- Gesta Hungarorum may also refer to Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, written by Simon of Kéza.
Gesta Hungarorum (Latin for The Deeds of the Hungarians) is a record of early Hungarian history by an unidentified author who is generally cited as Anonymus. Anonymus was schooled at the University of Paris and was employed at the time of writing as a notarias, presumably in the court of Béla III of Hungary (1172–1196). The chronicle was written probably between 1196 and 1203, though some scholars claim that its author wrote the Gesta earlier in the 12th century, or even in the late 11th century. Gesta Hungarorum is preserved in a manuscript from about 1200 and it was published for the first time in 1746, by J.G. Schwandtner.
The Gesta Hungarorum, or The Deeds of the Hungarians, is the first extant chronicle of the history of the Hungarians, or Magyars. However, many historians—including Carlile Aylmer Macartney and András Róna-Tas—agree that Simon of Kéza's chronicle, the Illuminated Chronicle and other works composed in the 13th-15th centuries preserved texts which had been written before the completion of the Gesta Hungarorum. The principal topic of the Gesta is the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin which took place at the turn of the 9th and 10th centuries. In addition, the Gesta narrates the background and the immediate aftermath of the Hungarian Conquest.
Although the Hungarians seem to have used their own alphabet before adopting Christianity in the 11th century, most information of their early history was recorded by Muslim, Byzantine and Western European authors. For instance, the Annals of Fulda, Regino of Prüm's Chronicon, and the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII's De administrando imperio contain contemporaneous or nearly contemporaneous reports of the Hungarian Conquest. Among the Hungarians, oral tradition—songs and ballads—preserved the memory of the most important historical events for centuries. For instance, the Illuminated Chronicle writes that the "seven captains" who led the Hungarians during the Conquest "composed lays about themselves and sang them among themselves in order to win worldly renown and to publish their names abroad, so that their posterity might be able to boast and brag to neighbours and friends when these songs were heard".
Modern historians—including Macartney, Róna-Tas, Nora Berend, and Gyula Kristó—write that the first "Hungarian Chronicle" was completed in the second half of 11th century or in the early 12th century. The existence of such an "ancient chronicle" is proven by later sources. In the early 1230s, two groups of Dominican friars set out in search of an eastern Magna Hungaria after they had read of the Eastern Magyars in a chronicle, mentioned as The Deeds of the Christian Hungarians in one Ricardus's report of their journey. The Illuminated Chronicle from 1358 refers to "the ancient books about the deeds of the Hungarians" in connection with the pagan uprisings of the 11th century. The "ancient chronicle" was expanded and rewritten several times in the 12th-14th centuries.
The Gesta Hungarorum exists in a sole manuscript. The manuscript, which is 17 by 24 centimetres (0.56 ft × 0.79 ft) in size, contains 24 folios (including two blank pages). The first page of the codex originally contained the beginning of the Gesta, but it was blanked because the scribe had made mistakes when writing the text. The work was written in a Gothic minuscule. Based on the style of the letters and decorations, especially on the elaborate initial on its first page, the manuscript was completed in the middle or in the second part of the 13th century. Scribal errors, especially in respect of proper names, suggest that the extant manuscript is a copy of the original work. For instance, the scribe wrote Cleopatram instead of Neopatram when narrating a raid by the Hungarians in the Byzantine Empire although the context makes it clear that the author of the Gesta referred to Neopatras (now Ypati in Greece).
The manuscript became part of the collection of the Hofbibliothek, or Imperial Library, in Vienna in the early 17th century, but its previous fate is unknown. The court librarian Sebastian Tengnagel registered it under the title Historia Hungarica de VII primis ducibus Hungariae auctore Belae regis notario at an unspecified date between 1601 and 1636. It was also Tengnagel who added numbers to both the folios and the chapters. The codex was bound with a leather book cover, impressed with a double-headed eagle, in the late 18th century. The manuscript, which was transferred to Hungary in 1933 or 1934, is held in the Széchényi National Library in Budapest.
Scholars have been referring to the author of the Gesta Hungarorum as Anonymus since the publication of the first Hungarian translation of his work in 1790. He described himself as "P who is called magister, and sometime notary of the most glorious Béla, king of Hungary of fond memory" in the opening sentence of the Gesta. The identification of "the most glorious Béla" has always been subject to scholarly debate, because there were four kings of Hungary bearing this name. Most historians identify him with Béla III of Hungary who died in 1196.
Anonymus dedicated his work to "the most venerable man N" who had been his schoolmate in an unspecified school. He mentioned that they both had found pleasure in reading the Trojan History, a work attributed to Dares Phrygius which enjoyed popularity in the Middle Ages. He also referred to a work of the Trojan War that he himself had "brought most lovingly together into one volume" upon his masters' advice. Anonymus stated that he had decided to write of "the genealogy of the kings of Hungary and of their noblemen" because he had no knowledge of any decent account of the Hungarian Conquest. According to scholars who identify Anonymus as King Béla III's notary, he wrote his Gesta around 1200 or in the first decades of the 13th century.
The study of place names mentioned in the Gesta suggests that Anonymus had a detailed knowledge both of the wider region of Óbuda and Csepel Island (in and to the south of present-day Budapest) and of the lands along the upper courses of the river Tisza. For instance, he mentioned a dozen places—settlements, ferries and streams—in the former region, including "a small river that flows through a stone culvert" to Óbuda. On the other hand, he did not write of the southern and eastern parts of Transylvania.
Minstrels and folk-singers reciting heroic songs were well-known figures of the age of Anonymus who referred to "the gabbling rhymes of mistrels and the spurious tales of peasants who have not forgotten the brave deeds and wars of the Hungarians" even to his time. However, he did not conceal his scorn for oral tradition, stating that it "would be most unworthy and completely unfitting for the so most noble people of Hungary to hear as if in sleep of the beginning of their kind and of their bravery and deeds from the false stories of peasants and the gabbling song of minstrels". All the same, formulaic repetitions which can be found in his text imply that he occasionally utilized heroic songs.
Anonymus, as Macartney says, claimed to "rely solely on written sources, as alone trusworthy" when writing his work. Among his sources, Anonymus explicitly mentioned the Bible and Dares Phrygius's Trojan History. He not only borrowed texts from the latter work, but also also adopted its "overall structure of short but informative accounts naming important protagonists and main events", according to historians Martyn Rady and László Veszprémy. Anonymus also referred to "historians writing of the deeds of the Romans" when narrating the history of the Scythians. According to historians Kristó, Györffy and Thoroczkay, Anonymus read the so-called Exordia Scythica ("Scythian Genesis"), a 7th-century abridgement of a work of the 2nd-century historian, Justin. Anonymus also used Regino of Prüm's Chronicon, that he mentioned as "the annals of chronicles" in his Gesta. For instance, he accepted Regino of Prüm's view when identifying the Scythians as the Hungarians' ancestors. Direct borrowings from Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae, Hugh of Bologna's Rationes dictani prosaice, and medieval romances about Alexander the Great prove that Anonymus also used these works.
Simon of Kéza's Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum, the Illuminated Chronicle and other medieval Hungarian chronicles are also based on the 11th-century gesta, but they have preserved a tradition which differs from Anonymous's text. For instance, none of these chronicles has knowledge of the Bulgarian Salan, the Khazar Menumorout, the Vlach Gelou and the other local rulers who are only mentioned by Anonymous.
The chronicle was written as a literary work based on similar western chronicles that were then in fashion. The author describes all the local ruling families of the Kingdom of Hungary as being descended from the ruling Árpáds or at least from their allies, and aims to glorify the merits of the Árpáds with respect to the tenth-century Magyar occupation of the Transylvania part of the Carpathian basin.
Though this is a historical manuscript written under the aegis of the Hungarian king, some Hungarian historians have considered it to consist of inventions by the author or his predecessors. Some of the work is recognizably based directly on earlier sources that narrate the history of the Magyar peoples that invaded the Carpathian basin. Paul Robert Magocsi from the University of Toronto described the Gesta Hungarorum as an unreliable work. In a more recent work of professor Magocsi and Ivan Pop it is stated that the view of modern historians on the Gesta Hungarorum is mixed: some consider it a reliable source; others (among them historian Aleksei L. Petrov) consider its information doubtful. Magocsi quoted authors referring to the Gesta Hungarorum as a source in one of his recent works also mentioning authors critical of its reliability.
Gesta Hungarorum's main subject of controversy concerns the mentioning of the existence of the local rulers Gelou, Glad and Menumorut in Transylvania at the arrival of the Magyars in the 10th century. The very existence of these three dukedoms mainly inhabited by Vlachs and Slavs is disputed.
Historians who accept the credibility of the gesta point out that it is the earliest preserved Hungarian chronicle and thus it must have based on earlier Hungarian gestas, and therefore its factual accuracy is likely high. They also point out that the gesta was written at least 130 years before the Chronicon Pictum. They also claim that the author of the gesta simply confused the Cumans with the Pechenegs[dubious ] or possibly the Khazars[dubious ] Furthermore, passages from the Gesta are repeated in later chronicles, such as Simon de Keza's works. Most of the sites[where?] mentioned by Anonymous in his work have been archaeologically attested.[dubious ]
I. A. Pop  wrote about the confirmation of the battles between Vlachs and Hungarian tribes in the Slavic Nestor's chronicle.
According to historian Alexandru Madgearu, the text is almost certainly based on an older work also called Gesta Hungarorum, which dates from the end of the 11th century. Alexandru Madgearu writes that the source is a tendentious and propagandistic work that left aside events not suitable with this exultation overthe Hungarian past A. Madgearu also states that the Anonymous Notary had no interest to invent the presence of the Romanians in Transylvania in the 10th century, because if Romanians had indeed arrived there in the 12th century, his readers would not have believed this assertion 
The main arguments against their existence is the presence of provably wrong information in some other parts of the Gesta, and the fact that Gesta Hungarorum mentions Cumans among the peoples who lived in Transylvania at that time, whereas the Cumans actually arrived there 150 years after the Hungarians. There is opposing opinion which claims that the author of the Gesta actually confuses Cumans with Pechenegs, who spoke a similar language to that of the Cumanians and lived in approximately the same territory before Hungarians.
According to Martyn Rady, Anonymus's "account pretends to give a historically-grounded account of early Hungarian history... but does in fact nothing of the sort. Anonymus's account is essentially a ‘toponymic romance’ that seeks to explain place-names by reference to imagined events and persons. Although he gets the names of the earliest Hungarian rulers right, as well as some of the early tribal chieftains, he has the Hungarians beating Slavonic and Romanian leaders whose names are not attested to anywhere else, as well as fighting the Cumans (who appeared in Europe only in the late 11th century) and even the Romans". Clearly, there is a bit of correct history in Anonymus's work, and at least a few of his heroes can be 'cross-checked' against information given by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, Liudprand of Cremona and the Annals of St Gall.
A number of authors who dispute the credibility of the Gesta claim that the author probably had no information (apart from some familial and tribal legends) regarding the actual circumstances of the conquest. According to them, he invented enemies and rivals for his heroes to vanquish and casually borrowed the names of rivers (Laborc), mountains (Tarcal and Zobor), settlements (Galád), and castles (Gyalu) to conjure up knights and chieftains (e.g., the Bulgarian Laborcy, the Cuman Turzol, the Czech Zobur, and the Vlach Gelou) who are not mentioned in other primary sources. They also claim that Anonymus had no knowledge of the settlers' real adversaries, which included the Moravians, Slovenes, Karantans, Franks, and Bavarians, and their leaders such as Svatopluk II, Emperor Arnulf I, the Bulgar Tzar Simeon, and that he knew only of the Bulgarians. Thus he arbitrarily counted among the Hungarians' opponents the Czechs, who at the time lived exclusively in the Czech Basin; the Cumanians, who moved to Europe only in the 11th century; and the Vlachs which, according to these authors, suggest that his choices reflect the ethnic and political realities of the 12th century. The author wrote that Kende had been the father of Kurszán. According to other view, "kende" was a title of a Hungarian dignitary, probably the sacral ruler.
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- Quotes from Gesta Hungarorum regarding Transylvania and Banat
- Gesta Hungarorum text (in Hungarian)
- Gesta Hungarorum (in English)
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