Szeged History Facts and Timeline

(Szeged, Csongrad, Hungary)

Thanks to its centralised location at the southern end of Hungary, Szeged has often found itself at the forefront of regional power skirmishes and political intrigue. The history of Szeged runs so deep that the Greek philosopher Claudius Ptolemy even mentions it in his ancient writings of the 2nd century AD.

Over the centuries, the city fell to the Mongols, stood as a barrier against the Turks and played a big role in the Hungarian Revolution that eventually led to the independence of the nation.

A Colourful Past

There is a lot of genuinely fascinating action associated with the history of Szeged, from the era when Attila the Hun reportedly maintained his base in the area to the Mongol hoards who razed the city to the ground. Few people realise the drama that went on for centuries in modern-day Hungary, involving Byzantine emperors and a soap opera saga of noble families all vying for control of this central part of the continent.

The Hungarian Kings

The first mention of Szeged is actually found in a document from King Bela III in the year of 1183. He was one of the mightiest kings of the era, establishing a town that went on to great prosperity by monopolising the salt trade that was shipped in along the Maros River from Eastern Europe. It was under the reign of Louis the Great, another important Hungarian king, that Szeged bloomed into southern Hungary's most important trading centre.

The Turks

Towards the end of the 15th century, the Turks began creeping closer and closer to Szeged, which lay on the southern edges of Hungary. This made the city a crucial strategic point in the European struggle against the invading Turks, prompting Luxembourg's King Sigismund to build a fortified wall around the city. Soon after, the town was granted free royal status in 1498.

A mere wall couldn't stop the Turkish army, who ransacked Szeged in 1526 and returned almost two decades later to permanently occupy the city. Fortunately for Szeged, the Turkish sultans had their palaces nearby, and so the city was afforded a certain level of protection.

Life after the Turks

The history of Szeged took a fair turn in 1686, when the city was liberated from the Turks. It won back its free royal town status in the early 18th century, sparking a century or so of cultural, scientific and economic growth. Yet despite all this enlightenment, this was the site of Hungary's biggest witch hunt period between the 1720s and the 1740s, with frequent trials tarnishing an otherwise rational society.

Revolutionary Times in the City

Szeged was one of the leading lights in the 1848 Hungarian Revolution against Habsburg rule. Though the revolt failed and the city was punished, the city rebounded only to be nearly erased from the map by a massive flood from the Tisza River in 1879. When the city rebuilt itself from scratch, it created the grand boulevards and beautiful inner-city landscape that visitors enjoy today.

Following the horrors of WWI, Szeged lost much of its importance after southern Hungary was absorbed into Croatia and Romania. WWII wasn't much better, but afterwards Szeged established itself as one of Hungary's premier university towns. The city continues to be a leading centre of academia, as well as a popular tourist destination at the southern fringes of Hungary.