The Gesta Hungarorum of Anonymus, the Anonymous Notary of King Béla: a translation.

The Gesta Hungarorum of Anonymus, the Anonymous Notary of King Béla: a translation

By Martyn Rady

Slavonic and East European Review, Vol.87:4 (2009)

Introduction: The Gesta Hungarorum of the Anonymous Notary of King Béla is the oldest extant chronicle of the history of the Hungarians. It remains ‘the most famous, the most obscure, the most exasperating and most misleading of all the early Hungarian texts.’ Purporting to be an account of the background, circumstances and immediate aftermath of the Hungarian conquest of Pannonia in the late ninth century, it was most probably composed in the early years of the thirteenth century by a chancellery clerk who had formerly been in the service of King Béla III of Hungary (1172-1196).

The extant version, which survives in a late thirteenth century copy, is apparently incomplete. The sole MS, consisting of 24 folios, was first noted in the library of Schloss Ambras, outside Innsbruck, in the seventeenth century, from where it was moved to Vienna in 1665, and much later, in 1928, to Budapest. Although details of the MS were included in two printed seventeenth-century catalogues of the imperial library, its text was not published until 1746. Between then and the end of the nineteenth century, the MS was re-published more than a dozen times. A scholarly edition, with critical annotation, was first published by Gyula Pauler and László Fejérpataky in 1900, and a revised edition by Emil Jakubovich and Dezső Pais in the first volume of Imre Szentpétery’s Scriptores Rerum Hungaricarum (2 vols, Budapest, 1937; hereafter, SRH). The Latin text has been translated several times into Hungarian, most notably by Pais, as well as into Romanian and German. What follows is the first rendering of the Latin text into English.


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See also our review of Anonymus and Master Roger (Central European Medieval Texts)