59 Facts About Huns


Huns were a nomadic people who lived in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Eastern Europe between the 4th and 6th century AD.

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In 451, the Huns invaded the Western Roman province of Gaul, where they fought a combined army of Romans and Visigoths at the Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, and in 452 they invaded Italy.

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The Huns ruled over a variety of peoples who spoke various languages, some of whom maintained their own rulers.

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Roman writers repeated a tale that the Huns had entered the domain of the Goths while they were pursuing a wild stag, or else one of their cows that had gotten loose, across the Kerch Strait into Crimea.

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Jordanes' Getica relates that the Goths held the Huns to be offspring of "unclean spirits" and Gothic witches.

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Since Joseph de Guignes in the, modern historians have associated the Huns who appeared on the borders of Europe in the with the Xiongnu who had invaded numerous Central Plain polities from the Mongolian Plateau between the and the.

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Huns compares the name Massagetae, noting that the element saka in that name means dog.

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Ancient descriptions of the Huns are uniform in stressing their strange appearance from a Roman perspective.

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Jordanes stresses that the Huns were short of stature, had tanned skin and round and shapeless heads.

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Maenchen-Helfen argues that, while many Huns had East Asian racial characteristics, they were unlikely to have looked as Asiatic as the Yakut or Tungus.

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Kim argues that the composition of the Huns became progressively more "Caucasian" during their time in Europe; he notes that by the Battle of Chalons, "the vast majority" of Attila's entourage and troops appears to have been of European origin, while Attila seems to have had East Asian features.

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The authors of the study suggest that the Huns were descended from Xiongnu who expanded westwards and mixed with Sakas.

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The Huns conquered the Alans, most of the Greuthungi or Eastern Goths, and then most of the Thervingi or Western Goths, with many fleeing into the Roman Empire.

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In 395 the Huns began their first large-scale attack on the Eastern Roman Empire.

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Once in Gaul, the Huns first attacked Metz, then their armies continued westward, passing both Paris and Troyes to lay siege to Orleans.

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Huns's campaigning was met with dissatisfaction from Ernak, ruler of the Akatziri Huns, who wanted to focus on the incoming Oghur speaking peoples.

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Huns was surrounded by the Romans and besieged, and came to an agreement that they would surrender if they were given land and his starving forces given food.

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Kim argues that the Huns continued under Ernak, becoming the Kutrigur and Utigur Hunno-Bulgars.

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Huns have traditionally been described as pastoral nomads, living off of herding and moving from pasture to pasture to graze their animals.

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Ancient sources mention that the Huns' herds consisted of various animals, including cattle, horses, and goats; sheep, though unmentioned in ancient sources, "are more essential to the steppe nomad even than horses" and must have been a large part of their herds.

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Ammianus Marcellinus says that the majority of the Huns' diet came from the meat of these animals, with Maenchen-Helfen arguing, on the basis of what is known of other steppe nomads, that they likely mostly ate mutton, along with sheep's cheese and milk.

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Huns argues that the Huns were forced to supplement their diet by hunting and gathering.

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Besides horses, ancient sources mention that the Huns used wagons for transportation, which Maenchen-Helfen believes were primarily used to transport their tents, booty, and the old people, women, and children.

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Huns received a large amount of gold from the Romans, either in exchange for fighting for them as mercenaries or as tribute.

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Civilians and soldiers captured by the Huns might be ransomed back, or else sold to Roman slave dealers as slaves.

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Huns does note that wine and silk appear to have been imported into the Hunnic Empire in large quantities, however.

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Peter Heather argues that the Huns were a disorganized confederation in which leaders acted completely independently and that eventually established a ranking hierarchy, much like Germanic societies.

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Kim argues that the Huns were far more organized and centralized, with some basis in organization of the Xiongnu state.

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Walter Pohl notes the correspondences of Hunnic government to those of other steppe empires, but nevertheless argues that the Huns do not appear to have been a unified group when they arrived in Europe.

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Huns further argues that they most likely did not acquire their position purely hereditarily.

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Ammianus mentions that the Huns made their decisions in a general council while seated on horseback.

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Huns makes no mention of the Huns being organized into tribes, but Priscus and other writers do, naming some of them.

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Roman descriptions of the Huns, meanwhile, are often highly biased, stressing their supposed primitiveness.

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Huns argues from the state of the bronze castings that the Huns were not very good metalsmiths, and that it is likely that the cauldrons were cast in the same locations where they were found.

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Archaeological finds indicate that the Huns wore gold plaques as ornaments on their clothing, as well as imported glass beads.

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Ammianus reports that the Huns had no buildings, but in passing mentions that the Huns possessed tents and wagons.

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Maenchen-Helfen believes that the Huns likely had "tents of felt and sheepskin": Priscus once mentions Attila's tent, and Jordanes reports that Attila lay in state in a silk tent.

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However, by the middle of the fifth century, the Huns are known to have owned permanent wooden houses, which Maenchen-Helfen believes were built by their Gothic subjects.

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Elites of the Huns practiced polygamy, while the commoners were probably monogamous.

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Roman writer Ammianus Marcellinus claimed that the Huns had no religion, while the fifth-century Christian writer Salvian classified them as Pagans.

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Jordanes' Getica records that the Huns worshipped "the sword of Mars", an ancient sword that signified Attila's right to rule the whole world.

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Maenchen-Helfen argues that, while the Huns themselves do not appear to have regarded Attila as divine, some of his subject people clearly did.

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Sinor finds it likely that the Huns had shamans, although they are completely unattested.

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Huns connects archaeological finds of Hunnish bronze cauldrons found buried near or in running water to possible rituals performed by the Huns in the Spring.

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In particular, while Ammianus claims that the Huns knew no metalworking, Maenchen-Helfen argues that a people so primitive could never have been successful in war against the Romans.

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An important strategy used by the Huns was a feigned retreat—pretending to flee and then turning and attacking the disordered enemy.

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Accounts of battles note that the Huns fortified their camps by using portable fences or creating a circle of wagons.

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Several scholars have suggested that the Huns had trouble maintaining their horse cavalry and nomadic lifestyle after settling on the Hungarian Plain, and that this in turn led to a marked decrease in their effectiveness as fighters.

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Huns are almost always noted as fighting alongside non-Hunnic, Germanic or Iranian subject peoples or, in earlier times, allies.

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The Huns brought large numbers of horses to use as replacements and to give the impression of a larger army on campaign.

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The Strategikon states the Huns stationed sentries at significant distances and in constant contact with each other in order to prevent surprise attacks.

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The Strategikon states that the Huns kept their spare horses and baggage train to either side of the battle line at about a mile away, with a moderate sized guard, and would sometimes tie their spare horses together behind the main battle line.

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The Huns preferred to fight at long range, utilizing ambush, encirclement, and the feigned retreat.

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The Strategikon states the Huns preferred to pursue their enemies relentlessly after a victory and then wear them out by a long siege after defeat.

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Peter Heather notes that the Huns were able to successfully besiege walled cities and fortresses in their campaign of 441: they were thus capable of building siege engines.

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Strategikon states the Huns typically used mail, swords, bows, and lances, and that most Hunnic warriors were armed with both the bow and lance and used them interchangeably as needed.

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Widsith mentions Attila having been ruler of the Huns, placing him at the head of a list of various legendary and historical rulers and peoples and marking the Huns as the most famous.

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The legend of Walter of Aquitaine, meanwhile, shows the Huns to receive child hostages as tribute from their subject peoples.

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In medieval German legend, the Huns were identified with the Hungarians, with their capital of Etzelburg being identified with Esztergom or Buda.

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