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Gza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians

Gza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians

Depicted in the Illuminated Chronicle Grand Prince of the Hungarians Reign Predecessor Successor Spouse Issue Unnamed daughter, wife of Boleslaus I of Poland Unnamed daughter, wife of Gavril Radomir of Bulgaria King Stephen I of Hungary Unnamed daughter, wife of Otto Orseolo, Doge of Venice Unnamed daughter, wife of Samuel Aba, King of Hungary Dynasty Father Born Died rpd dynasty Taksony c. 940 997 early 970s 997 Taksony Stephen Sarolt of Transylvania

Gza (c. 940 997), also Gejza,[1] was Grand Prince of the Hungarians from the early 970s. He consolidated his authority with extreme cruelty, according to the unanimous narration of nearly contemporary sources. He made peace with the Holy Roman Empire and supported Christian missionaries in his realm. Gza himself was also baptised thus became the first Christian ruler of Hungary, but his faith remained shallow. His baptismal name was Stephen.

Early life
Gza was the elder son of Taksony, Grand Prince of the Hungarians.[2] His mother was his father's wife "from the land of the Cumans",[3] according to the anonymous author of the Gesta Hungarorum.[4] This anachronistic reference to the Cumans suggests that she was in fact of Khazar, Pecheneg or Volga Bulgarian origin.[5] The Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus who listed the descendants of Grand Prince rpd around 950 did not make mention of Gza.[5] Even so, Gyula Krist proposes that Gza was born around 940, and the emperor ignored him because of his youth.[5] The genuine form of his name was either "Gyecsa" or "Gyeusa" which seems to be a diminutive form of the Turkic yabgu title.[5] His father arranged[5] his marriage with Sarolt, a daughter of Gyula, a Hungarian chieftain.[6] Gyula who ruled Transylvania in fact independently of the grand prince[6] had converted to Christianity in Constantinople.[7] Sarolt seems to have also adhered to the Orthodox faith, as it is suggested by Bruno of Querfurt's remark on her "languid and muddled Christianity".[7]

Gza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians

Gza succeeded his father in the early 970s,[5] either in[8] or around[9] 972. He adopted a centralizing policy[1] which gave rise to his fame as a merciless ruler.[8] The longer version of his son's Life even states that his hands were "defiled with blood".[8] Pl Engel supposes that Gza carried out a "large-scale purge"[8] against his relatives which explains the lack of references to other members of the rpd dynasty from around 972. Koppny is the only exception who continued to rule the southern parts of Transdanubia.[8] A marriage alliance between the German and Byzantine dynasties brought about a rapproachement between the two powers neighboring Hungary in 972.[10] Gza decided to make peace with the Holy Roman Empire.[1] First a monk named Bruno sent by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor arrived in Hungary around 972.[11] Hungarian "legates"[12] were present at a conference held by the emperor in Quedlinburg in 973.[8] Geyza, who was strict and cruel, acting in a domineering way, as it were, with his own people, but compassionate and generous with strangers, especially with Christians, although [he was] still entangled in the rite of paganism. At the approach of the light of spiritual grace, he began to discuss peace attentively with all the neighboring provinces... Moreover, he laid down a rule that the favor of hospitality and security be shown to all Christians wishing to enter to his domains. He gave clerics and monks leave to enter his presence; he offered them a willing hearing, and delighted them in the germination of the seed of true faith sown in the garden of his heart. Hartvic: Life of King Stephen of Hungary[13] A record on one Bishop Prunwart in the Abbey of Saint Gall mentions his success in baptising many Hungarians including their "king".[11] The nearly contemporary Thietmar of Merseburg confirms that the so far pagan Hungarians' conversion to Christianity started under Gza[14] who thus became the first Christian ruler of Hungary.[10] His baptismal name was Stephen.[5] However, Gza did not cease to observe pagan cults which proves that his conversion to Christianity was never complete.[15] Krist and other historians propose that the first Roman Catholic diocese in Hungary, with its seat in Veszprm, was set up in his reign,[5] but their view has not been unanimously accepted.[16][17] On the other hand, a charter issued in his son's reign states that Gza was the founder of the Benedictine Pannonhalma Archabbey.[18][19] [Gza] was very cruel and killed many people because of his quick temper. When he became a Christian, however, he turned his rage against his relictant subjects, in order to strengthen this faith. Thus, glowing with zeal for God, he washed away his old crimes. He sacrificed both to the omnipotent God and to various false gods. When reproached by his priest for doing so, however, he maintained that the practice had brought him both wealth and great power. Thietmar of Merseburg: Chronicum[20] Taking advantage of internal conflicts which emerged in the Holy Roman Empire after Emperor Otto I' death, Gza invaded Bavaria and took the fortress of Melk in 983.[21] The Bavarians launched a counter-attack in 991 which forced Gza to withdraw all Hungarian forces from the territories east of the Vienna Woods.[21] Furthermore, he even renounced the lands east of the river Leitha in his peace treaty of 996 with Henry IV of Bavaria.[8] Gza also arranged the marriage of his son and heir, Stephen with Henry IV's sister, Giselle.[8][5] Even before this marriage alliance, Gza convoked the Hungarian leaders to an assembly and forced them to take an oath of confirming his son's right to succeed him.[22]

Gza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians

Sarolt gave birth to at least three of Gza's children, including two unnamed daughters and Stephen who succeeded his father on the throne.[23] Sarolt survived Gza which suggests that she was also the mother of Gza two youngest (also unnamed) daughters.[23] Based on the Polish-Hungarian Chronicle,[23][24] Szabolcs de Vajay argues that their mother was Gza's alleged second wife, Adelhaid of Poland, but this theory has not been widely accepted.[5] The following family tree presents Gza's ancestry and his offspring.[25]
rpd Zoltn Menumorut* daughter

Gyula of Transylvania


a "Cuman" lady**


Gza (1)



Boleslaus I of Poland


Gavril Radomir of Bulgaria

Kings of Hungary (from 1046)

(1) Giselle of Bavaria Stephen I of Hungary daughter Doge Otto Orseolo daughter Samuel of Hungary***


Adalbert of Austria


Peter of Hungary


*Whether Menumorut is an actual or an invented person is debated by modern scholars. **A Khazar, Pecheneg or Volga Bulgarian lady. ***Samuel Aba might have been Gza's grandson instead of his son-in-law. ****The Aba family descending from them still flourished in the 14th century.

[1] Kirschbaum 1995, p.41. [2] Krist & Makk 1996, p.26. [3] Anonymus, Notary of King Bla: The Deeds of the Hungarians (ch. 57), p. 127. [4] Krist & Makk 1994, p.24. [5] Krist 1994, p.235. [6] Slgean 2005, p.150. [7] Krist & Makk 1994, p.28. [8] Engel 2001, p.26. [9] Molnr 2001, p.26. [10] Kontler 1999, p.51. [11] Berend, Laszlovszky & Szakcs 2007, p.329. [12] The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg (ch. 2.31), p. 115. [13] Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary (ch. 2), pp.379380. [14] Berend, Laszlovszky & Szakcs 2007, p.331. [15] Engel 2001, p.27. [16] Berend, Laszlovszky & Szakcs 2007, pp.350-351.

Gza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians

[17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25] Engel 2001, p.42. Berend, Laszlovszky & Szakcs 2007, p.352. Engel 2001, p.43. The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg (ch. 8.4), p. 364. Krist & Makk 1996, p.30. Krist & Makk 1996, p.33. Krist & Makk 1996, p.29. Macartney 1953, p.175. Krist & Makk 1996, p.Appendices 1-2.

Primary sources
Hartvic, Life of King Stephen of Hungary (Translated by Nora Berend) (2001). In: Head, Thomas (2001); Medieval Hagiography: An Anthology; Routledge; ISBN 0-415-93753-1. Ottonian Germany: The Chronicon of Thietmar of Merseburg (Translated and annotated by David A. Warner) (2001). Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-4926-1.

Secondary sources
Berend, Nora; Laszlovszky, Jzsef; Szakcs, Bla Zsolt (2007). "The kingdom of Hungary". In Berend, Nora. Christianization and the Rise of Christian Monarchy: Scandinavia, Central Europe and Rus', c.900-1200. Cambridge University Press. pp.319368. ISBN978-0-521-87616-2. Engel, Pl (2001). The Realm of St Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 8951526. I.B. Tauris Publishers. ISBN1-86064-061-3. Kirschbaum, Stanislav J. (1995). A History of Slovakia: The Struggle for Survival. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN963-482-113-8. Kontler, Lszl (1999). Millennium in Central Europe: A History of Hungary. Atlantisz Publishing House. ISBN963-9165-37-9. (Hungarian) Krist, Gyula; Makk, Ferenc (1996). Az rpd-hz uralkodi [=Rulers of the House of rpd]. I.P.C. Knyvek. ISBN963-7930-97-3. (Hungarian) Krist, Gyula (1994). "Gza". In Krist, Gyula; Engel, Pl; Makk, Ferenc. Korai magyar trtneti lexikon (9-14. szzad) [=Encyclopedia of the Early Hungarian History (9th-14th centuries)]. Akadmiai Kiad. p.235. ISBN963-05-6722-9. Macartney, C. A. (1953). The Medieval Hungarian Historians: A Critical & Analytical Guide. Cambridge University Press. ISBN978-0-521-08051-4. Molnr, Mikls (2001). A Concise History of Hungary. Cambridge University Press. ISBN978-0-521-66736-4. Slgean, Tudor (2005). "Romanian Society in the Early Middle Ages (9th14thCenturiesAD)". In Pop, Ioan-Aurel; Bolovan, Ioan. History of Romania: Compendium. Romanian Cultural Institute (Center for Transylvanian Studies). pp.133207. ISBN978-973-7784-12-4.

Gza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians

Gza, Grand Prince of the Hungarians House of rpd

Born: c. 940 Died: 997

Regnal titles Precededby Taksony Grand Prince of the Hungarians early 970s 997 Succeededby Stephen I (Vajk)

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