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Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome Hardcover – July 11, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; 1st edition (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312349394
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312349394
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,885,771 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Attila the Hun was "the Genghis Khan of Europe," says British historian Man in this fast-paced though often prosaic account of the rise and fall of the Huns and their infamous leader. Man traces the origin of the Huns, following these restless nomads from the steppes of Mongolia to present-day Hungary. Attila led his people in terrifying raids into new lands in the fifth century. Relying on scant written sources, Man (Genghis Khan; Gobi: Tracking the Desert) portrays Attila as a man of "extreme contradictions" and moods, skillful at deceiving both his closest advisers and his greatest enemies. In his military campaigns, Attila moved quickly to loot as many villages as he could in order to satisfy his followers. His armies of mounted archers, a throng that could shoot up to 12,000 arrows a minute, wrought destruction and terror wherever they went. He terrified the Romans as he approached their city, but Man says Attila would never have been able to penetrate the fortresses of Rome or Constantinople, and he died of a burst varicose vein in his stomach before he could even try. Full of military adventures and political maneuverings, Man's lively narrative provides a glimpse of a leader whose name has become synonymous with ruthlessness. Illus., maps. (July 18)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for Attila
"One could not wish for a better storyteller or analyst than John Man. . . . His Attila is superb, as compellingly readable as it is impressive in its scholarship: with his light touch, the Huns and their king live as never before. . . . There is something fascinating and new on every page."
---Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin
 
"Racy and imaginative . . . puts flesh and bones on one of history's most turbulent characters. . . . The rise and fall of Attila, as meteoric and momentous as Napoleon's or Hitler's, makes for fascinating reading in any form."
---The Guardian (UK)
 
"This bright, engaging, and breezy book . . . suits the tenor of our times."
---The Times (London)
 
"John Man's account  . . .  sympathetically and readably puts flesh and bones on one of history's most turbulent characters."
---Sunday Telegraph (UK)
 


Attila the Hun was "the Genghis Khan of Europe," says British historian Man in this fast-paced though often prosaic account of the rise and fall of the Huns and their infamous leader. Man traces the origin of the Huns, following these restless nomads from the steppes of Mongolia to present-day Hungary. Attila led his people in terrifying raids into new lands in the fifth century. Relying on scant written sources, Man (Genghis Khan; Gobi: Tracking the Desert) portrays Attila as a man of "extreme contradictions" and moods, skillful at deceiving both his closest advisers and his greatest enemies. In his military campaigns, Attila moved quickly to loot as many villages as he could in order to satisfy his followers. His armies of mounted archers, a throng that could shoot up to 12,000 arrows a minute, wrought destruction and terror wherever they went. He terrified the Romans as he approached their city, but Man says Attila would never have been able to penetrate the fortresses of Rome of Co (PW Publishers Weekly)

Man, John. Attila: A Barbarian King and the Fall of Rome. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin's. Jul. 2006. c.336p. illus. maps. bibliog. index. ISBN 0-312-34939-4. $24.95. BIOG Man (Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection), a historian with an interest in Mongolia and archaeology, has written a popular history as much about the Huns as about their notorious leader. He begins by identifying the Huns as possible descendants of Turkish nomads who created the first large steppe empire beyond China's western borders on the strength of their horse-mounted archers. The steppe empire would, in time, be crushed by the Chinese, its remnants fleeing west to become the Huns. This old theory of Hunnic origins has gained new authority owing to recent archaeological finds in the Altai Mountains and advancements in the study of Mongolian folklore. Man's chapter on the causes for the Huns' military superiority is fascinating, relying on the work of the Hungarian archer expert Lajos Kassai. After years of (Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L. Library Journal)

More About the Author

JOHN MAN

I usually write non-fiction, mainly exploring interests in Asia and the history of written communication. So 'The Lion's Share', available only on Kindle, is something different - a new edition of a thriller written some 25 years ago when I wasn't sure what I wanted to focus on. It's about the 'real' - in quotes, i.e. fictional - fate of Haile Selassie, Emperor of Ethiopia.

Most of the time, I like to mix history, narrative and personal experience, exploring the places I write about. It brings things to life, and it's a reaction against an enclosed, secure, rural childhood in Kent. I did German and French at Oxford, and two postgraduate courses, History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London (to join an expedition that never happened).

After working in journalism and publishing, I turned to writing, with occasional forays into film, TV and radio. A planned trilogy on three major revolutions in writing has resulted in two books, 'Alpha Beta' (on the alphabet) and 'The Gutenberg Revolution', both republished in 2009. The third, on the origin of writing, is on hold, because it depends on researching in Iraq. (On the fourth revolution, the Internet, many others can write far better than me).

My interest in Mongolia revived in 1996 when I spent a couple of months in the Gobi. 'Gobi: Tracking the Desert' was the first book on the region since the 1920's (those by the American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews). In Mongolia, everything leads back to Genghis. I followed. The result was 'Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection', now appearing in 20 languages. Luckily, there's more to Mongol studies than Genghis. 'Attila the Hun' and 'Kublai Khan' came next.

Another main theme in Asian history is the ancient and modern relationship between Mongolia and China. 'The Terracotta Army', published to in 2007, was followed by 'The Great Wall', which took me from Xinjiang to the Pacific. 'The Leadership Secrets of Genghis Khan' (combining history, character analysis and modern leadership theory) and 'Xanadu: Marco Polo and Europe's Discovery of the East' pretty much exhausted Inner Asian themes for me.

So recently I have become interested in Japan. For 'Samurai: The Last Warrior', I followed in the footsteps of Saigo Takamori, the real 'Last Samurai', published in February 2011. After that, more fiction, perhaps.

I live in north London, inspired by a strong and beautiful family - wife, children and grand-children.

Customer Reviews

What was said in the begining of the book pretty much sums it up "little is known about attila".
Brandon Manning
The "author" of "Attila" admits no understanding of the Hungarian language and so has produced an almost perfect facsimile of "Slave of the Huns" with no attribution.
krishnananda
As I am no scholar of Attila, nor of his time period, I cannot judge the historic - scientific value of the book.
PST

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME on October 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although it is highly informative and an enjoyable read, this work on Attila does not quite succeed in making history come alive. The author is obviously enthusiastic about his subject but the narrative is somewhat scattered, digressing into various detours and much intent on mythbusting.

Part One: The Menace, describes the world of that time, when Europe was in disarray with the various movements of tribes into and within the Roman Empire. It also explores the origins of the Huns. They were most likely descended from what the Chinese called the Xiongnu of Mongolia and it seems fairly certain that they were a Turkish tribe, judging by the linguistic evidence. Ptolemy called them the Khoinoi. Part of this section is devoted to mounted archery with reference to the Hungarian Lajos Kassai who has revived the art.

Part Two: Rivals, discusses their settlement on the Hungarian plain amidst the political and religious rivalry of the Western and Eastern Empires of which the northern borders were in constant upheaval. The author draws on the acount of St Jerome of a Hunnish incursion into Anatolia and on the Byzantine History of Priscus. The Hunnish hordes consisted of a great alliance of Huns, Ostrogoths and Alans and was thus a confederation of Turkic, Germanic and Iranian tribes.

Part Three: Death and Transfiguration examines the great battle on the Plain of Mery where the general Aetius and his Visigothic allies defeated the combined forces of Huns, Ostrogoths and Gepids. It also deals with the later Hunnish incusion into Italy, with reference to various legends and myths like the omen of the stork and Pope Leo's encounter with Attila. The case of Honoria and the rivalries within the Roman Empire are discussed as well.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Stratiotes Doxha Theon VINE VOICE on November 27, 2006
Format: Hardcover
In this biography of the infamous Hun leader, little time is given to conjecture or speculative history. Just a solid, simple, traditional, and well-written biogrpahy is here. The author is an experienced communicator making the flow very pleasant. The history student interested more in the military aspects such as battle descriptions will wish for more maps of the individual battles and perhaps more detailed descriptions. But, for general history coverage and an enjoyable biographical sketch of a rather inigmatic character, this one would be hard to beat. A solid biography and great addition to the ancient history libary.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Loves the View VINE VOICE on January 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
With little information available, Man gives as informative a book as might be expected. Maybe 1/3 of it is about Attila, including what is known of his family, his headquarters, his entertainments and of course his battles.

While the history of Huns and the rise and fall of Attila are the themes of the book, the author presents this period of the Roman Empire in a very readable way. Last year I had read the Peter Heather book on Rome and the barbarians, and for description of Rome in this period, these two books complement each other nicely.

Rome, overly large and waning in ability to defend itself, hires Huns, pays ransom $ to Huns, bribes Huns and fights Huns. There are diplomats, an assassination attempt, competition and integration of other peoples and tribes and turning points. There are marriages, hostages and proposals. There scorched earth seizures and battles.

Man has interesting friends who share his passion for Hun history. The run museums from Mongolia to Hungary, dig up artifacts and study mounted bow hunting. He introduces us to them in diversionary parts of the narrative.

The best part for me, aside from the description of the Hun compound, was the summation at the end. Unlike Ghengis Khan, Attila had no long term vision and built no adminstrative structure. Nothing much really followed him. Man has some interesting phrases for experssing the ephemeral nature of it all. Attila created a bunch of "speed bumps" in the building of Europe and that his life was "a perfect balance of pluses and minuses, signifying nothing."

A chapter called "Aftermath" citing the numerous poems, paintings and songs that celebrate his image, however misinformed, has the best epiteph of all. Due to these cultural creations from the middle ages to Kipling and Wagner, his name resounds as an "archetype of a certain sort of power." Its really apt... "a certain sort of power."
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Kerry O. Burns VINE VOICE on April 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Attila the scourge of western civilization and icon for the barbarians is given a thoroughly enjoyable story as written by John Man. What we are told is palatable compared to the outragous legends and Christian dogma written about Attila. Attila did not have the vision of Ghengis Kahn and left his vast empire with no clear mandate after his sudden death. This books gives fascinating details on the probale origin of the Huns, the going ons of the Roman Empire at the time and the eventual decline of both the Huns and the Roman Empire. Also I found the explicit details on how the Huns fought to be fascinating.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Gary Selikow on May 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In this volume, Man explores both the biography of Attila- 'the scourge of G-D', who carved out a massive Hunnish Empire strching from the Caspian Sea to the Rhine, with it's headquarters in what is today's Hungary.
At the same time. he threatened the very foundations of the Roman Empire.

The book traces the origins of the Huns, from the area around what is today Mongolia, and their migration across Siberia and modern Russia into Europe.
Man attempts to sort myth and legend from fact, and also deals with the differing imagery of Attila, from bloodthirsty monster, in Western Europe, to a national hero in Hungary.
He covers much of the literature and myhtology of Attila, and explains why the Germans during the First World War, were reffered to by the British as 'Huns'.
The peoples of Hungary and Bulgaria claim descent from the Huns, but the author does not deal in real depth with the question of Hunnic descent.

Man explains the decline of the Roman Empire, and explores the wars and interactions of the Huns with the Roman Empire, and such peoples as the Franks, Burgundians, Allemani, Alans, Visigoths and Ostrogoths.
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