Ajtony or Ahtum, also Achtum (Bulgarian: Охтум, Hungarian: Ajtony, Romanian: Ahtum, Serbian: Ахтум / Ahtum), was a Hungarian tribal leader (voivode, ‘king’, or ‘prince’), in the region of Banat in the first decades of the 11th century.
Ajtony’s ethnicity is a controversial issue. Some scholars (e.g., A. Madgearu, I. A. Pop) see Ahtum as the last member of a native dynasty established in the early 10th century by Glad, who is mentioned exclusively in the 13th century Gesta Hungarorum as opposing the invading Hungarians. On the other hand, according to the De Administrando Imperio by Constantine VII, the region northward from the river Danube around 950 AD where Ajtony's domains were situated was clearly under the control of the Hungarian tribes.
King Saint Stephen I of Hungary (1000/1001-1038) sent Csanád - one of Ahtum’s former retainers - to fight against him. Csanád defeated and killed Ajtony in the king’s name, thus incorporating the territory into the Kingdom of Hungary.
He was the first known ancestor of the Ajtony kindred.
In early Hungarian documents his name was written as Achtum (in the 12th century) or Ohtum (in the 14th century). The Old Hungarian pronunciation of Achtum is /axtum/ or /axtom/. The /n/-/m/ modification was definitely a Hungarian linguistic feature, therefore it proves that the name Ajtony was used in a Hungarian speaking environment. His name possibly comes from the Turkic word altyn meaning 'gold'.
Sources for his life
His story is narrated in the so-called Long Life of St Gerard, an early 14th century compilation of different sources. Although the much earlier so-called Short Life of St Gerard does not contain the Achtum episode, it has been suggested that this episode was inserted into the original, but not extant, Life of St Gerard (of which the Short Life was an adaptation) from a different source, arguably from some legend attached to the name and family of Csanád. The 13th-century Gesta Ungarorum refers three times to Ajtony. His life and defeat is not mentioned by other chronicles.
The Gesta Hungarorum presents him as a descendant of Glad’s lineage, but everything the author of the Gesta has to say about Glad is taken directly from the Ajtony episode of the Long Life.
Ajtony’s domain extended from the Körös River to the Danube. His base of power was in Morisena (now Cenad, Romania), a stronghold on the Lower Mureş River. The Romanian historian Alexandru Madgearu propounds that the name of his capital in the Latin text of the Long Life (Morisena) derived from the Romanian form Morișana. According to the Long Life, Ajtony "had taken his power from the Greeks".
He was baptized in the Orthodox faith in Vidin (Bulgaria), an event that must have postdated the Byzantine conquest of that city in 1002. He also founded a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist near his residence. But otherwise Ajtony was "very imperfect in the Christian faith" having as many as seven wives.
Ajtony’s power was based on considerable resources, mainly cattle and horses. He had so many warriors that he even dared, so we are told, to oppose King Stephen I and to levy tax upon the king’s salt as it was being transported from Transylvania. Ajtony’s army, similarly with that of Glad, his forerunner, included militarily-organized Vlachs, Bulgarians and Slavs.[original research?] One of Ajtony’s retainers named Csanád fled to the Hungarian king who declared Ajtony an enemy. Csanád returned at the head of a large army, with which he eventually defeated and killed Ajtony.
After Ajtony’s defeat, his domain was organized into a royal counties of the Kingdom of Hungary, one of which had its seat in Morisena, and was conveniently named Cenad (in Hungarian: Csanád) after its conqueror. A Roman Catholic bishopric was also immediately founded at Morisena, and St Gerard was invited by King Stephen I to be its first bishop.
The date of the conflict between Ajtony and Csanád acting on behalf of King Stephen I is a controversial issue. The Long Life makes it clear that the conflict pre-dates St Gerard’s appointment as bishop of Cenad, which is known from other sources to have taken place in 1030. On the other hand, Ajtony is said to have been baptized in Vidin, which was conquered by the Byzantine Emperor Basil II (976-1025) in 1002. As a consequence, many scholars (e.g., C. A. Macartney, E. Glück, E. Fügedi) favor a late date, one or two years before St Gerard’s appointment. Others (e.g., I. Bóna, Gy. Moravcsik) attempted to read the evidence of the Long Life against the political background of the early 11th century; pointing to King Stephen’s military assistance of Basil II against Samuel of Bulgaria (997-1014), these scholars view Ajtony as Samuel’s ally and place Csanád’s attack either shortly before or at the same time as Basil II’s conquest of Ohrid (Macedonia) in 1018. Finally, others (e.g., A. Madgearu) believe the attack took place a few years after the Byzantine take-over in Vidin, in either 1003 or 1004.
The fact that the members of a certain genus Achtum (Ajtony kindred) owned landed property in Csanád County until the end of the Middle Ages may suggest that King Stephen I let Ajtony’s descendants keep some part of Ajtony’s possessions.
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