Home      Discussion      Topics      Dictionary      Almanac
Signup       Login
Huns

Huns

Overview

The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

, migrated into Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire
Hunnic Empire
The Hunnic Empire was an empire established by the Huns. The Huns were a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia. Appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga...

 there. Since de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes , French orientalist and sinologist, was born at Pontoise, the son of Jean Louis de Guignes and Françoise Vaillant. He died in Paris....

 linked them with the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

, who had been northern neighbours
History of the Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty , founded by the peasant rebel leader Liu Bang ,From the Shang to the Sui dynasties, Chinese rulers were referred to in later records by their posthumous names, while emperors of the Tang to Yuan dynasties were referred to by their temple names, and emperors of the Ming and Qing...

 of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns, considerable scholarly effort has been devoted to investigating such a connection. However, there is no scholarly consensus on a direct connection between the dominant element of the Xiongnu and that of the Huns.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Huns'
Start a new discussion about 'Huns'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia

The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

, migrated into Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire
Hunnic Empire
The Hunnic Empire was an empire established by the Huns. The Huns were a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia. Appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga...

 there. Since de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes , French orientalist and sinologist, was born at Pontoise, the son of Jean Louis de Guignes and Françoise Vaillant. He died in Paris....

 linked them with the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

, who had been northern neighbours
History of the Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty , founded by the peasant rebel leader Liu Bang ,From the Shang to the Sui dynasties, Chinese rulers were referred to in later records by their posthumous names, while emperors of the Tang to Yuan dynasties were referred to by their temple names, and emperors of the Ming and Qing...

 of China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns, considerable scholarly effort has been devoted to investigating such a connection. However, there is no scholarly consensus on a direct connection between the dominant element of the Xiongnu and that of the Huns. Priscus
Priscus
Priscus of Panium was a late Roman diplomat, sophist and historian from Rumelifeneri living in the Roman Empire during the 5th century. He accompanied Maximinus, the ambassador of Theodosius II, to the court of Attila in 448...

 mentions that the Huns had a language of their own
Hunnic language
The Huns were a heterogenous, multi-ethnic tribal confederation during the 4th and 5th centuries. A contemporary reports that the Hunnic Empire had a "Hunnic language", or "Hunnish", which was spoken alongside Gothic and the languages of other tribes subjugated by the Huns The literary records for...

; little of it has survived and its relationships have been the subject of debate for centuries. According to predominant theories, theirs was a Turkic language. Numerous other languages were spoken within the Hun pax including East Germanic. Their main military technique was mounted archery.

The Huns may have stimulated the Great Migration
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

, a contributing factor in the collapse of the western Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. They formed a unified empire under Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun
Attila , more frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his reign he was one of the most feared...

, who died in 453
453
Year 453 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Opilio and Vincomalus...

; their empire broke up
Battle of Nedao
The Battle of Nedao, named after the Nedava, a tributary of the Sava, was a battle fought in Pannonia in 454. After the death of Attila the Hun, allied forces of the Germanic subject peoples under the leadership of Ardaric, king of the Gepids, defeated the Hunnic forces of Ellac, the son of Attila,...

 the next year. Their descendants, or successors with similar names, are recorded by neighbouring populations to the south, east, and west as having occupied parts of Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 and Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 approximately from the 4th century to the 6th century. Variants of the Hun name are recorded in the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

 until the early 8th century.

Appearance and customs



All surviving accounts were written by enemies of the Huns, and none describe the Huns as attractive either morally or in appearance.

Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

, a Goth writing in Italy
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 in 551
551
Year 551 was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. The denomination 551 for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.- Byzantine Empire :* Beirut is destroyed by an...

, a century after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire
Hunnic Empire
The Hunnic Empire was an empire established by the Huns. The Huns were a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia. Appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga...

, describes the Huns as a "savage race, which dwelt at first in the swamps, a stunted, foul and puny tribe, scarcely human, and having no language save one which bore but slight resemblance to human speech."
"They made their foes flee in horror because their swarthy aspect was fearful, and they had, if I may call it so, a sort of shapeless lump, not a head, with pin-holes rather than eyes. Their hardihood is evident in their wild appearance, and they are beings who are cruel to their children on the very day they are born. For they cut the cheeks of the males with a sword, so that before they receive the nourishment of milk they must learn to endure wounds. Hence they grow old beardless and their young men are without comeliness, because a face furrowed by the sword spoils by its scars the natural beauty of a beard. They are short in stature, quick in bodily movement, alert horsemen, broad shouldered, ready in the use of bow and arrow, and have firm-set necks which are ever erect in pride. Though they live in the form of men, they have the cruelty of wild beasts."


Jordanes also recounted how Priscus
Priscus
Priscus of Panium was a late Roman diplomat, sophist and historian from Rumelifeneri living in the Roman Empire during the 5th century. He accompanied Maximinus, the ambassador of Theodosius II, to the court of Attila in 448...

 had described Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun
Attila , more frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his reign he was one of the most feared...

, the Emperor of the Huns from 434-453, as: "Short of stature, with a broad chest and a large head; his eyes were small, his beard thin and sprinkled with grey; and he had a flat nose and tanned skin, showing evidence of his origin."

Society and culture



The Huns kept herds of cattle, horses, goats and sheep. Their other sources of food consisted of wild game and the roots of wild plants. For clothes they had round caps, trousers or leggings made from goat skin, and either linen or rodent skin tunics. Ammianus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 reports that they wore these clothes until the clothes fell to pieces. Priscus describes Attila's clothes as different from his men only in being clean.

In warfare they utilised the bow and javelin. The arrowheads and javelin tips were made from bone. They also fought using iron swords and lassos in close combat. The Hun sword was a long, straight, double-edged sword of early Sassanian
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 style. These swords were hung from a belt using the scabbard
Scabbard
A scabbard is a sheath for holding a sword, knife, or other large blade. Scabbards have been made of many materials over the millennia, including leather, wood, and metals such as brass or steel.-Types of scabbards:...

-slide method, which kept the weapon vertical. The Huns also employed a smaller short sword or large dagger which was hung horizontally across the belly. A symbol of status among the Huns was a gilded bow. Sword and dagger grips also were decorated with gold.

With the arrival of the Huns, a separate tradition of composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

s arrived in Europe. Each siyah was stiffened by two lath
Lath
A lath is a thin, narrow strip of some straight-grained wood or other material, including metal or gypsum. A lattice, or lattice-work, is a criss-crossed or interlaced arrangement of laths, or the pattern made by such an arrangement...

s, as in the longstanding Levant
Levant
The Levant or ) is the geographic region and culture zone of the "eastern Mediterranean littoral between Anatolia and Egypt" . The Levant includes most of modern Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and sometimes parts of Turkey and Iraq, and corresponds roughly to the...

ine tradition, and the grip by three. Therefore, each bow possessed seven grip and ear laths, compared with none on the Scythian and Sarmatian bows and four (ear) laths on the Middle Eastern Yrzi bow.

Ammianus
Ammianus Marcellinus
Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

 mentions that the Huns had no kings but were instead led by nobles. For serious matters they formed councils and deliberated from horseback.

Jordanes and Ammianus report that the Huns practiced scarification
Scarification
Scarifying involves scratching, etching, burning, or superficially cutting designs, pictures, or words into the skin as a permanent body modification.In the process of body scarification, scars are formed by cutting or branding the skin...

, slashing the faces of their male infants with swords to discourage beard growth. Another custom of the Huns was to strap their children's noses flat from an early age, in order to widen their faces, as to increase the terror their looks instilled upon their enemies. Certain Hun skeletons have shown evidence of artificially deformed skulls that are a result of ritual head binding at a young age.

Origin




Traditionally, historians have associated the Huns who appeared on the borders of Europe in the 4th century with the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

 who migrated out of the Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 region in the 1st century AD. However, the evidence for this has not been definitive (see below), and the debates have continued ever since Joseph de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes , French orientalist and sinologist, was born at Pontoise, the son of Jean Louis de Guignes and Françoise Vaillant. He died in Paris....

 first suggested it in the 18th century. Due to the lack of definitive evidence, a school of modern scholarship in the West instead uses an ethnogenesis approach in explaining the Huns' origin.

The cause of the Hunnic migration is thought to have been expansion of the Rouran
Rouran Khaganate
Rouran , Mongolia name Jujan or Nirun Ruanruan/Ruru , Tan Tan , Juan-Juan or Zhu-Zhuwas the name of a confederation of nomadic tribes on the northern borders of Inner China from the late 4th century until the middle 6th century...

, who had created a massive empire across the Asian continent in the mid-4th century, including the Tartar lands as well, which they took over from the Xianbei
Xianbei state
The Xianbei state or Xianbei confederation was a nomadic confederation existed in northern Manchuria and eastern Mongolia from 93 to 234 AD. They descended from the Donghu and spoke a Mongolic language....

. It is supposed that this spread westwards pushed the Huns into Europe over the years.

Modern ethnogenesis interpretation



Contemporary literary sources do not provide a clear understanding of Hun origins. The Huns seem to "suddenly appear", first mentioned during an attack on the Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

, who are generally connected to the River Don
Don River (Russia)
The Don River is one of the major rivers of Russia. It rises in the town of Novomoskovsk 60 kilometres southeast from Tula, southeast of Moscow, and flows for a distance of about 1,950 kilometres to the Sea of Azov....

 (Tanais). Scholarship from the early 20th century literature connected the sudden and apparently devastating Hun appearance as a predatory migration from the more easterly parts of the steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

, i.e. Central Asia. This interpretation has been formulated on sketchy and hypothetical etymological and historical connections. More recent theories view the nomadic confederacies, such as the Huns, as the formation of several different cultural, political and linguistic entities that could dissolve as quickly as they formed, entailing a process of ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges...

. A group of "warrior" horse-nomads would conquer and/or be joined by other warrior groups throughout western Eurasia
Eurasia
Eurasia is a continent or supercontinent comprising the traditional continents of Europe and Asia ; covering about 52,990,000 km2 or about 10.6% of the Earth's surface located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres...

, and in turn extracted tribute over a territory that included other social and ethnic groups, including sedentary agricultural peoples. In steppe society, clans could forge new alliances and subservience by incorporating other clans, creating a new common ancestral lineage descended from an early heroic leader. Thus, one cannot expect to find a clear origin. "All we can say safely," says Walter Pohl
Walter Pohl
Walter Pohl is an Austrian historian. His area of expertise is the history of the Migration Period and the Early Middle Ages....

, "is that the name Huns, in late antiquity
Late Antiquity
Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from Classical Antiquity to the Middle Ages, in both mainland Europe and the Mediterranean world. Precise boundaries for the period are a matter of debate, but noted historian of the period Peter Brown proposed...

 (4th century), described prestigious ruling groups of steppe warriors."
The name Hun was used to refer to groups over wide and often discontiguous geographic regions, referred to by disparate sources (including Indic, Persian, Chinese, Byzantine, Roman). After the Hun era in Europe, Greek and Latin chroniclers continued to use the term "Huns" to tribal groups whom they placed in the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 region.

Traditional Xiongnu theory


Debate about the Asian origin of the Huns has been ongoing since the 18th century when Joseph de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes
Joseph de Guignes , French orientalist and sinologist, was born at Pontoise, the son of Jean Louis de Guignes and Françoise Vaillant. He died in Paris....

 first suggested that the Huns should be identified as the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

 of Chinese sources
Twenty-Four Histories
The Twenty-Four Histories is a collection of Chinese historical books covering a period from 3000 BC to the Ming Dynasty in the 17th century. The whole set contains 3213 volumes and about 40 million words...

. De Guignes focused on the genealogy of political entities and gave little attention to whether the Huns were the physical descendants of the Xiongnu
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

. Yet his idea, which comes in the context of the ethnocentric and nationalistic scholarship
Romantic nationalism
Romantic nationalism is the form of nationalism in which the state derives its political legitimacy as an organic consequence of the unity of those it governs...

 of the late 18th and 19th centuries, gained traction and was modified over time to encompass the ideals of the Romantics.

Evidence for the link with Xiongnu



Other indirect evidence includes the transmission of grip laths for composite bow
Composite bow
A composite bow is a bow made from horn, wood, and sinew laminated together. The horn is on the belly, facing the archer, and sinew on the back of a wooden core. Sinew and horn will store more energy than wood for the same length of bow...

s from Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

 to the west and the similarity of Xiongnu and Hunnic cauldron
Cauldron
A cauldron or caldron is a large metal pot for cooking and/or boiling over an open fire, with a large mouth and frequently with an arc-shaped hanger.- Etymology :...

s, which were buried on river banks both in Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 and in the Ordos
Ordos
-Places:*Ordos Loop of the Yellow River, a region of China*Ordos Desert, in Inner Mongolia*Ordos City, city and district in Inner Mongolia*Ordos International Circuit, a race track in Ordos City.-People:...

.

The ancient Sogdian
Sogdian language
The Sogdian language is a Middle Iranian language that was spoken in Sogdiana , located in modern day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan ....

 letters from the 4th century mention Huns, while the Chinese sources write Xiongnu, in the context of the sacking of Luoyang
Luoyang
Luoyang is a prefecture-level city in western Henan province of Central China. It borders the provincial capital of Zhengzhou to the east, Pingdingshan to the southeast, Nanyang to the south, Sanmenxia to the west, Jiyuan to the north, and Jiaozuo to the northeast.Situated on the central plain of...

. However there is a historical gap of 300 years between the Chinese and later sources. As Peter Heather
Peter Heather
Peter Heather is a historian of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, currently Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. He has held appointments at University College London and Yale University and was Fellow and Tutor in Medieval History at Worcester College, Oxford until...

 writes "The ancestors of our [4th Century European] Huns could even have been a part of the [1st century] Xiongnu confederation, without being the 'real' Xiongnu. Even if we do make some sort of connection between the 4th century Huns and the 1st century Xiongnu, an awful lot of water has passed under an awful lot of bridges in the three hundred years' worth of lost history."

Evidence against the link with Xiongnu


The Huns practiced artificial cranial deformation
Artificial cranial deformation
Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of permanent body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force...

, while there is no evidence of such practice among the Xiongnu. Ammianus and Jordanes mention the Huns as scarifying infants' faces to prevent the later growth of beards; the Chinese recorded General Ran Min
Ran Min
Ran Min , also known as Shi Min , posthumously honored by Former Yan as Heavenly Prince Daowu of Wei , courtesy name Yongzeng , nickname Jinu , was a military leader during the era of Sixteen Kingdoms in China and the only emperor of the short-lived state Ran Wei . Ran is an uncommon Chinese...

 having led a military campaign against a faction of the Xiongnu Confederation
Xiongnu
The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

 called the Jie
Jie (ethnic group)
The Jié were members of a small tribe in Northern China in the 4th century CE. They established the Later Zhao state.According to the Book of Wei, their name derives from the Jiéshì area where they reside....

, who were described as having full beards, around Ye
Changde
Changde is a city in the north of Hunan Province, China, with a population of 5,717,218 inhabitants at the 2010 census whom 1,232,182 in the built up area made of 2 urban districts .-History:...

 in 349 AD.

A specific passage in the Chinese Book of Wei
Book of Wei
The Book of Wei is a classic Chinese historical writing compiled by Wei Shou from 551 to 554, and serves as an important historical text describing the Northern Wei and Eastern Wei from 386 to 550....

 (Wei-shu) is often cited as definitive proof in the identity of the Huns as the Xiongnu. It appears to say that the Xiongnu conquered the Alans (Su-Te 粟特
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

) around the same time as recorded by Western sources. This theory hinged upon the identity of the Su-Te as the Yan-Cai (奄蔡), as claimed by the Wei-shu. Similar passages are also found in the Bei-Shi and the Zhou-Shu. Critical analysis of these Chinese texts reveals that certain chapters in the Book of Wei had been copied from the Bei-Xi by Song
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 editors, including the chapter on the Xiongnu. The Bei-Shi author assembled his text by making selections from earlier sources, the Zhou-Shu among them. The Zhou-Shu does not mention the Xiongnu in its version of the chapter in question. Additionally, the Book of the Later Han (Hou-Han-Shu) treats the Su-Te and the Yan-Cai as distinct nations. Lastly, Su-Te
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

 has been positively identified as Sogdiana
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

 and the Yan-Cai
Hephthalite
The Hephthalites or Hephthalite is a pre-Islamic Greek term for local Abdali Afghans, who's famous ruler was Nazak Abdali . Hephthalites were a Central Asian nomadic confederation of the AD 5th-6th centuries whose precise origins and composition remain obscure...

 with the Hephthalites.

Other ancient theories


Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 attributes their origins to the intercourse of Gothic witches and unclean spirits. Ammianus reported that they arrived from the north, near the 'ice bound ocean', prompting suggestions of Finno-Ugrian roots.

Language



The literary sources, Priscus
Priscus
Priscus of Panium was a late Roman diplomat, sophist and historian from Rumelifeneri living in the Roman Empire during the 5th century. He accompanied Maximinus, the ambassador of Theodosius II, to the court of Attila in 448...

 and Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

, preserve only a few names and three words of the language of the Huns, which have been studied for more than a century and a half. The sources themselves do not give the meaning of any of the names, only of the three words. These words (medos, kamos, strava) do not seem to be Turkic, but probably a satem Indo-European language similar to Slavic and Dacian.

Traditionally notable studies include that of Pritsak 1982, "The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan.", who concluded, "It was not a Turkic language, but one between Turkic and Mongolian, probably closer to the former than the latter. The language had strong ties to Old Bulgarian and to modern Chuvash, but also had some important connections, especially lexical and morphological, to Ottoman and Yakut... The Turkic situation has no validity for Hunnic, which belonged to a separate Altaic group." On the basis of the existing name records, a number of scholars suggest that the Huns spoke a Turkic language
Turkic languages
The Turkic languages constitute a language family of at least thirty five languages, spoken by Turkic peoples across a vast area from Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean to Siberia and Western China, and are considered to be part of the proposed Altaic language family.Turkic languages are spoken...

 of the Oghur
Oghur
Oghur may be:* an early Turkic word for "tribe", see Oghur * the Turkic Oghur languages...

 branch, which also includes Bulgar, Avar, Khazar and Chuvash language
Chuvash language
Chuvash is a Turkic language spoken in central Russia, primarily in the Chuvash Republic and adjacent areas. It is the only surviving member of the Oghur branch of Turkic languages....

s. English
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 scholar Peter Heather
Peter Heather
Peter Heather is a historian of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, currently Professor of Medieval History at King's College London. He has held appointments at University College London and Yale University and was Fellow and Tutor in Medieval History at Worcester College, Oxford until...

 called the Huns "the first group of Turkic, as opposed to Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian, nomads to have intruded into Europe". Maenchen-Helfen held that many of the tribal names among the Huns were Turkic. However, the evidence is scant (a few names and three non-Turkic words), thus scholars currently conclude that the Hunnic language cannot presently be classified, and attempts to classify it as Turkic and Mongolic are speculative.

A variety of languages were spoken within the Hun pax. Roman sources, e.g. Priscus, recorded that Latin, Gothic, "Hun" and other local 'Scythian" languages were spoken. Based on some etymological interpretation of the words strava and medos, and subsequent historical appearance, the latter has been taken to include a form of pre-Slavic language.

Pre-Attila




By AD 139, the geographer Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 writes that the "Huni" (Χοῦνοι or Χουνοἰ) are between the Bastarnae
Bastarnae
The Bastarnae or Basternae were an ancient Germanic tribe,, who between 200 BC and 300 AD inhabited the region between the eastern Carpathian mountains and the Dnieper river...

 and the Roxolani
Rhoxolani
The Roxolani were a Sarmatian people, who are believed to be an off-shoot of the Alans. Their first recorded homeland lay between the Don and Dnieper rivers; they migrated in the 1st century BC toward the Danube, to what is now the Baragan steppes in Romania.The Greco-Roman historian Strabo ...

 in the Pontic area
Pontus
Pontus or Pontos is a historical Greek designation for a region on the southern coast of the Black Sea, located in modern-day northeastern Turkey. The name was applied to the coastal region in antiquity by the Greeks who colonized the area, and derived from the Greek name of the Black Sea: Πόντος...

 under the rule of Suni. He lists the beginning of the 2nd century, although it is not known for certain if these people were the Huns. It is possible that the similarity between the names "Huni" (Χοῦνοι) and "Hunnoi" (Ουννοι) is only a coincidence considering that while the West Romans
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 often wrote Chunni or Chuni, the East Romans
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 never used the guttural Χ at the beginning of the name.

The Huns first appeared in Europe in the 4th century. They show up north of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 around 370. The Huns crossed the Volga river and attacked the Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

, who were then subjugated. Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

 reports that the Huns were led at this time by Balamber
Balamber
Balamber is only mentioned by Jordanes, who simply called him "king of the Huns" and who tells us the story of Balamber crushing the kingdom of Ostrogoths in around 375. Balamber may have been a member of a royal house, but more probably he was - if he ever existed - just a warrior chieftain,...

 while modern historians question his existence, seeing instead an invention by the Goths to explain who defeated them. The Huns and Alans started plundering Greuthungi
Greuthungi
The Greuthungs, Greuthungi, or Greutungi were a Gothic people of the Black Sea steppes in the third and fourth centuries. They had close contacts with the Thervingi, another Gothic people from west of the river Dnestr. They may be the same people as the later Ostrogoths.-Etymology:"Greuthungi" may...

c settlements. The Greuthungic king, Ermanaric
Ermanaric
Ermanaric was a Greuthungian Gothic King who before the Hunnic invasion evidently ruled an enormous area north of the Black Sea. Contemporary historian Ammianus Marcellinus recounts him as a "most warlike man" who "ruled over extensively wide and fertile regions"...

, committed suicide and his great-nephew, Vithimiris, took over. Vithimiris was killed during a battle against the Alans and Huns in 376. This resulted in the subjugation of most of the Ostrogoths. Vithimiris' son, Viderichus, was only a child so command of the remaining Ostrogothic refugee army fell to Alatheus
Alatheus
Alatheus was a Greuthung chieftain and general. He fought during the Hunnish invasion of 376, engaged in war with Rome from 376 to 383, and incursions into the Balkans in 387...

 and Saphrax
Saphrax
Saphrax was an Ostrogothic duke and war leader. He led after the death of King Vithimiris in 376. After the war with the Huns, he led his town for the Roman Empire. Just as Alatheus, he fought in the Battle of Adrianople in 378.-Sources:...

. The refugees streamed into Thervingi
Thervingi
The Thervingi, Tervingi, or Teruingi were a Gothic people of the Danubian plains west of the Dnestr River in the 3rd and 4th Centuries CE. They had close contacts with the Greuthungi, another Gothic people from east of the Dnestr River, as well as the Late Roman Empire...

c territory, west of the Dniester.

With a part of the Ostrogoths on the run, the Huns next came to the territory of the Visigoths, led by Athanaric
Athanaric
Athanaric was king of several branches of the Thervingian Goths for at least two decades in the fourth century. His name, Athanareiks, means "Year King" or "King for the Year" comes from the Gothic word Athni meaning "year" and the Gothic Reiks meaning "king."A probable rival of Fritigern, another...

. Athanaric, not to be caught off guard, sent an expeditionary force beyond the Dniester. The Huns avoided this small force and attacked Athanaric directly. The Goths retreated into the Carpathians
Carpathian Mountains
The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc roughly long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe...

. Support for the Gothic chieftains diminished as refugees headed into Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and towards the safety of the Roman garrisons.

In 395 the Huns began their first large-scale attack on the East Roman Empire. Huns attacked in Thrace, overran Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, and pillaged Cappadocia
Cappadocia
Cappadocia is a historical region in Central Anatolia, largely in Nevşehir Province.In the time of Herodotus, the Cappadocians were reported as occupying the whole region from Mount Taurus to the vicinity of the Euxine...

. They entered parts of Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

, threatened Antioch
Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

, and swarmed through the province of Euphratesia. Emperor Theodosius
Theodosius I
Theodosius I , also known as Theodosius the Great, was Roman Emperor from 379 to 395. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over both the eastern and the western halves of the Roman Empire. During his reign, the Goths secured control of Illyricum after the Gothic War, establishing their homeland...

 left his armies in the West so the Huns stood unopposed until the end of 398 when the eunuch Eutropius
Eutropius (Byzantine official)
Eutropius was a fourth century Eastern Roman official.He began his career as a eunuch in the palace of Theodosius I. After Theodosius' death in 395 he successfully arranged the marriage of the new emperor, Arcadius, to Aelia Eudoxia, having blocked an attempt by Arcadius' chief minister, Rufinus,...

 gathered together a force composed of Romans and Goths and succeeded in restoring peace.

During their brief diversion from the Eastern Roman Empire, the Huns appear to have moved further west as evidenced by Radagaisus
Radagaisus
Radagaisus was a Gothic king who led an invasion of Roman Italy in late 405 and the first half of 406. A commited Pagan, Radagaisus evidentily planned to sacrifice the Roman Senators to the gods and burn Rome to the ground. Radagaisus was executed after being defeated by the half-Vandal general...

' entering Italy at the end of 405 and the crossing of the Rhine into Gaul
Crossing of the Rhine
31 December 406, is the often-repeated date of the crossing of the Rhine by a mixed group of barbarians that included Vandals, Alans and Suebi...

 by Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

, Sueves
Suebi
The Suebi or Suevi were a group of Germanic peoples who were first mentioned by Julius Caesar in connection with Ariovistus' campaign, c...

, and Alans in 406. The Huns do not then appear to have been a single force with a single ruler. Many Huns were employed as mercenaries by both East and West Romans and by the Goths. Uldin
Uldin
Uldin or Uldes was one of the primary chieftains of the Huns located beyond the Danube during the reigns of the Eastern Roman Emperors Arcadius and Theodosius II...

, the first Hun known by name, headed a group of Huns and Alans fighting against Radagaisus in defense of Italy. Uldin was also known for defeating Gothic rebels giving trouble to the East Romans around the Danube and beheading the Goth Gainas
Gainas
Gainas was an ambitious Gothic leader who served the Eastern Roman Empire as Magister Militum during the reigns of Theodosius I and Arcadius....

 around 400-401. Gainas' head was given to the East Romans for display in Constantinople in an apparent exchange of gifts.

The East Romans began to feel the pressure again in 408 by Uldin's Huns. Uldin crossed the Danube and captured a fortress in Moesia
Moesia
Moesia was an ancient region and later Roman province situated in the Balkans, along the south bank of the Danube River. It included territories of modern-day Southern Serbia , Northern Republic of Macedonia, Northern Bulgaria, Romanian Dobrudja, Southern Moldova, and Budjak .-History:In ancient...

 named Castra Martis, which was betrayed from within. Uldin then proceeded to ransack Thrace. The East Romans tried to buy Uldin off, but his sum was too high so they instead bought off Uldin's subordinates. This resulted in many desertions from Uldin's group of Huns.

Alaric's
Alaric I
Alaric I was the King of the Visigoths from 395–410. Alaric is most famous for his sack of Rome in 410, which marked a decisive event in the decline of the Roman Empire....

 brother-in-law, Athaulf, appears to have had Hun mercenaries in his employ south of the Julian Alps
Julian Alps
The Julian Alps are a mountain range of the Southern Limestone Alps that stretches from northeastern Italy to Slovenia, where they rise to 2,864 m at Mount Triglav. They are named after Julius Caesar, who founded the municipium of Cividale del Friuli at the foot of the mountains...

 in 409. These were countered by another small band of Huns hired by Honorius'
Honorius (emperor)
Honorius , was Western Roman Emperor from 395 to 423. He was the younger son of emperor Theodosius I and his first wife Aelia Flaccilla, and brother of the eastern emperor Arcadius....

 minister Olympius. Later in 409, the West Romans stationed ten thousand Huns in Italy and Dalmatia
Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

 to fend off Alaric, who then abandoned plans to march on Rome.

Under dual kingship


Attila and Bleda were as ambitious as king Rugila
Rugila
Rugila also referred to as Rua, Ruhas, Ruga and Rona , was a warlord who was a major factor in the Huns' early victories over the Roman Empire. He served as an important forerunner to Attila the Hun during the fifth century AD. Initially he had ruled together with his brother Octar , who died ca....

. They forced the Eastern Roman Empire to sign the Treaty of Margus
Treaty of Margus
The Romans had to pay 6,000 Roman pounds per year to the Huns. Also, the money they had to pay the Huns to get a Roman prisoner back was raised to 12 solidi....

, giving the Huns trade rights and an annual tribute from the Romans. With their southern border protected by the terms of this treaty, the Huns could turn their full attention to the further subjugation of tribes to the east.

However, when the Romans failed to deliver the agreed tribute, and other conditions of the Treaty of Margus were not met, both Hunnic kings turned their attention back to the Eastern Romans. Reports that the Bishop of Margus had crossed into Hun lands and desecrated royal graves further angered the kings. War broke out between the two empires, and the Huns capitalized on a weak Roman army
Roman army
The Roman army is the generic term for the terrestrial armed forces deployed by the kingdom of Rome , the Roman Republic , the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine empire...

 to raze the cities of Margus, Singidunum
Singidunum
Singidunum is the name for the ancient city in Serbia which became Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. It was recorded that a Celtic tribe Scordisci settled the area in the 3rd century BC following the Gallic invasion of the Balkans. The Roman Empire conquered the area in 75 BC and later garrisoned...

 and Viminacium
Viminacium
Viminacium was a major city and military camp of the Roman province of Moesia , and the capital of Moesia Superior. The archeological site occupies a total of 450 hectares. Viminacium is located 12 km from Kostolac, was devastated by Huns in the 5th century, but rebuilt by Justinian...

. Although a truce was signed in 441
441
Year 441 was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Seleucus without colleague...

, war resumed two years later with another failure by the Romans to deliver the tribute. In the following campaign, Hun armies came alarmingly close to Constantinople, sacking Sardica, Arcadiopolis and Philippopolis
Philippopolis
The term Philippopolis , which translates as "Philip's Town," may refer to the following cities:*Plovdiv, Bulgaria *Shahba, Syria...

 along the way. Suffering a complete defeat at the Battle of Chersonesus, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II
Theodosius II
Theodosius II , commonly surnamed Theodosius the Younger, or Theodosius the Calligrapher, was Byzantine Emperor from 408 to 450. He is mostly known for promulgating the Theodosian law code, and for the construction of the Theodosian Walls of Constantinople...

 gave in to Hun demands and the Peace of Anatolius was signed in autumn 443
443
Year 443 was a common year starting on Friday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Maximus and Paterius...

. The Huns returned to their lands with a vast train full of plunder.

In 445
445
Year 445 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Valentinianus and Nomus...

, Bleda died, leaving Attila the sole ruler of the Hun Empire.

Unified Empire under Attila




With his brother gone and as the only ruler of the united Huns, Attila possessed undisputed control over his subjects. In 447
447
Year 447 was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Calepius and Ardabur...

, Attila turned the Huns back toward the Eastern Roman Empire once more. His invasion of the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 and Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 was devastating. The Eastern Roman Empire was already beset by internal problems, such as famine and plague, as well as riots and a series of earthquakes in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 itself. Only a last-minute rebuilding of its walls had preserved Constantinople unscathed. Victory over a Roman army had already left the Huns virtually unchallenged in Eastern Roman lands and only disease forced a retreat, after they had conducted raids as far south as Thermopylae
Thermopylae
Thermopylae is a location in Greece where a narrow coastal passage existed in antiquity. It derives its name from its hot sulphur springs. "Hot gates" is also "the place of hot springs and cavernous entrances to Hades"....

. Our only lengthy first-hand report of conditions among the Huns is by Priscus
Priscus
Priscus of Panium was a late Roman diplomat, sophist and historian from Rumelifeneri living in the Roman Empire during the 5th century. He accompanied Maximinus, the ambassador of Theodosius II, to the court of Attila in 448...

, who formed part of an embassy to Attila.

The war finally came to an end for the Eastern Romans in 449
449
Year 449 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Astyrius and Romanus...

 with the signing of the Third Peace of Anatolius.

Throughout their raids on the Eastern Roman Empire, the Huns had maintained good relations with the Western Empire, this was due in no small part to a friendship with Flavius Aetius
Flavius Aëtius
Flavius Aëtius , dux et patricius, was a Roman general of the closing period of the Western Roman Empire. He was an able military commander and the most influential man in the Western Roman Empire for two decades . He managed policy in regard to the attacks of barbarian peoples pressing on the Empire...

, a powerful Roman general (sometimes even referred to as the de facto ruler of the Western Empire) who had spent some time with the Huns. However, this all changed in 450
450
Year 450 was a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Valentinianus and Avienus...

 when Honoria, sister of the Western Roman Emperor Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

, sent Attila a ring and requested his help to escape her betrothal to a senator. Although it is not known whether Honoria intended this as a proposal of marriage to Attila, that is how the Hun King interpreted it. He claimed half the Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire
The Western Roman Empire was the western half of the Roman Empire after its division by Diocletian in 285; the other half of the Roman Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly referred to today as the Byzantine Empire....

 as dowry. To add to the failing relations, a dispute arose between Attila and Aetius about the rightful heir to the kingdom of the Salian Franks
Salian Franks
The Salian Franks or Salii were a subgroup of the early Franks who originally had been living north of the limes in the area above the Rhine. The Merovingian kings responsible for the conquest of Gaul were Salians. From the 3rd century on, the Salian Franks appear in the historical records as...

. Finally, the repeated raids on the Eastern Roman Empire had left it with little to plunder.

In 451
451
Year 451 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Marcianus and Adelfius...

, Attila's forces entered Gaul
Gaul
Gaul was a region of Western Europe during the Iron Age and Roman era, encompassing present day France, Luxembourg and Belgium, most of Switzerland, the western part of Northern Italy, as well as the parts of the Netherlands and Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. The Gauls were the speakers of...

, with his army recruiting from the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, Goths
Goths
The Goths were an East Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin whose two branches, the Visigoths and the Ostrogoths, played an important role in the fall of the Roman Empire and the emergence of Medieval Europe....

 and Burgundian
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

 tribes en route. Once in Gaul, the Huns first attacked Metz
Metz
Metz is a city in the northeast of France located at the confluence of the Moselle and the Seille rivers.Metz is the capital of the Lorraine region and prefecture of the Moselle department. Located near the tripoint along the junction of France, Germany, and Luxembourg, Metz forms a central place...

, then his armies continued westwards, passing both Paris and Troyes
Troyes
Troyes is a commune and the capital of the Aube department in north-central France. It is located on the Seine river about southeast of Paris. Many half-timbered houses survive in the old town...

 to lay siege to Orléans
Orléans
-Prehistory and Roman:Cenabum was a Gallic stronghold, one of the principal towns of the Carnutes tribe where the Druids held their annual assembly. It was conquered and destroyed by Julius Caesar in 52 BC, then rebuilt under the Roman Empire...

.

Aetius was given the duty of relieving Orléans by Emperor Valentinian III
Valentinian III
-Family:Valentinian was born in the western capital of Ravenna, the only son of Galla Placidia and Flavius Constantius. The former was the younger half-sister of the western emperor Honorius, and the latter was at the time Patrician and the power behind the throne....

. Bolstered by Frankish and Visigothic troops (under King Theodoric
Theodoric I
Theodoric I sometimes called Theodorid and in Spanish, Portuguese and Italian Teodorico, was the King of the Visigoths from 418 to 451. An illegitimate son of Alaric, Theodoric is famous for defeating Attila at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in 451, where he was mortally wounded.-Early...

), Aetius' own Roman army met the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains also known as the Battle of Châlons
Battle of Chalons
The Battle of the Catalaunian Plains , also called the Battle of Châlons sur Marne, took place in AD 451 between a coalition led by the Visigothic king Theodoric I and the Roman general Flavius Aëtius, against the Huns and their allies commanded by their leader Attila...

. Although a tactical defeat for Attila, thwarting his invasion of Gaul and forcing his retreat back to non-Roman lands, the macrohistorical significance of the allied and Roman victory is a matter of debate.

The following year, Attila renewed his claims to Honoria and territory in the Western Roman Empire. Leading his horde across the Alps and into Northern Italy, he sacked and razed the cities of Aquileia
Aquileia
Aquileia is an ancient Roman city in what is now Italy, at the head of the Adriatic at the edge of the lagoons, about 10 km from the sea, on the river Natiso , the course of which has changed somewhat since Roman times...

, Vicetia, Verona
Verona
Verona ; German Bern, Dietrichsbern or Welschbern) is a city in the Veneto, northern Italy, with approx. 265,000 inhabitants and one of the seven chef-lieus of the region. It is the second largest city municipality in the region and the third of North-Eastern Italy. The metropolitan area of Verona...

, Brixia
Brixia
Brixia is the Latin name of the modern city of Brescia in Northern Italy.Its location was first settled in the 7th century BC by a tribe of Gauls , which were the inhabitants of this part of Italy before the Roman conquest . The name of the tribe was Cœnomani, and the name of the city comes from...

, Bergamum, and Milan
Milan
Milan is the second-largest city in Italy and the capital city of the region of Lombardy and of the province of Milan. The city proper has a population of about 1.3 million, while its urban area, roughly coinciding with its administrative province and the bordering Province of Monza and Brianza ,...

. Hoping to avoid the sack of Rome herself, Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys, the high civilian officers Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, as well as the Bishop of Rome Leo I, who met Attila at Mincio
Mincio
Mincio is a river in the Lombardy region of northern Italy.Called the Sarca River before entering Lake Garda, it flows from there about 65 km past Mantua into the Po River....

 in the vicinity of Mantua
Mantua
Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy and capital of the province of the same name. Mantua's historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family, made it one of the main artistic, cultural and notably musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole...

, and obtained from him the promise that he would withdraw from Italy and negotiate peace with the emperor. Prosper of Aquitaine gives a short, reliable description of the historic meeting, but gives all the credit of the successful negotiation to Leo. Priscus reports that superstitious fear of the fate of Alaric—who died shortly after sacking Rome in 410—gave him pause.
In reality, Italy had suffered from a terrible famine in 451 and her crops were faring little better in 452; Attila's devastating invasion of the plains of northern Italy this year did not improve the harvest. To advance on Rome would have required supplies which were not available in Italy, and taking the city would not have improved Attila's supply situation. Therefore, it was more profitable for Attila to conclude peace and retreat back to his homeland. Secondly, an East Roman force had crossed the Danube under the command of another officer also named Aetius—who had participated in the Council of Chalcedon the previous year—and proceeded to defeat the Huns who had been left behind by Attila to safeguard their home territories. Attila, hence, faced heavy human and natural pressures to retire from Italy before moving south of the Po. Attila retreated without Honoria or her dowry.

The new Eastern Roman Emperor Marcian
Marcian
Marcian was Byzantine Emperor from 450 to 457. Marcian's rule marked a recovery of the Eastern Empire, which the Emperor protected from external menaces and reformed economically and financially...

 then halted tribute payments. From the Carpathian Basin, Attila mobilised to attack Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. Before this planned attack he married a German girl named Ildico. In 453
453
Year 453 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Opilio and Vincomalus...

, he died of a nosebleed on his wedding night.

After Attila


After Attila's death, his son Ellac
Ellac
Ellac was the oldest son and successor of Attila the Hun in the Hunnic Empire. His reign lasted only 2 years, from 453 to 454, when he was killed in the Battle of Nedao...

 overcame his brothers Dengizich
Dengizich
Dengizich , ruler of the Akatziroi, was a son of Attila. The other forms of his name are Denzic and Dintzic...

 and Ernakh
Ernakh
Ernakh or Ernac was the 3rd son of Attila. After Attila's death in 453 AD, his empire crumbled and its remains were ruled by his three sons. Ernakh is considered to have succeeded Dengizich king of Akatziroi and reigned from 469 AD to 503 AD over the Huns who roamed a substantial part of the...

 (Irnik) to become king of the Huns. However, former subjects soon united under Ardaric
Ardaric
Ardaric was the most renowned king of the Gepids. He was "famed for his loyalty and wisdom", one of the most trusted adherents of Attila the Hun, who "prized him above all the other chieftains"...

, leader of the Gepids, against the Huns at the Battle of Nedao
Battle of Nedao
The Battle of Nedao, named after the Nedava, a tributary of the Sava, was a battle fought in Pannonia in 454. After the death of Attila the Hun, allied forces of the Germanic subject peoples under the leadership of Ardaric, king of the Gepids, defeated the Hunnic forces of Ellac, the son of Attila,...

 in 454. This defeat and Ellac's death ended the European supremacy of the Huns, and soon afterwards they disappear from contemporary records. The Pannonian basin then was occupied by the Gepids, whilst various Gothic groups remained in the Balkans also.

Later historians provide brief hints of the dispersal and renaming of Attila's people. According to tradition, after Ellac's defeat and death, his brothers ruled over two separate, but closely related hordes on the steppes north of the Black Sea. Dengizich
Dengizich
Dengizich , ruler of the Akatziroi, was a son of Attila. The other forms of his name are Denzic and Dintzic...

 is believed to have been king (khan) of the Kutrigur Bulgars
Bulgars
The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic who flourished in the Pontic Steppe and the Volga basin in the 7th century.The Bulgars emerge after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire in the 5th century....

, and Ernakh king (khan) of the Utigur
Utigur
Utigur is the name used by Procopius Caesariensis and his continuators Agathias and Menander in the 5th and 6th centuries to refer to the Bulgar-Huns of Onoguria, the Eurasian steppes north-east of the Black Sea and east the Don river....

 Bulgars, whilst Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

 claimed that Kutrigurs
Kutrigurs
The Kutrigurs , first mentioned in 539/540, were a horde of equestrian nomads later known as part of the Bulgars that inhabited the Eurasian plains during the Dark Ages. They came into existence when the Eurasian Avars conquered half of the Hunno-Bulgars, whilst the remaining group, who were free ...

 and Utigurs were named after, and led by two of the sons of Ernakh
Ernakh
Ernakh or Ernac was the 3rd son of Attila. After Attila's death in 453 AD, his empire crumbled and its remains were ruled by his three sons. Ernakh is considered to have succeeded Dengizich king of Akatziroi and reigned from 469 AD to 503 AD over the Huns who roamed a substantial part of the...

. Such distinctions are uncertain and the situation is not likely to have been so clear cut. Some Huns remained in Pannonia for some time before they were slaughtered by Goths. Others took refuge within the East Roman Empire, namely in Dacia Ripensis and Scythia Minor. Possibly, other Huns and nomadic groups retreated to the steppe. Indeed, subsequently, new confederations appear such as Kutrigur, Utigur, Onogur / (Onoghur), Sarigur, etc., which were collectively called "Huns","Bulgarian Huns", or "Bulgars". Similarly, the 6th century Slavs were presented as Hun groups by Procopius.

However, it is likely that Graeco-Roman sources habitually equated new barbarian political groupings with old tribes. This was partly due to expectation that contemporary writers emulate the ‘great writers’ of preceding eras. Apart from exigencies in style was the belief that barbarians from particular areas were all the same, no matter how they changed their name.

Chroniclers writing centuries later often mentioned or alluded to Huns or their purported descendants. These include:
  • Theophylact Simocatta
    Theophylact Simocatta
    Theophylact Simocatta was an early seventh-century Byzantine historiographer, arguably ranking as the last historian of Late Antiquity, writing in the time of Heraclius about the late Emperor Maurice .-Life:His history of the reign of emperor Maurice is in eight books...

  • Annales Fuldenses
    Annales Fuldenses
    The Annales Fuldenses or Annals of Fulda are East Frankish chronicles that cover independently the period from the last years of Louis the Pious to shortly after the end of effective Carolingian rule in East Francia with the accession of the child-king, Louis III, in 900...

  • Annales Alemannici
  • Annals of Salzburg
  • Liutprand of Cremona
    Liutprand of Cremona
    Liutprand, also Liudprand, Liuprand, Lioutio, Liucius, Liuzo, and Lioutsios was a Lombard historian and author, and Bishop of Cremona....

    's Antapodosis
  • Regino of Prüm
    Regino of Prüm
    Reginon or Regino of Prüm was a Benedictine abbot and medieval chronicler.-Biography:According to the statements of a later era, Regino was the son of noble parents and was born at the stronghold of Altrip on the Rhine near Speyer at an unknown date...

    's chronicle
  • Widukind of Corvey
    Widukind of Corvey
    Widukind of Corvey was a Saxon historical chronicler, named after the Saxon duke and national hero Widukind who had battled Charlemagne. Widukind the chronicler was born in 925 and died after 973 at the Benedictine abbey of Corvey in East Westphalia...

    's Saxon Chronicle
    Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres
    The three-volume Res gestae saxonicae sive annalium libri tres is a chronicle of 10th century Germany written by Widukind of Corvey...

  • Nestor the Chronicler
    Nestor the Chronicler
    Saint Nestor the Chronicler was the reputed author of the Primary Chronicle, , Life of the Venerable Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, Life of the Holy Passion Bearers, Boris and Gleb, and of the so-called Reading.Nestor was a monk of the Monastery of the Caves in Kiev from 1073...

    's Primary Chronicle
    Primary Chronicle
    The Primary Chronicle , Ruthenian Primary Chronicle or Russian Primary Chronicle, is a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113.- Three editions :...

  • Legends of Saints Cyril and Methodius
    Saints Cyril and Methodius
    Saints Cyril and Methodius were two Byzantine Greek brothers born in Thessaloniki in the 9th century. They became missionaries of Christianity among the Slavic peoples of Bulgaria, Great Moravia and Pannonia. Through their work they influenced the cultural development of all Slavs, for which they...

  • Aventinus
    Johannes Aventinus
    Johannes Aventinus was a Bavarian historian and philologist. He wrote Annals of Bavaria, a valuable record of the early history of Germany...

    's Chronicon Bavaria,
  • Constantine VII's De Administrando Imperio
    De Administrando Imperio
    De Administrando Imperio is the Latin title of a Greek work written by the 10th-century Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VII. The Greek title of the work is...

    , and
  • Leo VI the Wise
    Leo VI the Wise
    Leo VI, surnamed the Wise or the Philosopher , was Byzantine emperor from 886 to 912. The second ruler of the Macedonian dynasty , he was very well-read, leading to his surname...

    's Tactica
    Tactica of Emperor Leo VI the Wise
    The Tactica is a military treatise written by or on behalf of Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise in ca. 895-908. Drawing on earlier authors such as Aelian, Onasander and the Strategikon of emperor Maurice, it is one of the major works on Byzantine military tactics, written on the eve of Byzantium's...

    .


Mediaeval Hungarians continued this tradition (see Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum
Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum
The Gesta Hunnorum et Hungarorum , written mainly by Simon of Kéza around 1282-1285, is one of the sources of early Hungarian history...

, Chronicon Pictum
Chronicon Pictum
The Chronicon Pictum Pictum, Chronica Picta or Chronica de Gestis Hungarorum) is a medieval illustrated chronicle from the Kingdom of Hungary from the fourteenth century...

, Gesta Hungarorum
Gesta Hungarorum
Gesta Hungarorum is a record of early Hungarian history by an unknown author who describes himself as Anonymi Bele Regis Notarii , but is generally cited as Anonymus...

).

Legends



Memory of the Hunnic conquest was transmitted orally
Oral tradition
Oral tradition and oral lore is cultural material and traditions transmitted orally from one generation to another. The messages or testimony are verbally transmitted in speech or song and may take the form, for example, of folktales, sayings, ballads, songs, or chants...

 among Germanic peoples
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 and is an important component in the Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 Völsunga saga
Volsunga saga
The Völsungasaga is a legendary saga, a late 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Völsung clan . It is largely based on epic poetry...

and Hervarar saga
Hervarar saga
Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks is a legendary saga from the 13th century combining matter from several older sagas. It is a valuable saga for several different reasons beside its literary qualities. It contains traditions of wars between Goths and Huns, from the 4th century, and the last part is used as...

and in the Middle High German
Middle High German
Middle High German , abbreviated MHG , is the term used for the period in the history of the German language between 1050 and 1350. It is preceded by Old High German and followed by Early New High German...

 Nibelungenlied
Nibelungenlied
The Nibelungenlied, translated as The Song of the Nibelungs, is an epic poem in Middle High German. The story tells of dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild's revenge....

. These stories all portray Migration Period
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

 events from a millennium earlier.

In the Hervarar saga
Hervarar saga
Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks is a legendary saga from the 13th century combining matter from several older sagas. It is a valuable saga for several different reasons beside its literary qualities. It contains traditions of wars between Goths and Huns, from the 4th century, and the last part is used as...

, the Goths make first contact with the bow-wielding Huns and meet them in an epic battle on the plains of the Danube
Danube
The Danube is a river in the Central Europe and the Europe's second longest river after the Volga. It is classified as an international waterway....

.

In the Nibelungenlied
Nibelungenlied
The Nibelungenlied, translated as The Song of the Nibelungs, is an epic poem in Middle High German. The story tells of dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild's revenge....

, Kriemhild marries Attila (Etzel in German) after her first husband Siegfried
Sigurd
Sigurd is a legendary hero of Norse mythology, as well as the central character in the Völsunga saga. The earliest extant representations for his legend come in pictorial form from seven runestones in Sweden and most notably the Ramsund carving Sigurd (Old Norse: Sigurðr) is a legendary hero of...

 was murdered by Hagen
Hagen (legend)
Hagen or Högni is a Burgundian warrior in tales about the Burgundian kingdom at Worms. Hagen is often identified as a brother or half-brother of King Gunther .In the Nibelungenlied, he is called Hagen of Tronje...

 with the complicity of her brother, King Gunther
Gunther
Gunther is the German name of a semi-legendary king of Burgundy of the early 5th century...

. She then uses her power as Etzel's wife to take a bloody revenge in which not only Hagen and Gunther
Gunther
Gunther is the German name of a semi-legendary king of Burgundy of the early 5th century...

 but all Burgundian
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

 knights find their death at festivities to which she and Etzel had invited them.

In the Völsunga saga, Attila (Atli in Norse) defeats the Frankish
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

 king Sigebert I
Sigebert I
Sigebert I was the king of Austrasia from the death of his father in 561 to his own death. He was the third surviving son out of four of Clotaire I and Ingund...

 (Sigurðr or Siegfried) and the Burgundian King Guntram
Guntram
Saint Guntram was the king of Burgundy from 561 to 592. He was a son of Chlothar I and Ingunda...

 (Gunnar
Gunnar
Gunnar is a male first name of Nordic origin The name Gunnar means fighter, soldier and attacker . Gunder is a Danish variant, Günther is the modern German variant...

 or Gunther), but is later assassinated by Queen Fredegund
Fredegund
Fredegund was the Queen consort of Chilperic I, the Merovingian Frankish king of Soissons.All her wealth and power came to her through her association with Chilperic...

 (Gudrun
Gudrun
Gudrun is a major figure in the early Germanic literature centered on the hero Sigurd, son of Sigmund. She appears as Kriemhild in the Nibelungenlied and as Gutrune in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.-Norse mythology:...

 or Kriemhild), the sister of the latter and wife of the former.

Many nations and ethnic groups have tried to assert themselves as ethnic, or cultural successors to the Huns. For instance, the Nominalia of the Bulgarian Khans
Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans
The Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans is a short manuscript containing the names of some early Bulgar rulers, their clans, the year of their ascending to the throne according to the cyclic Bulgar calendar and the length of their rule, including the times of joint rule and civil war...

 may indicate that they believed to have descended from Attila. There are many similarities between Hunnic and Bulgar cultures, such as the practice of artificial cranial deformation
Artificial cranial deformation
Artificial cranial deformation, head flattening, or head binding is a form of permanent body alteration in which the skull of a human being is intentionally deformed. It is done by distorting the normal growth of a child's skull by applying force...

. This along with other archaeological evidence suggest continuity between the two cultures. The most characteristic weapons of the Huns and early Bulgars (a particular type of composite bow and a long, straight, double edged sword of the Sassanid type, etc.) are virtually identical in appearance.

The Magyars (Hungarians) in particular lay claim to Hunnic heritage. Although Magyar tribes only began to settle in the geographical area of present-day Hungary in the very end of the 9th century, some 450 years after the dissolution of the Hunnic tribal confederation, Hungarian prehistory
Hungarian prehistory
Hungarian prehistory refers to the prehistoric Magyars, from the time when they separated from Common Ugric until their invasion of the Carpathian basin in the late 9th century...

 includes Magyar origin legends, which may have preserved some elements of historical truth. The Huns who invaded Europe represented a loose coalition of various peoples, so some Magyars might have been part of it, or may later have joined descendants of Attila's men, who still claimed the name of Huns. The national anthem of Hungary describes the Hungarians as "blood of Bendegúz'" (the medieval and modern Hungarian version of Mundzuk
Mundzuk
Mundzuk was a Hunnic prince and brother of Hunnic rulers Optar and Rugila . Mundzuk was also father of Attila the Hun and Bleda...

, Attila's father). Attila's brother Bleda
Bleda
Bleda was a Hun ruler, the brother of Attila the Hun.As nephews to Rugila, Attila and his elder brother Bleda succeeded him to the throne. His reign lasted for eleven years until his death. While it has been speculated throughout history that Attila murdered him on a hunting trip, no one knows...

 is called Buda in modern Hungarian. The city of Buda
Buda
For detailed information see: History of Buda CastleBuda is the western part of the Hungarian capital Budapest on the west bank of the Danube. The name Buda takes its name from the name of Bleda the Hun ruler, whose name is also Buda in Hungarian.Buda comprises about one-third of Budapest's...

 has been said to derive its name from him. There is an ancient legend, amongst the Székely people that says: "After the death of Attila, in the bloody Battle of Krimhilda, 3000 Hun warriors managed to escape, to settle in a place called "Csigle mezo" (today Transylvania) and they changed their name from Huns to Szekler (Szekely)." When Hungarians came to Pannonia in the 8th century, the Szeklers joined them, and together they conquered Pannonia (today Hungary).

In 2005, a group of about 2,500 Hungarians petitioned the government for recognition of minority status as direct descendants of Attila. The bid failed, but gained some publicity for the group, which formed in the early 1990s and appears to represent a special Hungarian-centric brand of mysticism
Hungarian Turanism
Hungarian Turanism is a Hungarian nationalist ideology which stresses the alleged origins of the Hungarian people in the steppes of Central Asia and the affinity of the Hungarians with Asian peoples such as the Turks. The idea of the necessity of "Turanian brotherhood/collaboration" was borrowed...

. The self-proclaimed Huns are not known to possess any distinctly Hunnic culture or language beyond what would be available from historical and modern-mystical Hungarian sources.

During a 16th-century peasant revolt in southern Norway, the rebels claimed, during their trial, that they expected the "Hun king Atle" to come from the north with a great host.

Successor realms




After the breakdown of the Hun Empire, they never regained their lost glory. One reason was that the Huns never fully established the mechanisms of a state, such as bureaucracy and taxes, unlike Bulgars, Magyars or the Golden Horde
Golden Horde
The Golden Horde was a Mongol and later Turkicized khanate that formed the north-western sector of the Mongol Empire...

. Once disorganized, the Huns were absorbed by more organized polities. Like the Avars after them, once the Hun political unity failed there was no way to re-create it, especially because the Huns had become a multiethnic empire even before Attila. The Hun Empire included, at least nominally, a great host of diverse peoples, each of whom may be considered 'descendants' of the Huns. However, given that the Huns were a political creation, and not a consolidated people, or nation, their defeat in 454 marked the end of that political creation. Newer polities which later arose might have consisted of people formerly in the Hun confederacy, and carrying closely related steppe cultures, but they were new political creations.

20th century use in reference to Germans


On July 27, 1900, during the Boxer Rebellion
Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion, also called the Boxer Uprising by some historians or the Righteous Harmony Society Movement in northern China, was a proto-nationalist movement by the "Righteous Harmony Society" , or "Righteous Fists of Harmony" or "Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists" , in China between...

 in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Kaiser
Kaiser
Kaiser is the German title meaning "Emperor", with Kaiserin being the female equivalent, "Empress". Like the Russian Czar it is directly derived from the Latin Emperors' title of Caesar, which in turn is derived from the personal name of a branch of the gens Julia, to which Gaius Julius Caesar,...

 Wilhelm II of Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 gave the order to act ruthlessly towards the rebels: "Mercy will not be shown, prisoners will not be taken. Just as a thousand years ago, the Huns under Attila won a reputation of might that lives on in legends, so may the name of Germany in China, such that no Chinese will even again dare so much as to look askance at a German."

This speech gave rise to later use of the term "Hun" for the Germans during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. The comparison was helped by the Pickelhaube
Pickelhaube
The Pickelhaube , also "Pickelhelm," was a spiked helmet worn in the 19th and 20th centuries by German military, firefighters, and police...

or spiked helmet
Helmet
A helmet is a form of protective gear worn on the head to protect it from injuries.Ceremonial or symbolic helmets without protective function are sometimes used. The oldest known use of helmets was by Assyrian soldiers in 900BC, who wore thick leather or bronze helmets to protect the head from...

 worn by German forces until 1916, which was reminiscent of images depicting ancient Hun helmets. This usage, emphasising the idea that the Germans were barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

s, was reinforced by Allied
Allies of World War I
The Entente Powers were the countries at war with the Central Powers during World War I. The members of the Triple Entente were the United Kingdom, France, and the Russian Empire; Italy entered the war on their side in 1915...

 propaganda throughout the war. The French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 songwriter Theodore Botrel
Théodore Botrel
Jean-Baptiste-Théodore-Marie Botrel was a French singer-songwriter, poet and playwright. He is best known for his popular songs about his native Brittany, of which the most famous is La Paimpolaise. During World War I he became France's official "Bard of the Armies".-Life:Born in Dinan, Botrel was...

 described the Kaiser as "an Attila, without remorse", launching "cannibal hordes".

The usage of the term "Hun" to describe a German resurfaced during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. For example Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill
Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill, was a predominantly Conservative British politician and statesman known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during the Second World War. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest wartime leaders of the century and served as Prime Minister twice...

 referred in 1941 to the invasion of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 as "the dull, drilled, docile brutish masses of the Hun soldiery, plodding on like a swarm of crawling locusts." During this time American President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 also referred to the German people in this way, saying that an Allied invasion into the South of France would surely "be successful and of great assistance to Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 in driving the Huns from France." Nevertheless, its use was less widespread than in the previous war. British and American WWII troops more often used the term "Jerry" or "Kraut
Kraut
Kraut is a German word recorded in English from 1918 onwards as a derogatory term for a German, particularly a German soldier during World War I and World War II. Its earlier meaning in English was as a synonym for sauerkraut, a traditional German and central European food.- Etymological...

" for their German opponents.

Reference to British people


People who are British nationalist or British Unionist
British unionism
British unionism is a political ideology favouring the continued existence of the United Kingdom as a sovereign state, consisting of four constituent countries, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland....

 are often referred to as "Huns" in a derogatory way largely by Irish nationalists, the term can also refer to anybody of British descent.

See also


  • Hunnic Empire
    Hunnic Empire
    The Hunnic Empire was an empire established by the Huns. The Huns were a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia. Appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga...

  • Turkic peoples
    Turkic peoples
    The Turkic peoples are peoples residing in northern, central and western Asia, southern Siberia and northwestern China and parts of eastern Europe. They speak languages belonging to the Turkic language family. They share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds...

  • Turkic language
  • Turkish People
    Turkish people
    Turkish people, also known as the "Turks" , are an ethnic group primarily living in Turkey and in the former lands of the Ottoman Empire where Turkish minorities had been established in Bulgaria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Romania...

  • Göktürks
    Göktürks
    The Göktürks or Kök Türks, were a nomadic confederation of peoples in medieval Inner Asia. Known in Chinese sources as 突厥 , the Göktürks under the leadership of Bumin Qaghan The Göktürks or Kök Türks, (Old Turkic: Türük or Kök Türük or Türük; Celestial Turks) were a nomadic confederation of...

     
  • Nomadic empire
    Nomadic empire
    Nomadic empires, sometimes also called Steppe Empires, Central or Inner Asian Empires, are the empires erected by the bow-wielding, horse-riding, nomadic peoples in the Eurasian steppe, from Classical Antiquity to the Early Modern era .The nomadic or semi-nomadic Cimmerians, Avars, Magyars,...

  • Oghur
    Oghur
    Oghur may be:* an early Turkic word for "tribe", see Oghur * the Turkic Oghur languages...

  • Uar
    Uar
    The Uar were the largest of three ethnic components constituting the confederation known to the west as the Hephthalites and to the Chinese as Yanda and the dominant ethnicity of Khwarezm...

  • Bulgars
    Bulgars
    The Bulgars were a semi-nomadic who flourished in the Pontic Steppe and the Volga basin in the 7th century.The Bulgars emerge after the collapse of the Hunnic Empire in the 5th century....


  • Chuvash
    Chuvash
    Chuvash may refer to:*Chuvash people*Chuvash language*Chuvashia, a republic in Russia*Çuvaş, Azerbaijan...

  • Avars
    Eurasian Avars
    The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

  • Xionites
    Xionites
    Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, , Hunni Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, (Middle Persian: Xiyon, Avestan: Xiiaona, Sogdian:xwn), Hunni Xionites, Chionites, Chionitae, (Middle Persian: Xiyon, Avestan: Xiiaona, Sogdian:xwn), Hunni (Pahlavi:Huna, Yun or Xūn (獯), were a nomadic tribe prominent in...

  • Hephthalites
  • Indo-Sassanids
  • List of Hunnic Rulers
  • Cavalry
    Cavalry
    Cavalry or horsemen were soldiers or warriors who fought mounted on horseback. Cavalry were historically the third oldest and the most mobile of the combat arms...

  • Mounted archery
    Mounted archery
    A horse archer, horsed archer, or mounted archer is a cavalryman armed with a bow, able to shoot while riding from horseback. Archery has occasionally been used from the backs of other riding animals...

  • Xiongnu
    Xiongnu
    The Xiongnu were ancient nomadic-based people that formed a state or confederation north of the agriculture-based empire of the Han Dynasty. Most of the information on the Xiongnu comes from Chinese sources...

  • Hungarians
  • Turcilingi
    Turcilingi
    The Turcilingi, Torcilingi, or Thorcilingi were an obscure barbarian people who first appeared on the historical scene in Gaul in the mid-fifth century and last appeared in Italy during the reign of Romulus Augustulus...

  • Taig
    Taig
    Taig is a derogatory term for an Irish Catholic. It is mainly used by sectarian loyalists in Northern Ireland and Scotland. It has been used in sectarian slogans such as "Kill All Taigs" , "All Taigs Are Targets" and "Any Taig Will Do"...



Further reading

  • Ammianus Marcellinus
    Ammianus Marcellinus
    Ammianus Marcellinus was a fourth-century Roman historian. He wrote the penultimate major historical account surviving from Antiquity...

    . 1922. _____________. Translated by John Rolfe. Loeb Classical Library.
  • Encyclopaedia Britannica. 1997. Turkic languages
  • Lindner, Rudi Paul. 1981. Nomadism, Horses and Huns. Past and Present, August 1981, 92: 3–19.
  • E. A. Thompson, A History of Attila and the Huns (1948)
  • F. Altheim, Attila und die Hunnen (1951)
  • J. Werner, Beiträge zur Archäologie des Attila-Reiches (1956).
  • T. Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders, Vol. I (rev. ed. 1892, repr. 1967)
  • W. M. McGovern, Early Empires of Central Asia (1939)
  • Frederick John Teggart
    Frederick John Teggart
    Frederick John Teggart was an Irish-American historian and social scientist, known for work on the history of civilizations.-Life:...

    , China and Rome (1969, repr. 1983);
  • Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen, The World of the Huns (1973).

See also

  • Historic states represented in Turkish presidential seal
    Historic states represented in Turkish presidential seal
    16 Great Turkish Empires is a historical discourse that was created in 1969 to explain the meaning of 16 stars of the presidential seal of Turkey. And it was inaugurated in 1985 with the presidential seal today...

  • Hunnic language
    Hunnic language
    The Huns were a heterogenous, multi-ethnic tribal confederation during the 4th and 5th centuries. A contemporary reports that the Hunnic Empire had a "Hunnic language", or "Hunnish", which was spoken alongside Gothic and the languages of other tribes subjugated by the Huns The literary records for...

  • List of Hunnish rulers