Álmos (Hungarian pronunciation: [ˈaːlmoʃ]), also Almos or Almus, (c. 820–c. 895) was – according to the uniform account of Hungarian chronicles – the first head of the "loose federation" of the Hungarian tribes from around 850. Whether he was the sacred ruler (kende) of the Hungarians, or their military leader (gyula) is subject to scholarly debate. He apparently accepted the Khazar khagan's suzerainty in the first decade of his reign, but the Hungarians acted independently of the Khazars from around 860. The 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle narrates that he was murdered in Transylvania at the beginning of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin around 895.
Anonymus, the unknown author of the Gesta Hungarorum – who wrote his "historical romance" around 1200 or 1210 – states that Álmos descended "from the line" of Attila the Hun. A late 13th-century chronicler, Simon of Kéza wrote that Álmos was "of the Turul kindred". He also wrote of Attila the Hun's banner, which bore "the image of the bird the Hungarians call turul" – identified as either a gyrfalcon or a hawk. A bird has an important role in the legend about Álmos's birth, which was preserved both by the Gesta Hungarorum and by the Illuminated Chronicle. The legend says that Álmos's mother, already pregnant with him, dreamed of a bird of prey "which had the likeness of a hawk" impregnating her. Historians Gyula Kristó and Victor Spinei wrote that this story, which has close analogies in Turkic folklore, initially narrated the origin of Álmos's family from a totemic ancestor.
According to the Gesta Hungarorum, Álmos was born to Emese, a daughter of "Prince Eunedubelian". However, Kristó writes that her name, containing the old Hungarian word for mother (em), may have been invented by Anonymus. The name of Álmos's father is likewise uncertain because the Hungarian chronicles preserved it in two variants. Anonymus states that Ügyek was his name, but the 14th-century Illuminated Chronicle says that Előd – himself the son of Ügyek – was Álmos's father. Kristó says that both names may have been the chroniclers' inventions, since Ügyek's name derives from the ancient Hungarian ügy ("saint, holy") word, and Előd's name simply refers to an ancestor. Anonymus writes that Ügyek married Emese in 819. If this date is correct, Álmos was born around 820.
Although Anonymus makes a connection between the name of Álmos and the Hungarian word for dream (álom), many historians, including András Róna-Tas and Victor Spinei, argue that his name is of Turkic origin. If the latter theory is correct, it has a meaning of "the bought one". Álmos's family may have also been of Turkic stock, but according to Victor Spinei, a name's etymology does not always reflect its bearer's ethnicity.
In the year of Our Lord's incarnation 819, Ügek ... took to wife in Dentumoger the daughter of Prince Eunedubelian, called Emese, from whom he begot a son, who was named Álmos. But he is called Álmos from a divine event, because when she was pregnant a divine vision appeared to his mother in a dream in the form of a falcon that seemed to come to her and impregnate her and made known to her that from her womb a torrent would come forth and from her loins glorious kings be generated, but that they would not multiply in their own land. Because a dream is called álom in the Hungarian language and his birth was predicted in a dream, so he was called Álmos. Or he was called Álmos, that is holy, because holy kings and dukes were born of his line.— Anonymus: Gesta Hungarorum
Álmos, according to Gesta Hungarorum, was freely elected by the heads of the seven Hungarian tribes as their "leader and master". Anonymus adds that to ratify Álmos's election, the seven chiefs "swore an oath, confirmed in pagan manner with their own blood spilled in a single vessel". Anonymus says that they also adopted the basic principles of the government, including the hereditary right of Álmos's offsprings to his office and the right of his electors' descendant to have a seat in the prince's council. According to author Pál Engel, this report of the "treaty by blood" (Hungarian: vérszerződés), which reflects its authors' political philosophy rather than actual events, was "often presented by Hungarian historians as the very first manifestation of modern parliamentary thinking in Europe" up until 1945.
In a sharply contrasting narrative from around 950, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus states that instead of Álmos, his son Árpád was the first supreme head of the Hungarian tribes, and that Árpád's election was initiated by the Khazar khagan. The emperor says the khagan sent an envoy to the "voivodes" (heads of the Hungarian tribes) after they had been forced by the Pechenegs to leave their dwelling places near the Khazar Khaganate and to settle in a new territory called Etelköz. The khagan was planning to appoint one of the voivodes named Levedi to lead the Hungarian tribes to represent the khagan's interests. Although Levedi refused the khagan's offer, he proposed one of his peers, Álmos or Álmos's son Árpád, to the proposed new position. The khagan accepted Levedi's offer. Upon his initiative the Hungarians elected their first prince, but they preferred Árpád to his father.
Gyula Kristó and many other historians refute Porphyrogenitus's report of the omission of Álmos in favor of his son, saying that the turul legend connected to Álmos's birth proves his role as forefather of his dynasty. These historians say that the emperor's account is based on a report by one of Árpád's descendants named Termacsu, who emphasized by this report of Árpád's election that only those descending from Árpád were suitable to lead the Hungarians; other children of Álmos were excluded. András Róna-Tas says that Constantine Porphyrogenitus preserved the memory of a coup d'état organized against Levedi kende by Álmos gyula, who had his own son Árpád elected as sacred ruler in his opponent's place. A late 9th-century Central Asian scholar, Abu Abdallah al-Jayhani – whose works were partially preserved in Ibn Rusta's and other Muslim authors' books – mentions the existence of these two high offices among the Hungarians. He describes the kende as the Hungarians' sacred ruler and the gyula as their military commander. Historians still debate which of the two offices was held by Álmos.
The chagan said to [Levedi]: "We have invited you upon this account, in order that, since you are noble and wise and valorous and first among the [Hungarians], we may appoint you prince of your nation, and you may be obedient to our word and our command." But he, in reply, made answer to the chagan: "Your regard and purpose for me I highly esteem and express to you suitable thanks, but since I am not strong enough for this rule, I cannot obey you; on the other hand, however, there is a voivode other than me, called [Álmos], and he has a son called [Árpád]; let one of these, rather, either that [Álmos] or his son [Árpád], be made prince, and be obedient to your word." That chagan was pleased at this saying, and gave some of his men to go with him, and sent them to the [Hungarians], and after they had talked the matter over with the [Hungarians], the [Hungarians] preferred that [Árpád] should be prince rather than [Álmos] his father, for he was of superior parts and greatly admired for wisdom and counsel and valour, and capable of this rule; and so they made him prince according to the custom, or 'zakanon', of the Chazars, by lifting him upon a shield.— Constantine Porphyrogenitus: De Administrando Imperio
Kristó says that Álmos stood at the head of the Hungarian tribal confederation from around 850. Porphyrogenitus's narration says that he initially accepted the khagan's suzerainty. The Hungarians apparently achieved their independence around 860, since the earliest reports on their plundering raids in Central Europe were recorded thereafter. The Annals of St. Bertin mentions their incursion into Louis the German's realm in 862. Three tribes seceding from the Khazar Khaganate, together known by Porphyrogenitus as "Kabaroi", also joined with the Hungarians in the 860s or 870s. Spinei says that the memory of their arrival was preserved by Anonymus, who mentions "the seven dukes of the Cumans" who "subjected themselves to Prince Álmos" at Kiev.
Anonymus writes of a war between the Hungarians and the Kievan Rus', ending with the victory of the Hungarians, who were commanded by Álmos. The Russian Primary Chronicle refers to a "Hungarian hill" at Kiev in connection with the town's occupation by Oleg of Novgorod in 882. The same chronicle mentions "a castle of Ol'ma" (Олъминъ дворъ) standing on the same hill. George Vernadsky says that this fortress had been named after Álmos, but this theory has not been widely accepted by historians.
The Hungarians who lived in the westernmost parts of the Pontic steppes were occasionally hired by neighboring powers to intervene in their wars. For instance, they invaded Moravia in alliance with Arnulf of East Francia in 892. Their intervention in a conflict between the First Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantine Empire caused a joint counter-invasion by the Bulgars and Pechenegs. The Hungarians were forced to leave the Pontic steppes and to cross the Carpathians in search of a new homeland around 895.
According to the Gesta Hungarorum, the Hungarians invaded the Carpathian Basin under Álmos, who "appointed his son, Árpád, as leader and master" of the Hungarian tribal federation at Ungvár (Uzhhorod, Ukraine). Thereafter Anonymous does not mention Álmos. In a contrasting report, the Illuminated Chronicle says that Álmos "could not enter Pannonia, for he was killed in Erdelw" (Transylvania). Kristó says that the chronicle preserves the memory of Álmos's sacrifice because of the catastrophic defeat of his people by the Pechenegs. If this is true, his ritual murder proves that Álmos was the sacred leader of the Hungarian tribal federation. Róna-Tas refutes this and says that if the chronicle's report is reliable, Álmos became the victim of a political murder committed or initiated by his own son. Preferring the narration of the Gesta Hungarorum to the report by the Illuminated Chronicle, Victor Spinei states that Álmos was not murdered in Transylvania, since Anonymus writes that the Hungarians bypassed this region when invading the Carpathian Basin.
No source preserved the name of Álmos's wife. Anonymus writes that she was "the daughter of a certain most noble prince". Álmos's only child known by name was Árpád, who succeeded Álmos after his death. The following is a family tree presenting Álmos's closest relatives:
| || || || || ||Ügyek|| ||Eunedubelian|
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| || || || || ||Előd or Ügyek|| ||Emese|
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| || || || || || || ||Álmos|| || || |
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| || || || || || || ||Árpád|| || || |
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| || || || || || || ||Hungarian monarchs|| || || || || || || |