|son of:||Géza II|
|periods of reign:||1172-1196|
|spouse:||Agnes Anne of Antioch
|children:||Emeric, Constance, Andrew, Stephen, Solomon, Margaret, unknown girl|
Béla III was one of the most powerful Hungarian kings. He obtained significant merits in spreading literacy, as well as, augmenting greatly the territory of the Hungarian Kingdom. During his reign the country became the ruling power in Central and South-Eastern Europe.
He became Duke of Dalmatia at a young age. He moved to the Byzantine Empire during the battles for the throne against his brother, where the Emperor Manuel I declared him his heir, until the birth of his own son. After the death of his brother, Stephen III in 1172, his followers offered him the throne. However, he was not thoroughly supported due to his relationship with the Byzantine Empire. He even had his brother Géza imprisoned in order to strengthen his power.
He was endeavouring to maintain good relationship not only with the Holy See, but also with the Western powers. In 1181 he ordered that every case brought before him should be in writing. This period is considered to be the beginning of Hungarian official literacy. The oldest known and surviving contiguous Hungarian text, “The Funeral Sermon and Prayer” (Hungarian: Halotti beszéd és könyörgés) was created during his reign. In order to strengthen the central power, he established the Royal Chancery. He was the Byzantine Emperor’s loyal ally until Emperor Manuel I’s death in 1180. At the same time, he invaded Dalmatia and defended Zadar from the Venetians.
The Hungarian Kingdom, with strong central control, became a great and acknowledged European power during the reign of Béla III. The king was buried in Székesfehérvár. His tomb was excavated in 1848, and was the only one among the tombs of the monarchs of the Árpád Dynasty, that remained intact.