Gesta Hungarorum

Gesta Hungarorum

Gesta Hungarorum

Gesta Hungarorum


Simon of Kéza was a court cleric of the Hungarian King, Ladislas IV (1272-1290). He travelled extensively in Italy, France and Germany and culled the epic and poetic material from a broad range of readings.

Written between 1282-1285, the Gesta Hungarorum is an ingenious and imaginative historical fiction of prehistory, medieval history and contemporary social history. The author divides Hungarian history into two periods: Hunnish-Hungarian prehistory and Hungarian history, giving a division which persisted in Hungary up to the beginnings of modern historiography.

Simon of Kéza provides a vivid retelling of the well known Attila stories, using such lively prose as - ".the battle lasted for 15 days on end, Csaba's army received such a crushing defeat that very few of the Huns or the sons of Attila survived, the river Danube from Sicambria as far as the city of Potentia was swollen with blood and for several days neither men nor animals could drink the water."

The book is also significant because of the author's legal-theoretical framework of corporate self government and constitutional law, inspired by French and Italian sources and practice, which made this chronicle become an integral part of Hungarian historiography.


While interest in the medieval and early modern history of the central European region is definitely growing, knowledge of the medieval languages (mainly Latin) in which the story is usually told has been declining for some time. Just as historians in the rest of Europe realised that modern language translations are of great value in presenting the picture of their country's history, central Europeans also did their best to translate their past chroniclers into the local vernaculars. However, very little has been done to make these highly important narrative sources available to readers not familiar with the relevant central European languages.

The General Editors' plan is, therefore, to follow the example of such highly acclaimed enterprises as the Oxford (previously Nelson) Medieval Texts by launching a series of narrative sources on medieval Bohemia, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, and their neighbouring countries. Each volume will contain the Latin (or medieval vernacular) text, its English translation, an introductory essay, annotations, indexes, and the usual scholarly apparatus, edited by the best experts in the region and beyond. Since these sources are mostly available in good, relatively recent critical editions, Central European Medieval Texts will print the original language texts with only select textual variants. However . . .

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