{1-395.} The Gyulas in Alliance with Byzantium

In 948, a sudden turn of events compelled Transylvania's gyula to adopt a policy divergent from that of the ruling prince. Prince Fajsz had dispatched his nephew, Tormás, and the harka Bulcsú to Constantinople, to renew the peace treaty; the envoys attached so much importance to the task that they had themselves baptized. It is likely that this gesture was motivated by Bulcsú's decision (for he was taking charge of foreign policy) to launch new western raids; therefore he wanted to protect his rear from Byzantine attack. Some time after 952, the gyula Zombor also presented himself at Constantinople, but he came in his own right, and not as an envoy of the ruling prince. He, too, had himself baptized, but his political goal was different from that of Bulcsú. Zombor was interested not in western raids but in the anti-Bulgar plans of the Byzantine court. The latter had never given up its ambition to crush the Bulgars and restore the old imperial borders on the Sava and Lower Danube rivers. The gyulas also considered the Bulgars, from whom they had seized the territories that lay north of the Danube and the Carpathians, to be their principal enemy. The Árpádian ruling princes would have been satisfied with Byzantine neutrality, but the gyulas sought an alliance against the Bulgars. After getting baptized, Zombor did something that neither Fajsz nor Bulcsú would have dreamed of: he brought back to Transylvania a Byzantine evangelizer. The patriarchate of Constantinople appointed Hierotheos bishop of 'Turkia'. Historians have looked for his episcopal seat in Transylvania, in or near the gyulas' capital. More recently, a seal was discovered belonging to two later bishops of the 'Turks', Theophylaktos and Antonios, and bearing on the reverse the figure of Saint Demetrius; this find has prompted speculation that the episcopal seat was located at Szávaszentdemeter (today Mitrovica), which had been founded on the site of ancient Sirmium. (Then again, the bishops' flock may have been the Vardariot Turks, near Thessaloniki!)

{1-396.} The new ruling prince of the house of Árpád, Taksony, drew a lesson from the defeat suffered by the Hungarians in 955 at Augsburg. He decided to seek peace in the West, asked the Roman pope to send him an evangelizing bishop, and launched several military campaigns against Byzantium in the years leading up to 972. Taksony thus put himself in opposition to the gyula Zombor, who was seeking security by forging ever closer links with Byzantium. Faithful to the Greek Orthodox rite, Zombor stayed aloof from the western Hungarians' raids against the Byzantine empire; he would even redeem and liberate Byzantines captured by his nominal countrymen. Zombor took a clear political stand in rejecting the ruling prince's western orientation and siding with Byzantium; he knew that the Byzantine court took a dim view of the attempts of the German king, Otto I, to revive the Carolingian empire and be crowned Holy Roman Emperor — attempts that came to fruition in 962.

Taksony regarded Zombor's Byzantine alliance as an affront to his princely authority and a threat to the political unity of the confederation of Hungarian tribes. However, since he had yet to settle his relations with the Germanic Roman empire, he avoided an open confrontation with the gyula. Instead, he followed the example of Fajsz and decided that his son and heir, Géza, should marry Sarolt, the daughter (probably still a minor) of Zombor. By the 960s, the relations between prince and gyula had become so strained that Taksony could not expect a warm welcome in Gyulafehérvár for the emissaries bearing the formal proposal. A go-between was needed — and this may be key to an enigmatic episode, related by chroniclers of 11th-century Hungary, in which a certain Kulan fell out with his brother Keán, and was supported in his battle by one Beliud, who subsequently inherited Kulan's lands. It was this Beliud who recommended that Géza and Sarolt should marry, and thus, despite a fairly common belief, Keán could hardly have been the Bulgar czar. More recent research points to the conclusion {1-397.} that, judging from their names, the brothers were quarrelling over land that is situated in Hunyad county, where there are two localities called Kaján and Kalán. Moreover, there is a locality on the Maros river, across from Gyulafehérvár, called Béld. This toponym evokes Beliud, who may have been a Transylvanian notable, perhaps a descendant of the Bár-Kalán clan. (This 'upper class' clan dates back to the conquest, when it settled along the Tisza River; it subsequently spread to the upper reaches of the Fehér-Körös River, in Transylvania, and from there — as indicated by the toponyms Bár, Kalán, and Kaján — to Hunyad county.) Since the conflict between prince and gyula could affect his own power and privileges, Beliud chose to act as peacemaker and as a go-between in the proposed marriage. In the event, his efforts brought fruit, for Géza and Sarolt were wed. That alliance is evoked by (Maros)décse and (Magyar)décse, two estates given by the gyula to his new son-in-law, and located near the salt-mines of Torda and Dés, respectively (a wedding present similar to that given by the gyula to Fajsz).

All this is informed speculation. The fact is that the arranged marriage of Géza and Sarolt served only as a temporary palliative. The Roman bishops who came to Géza's court at Esztergom after 972 took a dim view of Sarolt, who had been brought up in the Greek Orthodox faith; thanks to her, they had to contend not only with Géza's indifference to religion and the Hungarians' paganism, but also with the competing influence of the Byzantine church. Since, as Thietmar attests, Sarolt dominated her aging husband, the evangelizers blamed her for their failure to convert many Hungarians and complained that 'a religion infected with paganism is worse than barbarism itself.'[5]5. Franciscus Albinus Gombos, Catalogus Fontium Historiae Hungaricae I-III (Budapest, 1937-38), vol. III, p. 2297 (the quotation is from Bruno of Querfurt). It is likely that the Orthodoxy professed by Sarolt was actually a mixed bag of religious beliefs derived from the various cultures, Hungarian, Pecheneg, Russian, and Bulgar, represented in the gyula's entourage. Although, prior to 1054, Roman priests could not openly condemn the Orthodoxy, {1-398.} they regarded it as the greatest obstacle to their evangelizing mission. Thus they branded as 'paganism' the version of Orthodoxy transmitted from Transylvania to the Esztergom court, while overt paganism, which they found easier to overcome, earned the epithet 'barbarism'.