The Protection of the Northern Borders of the Kingdom of Hungary (Slovakia) with Poland in the Middle Ages

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Miloš Marek


The frontier defense system of the Kingdom of Hungary, which consisted of guard settlements, gates and border fortifi cations-made of piles of stone and earth, rows of fallen trees, artificial hedges - as well as ditches (gyepű in Hungarian) was established in the 11th century. This socalled “gyepű line” was guarded by special troops called speculatores, consisting mainly of Hungarians, Siculs, Pechenegs and Cumans. It surrounded the territory of the state from all sides like a hoop. On the northern border of Hungary, in present-day Slovakia, a defensive system was built on road crossings leading to Moravia, Poland and Galicia. It used the mountain ridge of the Carpathians, which formed a natural barrier between the countries mentioned, and disappeared during the 13th century. But it is from this period that most written data is available, when some frontier guards were promoted and reached the ranks of nobility, while others left their guard posts and moved to another location. Most of them were bestowed by the king together with the settlement upon new aristocratic owners. It was also the case with frontier guard sites located
toward the Polish border. Many of the frontier settlements manned with border guards were deserted by their former inhabitants (Fintice, Slivník). The Tatar invasion of 1241 showed that this system was ineffective. Therefore, Hungarian crown began the construction of new stone castles, a few of which had already existed before and proved their worth. New stone fortresses had been erected throughout the country, but especially near the borderline. A whole chain of castles was established in the Little Carpathians, the valley of the Váh River, as well as the Orava Castle, Liptov, Spiš, Stará Ľubovňa Castle, etc., which better suited the new requirements of the Kingdom’s defense.

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Marek, M. . (2020). The Protection of the Northern Borders of the Kingdom of Hungary (Slovakia) with Poland in the Middle Ages. Res Gestae, 11, 44–67.
Res Gestae. Forum