to have any considerable political importance, while in addition the rise of the doctrine of a triad of gods symbolizing the three divisions—heavens, earth and water—assured to Bel, to whom the earth was assigned as his province, his place in the religious system. The disassociation from his local origin involved in this doctrine of the triad gave to Bel a rank independent of political changes, and we, accordingly, find Bel as a factor in the religion of Babylonia and Assyria to the latest days. It was no doubt owing to his position as the second figure of the triad that enabled him to survive the political eclipse of Nippur and made his sanctuary a place of pilgrimage to which Assyrian kings down to the days of Assur-baui-pal paid their homage equally with Babylonian rulers.
BELA III. (d. 1196), king of Hungary, was the second son of King Géza II. Educated at the Byzantine court, where he had been compelled to seek refuge, he was fortunate enough to win the friendship of the brilliant emperor Manuel who, before the birth of his own son Alexius, intended to make Bela his successor and betrothed him to his daughter. Subsequently, however, he married the handsome and promising youth to Agnes of Châtilion, duchess of Antioch, and in 1173 placed him, by force of arms, on the Hungarian throne, first expelling Bela’s younger brother Géza, who was supported by the Catholic party. Initiated from childhood in all the arts of diplomacy at what was then the focus of civilization, and as much a warrior by nature as his imperial kinsman Manuel, Bela showed himself from the first fully equal to all the difficulties of his peculiar position. He began by adopting Catholicism and boldly seeking the assistance of Rome. He then made what had hitherto been an elective a hereditary throne by crowning his infant son Emerich his successor. In the beginning of his reign he adopted a prudent policy of amity with his two most powerful neighbours, the emperors of the East and West, but the death of Manuel in 1180 gave Hungary once more a free hand in the affairs of the Balkan Peninsula, her natural sphere of influence. The attempt to recover Dalmatia, which involved Bela in two bloody wars with Venice (1181-88 and 1190-91), was only partially successful. But he assisted the Rascians or Serbs (see Hungary: History) to throw off the Greek yoke and establish a native dynasty, and attempted to made Galicia an appanage of his younger son Andrew. It was in Bela’s reign that the emperor Frederick I., in the spring of 1189, traversed Hungary with 100,000 crusaders, on which occasion the country was so well policed that no harm was done to it and the inhabitants profited largely from their commerce with the German host. In his last years Bela assisted the Greek emperor Isaac II. Angelus against the Bulgarians. His first wife bore Bela two sons, Emerich and Andrew. On her death he married Margaret of France, sister of King Philip Augustus. Bela was in every sense of the word a great statesman, and his court was accounted one of the most brilliant in Europe.
For an account of his internal reforms see Hungary. Though the poet Ede Szigligeti has immortalized his memory in the play Bela III., we have no historical monograph of him, but in Ignacz Acsády, History of the Hungarian Realm (Hung.), i. 2 (Budapest, 1903), there is an excellent account of his reign.
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BELA IV. (1206-1270), king of Hungary, was the son of Andrew II., whom he succeeded in 1235. During his father’s lifetime he had greatly distinguished himself by his administration of Transylvania, then a wilderness, which, with incredible patience and energy, he colonized and christianized. He repaired as far as possible the ruinous effects of his father’s wastefulness, but on his accession found everything in the utmost confusion, “the great lords,” to cite the old chronicler Rogerius (c. 1223-1266), “having so greatly enriched themselves that the king was brought to naught.” The whole land was full of violence, the very bishops storming rich monasteries at the head of armed retainers. Bela resolutely put down all disorder. He increased the dignity of the crown by introducing a stricter court etiquette, and its wealth by recovering those of the royal domains which the magnates had appropriated during the troubles of the last reign. The pope, naturally on the side of order, staunchly supported this regenerator of the realm, and in his own brother Coloman, who administered the district of the Drave, Bela also found a loyal and intelligent co-operator. He also largely employed Jews and Ishmaelites, the financial specialists of the day, whom he rewarded with lands and titles. The salient event of Bela’s reign was the terrible Tatar invasion which reduced three-quarters of Hungary to ashes. The terror of their name had long preceded them, and Bela, in 1235 or 1236, sent the Dominican monk Julian, by way of Constantinople, to Russia, to collect information about them from the “ancient Magyars” settled there, possibly the Volgan Bulgarians. He returned to Hungary with the tidings that the Tatars contemplated the immediate conquest of Europe. Bela did his utmost to place his kingdom in a state of defence, and appealed betimes to the pope, the duke of Austria and the emperor for assistance; but in February and March 1241 the Tatars burst through the Carpathian passes; in April Bela himself, after a gallant stand, was routed on the banks of the Sajó and fled to the islands of Dalmatia; and for the next twelve months the kingdom of Hungary was merely a geographical expression. The last twenty-eight years of Bela’s reign were mainly devoted to the reconstruction of his realm, which he accomplished with a single-minded thoroughness which has covered his name with glory. (See Hungary: History.)
Perhaps the most difficult part of his task was the recovery of the western portions of the kingdom (which had suffered least) from the hands of Frederick of Austria, who had seized them as the price of assistance which had been promised but never given. First Bela solicited the aid of the pope, but was compelled finally to resort to arms, and crossing the Leitha on the 15th of June 1246, routed Frederick, who was seriously wounded and trampled to death by his own horsemen. With him was extinguished the male line of the house of Babenberg. In the south Bela was less successful. In 1243 he was obliged to cede to Venice, Zara, a perpetual apple of discord between the two states; but he kept his hold upon Spalato and his other Dalmatian possessions, and his wise policy of religious tolerance in Bosnia enabled Hungary to rule that province peaceably for many years. The new Servian kingdom of the Nemanides, on the other hand, gave him much trouble and was the occasion of many bloody wars. In 1261 the Tatars under Nogai Khan invaded Hungary for the second time, but were defeated by Bela and lost 50,000 men. Bela reached the apogee of his political greatness in 1264 when, shortly after his crushing defeat of the Servian king, Stephen Urosh, he entertained at his court, at Kalocsa, the ambassadors of the newly restored Greek emperor, of the kings of France, Bulgaria and Bohemia and three Tatar mirzas. For a time Bela was equally fortunate in the north-west, where the ambitious and enterprising Přemyslidae had erected a new Bohemian empire which absorbed the territories of the old Babenbergers and was very menacing to Hungary. With Ottakar II. in particular, Bela was almost constantly at war for the possession of Styria, which ultimately fell to the Bohemians. The last years of Bela’s life were embittered by the ingratitude of his son Stephen, who rebelled continuously against his father and ultimately compelled him to divide the kingdom with him, the younger prince setting up a capital of his own at Sárospatak, and following a foreign policy directly contrary to that of his father. Bela died on the 3rd of May 1270 in his sixty-fourth year. With the people at large he was popular to the last; his services to his country had been inestimable. He married, while still crown-prince, Maria, daughter of the Nicaean emperor, Theodore Lascaris, whom his own father brought home with him from his crusade. She bore him, besides his two sons Stephen and Bela, seven daughters, of whom St Margaret was the most famous.
No special monograph for the whole reign exists. For the Tatar invasion see the contemporary Rogerius, Epistolae super destructione Regni Hungariae per Tartaros facta (Budapest, 1885). A vivid but somewhat chauvinistic history of Bela’s reign will be found in Acsády’s History of the Hungarian Realm (Hung.), i. 2 (Budapest, 1903).
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- Mahommedan itinerant chapmen, from the Volga.