Muslim Sources on the Magyars in the Second Half of the 9th Century

The Magyar Chapter of the Jayhānī Tradition


The Jayhānī tradition contains the most detailed description of the Magyars/Hungarians before the Conquest of the Carpathian Basin (895). Unfortunately, the book itself was lost and it can only be reconstructed from late Arabic, Persian and Turkic copies. The reconstruction is primarily based on the texts of al-Marwazī, Ibn Rusta and Gardīzī. The original text has shorter and longer versions. The basic text was reformed at least twice and later copyists added further emendation. This study focuses on the philological comments and historical interpretation of the Magyar chapter, integrating the results in the fields of medieval Islamic studies, the medieval history of Eurasian steppe, and the historiography of early Hungarian history.
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Biographical Note

István Zimonyi, Ph.D. (1990), University of Szeged, is Professor of Medieval Studies at that university. He has published monographs, and articles on the medieval Eurasian steppe, including Orientalische Berichte über die Völker Osteuropa und Zentralasiens im Mittelalter (with H. Göckenjan. Harrassowitz, 2001).

Table of contents

Preface ix
List of Maps and Illustrations xiii
Introduction 1
1 The Jayhānī Tradition 7
1 The Personality of al-Jayhānī 7
2 Al-Jayhānī’s Literary Activity and His Geographical Work 11
3 The Sources of al-Jayhānī’s Geographical Work 16
Ibn Khurdādhbih 16
4 The Works Which Preserved the Jayhānī Tradition 18
Ibn Rusta 18
Ḥudūd al-ʿālam 19
Gardīzī 19
Al-Bakrī 20
Abūʾl-Fidāʾ 23
Al-Marwazī 23
ʿAwfī 24
Shukrallāh 24
Muḥammad Kātib 25
Ḥājjī Khalīfa 25
5 Al-Jayhānī’s Report on Central Asia and Eastern Europe 26
2 The Versions and Translations of the Magyar Chapter 38
3 The Interpretation of the Magyar Chapter 56
1 The Name of the Magyars 56
Folk Etymologies of the Designation Magyar 62
2 The Eastern Magyars 67
Pechenegs 67
Volga Bulgars 72
Äskäl 74
First Border 77
3 The Magyars as Turks 83
Turk Meaning Magyar 85
Magyars Belonging to the Turk Peoples 90
4 The Strength of the Magyar Army 102
5 The Political Organization 116
The Interpretation of the Word shiʿār 117
The Magyar King Kündä 118
The King Gyula 120
Dual Kingship 120
The Structure of Nomadic Empires 125
6 Houses and Nomadic Life 139
Yurts and Tents 139
Nomadic Way of Life 160
7 The Dimensions of the Magyar Lands 186
8 The Sea of Rūm and Its Two Rivers, Fishing in the Winter
Quarters 202
The Roman Sea 204
Jayḥūn Amu Darya 230
Winter Quarters 233
Fishing 236
9 The Bulgars on the Danube 239
Onogundur ~ W.n.nd.r 241
Bulgars and Ogurs 244
Danube Bulgars 262
10 Etil and Danube 265
Danube 266
Volga 270
Etelköz, Habitat of the Magyars before the Conquest 281
The Role of Rivers in the Nomadic Way of Life 284
11 Moravia 290
12 The Characteristic of the Magyar Lands 303
13 Magyar Agriculture 306
14 Magyars and Slavs 309
Ṣaqāliba 317
Rūs 320
Kiev and the Magyars 324
Provisions 327
15 The Religion of the Magyars 330
16 Magyar-Byzantine Trade 334
Karkh 336
Slave Trade 337
Byzantine Merchandise 338
17 Khazar-Magyar Relations 340
Sarkel 340
Trench 342
Khazar-Magyar Relations 344
18 The Appearance of the Magyars 354
19 Clothes and Weapons 356
Weapons 357
20 Prosperity and Trade 358
21 Raids against the Slavs 359
22 The Distance between the Slavs and the Magyars 359
23 Bride-Price 360
24 The Eastern Border of the Magyar Territory 363
25 Slavic Castles against the Magyars 364
Summary 365
Bibliography 377
Index 409


All interested in the early history of the Hungarians, the medieval history of the nomads living in the Eurasian steppe and the Muslim sources on these nomads.