Budapest: A Random Walk in Science and Culture

  • László KovácsSr.


Hungary forms a linguistic island in Europe among the Germanic and Slavic nations. Both ethnically and linguistically, Hungarians are of Finno-Ugric origin. Millennia ago their ancient home was somewhere in the region of the Kama river near the Ural mountains.2 The conquest of the region around the Danube river occurred at the end of the 9th century. Between 12 BC and 433 AD the Romans dwelled in the Carpathian basin.The capital of Provincia Pannonia was Aquincum, which is now Óbuda, a part of Budapest. Aquincum was an important fortress of the Roman legions and also had a civilian area. Many of its ruins are preserved in good condition, and the remnants of an important 3rd-century crossing point of the Danube river can be seen next to the Erzsébet bridge in Pest. The three towns, Óbuda and Buda on the hilly western side of the Danube river and Pest on the flat eastern side, were united to form Budapest in 1872.3 There also were other important Roman towns in Pannonia such as Sopianae (Pécs), Scarbantia (Sopron), Savaria (Szombathely), and Gorsium (Tác). After the collapse of the Roman Empire in 433 AD, Attila the Hun ruled in the Carpathian basin. The Avars and Slavic tribes arrived there about 568 AD and the Francs in 803 AD.4 Francis S. Wagner comments further: In the time of the Magyar [Hungarian] Conquest Slavs, Germans and some other peoples already lived there. The Magyars, characteristically, did not enslave them as did earlier the Huns and the Avars to native populations. The economy of the Magyars was built on the contemporary feudal system and not on the barbarian exploitation of subjugated peoples. And, furthermore, while the Huns and the Avars occupied primarily the Great Hungarian Plains, the central base of the Magyar Conquest lay in Dunántúl (Transdanubia): that is, in the very neighborhood of [the] Western cultural sphere. These circumstances, as well as the specific concept of the nomadic nation as practiced by the Magyars, helped develop the fate of this area for centuries to come. In the formative period the old, nomadic nation concept of the Magyars embraced all separate racial (nationality) groups who lived on the territories under Magyar military and political supremacy. This fairly elastic concept of nation saved the Magyars in their long and tragic struggles against the Tatars, Turks and others as well as helping to absorb their invader’s strengths and rejuvenate the whole nation.5


Ural Mountain Carpathian Basin Cultural Sphere Danube River Barbarian Exploitation 
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© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel, Switzerland 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • László KovácsSr.
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhysicsUniversity of West HungarySzombathelyHungary

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