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Authors: John Man

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Attila the Hun

BOOK: Attila the Hun
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A Barbarian King
and the Fall of Rome


This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

Version 1.0

Epub ISBN 9781409045366

A BANTAM BOOK : 9780553816587

Originally published in Great Britain as
by Bantam Press,
a division of Transworld Publishers

Bantam Press edition published 2005
Bantam edition published 2006

5 7 9 10 8 6 4

Copyright © John Man 2005
Maps by Hardlines

The right of John Man to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Condition of Sale
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

Addresses for Random House Group Ltd companies outside the UK can be found at:
The Random House Group Ltd Reg. No. 954009

The Random House Group Limited makes every effort to ensure that the papers used in our books are made from trees that have been legally sourced from well-managed and credibly certified forests. Our paper procurement policy can be found on

Set in 11.5/14pt Sabon by Falcon Oast Graphic Art Ltd.

Printed in the UK by CPI Cox & Wyman, Reading, RG1 8EX






About the Author


Also by John Man

List of Maps

List of Illustrations


Introduction: A Beast, Cornered


1 The Storm before the Whirlwind

2 Out of Asia

3 The Return of the Mounted Archer


4 A Continent in Chaos

5 First Steps to Empire

6 In the Court of King Attila

7 The Barbarian and the Princess


8 A Close-run Thing on the Catalaunian Plains

9 A City Too Far

10 A Sudden Death, a Secret Grave

11 Traces of Those Who Vanished

12 Afterlife: The Good, the Bad and the Beastly Hun



in memoriam


John Man is a historian and travel writer with a special interest in Mongolia. After reading German and French at Oxford he did two postgraduate courses, one in the history of science at Oxford, the other in Mongolian at the School of Oriental and African Studies. His
Gobi: Tracking the Desert
(Weidenfeld, 1997) was the first book on the subject in English since the 1920s. He is also the author of
The Atlas of the Year 1000
, (Penguin, 1999),
Alpha Beta
(Headline, 2000) on the roots of the Roman alphabet,
The Gutenberg Revolution
(Headline, 2002) on the origins and impact of printing, and the bestselling
Genghis Khan
. His latest book,
Kublai Khan
, is now available from Bantam Press.

Praise for
Attila the Hun:

‘Shatters the clichés . . . As one’s guide into this mysterious world, one could not wish for a better storyteller or analyst than John Man . . . His
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

‘Atilla is known as a savage but there was much more to this great warrior. Man takes his readers on a thrilling ride alongside the man who marauded across Europe, striking terror into the hearts of entire nations’
The Good Book Guide

‘Racy and imaginative . . . sympathetically and readably puts flesh and bones on one of history’s most turbulent characters’
Sunday Telegraph

‘There are moments when this book reads a little like a real-life Lord of the Rings . . . ‘Meteoric and momentous . . . fascinating reading’

‘The warlord’s thunderous rise to infamy is enlivened by Man’s constant asides, comments and comparisons. His obvious flair for conversational history and clear ability to get the most from well-informed modern sources drives the narrative along at a pace Attila himself would have been happy with. Man is a one man Time Team’
Western Daily Press

‘More like a piece of travel writing than history, as the author shares his imagination and enthusiasm for what he has found in modern day Hungary . . . the powerful heart of this study is Man’s fine reconstruction of the battle on the Catalaunian Plains’

Praise for
Genghis Khan:

‘Absorbing and beautifully written . . . a thrilling account of Genghis Khan’s life, death and his continuing influence . . . a gripping present-day quest’

‘A first-rate travel book, not so much a life of the Khan but a search for him . . . Man has scholarly gifts as well as acute intelligence and a winning way with words. This is a fine introduction to the subject, as well as a rattling good read’ Felipe Fernandez-Armesto,

‘A fine, well-written and well-researched book’
Mail on Sunday

‘Compelling . . . Man’s perspective is as clearsighted and invigorating as that of the Mongol horsemen he travels with . . . this is an eloquent account, not only of a fascinating historical figure and his people, but of the resonance of history itself’
Waterstone’s Books Quarterly

‘Enthralling and colourful’
Independent on Sunday

‘This is a great story’

‘Fascinating . . . every bit as gripping as its subject deserves . . . vividly captures the warlord’s charisma, together with the mixture of ruthlessness, military genius and self-belief which, Man argues, made him the greatest leader ever . . . History doesn’t come much more enthralling than this’
Yorkshire Evening Post

‘Man’s excellent writing breathes new life into a character whose spirit lives on in China and Mongolia today’
Historical Novels Review

‘Man is an excellent guide . . . well-versed in Mongolian, he has travelled extensively in the country while researching the more mysterious elements of Genghis’ life, and this experience shines through the book . . . he writes knowledgeably’
Literary Review

‘Fascinating . . . a wonderfully diverting study’


Also by John Man

Gobi: Tracking the Desert
Atlas of the Year 1000
Alpha Beta
The Gutenberg Revolution
Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection
Kublai Khan


The Coming of the Huns

The Hun Heartland and the Balkans, 435–51

The Huns’ Strike West


First section

Lajos Kassai on horseback. Courtesy Lajos Kassai.

Xiongnu textile: author’s photo; view of the Kozlov dig: from S. I. Rudenko,
Die Kultur der Hsiung-Nu und die Hügelgräber von Noin Ula
, 1969; author by a Xiongnu grave/pair of stirrups: author’s photos; earring from the headdress of a Xiongnu noblewoman, 4th to 2nd century BC: Inner Mongolia Museum, Huhehaote; textile with a man’s face: from S. I. Rudenko, op.cit.

Arkhip Ivanovich Kuindzhi
Morning on the Dnieper
, 1881: © State Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow; ‘Devil’s Ditch’: author’s photo; skull of a Hunnish noble lady, mid 5th century AD, found in Ladenburg (Baden), on loan from the Kurpfälzisches Museum, Heidelberg, Ladenburg, Lobdengaumuseum/akg-images; Hunnish cauldron: photo A. Dabasi/ Hungarian National Museum.

City walls, Istanbul: © Adam Woolfitt/CORBIS; relief depicting a barbarian fighting a Roman legionary, 2nd century AD/Louvre, Paris, Lauros/Giraudon/Bridgeman Art Library; medals of Valens and Gratian: © Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna; coin portrait of Theodosius II: British Museum, Department of Coins & Medals.

Fibula and necklace: photo A. Dabasi/Hungarian National Museum; two swords from Pannonhalma: photo Nicola Sautner © University of Vienna; Peter Tomka: author’s photo; Hun diadem,
5th century: Römisch-Germanisches Museum/Rheinisches Bildarchiv der Stadt Köln.

Second section

Lajos Kassai on horseback/portrait: author’s photos; Pettra Engeländer: Caro Photoagentur.

Porta Nigra, Trier: David Peevers/Lonely Planet; Honoria, obverse of coin, 5th century AD: British Museum, Department of Coins and Medals; Aetius from an ivory diptych panel, 5th century AD: Monza cathedral treasury; martyrdom of St Nicasius on the central portal lintel of Reims cathedral: © Archivio Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS; Frankish soldier, detail from the missorium of Theodosius, 388 AD: Werner Forman Archive/Academia de la Historia, Madrid; Pouan treasure: Musées d’Art et d’Histoire, Troyes.

The Meeting of Leo the Great with Attila
, 1511-14: Vatican Museums and Galleries, Bridgeman Art Library/Alinari; Attila outside Aquileia from the
Saxon Chronicle of the World
, Gotha: akg-images.

Still from Fritz Lang’s
, Part II: bfi; Attila from a stained-glass window, 1883, Lesparre-Médoc: akg-images/Jean Paul Dumontier; ‘Hun or Home?’, First World War poster: private collection, Barbara Singer/Bridgeman Art Library.

Death of Attila from a 14th-century manuscript of the
Saxon Chronicle of the World
, MS germ 129 f, 53: Berlin, Staatsbibliothek.


I would like to thank Todd Delle, Arizona; Borsó Béla, Ilona and Dori, Szár; Yuliy Drobyshev, Institute of Oriental Studies and Institute for Problems of Ecology and Evolution, Moscow; Pettra Engeländer, Seeburg, Berlin; Gelegdorj Eregzen, National Museum of Mongolian History, Ulaanbaatar; Peter Heather, Worcester College, Oxford; Barry Groves, archery expert; Kassai Lajos, Kaposmérõ, Kaposvár; Kurti Bela, Szeged; Tserendorj Odbaatar, National Museum of Mongolian History, Ulaanbaatar; Szegedi Andrea, for her excellent driving and translation; Dr Peter Stadler, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna; Graham Taylor, Karakorum Expeditions, Ulaanbaatar; Peter Tomka, Xántus János Muzeúm, Györ; Karin Wiltschke, Naturhistorisches Museum, Vienna; Doug Young, Simon Thorogood and their colleagues at Transworld; and, as ever, Felicity Bryan.

BOOK: Attila the Hun
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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