Chapter 2.


The Campaigns of the Magyars



    In the tenth century, two great European leaders warred against each other and changed the history of the era. One was Otto the Great, King of the German states, and the other was Bulcsu Horka, leader of one of the Magyar "nations". The accomplishments of Bulcsu Horka have long been ignored by Western historians but they deserve some recognition. When Otto was crowned King, in A.D. 936, he began to unify the central German states. Under his father, Henry the Fowler (Duke of Saxony, 919-936), many feudal princes had resisted the idea of unification and, in the reign of Otto I, they continued to resist. Prince Ebelhardt of Bavaria led a revolt against the King. In Saxony, Otto's brothers, Thankmar and Heinrich, also led a revolt against him. In Lotharingia, Otto's brother-in-law, Prince Giselbert, was the leader of the uprising and Prince Eberhart of the Franks led his people against the King. Hugo, the King of Northern Italy, demanded the Duchy of Burgundy. The Czechs revolted under the leadership of Boleszlo.

    Bulcsu and his inseparable companion, Lehel, who was the leader of another Magyar "nation", both knew well the danger threatening the Magyar people if Otto were successful in unifying the many principalities of Germany. Only Bulcsu and Lehel, because they were neighbors of Bavaria, were aware of this danger. The rest of the Magyar "nations" and their leaders were far away and did not hear much about the preparations for the unification of the German states, so they did not sense the danger. Bulcsu and Lehel sized up the situation well. They knew of three situations in their history where the Germanic princes had united. One of them was the occasion of the murder of Atilla[1] on his wedding night (A.D.453), after which the Germanic princes temporarily united to break up the large and powerful Hun Empire. The second was Charlemagne's victory over the Avars in A.D. 796 and the third was in A.D. 907 when the German King, Louis the Child, attacked the Magyars with a united German army. He was defeated by the Magyars at the Battle of Pozsony (later named Bratislava by the Slavs) in June, 907. The following is an account of this battle, which is rarely mentioned in the European history books, taken from an article by Professor Badiny.[2]

     In June, 907, an enormous German force gathered in the territory around Ennsburg. The Germans employed the same maneuver that Charlemagne had used successfully against the Avars. Three armies advanced simultaneously. The King, Louis the Child, remained in Ennsburg with Count Aribo and his army. On the Northern shore of the Danube, was the army of Luitpold, German Prince of the Eastern borders. The southern branch was led by Dietmar, Cardinal of Salzburg. The commander of the Danube fleet was Price Sieghard who was related to the King.

    First, small units of Magyars exhausted Dietmar's force with repeated harassment. Then, when all the Magyars had gathered together, they attacked Dietmar. This attack was like a storm against which there was no defense. The hail of arrows caused great losses among the Germans yet the Magyars were unable to penetrate the German lines. Therefore they employed cunning to overcome the enemy. A small cavalry unit attacked the Germans and immediately retreated. As they retreated, they turned in the saddle and directed their arrows on the Germans who were chasing them, causing them to break ranks. This was a maneuver that the Huns, Scythians and Avars had used successfully centuries earlier. For two days, they continued this tactic of attack and retreat and totally exhausted the German army. On August 9, the exhausted German army was attacked from every direction. Cardinal Dietmar died in the battle. At night, the Magyars silently swam across the Danube on their horses and, at dawn, before Luitpold could receive the news of Dietmar's defeat, he was attacked by the Magyar army and he too was defeated. Nineteen Bavarian lords and thousands of soldiers died in battle. A few were successful in reaching Ennsburg, the camp of the King, Louis the Child.

     On the third day, the Danube fleet was attacked and Prince Sieghard fled for his life. In three days the Magyars had defeated three great armies. Louis the Child, with a fresh army, attacked the Magyars. The battle took place in a forest clearing. The Magyars had earlier hidden soldiers in the forest. The German king attacked and the Magyars again retreated. When the Germans followed them and passed the line of the forest, the Magyar soldiers came out of hiding and attacked them from the rear. The retreating Magyars turned around and the Germans, who were completely encircled, had no chance. Only Louis the Child was able to escape with a small escort to Passau. The rest of the army fell victim to the Magyars.

     At the news of this defeat, the Bavarian populace fled deep into the forests, the mountains and the moors and the Magyars had free passage into Germany. They spared the castles and cities but entered the churches and monasteries to repossess the treasures that Charlemagne had stolen from the Avars, relatives of the Magyars. These churches and monasteries also served as armories for the Germans. According to the German chronicles, the Magyars stole treasures and destroyed the following churches and monasteries: St. Florian, Mattsee, Mondsee, Tegernsee, Schliersee, Schaftarn, BenedictBeuren, Korchelsee, Schlehdorf, Stafelsee, Polling, Diessen, Sandau, Siverstatt, Thierhaupten, Freising.[3]

    The Western border of the land of the Magyars was at the River Enns. The Magyars were faced with the same opportunity that had faced Atilla after the Battle of Catalaunum. The route was free and no army could have resisted further Magyar attacks. Neither Atilla nor Árpád availed himself of this opportunity, although Árpád could have used it to avenge the death of his two sons who had died in the Battle of Pozsony. Árpád and his people did not pursue territorial gains because they had committed themselves only to retrieve the stolen Avar treasures and to prevent the Germans from uniting. They had already experienced the danger first-hand at the Battle of Pozsony and realized that their survival as a nation was at stake. The goal of the Germans became very clear. They adopted as a slogan the words of King Louis the Child: "The Magyars must be annihilated." ("Ugros Boiariae Regno eliminades esse.") The same prayer was said in the churches.

    Bulcsu and Lehel took this opportunity to disrupt the interior and foreign policies of Otto. Viktor Padányi calls their attacks on the German states "a program of constant well-planned harassment." Bulcsu was the greatest adversary of Otto in the middle of the tenth century. The struggle between the two began in A.D. 937 with Bulcsu's first great European military campaign and ended in 954-955 with his second great military campaign. (There were many smaller campaigns in the interim.) According to Victor Padányi, Bulcsu's inability to thwart Otto's plan does not reflect a failure of the Magyar weaponry or the inferiority of the Magyar military force but was a result of the German oligarchies' unreliable alliances with Bulcsu. From the time of the campaign of A.D. 937 until A.D.955, the Magyars made annual attacks against Otto or the German and Italian allies loyal to Otto.[4]

     Victor Padányi also states that, if we compare these military campaigns of Bulcsu, which on the surface appear to be senseless, with the squabbles among the German princes, then we will recognize that these campaigns were conducted with a very deliberate political purpose. If the Emperor made new allies within the German states or outside of them, these new allies would, in the following year, surely be the objects of a devastating campaign launched by the Magyars. If one of the princes allied with Bulcsu left this alliance and sided with Otto, then his state, which had been until then spared from the Magyar destruction, would immediately be the object of a Magyar attack. The Magyar military ventures were, for eighteen years, conducted in order to prevent unification of the German states and were not merely "robbery campaigns", as they are repeatedly labeled by western historians.

      Otto slowly gained dominance and, in a few years, became ruler of all the German states. From the Magyars' point of view, this was a very dangerous situation because their neighbor, the friendly Bavaria, became a threat when it became a possession of Otto's brother, the hostile Heinrich of Saxony. Heinrich had developed a hatred for the Magyars during his childhood in the court of his father, Henry the Fowler. The humiliation caused by the Magyars, the constant fear of attack and the nine years of tribute which his father had been obliged to pay to the Magyars all nourished this hatred. In A.D. 949, after losing a battle to the Magyars, Heinrich of Saxony made an oath to eradicate them from Europe. In A.D. 950, he broke into the land of the Magyars, penetrated as far as the River Rába (the city of Győr) and mercilessly devastated this territory, returning home with prisoners and a large booty. This success was exaggerated in the German Chronicles and, as a result, the Germans' self-confidence was renewed. The chronicles, which had until then made little mention of the hundreds of Magyar victories, now openly stated the German intention to conquer Pannonia (part of the Magyar territory).

    Otto, too, had many difficulties with rebellious princes. Berengar III, the son of the former Emperor Berengar, had declared himself to be King of Italy, not as a vassal of Otto but as heir to his father. Otto could not tolerate that. Therefore he attacked Berengar and defeated him, even though the Magyars had come to Berengar's aid. Berengar III was forced to give up the northern part of the Kingdom of Italy. Otto gave these lands to his brother, Heinrich of Saxony. Now, in addition to Bavaria, here was another threat to the Magyars in the south-west. Ludolf, the son of Otto, jealous of the increasing power of Heinrich, made an alliance with Konrad the Red and the rightful Prince of Bavaria, Arnulf. In A.D.953, these three broke out in revolt against Heinrich of Saxony. Otto intended to settle this personally but was unsuccessful. The three rebellious princes, Ludolf, Konrad and Arnulf asked the Magyars for help. Bulcsu saw an opportunity to break the growing power of Otto. In A.D. 954, he led another major campaign, with an estimate of 30,000 to 35,000 soldiers and 120,000 horses.

     The Magyars, according to their custom, took along four, six, eight, even ten horses per man, for two reasons. First, they could exchange the exhausted horses for fresh horses, covering greater distances, and second, they could use these extra horses to carry the booty home. It was a widespread international custom for each soldier to support his own family by bringing home the spoils of battle. The Magyar soldiers carried very few personal belongings other than the food they took with them - a sack of powdered meat, a sack of millet and a sack of powdered milk. They also carried a folded dried animal stomach that was used as a basin when they needed to wash themselves.[5] They prepared the meat by boiling it in a cauldron. Then, in its own lard, they fried it till it was red, and then dried it in the sun. In its powdered form, it lasted for months.[6]

     Let us pause for a moment and consider these facts. Almost all western historians, writing about the Magyar Conquerors, label them as "barbarian hordes" who conquered the Carpathian Basin in A.D.896, yet these "barbarians" carried washing utensils with them and also had the foresight to carry enough food, in dehydrated form, to last the entire campaign. Almost one thousand years later in 1812, when Napoleon attacked Russia, Kutuzov, the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian army, destroyed all food supplies in the path of Napoleon so that the Napoleonic army was weakened by starvation. This was sufficient for the defeat of the French army, one of the most advanced armies of that era. In the tenth century the Magyars were prepared for the worst circumstances, by carrying sufficient quantities of dried food with them.

    Another advantage the Magyars had over their western counterparts was the bow that they used as a weapon. It was a composite bow, similar to that of the Scythians, made of dried, animal sinews, which allowed them to take accurate aim at several hundred meters distance. When they attacked an army they could shoot seven or eight-hundred meters, whereas the western bows, made of flexible wood were unable to shoot half the distance.[7]

    Writing about Bulcsu's campaign, Victor Padányi states that the Magyar army rode through the allied German territories and attacked three Frankish states. Then, "Konrad the Red welcomed Bulcsu and the Magyars in Worms with a fine celebration and showered them with gifts, after which he led them to the other possessions of Bruno, the territories of Köln and Maastricht." [8]

    Today, historians still call the military campaigns of the Magyars against Otto and the German States "robbery campaigns". How could these campaigns be "robbery campaigns" when the German princes themselves, including Otto's son and his brother, his relatives and vassals requested the aid of the Magyars and even led them to the territories they planned to attack? The purpose of the Magyar campaigns was to repossess the Avar treasures and weaken the enemy. Therefore, the accusation that the Magyars committed devastation purely for the sake of robbery and looting is unjust. Their campaigns were strategically planned and the devastation and looting were a result of planned attacks.

    Viktor Padányi continues with a description of Bulcsu's campaign of A.D.954, which covered a large territory in a relatively short period of time. After the Magyars had defeated the army defending Maastricht, they rode into Brabant (presently Belgium) and attacked Cambrai. Bulcsu's younger brother fell during the attack on the castle. Bulcsu wanted to set fire to the city to avenge his brother's death but he spared it on the pleas of the magistrates. The Magyars then rode through the northern part of France and towards the south where they destroyed Burgundy, another of Otto's possessions. They crossed the French Riviera into Italy, where they attacked and conquered Friault, Verona and Aquileia and then returned to their own land. This part of the campaign, which covered over five thousand kilometers, took approximately two months.

     Victor Padányi suggests that modern military leaders examine the leadership, military maneuvers and preparedness of this campaign. "The whole campaign took seven months, approximately two hundred and fifty nights, five hundred meals per soldier, five hundred feedings and enough water for 120,000 horses. They crossed five large rivers, the Enns, the Rhine, the Rhone and twice the river Po, not to mention the many smaller streams."[9]

     Padányi writes that Bulcsu's campaign had a shocking effect in Europe. All across Europe, in all the churches people prayed: "Lord, deliver us from the arrows of the Magyars" (De sagittis Hungarorum, libera nos, Domine). The campaign had the opposite effect than that expected by the rebellious princes. Instead of turning against Otto, the populace turned against the princes, who were then forced to render their loyalty to Otto. Prince Ludolf, Otto's son, barefoot and weeping, went to ask mercy of his father, who pardoned him but confiscated the principality of the Schwabenland. Konrad the Red also hastened to return his loyalty to his father-in-law. Only Arnulf of Bavaria resisted with a last desperate effort, but eventually Otto and Heinrich were victorious. They immediately began a bloody revenge. They executed many aristocrats and ecclesiastics. Arnulf fell defending Regensburg and all those who could flee, took refuge among the Magyars. The refugees desperately asked for another Magyar intervention. Heinrich's rule, after the victory of Regensburg was unbearable.

    That was definitely a good opportunity for another campaign, if the Magyars wanted to break up the power of Otto and Heinrich. Bulcsu knew that well, but the circumstances were not favorable, for two reasons. One was that he could no longer rely on any help from inside the German states, as he had in the campaign of the previous year, although the Bavarian fugitives assured him that the populace of Bavaria would give him their support. The second reason was that the prospect of another campaign was not widely accepted among the Magyars. Each "nation" was autonomous and, before a campaign could be launched, the leaders had to come to a unanimous decision. It was sometimes possible to convince the leaders to act together but they could not be ordered to do so. The "nations" were not all convinced of the German danger, not even Taksony, who was the Kagan, the leader of the confederacy. The soldiers, who had returned from the previous campaign, wanted to enjoy the benefits of the booty they had just brought home. The army recruiters (zoltans) were unsuccessful in arousing interest in another campaign.

    In April, A.D. 955, only two divisions of the two borderline tribes undertook the campaign but even they were lacking the motivation to fight. They had to leave behind a stronger force than previously to guard the borders from the hostile neighboring states. Scouts who were sent to reconnoiter the situation returned with unfavorable reports. The Magyars spent two months in uncertainty at the German borderline, during which time many soldiers deserted. At the beginning of June, Bulcsu sent an envoy to sound out Otto. In return, Otto sent only a very small present to Bulcsu, an action that revealed his attitude. To effect a victory on the scale of that of the previous year, the Magyars should have had not eight or ten thousand men but rather forty or fifty thousand. Finally, in July, Bulcsu, Lehel and Botond decided to launch the campaign. The timing was disastrous. By that time of the year, armies were usually returning from abroad. During the previous three months, the heavy German militia had been able to position itself and upset the strategy of the Magyar army whose speed normally never gave the enemy a chance to take up its position.

     Heinrich was in possession of the castle of Regensburg, which had been rebuilt. The Magyar army, which broke into Bavaria, also committed the mistake of spending two weeks in a futile attack on this castle. They left a few thousand men there to lay siege to the castle and rode with a weakened army towards Füssen, where Otto was waiting with all his forces. The aid that the Bavarian fugitives had promised never materialized. The seventeen-year old Prince Arnold of Bavaria, whose father, Arnulf, had died in battle, joined the Magyars at Regensburg with only one hundred and twenty Bavarian soldiers. Finally, about seven or eight thousand men rode into battle in the Field of Lech (Lechfeld, A.D. 955) between Füssen and Augsburg. The light Magyar cavalry was surrounded by a wall of shields and suffered a tragic fate. The actions of the indignant Germans were brutal and beyond words. The leaders of the Magyar army, which was in a hopeless situation, tried to negotiate but the Germans would not negotiate unless the Magyars laid down their arms. After approximately five thousand Magyar soldiers had set down their weapons in a pile, instead of negotiating as promised, the Germans attacked the disarmed Magyar soldiers and butchered them. Bulcsu and Lehel were hanged on the spires of the Regensburg cathedral.

    András Zakar and Endre K. Grandpierre explain what caused the sudden fall of the Magyars at the beginning of the tenth century.[10] German history teaches that the Battle of Lechfeld in A.D. 955 was the final victory of the West over the Magyars, that after the battle the Magyars were forced to turn to a peaceful life and that they begged to receive the Christian religion. German historians write that the Germans forgave the Hungarian atrocities and sent Christian missionaries to convert the Magyars to the only true religion. They insist that, after the Battle of Lechfeld, the Magyars had no power to retaliate. This version has been taught throughout the world.

     This is not true. The Magyar retaliation after the Battle of Lechfeld was three times as devastating as their defeat at Lechfeld. In their warring campaigns, the Magyars always deployed three separate armies. Two were always on the offensive and the third was the defending army. Historians, writing about the Battle of Lechfeld, for some reason do not mention the third Magyar army. They only mention the armies of Bulcsu and Lehel, yet Anonymus, in two complete chapters, clearly describes the role of the third army under the leadership of Botond.[11] Botond fulfilled his duty with great success. It is true that he was unable to intervene in time to save his comrades but afterwards he took a severe revenge. Anonymus states: "The remaining Magyar warriors, when they saw their comrades fall into a difficult situation because of the cunning of their enemies, bravely and heroically stayed at their posts. They did not abandon each other but did all in their power to help those who were in trouble. Like injured lions, they ran shouting between the weapons and they put down the enemy with horrifying killings. Although, the armies of Bulcsu and Lehel were defeated, the Magyars of Botond ran down those who had defeated Bulcsu and Lehel and killed them all in a horrifying manner." "The larger part of the German army, which was headed toward the river Rhine, was followed by Botond's army. When the Magyar army caught up with them on the plains, the Germans closed ranks like a swarm of bees because the Magyars, with their arrows would not allow them either to retreat or to advance. The Germans, frightened to death, surrendered to the Magyars. When the Magyars captured them, they decapitated them all.  They killed them in revenge for their comrades who were killed by the Germans. The German soldiers and the standard-bearers numbered eight thousand.[12] That was not enough. Under the leadership of Botond, they devastated the German states. The Hungarian chronicler, Simon Kézai, states "... they crossed the river Danube at Ulm and when they reached the Monastery at Fulda, they took enormous treasures and destroyed the entire Schwabenland. At the city of Worms, they crossed the river Rhine. There they met two armies, the armies of the Prince of Lotharingia and the Prince of the Schwabs. After defeating and routing these armies, the Magyars entered the land of France and made enormous destruction among the Christians and the monks. From here, they went to the river Rhone as far as Raguza. They destroyed two cities, Susa and Turin and opened the route to Italy. When they came to the flatlands of Lotharingia, they crossed them on horseback at a fast speed and took large booty with them. After this, they returned home."[13] The Magyars still could not overcome the loss of the battle of Lechfeld. It was not that losing a battle caused them great distress, but the reason that they were so upset was that Lehel and Bulcsu were hanged. This was not a fitting execution for courageous soldiers. "Prince Zolta and his men were extremely upset by the dishonorable execution of Lehel and Bulcsu and the other Magyar soldiers and they became real enemies of the Germans. Prince Zolta and his knights, because of the offence caused by the enemy, wanted to take revenge and they did not make a secret of the methods they wanted to use in revenge."[14] The Hungarian Prince Zolta organized a second revenge after the Hungarian defeat at Lechfeld. "Prince Zolta, fired with anger and supported financially by some Germans who asked his help and because he was so upset by the death of Lehel and Bulcsu, sent a huge army against King Otto. He named Botond the captain of one army, Szabolcs as captain of the second army and Orkony as captain of the third."[15] This is another example of the Magyar custom of always sending three armies to a campaign.

     It is obvious that the Magyars were still a formidable enemy after their defeat at Lechfeld but shortly after that their power began to decline. If it was not the Lechfeld defeat that caused their decline, what caused them to lose their power? Unfortunately there are no written documents to give us this information. If there were a secret conspiracy in the West to annihilate the Magyars, there would obviously be no record of it, so we would look for it in vain. If there had been any mention made of it by Magyar historians, it would have been erased by the Church, the fanatical advocators of the Finno-Ugric theory or the followers of the Hapsburg absolutism. Because the Magyars have no written history of this time period, and because the chronicles of Anonymus and Kézai were disregarded by Western historians, the Hungarian historians simply accepted the record of the Germans that stated that the power of the Magyars was broken after the defeat at Lechfeld. Later Hungarian historians also disregarded these two sources because the actions of Botond belied their account of the peaceful Christianization of Hungary. Shortly after his second successful campaign, the apparently healthy Botond mysteriously lost all his strength and suddenly died. Hungarian history makes little mention of him.

    Otto I was well aware of the military strength of the Magyars, even after their defeat at the Battle of Lechfeld. The Germans suffered their greatest losses in the battles that followed and Otto came to realize that it was not possible to subdue the Magyars by military means. Therefore he decided to use the weapon of diplomacy with which the Magyars were inexperienced. The given word was of as much value as an oath to the Magyars as it was among the Huns. Wess Roberts writes of the Huns: "Their guilelessness and naive faith in human goodness frequently caused them to fall prey to the intricacies of more skilled practitioners of diplomacy."[16] The Magyars inherited this same characteristic. The Germans, however, lacked this sensitivity and were more practiced in cunning and diplomacy.

    During the Middle Ages, the Church was a political power Because the Germans were unable to make Hungary a vassal by military means, they decided they would first convert the Magyars (who even today are still called "pagan") to Western Christianity and then they would be able to overpower them politically. This is why the missionaries to Hungary were almost all Germans. The Germans did not expect much resistance from the Magyars because they knew that Bulcsu himself had been a Christian of the Eastern rite. Luitprandt, Bishop of Cremona, in 910 had written that the people of Magyarország were obviously Christian. [17]

     Professor Badiny, in his paper "The Godly Conquerors" shows that the Magyars were Christians of the Eastern rite and asks why they are still called "pagans". He explains that, until the decision of the Second Vatican Council of the Roman Catholic Church in 1962, anyone who was not Roman Catholic was a pagan and a heretic. "Only with the decision of this Council were the Christians of other sects acknowledged to be God-fearing Christians... Therefore, the expression "pagan" referring to the Magyars at the time of István I, simply meant "non-Roman-Catholic".[18]

     Otto was undoubtedly a better diplomat than military leader, which is why he did not attack the Magyars in their homeland after the Battle of Lechfeld. It was obvious to him what would have resulted from such an attack. Instead of another attack against the Magyars, he attempted to gain more power and prestige for himself. His aim was, with the blessing of Rome, to crown himself Holy Roman Emperor by Divine Right, just as Charlemagne had done. He would gain political dominance over all the Christian nations of Europe. With this coronation, both the Pope and Otto were expecting to gain political power and prestige. The Pope especially was hoping to gain more power to strengthen his influence because at that time he was hardly more important than any other bishop. Only the Cluny Monastery gave greater prestige to the Papacy. In spite of all this, the coronation of the Emperor took a long time to materialize. It did not take place until A.D.962, after the settlement of a dispute between Otto and the Pope. Otto had taken it upon himself to defend the Vatican but, in return he demanded political sovereignty over Rome. Otto and the Pope could not come to an agreement. To settle the dispute between them they asked the Magyar Kagan, Taksony, the strongest leader at that time, to be mediator. Their request was brought to Taksony by the monks Salectus and Genzanini Zacheus. Egyed Rudnay, a Hungarian historian, discovered this information in the writings of Sackur, a Church historian.[19]

    It is obvious from this request that both Otto and the Pope acknowledged the Magyars as the strongest power in Europe. Kagan Taksony decided in favor of the Pope and hoped that in return the Church would support him. Taksony's heir, Géza, also favored the Papacy. Because of the alliance between the Magyars and the Papacy, the Magyars ceased their attacks on Germany. One of the weaknesses of the Magyars was that they had a strong belief in the power of the given word. It was an ancient Scythian-Hun-Magyar custom to trust the verbal promise more than the written document. The Magyars could not even imagine that a promise could be broken. When Kagan Taksony was asked to become mediator between Otto and the Pope, he believed that friendship and peace would ensue.

     At that time when the German "friendship" was so warm, Taksony was a young man, 38 years old, too young for the Germans to wait for his natural death. Here again, Hungarian history is vague. All references merely state that, although Taksony had been in good health, he died suddenly. His son, Géza, who was 14 or 16 years old, took over the leadership. Otto found the time ripe to overcome the Magyars.

     It is natural and desirable to build peace and friendship with a former enemy. This is the final goal for every war but was this really the German goal? The Germans' feelings towards the Magyars, after the many German losses, were obviously very hostile. But the Germans were also convinced that they could not retaliate against the Magyars with weapons, therefore they camouflaged their goal and put it into a religious context. They began their "friendly" approach to the Magyars when a child was the Magyar Kagan and a group of advisors was ruling the country in his place.

      In August of A.D.972, Otto I visited the Benedictine Abbey at Einsiedel where he gave a charter to certain selected monks. He selected Brother Wolfgang who was the most suited to his purpose to be a missionary to Hungary. Historians recorded that Wolfgang's journey was unsuccessful because, soon after his return to Germany, Emperor Otto sent another missionary to Hungary. Wolfgang was supposedly recalled by Bishop Pilgrim. Endre Grandpierre says that it is unimaginable that a bishop would have the power to recall an envoy sent by the Emperor himself. Grandpierre contradicts those historians who say that Wolfgang's mission was unsuccessful and he comes to the conclusion that, because of the fact that immediately after Wolfgang's recall another envoy was sent to Hungary, the mission of Wolfgang must have been very successful. Wolfgang was the one who established the continuous diplomatic exchange between Germany and Hungary. If Wolfgang had not been successful, the Emperor would not have appointed this simple monk to be Bishop of Regensburg on his return to Germany. That fact in itself showed a certain tendentiousness. It was at Augsburg that Bulcsu and Lehel were hanged after the Magyar defeat at Lechfeld and this city was to the Germans symbolic of the defeat of the Magyars, so the appointment of Wolfgang as Bishop of Regensburg was also symbolic. Emperor Otto I. in A.D. 976 gave another large land donation to Wolfgang to reward him for his efforts to suppress the Magyars. He was entrusted with the upbringing of the German princess, Giesel des Trau (Pledge of loyalty), known as Gizella, who became the wife of King István I. There is no doubt that Wolfgang was very successful in the Hungarian court because his success ensured the acceptance of a second envoy, Bishop Bruno.

     The German goal was well camouflaged by the peace and the missionary activities. Endre Grandpierre suggests that a secret international conspiracy attacked the Hungarian power. This international conspiracy had such power and worked so methodically that in a short time it crushed the unsuspecting great power of the Magyars. There are no records of the coup, written by Magyar historians, and the names of the participants are not known. They were probably the advisors of the young Kagan Géza, the twelve aristocrats who represented Hungary at the Assembly at Quedlinburg in A.D.973, who accepted bribes from Bruno. The Germans did not approach with their friendship when Zsolt or Taksony were the rulers. Why not? Because under the strong Kagans it was not possible to prepare a coup. It was easy for the advisors to persuade a young inexperienced child Kagan to accept the new religion.

     The German and Magyar contacts, for a long period of time, had consisted of the exchange of swords and arrows. Any other connections such as diplomatic connections were nonexistant. After the death of Kagan Taksony, when young Géza became Kagan, suddenly everything changed.

      Bishop Bruno showered the Magyar aristocracy with gifts from Otto. The advantage of using gifts to bind the receiver was already used successfully in ancient times. They first gave small unimportant gifts and later more valuable gifts. The receiver was obliged first to make small and later larger concessions. According to György Győrffy, some of the gifts which the Magyars received came from the Emperor's own treasury. Others came from the treasury of the Archbishop of Mainz and others from the Abbey of Sankt Gallen.

     Gold can open many gates. In the past, gold has opened the gates of Babylon, Thebes, Carthage, Rome, Buda and even Tihuanaco. Gold can raise someone to power or can destroy empires. J. Bratianu, Minister of Rumania, boasted to the French diplomats that he purchased Transylvania for ten million gold pieces. He used the gold to bribe people to obtain Transylvania from the Magyars.[20] Gold can buy empires. Bishop Bruno's large carriages, packed with treasures, were escorted by armed guards on the road to Esztergom. On the way, Bruno had to go to Passau to see Bishop Pilgrim. Bishop Pilgrim was the organizer of the entire anti-Magyar movement. He gave Bishop Bruno the letter which Otto the Great had written to him. This is the only document, which has survived.

    Emperor Otto was indubitably a great German ruler who did great deeds for the Germans. He very skillfully camouflaged his conquest of Hungary by spreading Christianity. He was the first to introduce the politics of the "Drang nach Osten". His greatest desire was to eradicate the Magyars. The following is the text of the letter written by Otto the Great to Bishop Pilgrim of Passau:

     "Otto, Emperor by the Grace of God, to Pilgrim, Reverend Bishop of the Church of Passau. We send our regards and our grace. We send Bishop Bruno and we commend him to your most attentive care. Give him whatever he needs, support him with your men, with horses and anything else he might need for his journey. Treat him with the greatest honor and lead him carefully to the border of the Magyars with the shortest route possible because we exhorted him to influence the Magyar King as soon as possible to act in our cause. Take good care of our envoy, Bruno, so that he may cautiously accomplish his goal. If our plan is successful, it will be extremely beneficial to you and yours." [21]

     In spite of its simplicity, this letter reveals many secret thoughts and plans. Between the lines, I see a secret plan to conquer Hungary. The view of historians which is constantly echoed, that the Magyars of their own will desired Christianity and asked the Germans and the Bohemians to send missionaries, cannot be the truth. If the Magyars really wanted Christianity, they had the opportunity to adopt it in the Carpathian Basin because the majority of the Avars survived the campaigns of Charlemagne and they were already Christians of the Western rite. Why would they have approached the hostile Germans and the Bohemians when they already had Christians in the country? It is also a fact that the Magyars fought for a full century against those changes, which were imposed on them when they adopted Western Christianity. Moreover, even after they had adopted Western Christianity, with a chain of rebellions some of them demonstrated that they did not want to abandon the ancient faith. Tonozuba and his wife were buried alive because they would not give up their ancient religion. According to Grandpierre and other historians, not all the people who came with the Árpád Magyars were Christian. Some of them practiced the religion of the Sun-God, which was the most ancient form of worship. They did not worship the Sun but revered it as the representation of God. Some historians call this religion the ancient Christianity. Luitprand called the Árpád Magyars "Christians." The ancient religion is probably the remains of the Manicheistic religion, which is a religion that follows Jesus but does not recognize the Old Testament. The different religious views among the Árpád Magyars indicate that the Magyar people practiced religious tolerance. Wilmos Dioszegi writes that they were not pagans.[22] Cornides, Theophilactus and Thuroczi all state that Árpád "prayed to the One God" but at the same time honored nature.[23]  This is proof that the Magyars had a monotheistic religion. Some of them were Nestorians and others Mazdeists but all their religious views sprang from the basics of the Sumerian "Magus" religion, which was the religion of love. The belief in one God and a religion of love, which took many forms, united the Magyars. This religious harmony, which made them strong and united, had to be destroyed. That was the only way to break up the power of the Magyars. If the intentions of Otto I were clear and sincere, why did he not turn openly to Kagan Géza? Why did he warn Pilgrim twice to be very careful and secretly enter into Hungary? We notice that the special caution was to be observed outside the Hungarian border and not inside it. This part can only be understood with the knowledge that in the Middle Ages, the no-man's land surrounding Hungary, which was used for defence, was not under the influence of the twelve aristocrats who prepared the coup. Great caution was to be exercised because the border guards would try to catch anyone crossing the border. Inside the border, the men who prepared the coup were waiting for the German envoys and escorted them not to Géza but to their leaders, where they discussed their plan and how to fulfill it. The result of these discussions was the presence of the twelve Magyar aristocrats at the Assembly at Quedlinburg, which took place at Easter time in A.D. 973. This letter also reveals that if the plan were successful, it would be beneficial to the Germans, which in effect meant that they would break the power of the Magyars.

     The Hungarian history of that era notes that the desire for peace among the Magyars was so strong that they all of a sudden sacrificed all their national interests, their ancient religion, their god, their freedom and their territorial integrity. They did not care that they were overcome by their enemy. They only wanted peace. Who can believe this, asks Grandpierre, when for twenty years there had been no wars with anyone and nobody dared to attack them because Hungary at that time was the greatest military power in Europe? Western historians in their records of this era, write that the Magyars were constantly asking for peace with those Germans whom they had recently defeated in many battles. A nation cannot change its customs from one day to the next. This plea for peace on the part of the Magyars was invented by historians who distorted the truth with the intention of representing Hungary as a weakened, defeated nation whose only escape was to become Christian. The letter of Bishop Pilgrim to Pope Benedict VII in A.D. 974 stated: "According to the alliance between the Germans and the Hungarians, we started to spread Christianity as the peace prevailed."[24]

    According to this letter, the Magyars and the Germans made an alliance. This alliance meant that the Germans secretly occupied Hungary. An interesting fact about the Quedlinburg agreement is that every written document that has survived mentions only the spreading of Christianity. This was the beginning of Hungary's loss of independence. Otto I was the one who created the great power of Germany. He was the one who first determined the politics of "Drang nach Osten". He was the one who dictated the terms of the Quedlinburg agreement. He announced many times that his first task was to break the power of Hungary. Otto I was not the Pope or a Patriarch. He was Emperor. Therefore, writes Grandpierre, his goal could not be a religious goal but purely a political goal. Regardless how well it was camouflaged, his only goal was to conquer the Magyars. Otto I, at the time of the writing of the Quedlinburg agreement. was the representative of an anti-Hungarian power. Spreading Christianity in Hungary was just a camouflage to cover his goal.

     Earlier, I stated that the Magyars, after their defeat at Lechfeld, remained as strong as before. If they were still such a great power, how could the Magyars accept such a humiliating agreement as the Quedlinburg agreement? Amadée Thierry writes about an international coup.[25]  He says that when Otto accomplished the alliance with the Magyars at Quedlinburg, he immediately began to fulfill his plan. Close to the Hungarian borders, he created a center, in the city of Passau, where the Hungarian conversion (anti-Hungarian action) would start. The leader of this center was Bishop Pilgrim. The Pope gave Pilgrim extraordinary powers to do whatever he had to do to convert the Magyars.

     Otto decided to give a German wife (Adelhaid), to Prince Géza, using the old accepted weapon of marriage to effect his goal. The Germans had used this ploy once before, to remove Atilla. They gave Krimhilda Hildegund to Atilla and she, on their wedding night, murdered him by putting a knitting needle up his nose and into his brain. Adelhaid's goal was not to kill Géza, but to open the Hungarian borders to German immigrants. That was the only way for the Germans to break the power of the Magyars. They had been unable to do that by war, but with secrecy and politics they succeeded. There are countries, which are weak in war but are extraordinarily strong at the peace treaty. At Quedlinburg, only the Magyars made concessions. The Germans made none. The Magyars gave up all their traditions. The agreement stated that the Magyars were to withdraw their guards from the marchlands and open their borders to missionaries and anybody who wished to enter the country. They were to allow churches to be built, parishes to be established and in Hungarian territory there were to be no restrictions placed in the way of the spreading and practising of Christianity. Prince Géza was to marry Adelhaid and promise to give positions, land and titles to her ten thousand German bodyguards. Amadée Thierry says that this Quedlinburg agreement was an agreement which we would make today with an undeveloped country in order to be able to sell our manufactured goods and impose our moral standards.[26]

    Hungary opened the gates to a Western invasion into the country, not a military invasion, but a continuous peaceful occupation. It is obvious that it would soon become an economic ideological and political oppression. The representatives of the Magyars pledged that, without any selection or regulation, the borders were opened to anyone who wished to enter the country. They would even give them land and help them to multiply and to climb us the social ladder by giving them titles and positions. So Hungary, in a short time, lost its nationalistic character and if there were any objections from the Magyar people against this foreign invasion, the revolts were suppressed by foreign soldiers.

    The bodyguard of ten-thousand of Adelhaid, occupied Géza's palace and he himself was a prisoner in his own palace. For the Germans, this solution was better than killing him as they had Atilla.

     But who was able to make such a demoralizing, humiliating one-sided peace in the name of the country? A legal government is unable to make such a treaty. Only the group, which prepared the coup, could do so, the people who gave gifts (bribes), promising to bring peace and convert the people to Christianity. Pilgrim, Wolfgang, and Bruno created a secret, inside power working in foreign interests. This group accomplished the task that Otto had been unable to accomplish with military means. This is the way that the Hungarian great power, without losing a major war, became subordinated to the enemy, the Germans.

     The Magyars were shocked to learn that the Germans even fabricated official documents in order to gain possession of Pannonia. Bishop Pilgrim of Passau, on the suggestion of Otto, fabricated four documents, which are known as the Lorch Forgeries. These four forgeries were to be the proof that the last four deceased Popes had placed Pannonia (now Transdanubia in Hungary) under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Passau.

     As soon as Kagan Géza, (the father of King István I, Saint Steven), learned of these forgeries, he immediately demanded an investigation. Otto's accomplice, Bishop Pilgrim, asked Pope Benedict VII to certify the validity of these documents. The Pope did not dare to do this because Hungary was a major power in Europe although, at the same time, Germany was the "favorite son" of Rome. The Pope intended to satisfy the wishes of Germany and, in an effort to do this, he came across a reference to the Tudum in his papers. The Tudum was an Avar leader, the second-in command to the Kagan, who, living in northern Hungary, had survived the campaign of Charlemagne and, in 811, had accepted the sovereignty of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Therefore the Pope appointed the Archbishop of Salzburg to be Vicar of Pannonia and in so doing satisfied Germany. Géza discovered this devious move and simply ordered the German Bishop Bruno to leave Hungary. The residence of Pilgrim in Passau was destroyed in a military assault and all the correspondence between Pilgrim and Otto was confiscated. These documents have never been found. This occurred in A.D. 973, eighteen years after the so-called "fatal defeat" of the Magyars at Lechfeld.

    Kagan Géza's son, Vajk, was crowned King of Hungary in A.D. 1000. He became a Christian and took the name István (Steven). During his reign, the Germans continued to try to dominate Hungary. In the reign of Emperor Konrad II., the Germans again took the offensive. From time to time, they broke into the western border provinces of Hungary from Bavaria, but István was able to repel them. Konrad II tried to make an alliance with the Byzantine or Eastern Roman Emperor against the Magyars, just as Otto the Great had done. He probably did not feel strong enough to attack the Magyars on his own, even though the Magyars had suffered a "final loss" to the Germans at Lechfeld. Konrad II sent his envoy, Werner, Bishop of Strasburg to Constantinople in 1027. The Magyar King, István, upon learning of the mission of the envoy, denied him free passage through Hungary. That was enough reason for the German states to attack the Magyars in 1030. They attacked with two separate armies, one marching on the right shore of the Danube and the other on the left shore, led by the Bohemian Prince Bratislav, looting and destroying. In spite of this, the German attack came to naught and the enemy was driven back to Vienna. Again, the Magyars did not overrun the German states, because they were not interested in territorial gains.

     The German peoples, under Emperor Heinrich III, in 1042, again tried to occupy Hungary and Prince Bratislav was again an ally. During this campaign, the Emperor succeeded only in capturing the castle of Pozsony. (Pozsony, now Bratislava, was the coronation city of the Hungarians.)

     In 1043, the Emperor again moved towards the Hungarian border. The German influence within the country was strong and the Hungarian King, Aba Samuel, subsequently made a peace offer which was very advantageous to the Emperor. He offered to give up Hungarian territory from the River Lajta to the Szár Mountain and promised payment of four hundred pounds of gold as tribute along with the freedom of the German prisoners. However, the Magyar people did not support their king's peace conditions and forced the king to retract his offer. As a result, in the following year, 1044, the largest power in Europe again attacked Hungary. Simon Kézai, the Magyar chronicler, writes that the Emperor attacked from the direction of the city of Sopron but he could not cross the flooded territory between the Répce and the Rába rivers. Therefore he followed the shoreline of the River Rába in the direction of the city of Győr, where he found a ford which allowed him to cross the river and follow the main road leading to Győr. At the village of Ménfő, near Győr where the battle took place on July 5, the Emperor was victorious over the Magyar army but it was not an easy victory. Nowhere do the Germans write of a big victory. Simon Kézai, the chronicler, writes of the battle as follows: "In this battle, a large number of Germans died."[27] King Aba Samuel died as he was fleeing from the scene of the battle and Heinrich marched into Székesfehérvár where the feudal vows were sworn in the cathedral which was built by Saint Steven.

    The Magyar nation could not accept the unbearable humiliation of becoming a vassal of the Emperor and united to shake off the yoke. Peter, who was crowned King as a vassal of the Emperor, was not accepted as King by the Magyars. He was forced to flee but was captured and was blinded. At that time a saying was coined in Hungary: "We pay the Germans not with gold but with steel.” The exiled grandchildren of Arpád came back as soon as they were called and Endre became king.

    In 1051, Emperor Heinrich III, collecting all the military power in the entire empire, attacked Hungary. His Danube fleet, packed with food and ammunition, was led by Bishop Gebhard. On the northern shore of the Danube, the army was led by the Bohemian Prince Bratislav and Welf, Prince of Carinthia. Emperor Heinrich III and his armies started out in Carinthia and crossed the counties of Vas and Zala. At the village of Sümeg, he reached the ancient Roman road and marched against Székesfehérvár. The Magyars retreated and took the populace and animals and all the food with them. (Again, note that this was in the eleventh century, 800 years before Napoleon's defeat in Russia.) They starved the army of the Emperor and, using that tactic in many small attacks, they exhausted the enemy, taking away their desire to fight and exhausting them mentally. Upon their arrival at Székesfehérvár, the Emperor's army was already defeated. At once they turned and took the shortest way home. The light Magyar cavalry chased them and there was no escape from their constant attacks. The northern army suffered the same fate. Bishop Gebhard had sent a letter to the Emperor for further instructions. The Magyars intercepted the letter and, in the name of the Emperor, gave the order for the Danube fleet to turn back at once, so it was not able to come to the aid of the Emperor, who badly needed it. On October 25, the Emperor was in Hainsburg and on November 12, in Regensburg. The greatly humiliated Emperor was thinking only of revenge. King Endre tried to make peace but his efforts were in vain. The Emperor convinced the Pope, Leo IX, to put pressure on the Magyar King. The Pope excommunicated Endre but he did not budge. He never accepted the Emperor as his feudal lord. It became obvious to the whole world that the Holy Roman Emperor, with all his power was not successful in making the Magyars his vassals. This fact was reinforced by the Papal secretary, Wiebert, who noted in his diary: "The idea of the Roman Emperor conquering Hungary has dissolved into the air."[28]

       The world's greatest lord at that time, who had already obtained the right to make Hungary his vassal, gave up this right. The Emperor no longer desired to have King Endre's homage, but looked instead for his friendship. Therefore, he promised his daughter, Sofia, in marriage to Endre's son, Salamon. Sofia, at that time, was already engaged to the Prince of France. She broke that engagement and married Salamon. This is again witness to the fact that the "barbarian hordes", which according to the Finno-Ugric linguists did not even have their own language, were able to make marriages with the highest-ranking families as equal partners.

    On September 11, 1146, Konrad III delegated the leadership of the army to Heinrich of Austria. The united German army invaded Hungary and took Pozsony and its castle. The Germans bribed the castle guards and in this way were able to occupy the castle. When the Hungarian King, Géza II, learned the news, he encircled the castle so that the Germans occupying it had no way out. When the German intruders learned that they could receive no outside help, they negotiated a treaty by which they would pay a tribute of three thousand pounds of silver if they were given free passage out of the castle. The Magyars could have killed them but they allowed the Germans to leave. This was a situation of negotiation similar to that which followed the Battle of Lechfeld, where the Germans promised to negotiate but, instead of keeping their promise, they butchered about five thousand unarmed Magyar soldiers.

     Unfortunately, European history books omit this fact and many others about the Magyars because, if they were to mention them, they would have to share their glory with a nation, which they do not consider to be part of Europe. Soon after the German threat came the Tatars, followed by the Turks and the Hapsburgs, who all tried to occupy and destroy Hungary. These struggles caused the Magyar populace to diminish and lose its dominant role. In the nineteenth century, the history of Europe was written by the major powers that omitted any mention of major Hungarian achievements throughout the preceding millennium, since they still did not acknowledge the Magyars as a European nation. At the same time, they over-emphasized a small defeat for the Magyars at the Battle of Lechfeld in A.D. 955, glorifying the German victory.

     Regardless of how much the Germans over-emphasized the significance of that "victory" over the Magyars, there are two factors that diminish its importance. One is the fact that this "victory" did not take place in the land of the Magyars but in the heart of Germany and the other is that, for seventy five years following this "victory", the Germans did not dare to risk an attack against the Magyars. In A.D. 1030, when Emperor Konrad II. invaded Hungary and advanced as far as Pozsony King István I. defeated the Germans, chased them out of the country and oven occupied Vienna. This significant victory of the Magyar army over the Germans, which occurred after the slaughter of the Magyars at Lechfeld, is not even mentioned in the European history books.

    So we can see that both sides had a specific aim in mind when they went to war. While the Magyars were asked by the German princes to aid them in their inside struggles, the Magyars used that opportunity to maintain the balance of power in Europe. At the same time, the German Emperor intended to subdue the Magyars and make them his vassals. During the many campaigns that the Germans launched against the land of the Magyars, they devastated the country just as the Magyars did the German states. While the Magyars were weakened by centuries of continuous struggles and wars, the western world grew in numbers and progressed in the area of the sciences and the arts. Western historians wrote the history of Europe. They made of the Magyars a band of robbers who just robbed the West but, at the same time, they did not mention their own goal of aggression.





[1] Western historians spell this name "Attila" but I will follow the recommendation of Professor Ferenc Badiny-Jós who writes "Atilla". Atilla was named after the ancient name for the river Volga, the River Etel. Etel or ATIL means "the water of life". With the suffix LA, it becomes "giver of the water of life" -- A-TIL-LA.

[2] Badiny-Jós, Ferenc: A Pozsonyi Csata, Ősi Gyökér, 1985. Jan.-Feb. p.4.

[3] Badiny-Jós, Ferenc: Ősi Gyökér, 1985. Jan-Feb. p.4 and 1988, March-April, p.34. His sources: 1. Monumenta Boica XXXI. 176-177.; 2. Fejer, Cod.Dipl. Hung.VII. Vol.V. par. 31-32.1.; 3. Aventinus: Annales Boiorum iV. Book XXI, Chapter 19.

[4] Padányi, Viktor: Törtenelmi Tanulmányok, Munich, 1959, pp. 168-169

[5] Vágó, Pál: A vérszerződés Ereje, Buenos Aires, 1976, p.45 and Padányi, Viktor:   Op.Cit. p.173

[6] Szalay, László: Puszta Balladája, Hunnia, May, 1994, No. 54, p.3-4

[7] László, Gyula: A Honfoglaló Magyar Nép Élete, p.340, Budapest, 1944.   Padányi, Viktor, Op. Cit. p.176.

[8] Padányi, Viktor: Op. Cit. p.174

[9] Padányi, Viktor, Op. Cit. p.176

[10] Grandpierre, K. Endre: Magyarok Istenének Elrablása, Budapest, 1993

[11] Anonymus was a Hungarian historian of the twelfth century who did not dare to identify himself for fear of 

   persecution from the Church.

[12] Anonymus: Gesta Hungarorum, translated by Dezső Pais, Budapest, 1975

[13] Kézai, Simon: Magyar Kronika, translated by Kiraly Szabó quoted by Endre K. Grandpierre, Op.Cit. pp. 138-139

[14]Anonymus, Op.Cit.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Roberts, Wess: Leadership secrets of Attila the Hun, Warner Books, 1985, p.30

[17] Vágo, Pál: Kelet Népe #5, 1971, "Pusztaszertől a három Árpádfi Száműzetéseig" p.7, Buenos Aires, Argentina.


[18] Badiny-Jós, Ferenc, The Godly Conquerors, Canberra, Australia, 1987, p.9

[19] Rudnay, Egyed, Atilla Trilógia, Volume I, p. 38, Brussels, 1943


[20] Grandpierre: Op. Cit.

[20] Dummler, E.L.: Pilgrim Von Passau, p.38, quoted by Egyed Rudnay in an article "Nyugati Kultúrárol" Ősi 

   Gyökér, 1990, Sept-Oct. p.135



[22] Dioszegi, Wilmos: Az Ősi Magyar Hitvilág. Budapest, 1971

[23] Kallay, Ferenc: Pogány Magyarok Vallása, 1861 and 1971

[24] Endlicher, Monumenta  Arpadiana, p. 131. (Grandpierre)


[25]Thierry, Amadée: Atilla Mondák, p. 99.

[26] Thierry, Amadée: Op.Cit. p.98


[27] Nagy, Sándor: The Forgotten Cradle of the Hungarian Culture, Toronto, 1973, p. 253

[28] Ibid. p. 257