White and Black Hungarians

The competition between the Greek Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church was intensified by the conflict of interest between the Byzantine and Holy Roman empires both in Italy and along the Danube. Having swallowed up most of the independent Bulgar state, the Byzantines reached the Danube and could now strike at Italy from the northeast, a prospect that alarmed the fledgling Germanic Roman Empire. Stephen, who became Hungary's ruling prince after Géza's death in 997, and was the Bulgar czar's brother-in-law, must have feared that the Byzantines and Transylvania's gyula might launch a joint attack or otherwise help his domestic opponents to depose him. The same external circumstances probably played a part in Koppány's rebellion and his plan to marry the widowed Sarolt. The pagan Koppány was count of Somogy, but he maintained in Transylvania two residences that bore his name, (Magyar)koppánd and (Maros)koppánd, situated near the salt-mines at Újakna and Kisakna, respectively; it is likely that these places, being under the gyula's protection, were meant to serve as a refuge in case Koppány was attacked by Stephen.

In the event, Stephen crushed the rebellion and had Koppány quartered, then sent part of the corpse to the gyula — a grisly warning that he considered himself the supreme ruler of the gyula's land as well. This claim was confirmed when Stephen had himself crowned in the year 1000 as 'king of the Hungarians'. Soon after 1003, he dispatched Latin-rite evangelizers to Transylvania. Bruno of Querfurt and Adhemar both attest that these missionaries regarded {1-399.} Transylvania as a politically-separate region; they called Transylvania the land of the 'black Hungarians' in order to distinguish it from the country of 'white Hungarians' ruled by Stephen. Historians generally agree that the 'black Hungarians'' land lay eastward, between the Maros, Tisza, and Danube, a region that at the time was governed by Ajtony; but the term probably refers to all the people who lived under the gyulas' rule. Some historians have attributed an ethnic significance to the terms and concluded that 'black' designated the Kabars, who at the time could still be physically distinguished from the Hungarians. However, this supposition is ill-founded. The Kabars (particularly if that appellation is extended to the Székelys as well) were found not only in the gyulas' domain but also in areas under the direct rule of the prince, in Transdanubia, Bihar, and along the Nyitra River. Thus the information, cited by Bruno of Querfurt, that they were baptized in the Roman religion in 1008, cannot be correct, for these baptisms occurred mostly during Géza's reign and must have been completed by the year 1000. Since it was a custom among Turkic peoples to use the adjectives 'white' and 'black' in reference to levels of politico-military hierarchy, essentially to distinguish the rulers from the ruled, the most likely explanation is that in the context of Stephen's Hungary, 'black' referred to the part of the population that was yet to be 'subjected' to the king.

Hungarian legends and chronicles, and foreign sources all agree: the subjection of the 'black' Hungarians to Stephen's rule was accomplished in two or more stages. First came the occupation of Transylvania and the abolition of title of gyula; in the next stage, the region ruled by Ajtony was fully incorporated into the Hungarian kingdom. However, there are grounds for believing that there was a preliminary stage, in which northern Transylvania, home of the five clans of original settlers, voluntarily adhered to the kingdom. This follows from the fact, noted earlier, that the five clans were allowed to retain one third of their estates when the {1-400.} county-structure was imposed. A similar policy was followed in other parts of Hungary, notably in Komárom county: where the proposed county coincided with a clan's estate, and if the clan voluntarily transferred its central castle and two thirds of the land to the king, then one third of the land was granted in perpetuity to the clan's chief. There is one clear example of this procedure in Transylvania, involving Doboka county, which originally belonged to the Zsombor clan; the clan retained one third of the estate, while the remaining two thirds — including Doboka castle — became the royal county. As was noted earlier, there is ample evidence to indicate that the estates of the Mikola, Borsa, and Agmánd clans were divided in similar fashion. This pattern distinguishes northern Transylvania from the region south of the Maros; only north of that river can one find toponyms that evoke the tribal names of warriors who, in the latter third of the 10th century, broke away from an already disintegrating tribal structure and put themselves in the service of the king — thus Jenő in Doboka county, Keszi in Kolozs county, and Megyer on the right bank of the Maros River.

The name of Doboka county bears other implications. According to the legend recorded by Anonymus, the repression of Ajtony's rebellion was led by Csanád, son of Doboka and nephew of King St. Stephen. Since Doboka's ancestry cannot be traced to the Árpád family, he could only have been related to King St. Stephen on his mother's side. It was suggested earlier that Doboka had taken as wife Karold, who was Sarolt's sister and King St. Stephen's aunt. Apart from the fact that there is no obvious, alternative explanation, this hypothesis is reinforced by toponymic evidence that Doboka was related to both Árpád's descendants and to the Transylvanian gyulas. According to documents dating from the Middle Ages, he gave his name not only to the castle at Doboka, but also to two localities in Baranya county (where the Árpád family prevailed), one situated between the Drava and Sava rivers (an area ruled by the gyulas), one on the left bank of the Tisza (on the {1-401.} salt-route, near Pátroha), and to another (called Datk today) by the Olt bend, in the border-guard region. Since the castle raised on the home territory of the leading, Zsombor clan bears his name, it can be concluded that at the turn of the 11th century, Doboka must have been the most prominent member of the original clans. And since the castle-seats of royal counties were commonly named after the first count, Doboka must have been leader of the clans, or tribe that voluntarily submitted to the rule of King St. Stephen.

After these preliminaries, the gyula's domain was reduced to the lands lying south of the Maros, and his only hope lay in his Byzantine allies, who were making steady progress against the Bulgars. When Vidin fell to the Byzantines in 1002, a military showdown between Stephen and the gyula became unavoidable. Stephen made the first move, while the Byzantines were still recovering from the bloody war they had waged against the Bulgars. According to the Altaich Annals, he launched his attack on the gyula, in 1003, from northern Transylvania, which by then was part of his domain. Unable to put up effective resistance, the gyula surrendered. Stephen took him and his family into captivity, and, since his priests considered them 'pagans', he had them baptized.

There is no record of this gyula's name. In the 13th-century version of the 'Old Gesta', he is referred to as 'the third'; in Anonymus' chronicle, as the 'younger'; and, in the Altaich Annals of 1003, he is mentioned only by his title: 'The Hungarian King (rex) Stephen came with an army to attack his uncle King (rex) Julus, took the latter, as well as the latter's wife and sons into captivity, and imposed Christianity on (the gyula's) country (regnum).'[6]6. Gombos, Catalogus Fontium, vol. I, p. 92. This story was embellished in the chronicles that Anonymus drew upon — or perhaps by Anonymus himself — to turn Stephen's campaign into a crusade against the pagan Gyula, their assumption being that the latter owed his lifelong incarceration to an unwillingness to renounce paganism. However, according to the expanded, 13th-century version of the 'Old Gesta', Stephen forced {1-402.} Gyula to take baptism, and thereafter treated him with respect. In any event, Anonymus records that the gyula's sons, whom he calls Buja and Bonyha, were considered part of the Hungarian elite until their death in 1045.

A contemporary source, Thietmar, Bishop of Merseburg, offers some additional details that came from the Hungarian royal court. He recorded that 'Prokuj Senior was the uncle (avunculus) of the king of Pannonia, who had once before — like this time — expelled him from his seats. Although Prokuj was not able to redeem his captive wife, his nephew — despite the fact that they were enemies — graciously gave her back to him as a present.'[7]7. Ibid, vol. III, p. 2203. Thietmar's reference to the gyula's two 'dethronements' finds support in the expanded, 14th-century version of the Gellért legend. The source indicates that King St. Stephen appointed Csanád commander, and Gyula deputy commander of the forces sent to put down Ajtony's rebellion in 1008. Csanád killed Ajtony and cut out his tongue, keeping it as proof of his victory; unaware of this act, Gyula presented Ajtony's head to the king, claiming it was he who had done the heroic deed. When the truth became known, Gyula was 'cast out' from the royal court. It appears from this account that after being expelled for the first time from Transylvania, Gyula entered the king's service and got back his wife (and probably his sons as well) without having to pay ransom; then, because of his misdemeanour during the campaign against Ajtony, he was expelled a second time. Thietmar, for his part, relates that Prokuj took refuge with one of Stephen's enemies, the Polish King Boleslaw the Brave, who put him in charge of a castle near the Hungarian border. This castle was subsequently taken by Stephen, but there is no further trace of the gyula Prokuj.

Thus the last gyula was called Prokuj, a compound of the Slavic words 'prok', meaning 'remainder', and 'uj' meaning 'uncle' (presumably in reference to Stephen). His name may be at the root of two toponyms (with Hungarian diminutive suffixes), the {1-403.} villages of Parajd and Pród, on the Küküllő River; localities named after his sister Sarolt and his sons, Buja and Bonyhád, are found nearby. The Slavic origin of Prokuj's name should cause no surprise: there were other Hungarian given names of Slavic derivation, such as Bogát (Slavic meaning 'rich') and Zombor/Zsombor (meaning 'bison'), the gyula's subjects commonly applied to him the Slavic title vojevoda ('commander'), which inspired the Transylvanian title voivode of later date. The names of Zombor's daughters also point to a Slavic environment and to the multilingual habits of the gyulas' families: Sarolt and Karold, Bulgaro-Turkish names signifying 'white lady' and 'black lady', were common in high-ranking Hungarian families. The word hölgy (Hungarian for 'lady') also means 'weasel' (cf. the toponym Hőgyész = hölgyész, meaning 'weasel-hunter'). Both words are of Finno-Ugric origin, and, as early as the Ugrian period, the second one had given rise to menyasszony, meaning 'bride' — perhaps because (according to Muslim sources dating from before the Hungarian conquest) Hungarians once paid for their brides in weasel-skins. The fact that Slavic, Bulgaro-Turkish and (Finno-Ugric) Hungarian were all spoken at Zombor's court in Gyulafehérvár is shown by the alternative version of Sarolt's name cited in Thietmar's account: Beleknegini. Thietmar translated her name as 'beautiful woman' (pulchra domina), which indicates he was aware that the Bulgaro-Turkish word aldi ('weasel', in Hungarian menyét) also signified bride in the Finno-Ugric-Hungarian menyasszony (or it might have been translated to him simply as 'lady' or 'woman'); and he translates the Bulgaro-Turkish sar, meaning 'white', with the Slavic word bele. One of Prokuj's sons had a Slavic name, Buja ('daring'), while the other bore a Bulgaro-Turkish name, Bonyha ('little bull'; cf. the grandfather's name, Zombor = 'bison'!). The name Doboka also appears to be of Slavic origin, the word dob ('oak') being complemented by a Hungarian diminutive suffix — not an uncommon practice in Hungarian names. (Szil, the name of one the branches of the {1-404.} Kalocsa clan, also comes from a proper name.) If this interpretation of Doboka's linguistic origin is correct, then the name must have been given after the disappearance of the Slavic nasal in the 10th century, otherwise it would have probably taken the form domb(ka).

Doboka's attitude towards the efforts of King St. Stephen to unite the country diverged sharply from that of the gyula Prokuj, but it is clear that even north of the Maros, many disagreed with him. So did his son Csanád, who, judging from toponyms (Szászcsanád and Erdőcsanád) that evoke his name (or descendants with the same name), actually lived south of the Maros, in the gyula's domain, where he had links through his mother, Karold. According to the longer version of the Gellért legend, Csanád at first rallied to Stephen's enemy, Ajtony. Historians have generally concluded that Ajtony sided with the gyulas; there is even a village near Kolozsvár that bears his name. There are grounds for believing that after the capture of the gyula Prokuj, it was Ajtony who preserved the family's rule outside Transylvania, along the lower reaches of the Maros, and, with the help of the Byzantines, continued to oppose Stephen. Some time after 1002, he had himself baptized in the Greek Orthodox faith at the Byzantine town of Vidin, and he even founded an Orthodox monastery near his seat at Marosvár (today's Csanád). In or around 1008, the king directed the gyula Prokuj, now a loyal subject, to lead an attack on Ajtony; the gyula was joined by Csanád, who had betrayed Ajtony and fled to the royal court.

Byzantine help did not materialize, and the combination of royal armed might and internal betrayal led to the defeat of Ajtony, who paid with his life for having stubbornly defended an outdated cause, the autonomy of the gyulas. Stephen pardoned his family, and they were even allowed to retain part of their estates in Csanád county, in the same district where Ajtonymonostora was later to rise on the banks of the Maros. Csanád and Prokuj vied for the victor's {1-405.} laurels, but it was the former who won the king's favour, and he was appointed count of the county that was established on Ajtony's lands, and which bears his name. Anonymus, who knew about Stephen's campaign against Ajtony, made no mention of Gyula's participation, but he recorded this outcome. In chapter 11 of his chronicle, he relates that at the time of the Hungarian conquest, the region stretching from the Maros to the Danube (at Orsova) was ruled by Glad, who had come from Vidin (evidently Anonymus believed he was a Bulgar) and benefited from the aid of the Cumanians. Anonymus adds that 'one of his descendants was Ajtony, who, much later, in the time of King St. Stephen, was killed in his castle on the Maros River by Csanád, son of Doboka, nephew of the king, for he had been in every respect an opponent of the said king. The king rewarded Csanád for his loyal service by giving him a wife, as well as Ajtony's castle and all its dependencies... This castle still bears the name of Csanád.' Anonymus' story of Ajtony and Csanád could not have been based on the ancient tales recorded in the expanded Gellért legend, for it contains no reference to Gyula and diverges in other important matters of detail. For example, in the legend, Ajtony falls in battle, whereas in Anonymus' chronicle he is killed in his castle by Csanád. According to the legend, Csanád was originally pagan and a follower of Ajtony, but when the latter slanders him, he seeks refuge at the court of King St. Stephen, who has him baptized and sends him against Ajtony in the company of Gyula (who was, perhaps, to keep an eye on Ajtony). All this is missing from Anonymus' chronicle, where it is simply noted that Csanád was Doboka's son and a nephew of St. Stephen.

Bruno of Querfurt recorded in 1008 that the 'black Hungarians' had been driven by force of arms to convert to the Roman faith. The Southern Carpathians and the Danube became the border between a Hungary unified by King St. Stephen and the Byzantine empire. The whole of Transylvania was now under the rule of the Hungarian king.