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Hunnish shoe buckle, 4th century
Hunnish garnet bangle, 5th century

Huns is a collective term for a group of Central Asian equestrian peoples with a nomadic , later semi-nomadic way of life. Their exact origin and ethnicity are not known or are controversial in modern research.

The few linguistic remnants do not allow a precise assignment: Some researchers assume that the Huns spoke a Turkic language or another Altaic language . Other researchers assume a language that is now extinct or doubt the possibility of an exact assignment. It is also uncertain whether the term Huns denoted a clearly defined group of tribes. In modern research it is rather often assumed that the name Huns was a prestige name for otherwise heterogeneously composed groups of nomadic cavalry warriors in the Eurasian steppe region. With this in mind, the term Hun was used by someEastern Roman historians used it as an ethnographic term for very different equestrian peoples from the Eurasian steppe area who later appeared.

What is certain is that the tribes referred to as "Huns" in late antique sources lived in the area between the Don and Volga rivers around the middle of the 4th century and finally advanced to the west, although they did not operate under unified leadership. They invaded Europe from 375/76 using equestrian combat techniques unknown there (see Migration of Nations ) and played an important role in late ancient history until the late 5th century . In the early 5th century they established a steppe kingdom on the Danube between the western and eastern currents. Their power reached its peak under Attila , although the Huns were always economically dependent on forced Roman tribute payments. After Attila's death in 453 and the collapse of his empire, the Huns largely dispersed again; Hunnic auxiliary troops in Eastern Roman service and groups designated as Hunnic in the northern Black Sea region are documented as early as the 6th century .

Origin and use of names

The word Hun is usually derived from the Chinese term for the Xiongnu people . The name Huns appears in a modified form as Ounnoi (Latin Chunni or Hunni ) in the 2nd century AD in the geography of the Greek Ptolemy . Whether this refers to the Huns advancing to Eastern Europe around 375 is rather doubtful in recent research, since a pure name similarity with this group, which appeared 200 years after Ptolemy was mentioned, is hardly meaningful. In recent research, such a continuity is only represented by a few historians.

The name Huns is often used more generally in the various sources : It probably served as a "prestige and transference name" that could designate different groups, so that the Huns did not represent an exact ethnic designation. In late antique historiography, the term Huns often refers to a heterogeneously composed group , like " Scythians " before , which came from the vast steppe region of Central Asia, without any statement about ethnic affiliation being connected with it. Thus Priskos (whose only fragmentary historical work is one of the most important sources regarding the Huns) describes the Huns under Attila, to whose court he traveled in 449, as "Scythians" in the context of classicist ethnographic ideas. Elsewhere in his work, however, he also reports on " Kidarite Huns " who threatened the eastern border of Persia in the 5th century.

Thus around 350 the Persian Sassanids fought against nomads who were called Chionites ; the Middle Persian word xyon is derived from the term "Hun" and probably gave the Chionites their name. In the 5th century, further groups followed, called the Iranian Huns (see also the explanations in the article Late Antiquity ), but they are not identical with the groups advancing westwards around 375. Groups of the Iranian Huns (the Alkhon rather than the Hephthalites ) also invaded northern India in the 6th century. They are generally referred to as Hunas in Indian sources and were a factor in the collapse of the Gupta Empire .

These examples show that the term “Huns” cannot be related to a fixed ethnic group. However, Étienne de la Vaissière assumes the effectiveness of a strong political, cultural and religious identity that originated in the Altai and was perhaps influenced by the last Xiongnu, who are said to have withdrawn there (at least de la Vaissière). However, the origin of the Huns is controversial in research to this day, with most researchers rejecting a direct link between the Xiongnu and the Huns who appeared in the west around 375 (see the following chapter on the presumption of origin).

Only a few remains of the language of the 375 "Huns" advancing westward have survived. Many researchers are of the opinion that the Huns of the 4th and 5th centuries spoke an Altaic , possibly an Oghur , i.e. Old Turkish, at least no Iranian or Yenisan language . Other researchers argue that it was a different, now extinct language. There is still no scientific consensus regarding the Hunnic language. It only seems certain that there were Germanic-speaking warriors who clung to their languages ​​and names for a long time in the vicinity of the Hunnic elite.

Some medieval authors later used the Huns as an anachronistic term for other steppe peoples .

In the 19th century, the Nibelungenlied as the national epic of the German Hun became a term that would henceforth characterize all supposed or real threats from the Asian region and, for example, by Hans Naumann in 1933 in comparison with the Nibelungenlied about the Brunswick lion as a defensive figure Slavs as "teeming, rat-gray breed of the empty steppe" is transferred.

Due to the so-called Hunnenrede Kaiser Wilhelm II. The term Hun (Engl. Hun ) used in the English language as a term of abuse for German.

Theories of origin

Older research (beginning in the 18th century with Joseph de Guignes ) still put the origin of the tribes, now generally referred to as the Huns , in connection with the fall of the Xiongnu Empire . The Xiongnu Empire split into a northern and a southern part around the middle of the 1st century AD. The southern part became a Chinese protectorate, while the northern empire fell towards the end of the 1st century, and the rest of the population became part of the Xianbei people . While the southern Xiongnu under Liu Cong operated in China in the early 4th century , the northern Xiongnu disappeared from the sources for good by the middle of the 2nd century. All speculations regarding the origin of the "European Huns" related to this northern group.

Recent research is far more skeptical about a connection between the Xiongnu documented in Chinese sources and the Huns, who appeared more than two centuries later in the West, if they did not abandon this thesis entirely. However, even today some prominent researchers such as James Howard-Johnston or Étienne de La Vaissière hold on to the identification or at least assume a certain continuity. Hyun Jin Kim, who viewed the history of the Huns from an "Asian perspective" and made a highly controversial contribution in this regard, shares the view of de La Vaissière that continuities existed and that the Huns also had a well-organized state structure ; however, several methodological conclusions in research have met with sharp criticism. But even modern advocates of the Xiongnu-Huns connection mostly see a cultural and political heritage and not a “genetic connection” (this is also known for Hyun Jin Kim or Étienne de La Vaissière) of the heterogeneously composed groups. Doerfer cannot determine any close linguistic relationship either.

There is evidence that the term Xiongnu / Hunne was known further west in different name forms in the 4th century AD, because in a surviving Sogdian letter the conquest and destruction of the Chinese capital Luoyang by a "Huns" ( xwn ) mentioned group. Walter Bruno Henning was able to link this event with the activities of the southern Xiongnu under Liu Cong in 311. However, this pure reference to the name is no evidence that the group called the Huns, which later appeared in the west (around 375), are identical with the ancient Xiongnu, because the group responsible for the destruction of Luoyang can be traced well in Chinese sources and never moved west . However, it is possible that other groups in the steppe region (as well as the aforementioned Iranian Huns) adopted the designation "Huns" as a prestige name or were referred to with the well-known term, but without being related to the Xiongnu.

The problem is that neither a clear archaeological finding or a widespread manufacturing practice in the steppe region nor written sources prove the connection between the Huns and Xiongnu, especially since in Chinese sources the name Xiongnu (and equivalent names) were also used for tribes that are clearly no longer who were "ancient Xiongnu". Chinese authors used the term Xiongnu as a blanket term for “strange barbarians ” without necessarily characterizing a specific group. In this respect, it is controversial which peoples referred to as "Huns" in the Chinese sources are really allowed to be considered Huns. Many of these peoples very likely had nothing in common other than their nomadic way of life. A direct connection between Xiongnu and the "Western Huns" is therefore also doubtful.

The archaeological findings from western China have so far also indicated rather poor relationships with what was then Eastern Europe; A so-called Huns cauldron and other artefacts found in western China appeared to be imports from Europe or evidence of a return migration of the Huns to 451. Some authors such as Bodo Anke postulated a Sarmatic origin of the kettle. However, in view of new finds that close the gaps between western China via the Altai to southern Russia and into the Danube region, it is becoming increasingly clear that the older bulbous boilers are of Central Asian origin, while the younger cylindrical types are produced in the Danube region, but using techniques originally from China have been. The shape of the handle has also changed from east to west in the now more precisely comprehensible passage of time. The higher age of the eastern finds (the easternmost find comes from Shenzhen ) speaks against the continuation of imports into the Danube region during the Attila period and also not in favor of a more significant Hunnic return to Asia. Reflex bows, iron arrowheads, horse harness and wooden saddles are of Central Asian origin. The orientalist and archaeologist Miklós Erdy has recently advocated a stronger thesis of continuity based on the analysis of burial rituals, petroglyphs and shamanistic practices of the Xiongnu and the Huns.

Ultimately, the Central Asian tribes were nomadic groups who, depending on the political circumstances, organized, separated and reorganized in rudimentary domains, so that some questions about their respective composition will always remain open (see also ethnogenesis ). The long time between the annihilation of the Xiongnu empire in northern China and the appearance of the groups known as the Huns in Eastern Europe speaks against the continuity of the association according to the modern state of knowledge about the steppe peoples. The name of the Xiongnu / Huns, however, guaranteed a certain prestige, which is why this is assumed as a possible reason for the name transfer, although most researchers believe that the Huns of the 4th century were not related to the Xiongnu, as already mentioned.

While it is not possible to make reliable statements about the ethnic origin of the Huns, who lived between the Don and the Volga in the middle of the 4th century, a geographical origin from the Seven Rivers of Central Asia is often assumed. The term "Hun" was often used in the late antique sources as a designation for peoples who appeared in the Pontic steppes north of the Black Sea and Central Asia (similar to the term " Scythians " before ). Likewise, these groups were ethnically not composed homogeneously, especially since other groups joined them. For this reason, the German archaeologist Michael Schmauder speaks of a "peoples' confederation" with Asian groups within this heterogeneous association. In connection with the Iranian Huns , the Middle Persian name Xyon occurs, which can probably be understood as “Huns”, but without characterizing an ethnically specific group.

The only thing that is certain is that western sources called the attackers, who appeared in 375/76 in the area of ​​today's Ukraine and who then advanced westward, as "Huns" and that their residence was located in late ancient sources near the Sea of ​​Azov . Later sources referred to the region north of the Caucasus as the homeland of the Huns. But who exactly the Huns were also eluded their knowledge.

Huns in Europe

Map of Europe in late antiquity. The traditional reconstruction of the “migrations” is indicated by arrows. The settlement areas of Germanic groups within the Imperium Romanum are also recognizable .

Beginning of the Great Migration

At the turn of the times , Indo-European tribes from the group of Sarmatians, who are related to the Scythians , dominated the steppes of Eastern Europe ( Iazygians , Roxolans , Alans ), and the Goths joined them in the 3rd century .

The advance of the group, referred to as the Huns in late antique sources, to East Central Europe in the 1970s was a trigger for the so-called migration of peoples . The term is methodologically controversial in modern research, since entire peoples never migrated, but only heterogeneously composed groups of different sizes. The reasons for the Huns invasion were and still are unclear.

In addition to the possible motives of a lack of food or pure lust for bags, the thesis of drastic climate changes in the Asian steppes as the cause of the migration of nomadic peoples has been under discussion since the beginning of the 21st century. There has been more evidence of this since the 2010s. The paleoclimatologist Edward R. Cook established a long-lasting “ mega-drought ” (the term megadrought in the terminology of climatologists) in northern central China, especially on the plateaus of Qinghai populated by nomadic peoples , with the help of dendrochronological methods . This includes several extreme phases:.. The first 360 AD (ie shortly before the time of the Huns to Europe), then to 430, 480 and again at 550. The latter date coincides in time approximately with the invasions of the Avars by Europe. According to Cook, the droughts were due to the long-range effects of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which influences the monsoons in India , which transports the moist air at high altitudes to Tibet and Qunighai. This gives an indication of the starting point of the migration or a chain reaction of migrations by nomadic peoples, which may have to be sought in Qinghai.

The ideas of Ammianus Marcellinus and other late antique historians about the way of life of the Huns as an exclusively wandering, plundering people who subjugated farmers and townspeople, is prejudiced in view of the archaeological finds, the craftsmanship and the demonstrably large herd of cattle and horses. This definitely belonged to the typical ethnographic topoi of ancient authors about groups from the Barbaricum that were foreign to them ; However, the ancient image of barbarians was quite complex and not least served the ethnographic classification. On the other hand, the consequences of Hunnic looting campaigns and the associated acts of violence and destruction on Roman territory are archaeologically verifiable and documented by many contemporary sources and cannot be denied. Exercising violence and the associated pressure to achieve material gain was also a common pattern of equestrian peoples vis-à-vis politically and economically stronger sedentary cultures.

The Huns crossed the Volga (allegedly under their leader Balamir / Balamber, whose historicity is doubtful) . There and in the Caucasus they smashed the Alan empire around 374 and formed an alliance with them. In today's Ukraine, in 375 they destroyed the apparently quite considerable empire of Greutungen , of which King Ermanarich committed suicide. However, parts of the Greutungen fled to the west before the attack of the Huns.

In the following period there were clashes between the Huns and the Gothic Terwingen under Athanaric, who lived between Dniester and Sereth . Eventually the Huns defeated Athanaric in a battle between Sereth and Prut . The Huns soon reached the borders of the Eastern Roman Empire , which is why parts of the Terwingen were forced to flee across the Danube into the Roman Empire (376). The following decades in Gothic-Roman relations were very tense ( Battle of Adrianople (378) , the sack of Rome (410) and finally the settlement of the Visigoths in Aquitaine in 416/18), with Goths fighting both against and for the Romans.

The Huns, however, did not have a fully recognized leadership. So at first they did not pose any particular danger; Since the 380s, the Hunnic presence on the fringes of the Roman Empire was only indirectly tangible before there were more pronounced (including warlike) contacts. The Hunnic pressure on south-eastern Europe increased at the beginning of 395, when a civil war broke out between the two parts of the empire under Theodosius I and Hunnic groups took the opportunity to penetrate the Balkans and Illyria , while other Hunnic groups under their leaders Basich and Kursich over the Caucasus passes reached Asia Minor and Syria. The Huns under Basich then advanced through Roman to Persian territory until they were defeated by the Persians .

The pressure of the Huns on the population near the border outside the Eastern Roman Empire led, among other things, to the "incursion" of the Marcomanni into the Pannonian area in 395, of vandals (together with groups of the Alans and Gepids ) in the areas south of the Danube in 401, the Visigoths under Alaric I in Italy in 401 (he actually fled the Huns like others) and a Gothic-dominated movement under Radagaisus also in Italy in 405. The Romans could only defeat them with the support of the Hun leader Uldin . The events of the year 405 were also a cause of the Rhine crossing of 406 , which had considerable consequences for Westrom.

Establishment of the Hunnic power in the central Danube region

Under Uldin there were Hunnian raids on Roman territory. At the same time, however, the Huns also helped to pursue Roman interests if they were compatible with theirs. So in the year 406, as mentioned above, Uldin provided the Western Romans with Hunnic auxiliaries in the fight against Radagaisus . It shouldn't be the last time Huns appeared in Roman services. In the western empire one should fall back on Hunnic mercenaries in the following years, both in internal power struggles and in defense against external threats. So Hunnic mercenaries served the Western Roman general Flavius ​​Aëtius first in an internal power struggle against his rivals, then in 436 in the war against the Burgundians (historical core of the Nibelungen saga ).

Indeed, the Huns and Germanic gentes (tribes) were interested in participating in the prosperity of the empire; this could be achieved as recruited mercenaries, as plundering groups of warriors or by extorting tributes. The sale of horses to the Romans, who took over the tactics of archery from a gallop, as described in Maurikios' strategicon, was also lucrative . In fact, the Romans also had the opportunity to indirectly eliminate the gentes , which the Huns had subjugated, as a threat factor, as long as one was in agreement with the Huns. But in contrast to the several years of relatively good relations between the Huns and Western Rome, which used the security interests of the Western Empire, Eastern Roman territory was repeatedly the target of Hunnic attacks (441/42 and 447) in order to extort monetary payments from Constantinople. The relationship between Westrom and the Huns was also to deteriorate around 445 and lead to the invasion of Gaul in 451 (see below).

At the beginning of the 5th century, a certain Donatus ruled over parts of the Huns (his exact position is unknown, however), but was murdered by the Romans. The Hun ruler Charaton was very angry about why the Eastern Roman emperor sent an embassy with numerous gifts to Charaton in 412, as reported by Olympiodorus of Thebes , who participated in the embassy. Charaton's power center was already in the Danube region, from where Hunnic incursions continued to take place on Eastern Roman territory, mainly in the province of Moesia inferior . As one of the reactions, the "Long Wall" at the gates of Constantinople was renewed and strengthened, fortifications in Thrace were expanded and the Danube fleet strengthened. Whether and if so in what form the Huns ruled the "Pannonian provinces" from 377 to 427 is again a matter of dispute. However, it is undisputed that at the latest the Hunnic ruler Rua had a center of power in the Tisza plain , from where he undertook raids into the Roman Empire.

In addition to the aforementioned Rua, his brothers Oktar and Mundzuk are also tangible as rulers of the Huns (however, Mundzuk's position is unclear). After Oktar's death in 430 Rua ruled over a large part of the European Huns; Mundzuk had apparently died earlier. Rua was the first who was able to guarantee a reasonably unified leadership over a large part of the Huns, which was reflected in a more energetic foreign policy, whereby he received annual money from Ostrom. However, he (like his successor Attila ) never ruled over all Huns. The Romans agreed with him on an armistice and had to pay tribute.

The monetary payments made by the Romans (especially Eastern Streams) to Hunnic leaders in the 5th century, repeatedly documented in the sources, were immensely important for the Huns, because they were absolutely dependent on holding the ruling association together through material donations to their own followers. On the other hand, the Romans were interested in the most stable conditions possible in the extra-Roman Barbaricum in order to reduce the risk of enemy attacks from this area. However, the Eastern Roman emperors repeatedly stopped paying tribute because they could not, in principle, be interested in appearing as a subordinate party.


Approximate extent of the Hun Empire under Attila and dependent tribes

After Rua's sudden death in 434, the kingdom was divided between his nephews and Mundzuk's sons, Bleda and Attila , who continued to rule together. At a not entirely clear point in time in late 444 / early 445, Bleda was murdered by Attila. Under the rule of Attila, the power of the Huns reached its peak, although Attila never ruled over all Huns and the Hun rulers continued to be very loosely structured. His control was more indirect in that he tied the chief leaders of the conquered peoples to his court.

In the middle of the 5th century the Huns began to settle in the Balkans: The main settlement area of ​​the people was in the meantime in the Tisza plain , where Attila had his dominion. Attila got a palace made of wood, fenced off by stakes, even if the Huns still lived in the tent. A distinguished hun named Onegesios even bathed in his own bathroom, the exception par excellence. An impressive report on Attila's rulership is available from the Eastern Roman ambassador Priskos , who traveled to the court of the Huns in 449. There was a certain hierarchy at court: deserving people ( logades ) were provided with pensions thanks to Roman gold, had goods or privileges - e.g. B. The influential Onegesios was allowed to keep his prisoners. Attila also maintained a (albeit certainly very rudimentary) court administration; so the Roman Orestes acted as his secretary.

Like other Hunnic rulers before him, Attila was forced to rely on booty gains or tribute payments in order to maintain his position of power. His rule was dependent on the steady influx of gold and prestige goods from the Roman Empire, with the leaders and warriors of the tribes ruled by the Huns being tied to the Hun king through the regulated distribution of gifts, privileges and honors. However, as soon as these goods died down, the power of the Hun ruler was massively threatened.

In the years between 441/42 and 447 Attila devastated large parts of the Roman Balkan region near the border and conquered the cities of Singidunum , Serdica and Ratiaria , among others . He forced the then Eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II to pay high tributes . However, Emperor Markian (like Theodosius II several times) stopped paying tribute, this time for good; Attila had to look around for a new source, especially since the European provinces of Eastern Europe were already devastated.

Approximate route taken by the Huns in their invasion of Gaul 451

Attila marched against West Rome in the spring of 451 : He marched in Gaul on his former ally Flavius ​​Aëtius , the western Roman magister militum per Gallias and the most powerful man in the western empire. This was in the meantime allied with the tribal kings of the Franks , Burgundians and Visigoths and defeated Attila and his ostgothic , gepidic and others. subordinate Germanic warrior groups in the battle of the Catalaunian fields in June 451. The battle ended without a clear winner. Both sides had suffered heavy losses, but the morale of the Huns was shaken as Attila was forced to retreat. The Huns had thus lost the aura of apparent invincibility.

In any case, it should be noted that the Huns never succeeded in destroying a large Roman army; All in all, the Hunnic threat should not be overestimated. As the Huns campaign in 451 to Gaul showed, Roman-trained combat units could effectively counter the Huns if necessary.

Attila moved to Italy in 452 and devastated several cities (including Aquileia ), but then had to retreat to the Hungarian Plain ; the alleged encounter with Pope Leo the Great , who is said to have prevented Attila from plundering Rome, is probably not historical in this form. Attila, however, no longer posed a serious threat since his withdrawal from Gaul. Ostrom refused further tribute payments, and at the same time Eastern Roman troops attacked Hunnic territory.

Decay and decline

In 453, Attila married the Gotin Ildico and died on the wedding night, according to tradition, of a hemorrhage . Now the rapid decline of Attila's Huns began. Strongly torn by internal disputes (defection of the Gepids , Ostrogoths and others) around 454/55, Attilla's sons could no longer stabilize the situation: Ellac was killed in 454 in the Battle of the Nedao , Dengizich in 469 in the war against Ostrom. Huns later served as mercenaries, for example for Ostrom (during Justinian's wars they were used by Belisarius , among others ).

The Huns now merged with other peoples. Some of them (under Ernak ) were settled under Roman rule in what would later become Dobruja . Others settled on today's Serbian - Bulgarian border and later became part of the local population. Remnants of the Hunno-Bulgarians still settled on the courses of the lower Volga . Isolated fragments of the Huns (the Kutriguren ) were mentioned by Eastern Roman historians in 559 when they reached Corinth and Constantinople . The Eastern Romans / Byzantines finally set their princes Sandilch ( Utiguren ) and Zabergan (Kutriguren) against each other, and the Avars attacked . The Sabirs , who sat north of the Caucasus in the 6th century, were also subjugated by the Avars. In the sources, other Pontic steppe peoples were now referred to as the Huns .

Material culture of the European Huns

Hunnish reins fittings , 4th century

A typical hallmark of the Huns of Europe are round bronze metal mirrors, which were probably (indirectly) adopted by the Chinese and given to the dead as grave goods. Likewise peculiar large copper kettles (up to 50 kg in weight, decorated with scales on the edge), which also originally came from China and were probably used as sacrificial vessels . Bronze cauldrons were found in Hungary as well as in Romania, Kazakhstan, Russia including the Perm region and in Minussinsk . Characteristic Hunnish ornamental motifs are the tree of life and birds of prey heads, especially the eagle enjoyed great popularity with the Huns, as with the Iranian steppe peoples ( Sarmatians , Alans ), from whom the Goths and other Germanic tribes had also adopted the eagle motif . Germanic horse burials are also influenced by the Huns.

The Huns fought mostly mounted and only lightly armed with the enormously powerful bone-reinforced composite bow . Their superior fast equestrian fighting technique, the unity of horse and rider admired by the Romans, is due, among other things, to the stirrup and the wooden saddle with the saddle button raised at the front and back, which ensured a firm fit even when archery, and the fact that they were able to lead several horses at once, so that they were always fresh. This differentiated them from other equestrian peoples of the epoch (e.g. from the Alans) and the Sassanid armored riders. The Huns used long swords and spears for hand-to-hand combat.

Hunnic graves are usually single graves. The Hunnic warriors were often given various grave goods, although this could vary depending on their rank. Above all, these included weapons, some of which were particularly valuable. Horses also seem to have been sacrificed to particularly high dignitaries. Large earrings were typical of Hunnic women; the noble among them wore headbands made of gold, decorated with red almandine and inlays of mother-of-pearl .

The Huns themselves are said to have made a terrifying impression: According to the historian Jordanes , who in turn relied on other sources, it was the custom of them to cut the faces of young male children in order to prevent beards from growing. The warriors smeared black earth into their battle wounds to leave thick-skinned scars. They also practiced the custom of skull deformation , which is why many Huns had high tower skulls . Such deformed skulls were found both in Thuringia and on the Talas ( Kyrgyzstan ). The top of the head was shaved off as an outward sign of their submission. With regard to the fighting technique on horseback, the Huns were at least partially superior and could act flexibly.


Ammianus Marcellinus wrote that the Huns knew no religion, but this is unlikely, especially since there is a known cult of the dead. The majority of the Huns at the time of Attila probably still had a nature-loving religion, as at the time when they came from Asia. Divination and shamanism were practiced , whereby the shamans or pagan priests could be recognized by the abbreviation qam , "-kam" (Atakam: "priest father", Eskam: "supreme, greatest priest"). Visions of the viscera and scapulae as a means of prediction have been handed down, although Jordanes did not state whether the shoulder blades were heated in a fire, as in Asia. The forces of nature were seen as divine.

For the Huns, the ruler was appointed king by the divine, but not a living god himself. The sources also show that Attila looked modest, at least towards his Huns.

There is also evidence of successful Christian proselytizing attempts with the Huns. However, the persistent looting - and the associated acts of violence in churches - testify that these were merely Roman dreams. There was still a sedentary Christian population in Hunnic-occupied Pannonia , but the Huns obviously did not adopt the faith of the vanquished. However, this changed in part in the early 6th century, as the example of the Hun King Grod in the Crimea shows, who was baptized in 528, but this sparked resistance.

In terms of cult objects, there were idols made of gold and electron, such as the Sarmatians and Alans, as well as amulets and shamanistic masks.


  • Franz Altheim : History of the Huns. 5 volumes. de Gruyter, Berlin 1959–1962 (older and partly outdated collection of specialist articles).
  • Bodo Anke , Walter PohlHuns. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 15, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, ISBN 3-11-016649-6 , pp. 246-261 (introductory specialist article).
  • Bodo Anke: Studies on the equestrian nomadic culture of the 4th to 5th century (= contributions to the prehistory and early history of Central Europe. Vol. 8). 2 volumes (Vol. 1: Text & Karten. Vol. 2: Catalog & tables. ). Beier and Beran and others, Weissbach and others 1998, ISBN 3-930036-11-8 (also: Berlin, Freie Universität, dissertation, 1995).
  • Bodo Anke, Heike Externbrink (Red.): Attila and the Huns. Book accompanying the exhibition. Published by the Historisches Museum der Pfalz Speyer. Theiss, Stuttgart 2007, ISBN 978-3-930239-18-4 .
  • István Bóna: The Empire of the Huns. Corvina, Budapest 1991, ISBN 963-13-3356-6 (especially worth reading due to the inclusion of archaeological findings).
  • Nicola Di Cosmo, Michael Maas (Eds.): Empires and Exchanges in Eurasian Late Antiquity. Rome, China, Iran, and the Steppe, ca. 250–750. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018.
  • Gerhard Doerfer : On the language of the Huns. In: Central Asiatic Journal. Vol. 17, No. 1, 1973, ISSN  0008-9192 , pp. 1-50, JSTOR 41927011 .
  • Peter J. Heather : The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in Western Europe. In: The English Historical Review . Vol. 110, No. 435, 1995, pp. 4-41, doi: 10.1093 / ehr / CX.435.4 .
  • Christopher Kelly: Attila the Hun. Barbarian Terror and the Fall of the Roman Empire. Bodley Head, London 2008, ISBN 978-0-224-07676-0 .
  • Hyun Jin Kim: The Huns. Routledge, New York 2016 (current, but not unproblematic work in individual conclusions on the origin and role of the Huns).
  • Michael Maas (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2014, ISBN 978-1-107-02175-4 (current overview of the Huns and the Age of Attila).
  • Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen : The world of the Huns. Origin, history, religion, society, warfare, art, language. German-language edition provided by Robert Göbl . VMA-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1997, ISBN 3-928127-43-8 (German first edition 1978. Standard work, partly incomplete, German version is more recent).
  • Mischa Meier : History of the Great Migration. Europe, Asia and Africa from the 3rd to the 8th centuries. Beck, Munich 2019 (basic and comprehensive presentation).
  • Wilfried Menghin , Tobias Springer, Egon Wamers (eds.): Teutons, Huns and Avars. The archeology of the 5th and 6th centuries on the central Danube and the eastern Merovingian series of cemeteries. Treasures of the Migration Period (= exhibition catalogs of the Germanic National Museum. ). Verlag des Germanisches Nationalmuseums, Nuremberg 1987, ISBN 3-9801529-4-4 .
  • Klaus Rosen : Attila. The horror of the world. Beck, Munich 2016, ISBN 978-3-406-69030-3 (current overview).
  • Michael Schmauder: The Huns. A riding people in Europe. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2009, ISBN 978-3-89678-342-4 .
  • Tibor Schäfer: Studies on the society of the Hun Empire on a cultural anthropological basis (= series of publications studies on historical research in antiquity , volume 3). Kovač, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-86064-631-1 (dissertation University Bochum 1996).
  • Tibor Schäfer: The Huns and their neighbors. History of a Hunnic group from Mongolia to Brittany. Herne 2014, ISBN 978-3944487212 . (with controversial theses and errors in content)
  • Timo Stickler : The Huns (= Beck series. 2433 CH Beck knowledge ). Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-53633-5 (compact introduction to the history of the Huns; discussion at H-Soz-u-Kult ).
  • Martin Schottky: Huns . In: Encyclopædia Iranica
  • Edward A. Thompson : The Huns. Revised. Blackwell, Oxford et al. 1996, ISBN 0-631-21443-7 (work from the 1940s, published in numerous editions, with an afterword by Peter Heather).
  • Gerhard Wirth : Attila. The Huns and Europe (= Urban pocket books. 467). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart et al. 1999, ISBN 3-17-014232-1 .

Web links

Commons : Huns  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Huns references in the study aid for archeology and art of Central Asia.


  1. See in general the scientific articles in the exhibition catalog Bodo Anke, Heike Externbrink (Red.): Attila und die Hunnen. Stuttgart 2007.
  2. So Maenchen-Helfen: The world of the Huns. Wiesbaden 1997, pp. 255 ff. (A large number of the Huns were said to be Turkish). According to Omeljan Pritsak, an Oghur language would come into question : The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan. In: Harvard Ukrainian Studies. Vol. 6, No. 4, 1982, pp. 428–476, especially p. 470 f., Digitized version (PDF; 7.13 MB) ( memento of February 3, 2014 in the Internet Archive ), which assumes that the Language of the Huns with the old Turkish language, the language of the Proto-Bulgarians and the closely related Chuvash , but also closely related to the old Mongolian language. See the references (approving and disapproving) by Timo Stickler : Aëtius. Scope of design for a master in the late Western Roman Empire (= Vestigia. Vol. 54). Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-48853-6 , p. 92, note 469 (also: Würzburg, Universität, Dissertation, 2000).
  3. ^ Gerhard Doerfer: On the language of the Huns. In: Central Asiatic Journal. Vol. 17, No. 1, 1973, pp. 1-50. Timo Stickler, among others, is skeptical about an exact allocation: The Huns. Munich 2007, p. 23.
  4. See for example Hans Wilhelm Haussig : The history of Central Asia and the Silk Road in pre-Islamic times. 2nd edition Darmstadt 1992, pp. 140-142; Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, p. 24 ff. The ethnically and linguistically heterogeneous character of political groups in the steppe zone is also emphasized by Hyun Jin Kim: The Huns. New York 2016, p. 4ff.
  5. Ptolemy 3: 5, 10.
  6. See Hans Wilhelm Haussig: The history of Central Asia and the Silk Road in pre-Islamic times. 2nd edition Darmstadt 1992, pp. 139f .; Walter Pohl: The Great Migration. 2nd edition Stuttgart 2005, p. 103f .; also skeptical Hyun Jin Kim: The Huns. New York 2016, p. 66. In older research, however, this assumption was largely adopted, see for example Franz Altheim: Geschichte der Huns. Volume 1, Berlin 1959, p. 3ff., And Robert Werner , who refers to a from the 10th century BC. Until around 250 AD, the continuity of names from east to west from China to the Tarim Basin , Transbaikalia and Ciscaucasia refers, but is not to be understood as ethnic; the proportion of Turkic peoples has risen, that of Iranians has fallen. Robert Werner: The earliest occurrence of the Hun name Yüe-či and Hephthaliten. In: Yearbooks for the History of Eastern Europe , New Series, Vol. 15, 1967, pp. 487–558.
  7. Tibor Schäfer believes that Claudius Ptolemy's statement is correct, according to which Hunnic tribes lived in southern Europe as early as the beginning of the 2nd century. Cf. Tibor Schäfer: The Hun name as a political program. In: Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae. Vol. 58, No. 1, 2005, pp. 89-100.
  8. See Hans Wilhelm Haussig: The history of Central Asia and the Silk Road in pre-Islamic times. 2nd edition Darmstadt 1992, pp. 140-142; Mischa Meier: History of the Great Migration. Europe, Asia and Africa from the 3rd to the 8th centuries. Munich 2019, p. 160; Walter Pohl: The Great Migration. 2nd edition Stuttgart 2005, pp. 104-106; Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, pp. 24-26.
  9. Priskos, Fragment 25 and Fragment 31 (Edition Pia Carolla).
  10. On this term, cf. Carlo G. Cereti: Xiiaona and Xyon in Zoroastrian Texts. In: M. Alram, D. Klimburg (Eds.): Coins Art and Chronology II: The First Millennium CE in the Indo-Iranian Borderlands. Vienna 2010, pp. 59–72.
  11. ^ Wolfgang Felix: Chionites. In: Ehsan Yarshater (Ed.): Encyclopædia Iranica . Vol. 5 (1992), pp. 485-487 ( online ).
  12. See Martin Schottky: Huns . In: Encyclopædia Iranica ; Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, p. 24 ff.
  13. Étienne de la Vaissière: Huns et Xiongnu. In: Central Asiatic Journal , Vol. 49, 2005, pp. 3-26.
  14. Hyun Jin Kim: The Xiongnu. In: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Asian History. Online (although Hyun Jin Kim's views are controversial, see below).
  15. ^ Gerhard Doerfer: On the language of the Huns. In: Central Asiatic Journal. Vol. 17, No. 1, 1973, pp. 1-50. Doerfer advocates the pointed thesis that none of the more than 20 traditional names of the Attila clan can be clearly identified as Turkish. P. 47.
  16. Cf. Widukind von Corvey , Rerum gestarum Saxonicarum libri tres . 1.18.
  17. Hans Naumann : The Brunswick lion. In: change and fulfillment. Speeches and essays on Germanic-German intellectual history. Metzler, Stuttgart 1933, pp. 93–94, here p. 93.
  18. ^ David A. Graff: Medieval Chinese warfare, 300-900. Routledge, London et al. 2002, ISBN 0-415-23954-0 , p. 39 f.
  19. For a summary, see Denis Crispin Twitchett , Michael Loewe (ed.): The Cambridge History of China. Volume 1: The Ch'in and Han empires. Cambridge et al. 1986, p. 383ff. Against an identification, among other things, Mischa Meier: History of the migration of people. Europe, Asia and Africa from the 3rd to the 8th centuries. Munich 2019, p. 159f .; Walter Pohl: Huns. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde . 2nd Edition. Volume 15, Berlin / New York 2000, pp. 246-261, here p. 248; Klaus Rosen: Attila. The horror of the world. Munich 2016, p. 31; Michael Schmauder: The Huns. A riding people in Europe. Darmstadt 2009, pp. 50-53; Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, pp. 21-24; Nicola di Cosmo: Ancient China and its Enemies. Cambridge 2002, p. 163ff.
  20. Étienne de La Vaissière: The Steppe World and the Rise of the Huns. In: Michael Maas (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila. Cambridge 2014, p. 175 ff.
  21. ^ Hyun Jin Kim: The Huns, Rome, and the Birth of Europe. Cambridge 2013; Hyun Jin Kim: The Huns. New York 2016.
  22. See, for example, the reviews of his book The Huns, Rome, and the Birth of Europe in Networks & Neighbors, Vol. 2.1 (2014), pp. 109–111; Review , in: sehepunkte 15 (2015).
  23. Hyun Jin Kim: The Huns. New York 2016, p. 6.
  24. See Valerie Hansen: The Silk Road. A history with documents. Oxford 2016, pp. 227-229.
  25. ^ Walter Bruno Henning: The Date of the Sogdian Ancient Letters. In: Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 12, 1948, pp. 601-615.
  26. See Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, p. 24 ff.
  27. See Michael Schmauder: The Huns. A riding people in Europe. Darmstadt 2009, p. 52.
  28. Kai Vogelsang : History of China. 3rd revised and updated edition, Stuttgart 2013, p. 144.
  29. See Bodo Anke, Walter Pohl:  Hunnen. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 15, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, ISBN 3-11-016649-6 , pp. 246-261.
  30. The discovery of bronze kettles of the Xiongnu and similar kettles is explained by trade circulation, among other things, cf. Christopher Kelly: Attila the Hun. London 2008, p. 31f; Alexander Koch considering return migration: Hunnish in Xinjiang? In: Attila and the Huns. Edited by the Speyer Historical Museum. Stuttgart 2007, p. 137 ff.
  31. Zsófia Masek: A fresh look at Hunnic cauldrons in the light of a new place from Hungary. In: Acta Archaeologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae , vol. 68 (2017), pp. 75-136.
  32. István Bóna: The Empire of the Huns. Stuttgart 1993, p. 231. The author had already pointed out the Asian origin of the boiler in 1956, but was banned from publication in Hungary at that time; ibid., p. 233.
  33. Miklós Erdy: Xiongnu and Huns One and the Same. Analyzing Eight Archaeological Links and Data from Ancient Written Sources , in: Eurasian Studies Yearbook 81, 2009, pp. 5-36.
  34. See Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, pp. 20-26.
  35. Michael Schmauder: The Huns. A riding people in Europe. Darmstadt 2009, p. 58.
  36. Cf. Walter Pohl: The Avars. Munich 2002, p. 21ff.
  37. Michael Schmauder: The Huns. A riding people in Europe. Darmstadt 2009, p. 106.
  38. Ammianus Marcellinus 31,2,1.
  39. Priskos , fragment 1; Prokopios of Caesarea , Bella 4,5; Agathias 5.11.
  40. Comprehensive to this Mischa Meier: History of the migration of people. Europe, Asia and Africa from the 3rd to the 8th centuries. Munich 2019.
  41. Michael McCormick, Ulf Büntgen, Mark A. Cane et al .: Climate Change during and after the Roman Empire: Reconstructing the Past from Scientific and Historical Evidence. In: The Journal of Interdisciplinary History , Vol. 43, No. 2 (autumn 2012), pp. 169-220.
  42. Edward R. Cook: Megadroughts, ENSO, and the invasion of late-Roman Europe by the Huns and Avars. In: William V. Harris: The Ancient Mediterranean Environment between Science and History. Leiden 2013, pp. 89-102.
  43. Cf. introductory Walter Pohl: Images of barbarians since Tacitus. In: Markomannenkriege - Causes and Effects. Edited by Herwig Friesinger, Jaroslav Tejral and Alois Stuppner. Brno 1994, pp. 59-65.
  44. Cf. briefly Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, p. 15 ff.
  45. See above all Ammianus Marcellinus , 31, 2f.
  46. For the following story, cf. the relevant manuals on late antiquity and Maenchen-Helfen: World of the Huns. Wiesbaden 1997; generally about Peter Heather : The Fall of the Roman Empire. Pan Books, London et al. 2005, ISBN 0-330-49136-9 , pp. 145ff .; Rene Pfeilschifter: Late Antiquity. The one God and the many rulers. Munich 2014.
  47. Michael Schmauder: The Huns. A riding people in Europe. Darmstadt 2009, p. 61
  48. See Herwig Wolfram: Die Goten. From the beginning to the middle of the sixth century. 5th edition. Munich 2009.
  49. ^ Peter J. Heather: Why Did the Barbarian Cross the Rhine? In: Journal of Late Antiquity 2, 2009, pp. 3-29.
  50. See Timo Stickler: Aëtius. Scope of design for a master in the late Western Roman Empire. Munich 2002, p. 85 ff.
  51. See Henning Börm : Westrom. From Honorius to Justinian. Stuttgart 2013, p. 82.
  52. ^ Eduard Allofs: Studies on Mounted Warfare in Asia I: Continuity and Change in Middle Eastern Warfare, c. CE 550-1350 - What Happened to the Horse Archer? In: War in History , Vol. 21, 2014, No. 4, pp. 423-444.
  53. ^ Henning Börm: Westrom. From Honorius to Justinian. Stuttgart 2013, p. 84 ff.
  54. Michael Schmauder: The Huns. A riding people in Europe. Darmstadt 2009, pp. 72–74 and 79.
  55. See Timo Stickler: The Huns. Munich 2007, p. 57ff.
  56. For Attila see now introductory Klaus Rosen : Attila. The horror of the world. Munich 2016.
  57. Cf. Christopher Kelly: Neither Conquest Nor Settlement: Attila's Empire and Its Impact. In: Michael Maas (Ed.): The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila. Cambridge 2014, pp. 193–208, here p. 207.
  58. See Peter Heather: The Fall of the Roman Empire. Pan Books, London et al. 2005, ISBN 0-330-49136-9 , p. 333 ff.
  59. István Bóna: The Empire of the Huns. Budapest 1991, p. 43.
  60. István Bóna: The Empire of the Huns. Budapest 1991, pp. 140ff.
  61. John D. Niles: Hawks, Horses, and Huns: The Impact of Peoples of the Steppe on the Folk Cultures of Northern Europe. In: Western Folklore , Vol. 75, 2016, No. 2, pp. 133-164.
  62. István Bóna: The Empire of the Huns. Budapest 1991, p. 175f.
  63. István Bóna: The Empire of the Huns. Budapest 1991, p. 180ff.
  64. On the religion of the Huns see Maenchen-Helfen: Die Welt der Huns. Wiesbaden 1997, p. 189 ff.
  65. ^ Omeljan Pritsak : The Hunnic Language of the Attila Clan. In: Harvard Ukrainian Studies , vol. 4, 1982, pp. 443, 445.
  66. See the critical review in Historische Zeitschrift 303 (2016), pp. 171–173.