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HUNGARIAN HISTORY Part 1. – The origins of the Hungarians

One of the best ways to understand a country’s culture is through getting to know its history. Are Hungarians the descendants of Attila the Hun? Whose portraits are on the Hungarian banknotes? How many and which wars Hungarians fought?  What did Hungarians invent and give to the world? Instead of reading numerous books to answer these questions, through this series we aim to introduce you Hungarian history in a nutshell.

The origin of the Hungarians is rather complex and it dates back thousands of years. There are many theories about their roots such as the Orientalist, Magyar Uygur, Hun-Avar and the Finno-Ugrian theory.

Due to a more scientific approach Hungarians are the descendants of different groups of people such as the Sumerians, the Scythians, the Huns, the Avars, the Magyars and the Petchenegs, who settled down in the Carpathian basin from the Neolithic period up to the Middle Ages.

In the 1st century under the Roman Empire the territory of now known Hungary belonged to the province of Pannonia. The capital of the province was Aquincum, located in the area of Northern Budapest, known as Óbuda. The city that was also a military base had over 30,000 inhabitants by the end of the 2nd century. People living there could relish the inventions of the Empire, they had central heating, bath houses and amphitheatres, where they could enjoy gladiator fights. The ruins and the historic artefacts of the city can be visited at the Aquincum Museum all year round.

Aquincum Museum and Archaeological Park

1031 Budapest, Szentendrei út 135.

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The ruins of another Roman fortress, called Contra Aquincum, built in the 3rd century can be found under the Március 15 square located near to the Elisabeth Bridge. The sight can be visited all year round, however the ruins can only be seen through glass windows.

Március 15. Square stop (City Sightseeing - Red line)

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During the weakening of the Roman Empire in the 4th century the so called “Barbarian Invasion” started. There were tribes arriving to the Carpathian basin from the Black Sea like the Huns, the Bulgars and the Avars, who expanded their territory.

According to a famous Hungarian legend written in a medieval chronicle, Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, the brothers Hunor and Magor were the ancestors of the Huns and the Magyars. While they were hunting, they saw a golden stag, commonly called as the “Miraculous Deer”, which they pursued but it was always ahead of them, leading them to the territory now known as Hungary, where they married two princesses and established the Hun Empire. As a consequence Hungarians are bound to claim that they are the descendants of Attila the Hun.

Later, in the 9th century seven Magyar tribes’ led by Álmos arrived from the Ural Mountains and conquered the Carpathian Basin. The famous monument showing the Magyar leaders Álmos, Előd, Ond, Kond, Tas, Huba and Töhötöm can be seen in the Heroes’ Square located at the end of Andrassy Avenue.

Heroes’ Square

1146 Budapest, Hősök tere

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Furthermore, there is a famous painting – Conquest (Settlement of the Magyars in Hungary) painted by Hungarian painter Mihály Munkácsy, depicting the Hungarian conquest. It is exhibited in the Parliament of Hungary located in district V. in Budapest.

Hungarian Parliament

1055 Budapest, Kossuth tér 1-3.

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We hope you enjoyed this brief introduction to the origins of the Hungarians, in the second part you can read about the establishment of the Hungarian Kingdom and the Mongolian invasion among others.

Cover Photo: Wikipedia

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