Inhabited by varied peoples since ancient times, the Hungary area has a very long history of occupations, rulers, territorial struggles and war.
In 20 BC, the Romans were aggressively expanding their empire to the north, and they conquered the Hungarian land west of the Danube by 9 BC.
As the Western Roman Empire fell into decline, a new era in European history began as less-powerful land grabbers from the east and north now found it easier to invade the continent.
The Hunnic Empire was a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia, and in 435 AD, the Huns were the first to arrive here.
All empires eventually fade into the history books and the Huns were no exception. Some Germanic tribes, Slavs, and the Lombards followed them from Scandinavia.
In the middle of the 6th century the Eurasian Avars, an organized group of nomad warriors, first appeared in central Europe. They dominated these lands for some 250 years, until defeated by Charlemagne, the King of the Franks. A few Avars survived the destruction and remained in the area.
In 895, a semi-nomadic group of people led by Arpad, the leader of the Magyars, formed the Principality of Hungary; later transformed into a Christian realm during the early 10th century.
This now highly organized principality, with a new-found military force, conducted vigorous crusades from Constantinople, Turkey, to as far away as central Spain.
Stephen I, considered the founder of the Kingdom of Hungary, was the first King from 1000–1038. He greatly expanded Hungarian influence over parts of Austria, Croatia, Romania and Slovakia during his lifetime.
Stephen I divided the Hungarian land into counties, each with an appointed official (a landlord of sorts) that represented the king's authority. They would keep order in their individual county, collect the taxes, and so on....
This brilliant stroke of management turned Hungary into a strong, organized kingdom, one that could and did withstand attacks from marauding outsiders and nomadic tribes from the east.
Stephen I also brought Christianity to most of the region, and on August 20, 1083, Pope Gregory VII canonized Stephen I, together with his son, Saint Emeric of Hungary.
Over the next two centuries kings from the Arpad dynasty assumed the throne, including: Coloman the "Book-lover" (1095–1116), Bela III (1172–1192) and Andrew II (1205 to 1235).
In the middle of the 13th century King Bela IV had taken the throne, but then the Mongols invaded. Led by descendants of Genghis Khan, the Mongols decimated the land by destroying most of the settlements; few buildings survived. History records that up to half of Hungary's (then population) of 2,000,000 were victims of the Mongols.
The Cumans, a nomadic pagan tribe, and the Jassic people from Iran gathered together and successfully drove the Mongols out. King Bela quickly ordered the construction of hundreds of stone castles and brick fortifications, to defend against a possible second Mongol invasion.
And return they did in 1286, but this time the Mongols were thwarted by the series of new castles and fortifications, and by the heavily armed knights hired for protection by the king.
Over the next two centuries a series of Kings ruled Hungary, ending with King Matthias Corvinus. When he died without any males heirs Hungary started a period of decline, caused mainly by the growing and now-powerful Ottoman Empire.
The Ottoman Turks gained decisive victories over the Hungarian armies in the early 16th century, and when Budapest fell in 1526, Hungary was divided into three parts and remained so until the end of the 17th century.