The Huns came on the historical scene in Europe during the late 4th century A. D when, in A. Two years later, they attacked the Ostrogoths, an eastern tribe of Germanic Goths who harassed the Roman Empire by frequently attacking their territories. By , the Huns had attacked the Visigoths the western tribe of Goths , and forced them to seek sanctuary within the Roman Empire. Some of the Alans, Goths and Visigoths were conscripted into the Hunnic infantry.
As the Huns dominated Goth and Visigoth lands, they earned a reputation as the new barbarians in town and seemed unstoppable. By A. Some Roman Christians believed they were devils arrived straight from hell. But by , Octar had been killed in battle and Rugila ruled alone. In the 5th century, the Huns changed from a group of nomadic warrior tribes to a somewhat settled civilization living in the Great Hungarian Plain in eastern Europe.
They had amassed an enormous army made up of cavalry and infantry troops from various backgrounds. King Rugila died in and was succeeded by his two nephews—brothers Attila and Bleda. Attila was described as a short man with a large head and thin beard who knew both Latin and Goth and was a master negotiator. Shortly after starting his reign, he negotiated a peace treaty with the Eastern Roman Empire in which the Romans paid him gold in exchange for peace.
But eventually the Romans reneged on the deal and in , Attila and his army stormed their way through the Balkans and the Danubian frontier. Unable to break through the walls of the city, Attila formed another peace agreement: he would leave Constantinople alone in exchange for an annual tribute of 2, pounds of gold, a staggering sum. In , Attila murdered Bleda—supposedly to prevent Bleda from murdering him first—and became sole ruler of the Huns. He then launched another campaign against the Eastern Roman Empire and thundered his way through the Balkans. Attila invaded Gaul, which included modern-day France, northern Italy and western Germany, in But the Romans had wised up and allied with the Visigoths and other barbarian tribes to finally stop the Huns in their tracks.
According to legend, the night before the battle Attila consulted sacrificed bones and saw that thousands of his army would fall in the fight. The next day, his premonition came true. The foes met on the battlefield in the Catalaunian Plains of eastern France.
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The Romans and Visigoths had learned much from previous encounters with the Huns and fought them hand-to-hand and on horseback. After hours of ferocious fighting that lasted well into the dark of night, tens of thousands of soldiers were dead, and the Roman alliance had forced the Hun army to retreat. Attila and his army returned to Italy and continued ravaging cities. Paul and St. Whether because of his fear of the Pope and his saintly allies, or simply because his troops were stretched too thin and weakened by malaria, Attila decided to pull out of Italy and return to the Great Hungarian Plain.
When Marcian, the new emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, refused to pay Attila a previously-agreed-to annual tribute in , Attila regrouped and planned to attack Constantinople. Some scholars have suggested that this description is typically East Asian, because it has all the combined features that fit the physical type of people from Eastern Asia, and Attila's ancestors may have come from there.
Many scholars have argued that Attila derives from East Germanic origin; Attila is formed from the Gothic or Gepidic noun atta , "father", by means of the diminutive suffix -ila , meaning "little father". Other scholars have argued for a Turkic origin of the name. Althof considered it was related to Turkish atli horseman, cavalier , or Turkish at horse and dil tongue. The historiography of Attila is faced with a major challenge, in that the only complete sources are written in Greek and Latin by the enemies of the Huns.
Attila's contemporaries left many testimonials of his life, but only fragments of these remain. He was obviously biased by his political position, but his writing is a major source for information on the life of Attila, and he is the only person known to have recorded a physical description of him. He wrote a history of the late Roman Empire in eight books covering the period from to Today we have only fragments of Priscus' work, but it was cited extensively by 6th-century historians Procopius and Jordanes ,  : especially in Jordanes' The Origin and Deeds of the Goths.
It contains numerous references to Priscus's history, and it is also an important source of information about the Hunnic empire and its neighbors. He describes the legacy of Attila and the Hunnic people for a century after Attila's death. Marcellinus Comes , a chancellor of Justinian during the same era, also describes the relations between the Huns and the Eastern Roman Empire. Numerous ecclesiastical writings contain useful but scattered information, sometimes difficult to authenticate or distorted by years of hand-copying between the 6th and 17th centuries.
The Hungarian writers of the 12th century wished to portray the Huns in a positive light as their glorious ancestors, and so repressed certain historical elements and added their own legends. The literature and knowledge of the Huns themselves was transmitted orally, by means of epics and chanted poems that were handed down from generation to generation.
Attila is a major character in many Medieval epics, such as the Nibelungenlied , as well as various Eddas and sagas. Archaeological investigation has uncovered some details about the lifestyle, art, and warfare of the Huns. There are a few traces of battles and sieges, but today the tomb of Attila and the location of his capital have not yet been found. The Huns were a group of Eurasian nomads , appearing from east of the Volga , who migrated further into Western Europe c. Their main military techniques were mounted archery and javelin throwing. They were in the process of developing settlements before their arrival in Western Europe, yet the Huns were a society of pastoral warriors  : whose primary form of nourishment was meat and milk, products of their herds.
The origin and language of the Huns has been the subject of debate for centuries.
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According to some theories, their leaders at least may have spoken a Turkic language , perhaps closest to the modern Chuvash language. Attila's father Mundzuk was the brother of kings Octar and Ruga , who reigned jointly over the Hunnic empire in the early fifth century. This form of diarchy was recurrent with the Huns, but historians are unsure whether it was institutionalized, merely customary, or an occasional occurrence.
Attila grew up in a rapidly changing world. His people were nomads who had only recently arrived in Europe. They were a very mobile people, whose mounted archers had acquired a reputation for invincibility, and the Germanic tribes seemed unable to withstand them. In , the Goths crossed the Danube, initially submitting to the Romans but soon rebelling against Emperor Valens , whom they killed in the Battle of Adrianople in The Roman Emperors, both East and West, were generally from the Theodosian family in Attila's lifetime despite several power struggles.
The Huns dominated a vast territory with nebulous borders determined by the will of a constellation of ethnically varied peoples. Some were assimilated to Hunnic nationality, whereas many retained their own identities and rulers but acknowledged the suzerainty of the king of the Huns. They exchanged ambassadors and hostages, the alliance lasting from to and permitting the Romans numerous military victories. The Huns had become a great power by the time that Attila came of age during the reign of his uncle Ruga, to the point that Nestorius , the Patriarch of Constantinople, deplored the situation with these words: "They have become both masters and slaves of the Romans".
The death of Rugila also known as Rua or Ruga in left the sons of his brother Mundzuk , Attila and Bleda , in control of the united Hun tribes.
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The Romans agreed to return the fugitives, to double their previous tribute of Roman pounds c. The Huns, satisfied with the treaty, decamped from the Roman Empire and returned to their home in the Great Hungarian Plain , perhaps to consolidate and strengthen their empire. Theodosius used this opportunity to strengthen the walls of Constantinople , building the city's first sea wall , and to build up his border defenses along the Danube.
The Huns remained out of Roman sight for the next few years while they invaded the Sassanid Empire. They were defeated in Armenia by the Sassanids, abandoned their invasion, and turned their attentions back to Europe. In , they reappeared in force on the borders of the Roman Empire, attacking the merchants at the market on the north bank of the Danube that had been established by the treaty of Crossing the Danube, they laid waste to the cities of Illyricum and forts on the river, including according to Priscus Viminacium , a city of Moesia.
Their advance began at Margus, where they demanded that the Romans turn over a bishop who had retained property that Attila regarded as his. While the Romans discussed the bishop's fate, he slipped away secretly to the Huns and betrayed the city to them. While the Huns attacked city-states along the Danube, the Vandals led by Geiseric captured the Western Roman province of Africa and its capital of Carthage.
Carthage was the richest province of the Western Empire and a main source of food for Rome. The Romans stripped the Balkan area of forces, sending them to Sicily in order to mount an expedition against the Vandals in Africa. This left Attila and Bleda a clear path through Illyricum into the Balkans, which they invaded in During , Theodosius recalled his troops from Sicily and ordered a large issue of new coins to finance operations against the Huns.
He believed that he could defeat the Huns and refused the Hunnish kings' demands. Attila responded with a campaign in Priscus said "When we arrived at Naissus we found the city deserted, as though it had been sacked; only a few sick persons lay in the churches. We halted at a short distance from the river, in an open space, for all the ground adjacent to the bank was full of the bones of men slain in war.
They encountered and destroyed a Roman army outside Constantinople but were stopped by the double walls of the Eastern capital. They defeated a second army near Callipolis Gelibolu. Theodosius, unable to make effective armed resistance, admitted defeat, sending the Magister militum per Orientem Anatolius to negotiate peace terms. The terms were harsher than the previous treaty: the Emperor agreed to hand over 6, Roman pounds c. Their demands were met for a time, and the Hun kings withdrew into the interior of their empire.
Bleda died following the Huns' withdrawal from Byzantium probably around Attila then took the throne for himself, becoming the sole ruler of the Huns. The Roman army , under Gothic magister militum Arnegisclus , met him in the Battle of the Utus and was defeated, though not without inflicting heavy losses. The Huns were left unopposed and rampaged through the Balkans as far as Thermopylae. Constantinople itself was saved by the Isaurian troops of magister militum per Orientem Zeno and protected by the intervention of prefect Constantinus , who organized the reconstruction of the walls that had been previously damaged by earthquakes and, in some places, to construct a new line of fortification in front of the old.
An account of this invasion survives:. The barbarian nation of the Huns, which was in Thrace , became so great that more than a hundred cities were captured and Constantinople almost came into danger and most men fled from it. And there were so many murders and blood-lettings that the dead could not be numbered. Ay, for they took captive the churches and monasteries and slew the monks and maidens in great numbers. The gifts and diplomatic efforts of Geiseric , who opposed and feared the Visigoths, may also have influenced Attila's plans.
However, Valentinian's sister was Honoria , who had sent the Hunnish king a plea for help—and her engagement ring—in order to escape her forced betrothal to a Roman senator in the spring of Honoria may not have intended a proposal of marriage, but Attila chose to interpret her message as such. He accepted, asking for half of the western Empire as dowry. When Valentinian discovered the plan, only the influence of his mother Galla Placidia convinced him to exile Honoria, rather than killing her.
He also wrote to Attila, strenuously denying the legitimacy of the supposed marriage proposal. Attila sent an emissary to Ravenna to proclaim that Honoria was innocent, that the proposal had been legitimate, and that he would come to claim what was rightfully his. Attila interfered in a succession struggle after the death of a Frankish ruler.
The location and identity of these kings is not known and subject to conjecture. Attila gathered his vassals — Gepids , Ostrogoths , Rugians , Scirians , Heruls , Thuringians , Alans , Burgundians , among others—and began his march west. In , he arrived in Belgica with an army exaggerated by Jordanes to half a million strong. Other cities attacked can be determined by the hagiographic vitae written to commemorate their bishops: Nicasius was slaughtered before the altar of his church in Rheims ; Servatus is alleged to have saved Tongeren with his prayers, as Saint Genevieve is said to have saved Paris.
Attila decided to fight the Romans on plains where he could use his cavalry. The two armies clashed in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains , the outcome of which is commonly considered to be a strategic victory for the Visigothic-Roman alliance. Attila returned in to renew his marriage claim with Honoria, invading and ravaging Italy along the way. Communities became established in what would later become Venice as a result of these attacks when the residents fled to small islands in the Venetian Lagoon.
His army sacked numerous cities and razed Aquileia so completely that it was afterwards hard to recognize its original site. Attila finally halted at the River Po. By this point, disease and starvation may have taken hold in Attila's camp, thus hindering his war efforts and potentially contributing to the cessation of invasion.
Priscus reports that superstitious fear of the fate of Alaric gave him pause—as Alaric died shortly after sacking Rome in Italy had suffered from a terrible famine in and her crops were faring little better in Attila's devastating invasion of the plains of northern Italy this year did not improve the harvest. Therefore, it was more profitable for Attila to conclude peace and retreat to his homeland. Furthermore, an East Roman force had crossed the Danube under the command of another officer also named Aetius—who had participated in the Council of Chalcedon the previous year—and proceeded to defeat the Huns who had been left behind by Attila to safeguard their home territories.
Attila, hence, faced heavy human and natural pressures to retire "from Italy without ever setting foot south of the Po ". The Huns, who had been plundering Italy and who had also stormed a number of cities, were victims of divine punishment, being visited with heaven-sent disasters: famine and some kind of disease. Prior to the Middle Ages, Germanic peoples followed what is now referred to as Germanic paganism : "a system of interlocking and closely interrelated religious worldviews and practices rather than as one indivisible religion" and as such consisted of "individual worshippers, family traditions and regional cults within a broadly consistent framework".
Despite the unique practices of some tribes, there was a degree of cultural uniformity among the Germanic people concerning religion. Archaeological findings suggest that the Germanic barbarians practiced some of the same 'spiritual' rituals as the Celts, including human sacrifice, divination, and the belief in spiritual connection with the natural environment around them. Captives might have their throats cut and be bled into giant cauldrons or have their intestines opened up and the entrails thrown to the ground for prophetic readings. Pagan beliefs amid the Germanic tribes were reported by some of the earlier Roman historians and in the 6th century CE another instance of this appears when the Byzantine historian and poet, Agathias, remarked that the Alamannic religion was "solidly and unsophisticatedly pagan.
While the Germanic peoples were slowly converted to Christianity by varying means, many elements of the pre-Christian culture and indigenous beliefs remained firmly in place after the conversion process, particularly in the more rural and distant regions. Of particular note is the survival of the pagan fascination with the forest in the retention of Christmas tree even today. Many of the Germanic tribes actually revered forests as sacred places and left them unmolested. Conversion to Christianity broke this pagan obsession with protecting the forest in some locations and allowed once migrant tribes to settle in places where they previously refused to cultivate the soil or chop down trees based on religious belief.
To that end, the Christianisation of Germanic peoples facilitated the clearing of forests and therewith provided "a broad and stable basis for the medieval economy of Central Europe" by leveraging the vast forest resources available to them. Paganism and Christianity were still being practiced across the empire when Constantine died in CE , despite his conversion; he did however ban pagan rituals at select religious temples.
When Thor failed to strike Boniface dead after the oak hit the ground, the Franks were amazed and began their conversion to the Christian faith. Eventually for many Germanic tribes, the conversion to Christianity was achieved by armed force, successfully completed by Charlemagne , in a series of campaigns the Saxon Wars , that also brought Saxon lands into the Frankish empire.
In Scandinavia , Germanic paganism continued to dominate until the 11th century in the form of Norse paganism , when it was gradually replaced by Christianity. It is suggested by geneticists that the movements of Germanic peoples has had a strong influence upon the modern distribution of the male lineage represented by the Y-DNA haplogroup I1 , which is believed to have originated with one man, who lived approximately 4, to 6, years ago somewhere in Northern Europe, possibly modern Denmark see Most Recent Common Ancestor for more information.
There is evidence of this man's descendants settling in all of the areas that Germanic tribes are recorded as having subsequently invaded or migrated to. Other male lines likely to have been present during the development and dispersal of Germanic language populations include R1a1a , R1b-P and R1b-U , a genetic combination of the haplogroups found to be strongly-represented among current Germanic speaking peoples.
Early modern publications dealing with Old Norse culture appeared in the 16th century, e. Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus Olaus Magnus, and the first edition of the 13th century Gesta Danorum Saxo Grammaticus , in The pace of publication increased during the 17th century with Latin translations of the Edda notably Peder Resen's Edda Islandorum of The Viking revival of 18th century Romanticism created a fascination with anything "Nordic" in disposition.
Apart from linguistic studies, the subject of what became of the Roman era Germanic tribes, and how they influenced the Middle Ages and the development of modern Western culture was a subject discussed during the Enlightenment by such as writers as Montesquieu and Giambattista Vico. Later still, the development of Germanic studies as an academic discipline in the 19th century ran parallel to the rise of nationalism in Europe and the search for national histories for the nascent nation states developing after the end of the Napoleonic Wars.
Contemporary Romantic nationalism in Scandinavia placed more weight on the Viking Age , resulting in the movement known as Scandinavism. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the ethnolinguistic group. For the ethnic group of Germany, see Germans. A group of northern European tribes in Roman times. Peoples and societies.
Religion and mythology. Indo-European studies. Scholars Marija Gimbutas J. See also: Germania. Jastorf culture. Nordic Germanic culture. Harpstedt-Nienburger group. Celtic culture. Przeworsk culture.
House Urns culture. Eastern Balt Forest Zone culture. Western Balt culture. Zarubintsy culture. Estonian group. Gubin culture.
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Oksywie culture. Thracian group. Poienesti-Lukasevka culture. Further information: German language , Theodiscus , and Teutonic disambiguation. North Germanic. North Sea Germanic Ingvaeonic. Weser-Rhine Germanic , Istvaeonic. Elbe Germanic Irminonic. East Germanic. Old West Norse. Old East Norse. Old Gutnish. Old English. Crimean Gothic East Germanic. Further information: Pre-Roman Iron Age.
Main article: Bastarnae. Main article: Germanic Wars. Further information: Roman Iron Age. Further information: Battle of Adrianople. Further information: Migration Period. Further information: Germanic king , Sibb , thing assembly , Germanic law , Germanic warfare , and Romano-Germanic culture. Ancient Germanic culture portal. In the text, Harald honors his parents using runic script and on the other side of the stone is a depiction of 'Christ in His Glory', incorporating a runic inscription which extolls Harald for acquiring Denmark and Norway and for converting the Danes into Christians.
See: Moltke Runes and Their Origin: Denmark and Elsewhere , pp. Plutarch in Marius, XI. Cited from Francis B.
See: Heather, Peter. Conversely, historian Bryan Ward-Perkins paints a different picture altogether. Ward-Perkins states that, "The invaders were not guilty of murder, but they had committed manslaughter. The two titles alone speak to their divergent positions. After forming a shield wall, they would then hurl a single spear in unison as a sacrifice to Odin. Fighting thereafter normally devolved to a gang raid and individual combat.
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