rPAD / Fiddler on the Hoof (The Lost Jews of Khazaria) / Otto becomes Great

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.

Brook, Kevin Alan.  (2006).  The Jews of Khazaria Second Edition.  Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Dercsenyi, Dezso; ed,; West, Alick; trans.; 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. 

Simon of Keza; Veszpremy, Laszlo; et. al.  (1999).  Simon of Keza The Deeds of the Hungarians. Budapest–New York:  Central European University Press.

Weis, Frederick Lewis; Sheppard Jr., Walter Lee; Beall, William R.; Beall, Kaleen E. (2004). Ancestral Roots Of Certain American Colonists Who Came to America before 1700 Lineages from Alfred the Great, Charlemagne, Malcolm of Scotland, Robert the Strong, and other Historical Individuals Eighth Edition.  Baltimore:  Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.  [Line 243:  contains errors]

(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 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, although exactly when is unknown. Converts were primarily the upper classes.

The events discussed here took place during the reigns of the Khazar kings Aaron I or Menahem. The Hungarians, however, did not claim descent from a Khazar king.

The Khazar royal genealogy is based on a letter written ca. 960 by the Khazar king Joseph to Hasdai bin Shaprut, foreign secretary to the caliph Abd ar-Rahman III, viz.:

King Joseph wrote that the Khazars conquered the land of the Bulgarians and drove them from it.

The founder of the dynasty was Bulan.  At some point Bulan was followed by his descendant (1) Obadiah, his son (2) Hezekiah, his son (3) Manasseh, (4) Hanukkah brother of Obadiah, his son (5) Isaac, his son (6) Zebulun, his son (7) Moses, his son (8) Nissi, his son (9) Aaron I, his son (10) Menahem, his son (11) Benjamin, his son (12) Aaron II, his son (13) Joseph.

Obadiah’s line failed after the third generation, and the succession devolved upon Obadiah’s brother Hanukkah.  For chronological reasons I question Hanukkah as successor to Manasseh. According to Joseph the royal succession in Khazaria followed the rule of primogeniture in the male line.  It’s more likely that the royal succession devolved upon descendants of Hanukkah.   Hanukkah is the name of a Jewish festival—its use as a given name is odd, but evidently it was so employed.  The exact relationship of Obadiah to Bulan is unclear, so perhaps the early part of the  royal genealogy is mythical.  Joseph claimed the Khazars descended from Japheth, the same ancestor named in the mythical Hungarian genealogy (see below).

While Joseph credits Bulan with the introduction of Judaism into Khazaria, it was Obadiah who promoted strict observance.  If Joseph’s account is accurate, then the Khazar conversion to Judaism took place much earlier than the early 9th century as posited by some scholars.  Joseph can be expected to have knowledge of that pivotal event.

The ethnic makeup of the Khazars is another issue.  The so-called “Schecter Letter” indicates that Jews from Persia and Armenia fled persecution and intermarried with the nomadic Khazars, who thus became descendants of Jews who had originated in Judea. That would explain the Khazar “conversion” as merely an expression of ethnicity. Even if partially myth, the Khazars must have had some contact with Judaism prior to their conversion, and there’s nothing implausible about refugees intermarrying with an indigenous population.  Every empire required an educated administrative class—bureaucrats—and perhaps the conduit of Judaism into the Khazar upper classes was through Jews who served in the Khazar royal administration and under Khazar nobility. It isn’t an unknown process:  in the colony of Virginia men who were literate and educated formed an administrative elite.

(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 In Town.  / 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 by a chronicler 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.:


According to tradition, Almos did not enter Pannonia, but was murdered after the defeat of the Hungarians by the Pechenegs east of the Carpathian mountains.  The manner of his death and by whom is unclear, although he may have been murdered by his own people as a consequence of the defeat.  A tragic fate for a man of miraculous birth: Hungarian folklore says Almos was the son of Eleud and a daughter of Eunodbilia named Emese.  Emese dreamed that a falcon penetrated her uterus from which burst forth a huge light emanating towards the distant parts of the world.

This imaginary royal genealogy from The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle contains the descent of Almos from biblical patriarch Noah, and forward to Almos’s son Arpad, to Arpad’s son Zoltan, and to Zoltan’s son Toxun:

Almus, Eleud, Ugeg, Ed, Chaba, Ethele, Bendekus, Turda, Scemen, Ethei, Opus, Kadicha, Berend, Zultra, Bulchu, Bolug, Zambur, Zamur, Leel, Levente, Kulche, Ompud, Miske, Mike, Beztur, Budli, Chanad, Buken, Boudofard, Farkas, Othmar, Kadar, Beler, Kear, Kewe, Keled, Dama, Bor, Hunor, Nimrod, Thana, Japheth, Noah.  Almus begot Arpad, Arpad begot Zoltan, Zoltan begot Toxun.


3.  ZOLTAN OF HUNGARY ca. 903–950; m. daughter of a Khazar prince (duke)>

4.  TAKSONY (TOXUN) OF HUNGARY b. 931 d. ca. early 970s>

According to The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle:

This Toxun begot Geysa and Michael, and Michael begot Ladislaus the Bald and Vazul.

5.  MIHALY (MICHAEL) DUKE d. ca. mid 990s>

6.  VASZOLY (VAZUL) DUKE  d. ca. 1037; took as concubine woman of Tatony clan>

7.  BELA I OF HUNGARY (b. ca. 1020 d. 1063); m. Rixa (Richenza) of Poland>








15.  BLANCHE OF ARTOIS QUEEN REGENT OF NAVARRE COUNTESS OF LANCASTER; m. (2) Edmund “Crouchback,” Earl of Lancaster, son of King Henry III of England>














(These lines can be confusing because they encompass so many generations, and so many countries, but this line is familiar to me.  There is another line of descent via Henry III, Duke of Lourraine and Brabant, brother of 14. Matilda of Brabant, to Margaret of France, second queen of King Edward I of England.  Another line, formed by the marriage in the 8th century of a Khazar princess known as Irene to the Byzantine Emperor Constantine V, appears to have died out.)

(Khazar coinage.  The symbols are runes.)

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 fondly 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.  A clue to this mystery is contained in The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle, which states that during a pagan rebellion in the reign of (7) Bela I, “The common people chose for themselves leaders and erected for them a wooden stand, from which they could be seen and heard of men.”  (7) Bela I suppressed the rebellion, and “the leaders they killed by throwing them down from the high stands….”  I think it quite possible the king was murdered in retaliation for his brutal suppression of the pagan rebellion.

 I have a descent from Otto I The Great through his daughter Luitgarde, wife of Conrad, Duke of Lorraine.  (15) Blanche of Artois has another descent viOtto II, king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor and Theophanu, but not of Otto III, whose line failed; she was also 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 full 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 (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.”

 [This area is a great distance to the southeast of Moravia, and thus was not a Moravian dependency.  See map below.]

(This map gives a general idea of the area under discussion, which is in the center to the east.  As is evident, this area is not part of Moravia, which is to the NE.  Poland is E of Moravia.  Click on map to enlarge it.)

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.  Upon 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.”

Page 65:

“… 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.”

Pages 109–113:

“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 and sent his envoys with diverse gifts to Osbo and Velek [Hungarian warlords] and asked them to incline to peace and to send their envoys to Prince Arpad to announce to him that Menmarot, who had before haughtily with a Bulgarian heart sent word through his envoys to Prince Arpad, refusing to give him a handful of land, was now defeated and overthrown 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 most references to 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): he was called “Menmarot ” because he had many concubines.  The linguistic construction of “Menmarot” contains two sections, 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.” “Menmarot” was “great” because he could afford many concubines, certainly a sign of wealth.  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 (Veszpremy 1999) mentions a certain Svatopluk, son of a Polish prince named “Marot.”  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 slang Hungarian term, not meant to be taken literally, and a passage in Simon (pp. 11–15) offers a plausible solution: “But in the two hundred and first year after the flood the giant Menrot, son of Thana, of the seed of Japheth, began to construct a tower.  Ever mindful of their danger in the past, he and his kin hoped that if the flood came a second time they could escape judgement and take refuge in the tower…. After the confusion of tongues the giant entered the land of Havilah, which is now called Persia, and there he begot two sons, Hunor and Mogor, by his wife Eneth.  It was from them that the Huns, or Hungarians, took their origins.  However, it seems the giant Menrot had other wives apart from Eneth, on whom he sired many sons and daughters besides Hunor and Mogor.”  Thus the names “Marot” and “Menmarot” have their origins in Hungarian folklore.  In this context “Menmarot” meant a “wealthy and powerful adversary,” which heightened the drama of Arpad’s encounter with him.  “Marot” here doesn’t mean “Moravian” as no specific ethnicity is implied, but is a cultural allusion familiar to the Hungarians.  In the ages before the use of surnames, it was common to use a descriptor, like “Hugh the Fat,” or “Louis the Simple.”  And whatever someone was called in their native land wasn’t necessarily how they were known to their neighbors.

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.  In the account of wresting territory from “Menmarot,” it’s significant that “Memnarot” characterizes his initial refusal to cede land to Arpad as “haughtily with a Bulgarian heart.”  This further cements “Menmarot’s” identity as a Khazar nobleman:  the Khazars had ejected the Bulgarians.  The Khazar adoption of Judaism may have occurred within the life span of “Marot,” but if the account of the Khazar king Joseph is correct, the conversion may have transpired in the 7th century.  If so, it seems likely “Marot” had some ethnic Jewish ancestry, as “Marot” would have been born in the early 9th century, well after the conversion.

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?

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 were harassing Khazar territory, there would be nothing unusual in (2) Arpad marrying his son (3) Zoltan to an elite Khazar woman. 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.  The subtext is (2) Arpad was bought off by “Menmarot,” and part of the tribute was a high status bride for (3) Zoltan.  She was not a daughter of the royal house—it’s unlikely the Khazar king would bestow a daughter on the upstart Hungarians.  But she was the daughter of an important noble, and an important noble might be expected to share the religion of his ruler, to whom the noble’s family may have been linked by blood. 

(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.  Perhaps much of the Khazar elite who fled the fall of their empire ruled in those areas.

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.  Note that Magyaren (Hungary) is adjacent to the western border of the Khazar 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.  Of the Khazars, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII (905–959 AD) wrote:  “Nine regions of Chazaria are adjacent to Alania, and the Alan can, if he be so minded, plunder these and so cause great damage and dearth among the Chazars:  for from these nine regions come all the livelihood and plenty of Chazaria.”  Click on map to enlarge it.]

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 (6) 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.  Another interpretation is that Ladislas the Bald was claimed as father of the three brothers because (6) Vaszoly had been humiliated by being blinded (see below).   Blinding was a common method of rendering the hapless victim incapable of ruling.  In any event, the brothers are presumed to be descendants of (3) Zoltan and his Khazar wife, and that’s how historians view it.

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 (6) Vaszoly was blinded, but by whom is unclear. The chroniclers whitewashed Stephen I’s involvement because of his position as a revered Hungarian saint.  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 Sophia 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.  The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle states that (7) Bela I married King Mieszko II’s daughter in Poland and fathered sons Geysa and Ladislaus while there, and after his return to Hungary fathered his son Lampert and daughters. So in this the scholars appear to be correct.  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. Overall I accept this line as “proved by preponderance of the evidence.”  There’s evidence supporting every step in the line.  If asked if I believe the line to be true, my answer is “Yes,” but some of the details are sketchy. 

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 [father of Mieszko II] 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 [on 10 May 1034].  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.  Rixa (or Richenza) had deep ancestry of her own:  she was the granddaughter of Otto II, king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, by Theophanu, d. 15 Jun 991, niece of Byzantine Emperor John I Tsimices, and was the 2nd great-granddaughter of Rudolph II, king of Burgundy.

(Icon of Holy Roman Emperor Otto II and Empress Theophanu.  Otto II and Theophanu were married in St. Peter’s Basilica by Pope John XIII on 14 Apr 972.  Otto II d. of malaria in Rome on 7 Dec 983, and is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica, the only Holy Roman Emperor to be buried there.)

[Sarcophagus of Empress Theophanu in the Church of St. Pantaleon, Cologne, Germany.  Theophanu’s parentage is unknown.  Otto I had requested a Byzantine princess born to the purple (i.e., a daughter born during the reign of her father) for his son Otto II.  The Germans initially grumbled when presented with Theophanu, a niece of the Emperor John I Tzimisces, on the grounds that she was not related to the previous Macedonian dynasty.  This indicates that Theophanu was not related to Tzimisces’ second wife Theodora, daughter of the Emperor Constantine VII.  In the event, the marriage was of some prestige to the Germans and Tzimisces as well.)

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 intend to share their religion with the masses.  The wife of (3) Zoltan would be of this elite class.  Nonetheless Judaism may have trickled into the lower classes.

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.

A few final observations:

(a)  The Khazars at some point had a dual power sharing arrangement between the king, a symbol and social leader of the state, and the “bek,” who commanded the military. This system reminds one of the situation toward the end of the Merovingian period in dark-age Francia in which the “Mayors of the Palace” controlled the military. Ultimately, the “Mayor of the Palace” overthrew the king and the functions were united in one person.

(b)  Religious fervor is not a constant, and observance can rise and fall over the centuries. Constantine Zuckerman dates the Khazar conversion to ca. 861, but I think that date is much too late.  It would make the Khazar king Joseph’s letter completely unreliable.  In favoring a late date for the conversion,  Zuckerman wants to explain why Judaism did not penetrate to the lower levels of Khazar society, but I think perhaps he doesn’t understand the need which Judaism fulfilled for the Khazars.  That the use of Jewish symbols on Khazar objects date to a certain time doesn’t mean the Khazar “conversion” must date to that time.  See (d).

(c)  The sources contradict one another for a variety of reasons, the two principal causes being:

       (1)  They had passed through a number of hands.

       (2)   The writing of history in those times having as a main objective the illustration of a moral point, causing the author to adjust the “facts” to fit in with that objective.

(d)  One account of the Khazar conversion which may have a kernel of truth is that an early Khazar Commander-in-Chief (a “bek”?) married a Jewish woman called Serah, who pointed out to him that he was Jewish, and should undertake the study of his true religion.  The story, while undoubtedly romantic, has at its basis a common pattern in which royal women brought into their households religious personnel and retainers: the wife who civilizes a powerful, but crude, husband. This tale is echoed in the story of St. Margaret, who “reformed” the loose Christianity at the court of her husband, King Malcolm III of Scotland.

We try to sift through the sources for a layer of truth, what makes sense and what does not. However, the identity of Zoltan’s wife as being Khazar is not intertwined with the issue of the chronology of the Khazar conversion to Judaism.  One of the aspects we look at are patterns of behavior among elites—without ignoring cultural variations.  By the time of Zoltan’s betrothal, the Khazar conversion had transpired well in the past, regardless of what date is affixed for it, and I believe the Khazar elite had assimilated ethnic Jews long before that.

Some “Khazar history” is flagrant anti-Semitism, but the Brook 2006 is genuinely useful and should not be confused with racist rants.  It’s surprising how much Khazar history Brook has pieced together from various sources.

However, Brook did not have the Anonymous 2010 translation, which makes clear that “Menmarot” was the Hungarian term for the father of Zoltan’s wife; he was so called because he had many concubines.  The name is actually linked to a giant in Hungarian folklore who had many wives, so that all that may be deduced from the name is the large number of concubines Menmarot kept and that he was powerful.  The chronicler notes that when Arpad’s forces showed up on Menmarot’s doorstep, “Menmarot, their prince, preferred to make ready his escape to Greece than proceed against them.”  By Greece is meant Byzantium.  Probably what we have here is a confused history which implies an area that once had been ruled by the “Romans” (another reference to Byzantium), and a succession of overlords, but given the geography, positing Menmarot as a Khazar prince (meaning a semi-autonomous duke) seems the most logical explanation.  For obvious reasons (being the first to be attacked in an invasion), border areas were rather fluid, and their lords had considerable discretionary power.  Menmarot was called the prince of Bihar, and after Menmarot capitulated, Arpad allowed him to retain possession of the castle of Biharia—and Brook cites “Bihar” as a Khazar personal name.  Brook speculates that Menmarot might have been a Kabar, a splinter group of Khazars opposed to Judaism.

This is the account given in Brook 2006, pp. 164–165 of the chronicle of Anonymous, apparently derived from Douglas Morton Dunlop:

“The men of chief Marot might have formerly occupied the land towards Erdely, between the river Tisza and the forest of Igfon (in Bihar County), from the river Mures up to the river Szamos.  The grandson of  Marot was named by the Hungarians Menmarot, and he was friendly with many people called Cozar.”

This is what the chronicler actually said, according to Rady (2010), p. 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.”

The translator remarks in a footnote to this passage:

“The name Kozar has been variously explained as ‘Khazar,’ as a corruption of cozlones, meaning ‘people of Kaliz’ (i.e., of Khwarzm), or as a word meaning ‘goat-herd.’  There is no evidence for the existence of such a group of people, save—as usual with Anonymous—a number of place names.  See Gockenjan, Hilfsvolker, pp. 40–1.”

The most straightforward explanation is that “Kozar” means “Khazar,” but Rady (2010) cautions that Anonymous was known to fabricate names from place-names. Part of the reason Brook’s interpretation differs from mine is that I rely on an actual translation of the Hungarian chronicle attributed to Anonymous, whereas Brook derived his information from Douglas Morton Dunlop who wrote about the Khazars ca. 1966–1972.

There is only so much one can do with such evidence.  When you look at a map, Prince Menmarot’s realm comprised a rather large area, and the question is:  where would his grandfather have found a force of sufficient power to subdue it?  And ordinarily in the post-conquest phase settlers are brought in to stabilize the occupation.  As I state elsewhere, I believe the line to be a genuine Khazar line, but it cannot be called “proven beyond a reasonable doubt.”

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.

(Arpad flag.)

~ by Jeffrey Thomas Chipman on June 20, 2016.