7 Awesome Facts about the Huns
Western Europeans probably did not do the Huns enough justice by portraying them as simply barbaric nomads that destroyed and pillaged cities. Recent findings have shown that there was more to the Huns than the descriptions painted by Europeans. There are varying accounts of their true origins as well. Some historians believe that the Huns’s journey began eastward, around Xiongnu tribes. Others claim that the Huns started from central Asia, around present-day Kazakhstan.
With these divergent opinions about the history of the Huns, it is safe to assume that they were way more advanced than the average barbaric nomads. Had these expert horse riders not been that organized, mentally and physically, they would not have risen to such fame across Europe between the 4th and 5th century A.D.
Worldhistoryedu.com presents seven awesome facts about the Huns culture and their various military exploits from central Asia to Europe.
The Huns had a very thriving social and economic system
The Huns were no ordinary hordes of tribesmen running around and stealing whatever they laid hands on. They were a well-structured group of tribes that had a clear chain of command. Although there were many tribes that formed the Huns, they were able to work very effectively in expanding their territories. Initially, they may have started as stark nomads that moved from one place to another. However, by the time leaders such as Ruga and Octar came onto the scene, the Huns had already started getting sophisticated culturally and economically.
What often happened was that once a thriving city succumbed to the might of the Huns, the Hunnic leadership quickly assimilated the culture and people of the city. This allowed for faster technological transfer. The Huns benefited greatly, not just economically, from several Germanic populations.
They developed homes that were no different than the so-called ‘civilized ones’ in Western and Eastern Roman Empires. All of the socio-economic developments of the Huns were fueled by vast amounts of tributes that the surrounding empires paid them. Ruga and his successors Attila and Bleda received several pounds of gold from places such as Constantinople to Gauls up in the north.
They did not solely rely on a barbaric military tactic
Militarily, their weapons and tactics were considerably more advanced than their enemies. The Huns were expertly trained horse riders and archers. Most of these training began as early as age four. Therefore, by the time the average Hun grew up, he was in a way more superior fighter to his counterpart in Europe.
Also, the Huns expertly crafted and refined their horse riding skills. It was not just the speed of their attack that frightened their enemies. It was the attention they put into planning their attacks. To their opponents in the Western Roman Empire, the Huns attacked randomly like ferocious demons from hell. This is not entirely true. The Huns had very astute military generals. For example, Attila may have looked hideous insight; however, his military intelligence rivaled the smartest general in Rome could ever produce.
Attila the Hun, had more brain than brawn
Western depictions of Attila in no way do him justice. It has been said that Attila murdered his own brother, Bleda, in a brutal power struggle. However, there exists no historical evidence that proves that Attila carried out this murder. The ancient Romans also painted him like some terrible monster that acted without thinking. In their eyes, he was an uncouth and brawny leader. Actually, Attila was quite a short man. He had a very scary physical appearance. Historians believe that his head was quite large as well. Some of those deformities were self-inflicted by Attila himself. He strategically made himself look repulsive in order to gain a psychological edge over his enemies in battles.
Additionally, Attila honed his craft in negotiations and military strategy. At an early age, his uncles exposed him to several military meetings and inter-tribal negotiations. He would use those skills to his advantage and claim several chests of gold as tributes from the Roman Empire.
Attila was such a gifted planner that he knew when exactly to strike. He looked for weaknesses in his enemies’ defenses and used that to his advantage. And while the barbarians around him fought endless wars among themselves, Attila carefully finished them off one after the other. Merely tagging Attila as a “scourge of God” diminishes the amount of reasoning he put into steering the affairs of the Huns.
The Huns’ numbers were greatly exaggerated
The Romans may have slightly inflated the actual numbers of the Huns. Perhaps they did this as a justification to the number of times they lost to the Huns. Or it may have simply been a case of mistaken identity. The Huns weren’t the only barbarians that made incursions into the Roman Empire. It is possible that every mishap along the border was tagged as a Huns’s attack. The Huns rarely had a numerical advantage over the societies that they attacked. The Huns made up for what they lacked in numbers with carefully planned-out scare tactics. They must have reveled in the notion of their enemies calling them ‘devils from hell’.
The Huns did not require supply routes to replenish their army provisions
Attila, the Hun, had perfected his army into one that could go days and weeks without the need for supply rations. They grew accustomed to feeding off whatever was in their surroundings. Horses were their lifeblood (in some respect, literally). The Huns survived on horse meat, milk and blood during longer-hauls of campaigns.
Self-inflicted scars and body mutilations were pretty much the norm
The Huns had a peculiar way of carrying themselves. They were considered relatively unkempt tribes. To add to this, the Huns were known for mutilating themselves right from a tender age. Particularly, soldiers and warriors took great pride in scaring themselves after the death of someone in battle. They used this to mourn the deceased.
Another very repugnant practice of the Huns was cranial deformation. Cranial deformation is the practice of changing the shape of the skull during childhood. For a while now, historians have been scratching their heads as to exactly why the Huns practiced cranial deformations.
Perhaps it was designed to give them an imposing look on the battlefield. Perhaps it was simply a religious ritual to ward off evil spirits at birth.
They won the mental battle even before a bow was shot
Attila, the Hun, took his army’s agility and speed to a whole new level during his reign. Aside from this, the Huns daredevilry and sheer bravery left their opponents startled. Every action of theirs was intended to secure a perfect raid. From the sounds and songs they made to their physically deformed skulls and their mutilated bodies, the Huns were literally the worst nightmares of the towns that they attacked.
Tactically, the Huns were far superior. Their enemies fell into disarray because the Huns always attacked in a very chaotic manner. Trying to figure out their battle formations was extremely difficult. The element of surprise was the greatest weapon in their arsenal. On several occasions, the Romans struggled to deal with the Huns’s organized way of creating chaos on the battlefield. This is exactly why the great Attila experienced just one defeat all throughout his life.