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The Jászság #3 – Way of life and privileges

May 12, 2018

It is still not clear as to when Jassic people settled in Hungary, but many scholars believe they came with the Cumans in 1239, some even saying they comprised one of the seven tribes of Cumans during this migration, while retaining the name Jász because of the difference in ethnicity. The rights and privileges granted to the Cumans can be traced back as far as 1279, however, the first distinct record mentioning Jassic people dates to 1323. This diploma – granted by Charles I of Hungary (also called Charles Robert; reigned 1301/08-1342) – mentions the name of 18 Jassic people, who successfully petitioned to have themselves, their relatives and descendants elevated to the rank of Jassic soldiers serving the king as they were heavily taxed by their lord, Keverge and his successors.


Jassic people had their own type of society which comprised of a wealthier class – the captains and their families; and the commoners. The captains were the ruling class of this society, undertaking tasks such as governing their people, taxing them, and they also acted as judges during legal disputes. Jassic people’s main contribution to the kingdom’s society, however, was their military service. Soldiers belonging to the ruling class served as full-time warriors and personal bodyguards. The others only took up arms during military campaigns. The king could also call upon an insurrection, during which all Jassic families had to provide one soldier for the army. Although having been regarded as a nation of wealthy warriors (since Jassic people did not pay taxes to the crown), their society didn’t lack the poor either. Some Hungarians employed impoverished Jassic people and some even kept Jassic women as servants or slaves.


The Turkish plank fort of Jászberény (c.1600) - Jászberény online


Having a free district of their own in the kingdom, no open objection against their pagan beliefs, no taxation from the crown, and also no say in how they should organize their society, the Jászság truly became an island of freedom and privileges in the ocean of the heavily taxed and oppressed society of the late medieval-era Hungary. During the 14th and 15th centuries, new royal diplomas granted the Jassic people universal nobility. As a nation, every Jassic people enjoyed the rights and privileges of the common Hungarian nobleman, or at least in the Jászság. Hungarian nobles still looked down on them and in many cases treated them as ignobles.


By the 15th century, some Jassic captains realized that in order to retain their status, they would have to receive personal grants of nobility from the king – and they did. Jassic towns and settlements did not have landowners traditionally, but some families such as the Kompolts or Móczas tried to legitimately claim some land by having the king grant those to them. This was followed by decades of legal disputes which eventually went futile. No Jassic town had private landowners ever again, except for the 150 years of Ottoman rule later.


Speaking of towns, Jassic people founded their towns very differently. Upon their settling during the 13th century and being granted a whole district, they did not settle down in villages, but rather moved around from place to place. Eventually, some towns with fixed populations arose called settlements, or szállások (plural form) in Hungarian. The term szállás supposes that most of the residents did not live there, but rather stayed for a couple of days or weeks before moving on. Nevertheless, the foundations were laid and these settlements later grew into the towns we know today. The capital of Jászberény was originally known as Berényszállás because of this, and one of the Jassic towns even preserved the term in its name today – Jászárokszállás.



Medieval Hungarians had no better memory than you or your grandparents today. Even though the origins of the Jassic people were known during the 13th century, by the 15th century these memories were somehow lost and people could only guess where they had come from. Most of the old Latin manuscripts mention them as Philistines (philisteani in Latin and filiszteusok in Hungarian), as it was believed that they were descendants of the ancient people by the same name.



jász – n. a Jász (Jassic) person; adj. Jassic

jászok – n. plural form of jász

Jászság – n. the Jász area

Jász kerület – n. the Jász district

kun – n. a Cuman person; adj. Cuman

kunok – n. plural form of kun




Selmeczi, László. A jászok társadalma a 13-16. században


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