Anonymous and Master Roger; Rady, Martyn; et al. (2010.) Anonymous Notary of King Bela The Deeds of the Hungarians / Epistle to the Sorrowful Lament upon the Destruction of the Kingdom of Hungary by the Tatars. Budapest–New York: Central European University Press.
Dercsenyi, Dezso; ed,; et. al. (1970). The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle. New York: Taplinger Publishing Company.
Golden, Peter B.; Ben-Shammai, Haggai; Rona-tas, Andras; eds. (2007). The World of the Khazars New Perspectives Selected Papers from the Jerusalem 1999 International Khazar Colloquium. Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill. (I haven’t read much of this volume, but it appears to be the best treatment of a continually evolving subject.)
Simon of Keza; Veszpremy, Laszlo; et. al. (1999). Simon of Keza The Deeds of the Hungarians. Budapest–New York: Central European University Press.
(2) Arpad (ca. 845–907 C.E.) is the legendary founder of Hungary, a progenitor of princes and kings into the 14th century. (2) Arpad claimed descent from Attila the Hun, but the Huns are ancestors of the Bulgarians.
There is, in connection with (2) Arpad’s son (3) Zoltan, a historical mystery which continues to occupy historians, archaeologists, and anthropologists: was (3) Zoltan’s wife the daughter of the Jewish ruler of a long forgotten empire, the Khazars? The Khazars are known to have adopted Judaism in the early 9th century. Converts were primarily the upper classes. The events discussed here took place during the reigns of the Khazar kings Aaron I or Menahem.
(Page from The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle.)
I’ve filled in dates for Gens. (2) through (7) to give the reader some idea of the chronology. Although many of the dates are estimates, there’s no chronological problem for this line. For the Khazar portion of the line, Gens. 2, 3, & 4 are crucial.
THEORY ONE: (3) Zoltan was older than his Khazar bride. He could have had another relationship before her. It was some time before the marriage to the Khazar woman was consummated, and even longer before there was issue of the marriage. His marriage to her wouldn’t have precluded other relationships. (4) Taksony is the only known offspring of (3) Zoltan, but (3) Zoltan may have had other issue of his Khazar wife who didn’t survive or who were unimportant. THEORY TWO: It was a child marriage on both parts which wasn’t consummated until much later. In both theories, it was a politically motivated marriage negotiated by (2) Arpad, a marriage which was of considerable prestige to the Hungarians who were the New Horde On The Block. / A woman of this rank was a pawn. Looking at the marriage practices of the aristocracy, that the Khazar girl had not reached maturity when she was married off is not at all unusual. / One of the problems in this case is obtaining a useful birth year for (4) Taksony and there seems no consensus for it, the latest date being proffered as 931. However, even if we are very conservative and posit the Khazar woman as reaching biological maturity in 915–920, allowing her only two decades to bear children, she still could have been bearing children beyond 931. / I believe THEORY TWO to be correct. It’s supported by evidence, as will be seen below…..
(2) Arpad and his son (3) Zoltan are ancestors of Diana Skipwith, viz.:
1. ALMOS OF THE HUNGARIANS, son of Ugek>
2. ARPAD OF HUNGARY FOUNDER OF THE NATION ca. 845–907>
3. ZOLTAN OF HUNGARY ca. 903–950, m. daughter of a Khazar nobleman>
4. TAKSONY OF HUNGARY b. 931 d. ca. early 970s>
5. MIHALY DUKE d. ca. mid 990s>
6. VASZOLY DUKE d. ca. 1037>
7. BELA I OF HUNGARY (b. ca. 1020 d. 1063)>
8. SOPHIA OF HUNGARY>
9. WULFHILDA OF SAXONY>
10. JUDITH OF BAVARIA>
11. FREDERICK III BARBAROSSA OF GERMANY HOLY ROMAN EMPEROR>
12. PHILIP II OF SWABIA TUSCANY GERMANY>
13. MARIE OF SWABIA HOHENSTAUFFEN>
14. MATILDA OF BRABANT>
15. BLANCHE OF ARTOIS COUNTESS OF LANCASTER>
16. HENRY OF LANCASTER>
17. JOAN OF LANCASTER>
18. JOHN 3RD LORD MOWBRAY>
19. ELEANOR DE MOWBRAY>
20. IVES DE WELLES>
21. LIONEL 6TH LORD WELLES>
22. MARGARET DE WELLES>
23. LIONEL DYMOKE>
24. ALICE DYMOKE>
25. HENRY SKIPWITH>
26. WILLIAM SKIPWITH>
27. HENRY SKIPWITH>
28. DIANA SKIPWITH.
(These lines can be confusing because they encompass so many generations, and so many countries, but this line is familiar to me.)
The Hungarians, in the manner of warrior horsemen indigenous to the region, attacked their neighbors in the quest for booty. There was no TV, so you made your own entertainment. Sometimes you won and sometimes you got your ass kicked.
Hungarians warmly recall the early Arpads for their incursions into the West, especially Italy, although not all raids went as planned. Disaster struck on 10 Aug 955 when Otto I of Germany crushed the Hungarians at the Battle of Lechfeld, near Augsburg in Bavaria. Thousands of fleeing Hungarians were slaughtered or burned to death. Otto I didn’t want a resurgent threat from the East. The defeat marked the end of Hungarian adventures in the West.
[Throne of Charlemagne in Aachen Cathedral, Germany. The throne is made of marble. Otto I The Great (912--973 C.E.) was crowned King of Germany there on 7 Aug 936. Side view with the throne facing to the left. Six steps lead to the throne itself.
(7) King Bela I of Hungary died on 11 Sep 1063 when his throne collapsed. Looking at this structure, formed primarily of stone, which placed the ruler above everyone else, one can see that a fall could cause serious injury. Evidently (7) Bela I's throne was made of wood. When it collapsed, the king fell from the structure upon which it was placed. Given the Machiavellian politics of the age, one wonders if his throne had been sabotaged.
I descend from Otto I The Great through his daughter Luitgarde, wife of Conrad, Duke of Lorraine. (15) Blanche of Artois was not a descendant of Otto II or Otto III, but was a descendant of the Salian Dynasty Emperors Conrad II, Henry III, and Henry IV.]
(Artist’s rendering of the German and Hungarian clash at the Battle of Lechfeld. Arpad battle flag is on the left. Note the severed body parts. The Hungarians appear to be wearing a form of “fez,” while the Germans are in coat armor. The Hungarian warlords Lel and Bulscu attempted to flee but were captured and hanged by Otto I. The victory at Lechfeld assured Otto I’s election as Holy Roman Emperor.)
(3) Zoltan’s exact position within the Hungarian polity is unclear, but all subsequent rulers of the house of Arpad are descended from (3) Zoltan’s son (4) Taksony. (4) Taksony is said to have married a Lady of the “Cumans,” who is believed to have been Pecheneg.
(Zoltan of Hungary.)
Given the meagre sources, one wishes for more documentation, but the tale of (3) Zoltan’s Khazar wife has some support in a well established practice of the Middle Ages: conquerors often co-opted a daughter of the vanquished royal house in order to prop up their regime.
William the Conqueror, himself the illegitimate son of a Duke of Normandy, married Matilda of Flanders, who may have been a legitimate descendant of the Dukes of Normandy. William’s son King Henry I married Matilda of Scotland, whose mother was a lineal descendant of the old Anglo-Saxon royal house. King Henry V married a French princess to solidify his claim to the French crown (which only briefly materialized). Henry Tudor, who in 1485 at Bosworth defeated the last Plantagenet king Richard III, quickly married Elizabeth of York, daughter of the Yorkist king Edward IV. Not coincidentally, Elizabeth of York was also Richard III’s niece.
The Deeds of the Hungarians (Gesta Hungarorum), written in the late 12th or early 13th centuries, has the following to say regarding (3) Zoltan’s bride and her family, referenced to Martyn Rady (2010):
Page 33: ”The land between the Tisza and Igyfon wood, that lies toward Transylvania, from the Mures River up to the Somes River had been occupied by Prince Marot, whose grandson was called Menmarot by the Hungarians, for he had many concubines; and the peoples that are called Kozar inhabited that land.”
Pages 51–53, 57:
“After spending several days, Prince Arpad, haven taken the advice of his noblemen, sent envoys to the castle of Biharia, asking him, by right of his forbear, King Attila, to give him the land from the Somes River to the border of Nyirseg, up to the Mezes Gates, and he sent him gifts, just as he had previously sent to Salan, prince of Titel.
“The envoys of Prince Arpad … coming to the castle of Biharia, they greeted Prince Menmarot and presented to him the gifts that their prince had sent. Then, relaying to him the message of Prince Arpad, they requested the land which we have named before. Prince Menmarot received them kindly and, enriched with diverse gifts, he ordered them homewards. Still, he so replied, saying: ‘Tell Arpad, Prince of Hungary, your lord, that we owe him as a friend to a friend in all things he needs because a guest is a person short in many things. But the land that he seeks of our grace we will in no way surrender while we live.’
“Then Osbo and Velek, the envoys of Prince Arpad, hastened speedily to their lord, and, upon arrival, reported to their lord, Prince Arpad, the message of Menmarot. Upom hearing this, Prince Arpad and his nobles were moved by anger and they immediately ordered an army to be sent against him.
“Having been granted leave by Prince Arpad, they marched off with no small army…
“… almost all of the inhabitants of the land surrendered of their own will, and … gave their sons as hostages lest they should suffer any harm.
“Having heard this, so great a fear overwhelmed Menmarot that he did not dare raise his hand….
“… they reached the castle of Satu Mare and besieging the castle over three days of fighting they won victory. On the fourth day, entering the castle, they sent those warriors of Menmarot that they could catch there to the most foul depths of the dungeon, taken in iron fetters, and they took the sons of those dwelling there as hostages.”
“… with victory won, they returned to Prince Arpad, subduing the whole people from the Somes River to the Cris River, and none dared raise a hand against them. Menmarot, their prince, preferred to make ready his escape to Greece than to proceed against them…. And then, marching on, they reached Szeghalom and they wanted to cross the Koros/Cris River there, in order to fight against Menmarot, but Menmarot’s warriors came and denied them the crossing.”
“That year [the destruction of Pannonia], Prince Arpad begot a son, by the name of Zolta, and great joy was made among the Hungarians, and for many days the prince and his noblemen like the lambs of ewes before rams. Several days later, Prince Arpad and his noblemen sent by common counsel an army against Menmarot, Prince of Bihar… All the Szekely, who were previously the peoples of King Attila … came to make peace and, of their own will, gave their sons as hostages along with diverse gifts, and undertook to fight in the vanguard … against Menmarot.
“… Prince Menmarot, having left a host of warriors in the castle of Biharia, betook himself and his wife and daughter to the groves of Igyfon. … when the Hungarians and Szekely had filled in the castle’s moats, and sought to put ladders to the wall, the warriors of Prince Menmarot … began to petition the two chief men of the army [for terms] ….
“When Menmarot heard this from messengers that had taken to flight, he became very greatly afraid…. Menmarot … sent word through his envoys to Prince Arpad … and did not hesitate to give, through the same envoys, his realm [to Arpad], and to Zolta, son of Arpad, his daughter…. Prince Arpad, having taken counsel of his noblemen, approved and praised Menmarot’s announcement and, when he heard that Menmarot’s daughter was the same age as his son Zolta, did not refuse Menmarot’s petition and he accepted Menmarot’s daughter as Zolta’s wife, along with the realm promised him.
“… the whole army, following the orders of their lord, received the daughter of Menmarot after the betrothal …. then … returned with great honor and joy to Prince Arpad, and the prince and his great men proceeded to receive them and they led the daughter of Menmarot to the prince’s house with honor, as befitted the bride of so great a prince.”
I’ve omitted the names of Arpad’s commanders. Menmarot subsequently died without a son, and Zoltan received his realm.
1. My first observation is that “Menmarot” is what the Hungarians called this duke (or prince). And he was called “Menmarot ” because he had concubines. The linguistic construction of ”Menmarot” contains two syllables, and is undoubtedly not a literal rendition of his name. ”Men” is Bulgarian-Turkish for “great,” and “marot” is Hungarian for “Moravian,” so that “Marot,” the grandfather of “Menmarot” has been thought to be simply “the Moravian,” while “Menmarot” himself was “the Great Moravian,” the implication being that “Menmarot” was “great” because he could afford many concubines, certainly a sign of wealth. Aethelred II of England’s second wife was Emma of Normandy, but the Saxons called her “Aelfgifu.” Many Medieval figures had nicknames, like “Louis the Fat” and “Hugh the Wolf.” We can infer from this passage that it was “Menmarot’s ” grandfather “Marot” who established the duchy. There’s nothing amiss in the notion that “Marot” supplanted someone else. A Khazar king ruling in this time period was “Menahem,” whose name bears a resemblance to “Menmarot.” Simon of Keza mentions a certain Svatopluk, son of a Polish prince named “Marot.” A decade after Attila’s death the Huns were defeated at the semi-mythical Battle of Krimhild. According to Simon, Svatopluk subdued “Bactra” and ruled as Emperor of the Bulgars and Moravians, ultimately conquering Pannonia as well. Simon also mentions an alternate version of this tale in which it was “Marot,” not Svatopluk, who performed these deeds. It thus appears “Marot” was a generic Hungarian term applied to some foreign rulers, so “Menmarot’s” grandfather “Marot” cannot literally be taken to be a “Moravian” as no specific ethnicity is implied in that name in this context.
2. My second observation is that the Khazar Empire had under its rule many different peoples, but the Khazar ruling elite wasn’t necessarily primarily composed of those same peoples.
3. Third, as with any empire, the Khazar Empire experienced internal dissension, and its boundaries shifted with the ebb and flow of imperial fortune. It seems “Menmarot” was a border lord, what the English would term a “marcher lord.” How else could his lands be incorporated into Hungary? The Khazar adoption of Judaism may have occurred within the life span of “Marot.”
4. Fourth, child marriages among the aristocracy, for dynastic purposes, were as common here as in the later Medieval period. The Khazar girl was sent to live in Arpad’s household. (3) Zoltan and his Khazar bride were probably little more than children.
(2) Arpad would want this marriage to help stabilize his conquest of “Menmarot’s” territory. I mention two THEORIES above, and THEORY TWO fits the evidence we have perfectly. If (2) Arpad and his warlords penetrated the Khazar Empire, there would be nothing unusual in (2) Arpad marrying his son (3) Zoltan to a Khazar princess. Historians say (2) Arpad conquered territory to which he linked (3) Zoltan in marriage, but was it the Khazars? The phrase “the peoples that are called Kozar inhabited that land” indicates that it was Khazar territory.
(2) Arpad didn’t conquer the the Khazar Empire itself. It survived into the latter half of the 10th century, when pressure from the Kievan Rus and Byzantines caused its collapse. My understanding is that like the Byzantine Empire after the sack of Constantinople in 1204, some Khazar successor states were established, and perhaps much of the Khazar elite who fled the fall of their empire ruled in those areas.
My sense of the truth here is that (2) Arpad was raiding Khazar territory. He may have been bought off, and part of the booty was a high status Khazar bride for (3) Zoltan. She was not a daughter of the Khazar royal house—it’s unlikely the Khazar ruler would have bestowed his daughter upon the upstart Hungarians. According to the story it appears she was the daughter of an important noble and an important noble might be expected to share the religion of the ruler, with whom the noble or his wife may have been linked by blood. Linking the nobility to the royal family helped rulers build a loyal base.
I base this portrayal of the situation on how these people behaved—it’s a common pattern. The events transpired well after the conversion of the Khazar elite to Judaism. The Deeds of the Hungarians contains elements of fantasy, but this tale I think is a skeletal truth underlying the boasting. Some scholars agree. By the time The Deeds of the Hungarians was composed, the Khazar Empire had long succumbed, and the author or authors had no reason to fabricate this specific identity for the wife of a pivotal figure in Hungarian history. A more exalted persona could have been invented for her. As a nation in the process of coalescing, a marriage to a noblewoman of a long-established empire would have been of considerable prestige to the Hungarians.
Although there had been Christian activity in the region for centuries prior to 1000 C.E., St. Stephen’s reign heralds the official conversion of Hungary to Christianity. Therefore, in the period of the first half of the 10th century, the Hungarian ruling elite would have had no objection on religious grounds to merging the Hungarian royal line with a Jewish Khazar woman.
The overarching theme is that elites intermarried, and marriages were used to seal relationships. Realpolitik: the politics of sex.
(As this map shows, the Khazar Empire was essentially a buffer state between eastern Europe and the Byzantine Empire. Much of what we know about the Khazars is found in Byzantine sources. A Russian archaeological team claims to have discovered the Khazar capitol of Itil, once thought to have sunk beneath the Caspian Sea. The team has identified Itil at a site near the Russian village of Samosdelka, just north of the Caspian.)
The paucity of sources and the chaotic political scene in Hungary prevent absolute confidence that (7) Bela I of Hungary was the son of (6) Vaszoly. (7) Bela I and two brothers, Andrew and Levente, were evidently sons of (6) Vaszoly by a concubine. That’s a problem for this line. There’s a difference between a concubine and a mistress: a concubine is a woman who cohabits with the man (a wife in all but name), while a mistress could be any woman with whom the man has (presumably) regular sexual relations. Putative paternity is more likely to be correct if the mother is a concubine.
Modern historians accept this version of (7) Bela I’s origins, rejecting claims that he was the son of someone else, claims that were probably rooted in Hungarian religious politics rather than reality, as the following passage shows:
According to Simon of Keza, referenced to Veszpremy (1999), Page 125:
“It is sometimes claimed that the brothers were the sons of Duke Vazul by a girl from the Tatony clan and not his sons by true wedlock, and that the Tatony family derive their noble status from this connection. This tradition is certainly baseless and a quite mischievous invention. The fact is that, being from Scythia, the family were of noble origin in any case, irrespective of the fact that the brothers were the sons of Ladislas the Bald.”
An editor’s note to this quotation states the brothers were the sons of Vazul (Vaszoly) and concubinatus was an accepted form of marriage in 11th century Hungary. All subsequent kings of the house of Arpad were descendants of (4) Taksony, as was Ladislas the Bald. Attributing the brothers to Ladislas the Bald was Simon of Keza’s invention to sweep the concubine under the tapestry, and he claims the Tatony family were of noble origin in any case.
Several rebellions to restore paganism in Hungary were defeated. (6) Vaszoly was the cousin of Stephen I (ca. 975–1038), the first Christian king of Hungary. Stephen suspected (6) Vaszoly of pagan sympathies and had him blinded. Andrew was eventually crowned king of Hungary, and subsequently dethroned by forces loyal to (7) Bela I. So whatever the truth is regarding the paternity of the three brothers, the Hungarians believed they were of royal lineage because they accepted two of them as kings. Hungary had adopted Christianity, but wasn’t entirely Christianized. Under paganism, the circumstances of (7) Bela I’s birth would have aroused no comment.
In the case of (8) Sophia of Hungary, for chronological reasons she is presumed to be the daughter of (7) Bela I by his first wife, the daughter of King Mieszko II of Poland. In a Saxon source she is called “sister of the Hungarian King Ladizlai.” King Ladislaus I of Hungary (b. ca. 1040 d. 1095) was the son of (7) Bela I. It has been suggested that she may have been the daughter of (7) Bela I by another wife, or was the daughter of another Hungarian king. Scholars accept (8) Sophia of Hungary as the daughter of (7) Bela I by his Polish wife. Some genealogists are only happy when everything means nothing.
In reviewing this line (1) to (8), there is nothing in it which would arouse suspicion. It’s a typical scenario played out in a region that even by the standards of the age was exceptionally volatile. So overall I accept this line as “proved by preponderance of the evidence.”
(Portrait of King Mieszko I, grandfather of King Mieszko II. Early Polish rulers are sometimes called “Prince” or “Duke.”)
Of King Mieszko II, an 1835 history has this to say, in the lurid prose of popular historians:
“Indolence, profusion, and debauchery, were his ruling propensities. Ulric duke of Bohemia, who had during the life of his benefactor Boleslaus maintained a seeming allegiance, on the accession of Micislaus [Mieszko II] threw off the mask, and caused the Polish garrisons in his country to be barbarously massacred while they supposed themselves in security. The success of this measure inspired the Moravians, Prussians, and Saxons with confidence; and the Polish garrisons were put to death or carried into slavery in several places; whilst the governors of the revolted provinces, aided by the German states, assumed the supreme power. For a considerable time, Micislaus remained indifferent to these disasters, as well as to the murmurs of his subjects, and appeared entirely absorbed in voluptuousness and indolence. The fear of a rebellion at home at length aroused him from his pleasures; and he unwillingly put himself at the head of the Polish army, amongst whom the courage excited by Boleslaus was not yet extinguished. Accompanied by three Hungarian princes, he entered Pomerania, which province was quickly compelled to acknowledge his sovereignty. He rewarded Bela, one of the Hungarians, who had overcome the barbarian general in single combat, with the hand of his daughter and the government of Pomerania. But, satisfied with this success, Micislaus the Idle abandoned the prosecution of the war against the other provinces, and again shut himself up in his palace. Here he indulged without intermission in the excesses so congenial to his disposition, until he was seized of a frenzy which terminated with his death. It is recorded, however, to the credit of this monarch, that he divided the country into palatinates for the more speedy administration of justice, and founded a bishopric.”
Mieszko’s widow Rixa, regent of the kingdom, became a tyrant, and an armed insurrection chased her out of Poland. The nation then degenerated into a period of anarchy.
The Khazars disappeared, absorbed into the Eastern European ethnic stew. The Khazar elite practiced Judaism, but were they ethnic Jews? Getting an unequivocal answer is difficult. One supposes the Khazar elite intermarried with (co-opted) ethnic Jews in order to legitimate the identity of the elite.
But were the Khazar upper classes overlords of an indigenous populace much as the Norman warrior class were overlords of the Anglo-Saxons? Some historians agree the Khazar elite differed ethnically and linguistically from their subject peoples. One trend in the warrior class in the Medieval period is its desire to distance itself from the ordinary mass of people. Thus Judaism would be a sign of status or class that differentiated the elite from the masses.
In this scenario, at any given time we might see Jewish Khazars who actually numbered in the thousands, rather than tens or hundreds of thousands. A very small group: the warrior elite, the administrative elite, and the royal family. Khazar Judaism was not just religion, but something perhaps approaching an order of chivalry. The psychology behind the Khazar conversion is the identification by the Khazar elite with the epic events of the Old Testament rather than the proselytizing inclusiveness of Christianity. The Khazar Jewish elite did not want to share their religion with the masses. The wife of (3) Zoltan would be of this elite class.
And as the Norman subjection of England illustrates, during the Medieval period it was possible for a well-armed and highly organized military to control a much larger population. In any military organization there are ranks, and the supposition that Judaism was the pursuit of the Khazar elite doesn’t mean they could not command troops who were not Jewish.
Anti-Zionists have used the Khazars to promote racist theories. These Dark Ages are dark enough without clouding the mind with bigotry. Reading these hair-raising tales of murder, pillage, and ruin, one imagines a region so thoroughly laid to waste that not even a hen with a single egg could be found within it.