‘Like a Certain Tornado of Peoples’: Warfare of the European Huns in the Light of Graeco-Latin Literary Tradition






‘Like a Certain Tornado of Peoples’: Warfare of the European Huns in the Light of Graeco-Latin Literary Tradition

By Valery Nikonorov

Anabasis: Studia Classica et Orientalia, Vol.1 (2010)

Abstract: The paper deals with the art of warfare of the Huns, who invaded Southeast Europe in the last third of the 4th century A.D. and dominated there through the third quarter of the 5th century. It is described on the basis of all the available Greek and Latin written sources. Matters of the author’s consideration are arms and armour, horse equipment, armed forces, strategy and tactics, siegecraft and the structure of military organization. Some part of the paper contains critics of R. P. Lindner’s theory about the “dismounting” of the majority of Hun cavalry troops at least by the time of the great ruler Attila.



Introduction: In the early 370s, from behind the Volga river certain nomads, who werenamed Huns (Hun[n]i and Chuni in Latin, Ϥííïé in Greek) in the Late Classical tradition, had invaded the steppes of the Northern Pontic area. Their invasion delivered a mighty impulse to the great movement of tribes within thewestern part of Eurasia, which has been called ‘The Great Migration Period’. Shortly after, in the first half of the 5th century, the Huns, thanks to their superiority in warfare over local peoples (Sarmato-Alans, Eastern Germans and others), turned into the strongest military and political power in South-Eastern and Central Europe. The Hun domination lasted there until the fall of the empire created by the great king Attila, which occurred under his sons, c. 470 A.D. That, not so long, a space of time (just about one century) had nevertheless, a considerable influence upon the world of Late Antiquity. Indeed, Hun hordes led by Attila, who was nicknamed the ‘Scourge of God’ by his European contemporaries, did threaten more than once the existence itself of the Western civilization.

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