Szeklers

From Classic Encyclopedia 1911

SZEKLERS, or SZEKELS (Szekely, Lat. Siculi), a Finno-Ugrian people of Transylvania, akin to the Magyars. They form a compact mass of rather more than 450,000, extending from near Kronstadt on the south to Maros-Vasarhely and Gyergo St Miklos on the north. Their origin is unknown and has been the subject of much learned debate. Their own ancient tradition affirms their; descent from Attila's Huns. According to Procopius (De bello gothico, iv. 18) 3000 Huns entered Transylvania (Erdeleu, i.e. the Magyar Erdely) after their defeat "calling themselves, not Hungarians, but Zekul," and the Szeklers were the descendants of the Huns who stayed in Transylvania till the return of their kinsmen under Arpad; the anonymous scribe of King Bela speaks of them as "formerly Attila's folk." Von Rethy (Ung. Rev. vii. 812) suggests that they were originally a band of Black Ugrians who sought refuge in Transylvania after their defeat by the Pechenegs. Timon, however (Magyar Alkotmany es Jogtdrtenet, p. 75), points out that their language proves that their separation from the main Magyar stock must have taken place after the Magyar tongue had been fully developed (see also Hunfalvy, Magyarorszdg Ethnographiaja, 200). According to another theory they were Magyars transplanted by St Ladislaus to Transylvania in order to form a permanent frontier guard. Some such origin would, indeed, seem to be implied by the name Szekel, if this be derived, as Czetneki surmises ("Die Szeklerfrage," Ung. Rev. i. 411-428), from szek, seat, i.e. an administrative district (cf. the Stuhl of the Transylvanian Saxons); Szekely would thus mean simply "frontier-guards."


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