Árpád dynasty

From New World Encyclopedia
The Árpáds' coat-of-arms

The Árpáds or Arpads was the ruling dynasty of the federation of the Magyar tribes (ninth-tenth centuries) and of the Kingdom of Hungary (1000/1001-1301). The dynasty was named after Grand Prince Árpád, who was the head of the tribal federation when the Magyars occupied the Carpathian Basin around 896, although Árpád's father, Álmos was probably the first to hold the title of Grand Prince. The first King of Hungary (Saint Stephen—the sixth or seventh and last Grand Prince, was a member of the dynasty. The Árpáds were also Kings of Croatia (1090-1093/1096, 1097/1102-1301). Members of the family reigned occasionally in the Principality (later Kingdom) of Halych (1188-1189, 1208-1209, 1214-1219, 1227-1229, 1231-1234) and in the Duchy of Styria (1254-1260).

Seven members of the dynasty were canonized or beatified by the Roman Catholic Church; therefore, the dynasty has been often referred as the "Kindreds of the Holy Kings" from the thirteenth century. Two Árpáds were canonized by the Eastern Orthodox Church. The male line of the dynasty came to end in 1301, but all the following kings of Hungary (with the exception of King Matthias Corvinus) were matrilineal descendants of the Árpáds. The Croÿ family of Belgium and the Drummond family of Scotland claim to descend from illegitimate sons of medieval Hungarian kings. Nor only did members of this dynasty play a crucial role in the history of Hungary but, arguably, their early exploits in raiding on behalf of other rulers also helped to create the European space. Lázár argues that as the Magyars, under the leadership of successive Árpáds, were eventually forced to stop raiding and to settle their own boundaries, they contributed to the way in which the surrounding nations also took shape, and shaped the map of Europe.[1] This dynasty began in pre-Christian times, when its leaders may have combined spiritual with political leadership, and continued to contribute to Christian civilization becoming one of the most "saintly" of all royal families. Just as Hungary itself has often helped to bridge East and West, the dynasty helped to bridge the old order and the new.[2]

Ninth-tenth centuries

A turul monument at Tatabánya

According to medieval chronicles, the Árpáds' forefather was Ügyek whose name derived from the old-Hungarian word for "saint" (igy) and therefore, he was probably given this name only by the chroniclers. The Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum ("The Deeds of the Huns and Hungarians") mentioned that the Árpáds descended from the gens (clan) Turul. The Gesta Hungarorum ("The Deeds of the Hungarians") also recorded that the Árpáds' totemistic ancestor was a turul.

Álmos probably accepted the supremacy of the Khagan of the Khazars in the beginning of his rule, but by 862, the Magyar tribal federation seceded from the Khazar khaganate. Álmos was either the spiritual leader of the tribal federation (kende) or its military commander (gyula), although he may have combined these offices.

Statue of Árpád at the National Memorial Park of Ópusztaszer

Around 895, the Magyar tribes suffered a catastrophic defeat from the Pechenegs in retaliation for action against the Bulgarian Empire in alliance with the Byzantines; therefore, they had to leave their territories east of the Carpathian Mountains and they invaded the Carpathian Basin. Álmos' death was probably caused by human sacrifice because of the catastrophic defeat and he was followed by his son, Árpád who is credited with leading the difficult journey through the Verecke Pass.

The Magyar tribes occupied the whole territory of Carpathian Basin gradually between 895 and 907. Between 899 and 970, the Magyars frequently conducted raids also to the territories of present-day Italy, Germany, France, and Spain and to the lands of the Byzantine Empire. Such activities continued westwards until the Battle of Lechfeld (955), when Otto, King of the Germans destroyed their troops; their raids against the Byzantine Empire finished only in 970. They may have been paid to raid by various Princes, until they became such a menace that withdrawal of financial support compelled them to formalize their own borders. "The restless, sanguinary Hungarians must be forced into the ranks of the Christian European nations, living within secure borders, or they must be destroyed," writes Lazar, “We must become a part of the predominantly Christian Europe or we will be exterminated."[1]

From 917, the Magyars made raids to several territories at the same time which may prove the decay of the uniform direction within their tribal federation. The sources prove the existence of at least three and maximum five groups of tribes within the tribal federation, and only one of them was lead directly by the Árpáds.

The list of the Grand Princes of the Magyars in the first half of the ninth century is incomplete which may also prove the lack of the central government within their tribal federation. Although the medieval chronicles mention that Grand Prince Árpád was followed by his son, Zoltán, but contemporary sources only refer to Grand Prince Fajsz (around 950). After the defeat at the Battle of Lechfeld, Grand Prince Taksony (in or after 955-before 972) adopted the policy of isolation from the Western countries—in contrast to his son, Grand Prince Géza (before 972-997), who may have sent envoys to Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor in 973.

Géza was baptized in 972, and although he never became a convinced Christian, the new faith started to spread among the Magyars during his reign. He invited Roman Catholic missionaries to spread the faith. He managed to expand his rule over the territories west of the Danube and the Garam (today Hron in Slovakia), but significant parts of the Carpathian Basin still remained under the rule of local tribal leaders.

Géza was followed by his son, Stephen (originally called Vajk), who had been a convinced follower of Christianity. Stephen had to face with the rebellion of his relative, Koppány who claimed for Géza's inheritance based on the Magyar tradition of agnatic seniority. However, he could defeat Koppány with the assistance of the German retinue of his wife, Giselle of Bavaria.

Eleventh century

Statue of St. Stephen in Esztergom

The Grand Prince Stephen was crowned on December 25, 1000, or January 1, 1001; thus, he became the first King of Hungary (1000–1038) and the founder of the state. He was also the last Grand Prince. He unified the Carpathian Basin under his rule by 1030, by subjugating the territories of the Black Magyars and the domains that had been ruled by (semi-)independent local chieftains (for example, by the Gyula Prokuj, Ajtony). He introduced the administrative system of the kingdom, based on (counties (comitatus), and founded an ecclesiastic organization with two archbishoprics and several bishoprics. Following the death of his son, Emeric (September 2, 1031), King Stephen I assigned his sister's son, the Venetian Peter Orseolo as his heir which resulted in a conspiracy lead by his cousin, Vazul, who had been living imprisoned in Nyitra (today Nitra in Slovakia); but Vazul was blinded on King Stephen's order and his three sons (Levente, Andrew and Béla) were exiled.

When King Stephen I died (August 15, 1038), Peter Orseolo ascended the throne but he had to struggle with King Stephen's brother-in-law, Samuel Aba (1041-1044). King Peter's rule ended in 1046 when an extensive revolt of the pagan Hungarians broke out and he was captured by them.

With the assistance of the pagans, Duke Vazul's son, Andrew, who had been living in exile in the Kievan Rus' and had been baptized there, seized the power and he was crowned; thus, a member of a collateral branch of the dynasty seized the crown. King Andrew I (1046-1060) managed to pacify the pagan rebels and restore the position of Christianity in the kingdom. In 1048, King Andrew invited his younger brother, Béla to the kingdom and conceded one-third of the counties of the kingdom (Tercia pars regni) in appanage to him. This dynastic division of the kingdom, mentioned as the first one in the Chronicon Pictum (prima regni huius divisio), was followed by several similar divisions during the 11-13th centuries, when parts of the kingdom were governed by members of the Árpád dynasty. In the eleventh century, the counties entrusted to the members of the ruling dynasty did not form a separate province within the kingdom, but they were organized around two or three centers. The dukes governing the Tercia pars regni accepted the supremacy of the kings of Hungary, but some of them (Béla, Géza, and Álmos) rebelled against the king in order to acquire the crown and allied themselves with the rulers of the neighboring countries.

King Andrew I was the first king who had his son, Solomon, crowned during his life in order to ensure his son's succession (1057). However, the principle of agnatic primogenuture was not able to overcome the tradition of seniority, and following King Andrew I, his brother, King Béla I (1060-1063) acquired the throne against the young Solomon. The period from 1063 until 1080, was characterized by frequent conflicts of King Solomon (1057-1080) and his cousins, Géza, Ladislaus, and Lampert who governed the Tercia pars regni. Duke Géza rebelled against his cousin in 1074, and was proclaimed king by his partisans in accordance with the principle of seniority. When King Géza I died (April 25, 1077) his partisans, disregarding his young sons, proclaimed his brother, Ladislaus king.

King Ladislaus I (1077-1095) managed to persuade King Solomon, who had been ruling in some western counties, to abdicate the throne. During his reign, the Kingdom of Hungary enstrengthened and he could also expand his rule over the neighboring Kingdom of Croatia (1091). He entrusted the government of the newly occupied kingdom to his younger nephew, Álmos.

On August 20, 1083, two members of the dynasty, King Stephen I and his son, Duke Emeric were canonized in Székesfehérvár upon the initiative of King Ladislaus I. His daughter, Eirene (the wife of the Byzantine Emperor John II Komnenos) is venerated by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

When King Ladislaus I died, his elder nephew, King Coloman was proclaimed king (1095-1116) but he had to concede the Tercia pars regni in appanage to his brother, Álmos. King Coloman defeated Petar Svačić who had been proclaimed king of Croatia in 1097, and, thus, he annexed the neighboring kingdom to the Kingdom of Hungary; henceforward, the kings of Hungary were also kings of Croatia and the two kingdoms formed a political union.

Twelfth century

King Coloman deprived his brother, Álmos of his duchy (the Tercia pars regni) in 1107. He caught his second wife, Eufemia of Kiev, committing adultery; therefore, she was divorced and sent back to Kiev around 1114. Eufemia bore a son, named Boris in Kiev, but King Coloman refused to accept him as his son. Around 1115, the king had Duke Álmos and his son, King Béla blinded in order to ensure the succession of his own son, King Stephen II (1116-1131).

King Stephen II did not father any son and his sister's son, Saul, was proclaimed heir to his throne instead of the blind Duke Béla. Nevertheless, when King Stephen II died (March 1 1131), his blind cousin managed to acquire the throne. King Béla II (1131-1141) strengthened his rule by defeating King Coloman's alleged son, Boris who endeavored to deprive him of the throne with foreign military assistance. King Béla II occupied some territories in Bosnia and he conceded the new territory in appanage to his younger son, Ladislaus. Henceforward, members of the Árpád dynasty governed southern or eastern provinces (that is, Slavonia, Croatia, and Transylvania) of the kingdom instead of the Tercia pars regni.

King Saint Stephen—a flag with the "double cross".

King Géza II (1141-1162) was renowned for considering any hint of criticism tantamount to treason. His son, King Stephen III (1162-1172), had to struggle for his throne with his uncles, Kings Ladislaus II (1162-1163) and Stephen IV (1163-1165) who rebelled against him with the assistance of the Byzantine Empire. During his reign, the Emperor Manuel I Komnenos occupied the southern provinces of the kingdom on the pretext that the king's brother, Béla (the Despotes Alexius) lived in his court. As the fiancé of the Emperor's only daughter, "Despotes Alexius" was the heir presumptive to the Emperor for a short period (1165-1169).

Following the death of King Stephen III, King Béla III (1173-1196) ascended the throne but he had imprisoned his brother, Géza in order to secure his rule. King Béla III, who had been educated in the Byzantine Empire, was the first king who used the "double cross" as the symbol of the Kingdom of Hungary. On June 27, 1192, the third member of the dynasty, King Ladislaus I was canonized in Várad (today Oradea in Romania).

King Béla III bequeathed his kingdom unportionedly to his elder son, King Emeric (1196-1204), but the new king had to concede Croatia and Dalmatia in appanage (grant of an estate to a younger sibling) to his brother, Andrew, who had rebelled.

Thirteenth century

King Emeric's coat-of-arms

King Emeric married Constance of Aragon, and he may have followed Aragonian patterns when he chose his coat-of-arms that would become the Árpáds' familiar badge (an escutcheon barry of eight Gules and Argent). His son and successor, King Ladislaus III (1204-1205) died in childhood and was followed by his uncle, King Andrew II (1205-1235).

His reign was characterized by permanent internal conflicts: A group of conspirators murdered his queen, Gertrude of Merania (1213); discontent noblemen obliged him to issue the Golden Bull of 1222 establishing their rights (including the right to disobey the king); and he quarreled with his eldest son, Béla, who endeavored to take back the royal domains his father had granted to his followers. King Andrew II, who had been Prince of Halych (1188-1189), intervened regularly in the internal struggles of the principality and made several efforts to ensure the rule of his younger sons (Coloman or Andrew) in the neighboring country. One of his daughters, Elisabeth, was canonized during his lifetime (July 1, 1235) and thus became the fourth saint of the Árpáds. King Andrew's elder's sons disowned his posthumous son, Stephen, who would be educated in Ferrara.

King Béla IV (1235-1270) restored the royal power, but his kingdom became devastated during the Mongol invasion (1241-1242). Following the withdrawal of the Mongol troops, several fortresses were built or strengthened on his order. He also granted town privileges to several settlements in his kingdom, for example, Buda, Nagyszombat (today Trnava in Slovakia), Selmecbánya (now Banská Štiavnica in Slovakia) and Pest received their privileges from him. King Béla IV managed to occupy the Duchy of Styria for a short period (1254-1260), but later he had to abandon it in favor of King Ottokar II of Bohemia. During his last years, he was struggling with his son, Stephen, who was crowned during his lifetime and obliged his father to concede the eastern parts of the kingdom to him. Two of his daughters, Margaret and Kinga were canonized (in 1943 and 1999 respectively) and a third daughter of his, Jolenta was beatified (in 1827).</ref>A. Aldásy, Bl. Margaret of Hungary, The Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 14, 2008.</ref> His fourth daughter, Constance, was also venerated in Lviv.

When King Stephen V (1270-1272) ascended the throne, many of his father's followers left for Bohemia. They returned during the reign of his son, King Ladislaus IV the Cuman (1272-1290) whose reign was characterized by internal conflicts among the members of different aristocratic groups. King Ladislaus IV, whose mother was of Cuman origin, preferred the companion of the nomadic and semi-pagan Cumans; therefore, he was excommunicated several times, but he was murdered by Cuman assassins. The disintegration of the kingdom started during his reign when several aristocrats endeavored to acquire possessions on the account of the royal domains.

When King Ladislaus IV died, most of his contemporaries thought that the dynasty of the Árpáds came to end, because the only patrilineal descendant of the family, Andrew was the son of Duke Stephen, the posthumous son of King Andrew II who had been disowned by his brothers. Nevertheless, Duke Andrew "the Venetian" was crowned with the Holy Crown of Hungary and most of the barons accepted his rule. During his reign, Kind Andrew III (1290-1310) had to struggle with the powerful barons (for example, with members of the Csák and Kőszegi families). The male line of the Árpáds ended with his death (January 14, 1301); one of his contemporaries mentioned him as "the last golden twig." His daughter, Elisabeth, the last member of the family, died on May 6, 1338; she is venerated by the Roman Catholic Church.

Following the death of King Andrew III, several claimants started to struggle for the throne; finally, King Charles I (the matrilineal great-grandson of King Stephen V) managed to strengthen his position around 1310. Henceforward, all the kings of Hungary (with the exception of King Matthias Corvinus) were matrilineal descendants of the Árpáds.

Dynasty tree

                 (i) Álmos ?-c.895
                (ii) Árpád c.895-907
        Jutas                 (iii) Zoltan
           │                     907-?
           │                       │
      (iv) Fajsz              (v) Taksony
    948, short time             948-972
                 (vi) Geza 972-997                                        Mihály     
                       │                                                    │
        ┌──────────────┴───────┬─────────────┐                              │
  Vajk/Stephen I            female        female ∞ Sámuel Aba             Vazul
  (vii) 997-1000               ∞                  (3) 1041-1044             │
  (1) 1000-1038         Ottone Orseolo                                      │
        │                      │                 ┌──────────────────────────┤
  Prince St. Imre        Péter Orseolo     (5) Andrew I                (6) Béla I
                         (2) 1038-1041       1046-1060                  1060-1063
                         (4) 1044-1046           │                          │
                                                 │                 ┌────────┴──────┐
                                            (7) Salamon       (8) Géza I     (9) Laszlo I
                                             1063-1074         1074-1077       1077-1095
                                  (10) Coloman               Prince Álmos
                                    1095-1116                      │
                                        │                          │
                                 (11) Stephen II             (12) Béla II
                                    1116-1131                  1131-1141
                 (13) Géza II          (15) Laszlo II      (16) Stephen IV
                   1141-1162              1162-1163            1163-1164
                        │                 rival king           rival king
    (14) Stephen III        (17) Béla III
       1162-1172               1172-1196
                  (18) Emeric          (20) Andrew II
                   1196-1204              1204-1235
                       │                      │
                       │                    ┌─┴──────────────────────┐
                (19) Laszlo III       (21) Béla IV              Pr. István
                   1204-1205            1235-1270                    │
                                            │                        │
                                            │                        │
                                     (22) Stephen V          (24) Andrew III
                                        1270-1272                1290-1301
                                     (23) Laszlo IV     


The following members of the dynasty were canonized:

  • Saint Stephen, canonized in 1083 (also by the Eastern Orthodox Church, in 2000)
  • Saint Emeric, canonized in 1083
  • Saint Ladislaus, canonized in 1192
  • Saint Elizabeth, canonized in 1235
  • Saint Margaret, canonized in 1943
  • Saint Kinga, canonized in 1999
  • Saint Eiréne, canonized by the Eastern Orthodox Church
  • Blessed Yolanda, canonized in 1631.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Istvan Lázár and Thomas J. DeKornfeld (trans.), Transylvania, A Short History 4: The Scourge of Europe (Budapest, HU: Corvina Books Ltd., ISBN 9631343332). Retrieved July 14, 2008.
  2. Stephen Sisa, The Ancient Magyar World, Hungarian History. Retrieved July 14, 2008.

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

  • Balázs, György, and Károly Szelényi. 1989. The Magyars: The Birth of a European Nation. Budapest: Corvina. ISBN 9789631327106.
  • Bartha, Antal. 1975. Hungarian Society in the 9th and 10th Centuries. Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó. ISBN 9789630503082.
  • Engel, Pál. 2001. The Realm of St. Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895-1526. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 9781860640612.
  • Hebbert, Charles, Norm Longley, and Dan Richardson. 2002. Hungary. London: Rough Guides. ISBN 9781858289175.
  • Kosztolnyik, Z.J. 2002. Hungary Under the Early Árpáds, 890s to 1063. Boulder, CO: East European Monographs. ISBN 9780880335034.

External links

All links retrieved June 13, 2023.


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