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The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture Hardcover – August 1, 1973
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In many ways, this is an unsatisfying undertaking. The Huns were illiterate, our only written information about them comes from their enemies. They were nomadic They appear in our history suddenly & seem to vanish equally quickly. Their impact on their times was so great that fact & legend have become difficult to separate. For many, many questions about the Huns, the only truthful answer is "we simply don't know".
Nevertheless, the author presents what data we do have in a clear and even-handed way. He uses each of his many fields of expertise as a cross-check on assertions from other fields. This multidisciplinary approach provides extraordinary insights into a people we still remember 1500 years after they vanished as an organized polity. And, he has a dry wit which will occasionally surprise the reader.
Highly, highly recommended. It may prove challenging to the layman, but is absolutely accessible if one is willing to Google unfamiliar terms.
From what I read here, and elsewhere, I'm left with a strong impression of "the Huns" as a multiethnic, multilingual, shifting confederation of tribal peoples -- thus essentially homologous with the Scythians of the Greeks, and others who in history have gone "by any other name". That there were at all times complex admixtures of peoples on the vast Eurasian steppe and beyond is, I think, expectable, and is attested by the known migrations, as well as by the fact, as stated by M-H, that "no people ever emigrated to the last man". All in all, an interesting, informative, and stimulating book.
The book examines many aspects of the Huns: art, society, warfare, economy, language, religion and ethnicity. The books starts, however, with a excellent analysis of two main literary sources of Hun history, book 31 of the history of Ammianus Marcellinus, which provides the only information on Hun origins and a valuable, albeit flawed ethnography, and Jordanes, whose "Getica" provides the only continuous history of the Huns in the 5th century. The largest part of the book is a history of the people, from their first appearance along the Volga in the 370s, until their end in 469, when the head of Dengzich, the last Hun king, is paraded on a wooden poll down the Middle street of Constantinople.
The book is of high quality, hard back with nice paper. I found it easy to read and understand. There is a nice essay in the appendix for those readers who are unfamiliar with late Roman history and terminology. There are many nice photographs and diagrams, but only two maps on the inside cover.