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AFTER Stephen's death in 1038 Hungary experienced a long period of fluctuating fortunes, for which disputes for the crown were chiefly responsible. There was still no recognised law of succession: the Árpád family tradition, following the national usage, recognised the principle of senioratus, while the natural affection of kings caused them repeatedly to seek to pass over a brother or an uncle in favour of a son. While rebellion against a king recognised as legitimately crowned was rare, there were frequent disputes between rival pretendents to the crown, these civil wars being greatly facilitated by the custom of assigning one third of the country as his appanage to the king's next of kin, known as the 'dux' or 'herceg',who was thus able to raise an army from among his own followers.

The disputes began almost immediately after Stephen's death. All his sons had died in infancy except one, Imre, and he, too, had predeceased his father. Stephen bequeathed his throne to a nephew, Peter, son of his sister and the Doge Otto Orseolo. Peter was an overbearing youth who disliked his subjects and soon had them in arms against him. In 1041 they rebelled, driving him to take refuge at the court of the Emperor Henry III, and in his place elected Samuel Aba, a 'Kun' who had married another of Stephen's sisters. Aba proved as violent, in other directions, as Peter, who came back, assisted by Henry, in 1046. Aba, fleeing, was strangled by 'Hungarians whom he had harmed during his reign'. Peter was reinstated, but his rule was more unpopular than ever, and the Hungarians now bethought them of the surviving members of the House of Árpád - three brothers, Andrew, Béla and Levente, the sons of Stephen's nephew, Vászoly, who had been living in exile in Poland since their father had committed some offence which had caused Stephen to throw him into prison and put out his eyes. The brothers were called back; Peter was killed in flight, and Andrew became king (1047). He lived peaceably with his brothers until he tried to secure the succession for his seven-year-old son, Salamon, whom he had married as an infant to the Emperor Henry III's child daughter, Judith. Levente had renounced his rights rather than accept Christianity, but when Andrew actually had Salamon crowned, Béla revolted. Andrew was killed in the fighting, Salamon took refuge with his father-in-law and Béla mounted the throne (1060). When he died in 1063, his two sons, Géza and Ladislas, who were mutually devoted, at first accepted Salamon as the lawful king, but in 1074 the cousins quarrelled and Salamon was evicted. Géza ruled for three years (1074-7) and Ladislas after him for eighteen (1077-95). Ladislas had only a daughter, and designated as his successor Almus, the younger of Géza's two sons, the elder, Kálmán, having been destined for the church. However, Kálmán seized the throne on his uncle's death, and although Almus at first accepted the situation, the brothers ended by quarrelling and Kálmán had both Almus and his infant son, Béla, blinded. Kálmán then finished his rule (1095-1116) unchallenged, as did his son Stephen II (1116-31) after him. Dying childless, Stephen was succeeded by the blind Béla II, who had been brought up in secrecy by his father's friends. Under Béla (1131-41) and his son Géza II (1141-62) there was no important internal discord, but the succession of Géza's son, Stephen III (1167-72) was disputed, first by his eldest uncle, Ladislas II, who seized the throne in 1162, and after Ladislas' death, in January 1163, by his younger brother, Stephen IV. Stephen IV's death in the spring of 1165 happily exhausted the sum of Stephen III's uncles, and he had no sons. His brother and successor, Béla III (1172-90) had no domestic rivals to his throne, but the short reign of his elder son, Imre (1196-1204) was spent largely in strife with his younger brother, Andrew, who on Imre's death expelled his infant son, Ladislas IV (who, fortunately for his country, died the next year) before beginning his own long reign (1205 - 35).

This endemic dynastic warfare did Hungary much harm. Not only did the fighting which accompanied it bring with it loss of blood and material devastation, but many claimants to the throne called in foreign help - German, Polish and, in the twelfth century, Byzantine - thus opening the way to foreign interference in the country's internal affairs and sometimes bringing political degradation and temporary or permanent losses of territory. Both Peter and Salamon sacrificed the independent status which St Stephen had won for Hungary by doing homage for their thrones to the Emperor. Stephen III's uncles were clients of Byzantium. Aba's wars against Peter's protectors lost Hungary her territory west of the Leitha, which thereafter became the AustroHungarian frontier until 1918. Syrmium and Dalmatia, acquired earlier, were temporarily lost in the twelfth century.

For all this, it must be said that Hungary was, on the whole, lucky in its kings. Quarrelsome as they were, they were generally able, and often attractive. Ladislas I, who, like Stephen and his son, Imre, was canonised after his death, was the outstanding personality among them: a true paladin and gentle knight, a protector of his faith and his people, and of the poor and defenceless. Kálmán, nicknamed 'the Bookman', was, in spite of his atrocious crime against his brother and nephew, an exceptionally shrewd and enlightened ruler (it was he who enacted a famous Law forbidding trials of witches (strigae), quia non sunt). Several other of the Árpáds were men of ability and of endearing nature. Of them all, only Stephen II was almost entirely bad, and Andrew II, irremediably silly.

There were several factors favourable to Hungary's development in the eleventh and twelfth centuries; chief among them, perhaps, the unusually peaceful conditions prevailing during this period in the steppes. The Petchenegs, who had driven the Magyars into Hungary, were themselves pushed into the Balkans in the eleventh century by the Cumans, whose main power was based further east. Hungary suffered only two severe inroads from them, in 1068 and 1091 respectively, and both were incursions of raiding parties which returned to the steppes with their booty. After Austria grew big at the expense of Germany, most of Hungary's other neighbours were approximately her equals in strength, and Hungary contrived to live with most of them on reasonably friendly terms, particularly since all the smaller countries soon came to be linked by a network of dynastic marriages. The wars which did take place were usually family affairs, waged in support of some claimant to a throne and not with the idea of expansion, for the local nations, including the Hungarians, did not think in terms of national imperialism. 'Who', wrote a chronicler once, 'ever heard of Hungarians ruling Czechs, or Czechs, Hungarians?' One of the great virtues of the Árpáds as rulers was that, in the main, they accepted this outlook.

In these relatively peaceful conditions, the population of Hungary increased rapidly, the natural growth being reinforced by a steady flow of immigration. By the end of the twelfth century the cultivable parts of the Dunántúl carried a reasonably dense population, and the Great Plain, too, was beginning to fill up, although more slowly. The valleys of the Vág and Nyitra, the political appurtenance of which had perhaps been doubtful in the tenth century, now came definitively under Hungarian rule, and Transylvania was effectively occupied (probably in several stages) and incorporated. The frontier now ran along the crest of the western Carpathians, through the Tatra, across the upper Poprad valley, and thence along the watershed of the eastern Carpathians and the Transylvanian Alps. Here, too, there was growth. The valleys debouching from these mountains into the plain filled up, while the upper valleys and the basins behind the passes were settled with semi-military communities. Hungarian expansion did not reach into the Austrian Alps, which were now being recolonised and consolidated by the Babenbergs, nor across the Sava and Danube in the south, but Syrmium was conquered and colonised about 1060, and in 1089-90 Ladislas I occupied (or perhaps reoccupied) 'Slavonia', between the middle courses of the Sava and the Drava. In addition, Kálmán, in 1097 took possession of the former kingdom of Croatia, of which he was crowned king in 1106, having meanwhile secured possession also of the northern Dalmatian coast through a complex transaction which included the betrothal of his cousin, Piroska, to John Comnenus, then heir to the Byzantine throne.

Croatia was a dynastic acquisition. How far the Hungaro-Croat union was real (in later phraseology), and how far only personal, is a question which the historians of the two countries argue and can never resolve, since they are talking in terms to which the Middle Ages assigned no precise and immutable meaning. It is certain that Croatia was never treated as an integral part of Hungary. The royal title ran 'King of Hungary and Croatia' and Croatia was administered by a viceroy ('Ban') through its own institutions.

But there were close links, even here; for instance, the Croat privileged classes seem to have enjoyed automatically the status of their Hungarian counterparts. And the advance to the frontiers in the north and east was a process of organic expansion from the earlier nucleus. The normal procedure was to advance the gyepü when conditions allowed, incorporating the former gyepü land into the county system, and forming a new gyepü beyond it. Eventually, when the frontiers became clearly fixed, counties came into being along the whole line. Transylvania was a partial exception. Here the colonisation was exceptionally extensive, and carried through largely with non-Magyar elements. First a screen of Szekels was set in front of the Magyar settlements in the west of the country, and then the Szekels were moved forward into the valleys behind the main eastern passes, the Magyars following behind them. Then 'Saxons' (really Germans from the Rhineland) were settled in the gaps in the line, round Sibiu, Brassó and Beszterce. Both the Saxons and the Szekels enjoyed extensive self-government, the former directly under the king, the latter under a 'Count of the Szekels' representing him; and the whole area, Saxon and Szekel districts and Hungarian counties, was, in view of its dangerous and exposed situation and its remoteness from the capital, placed under a local governor, the 'Voivode of Transylvania'. Unlike Croatia, however, Transylvania was not a separate Land of the Hungarian Crown, but simply an administratively distinct part of the kingdom of Hungary.

Thus even if we leave Croatia out of the account, the effective area of Hungary had by 1200 almost doubled since the original occupation and its population had risen to the big figure (for the time) of some two millions.

The political unity which had been the first of Stephen's great gifts to his country had survived, and so had his second gift of Christianity. His death had, indeed, been followed by a powerful reaction in which attachment to the old beliefs had been inflamed by resentment against both the discipline and the economic burdens (especially that of tithe) imposed by the new faith, and by its foreign associations, as personified in the German and Italian clerics. The second revolt against Peter had been led by the pagan party, who had expected the sons of Vászoly to restore the old religion. In this outburst many monks and clerics had perished, including the saintly St Gerard (Gellért), martyred on the hill overlooking Buda which still bears his name. A second outbreak had occurred in 1063. After this had been put down, however, Christianity had not again been in danger. None of Stephen's successors had rested their power on the church quite so explicitly as he, but several of them, notably Ladislas I, had been powerful protectors and generous patrons of it. The ecclesiastical organisation of the country had been extended pari passu with its political expansion, and the network of monasteries covering the country had grown denser.

Many of the monks were foreigners, chiefly Germans, but some of them Italians or Frenchmen. Their presence had helped to raise the cultural standards of the country, and had also assisted it to make important progress in other fields. By the middle of the twelfth century, agriculture was beginning to go over from stock-breeding to arable farming and viticulture. There were already some towns. The gold, silver and salt-mines were coming into fuller production, to the especial benefit of the king's treasury, into which their yield went. Hungarian coins, and also some Hungarian products, found their way far afield.

All this growth was, of course, gradual, but it soon enabled Hungary to meet any of her neighbours on at least equal terms. In fact, after the accession of Ladislas I, nothing was heard for a long time of German claims to overlordship. Later, the Emperor Manuel Comnenus made pertinacious efforts to establish suzerainty over Hungary, which he invaded no less than ten times in twenty-two years; but although vexatious, his attempts never seriously threatened Hungarian independence. After 1100, indeed, it was more often the Hungarian kings who intervened in their neighbours' affairs, than the converse. Both Kálmán and Stephen II intervened repeatedly in various Russian principalities. Béla III, who had been brought up at the Byzantine court and destined by Manuel, before his marriage, for his heir, ended by turning the tables, and although he did not succeed in acquiring the imperial crown, the lustre of his own easily outshone that of Manuel's successors. He largely dominated the Balkans and also, for a while, exercised sovereignty over Halics.[4] Hungary in his day was almost, or quite, the leading power in south-eastern Europe. Symbolic of this was the fact that while his predecessors' consorts had most often been the daughters of Polish, Russian or Balkan prince-lets, Béla's father-in-law was the king of France himself. An interesting document - the statement of his revenues -sent by Béla to his prospective father-in-law during the marriage negotiations, shows that these were equal to those of his English and French contemporaries and inferior only to those of the two Emperors.

The political form of the country during the period remained that of the absolutist patrimonial kingship. On the very few occasions on which a revision of the laws was undertaken, the optimates, as well as the chief prelates, were consulted, and the king's Council seems to have evolved into a recognised permanent institution. Nevertheless, up to the reign of Andrew II, the field of the king's prerogatives was not restricted and his authority in matters falling within it remained as absolute.

Otto of Freising, writing in the twelfth century, notes that if any grandee committed, or was even suspected of, an offence against the king's majesty, the king could send from his court a servant, of however low degree, who could, single-handed, throw the offender into chains before his

own adherents and carry him off to torture. It was only Andrew's follies and extravagances that produced a revolt, in consequence of which he was forced, in the famous Golden Bull of 1222, to submit to certain restrictions on his freedom of action (e.g., not to appoint foreigners to ffice without the consent of the Council), and to concede that if he or any of his successors violated these promises, he prelates and other dignitaries and nobles of the realm hould be free to 'resist and withstand' such violation with-out imputation of high treason. This jus resistendi remained a treasured, although seldom invoked, right of the Hungarian nation for more than four centuries thereafter.[5]

Other clauses of this famous charter dealt with the position of the freemen - that body which later usage knew as the 'Hungarian nation'.[6] Since St Stephen's day the composition in terms of ancestry of this class must have changed largely, for the limitation of 'noble' status (the term 'noble' was just coming into usage, but may conveniently be used here) to the male line must of itself already have greatly diminished the number of families able to claim it jure descensus a Scythia; not to mention the high mortality rate in a class which by definition was military. Other former freemen had lost their status through rebellion or personal crime, had had it filched from them by powerful neighbours, or had been driven by need to take employment out of their class. On the other and, successive kings had repeatedly carried through the necessary replenishment of the national defence forces by promoting unfree elements or importing foreigners.

The relative measure (it had, of course, never been more than relative) of economic homogeneity which steppe economy had enabled the old class to preserve had also naturally vanished apace under the new conditions, and especially with the transition to private property in land. Foolish kings or pretendents to the Crown had accelerated the process by buying, or rewarding, supporters with grants of land, sometimes very large, and even in the twelfth century we find here and there magnates who own vast estates and demean themselves on them in almost regal fashion. At the other extreme, many 'nobles' sank into real poverty, while preserving their political status. These 'sandalled nobles', as later generations called them, may already have outnumbered the more prosperous members of the 'nation'.

The wiser kings had, however, fought against the development of a magnate class so Kálmán had enacted that all donations made since St Stephen's day should revert to the Crown on the extinction of the beneficiaries' direct heirs - and had reflised to make offices of state hereditary. The class had thus never become institutionalised, and it had, incidentally, accelerated its own metabolism by the frequent commission of offences which entailed confiscation of its estates. The 'nation' had thus never developed along the hierarchical lines which characterised the societies of the contemporary western and central Europe. The most serious threat, to date, to the freedom of its weaker members, had come during Andrew's reign - he had been a notable offender in the matter of lavish bestowal of estates on supporters - and they had then revolted in defence of their old liberties. The most important clauses of the Golden Bull were those which restored their original status, making the 'nation' once more a legally undifferentiated class, the body politic - under and with the king - of Hungary, all of whose members had the same duty of bearing arms when required[7] and the same privilege of paying no taxation to the civic power.

The passage of time had, indeed, altered the social and political function of the 'nation' in another important respect. As we have said, the warriors who followed Árpád across the Carpathians were probably nearly, if not quite as numerous as their domestic slaves and the autochthonous populations put together: they could not unreasonably claim to be Hungary incorporate. But the promotions to their ranks, which in any case grew much rarer in the twelfth century,[8] probably did not even make good the wastage; they certainly did not keep pace with the growth of the unfree population. They dwindled to an oligarchy numbering only a comparatively small fraction of the total population. Further, the transition to private ownership of land, which gathered pace with the spread of arable farming, and took place equally on clan and crown land, combined with the effects of two centuries of donation, confiscation and migration, had altered the geographical distribution of the class. The old relatively clear-cut division into clan and crown lands was gone. There were still substantial areas of purely crown land, still pockets of clan land held by communities of small nobles, but by and large, the nobles were in the thirteenth century developing into a landlord class, spread fairly evenly over the entire country.

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