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History of Hungary

Early History

From 9 BC to the end of the 4th century AD Pannonia, the western part of the basin was a part of the Roman Empire. In the final stages of the expansion of the Roman empire, for a short while the Carpathian Basin fell into the sphere of the Mediterranean, Greco-Roman civilisation – town centres, paved roads, and written sources were all part of the advances to which the Migration of Peoples put an end.

After the Western Roman Empire collapsed under the stress of the migration of Germanic tribes and Carpian pressure, the Migration Period has continued bringing many invaders to Europe. Among the first to arrive were the Huns, who built up a powerful empire under Attila in 435 AD. Attila the Hun in the past centuries was regarded as an ancestral ruler of the Hungarians, but this is considered to be erroneous today.

It is believed that the origin of the name "Hungary" does not come from the Central Asian nomadic invaders called the Huns, but rather originated from the 7th century, when Magyar tribes were part of a Bulgar alliance called On-Ogour, which in Bulgar Turkic meant "(the) Ten Arrows". After Hunnish rule faded, the Germanic Ostrogoths then the Lombards came to Pannonia, and the Gepids had a presence in the eastern part of the Carpathian Basin for about 100 years. In the 560s the Avars founded the Avar Khaganate, a state which maintained supremacy in the region for more than two centuries and had the military power to launch attacks against all its neighbours. The Avar Khagnate was weakened by constant wars and outside pressure and the Franks under Charlemagne managed to defeat the Avars ending their 250-year rule. Neither the Franks nor others were able to create a lasting state in the region until the freshly unified Hungarians led by Árpád settled in the Carpathian Basin starting in 895.

Medieval Ages

Hungary is one of the oldest countries in Europe, established in 895, prior to the division of France and Germany or unification of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Initially, the rising Principality of Hungary was a state consisting of a semi-nomadic people.

Árpád was the Magyar leader whom sources name as the single leader who unified the Magyar tribes via the Covenant of Blood (Vérszerződés) forged one nation, thereafter known as the Hungarian nation and led the new nation to the Carpathian Basin in the 9th century. From 895 to 902 the whole area of the Carpathian Basin was conquered by the Hungarians. After that an early Hungarian state (Principality of Hungary) was formed in this territory and the military power of the nation allowed the Hungarians to conduct successful fierce campaigns and raids as far as today's Spain. A later defeat at the Battle of Lechfeld in 955 signalled an end to raids on western territories (Byzantine raids continued until 970), and links between the tribes weakened. The ruling prince (fejedelem) Géza of the Árpád dynasty, who was the ruler of only some of the united territory, but 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. He established a dynasty by naming his son Vajk (the later King Stephen I of Hungary) as his successor. This was contrary to the then-dominant tradition of the succession of the eldest surviving member of the ruling family. By ancestral right prince Koppány, as the oldest member of the dynasty, should have claimed the throne, but Géza chose his first-born son to be his successor. The fight in the chief prince's family started after Géza's death, in 997. Duke Koppány took up arms, and many people in Transdanubia joined him. The rebels represented the old faith and order, ancient human rights, tribal independence and pagan belief, but Stephen won a decisive victory over his uncle Koppány, and had him executed.

Kingdom of Hungary

The ruling prince Géza of the Árpád dynasty intended to integrate Hungary into Christian Western Europe. His first-born son, Saint Stephen I became the first King of Hungary after defeating his uncle Koppány, who also claimed the throne. Under Stephen, Hungary was recognised as a Catholic Apostolic Kingdom. Applying to Pope Sylvester II, Stephen received the insignia of royalty (including probably a part of the Holy Crown of Hungary, currently kept in the Hungarian Parliament) from the papacy.

By 1006, Stephen had consolidated his power, and started sweeping reforms to convert Hungary into a western feudal state. The country switched to using the Latin language, and until as late as 1844, Latin remained the official language of Hungary. What emerged was a strong kingdom that withstood and repelled attacks coming from various directions. Saint Ladislaus I of Hungary conquered Croatia in 1091.

The most powerful and wealthiest king of the Árpád dynasty was Béla III, who disposed of the equivalent of 23 tonnes of pure silver per year. This exceeded the income of the French king (estimated at 17 tonnes) and was double the receipts of the English Crown.

Andrew II issued the Diploma Andreanum which secured the special privileges of the Transylvanian Saxons and is considered the first Autonomy law in the world. He led the Fifth Crusade to the Holy Land in 1217, setting up the largest royal army in the history of Crusades. His Golden Bull of 1222 was the first constitution in Continental Europe. The lesser nobles also began to present Andrew with grievances, a practice that evolved into the institution of the parliament (parlamentum publicum). The most important legal ideology and legislative guideline was the Doctrine of the Holy Crown, which held that the sovereignty belongs to the nation (the Holy Crown).

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