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The Fateful Battle of Lechfeld Marks Its 1,068th Anniversary

Hungary Today 2023.08.10.

1,068 years ago, on August 10, 955, the Hungarians under the leadership of chieftains Bulcsú, Lehel, and Súr fought their last battle in the West, when they were defeated at Lechfeld near Augsburg by the German King Otto I (r. 936-973).

Hungarian equestrian nomads repeatedly overran the lands of Central Europe since their first raid in 899. Their special fighting art consisted in shooting arrows from horseback while riding, which is why people included the phrase “and spare us from the arrows of the Hungarians” in church intercessions.

Despite a severe defeat at Merseburg, Germany in 933, the Hungarians again moved westward at the request of the powerful sovereigns, who were in opposition to King Otto I.

Photo via Wikipedia

It was common for the sovereigns to ask their nomadic neighbors for help. Thus, in the years following the accession of the new king, the Hungarians repeatedly passed through Saxony and Thuringia, at times even reaching what is now France.

The campaign of 955 also had similar origins, as King Otto’s son, Luitpold, rebelled against him in 954 and was soon joined in his plot by Duke Conrad the Red of Lorraine. The conspirators invited the Hungarians into the country along with their own army, but thanks to the king’s swift action, the revolt failed before the adventurers led by Bulcsú had crossed the border.

Lehel’s Horn in the 14th century Hungarian Pictorial Chronicle. Photo: Wikipedia

The Hungarians had already besieged Augsburg for three days when the imperial army of about 8,000 men, led by Otto, arrived on the field along the Lech River. On August 10, the adventurers led by Bulcsú, Lehel, and Súr unexpectedly broke the siege and surrendered to the king. The battle did not go according to plan for the numerically superior nomads.

The exhibited horn in the Jász Museum. Photo via Wikipedia

The exact details of the battle are not known, but the fact is that in time – probably after the death or capture of the Hungarian leaders – the Hungarians quickly left the country.

According to the legend, the Hungarian leaders Bulcsú, Lehel, and Súr were captured during the battle, and after their defeat  were led before Emperor Conrad. Lehel then blew his horn and beat the ruler to death on his throne, saying that the slain emperor would serve him in the afterlife. However, the legend contains many inconsistencies.

What is certain is that after this defeat, the Hungarians did not start any more adventures to the West.

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Via Ungarn Heute, Featured image via Wikipedia

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