The Great Age of Migrations and the Making of Hungary
Hungary’s history, particularly of Budapest, is intrinsically linked with the mass movements of tribes and cultures across continents—events historically known as the Great Age of Migrations. This period, spanning several centuries, saw the Hungarians move from the northern reaches of the Ural Mountains to the banks of the Middle Volga and eventually to their current homeland in Central Europe. It is a tale of conquests, alliances, and resilience, shaping the nation’s character and paving the way for the creation of Hungary as we know it today.
From Ural to Volga (1000-1,500 BC)
At this time, the ancestors of modern Hungarians were living north of the Ural Mountains. Known for their horse-riding skills and semi-nomadic lifestyle, they progressively began settling southwest along the banks of the Middle Volga in present-day Russia.
Roman Conquest and Pannonia (1st Century AD)
By the 1st century AD, the mighty Roman Empire had extended its influence into Central Europe, subjugating the Celts and occupying the region known as Transdanubia. The Romans named this territory Pannonia and began establishing civic and military institutions across the land.
The Rise of Aquincum (Early 2nd Century)
In the early part of the 2nd Century, Aquincum—located in the present-day Óbuda district of Budapest—became the capital of Lower Pannonia. It grew into a significant Roman city, featuring bathhouses, amphitheaters, and a governor’s palace, remnants of which can still be seen today.
The Age of the Huns (5th Century)
As the Roman influence waned in the 5th Century, the Huns, led by the infamous Attila, filled the power vacuum. They occupied territories once held by the Romans and established a vast empire. During this period, some Hungarian tribes moved southwards, settling near the Black Sea.
Independence from the Khazars (9th Century)
In the 9th Century, the Hungarians broke away from the Khazars, a people of Turkish origin from the lower Volga region. They settled between the Don and the Dniester, in a large region east of present-day Kyiv, named Etelköz, which means “the place between the two rivers.”
The Conquest of the Carpathian Basin (896 AD)
The culmination of these centuries of migration was the conquest of the Carpathian Basin in 896 AD. This significant event was led by Prince Árpád, the head of the alliance of the seven Magyar tribes. This conquest established the roots of the Hungarian nation in Central Europe, setting the stage for a rich and complex history that continues to shape Hungary and its capital, Budapest, to this day.