New York, 1987), from Times Atlas of World History (Maplewood, 1979), and from External Links: The Outlines of Hungarian Prehistory, and The Annals of St Bertin, Janet L Nelson (Translator, Manchester University Press, 1991), and The genocide of the Old Scythian writing, Alex Imreh, 2011, and Hungary (Flags of the World), and Slovakia (Rulers.org).)


The earliest European reference to the Rus Khaganate comes from the Frankish Annals of St Bertin. A group of Vikings, who call themselves 'Rhos' (Rus) have visited Constantinople around this year. Fearful of returning home via the steppe which would leave them vulnerable to attacks by the Magyars, they are returning via East Francia.

Map of Central Asia AD 550-600
As was often the case with Central Asian states which had been created by horse-borne warriors on the sweeping steppelands, the Göktürk khaganate swiftly incorporated a vast stretch of territory in its westwards expansion, whilst being hemmed in by the powerful Chinese dynasties to the south-east and Siberia's uninviting tundra to the north (click or tap on map to view full sized)

When questioned by Emperor Louis 'the Pious' at Ingelheim, these Vikings inform him that their leader is known as chacanus (Latin for 'khagan'), and that they live in the north of what is now Russia (which probably means Aldeigja-Ladoga or early Novgorod). Their ancestral homeland, though, is amongst the Swedes.

fl 840s - 850s?


Magyar chieftain of the Nyék tribe.


The most important single source on Hungarian prehistory is the De Administrando Imperio of Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. This tenth century work makes free and critical use of earlier sources, and of information which has been provided by the early Hungarians.

It relates that the early Magyars, referred to at this stage as Sabartoi asphaloi, live in the neighbourhood of the Khazars in a region called Levedia (named after their most senior chief). They are closely allied to the Khazars with whom they live together for three years, and whose king gives his daughter to their chief, Lebedias.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 862-882
Tradition states that in AD 862 Rurik was invited to rule at Novgorod, with other Rus princes at Izborsk and Beloozero, and in 882 Oleg seized Kyiv at the heartland of Eastern Slavic tribal lands (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The word 'sabartoi' is linked by many to the Turkic root, *sap-, meaning 'to go astray', in other words a nomad. The word 'asphaloi' is considered to mean 'steadfast', classing the Magyars as steadfast servants, clearly of the Khazars.

According to Constantine, Levedia is adjacent to the land of the Khazars and has a river called Khidmas or Khingilous. Levedia cannot be located by these names, but is generally believed to be to the north of the Black Sea.

fl 880s?


Magyar senior chieftain before the migration.

fl 850s? - c.895

Álmos / Almos / Almus

Son of Előd. Chieftain of the Nyék, pre-migration. Killed.


In a war which is waged against the Pechenegs, the Magyars are defeated. They subsequently divide into two parts, neither of which remains in its previous dwellings. The fate of Lebedias is unrecorded but Álmos - a tribal leader since perhaps 850 - quickly succeeds him as the head of a Magyar tribal confederation.

One part of the Magyar division migrates towards Persia (ie. it heads southwards, probably towards the Caucasus), the other towards the west to a place called Etelköz. Here, on Khazar advice, they decide to elect a second ruler, selecting Árpád, son of Álmos.

Kiy, Shchek, Khoriv, and Lubed, the first three being the mythical founders of Kyiv
Kiy, Shchek, and Khoriv (with Lubed, right) were the mythical founders of the Slavic settlement of Kyiv, for which occupation began around the fifth century AD

Etelköz has five rivers: Baroukh, Koubou, Troullos, Broutos, and Seretos. Three of these can be identified with certainty: the Dniester, Prut, and Seret, all within modern southern-central Ukraine.

The name Etelköz in its Hungarian form simply means 'the tract between the river(s)' and is similar in construction and meaning to the name ' Mesopotamia'. Muslim sources are less accurate, which is only natural as the subject is of less immediate concern to them. They describe neither Levedia nor Etelköz, but the whole territory lying between the Don and the lower Danube.

c.890? - c.895

Árpád / Arpad

Son. Co-leader in Etelköz and on journey to Danube.

894 - 895

The Eastern Romans have arranged for the Magyars to attack the Volga Bulgars in an increasingly active struggle for control and influence on the steppe. In return the Volga Bulgars arrange to have the Pechenegs lead another attack against the Magyars.

With no room for manoeuvre, the Magyars are forced to take flight and again they migrate westwards, passing close to Kyiv of the Rus as they do so.

Berengar of Friuli
The determined Berengar of Friuli not only controlled the march territory between Italy proper and the Avars and Magyars to the east, but also claimed the Italian throne no less than three times during his eventful life

895 - 896

At the end of 895 the Magyars invade the Carpathian basin, advancing towards the Danube and attacking a different group of Bulgarians there, only to be repulsed by Tsar Simeon.

It is close to the Danube that Álmos is stated to be murdered, leaving his son, Árpád, to lead the conquest of Pannonia. In carrying out their invasion, they sweep away any remaining Avar control of the region to the east of Balaton to lay the foundations of a Magyar state which maintains approximately the same core territory thereafter.

c.895 - 907

Árpád / Arpad

Now sole leader. Led Magyars to conquer Pannonia.

899 - 901

As part of their initial invasion of Europe, the Magyars quickly subsume any surviving remnants of the Avars and invade Italy, possibly at the prompting of Arnulf, king of Germany. Berengar refuses a request by them for an armistice but his army is surprised and routed at the Battle of the Brenta on 24 September 899.

The Magyar invasion is subsequently blocked by the Venetians at Pellestrina in 900, but they still ravage Carinthia in the following year. Raids also take place into the northernmost reaches of the Bulgarian kingdom.

Lake Balaton
Lake Balaton today lies within the borders of Hungary, with landscapes, nature reserves, beaches, and folklore which make it focal point of the country's tourism trade


Urged on by the Eastern Franconian emperor, Arnulf, the Magyars destroy the kingdom of Great Moravia. This victory consolidates their hold on the Carpathian basin. They then turn on Western Europe and, for half a century, add to the misery of the so-called 'Second Dark Age'.

907 - 946

Zoltan / Zsolt / Zolta / Solt

Son. A disputed entry. Abdicated in favour of son.

907 - 955

The Magyars take control of territory which will later form the beginnings of Austria. The ruler there, Aribo, is removed as the early Bavarians, former masters of the region, face up to the fracturing of the stem duchies. The Germanic Roman emperors now hold undisputed command over the German section of the empire.


The Magyars suffer a setback when the Saxon king, Henry I, defeats them at Riade, and then again at Quedinburg in Saxony following a long Magyar raid into western territories.

Otto I of Saxony
Otto I accepts the surrender of Berengar of Ivrea in 961 to become undisputed German emperor, shown in this early thirteenth century text called the Manuscriptum Medioalense

By the 930s some Magyar groups are further incurring into the Bulgarian empire but, after some initial disturbance, Tsar Peter is able to accept them and even employ them against the Serbs and Eastern Romans. These groups are allowed to settle in Bulgarian territory on the northern side of the Danube, where they initially remain outside Árpád dynastic control.


A massive invasion is conducted by the Magyars as they sweep around in a giant circle through central and Southern Europe. They begin from their base in Pannonia to enter into and ravage Bavaria, Swabia, Saxony, Franconia, and Thuringia within the East Frankish kingdom.

From the Aachen area, the Magyars advance deep into the West Frankish kingdom. They devastate territory from Prum and Trier (in the East Frankish kingdom), and Laon, Rhiems, Meaux, Paris, Orleans, and Tours (in the West Frankish kingdom), before heading south to attack the Rhône river valley region down to Nimes and Arles (capital of the kingdom of Provence).

Magyars on campaign
Once established on the Pannonian plain, the Magyars plagued Europe's established kingdoms for several decades before being forced through defeat in battle at Lechfield in 955 to concentrate on establishing their own medieval kingdom in what would become Hungary

Next, crossing the Alps into the territory of the Middle (Italian) Franks, they attack the western lands there, including Tuscany and the Papal States as far south as Naples. They return past Bari and back through western and northern Italy and Venice, finally returning to their adopted Hungarian homeland.


Another large-scale raid is attempted along the same route as in 933. This time the Magyars are stopped at Erfurt by Otto I of the East Frankish kingdom, the powerful duke of Saxony.

946 - 952

Val / Phalitzi / Phalis / Fajsz?

Grandson of Árpád. Mentioned only in one source.

952 - 972

Tacsony / Taksony / Taxis

Son of Zoltan.

954 - 955

The Magyars launch yet another deep raid in 954, into the East Frankish kingdom following their route of 937. At Worms in Franconia they veer northwards through Lorraine before being stopped just before reaching the West Frankish kingdom.

The modern southern Austrian region of Carinthia marked the upper edge of the Adriatic hinterland, and the western neighbour of the newly-formed Magyar state in Pannonia

In the following year they invade again, now through Bavaria. This time they are roundly defeated at Lechfield by the Germans, under the Saxon Otto I. They also lose control of the march of Austria, which has the effect of ending their westward raids.


With the accession as emperor of the Saxon king, Otto I, the power of the Germanic Roman empire is confirmed. Otto is quite vigorous in establishing new counties and border areas within and without the empire's borders.

The county of Ardennes under Sigfried gains the stronghold of Lucilinburhuc (the later Luxemburg), Arnulf I 'the Elder' is restored in Flanders, and the march of Austria is formed (or confirmed) from territory already captured from the Magyars.

At the same time, Saxony gains Hermann Billung as its duke, charged with maintaining the duchy's eastern borders and expanding them further to the east, alongside the recently-created North March. Perhaps as a reaction to this or as the culmination of a process that is already heading that way, the duchy of Poland is formed around the same time.

Map of Germany AD 962
Germany in AD 962 may have had its new emperor to govern those territories which are shown within the dark black line, but it was still a patchwork of competing interests and power bases (click or tap on map to view full sized)

972 - 997

Geza (I)

Son. Christianised (975).


References to Vnnd.r and N.nd.r. in 982 and 1094 respectively remark upon a Christian 'nation' of Rum which is located between the lands of the 'Madjgharî' and the MIRV (M.rdât). The Pechenegs lie to the east (around the north-west corner of the Black Sea coast), while above them and leading north-eastwards are the Kievan Rus and the Volga Bulgars respectively.

The Madjgharî are the Magyars, the former steppe horsemen who now control the Dacian lands and Pannonia. Rum is Rome, although the people are not specifically being labelled as Romans - they are simply more civilised than their neighbours in terms of being settled farmers with an element of presumed sophistication.

The MIRV are Moravians, living to the north, but seemingly not yet having fully migrated far enough to settle next to the more westerly Bohemians, although their territory has already been annexed to Bohemia. The Vnnd.r are tentatively linked to the Venedi.

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Bulgaria, and Greece AD 1000
The (First) Bulgarian empire had controlled a great swathe of the Balkans during its existence, but its termination in 971 resulted in only its western territories remaining independent (within the dashed line), governed by the cometopuli (click or tap on map to view full sized)

997 - 1038

Vajk / St Stephen I

Son. First king of Hungary as 'Stephen' (1000-1038).


By the end of the tenth century Vajk has converted to Christianity and has united seven of the Magyar tribes. Now he receives the crown from Pope Sylvester II, as recognition of the Magyar formation of a firm and stable medieval state in Pannonia. He takes the title of 'King of Hungary' as Stephen I.

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