Banat (Hungarian Bánság), a district in the south-east of Hungary, consisting of the counties of Torontál, Temes and Krasso-Szörény. The term, in Hungarian, means generally a frontier province governed by a ban and is equivalent to the German term Mark. There were in Hungary several banats, which disappeared during the Turkish wars, as the banat of Dalmatia, of Slavonia, of Bosnia and of Croatia. But when the word is used without any other qualification, it indicates the Temesvár banat, which strangely acquired this title after the peace of Passarowitz (1718), though it was never governed by a ban. The Banat is bounded E. by the Transylvanian Alps, S. by the Danube, W. by the Theiss and N. by the Maros, and has an area of 11,260 sq. m. It is mountainous in the south and south-east, while in the north, west and south-west it is flat and in some places marshy. The climate, except in the marshy parts, is generally healthy. It is well-watered, and forms one of the most fertile districts of Hungary. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, flax, hemp and tobacco are grown in large quantities, and the products of the vineyards are of a good quality. Game is plentiful and the rivers swarm with fish.
The mineral wealth is great, including copper, tin, lead, zinc, iron and especially coal. Amongst its numerous mineral springs, the most important are those of Mehadia, with sulphurous waters, which were already known in the Roman period as the Thermae Herculis. The Banat had in 1900 a population of 1,431,329 inhabitants. According to nationality there were 578,789 Rumanians, 362,487 Germans, 251,938 Servians and 170,124 Magyars. The chief town is Temesvár (pop. 53,033), and other places of importance are Versecz (25,199), Lugos (16,126), Nagybecskerek (26,407), Nagykikinda (24,843) and Pancsova (19,044).
The Banat was conquered by the Turks in 1552, and remained a Turkish sanjak (province) till 1716, when Prince Eugene of Savoy liberated it from the Turkish yoke. It received the title of Banat after the peace of Passarowitz (1718), and remained under a military administration until 1751, when Maria Theresa introduced a civil administration. During the Turkish occupation the district was nearly depopulated, and allowed to lie almost desolate in marsh and heath and forest. Count Claudius Mercy (1666-1734), who was appointed governor of Temesvár in 1720, took numerous measures for the regeneration of the Banat. The marshes near the Danube and Theiss were cleared, roads and canals were built at great expense of labour, German artisans and other settlers were attracted to colonize the district, and agriculture and trade encouraged. Maria Theresa also took a great interest in the Banat, colonized the land belonging to the crown with German peasants, founded many villages, encouraged the exploitation of the mineral wealth of the country, and generally developed the measures introduced by Mercy. In 1779 the Banat was again incorporated with Hungary. After the revolution of 1848-1849, the Banat together with another county (Bács) was separated from Hungary, and created into a distinctive Austrian crown land, but in 1860 it was definitely incorporated with Hungary.
See Leonhard Böhm, Geschichte des Temeser Banats (2 vols., Leipzig, 1861); Johann Heinrich Schwicker, Geschichte des Temeser Banats (Pest, 1872).