Dedicated to classics and hits.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The World of The Huns
by Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen
University of California Press
p. 1973

   The Huns sacked the Western Roman Empire in the mid 5th century AD and were the straw in the drink of the so-called Dark Ages.  With them, the Huns brought Germans (then known as Goths),  Scandanvians (Gespids), Alans (Iranian language speaking white folks from Central Asia) and the Huns themselves.   Despite their historical importance, little is known about the Huns because their language was not written and the Romans of the time had more important things to do then write histories of the folks who were sacking their Empire.

   Maenchen-Helfen's book is an unfinished masterpiece- he emigrated from Nazi Germany, ended up teaching at UC Berkeley, but he died before The World of the Huns could be finished.  Even in it's unfinished state, it's quite the accomplishment.  Maenchen-Helfen draws upon sources written in Latin, Chinese, Persian, Armenian and Arabic.

  There was nothing especially original about the Huns or their methods.  Basically, they practiced the Iranian style of mounted horsemen using composite bows.   They would ride up to Roman (or Barbarian armies, then retreat and shoot their arrows at the opposing soldiers.    They didn't invent this method of combat- it was much in evidence during the centuries long wars between the Romans and the Parthians and Sassanids in the northern part of the Middle East during the 2nd and 3rd century.  However they did bring their hordes right onto the doorstep of the Roman Empire and then sacked the shit out of it.

   Attila and his Horde didn't much persist after the death of the man himself.  Part of the problem is that the Hunnic hordes, being poly-ethnic, didn't have a "nation state" mentality- more like a "we are only going to stick around until we can get the hell out of here."  Thus, after Attila's death, the Goths- serving as his lieutenants, rebelled against his successors and started their own statelets.  Also, Germanic speaking peoples were pushed into Europe from the Russian plains in an attempt to flee the Huns.

   Prior to the hey day of Attila, the Huns were often paired with the Alans- an Iranian language speaking people from the Northern Caucuses.  However, after 400 AD the Alans split with the Huns and settled in  Southern France and the Balkans, where they were a potential source of Zoarastrian/Cathar ideas in Europe.

  As to the ethnic/racial/linguistic characteristics of the Huns, Maenchen-Helfen, comes down on the side of the Huns being poly-racial- being a mix of "Mongoloid" and "Europoid" peoples, but speaking a Turkic language.   SO NOW YOU KNOW

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