What Legends Are Made Of
Tiszafüred sits just a few kilometers east of Lake Tisza. The lake was created a half century ago by the damming of the Tisza River for irrigation purposes. As you gaze out across a wide expanse of blue water take some time to consider another historic damming of the Tisza.
This one occurred in the mid-5th century and has left a treasure yet to be discovered somewhere in or close to the Tisza River.
This treasure takes us back to a time before the arrival of the Magyars in the Carpathian Basin, when the most famous warrior to ever grace the grasslands of the Great Hungarian Plain left a lasting mark on European history.
While traveling around Hungary you will probably notice the name Attila. It’s a very popular name given to innumerable Hungarian men. It is also a common street name. For instance, Budapest has many different Attila utcas (streets).
A correct assumption is usually made that the name’s popularity comes from the famed nomadic warrior Attila the Hun.
On the other hand, an incorrect assumption is often made by visitors that Attila was an early forebear of the Hungarians and that the Huns were ancestors of the Hungarians. The Huns appeared in Europe during the latter part of the 4th century, running roughshod over the late Roman Empire.
They were ferocious, nomadic warriors who suddenly appeared out of the eastern steppes. By the time Attila’s reign began in 434 AD the Huns were on the verge of overrunning all of civilized Europe.
They were finally stopped in 451 AD at the Battle of Chalons in northeastern France. Attila died just three years later and the Hunnic Empire would fall apart a mere decade and a half after his death. It is believed that the tribe was then absorbed by the Bulgars.
The Hungarians much like the Huns five hundred years before them also suddenly appeared in the Carpathian Basin from the eastern steppes. They were also ferocious, nomadic warriors roaring through the countryside, but they were not Huns. Hungarians are actually Magyars.
They call their country Magyarorszag. Orszag means country in the Hungarian language, thus Magyarorszag means the Magyar country.
So how did Magyarorszag come to be called Hungary by the rest of the world? We thought you might ask that. Before the Magyars arrived in the Carpathian Basin the dominant group was an alliance of Bulgarian tribes.
They referred to their land as On-ogur. The Magyars took over On-ogur, becoming the dominant ethnic group. Even so, neighboring nations continued to refer to the area as On-ogur. This was translated into Latin as Ungarus, from which we get the word Hungary. Confused yet? We thought so!
Now do keep in mind that even though the Huns were not Hungarians, the heart of their short-lived empire was sited in what is today the modern nation of Hungary. Besides archaeological finds, the Hunnic Empire’s legacy has been largely lost.
This might change if someone discovers one of the most coveted hidden treasures in all of Europe, the burial site of Attila the Hun himself. In 454 AD Attila had just married a beautiful young German princess by the name Ildico.
During the evening following their wedding, Attila feasted and some believe drank to excess. The next morning he was found dead with his face covered in blood. Ildico was cowering in the corner. It was believed that she had committed treachery and she was promptly killed.
Strangely there was no wound to be found on Attila. It is believed that either he had suffered one of the all-time worst nose bleeds or that his esophagus had ruptured.One way or another he had bled to death.
The deceased King of the Huns was prepared for one of history’s grandest funerals. He was buried in a triple coffin encased in first gold (to show his wealth and glory), then silver (to show his kinship with the moon and river) and finally iron (to show his strength). Myth and historical fact mix from this point forward.
Suffice to say that Hun engineers are said to have diverted the Tisza River long enough to dry up the main river bed. Attila was entombed there in his magnificent sarcophagus. The Tisza was then released with the grave site quickly inundated.
To ensure that no one tried to desecrate their great leader’s body or excavate the untold treasures the pallbearers were slain.
Since the meandering Tisza has flooded innumerable times over the succeeding centuries and was straightened in the 1800’s there is no telling where the tomb ended up.
For that matter, it is questionable as to how much of it is left or in what condition it might have survived.
What seems certain is that the burial site of Attila the Hun and its accompanying treasure will continue to exercise a powerful hold on the imagination. This is the stuff that both history and legends are made of.
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