Ahtum’s realm

Ahtum,[1][2] also Achtum[3] or Ajtony[4][5] (Bulgarian: Охтум, Hungarian: Ajtony, Romanian: Ahtum, Serbian: Ахтум / Ahtum), was a local ruler (voivode,[1] ‘king’,[6] ‘prince’[4] or tribal leader[6][7]) in the region of Banat (today divided between Romania, Serbia and Hungary) in the first decades of the 11th century.[6] King Saint Stephen I of Hungary (1000/1001-1038) sent Csanád - one of Ahtum’s former retainers[6] - to fight against him.[4] Csanád defeated and killed Ahtum in the king’s name, thus incorporating the territory into the Kingdom of Hungary.[6]

Some scholars (e.g., A. Madgearu, I. A. Pop) see Ahtum as the last member of a native dynasty established in the early 10th century by Glad, who is mentioned exclusively[7] in the 13th century Gesta Hungarorum as opposing the invading Hungarians.[3]


Sources for his life

The 1597 edition of the Long Life of St Gerard

His story is narrated in the so-called Long Life of St Gerard,[3] an early 14th century compilation of different sources.[6] Although the much earlier so-called Short Life of St Gerard does not contain the Achtum episode, it has been suggested that this episode was inserted into the original, but not extant, *Life of St Gerard (of which the Short Life was an adaptation) from a different source, arguably from some legend attached to the name and family of Csanád.[3] The 13th-century Gesta Ungarorum refers three times to Ahtum.[3] His life and defeat is not mentioned by other chronicles.[4]


The Gesta Hungarorum presents him as a descendant of Glad’s lineage, but everything the author of the Gesta has to say about Glad is taken directly from the Ahtum episode of the Long Life.[3] His name may be connected to the Turkic word for gold or copper (altun).[5][7] Ahtum’s ethnicity (Bulgarian, Hungarian,[7] Kavar,[5] Khazar, or Pecheneg) is a controversial issue.[3]

Ahtum’s domain extended from the Körös River to the Danube.[4] His base of power was in Morisena (now Cenad, Romania), a stronghold on the Lower Mureş River.[6] The Romanian historian Alexandru Madgearu propounds that the name of his capital in the Latin text of the Long Life (Morisena) derived from the Romanian form Morişana.[8] According to the Long Life, Ahtum "had taken his power from the Greeks".[6]

He was baptized in the Orthodox faith in Vidin (Bulgaria), an event that must have postdated the Byzantine conquest of that city in 1002.[6] He also founded a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist near his residence.[3][4] But otherwise Ahtum was "very imperfect in the Christian faith" having as many as seven wives.[4]

Ahtum’ power was based on considerable resources, mainly cattle and horses.[6] He had so many warriors that he even dared, so we are told, to oppose King Stephen I and to levy tax upon the king’s salt as it was being transported from Transylvania.[4] Ahtum’s army, similarly with that of Glad, his forerunner, included militarily-organized Vlachs, Bulgarians and Slavs.[9] One of Ahtum’s retainers named Csanád fled to the Hungarian king[6] who declared Ahtum an enemy.[4] Csanád returned at the head of a large army, with which he eventually defeated and killed Ahtum.[6]

After Ahtum’s defeat, his domain was organized into a royal counties of the Kingdom of Hungary, one of which had its seat in Morisena, and was conveniently named Cenad (in Hungarian: Csanád) after its conqueror.[6] A Roman Catholic bishopric was also immediately founded at Morisena, and St Gerard was invited by King Stephen I to be its first bishop.[4]

The date of the conflict between Ahtum and Csanád acting on behalf of King Stephen I is a controversial issue.[3] The Long Life makes it clear that the conflict pre-dates St Gerard’s appointment as bishop of Cenad, which is known from other sources to have taken place in 1030.[3] On the other hand, Ahtum is said to have been baptized in Vidin, which was conquered by the Byzantine Emperor Basil II (976-1025) in 1002.[3] As a consequence, many scholars (e.g., C. A. Macartney, E. Glück, E. Fügedi)[4] favor a late date, one or two years before St Gerard’s appointment.[3] Others (e.g., I. Bóna, Gy. Moravcsik) attempted to read the evidence of the Long Life against the political background of the early 11th century; pointing to King Stephen’s military assistance of Basil II against Samuel of Bulgaria (997-1014), these scholars view Ahtum as Samuel’s ally and place Csanád’s attack either shortly before or at the same time as Basil II’s conquest of Ohrid (Macedonia) in 1018.[3] Finally, others (e.g., A. Madgearu) believe the attack took place a few years after the Byzantine take-over in Vidin, in either 1003 or 1004.[3]

The fact that the members of a certain genus Achtum (Ahtum kindred) owned landed property in Csanád County until the end of the Middle Ages may suggest that King Stephen I let Ahtum’s descendants keep some part of Ahtum’s possessions.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b Georgescu, Vlad. The Romanians: A History. 
  2. ^ Pop, Ioan Aurel. Romanians and Romania: A Brief History. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Curta, Florin. Transylvania around A.D. 1000. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Fügedi, Erik. The Realm of St Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895-1526. 
  5. ^ a b c Macartney, C. A.. The Medieval Hungarian Historians: A Critical and Analytical Guide. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Curta, Florin. Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Kristó, Gyula (General Editor). Korai magyar történeti lexikon (9-14. század). 
  8. ^ Madgearu, Alexandru. Salt Trade and Warfare: The Rise of Romanian-Slavic Military Organization in Early Medieval Transylvania. 
  9. ^ Mircea Dogaru, Mihail Zahariade, History of the Romanians: From the origins to the modern age, Amco Press Pub., 1996.


  • Curta, Florin: Transylvania around A.D. 1000; in: Urbańczyk, Przemysław (Editor): Europe around the year 1000; Wydawn. DiG, 2001; ISBN 978-83-7181-211-8
  • Curta, Florin: Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages - 500-1250; Cambridge University Press, 2006, Cambridge; ISBN 978-0-521-89452-4
  • Fügedi, Erik: The Realm of St Stephen: A History of Medieval Hungary, 895-1526; I. B. Tauris, 2001, London&New York; ISBN 1-85043-977-X
  • Georgescu, Vlad (Author) – Calinescu, Matei (Editor) – Bley-Vroman, Alexandra (Translator): The Romanians – A History; Ohio State University Press, 1991, Columbus; ISBN 0-8142-0511-9
  • Kristó, Gyula (General Editor) - Engel, Pál - Makk, Ferenc (Editors): Korai Magyar történeti lexikon (9-14. század) /Encyclopedia of the Early Hungarian History (9th-14th centuries)/; Akadémiai Kiadó, 1994, Budapest; ISBN 963-05-6722-9 (the entries “Ajtony” and “Galád” were written by László Szegfű and Zoltán Kordé respectively).
  • Macartney, C. A.: The Medieval Hungarian Historians: A Critical and Analytical Guide; Cambridge University Press, 2008, Cambridge&New York; ISBN 978-0-521-08051-4
  • Madgearu, Alexandru: Salt Trade and Warfare: The Rise of Romanian-Slavic Military Organization in Early Medieval Transylvania; in: Curta, Florin (Editor): East Central and Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages; The University of Michigan Press, 2005; ISBN 978-0-472-11498-6
  • Pop, Ioan Aurel: Romanians and Romania: A Brief History; Columbia University Press, 1999, New York; ISBN 0-88033-440-1

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