Budapest: History

The Capital of Hungary

Budapest History

Budapest has a complicated and tortured history. Thought to have been inhabited from around the 3rd century BC when it was home to Celtic settlements, its natural source of thermal waters attracted the Romans to Budapest who incorporated the city as part of their empire until they were driven out by the Goths and the Huns early in the 5th century. After the collapse of the Hun empire, many inhabitants of the settlements around the Danube migrated eastwards opening the way for Magyars to set up camp in the area. A succession of weak kings did little to develop the city. The grounds of the Royal Palace were built to protect the city folk from the invasion of the Mongols in 1241, but the efforts proved fruitless. By the time the Mongols had captured Budapest and left years later following the death of Genghis Kahn, Budapest was in ruins. Having regained the settlements of Buda and Pest the Hungarian King Bela IV decided to strengthen the city defences of which Buda Castle played a major role. The 15th century saw the cities golden era and under the rule of King Matyas, Buda and Pest both went under major development influenced greatly by his Italian wife who introduced many features inspired by the legendary Romans. A century later the Turks decimated the Hungarian army and Budapest became part of the Ottoman empire. The turning point in Budapest's rise came 150 years later when the Hapsburg swept aside the Turks and drove them out of the country. Initially their tyrannous rule was no better than the suppressive Turks, until the Hungarians rebelled in a bloody conflict that lasted eight years. Though the rebels were beaten, the Hapsburgs realised the importance of using Budapest, on the banks of the Danube, as a major economical centre and ploughed money into developing the city. The Austro-Hungarian empire bought another golden age and the city thrived until after the 2nd World War when it was subjugated by Stalin's Russia. The Uprising in 1956 was to scar Budapest again as the streets once again became a battle ground. The rebellion might have started another major war in Europe had America and the UK not been distracted by the Suez crisis. Without support from the west, Hungarian resistance was soon crushed by the Soviets and communist rule was reinstated until its collapse in 1989.