The abstract of the book

Românii în opera Notarului Anonim


(Centrul de Studii Transilvane, Bibliotheca Rerum Transsylvaniae, XXVII), Cluj-Napoca, 2001, 259 pp. (ISBN 973-577-249-3)






The purpose of this book is to analyse the passages about Romanians contained in Gesta Hungarorum (GH), by comparison with other written sources and with the archaeological discoveries. The Romanian historians often used the Anonymous Hungarian Gesta, but there are very few studies focused on the trustworthiness of this source.

Recent archaeological investigations brought new lights about the first period of Romanian-Hungarian contacts in Transylvania. In the mean time, several historians published in the last two decades some papers concerning the instances about Romanians in GH. We consider that a monographic study on this problem is now possible and necessary.


Part I. The Source

Chapter 1. Who was the Anonymous Notary ?

GH was preserved into a mid 13th century manuscript. Its author was the chancellor of one of the four Hungarian kings who bore the name Bela. Bela I and Bela IV were excluded by source criticism. Some details are showing that the author was familiar with the realities of mid 12th century. This makes probable a date after Bela II (1131-1141). If this is true, Anonymus could be a certain Petrus who was in 1124 the chancellor of the previous king Stephen II. The hypothesis of the dating after Bela III (1172-1196) is based on the supposed existence of some anachronisms relating to the IIIrd Crusade and to the Romanian-Bulgarian kingdom of the Assenides. These anachronisms were not proved. Our opinion is that the source was written after Bela II, around 1150.

Chapter 2. The trustworthiness of the source

Being a medieval gesta, the purpose of the source was not the recording of the past, but the legitimation of the present by means of history. GH has a propagandistic character. Its prototype was another Gesta Ungarorum, written in the late 11th century. The Anonymous Notary (also known as Anonymus) used several traditions and oral genealogies, but he tried to write a truthful story. His critical spirit is remarkable. It is also true that his work contains several anachronisms and confusions. Almost all the important events were moved during Arpad’s life, although they occurred later. The battle of Lechfeld (955) is placed in the second decade of the 10th century and is tendentiously presented. The raid in Greece (chapter 45) occurred in 934, not during Arpad’s life. Despite such confusions, GH remains a valuable source. The Byzantine and Frankish sources confirm the remembrance of the Bulgarian domination in the lower basin of the Tisa. GH mentions in this area a certain duke Salan of Bulgarian origin. His name is not real, but his alliance with the Greeks could be. The 10th century chronicler Liudprand wrote about a Hungarian victory over Bulgarians and Byzantines in the early 10th century. Other data given by the Anonymous Notary are confirmed by the archaeological researches: the presence of a group of Khazars (Kavars) in the region of the Criș rivers, before the Hungarian conquest; the coming in Hungary of some people from Bulgaria Magna (on Volga) is proved by some specific clay buckets (Tonkesseln) found in the Serbian Banat.

The most important question is the historical value of the passages about Blaci / Blachi (chapters 9, 24-27 and 44). Many Hungarian historians thought they were wrongly inserted in the relation, because the Romanians were not present in Transylvania in the 10th century. This assertion is based on the supposed influence of some relations about the South-Danubian Vlachs met by crusaders in 1189. The name Blaci is indeed of Byzantine origin, but it is known that all the Latin western sources are using it. The name Blaci was an official term in the Hungarian chancellery in the 13th century; it was later replaced by the form Olachi. Therefore, the using of the name Blachi / Blaci does not prove that the author of GH was inspired by a story about the IIIrd Crusade or about the Assenide kingdom. Moreover, the most probable date of GH is around 1150, before those events.

The rest of our book discusses the chapters 9 and 24-27. The third passage concerns the campaign through Banat towards Bulgaria (934). The existence of the local ruler Glad is proved by the survival of his name in the toponymy. In this passage the Blaci are mentioned among the allies of Glad. There is no reason to deny this information. The Cumans involved too in this alliance might be the Kavars.


Part II. The "Blachi" of Pannonia

Ch. 1. The analysis of the text

According to GH, ch. 9 and 11, the Hungarians found in Pannonia a people named Blachi, which is also designed as pastores Romanorum. This item is also present in the work of Simon of Keza and in the later chronicles, but for the age of Attila. (For Simon of Keza the descent from Attila was the founding myth of the Hungarian kingship). Simon of Keza mixed the periods of Attila and of Arpad into an imaginary history. However, we could be sure that Simon of Keza was convinced that the Blacki were amongst the oldest inhabitants of Pannonia.

The chroniclers used the expression pastores Romanorum because in their mind this poor population of Roman origin could descend only from the shepherds of the Romans. The Anonymous Notary believed that these shepherds were brought in Pannonia after the death of Attila. His ideas are more accurate, because he did not mistake Attila for Arpad, as Simon of Keza did. In his work, the Blachi are the contemporaries of Arpad. Although it was supposed that Blachi were another Latin-speaking people, this could not be true, because the expression pastores Romanorum could be applied only to the Romanians. We should observe that in Hungarian ólah means both "Romanian" and "shepherd".

In ch. 9, 46, 48 and 51 there are some instances about another people named Romani. It was shown that this is an unclear reminiscence about the mastership of the Roman-German Empire in Pannonia. The image of these medieval "Romans" from Arpad's age was mixed with that of the ancient Romans of the Attila's age.

The data about Blachi in the Hungarian chronicles have a pair in the Russian Primary Chronicle, where the name Volohi is present in four passages. M. Gyóni remarked that the data about the Volohi were borrowed from a Slavonic text written in Moravia in the 9th-10th century. He considered that Volohi are the Franks who conquered Pannonia. We should observe that Gyóni had no doubt about the events recorded by this Slavonic source, although some items are not credible. The source is a legend with some historical elements that could not be used for an accurate restitution of the past. In fact, the Volohi could be identified with any Latin-speaking people. Only the passage where they are located in the mountains could be taken as a testimony for the Romanians. However, the Slavonic text shows that its author believed that the Volohi conquered Pannonia before the Hungarians. He was inspired from the same legend as the Hungarian chroniclers.

We remark the existence of two distinct traditions:

1)- The "Romans" (Volohi) conquered Pannonia and mastered it till the coming of the Hungarians, who drove them away (The Russian Chronicle, GH);

2)- Blachi, pastores Romanorum, settled Pannonia since Attila, without military role; they remained there after the coming of Hungarians (GH, Simon of Keza and the later Hungarian chronicles).

The GH recorded distinctly both legends. The Russian chronicle confirms the tradition about the Romani.

The tradition about the Blachi appeared because the chroniclers were convinced that Romanians were present in Pannonia before the Hungarians. This idea was also recepted in Descriptio Europae Orientalis, a 14th century text based on Hungarian information.


Ch. 2. The Romanic Population in Pannonia in the 5th-10th centuries

The Roman Pannonia was separed by Dacia by the not romanized region between Danube and Tisa. This caused a divergent evolution. The Roman Pannonia was not part of the territory where the Romanian people was born. Only its southeastern part between Sava and Danube could be included because it was strongly linked with Moesia Prima.

The Roman population survived in Pannonia after the Hunic invasion, especially near the Balaton Lake in fortified settlements like Keszthely-Fenékpuszta. Other places inhabited by the Romanic population after the 5th century were Pécs, Tokod, Sopron, Szombathely, Dunaújváros. Several Christian antiquities were found and are known even objects with Latin inscriptions. The Romanic population from Pannonia created the Keszthely culture that evolved during the 6th-7th centuries. Its artefacts were made in the workshops of Roman origin located in the fortified settlements Keszthely-Fenékpuszta, Pécs and other. The Romanic craftsmen worked for their masters (Gepidae and Avars).

The settlement continuity allowed the inheritance of several Roman toponymes. The Romanic population survived only in small number, in defended places (the fortified settlements). The geographic milieu did not offer the advantages that existed in post-Roman Dacia.

The church organization was preserved until the 6th century, but the Christendom survived in popular forms. The Franks found in 796 a Christian population in Pannonia, which had clerici illiterati, i.e. without instruction. The Christians from Pannonia lost the church hierarchy during the Avar domination. In the 9th century began the christianization of the Slavs. This led to the final assimilation of the Romanic people, who were very few in comparison with the Slavs. The local Romanic population of Pannonia disappeared in the 9th-10th centuries. It was a different Romanic people than the Romanians.


Ch. 3. The Romanians in Pannonia

We saw that Pannonia was not part of the Romanian space. The possible presence of Romanians should be explained by migrations. N. Drăganu gathered many placenames of supposed Romanian origin from the Hungarian medieval documents. In some cases he was wrong, but there are enough place and person names attested in sources from 11th-14th centuries that could be considered of Romanian origin. Few examples: Bereve, de genere Negul (1247) in County Baranya, Chobanka (village near Buda, in 1267), villa Vlach (1275, County Valko).

The Romanians arrived in Hungary as shepherds from Transylvania but also from the region between the Timoc and the Morava. Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia had an important Romanian population in the Middle Ages, later Slavized. The Romanians spread from the South-Danubian part of the Romanian area. This explains the presence of Romanians in Hungary. A migration from the Timoc area into Pannonia is attested in 818. It could be supposed that also Romanians were involved. This could explain the presence of Romanians in Pannonia since the 9th century, as a different population than the remnants of the local Romanic people. Therefore, GH recorded a truthful information inserted into a legendary story about the Hungarian conquest. It should be observed that the tradition preserved by the Hungarian chronicles makes confusion between the local Romanic people of Pannonia and the Romanians.



Part III. The "Blaci" of Transylvania

Ch. 1. The trustworthiness of the relation about the conquest of Transylvania

The relation about of conquest of Transylvania is a short digression in GH, inserted in the story about the war against Menumorout (ch. 24-27). It differs very much from the version of Simon of Keza. The single common point is that the Hungarian conquest of Transylvania had two moments. The campaign led by Tuhutum against the Romanian ruler Gelou occurred in a small region between Porțile Meseșului and the Căpuș valley. The 14th century chronicles said that Transylvania was conquered by duke Geula during a hunt when he discovered the city of Alba. This is a vague and legendary version of the conquest, while GH knows a version with a historical character.

The GH version is not a forgery because the author had no reason to do it. His purpose was to argue the mastership of the Arpadian dynasty by the assertion that Arpad gave to Tuhutum the mission of conquering Transylvania. Gelou is recognized as a dominus of this land (he had dominium). Tuhutum took his right after the victory. The relation about Transylvania was inserted in GH because there was a need to legitimate its subjection to the Hungarian crown. (Transylvania was not a part of the Hungarian kingdom, but a separate state). The propagandistic purpose of GH had no reason to invent the presence of the Romanians (Blaci), because the medieval Hungarian mastership in Transylvania was founded on the conquest and not on historical arguments, as in the Modern age.

We suppose that the participation of Tuhutum was invented, because the author wished to ascribe the conquest to a captain of Arpad. In ch. 6 and 20 he gives other data about this Tuhutum and his descendants. His estates are located into an area (in County Pesta) were several placenames are inheriting his name. In Transylvania there are no such names, but there are placenames that inherited the names of Geula and Zumbor (see fig. 3). The Anonymous Notary made a confusion between two different persons named Geula and he ascribed the conquest of Transylvania to Tuhutum, the grandfather of the other one. This means that the real conqueror was a certain Geula, which is known by the other sources. Geula seems to be in fact the name of the dignity gylas, a very high rank. The Anonymous Notary replaced it with Tuhutum because the conquest of Transylvania by such an important ruler was not suitable for his propagandistic purpose. For him, the conqueror must be a captain of minor importance, like Tuhutum.

Several historians considered that Gelou was not a real person and that his name was created from the placename Gilău. In fact, it was shown that Gilău derives from Gelou. The origin of the name Gelou was searched in the Türkic languages. L. Rásonyi used this for his wrong theory on the Türkic origin of the Blaci. However, the supposed origin of the name Gelou from Yolug could be explained as a borrow from the Kavars settled in Crișana before the Hungarians. S. Brezeanu recently sustained an autochthonous origin of the name Gelou. The conclusion is that the placename Gilău preserves the memory of Gelou who, according to GH, was killed just there.

The chronology of the events described in ch. 24-27 is unclear. We are not sure about the date during Arpad’s age and we suggest a later chronology, after 927, when the Bulgarian hegemony fell. The Hungarian warriors began their inroads in East after 933 when they were defeated at Merseburg. The attack against the duke Glad in Banat is dated too in 934. If we suppose that the conquest of Transylvania occurred after 927, then the absence of the toponymes remembering Tuhutum and Horca is normal.

Therefore, the relation recorded in ch. 24-27 mixes truth and fiction. The existence of the Romanian population is out of doubt because it had no value for the propaganda.


Ch. 2. Archaeological proofs for the first Hungarian invasions in Transylvania

The study of the ancient Hungarian findings has made great progress in the last decades. Their most ancient group, dated before the Bjelo Brdo culture, was defined. This culture was developed not only by Hungarians, but by all the populations living in the Middle Danube basin. The first Hungarian group of discoveries in Transylvania preceeded the first phase of Bjelo Brdo culture (960/970-mid 11th century). The artefacts of this early group are inherited from the culture brought from the Eurasian steppe and are discovered in graves dated in the first half or in the first two thirds of the 10th century.

The most important findings are the two cemeteries from Cluj-Napoca (11 and 26 graves). Men (some of them are horsemen), women and children were buried with weapons and adornments. A similar cemetery was found at Gâmbaș (12 graves of men and women, without horses). The cemetery from Lopadea Nouă is more recent (dated in the transition period to the Bjelo Brdo culture). A grave of a Hungarian or Kavar shaman from the first half of the 10th century was found in the cemetery Blandiana A. Several early Hungarian graves and artefacts were found at Alba Iulia, in the area of the previous autochthonous setlement and cemetery. Isolated findings are also known from Benic. The cemetery discovered at Deva is dated after the end of the 10th century and does not belong to the period discussed in this chapter. Finally, we mention that there are no clear data about the two graves from Dârjiu.

It could be remarked the spreading of these discoveries in the nearness of the central Transylvanian salt mines (see fig. 4). This proves that the Hungarians, like the Avars, were interested in their mastership. Another conclusion is that Hungarians entered by northwest (by the pass of Porțile Meseșului). The second route by the Mureș valley is not certain.

We suppose that Geula conquered Alba Iulia after he defeated Gelou, the Romanian ruler who mastered the northwestern part of Transylvania. All the earliest Hungarian discoveries except Cluj-Napoca are concentrated near Alba Iulia. This could put in concordance the two versions of the conquest recorded in the chronicles: Geula, the real conqueror, penetrated by Porțile Meseșului up to Alba Iulia.


Ch. 3. The Principality of the Someșul Mic valley. The fortresses. The inhabitants

Several fortresses were discovered in the territory mastered by Gelou. Some of them were ascribed to the period studied here.

1. Dăbâca

This fortress is usually considered as the residence of Gelou. A careful analysis of the stratigraphy shows that there are no certain proofs for its dating since the 9th century. The objects found could be dated during all the 10th century. The single certain date is the destruction of the first period at the beginning of the 11th century (with the occasion of the war led by King Stephen I). The first period of the fortress could be ascribed to the period of Gelou, but this fact is only probable, because we do not know findings dated only before the Hungarian invasion. However, the Slavic origin of the name Dăbâca suggests that the fortress was erected before the Hungarian conquest. Moreover, the building technique has analogies in the 9th century Moravia. The problem of the chronology of this site remains open.

2. Cluj-Mănăștur

This fortress had three phases. It is sure that the second was destroyed by the Petcheneg raid in 1068, but we do not know its beginning. The inside settlement has a very poor inventory. This means that here was only a refuge fortress. The pottery could be dated since the 9th century, but also since the next. In the most ancient level were found pots with grooved neck brought in Transylvania by Kavars and Hungarians in the 10th century (such pots were also found at Dăbâca). The single precisely dated object is a Hungarian pendant from the first half of the 10th century. Unfortunately, the context of its discovery is not known. A ceramic type specific for the 11th century does not appear in the first phase. This could mean that the first phase was dated only during the 10th century, but its beginning is unclear. The fortress was not destroyed in the first phase. On the other hand, the second phase could be ascribed to the period after the conquest of King Stephen I (1002-1003). Unlike Dăbâca, this fortress was not burned in that war.

3. Moigrad, Ortelec, Zalnoc

The fortress of Moigrad was dated in the 9th-10th centuries because its building technique, but there are no findings. Its Slavic name suggests a date before the Hungarian conquest. However, the location shows that this fortress could belong first to duke Menumorout. From GH it results that Gelou had no control over the zone of Porțile Meseșului. This strategic point was quickly conquered by the Hungarians (GH, ch. 22). Moigrad is placed at the eastern exit of the pass. In the western part was researched another fortress, at Ortelec (now, in the town Zalău). There were found ceramic fragments from the 9th-10th centuries in the fortress area. After a fire, the place was used for a cemetery dated in the 11th-12th centuries. It is very probable that both Moigrad and Ortelec were destroyed in 1068. Their beginning is too unknown. The fortress discovered at Zalnoc belongs to the same group, which could be put in relation with the principality of Menumorout. Their mission was to defend the crossing point from Transylvania and also the way used for salt trade. Some discoveries from Zalău and Sălacea are suggesting the using of this way since the 9th century. Therefore, there is a possibility to date these three fortresses in the 9th century.


This fortress seems to be dated like Dăbâca. The destruction of the first phase could be put in relation with the attack of Stephen I, while the second phase ended in 1068. As like as for the other sites, we could not give a precise terminus post quem for the first phase. The findings are very scarce.

Therefore, the chronology of all these fortresses is still unclear for the 10th century. This means that we could not be sure if they were built before the first Hungarian invasions. No one could have been a residence fortress, because the settlements consist only from poor huts.

5. Castrum Clus

GH said that Gelou had a fortress near the river Someș. The relation suggests that he want to reach Cluj. The problem is that the fortress of Cluj-Mănăștur could not be considered a residence for a ruler. Castrum Clus is mentioned in documents since 1173. This fortified settlement could not be located on the hill Mănăștur, because at the same time there was a monastery on that site. It seems that castrum Clus was in the downtown, in the area of the former Roman city. K. Horedt supposed that here was also the residence of Gelou. The early Hungarian graves found at Cluj could support this theory. If this is right, then this fortress had the mission to defend the same salt road controlled by Moigrad.

6. The principality

The area of the territory owned by Gelou is not precisely known. However, it could be supposed that the salt mines from Turda, Ocna Dejului, Cojocna, Sic were included. The salt was very important in the early Middle Ages and its possession was the purpose of the power exerted by Gelou or by other rulers. The population consisted by Romanians and Slavs.

This principality appeared in the circumstances created after the fall of the Avar power. Bulgaria extended a kind of domination in southern Transylvania, up to the Mureș river, in the zone of other salt mines. Near Alba Iulia it was discovered a group of settlements and cemeteries dated in the second half of the 9th century that have some analogies in the Lower Danubian area. The fine polished gray ceramic (Dridu B type) was found in Transylvania only in the small area between Alba Iulia and Sebeș and also in a few points in southeastern Transylvania. These findings were interpreted as proofs for a Bulgarian domination in the area nearby Alba Iulia. Its goal was the control over the salt mines and over the trade made by the river Mureș. In this zone were also found weapons and spurs of Frankish origin. It seems that Alba Iulia was the centre of a territory subjected to Bulgaria until the Hungarian offensive towards east.

Bulgaria did not control the northwestern part of Transylvania. This allowed the evolvement of a free principality. We should remember here that GH said that Gelou dominium tenebat. He was a free ruler.

The existence of the Romanian and Slavic population attested by GH is proved by the survival of some ancient names of rivers (Someș, Criș, Mureș, Ampoi). Linguistics shows that the Western Mountains were a region of strong preservation of the Romanic people during the migration period. In some places in these mountains it was found a pottery of Roman descent dating in the 8th-9th centuries. An accurate research of the highlands could bring important and unexpected data about the Romanian continuity in Transylvania. The settlement of Albești (near Sighișoara) shows that the higher and wooden areas preserved in better conditions the Roman traditions. In the region where Gelou's principality is located it was spread a ceramic type made at the fast wheel, of Roman descent, which disappeared in the most of the Romanian space after the 6th Century.

However, only the research of several cemeteries would let us know more about the territory owned by Gelou.



A critical study of GH shows that this source contains several true facts, mixed with confusions and anachronistic records. Some events are confirmed by archaeology. The Anonymous Notary wrote a very valuable source for the history of the early medieval Transylvania. Some of our historical interpretations are different from the general accepted points of view: the date of the first Hungarian invasions in Transylvania, the name of the conqueror, the chronology of the fortresses. There are still many questions to be resolved in this field of research.