The Origins of Tale of the Blood-Drinking Hungarians

The Origins of Tale of the Blood-Drinking Hungarians

By György Németh

Tolerance and Intolerance in Historical Perspective, edited by Csaba Lévai and Vasile Vese (University of Pisa, 2003)

Introduction: The Hungarian tribes, arriving in the territory of present-day Hungary in 895 A.D., were received with a fair amount of antipathy by European public opinion. Not only were they non-Christians, but they harassed their neighbours with their marauding expeditions. Though these campaigns ceased after 955, after the defeats suffered at Augsburg and Merseburg, the Western chroniclers did not begin to depict Hungarians with more favourable hues. Usually they were referred to as Huns or Turks, and sometimes they were even considered to be Scythians, though the language of Hungarians is Finno-Ugric and not Turkic, nofr is it Iranian as is that of the Scythians. In addition, repulsive customs were attributed to them, namely that they took their oaths on dead dogs, or that they drank blood straight away. Surprisingly the very first Hungarian chronicle, the Gesta Hungarorum, originating from the 13th century and written in Latin, also mentioned the covenant of blood of the seven princely Hungarians, though not disapprovingly. I wish to investigate whether the covenant of blood was truly a specificity of Hungarians who conquered their present homeland, and from what source Anonymous, the unknown author of the Gesta got his information on that contract.

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