|Hungary Table of Contents
In the four centuries after their migration into the Carpathian Basin, the Magyars gradually developed from a loose confederation of pagan marauders into a recognized kingdom. This kingdom, which became known as Hungary, was led by the Árpad Dynsaty and was firmly allied to the Christian West. Eventually the Árpad line died out, however, and Hungary again descended into anarchy, with the most powerful nobels vying for control.
Christianization of the Magyars
The bonds linking the seven Magyar tribes grew frail soon after the migration into the Carpathian Basin. At that time, Europe was weak and disunited, and for more than half a century Magyar bands raided Bavaria, Moravia, Italy, Constantinople, and lands as far away as the Pyrenees. Sometimes fighting as mercenaries and sometimes lured by spoils alone, the Magyar bands looted towns and took captives for labor, ransom, or sale on the slave market. The Byzantine emperor and European princes paid the Magyars annual tribute. In 955, however, German and Czech armies under the Holy Roman Empire's King Otto I destroyed a Magyar force near Augsburg. The defeat effectively ended Magyar raids on the West, and in 970 the Byzantines halted Magyar incursions toward the East.
Fearing a war of extermination, Chieftain Geza (972-97), Árpad's great-grandson, assured Otto II that the Magyars had ceased their raids and asked him to send missionaries. Otto complied, and in 975 Geza and a few of his kinsmen were baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. Geza consented to baptism more out of political necessity than conviction. He continued to offer sacrifices to the pagan gods and reportedly bragged that he "was rich enough for two gods." From this time, however, missionaries began the gradual process of converting and simultaneously westernizing the Magyar tribes. Geza used German knights and his position as chief of the Magyars' largest clan to restore strong central authority over the other clans. Hungary's ties with the West were strengthened in 996 when Geza's son, Stephen, who was baptized as a child and educated by Saint Adalbert of Prague, married Gisela, a Bavarian princess and sister of Emperor Henry II.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress