Samuel Aba, King of Hungary
|Depicted in the Illuminated Chronicle|
|Reign||1041 – 1044|
|Spouse||a daughter of Géza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians (debated)|
|House||House of Aba|
|Mother||a daughter of Géza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians (debated)|
|Born||before 990 or c. 1009|
|Died||July 5, 1044 (aged 54)|
Samuel Aba (Hungarian: Aba Sámuel) (before 990 or c. 1009 – 5 July 1044) was the third King of Hungary between 1041 and 1044. He was born to a prominent Hungarian family with extensive domains in the region of the Mátra Hills. He or his father married a sister of Stephen I, the first King of Hungary around 1009. The king appointed Samuel to head the royal court as his palatine. King Stephen's died in 1038, and the new monarch, Peter the Venetian set aside Samuel. However, the Hungarian lords dethroned Peter in 1041 and elected Samuel king. Peter the Venetian returned in 1044 with the assistance of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor who defeated Samuel's army in the battle of Ménfő. Samuel fled from the battlefield, but was captured and murdered by his enemies.
Samuel's family, according to the anonymous author of the Gesta Hungarorum, descended from two "Cuman" chieftains, Ed and Edemen who received "a great land in the forest of Mátra" from Árpád, Grand Prince of the Hungarians. In a contrasting report, the 14th-century Hungarian chronicles describe Ed and Edemen as the sons of Csaba – himself a son of Attila the Hun – by a lady from Khwarezm. Since all Hungarian chronicles emphasize the Oriental – either "Cuman" or "Khwarezmian" – origin of Ed and Edemen, Gyula Kristó, László Szegfű and other historians propose that the Aba clan descending from them ruled the Kabars, a people of Khazar origin who joined the Hungarians before their arrival in the Carpathian Basin. Kristó argues that both Samuel's Khazar origin and his first name suggest that he was born to a family adhered to Judaism.
It is without doubt that Samuel descended from a distinguished family, since an unnamed sister of Stephen I, the first King of Hungary was given in marriage to a member of the Aba clan around 1009. However, historians still debate whether Samuel himself or Samuel's father married the royal princess. If Samuel was her husband, he must have been born before 990. He converted – either from Judaism or from paganism – to Christianity when married Stephen I's sister. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Eger which encompassed the Mátra region was set up around that time. According to Hungarian chronicles Samuel established an abbey at Abasár. Furthermore, the earliest layers of the nearby monastery at Feldebrő are also dated to the first half of the 11th century. Samuel held important offices in the reign of King Stephen. For instance, Pál Engel proposes that Abaújvár ("Aba's new castle") was named after him, implying that he was also the first ispán or head of that fortress and the county formed around it. He was a member of the royal council and became the first palatine of Hungary.
King Stephen who died on 15 August 1038 was succeeded by his nephew, the Venetian Peter Orseolo. The new monarch preferred his German and Italian courtiers and set aside the native lords, including Samuel. The discontented Hungarian lords expelled King Peter by force and elected Samuel king in 1041.
King of Hungary
Samuel abolished all laws introduced by Peter the Venetian and had many of his predecessor's supporters killed or tortured. Hungarian chronicles sharply criticized him for socializing with the peasants instead of the nobles. Samuel even abolished some levies payable by the commoners.
In the meantime, Peter the Venetian took refugee in the court of Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor. In response, Samuel stormed Austria in 1042. However, the emperor invaded Hungary and forced Samuel to renounce all Hungarian territories to the west of the rivers Leitha and Morava in 1043. Samuel also agreed to pay a tribute. For this purpose, he introduced new taxes payable by the prelates and seized Church estates. His policy caused discontent even among the members of his own council. Since Samuel had many of them murdered in Lent, Bishop Gerard of Csanád refused his solemn coronation at Easter.
[...] King Aba became insolent and began to rage cruelly against the Hungarians. For he held that all things should be in common between lords and servants; but to have violated his oath he considered a mere trifle. Despising the nobles of the kingdom, he consorted with peasants and commoners. The Hungarian nobles were unwilling to endure this from him, and chafing under this insulting behaviour they conspired and plotted that they would kill him. But one of them informed the King of the conspiracy against his life, whereupon the King imprisoned as many of them as he could and had them put to death without examination or trial, which did great damage to his cause.
Emperor Henry III again invaded Hungary in 1044 in order to restore Peter the Venetian. The decisive battle was fought at Ménfő near Győr where Samuel's army was routed. According to nearly contemporaneous German sources Samuel was in short time captured and executed on Peter the Venetian's order. On the other hand, 14th-century Hungarian chronicles narrate that he fled up to the river Tisza where he was seized and murdered by the locals. The latter sources add that Samuel was first buried in a nearby church, but his body was later transferred to his family's monastery at Abasár.
When King Aba had broken his oath and his treaty, King Henry invaded Hungary with a very small force. Aba, who had equipped a very large army, held him in such contempt that he allowed him to enter the province, as though it would be easy to kill or to capture him. Henry, however, trusting in divine help, rapidly crossed the River Raab with part of his force and began the battle, while all the knights rushed hither and thither. In the first attack he defeated and put to flight the innumerable army of the Hungarians, losing very few of his own men. He himself fought very bravely and he won a most glorious victory on 5 July. King Aba narrowly escaped by fleeing, while all the Hungarians rushed in crowds to surrender to King Henry and promised subjection and service. [...] Not long afterwards Aba was taken prisoner by King Peter and paid the penalty of his crimes with his head.
No report on the fate of Samuel's widow and children has been preserved. Even so, historians – including Gyula Kristó  and László Szegfű – suppose that the powerful Aba family descended from him.
- Anonymus, Notary of King Béla: The Deeds of the Hungarians (ch. 32), p. 71.
- Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 61.
- Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 62.
- Szegfű 1994, p. 592.
- Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 63.
- Berend, Laszlovszky & Szakács 2007, p. 355.
- Engel 2001, p. 41.
- Kontler 1999, p. 56.
- Engel 2001, p. 40.
- Engel 2001, p. 29.
- Molnár 2001, p. 26.
- Kontler 1999, p. 59.
- Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 64.
- Szegfű 1994, p. 593.
- Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 65.
- Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 66.
- The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle (ch. 75), p. 109.
- Herman of Reichenau: Chronicle (year 1044), pp. 75-76.
- Kristó & Makk 1996, p. 67.
- Anonymus, Notary of King Béla: The Deeds of the Hungarians (Edited, Translated and Annotated by Martyn Rady and László Veszprémy). In: Rady, Martyn; Veszprémy, László; Bak, János M. (2010); Anonymus and Master Roger; CEU Press; ISBN 978-9639776951.
- Herman of Reichenau: Chronicle. In: Eleventh-Century Germany: The Swabian Chronicles (selected sources translated and annotated with an introduction by I. S. Robinson) (2008); Manchester University Press; ISBN 978-0-7190-7734-0.
- The Hungarian Illuminated Chronicle: Chronica de Gestis Hungarorum (Edited by Dezső Dercsényi) (1970). Corvina, Taplinger Publishing. ISBN 0-8008-4015-1.
- Bartl, Július; Čičaj, Viliam; Kohútova, Mária; Letz, Róbert; Segeš, Vladimír; Škvarna, Dušan (2002). Slovak History: Chronology & Lexicon. Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Slovenské Pedegogické Nakladatel'stvo. ISBN 0-86516-444-4.
- Engel, Pál (2001). The Realm of St Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895–1526. I.B. Tauris Publishers. ISBN 1-86064-061-3.
- Kontler, László (1999). Millennium in Central Europe: A History of Hungary. Atlantisz Publishing House. ISBN 963-9165-37-9.
- (Hungarian) Kristó, Gyula; Makk, Ferenc (1996). Az Árpád-ház uralkodói [=Rulers of the House of Árpád]. I.P.C. Könyvek. ISBN 963-7930-973.
- Molnár, Miklós (2001). A Concise History of Hungary. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-66736-4.
- (Hungarian) Szegfű, László (1994). "Sámuel". In Kristó, Gyula; Engel, Pál; Makk, Ferenc. Korai magyar történeti lexikon (9-14. század) [=Encyclopedia of the Early Hungarian History (9th-14th centuries)]. Akadémiai Kiadó. pp. 592–593. ISBN 963-05-6722-9.
Samuel Aba, King of HungaryBorn: before 990 or c. 1009 Died: 5 July 1044
|Palatine of Hungary
|King of Hungary