Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Hungary: Pre-History and Early History
This article discusses the known pre-history and early history of the area corresponding to modern day Hungary, and the peoples associated with this area. For an account of the more recent history of Hungary, see History of Hungary.
4 The Great Migration of Peoples (c. 375 - c. 568); the Slavs ( c. 500 – c. 896) and the Avars (c.568 – c.800)
Archeological evidence suggests that this area has been populated by humans since well before the prehistoric Neolithic period. Findings from Vértesszölös, for example, revealed a million years old dwelling place of prehistoric man. Human settlement began at the latest about 8,000 BC. Hungary was home to many historical cultures.
Iron Age (c. 700 BC - 9 BC)
During the Early Iron Age (700-500 BC), Thracians settled east of the Tisza, and Illyrians (Pannonians) west of the Danube. The latter erected enormous earthwork as defence against the Scythians (who probably temporarily occupied eastern Hungary roughly around 500), and later against the Celts. The Celts came from the west around 450 BC and expanded to whole present-day Hungary in the Late Iron Age. However, the Pannonians (in the southwest) and Thracians did not cease to exist.
In the first half of the 1st century BC, the Dacian king Burebista extended Dacian rule in the Pannonian Plain up to present-day eastern Austria. He was fighting the celtic Boii in southwestern Slovakia and maybe in northern Hungary around 60 BC (after 113 BC, the Celts in northwestern Hungary were possibly the Boii). But the Dacians were stopped by the expansion of the Roman Empire. The Dacians largely ceased in present-day Hungary at the beginng of the 1st century AD, the Celts gradually later on.
Roman period (9 BC – c. 4th century )
The Roman Empire subdued the Panonians, Dacians, Celts and other people in this territory. The territory west of the Danube (Pannonia) was conquered by the Roman Empire between 35 BC and 9 BC and became a province of the Roman Empire under the name of Pannonia (Pannonia ceased in the 5th century with the end of the West Roman Empire ). The easternmost parts of present-day Hungary also became parts of the Roman Empire as the province of Dacia (Dacia was created in 106 AD and ceased in 271 AD).The territory between the Danube and the Tisza was inhabited by the Sarmatian Iazyges from the 1st to the 4th century AD (first findings are from 80 BC). The Roman Emperor Trajan officially allowed the Iazyges to settle there as confederates. The remaining territory was Thracian and Dacian. In addition, the Vandals settled at the upper Tisza river in the 2nd half of the 2nd century AD.
The four centuries of Roman rule created an advanced and flourishing civilization. Many of the important cities of today's Hungary were founded during the Roman period, such as Aquincum (Budapest), Sopianae (Pécs), Arrabona (Győr), Salva (Esztergom), Savaria (Szombathely) and Scarbantia (Sopron). Christianity spread in Pannonia in the 4th century.
The Great Migration of Peoples (c. 375 - c. 568); the Slavs ( c. 500 – c. 896) and the Avars (c.568 – c.800)
In 375, the nomadic Huns, an asiatic Mongolian-Turkish nomadic people, first began invading Europe from the eastern steppes, thus also initiating the Great Migration of Peoples . In 380, the Huns penetrated to the present-day Hungary. They became an important factor in this region from around 400 onwards.
At the same time (379 - 395), the Roman Empire allowed the "barbarian" groups of the Goths, Alans, Huns, and the Germanic Marcomanni and Quadi to settle in Pannonia, i.e. on Roman territory. The (Vizi)Goths, Alans, Vandals and most of the Quadi and Marcomanni, however, left this territory around 400 and moved to western and southern Europe.
The Huns – taking advantage of the departure of the Goths, Quadi and others – created an important empire in 423 based in Hungary. In 453 CE the European Huns reached the height of their expansion under the well known conquerer Attila the Hun. The empire ceased in 455, when the Huns were defeated by the neighbouring Germanic tribes (such as the Quadi, the Gepidi and the Skiri ).
The Germanic Gepidi (having lived to the east of the upper Tisza river since 260 AD) moved to the eastern Carpathian Basin in 455. They ceased to exist in 567 when they were defeated by the Lombards and Avars (see below).
The Germanic Ostrogoths inhabited Pannonia – with Roman Empire's consent – between 456 and 471.
In 476, the West Roman Empire, still covering Pannonia, officially ceased to exist, although the real decline of Roman influence in this territory had started as early as with the arrival of the Huns.
The first Slavs came to Hungary's territory probably from the north roughly after the departure of the Ostrogoths (471). Together with the Lombards (see below), they became the main inhabitants of this territory until the arrival of the Avars (see below).
Around 530, the Germanic Lombards settled in today’s western Hungary (Pannonia). They had to fight against the Gepidi and the Slavs. In 568, pushed by the Avars, they moved to northern Italy.
The nomadic Avars from Asia arrived in the 560's, destroyed the Gepidi in eastern Hungary, drove away the Lombards in western Hungary, and subjugated and partly assimilated the Slavs in this territory. The Avars, just like the Huns decades ago, established a big empire. The empire was destroyed around 800 by Frankish and Slavic attacks, but above all by internal feuds. The remaining few Avars were quickly assimilated by the Slavs.
Around 800, notheastern Hungary became part of the Nitrian principality , which itself became part of Great Moravia in 833. Also, after 800, southeastern Hungary was conquered by Bulgaria, but in 881 it was lost to Great Moravia. Western Hungary (Pannonia) was initially basically Frankish territory, but in 839 the Slavic Balaton Principality was founded in southwestern Hungary and in 883/884 the whole of western Hungary was conquered by Great Moravia. The advanced economic and political conditions of the Slavs, who had been settling in the area of today's Hungary, exerted a significant influence over the newly arrived Magyars (see below); in fact, several words related to agriculture, politics, religion and handicrafts are expressed in the Hungarian language by words borrowed from the Slavic peoples.
Arrival of the Magyars (after 896)
The first (at that time only temporary) raids of ancient proto-Magyars to this territory occurred in the 860's. It was only in 895/896 that the Magyars decided to cross the Carpathians foreve. The chieftain Árpád is traditionally said to be the person that has led seven proto-Magyar tribes (one of which was called Magyars) out of the steppes of the Ukraine into the Carpathian basin. These seven tribes later became the nucleus of the Kingdom of Hungary under Árpád's great-great-grandson, Stephen I of Hungary. Although Christianization of this territory started as early as in the 4th century AD, the newly arrived Magyars were christianized only at the end of the 10th century under Géza and this task was finished by Stephen I of Hungary, who was officially crowned king by the pope in 1000 AD. For a continuation and for details see History of Hungary.
Theories saying that modern Magyars are related to ancient Sumerians or even the Huns are rejected by all serious scholars both in Hungary and abroad. See also Magyars
For the ethymology of the word "Hungarians/Hungary" see Magyars.
- Sources of early Hungarian history
- History of Hungary
- Hungarian prehistory (provides a very specific and not generally accepted view on Hungary's prehistory by one author)
- A History of Hungary- By the Hungarian Ministry of Tourism
- Hungary Before the Hungarians
- The Hungarian Old Country- by Dr. Istvan Kiszely (in Hungarian)
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