From Pannonia to England

Stephen probably left his home country, the Turkish province of Macaristan for which he used the old Latin name Pannonia, in his teens and spent time at Wittenberg and perhaps other European colleges. He had reached the University of Oxford by 1582, in which year the slightly older, and later to be famous, student tutor Richard Hakluyt Jr. noted him as his "bedfelowe."


It is not known how Stephen chose the attribute Parmenius, first recorded when he was in England. Perhaps the most arcane motivation would have been the name of a deep ravine between two hills in the ancient Greek city of Antioch (now in Syria); a similar Greek name also belonged to Alexander the Great's favorite commander; a like-named person, later recognized by the Vatican as a saint, was an early Christian martyr at the hands of the Romans near Babylon; the Greek παραμένω/παρμένω means "remain with, stay by, hold out"; there may have been another motivation.


Historical spellings of the town first mentioned in 1243:

Chetnek, Chetnug, Chytnek, Citnik, Cschetnek, Csetnek, Čsitnjk, Czethnek, Cžitnik, Schitnek, Schitnik, Ssítník.

De navigatione




The Turkish province, Stephen's birth place, bordered on Royal Hungary including yellow-shaded modern Slovakia in the north; red: R.H.'s capital Bratislava.


Stephen's name is known only in the Latin version he used, Stephanus Parmenius (Budeius).

Hungarian sources automatically assume his Hungarian ethnicity and spell his name Budai István.

Those authors who see in him a Slovak call him Štefan Štítnický or Štefan Parmenius.



Parmenius's crossing and moorings at St. John's, Newfoundland, then shipwreck by Nova Scotia.

Stephen Parmenius

Q: Was Parmenius Slovak?

Stephen Parmenius is known for his pro-English and early pro-colonialist Latin poem De navigatione... published in London in 1582, a year before he briefly visited the Newfoundland coast. He was probably born in or near Buda (now part of Budapest) around 1555-1560. Not an immigrant to America, he died in shipwreck on 29 August 1583 as he was sailing to see the coast farther south.


His writing contains little information about his origin, and there are no historical records of it. He never identified his birth town explicitly, but he said he was born and grew up in the former part of the Kingdom of Hungary that came under Turkish rule, and his English friend named his birth place as Buda. Stephen used the attribute "of Buda" (Budeius) with his name and wrote of "my Buda" in one instance. Budapest and the territory of modern Hungary was, indeed, the province of Macaristan [madzharistan] in the Ottoman Empire then.

There is a record of a Stephen of Buda (Budaeus) who arrived in the historically Serbian village of Ráckeve south of Buda in 1559, another record noted him there in 1562. Last names were not fixed then, it is likely that the person received the attribute (surname, last name) because he had moved there from Buda, but there is no evidence whether he might have been the future poet's father. If he was, his son could have been born in Buda, but would not have spent much time there, which would not have necessarily prevented him from associating himself with the internationally more prestigious town of Buda.


There is no indication of Stephen's mother tongue or ethnic identity in his own recognition of multiethnic "Pannonia" as his homeland, but there is a hint in his adherence to Buda, which likely had an ethnic Hungarian majority at that time as did the area around it.

The recurrent claim, whose rarely provided references lead to other references but no original source, that his ethnicity is known to be Slovak arose from a now-forgotten abstruse series of conjectures. It starts with the late-1880s Hungarian speculation that Stephen derived the moniker Parmenius from the Latin parma, "buckler, small shield" (while the more common Latin word to use for "shield" would have been scutum). The Slovak word for "shield" is štít. Some Slovak speculations concluded from this that, therefore, Stephen came from Štítnik, a town in south-central Slovakia that had a likely Slovak majority around the time of his birth.

In addition to its waywardness, the speculation is at odds with Štítnik not having been under Turkish rule, with Stephen's own association with Buda, and with the historical records, which never contained a Latin or another name of Štítnik in a form remotely resembling Stephen's moniker.