Hunor and Magor

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The hunt of the White Stag, from the Chronicon Pictum, 1360.

Hunor and Magyor were, according to a famous Hungarian legend, the ancestors of the Huns and the Magyars. The legend was promoted in Gesta Hungarorum. The legend aim in providing a common ancestry for the Huns and the Magyars was to suggest historical continuum of the Kingdom of Hungary with the Hun Empire. Magyars led by prince Árpád had conquered the area in the 890s. The territory had previously been held by Attila the Hun in the 5th century. The legend thus tried to prove that the Magyars were simply reclaiming their ancient homeland as descendants of Attila.[1]

The myth[edit]

In the Gesta Hungarorum, the twin princes Hunor and Magor were the sons of Nimrod, the descendant of the great king Etana. Nimrod married his first wife Eneth and she later bore him two twin sons named Hunor and Magor. He later had other wives and from them were born other sons and daughters who became the ancestors of the Parthians and also Persians. The Chronicon Pictum makes them sons of Iaphet, rather than of Nimrod son of Tana. Hunor and Magor, hunters like their father, were on a hunting trip when they saw an ethereal white stag before them (the Csodaszarvas) and chased it across the Sea of Azov. Finding the newly discovered region to their liking, they decided to stay and married the two daughters of Dula, King of the Alans. Their descendants multiplied and populated the nearby lands, founding the 108 clans of the Scythian nation. From them descended Attila the Hun and High Prince Álmos, the father of Árpád.[2]A version of the legend appears in the Képes magyar történelem:

"In the beginning, there were two brothers, Hunor and Magor, who upon the death of their father, undertook a hunting trip outside of their lands with a hundred of their warriors on horseback. Upon leaving their lands, there they saw a magnificent deer to which they gave chase. As they chased it, it moved away from them and they could not catch it. They gave chase for a full day and still had not caught it. When night fell, they also lost sight of its tracks and made camp for the night. The next morning, the deer re-appeared and the hunters gave chase once more, but once again failed to reach and catch it, losing the tracks with nightfall and making camp. This was repeated for many days as the brothers and their warriors followed the deer's tracks farther and farther from their homeland. One morning, when the brothers had finally lost their way completely, even the tracks back to their homeland, the deer did not appear again. The brothers and their horsemen camped near a nearby forest, when during the night they heard wonderous music coming from the other side of the forest. They followed the sound of the music, going deeper and deeper into the forest, when at last they came to a clearing, where there were beautiful maidens dancing, and amongst the maidens, two princesses, daughters of the Alan Prince Dul. The maidens were startled by the approach of strangers and fled, as did the princesses, but the brothers and their warriors gave chase and captured them. The brothers Hunor and Magor coupled with the two Alan princesses, while their warriors coupled with the other hundred maidens. After they multiplied, the descendants of Hunor became the Huns and those of Magor became the Hungarians.

In 400 AD, there still existed the tribe of Hunor and of Magor between the rivers of the Volga and the Kama and the Ural Mountains, in the ancient homeland called Baskíria (Bashkiria). They then deemed those lands to be too few for both tribes to live together, and so the tribe of Hunor went west, crossed the Volga river and advanced into Europe towards the Roman Empire and made their mark in history as the Huns of Attila, the Scourge of God. The other, remained in this homeland and warred with the neighbouring Ogur Turks (Bulgars), Permians and Mordvins (Volgaic Finns) for some time. The tribe of Magor eventually left Baskíria and went south-west to Levédia at the banks of the Don river in 463 AD. Here, they lived for some years until the tribe split apart and seven tribes went west to Etelköz in the southern Ukraine on the banks of the Dnieper, while the rest, the Szavárd Hungarians, headed south into the Caucasian lands of Armenia.

In 820 AD, the seven tribes in Etelköz were engaged in warfare with those around them, sometimes hiring themselves out as mercenaries and sometimes warring with each other. It was then that Emese, wife of Egyek, leader of one of the tribes, was impregnated while she slept, by the Turul and it was prophesied that the son who would be born would be the ancestor of Kings. This son was born and named Álmos (Sleepy), who would by his leadership and skill in battle rise to be the overlord of the seven tribes. He then bid each leader of the other six tribes to enter into a blood oath with him, which they did and as their blood mixed in the dish, thereby the nation of the Hungarians was born. Álmos died thereafter, to be succeeded by his son, Árpád."[3]



The myth was also employed by later writers, most notably István Werbőczy, who used it to extol the Hungarian nobility in his highly influential collection of Hungarian customary law, the Tripartitum (completed 1514, first published 1517). According to Werbőczy, the Hungarians, as descendants of Hunor and Magor, were of 'Scythian' origin and subject to 'Scythian' law. "The Hungarians inherited their moral values and customs from the 'Scythians', who had once defeated even Darius and Alexander the Great. Their true vocation was war, which was the only activity that was noble enough to suit them." The nobles were free and equal; the peasants were the descendants of those who had been condemned for cowardice in battle and whose punishment had been commuted from execution to losing their social rank.[4] Werbőczy thus used the Hunor and Magor myth to justify Hungarian serfdom.[5] Werbőczy's ideas were eagerly adopted by the Hungarian nobility and became the charter of common law for three centuries. [6]

The nobles particularly cherished their 'Scythian' identity. According to Engel:

It made the nobility inclined to think in terms of historical fictions and to cherish illusions. They thought that they had the right to rule their subjects without having to meet any obligations. It also involved an extreme respect for traditions, and gave birth to what was an early form of 'nationalism'. The nobility's ideology overvalued everything that was, or was thought to be, ancient, and regarded everything that seemed strange or unusual with aversion or even hostility [...] The nobility also took delight in hearing about 'Scythian' values, for they imagined they recognised their own virtues in them. Among the petty nobility the ideal of martial simplicity must have become especially popular, for it made a virtue out of their misery and illiteracy."[7]


János Arany retold the myth in his poem Rege a csodaszarvasról (Legend of the Miraculous Stag).


  1. ^ Engel p.121
  2. ^ Molnar pp.10-11
  3. ^
  4. ^ Engel p.350
  5. ^ See also Paul H. Freedman Images of the Medieval Peasant (Stanford University Press, 1999) p.120 ff.
  6. ^ Molnár p.83
  7. ^ Engel pp.351-2


  • Pál Engel The Realm of Saint Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary 895-1526 (I.B. Tauris, 2001)
  • Miklós Molnár A Concise History of Hungary (Cambridge University Press, 2001)

See also[edit]