|TRANSYLVANIA AND THE THEORY...|
Interest in early history of the Hungarians and of the peoples of the Danube region in general - has greatly increased in Hungary recently. Unlike in Rumania, however, historical curiosity in Hungary has distinguished itself by a realistic reappraisal of the past. Myths are being discarded and reality is being discovered by the newest means of modern scholarship. An example of this trend is the round-table discussion on the peoples of Carpathian Basin before the Hungarian conquest in the 9th century. It was originally broadcast by the Hungarian Radio. In 1979, it was published in the first issue of a new magazine, Historia, serving the general public. The participants of this Discussion are all prominent scholars and professors, leading authorities in their fields György Gyôrffy, Péter Hanák, Laszló Makkai, and András Mócsy.
A century ago, or even fifty years ago, records of the era of Hungarian conquest in the consciousness of Hungarians were tied to Etelköz, Verecke, and Pusztaszer. Today these names are gradually receding into the realm of literature, while in Hungarian historical consciousness their place is being taken by Vértesszöllôs, Fenékpuszta, and Szabolcs. Historical know- ledge and interest has changed fundamentally in recent de- cades. Myth has been replaced by excavation. Public law, which virtually dominated political historiography, has been replaced by new approaches of social and cultural history. In- terest has shifted away from the heroic deeds of the chieftains and turned toward the culture-building activity of the peoples of the Danubian Basin. This change is also characterized by greater emphasis upon exact demonstration and respect for facts. The attempt to obtain meaning from stones, bones, and tools, has become paramount.
The discoveries of archaeologists have undoubtedly pro- vided historians with information which, when compared with the sporadic and metastatic written and linguistic traditions, can be considered objective. Materials which, are discovered by archaeology, quite obviously, were not left intentionally for posterity. Those who left these materials behind did not wish to make a statement about themselves. These "remnants," whether in form of graves, or signs of someone having lived there, simply remained because they existed.
What does the archaeological knowledge of this era tell us about the centuries before the Hungarian conquest, about the Hungarians of the era of conquest, and generally about the people who lived in our homeland at that time?
We have information about cultures and peoples of the Roman era and the early Middle Ages. There are cultures we can associate with people, and we know which people; how- ever, we also have knowledge of cultures which we cannot as yet associate with a specific group of people. In general, cultures can be best characterized by ages rather than by peoples. The question of relationship between culture and ethnicity brings about intense debates. However, archaeology possesses another secure anchor and that is settlement. In that connection one might make reference to Fenékpuszta or to Tác, one of the most significant Trans-Danubian archaeolo- gical sites, also mention might be made of my most recent dig at Tokod. In each case the continuity of settlement existed in the midst of two contemporaneous but distinct cultures, between which there were no signs of continuity. There were settlements which remained even after the demise of a great historical epoch, such as the Roman area settlement of Fenék- puszta which significantly outlived that age. However, there occurred a sharp break in the fifth century. During the most recent excavations, a mass grave was discovered which con- tained the remains of a number of individuals who had been left unburied for at least a half year, if no longer, after their death; this points to an obvious and sharp break with con- tinuity. Another and different example of continuity was the Tokod fortress, where a small and, in terms of their patterns of life, well-defined, Romanized people lived in a Roman era settlement, undisturbed until the end of the fifth century.
However, what we can responsibly state today is that in the eight and ninth centuries we know of no archaeologically defin- able culture or settlement in the Carpathian Basin which can be traced back to Roman times. Conversely, we know of no settlement which existed in such a manner in the eighth and ninth centuries that it could trace back its existence con- tinuously to the earlier centuries, specifically the Roman era. What peoples lived here in the eighth and ninth centuries? We must first think of the Avars, specifically in relation to that culture which the archaeologists, perhaps with excessive cir- cumspection, define as Avar-era rather than Avar. We can also think of the Slavs; however, with them it is especially in- teresting that in the eighth and ninth centuries we cannot speak of a single Slavic culture; instead mention can be made of numerous such archaeologically definable cultures, among which one of the other, with greater or lesser certainty, can be attributed to the Slavs or also to the Slavs.
A seventh century Byzantine source permits us a glance at the ethnic affiliation of the peoples who lived here. As a con- sequence of the war between Byzantium and the Avars, the Byzantines captured 8800 warriors, among them 3000 Avars, 3000 Gepids, 800 Slavs, and 2000 barbarians, in all likelihood Bulgarians. This mirrors the ethnic character of the Car- pathian Basin in the seventh century. During the era of migra- tion, the Gepids occupied the eastern half of the Carpathian Basin and Transylvania; they never left that area and yet dis- appeared by the ninth century just as the Avars did. There is an old Russian proverb about this: "They disappeared just as the Avars did."
Yes, one could cite other examples of such disappearances. For example, the Sarmatians occupied for nearly four cen- turies practically the entire Hungarian lowlands (the Alfold); although two of their leaders are mentioned in the sources even after the destruction of the empire of the Huns in the fifth century, after that one can find no further mention of them in the sources. In such cases one is not speaking about a catastrophic destruction of peoples, but rather that the social life of a group of people has been so disarranged that it cannot maintain it even on the primitive tribal level and thus it can be more easily assimilated, perhaps even by a change of language.
There has been no mention thus far of a people which played an important role during the Roman era, namely the Dacians. It is true that our knowledge concerning them relates to their existence in the first century B.C. and first to third centuries A.D. The Dacian state, which spread throughout Transylvania and the lower Danube region, was conquered by Trajan at the beginning of the second century and was under Roman rule for altogether 170 years. (This was a substantially shorter period than the 400 years of Roman rule over Pan- nonia.) The question, therefore, is as follows: Were the Dacians destroyed during this 170 years or did they maintain themselves as a Romanized people until the third century, when the Romans moved out of the eastern provinces as a con- sequence of the numerous Gothic incursions.
The situation with the Dacians is the same as with the other indigenous population of the Roman era. It is a matter of common knowledge that the Romans nowhere brought into being a "tabula rasa" and certainly did not engage in the de- struction of native populations. Nonetheless, the indigenous populations of the Roman provinces disappeared together with the end of Roman rule. The Illyrian and the Celtic natives were assimilated in the same manner as the Sarmatians and obviously the Dacians shared this fate; they did not outlive the era of Roman rule. As a people and as an ethnic group they disappeared.
Permit me to cite a recently deceased outstanding Ru- manian historian and archaeologist, Constantin Daicoviciu. In one of his works published shortly before his death -- funda- mentally in agreement with the observations of András Mó- csy -- he stated the following: "The second half of the fifth century witnessed the beginning of deep troubles (in the territory of Transylvania also -- my observation) and every settlement large or small known to be Daco-Roman, seemed to be empty. (I must myself add that this was the case from an archaeological point of view.) The autochthonous Daco-Roman peoples did not demonstrate their presence in the archeolo- gical remains and thus one is really faced with the temporary absence of these peoples from their settlements; they moved back into the mountains. Only after the passage of a certain time, which could not have been very long, did the original in- habitants return to those settlements which had, in the mean- while, been conquered by the Slavs beginning in the eighth century." Thus Daicoviciu, the outstanding Rumanian archaeologist, also states that on the entire territory of historic Hungary, including Transylvania, the continuity of peoples had been broken.
I cannot keep silent a seemingly serious methodological observation. To what extent may one identify archaeological evidence with an ethnic group? In his introductory observa- tions Andras Mócsy spoke rather about cultures and settle- ments which were not always identifiable with ethnic groups. Well, can we tie it to a specific ethnic group in this instance?
We must know from written historical sources in what ter- ritory a people lived at a specific time. If the concrete archaeological culture extends to the same territory at the same time, then the identification is permitted. One of the difficulties facing the researcher is that the archaeologically specified cultures are either smaller or larger than one or another ethnic unit. The other difficulty is that an archaeologically defined culture or object does not speak. Therefore the determination, let us say, what language was spoken by the user of an object is the responsibility of linguistic history.
Certainly an archaeologist cannot make a skeleton speak, just as it is impossible to determine what language a dead per- son laid out in contemporary European dress spoke or to which ethnic group he belonged without some telltale sign. However, this is precisely what most interests the scholar. This question cannot be answered by archaeology, but only by historical sources; this must be emphasized in any decision concerning the history of the movement of peoples, because contemporary man has a tendency to view the ethnic groupings of the Middle Ages through the same glasses with which he views peoples and nations today. He does this in spite of the fact that the con- sciousness of peoples in the Middle Ages was manifested in dif- ferent ways. Europe at the time of the migr..tion of peoples was a great ethnic melting pot in which the different tribes had not as yet solidified definitively into peoples; a war inevitably brought entirely new groupings, often with different names, into being. This is why it is, especially in the case of Eastern Europe and most evidently in the Byzantine sources -- that constantly changing ethnic designations appear and we cannot decide which peoples were later referred to by such ethnic designations. If we examine which peoples have had a role in the territory known as East Central Europe since the first mil- lenium (such as Poles, Hungarians, Croatians) and then search for these peoples on an ethnic map reflecting an earlier period, we will be shocked to learn that these peoples either did not exist or were located elsewhere and lived under different circumstances .
What György Gyôrffy has said about the ethnic relations of the migrations of the fifth through tenth centuries and the ethno-geneticism of the early Middle Ages, only strengthens the methodological concern expressed earlier. Is the theory of the double conquest, which has elicited so much controversy among historians and archaeologists the past few years, accept- able on the basis of this argument? Is it possible to substantiate the theory that the late Avar archaeological findings actually masked the participants to an earlier ''first'' conquest of Hun- gary, given the uncertainties of the ethnic explanation of such findings .
From the aforesaid it follows that the substantiation of this is very difficult, indeed almost impossible. The archaeologists uncovered large graveyards which contained large numbers of artifacts characterized by griffin and tendril ornamentation; from the findings it is possible to ascertain that we are faced with the remnants of a people comprised mainly of mounted horsemen, although they were also acquainted with the rudi- ments of agriculture. From the layers it is generally possible to determine the era to which the culture belonged, in which century it appeared, and how long it lasted, but it is simply not possible to make archaeological findings speak; nor do these findings reveal what language these peoples spoke nor to what ethnic group they belonged.
There is a Byzantine source from app. 670 according to which the Bulgarian tribal confederation living on the steppe lands along the Black Sea disintegrated and one part migrated to the Carpathian basin. Might there have been Hungarians among these people?
It has long been known that among the subjects of the Avar empire were various Ogur-Turkish and Bulgarian tribes. The Danube Bulgarians were also Ogur Turks, who were also known as Onogurs or Onogundur Bulgarians. This Onogur designa- tion was nothing more than the name used by foreigners to de- signate the Magyars. (It was used in different versions such as ongr, ungr, hungarus, ungar.) Thus, our ethnic name can be traced back to the Bulgarian-Turkish Onogur designation. T his, however, does not mean that every Onogur people spoke the Finno-Ugrian language, since we know specifically that the Danubian Onogur-Bulgarians spoke a distinct Bulgarian-Tur- kish dialect; numerous texts of their language have survived. We can consider it to be a proven fact that during the Avar era such a Bulgarian-Turkish people moved into the Carpathian basin; they had a role in the development of the Hungarians, but we cannot state that the Bulgarian-Turkish element which came spoke a Finno-Ugrian language; furthermore, we cannot state that they determined the ethnic-linguistic struc- ture of the Carpathian basin.
Laszló Makkai made reference to a written record. Until now we have rather gathered together the archaeological ma- terial supportive of these positions. However, we must associate and confront these findings with the lessons derived from these Byzantine, Arab, and German sources which have been known for at least a century and subjected to critical scrutiny in the past.
In connection with the Byzantine sources I wish to mention three examples, which will also illuminate the three methods of source criticism. One of these is the account of Priskos, an important source for the history of the Huns. He wrote very graphically about the court of Attila. The reason the work is very significant and a very dependable source is because Priskos reported as an eye-witness; he had undertaken an official trip to the Carpathian basin. (He visited here as a political envoy in the mid-fifth century.) He wrote that the people living north of the Danube spoke the language of the Huns and the Goths and that only those knew Latin who engaged in the Balkan trade with the Romans.
The author of the other Byzantine source was Prokopios' the last great figure of Greek historical writing in the sixth century. However, what Prokopios wrote about the Carpathian basin was pure speculation, written mostly at his desk without the benefit of first-hand observation. For example, he wrote that the territory north of the Danube was completely un- populated; however, we know from other sources exactly which peoples lived there.
Finally, mention should be made of the third category of sources. Numerous chronologies provide information about the history of the Avar-Byzantine wars; these are mostly quite sketchy and provide only brief statements about some of the events.
The other collections of sources only give one or two brief references about the peoples who lived there' most often in connection with some military conflict or political event.
Numerous contemporary sources took note of the Hungarian conquest and mention was made of those peoples who fought alongside the Hungarians; the Fulda Chronicles, for example, mentioned the Bulgarians, Moravians, and Franks. I wish to call special attention to the Mohammedan sources, most written in Arabic and a small number in Persian. These provided a trade-inspired geography for the territories fre- quented by merchants, including also information about the peoples living in the area of the Black Sea, the boundaries of the Magyar-populated Etelköz region, and the boundaries and neighbouring peoples generally. They state that at the Danube the Bulgarians (also known as Nandorok) were the neighbours of the Magyars; furthermore, these sources also reveal that be- tween the Bulgarians -- whose rule extended to the southern half of the great Hungarian Plain (Alföld) -- and the Mora- vians there was unsettled land so wide that it took a ten days' journey to cross it. After this, these sources turned their atten- tion to the Slavs in such a way that on the basis of these de- scriptions we obtain also information about the large numbers of Cinikumans in the Danube valley.
If we compare the Arab sources with some similar Western European geographical accounts, the picture becomes even clearer. During the 830's a Bavarian geographer reported on the peoples living north of the Danube; he identified them not only by tribe, but also stated how many civitas were included in their territory; (a civitas was a region around a fortress; one civitas was equivalent to one clan). We are informed that the Bulgarians possessed five civitas north of the Danube. He men- tioned the Magyars of Etelköz; however, no mention was made of those peoples who arrived in this region only later, such as the Petschenegs, Cumans, and Vlachs.
We have reviewed the significant and most accepted sources, namely the Byzantine, Arab, and German ones. There are, however, some Magyar sources, which have as their major theme the conquest era and the situation of that time. This major source is Anonymous. He influenced not only the Hungarian historical consciousness, but also Hungarian his- toriography. His influence can be gauged on the basis of these two examples. The 1975 Hungarian language facsimile edition of Anonymous' published in 12'000 copies, was completely sold out in four weeks. (Since then a new edition has also been sold out. ) The other fact is that not only in our scholarly tradition, but also in the historical scholarship of our neighbours --in Slovakia and Rumania it is a fundamental source, indeed even a bible for this purpose. Hence, where do we stand re- garding the critical value of Anonymous?
We must not forget that the writer Magister P., known as Anonymous, lived 300 years after the era of the Hungarian conquest; he had no written sources about the event as the modern historian does. If he consulted older materials, he turned first to the Bible or some ancient writer (such as the account of the Scythians by Justinian), but he possessed only very few and scant sources about the conquest era itself. This being granted, he wished to present an interesting account of the conquest based upon a literary form widespread in twelfth century France. This literary form grew out of the culture of chivalry and through it they wished to revive in an enthralling manner those histories which were read at court and reaped a great success there. This literary form was the romantic gesta. As the 'romantic" appellation indicates, its author did not strive to engage in critical historical scholarship, but rather wished to entertain. However, there was in Anonymous a significant social message for his age. He presented numerous Hungarian heroes in his pages and in many cases mentioned that the descendants of these heroes were still living and work- ing on that land their ancestors had conquered. Anonymous re- counted these episodes of the conquest in a very interesting and colorful manner. He also presented these episodes throughout his work. pointing out how a certain leader conquered that land which his descendants now owned. It was in this that his work spoke meaningfully to his contemporaries. We must somehow imagine that Anonymous, as Béla IlI's notary, was well acquainted with the aristocratic circles and thus was in a position to listen to the stories recounted by the aristocrats about their ancestors; from these he attempted to put together some kind of romantic gesta. Since these ever-changing oral family traditions (over a 300 year period) have no significant historical source value, Anonymous has no authentic source value.
This conclusion can be found in the introduction to the new edition of Anonymous, also written by György Gyôrffy. Thus, Anonymous flashed back the family, gentilitial, and pro- perty relations of his own age to the era of conquest. This is demonstrated by the fact that he presented such peoples in his work who were either not there at the time of the conquest or can no longer be found in the Carpathian basin. On the one hand, he spoke of the fact that after the death of Attila the Romans conquered this territory and the Hungarians sup- posedly battled with the Romans at Veszprem. On the other hand, he placed the Cumans into Hungary in the ninth cen- tury, even though they only arrived there in the eleventh century. The confounding of facts and the confusion of chronology characterizes the Gesta of Anonymous in much the same manner as the ahistorical and retrospective presentations of other chroniclers.
There is, however, an interesting feature about Anonymous we have not mentioned as yet; he enjoyed engaging in linguistics. He connected a whole series of personal names with place names, even if he did so only by employing his imagina- tion. The recently deceased outstanding personality of Hun- garian linguistic scholarship, István Kniezsa, established a theoretically useful and methodologically outstanding system for research into place names. This system extended to place- names and river names. On the basis of this modern linguistic scholarship, what was the appearance of the Carpathian basin around 1000 A.D.? The researches indicate that there were three categories of river names. One of these categories com- prised the following: Szamos, Maros, Kôrös, Tisza, Dráva, Száva, Temes, Duna, and Rába; without exception these date back to Roman times or to even earlier eras, but there is one problem. These are all designations about which nothing else can be proven except that these terms entered both the Hun garian and Rumanian languages through Slavic mediation. Thus these river designations did not come directly from Roman, and even less from Pannonian, IIlyrian, or other peoples, into the language of the Hungarians, Rumanians, or Germans living here, but were taken over from the Slavs. The mid-sized and smaller river designations originated only from those people about whom we have information from the begin- ning of the ninth century; concretely these would be the Hun- garians and the Slavs First a series of Slavic examples: Besz- terce, Zsitva, Rábca . . . and the list could be continued. There is an interesting, peculiar, and specific type among them, such as the Küküllô-Ternava designation; thus we have a dual designation. The Küküllô means "Kökényes" and the Slav word Ternava means the same thing. In an interesting man- ner, the Rumanians took over the Ternava designation from the Slavs living there, while the Hungarians took over the word of Turkic origin, namely Küküllô, but used another word with the same meaning to make the designation. In addition to these Slavic place names, the entire Carpathian basin was characterized by a preponderance of Hungarian place desig- nations, such as Ér, Berrettyo, Aranka, but let us also mention some typical ones such as Nyárád, Lapos, Aranyos -- in Tran- sylvania; in Rumanian, for example, the terms Nyárád and Nyirazs are borrowings from the older form of the Hungarian Nyárágy; Lápos became Lopus, also a borrowing from Hun- harian, and Aranyos became Arics, another borrowing from Hungarian. Therefore, the mid-sized and smaller rivers were already named by those peoples who still live there now.
Yes, that is the case with river designations, but the situation is different with another category of- place names, namely the designations of villages, cities, and fortresses. Those who research the origin of the names of settlements often consider the current designations as the legacy of some long lost people. On the basis of the most resent research, the settlement designations of historic Hungary can generally not be traced back to the era before the conquest. We can prove this by pointing out that the conquering Hungarians captured the territories east and north of the Danube in fierce battles from the Bulgarians and Moravians, while Pannonia fell to them virtually without struggle. We should expect, therefore, that the settlement designations of Pannonia would have remained and lived on in Hungarian place names. This, however, did not occur; every settlement designation dates back only to the post-conquest era. This seems to indicate that settlement designations are not suitable for demonstrating any kind of continuity.
During the course of a lengthy discussion, we have spoken of the new results of archaeology' historical source criticism, and linguistic scholarship and have substantially come to the conclusion that no continuity can be demonstrated between the populations of the former provinces of the Roman Empire and the peoples who lived there in the ninth century, 500 years later. The continuity -- whether it involved a relationship with the Huns, the idea of the "Great Moravian Empire", or descent from the Dacians -- was invented by chroniclers and historians; it was they who provided a historical coloring for the ancient legends and myths.
These myths were raised to a level of scholarly respecta- bility only by the romantic historiography of the early nine- teenth century, in order to awaken the nation, foster an in- terest in the heroic past, and engage in the romantic ideali- zation of this past. In this capacity they undoubtedly achieved something positive of a propagandistic nature 150-200 years ago during the era of national awakening. Scholarship, how- ever, has advanced beyond myth; indeed, a true self-aware- ness -- one might even say a Danube-region self-awareness -- directly demands a historical critique of such myths. We will be able to reconstruct the era of the movement of peoples in our common historical region, namely the Danube basin, in terms of the ethnic and cultural relations, with scholarly ob- jectivity and a sense of realism only if we free scholarship from the intent of providing a legally conditioned historical defense of the current political condition. The international and regional political relations of this region will, in any case, not be decided on the basis of indigenity or historical priorities.
(Translated by THOMAS SZENDREY)
|TRANSYLVANIA AND THE THEORY...|