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Medieval depiction of the execution of Koppány.

Koppány [1] was a Hungarian nobleman of the tenth century. Brother of the ruling prince of Hungary, Géza of the Árpád dynasty, Koppány ruled as Prince of Somogy in the region south of Lake Balaton. Following the death of Géza he claimed the right of succession: inheritance of the title was determined by the principle of agnatic seniority, and Koppány was the oldest surviving member of the House of Árpád. However, his claim to power was challenged by Géza's son Vajk, Koppány's nephew, who had by then been baptized a Christian and given the name of István.

István claimed a divine right to succession and wanted to complete his father's work in turning Hungary into a European Christian kingdom; Koppány in contrast stood for the old tribal values of the ancient Magyars. In 998 AD the supporters of István and followers of Koppány fought near Veszprém. István's army, bolstered by the support of a regiment of Bavarian knights, won a decisive victory over Koppány. The Illuminated Chronicle narrates that he was killed by Vecelin, the commander of the royal army.[2] According to the legend his body was cut in four pieces, which were sent to be displayed on the walls of the four major strongholds of the Kingdom (Győr, Veszprém, Esztergom and Gyulafehérvár) as a warning to all troublemakers.

The victory of the Catholic István over the Orthodox Koppány in the battle for succession was of the utmost importance in determining the future course of Hungarian history. István created the Apostolic Kingdom of Hungary and became its first King in the year 1000 AD. (Ironically, since István's only son died before he could inherit the throne, after a time of internal strife, the descendants of Koppány were called back to claim the crown. It was Koppány's grandson, King László I who initiated the canonization process of István in the Vatican. He was elevated to sainthood by Pope Gregory VII in 1083.) Hungary became a European Christian kingdom, and began a period of territorial expansion as well as consolidation of the Magyar tribes into one unified nation.


  1. ^ According to the alternative theory of Arminius Vambery (the pioneer Hungarian-Jewish Turcologist), his name in Latin, Cupa / Cupan, was derived from the Turkish word kupan, the rebel (upriser).
    He stated that Koppány's original name had actually been forgotten and that the name remaining in written sources was derived from his rebel status.
  2. ^ Kristó 2001, p. 20.


  • Kristó, Gyula (2001). "The Life of King Stephen the Saint". In Zsoldos, Attila. Saint Stephen and His Country: A Newborn Kingdom in Central Europe - Hungary. Lucidus Kiadó. pp. 15–36.  
  • Lendvai, Paul: The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat, Princeton University Press, 2003. pp 29–31
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