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Prince Csaba, a Legend for Sure!

Csaba's troops coming by way of the Milky Way (source: vilagfigyelo.com)

Prince Csaba, a Legend for Sure! 

Judit Vasmatics Paolini 

The Huns were a nomadic, tribal people who headed from the East and migrated West.  Attila (406-453) was a great warrior and a powerful ruler of the Huns who further advanced their migration and conquered lands as they progressed.  He was born in Pannonia, which at the time was one of the provinces of the Roman Empire.  This province greatly exceeded the land that is within Hungary’s current borders.  Nonetheless, Pannonia included land which is located in western Hungary today and what the Hungarians call “Dunántúl” (Transdanubia).  In 433, upon the death of Ruglia, Attila and his older brother, Bleda, jointly succeeded their uncle as rulers. By this time, the Hun tribes had been united and the brothers governed over the unified Hunnic tribes.  However, Bleda the older brother died in 445 (some believe that Attila had murdered him).  In turn, Attila established himself as the great leader of the Huns and emerged as the 5th century King of the Hunnic Empire which he shaped so masterfully.

Attila was a superb horseman and an exceptional military leader who was a master tactician; he was respected by his warriors, including those he attained through his conquests which included numerous German tribes.  Though he was perceived as a fair ruler by his people, his enemies thought differently and believed he was utterly ruthless.  Under his rule, the Huns were powerful, fighting warriors with tremendous and crushing, fighting capabilities.  Attila led the Huns on numerous, successful conquests and amassed many lands.  Under his effective rule, the Hunnic Empire reached its pinnacle and extended from central Asia heading West and touched what today is Orleans in France; it also included lands along the Danube Valley and reached the Black Sea.  However, in 451, Attila’s conquest(s) was arrested in the Battle of the Chalons in Northeastern France.

Attila died in 453.  Moving forward, the Huns needed a strong leader; as we look to discover who that person might have been, we come across the legend of Prince Csaba who was one of the many sons Attila fathered.  Hungarians know that the meaning of the name Csaba is “a gift from the heavens” or “a gift from the sky” or simply “a gift”, and that this meaning commenced with the fabled warrior called Prince Csaba.  Legends have several versions, as does this one, in which we discover how Prince Csaba became to be viewed as a gift from the sky. 

Upon Attila’s death the Huns were challenged by the German tribes and numerous battles erupted.  Without a strong leader to unify the tribes, the clashes continued.  Two sons of Attila emerged and presumed themselves as the rightful heirs and each began to rule.  One was Aladár whose mother, Krimhilda, had been a princess from an influential German tribe.  The other was Csaba, whose mother was Greek and who was the daughter of the Byzantine Emperor.

Aladár and Csaba did not work toward unifying the tribes; instead, brother fought against brother, with tribes choosing to side with one or the other.  The German tribes gave their support to Aladár; and he had the German army on his side.  The Huns committed themselves to Csaba; in addition, he had the support of the Greek army.

Csaba was victorious in the first battle.  However, Aladár regrouped and successfully gathered a powerful army.  The two brothers fought once again in the Battle of Krimhilda.  It has been said that this bloody and gruesome conflict lasted two weeks, with both sides having lost a great number of warriors and having suffered excessive casualties.

Many of Attila’s sons died in this battle with only a few surviving.  The lives lost by the Hun warriors were insurmountable; ultimately, Csaba’s army was shattered and defeated, which resulted with him losing the empire.  This forced him to retreat, fleeing to Greece with merely 15,000 Huns, knowing he would be welcomed there and receive the care his warriors needed. However, he did not remain there; instead, after a period of rest, he departed and traveled to Scythia, the land of his father.

Though they barely survived the brutal encounter with the German tribes, 3,000 Huns stayed in Pannonia.  Aware of their great peril and fearful of revenge from their adversaries, this group headed for the Carpathian Basin and settled in Transylvania.  After that, they no longer called themselves Huns; instead they established themselves as Székely.

According to our legend, Csaba became the leader of the Székelys; he stayed until this group had a chance to multiply and grow stronger in order to support and defend their new homeland. Then it was time for the Prince to leave; but he promised that, when they were in danger, they could send him word by fire, air or water, or even by Mother Earth, and he would come back to assist them.

Csaba and his troops had not gone far when a mighty wind swirled around them, bringing the message:  “Return Csaba, the Székelys are in trouble!”  So they turned around immediately, and destroyed the enemy.  Once again, they set out for Scythia.

This time, a swollen river blocked their path, bringing the same message. They returned again.

The third time, they were far away already, when a terrible storm, with thunder, lightning and hail enveloped them.  Once more they saved their Székely kin from their enemies.  Afterwards, they were finally able to reach Scythia.

Time passed, and Csaba and his troops died.  Generations passed, and the Székelys were once more in great danger, unable to defend their land.  Consequently, the Frankish people attacked and the onslaught commenced.  Oh, the young Székelys were valiant; despite having to face an army in which they were greatly outnumbered, they stood their ground!  The battle ensued for days; but the defeat of the brave, young fighters was imminent.  Thus, their enemy taunted them, asking who would protect them now in Csaba’s absence!

But the message beaten by their horses’ hoofs had been transmitted by Mother Earth!  Suddenly, Prince Csaba appeared, descending from the heavens, mounted on his horse, and riding down a shiny trail with his powerful warriors following – so, he and his men arrived by the way of the Milky Way (which we know is a constellation in the sky)!  They promptly attacked the Frankish intruders and routed them.  

Csaba had returned with his troops as he had promised, and the road trampled by his horses has remained in the sky until today.  We call it the Milky Way – but the Székelys call it the Way of the Troops – a Hadak útja!

So, it is not surprising that the name Csaba means “gift from the sky” or more simply “gift”! This legend explains it all!  Furthermore, we also know that legends contain an element of truth, for they are connected to a historical incident or place.  In this legend, the one thing that is certain and can be accepted is that the Huns are ancestors of the Székelys!

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