Ahtum, also Achtum or Ajtony (Bulgarian: Охтум, Hungarian: Ajtony, Romanian: Ahtum, Serbian: Ахтум / Ahtum), was a local ruler (voivode, ‘king’, ‘prince’ or tribal leader) in the region of Banat (today divided between Romania, Serbia and Hungary) in the first decades of the 11th century. King Saint Stephen I of Hungary (1000/1001-1038) sent Csanád - one of Ahtum’s former retainers - to fight against him. Csanád defeated and killed Ahtum in the king’s name, thus incorporating the territory into the Kingdom of Hungary.
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 in the 13th century Gesta Hungarorum as opposing the invading Hungarians.
Sources for his life
His story is narrated in the so-called Long Life of St Gerard, an early 14th century compilation of different sources. 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. The 13th-century Gesta Ungarorum refers three times to Ahtum. His life and defeat is not mentioned by other chronicles.
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. His name may be connected to the Turkic word for gold or copper (altun). Ahtum’s ethnicity (Bulgarian, Hungarian, Kavar, Khazar, or Pecheneg) is a controversial issue.
Ahtum’s domain extended from the Körös River to the Danube. His base of power was in Morisena (now Cenad, Romania), a stronghold on the Lower Mureş River. 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. According to the Long Life, Ahtum "had taken his power from the Greeks".
He was baptized in the Orthodox faith in Vidin (Bulgaria), an event that must have postdated the Byzantine conquest of that city in 1002. He also founded a Greek Orthodox monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist near his residence. But otherwise Ahtum was "very imperfect in the Christian faith" having as many as seven wives.
Ahtum’ power was based on considerable resources, mainly cattle and horses. 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. Ahtum’s army, similarly with that of Glad, his forerunner, included militarily-organized Vlachs, Bulgarians and Slavs. One of Ahtum’s retainers named Csanád fled to the Hungarian king who declared Ahtum an enemy. Csanád returned at the head of a large army, with which he eventually defeated and killed Ahtum.
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. A Roman Catholic bishopric was also immediately founded at Morisena, and St Gerard was invited by King Stephen I to be its first bishop.
The date of the conflict between Ahtum and Csanád acting on behalf of King Stephen I is a controversial issue. 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. 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. As a consequence, many scholars (e.g., C. A. Macartney, E. Glück, E. Fügedi) favor a late date, one or two years before St Gerard’s appointment. 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. 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.
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.
- ^ a b Georgescu, Vlad. The Romanians: A History.
- ^ Pop, Ioan Aurel. Romanians and Romania: A Brief History.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Curta, Florin. Transylvania around A.D. 1000.
- ^ 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.
- ^ a b c Macartney, C. A.. The Medieval Hungarian Historians: A Critical and Analytical Guide.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Curta, Florin. Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250.
- ^ a b c d e Kristó, Gyula (General Editor). Korai magyar történeti lexikon (9-14. század).
- ^ Madgearu, Alexandru. Salt Trade and Warfare: The Rise of Romanian-Slavic Military Organization in Early Medieval Transylvania.
- ^ 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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