Huns diadem

The Huns

Were the Huns sophisticated nomads ruling over a grand Steppe Empire? Or were they just one group of nomads amongst many, who happened to be at the right time and place to bleed the Roman Empire to death?

Since 1970es medievalists have been heftily arguing how to understand the Huns. Were they masters of an Eurasian Empire stretching from China to the Rhine? Or were they just one of the many groups of nomads which from time to time entered through the backdoor of Europe causing general havoc?

A couple of recent publications help to frame this scholarly dispute and make it available to a new generation of medievalists. Needless to say, there is still room for disagreement. However, the really valuable element is that it is rapidly becoming possible to be informed on a higher level.

The Huns Rome and the Birth of Europe CoverThe Huns, Rome and the Birth of Europe

By Hyun Jin Kim
Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781107009066


The Huns have often been treated as primitive barbarians with no advanced political organisation. Their place of origin was the so-called ‘backward steppe’. It has been argued that whatever political organisation they achieved they owed to the ‘civilizing influence’ of the Germanic peoples they encountered as they moved west. This book argues that the steppes of Inner Asia were far from ‘backward’ and that the image of the primitive Huns is vastly misleading. They already possessed a highly sophisticated political culture while still in Inner Asia and, far from being passive recipients of advanced culture from the West, they passed on important elements of Central Eurasian culture to early medieval Europe, which they helped create. Their expansion also marked the beginning of a millennium of virtual monopoly of world power by empires originating in the steppes of Inner Asia. The rise of the Hunnic Empire was truly a geopolitical revolution.


  • Introduction
  • Rome’s inner Asian enemies before the Huns
  • The Huns in Central Asia
  •  The Huns in Europe
  • The end of the Hunnic Empire in the West
  • The later Huns and the birth of Europe
  • Conclusion


Hyun Jin Kim is the Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow at the University of Sydney. His first book, published in 2009, was a comparative analysis of Greece and China: Ethnicity and Foreigners in Ancient Greece and China. He has taught Greek history and Greek literature at Sydney University and has also given numerous invited talks and special seminars in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Greece and Kazakhstan on topics related to comparative literature, Greece and the Near East, and the importance of wider Eurasia to the study of Greco-Roman civilization. He is currently undertaking a research project funded by the Australian government titled Transfer of Hegemony: Geopolitical Revolutions in World History.

The Age of Attila CoverThe Age of Attila. The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Attila

Series: The Cambridge Companions to the Ancient World
Ed. by Michael Maas
Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9781107633889


This book examines the age of Attila, roughly the fifth century CE, an era in which western Eurasia experienced significant geopolitical and cultural changes. The Roman Empire collapsed in western Europe, replaced by new ‘barbarian’ kingdoms, but it continued in Christian Byzantine guise in the eastern Mediterranean. New states and peoples changed the face of northern Europe, while in Iran, the Sasanian Empire developed new theories of power and government. At the same time, the great Eurasian steppe became a permanent presence in the European world. This book treats Attila, the notorious king of the Huns, as both an agent of change and a symbol of the wreck of the old world order.


Part I. The Roman Empire:

  1. Reversals of fortune: an overview of the age of Attila, by Michael Maas
  2. Government and mechanisms of control, east and west, by Geoffrey Greatrex
  3. Urban and rural economies in the age of Attila, by Peter Sarris
  4. Mediterranean cities in the fifth century: elites, Christianizing, and the barbarian influx, by Kenneth G. Holum
  5. Big cities and the dynamics of the Mediterranean during the fifth century, by Raymond Van Dam
  6. Dynasty and aristocracy in the fifth century, by Brian Croke
  7. Military developments in the fifth century, by Hugh Elton
  8. Law and legal culture in the age of Attila, by Caroline Humfress
  9. Romanness in the age of Attila, by Jonathan P. Conant

Part II. Attila and the World around Rome:

  1. The steppe world and the rise of the Huns, by Étienne de la Vaissière
  2. Neither conquest nor settlement: Attila’s empire and its impact, by Christopher Kelly
  3. The Huns and barbarian Europe, by Peter Heather
  4. Captivity among the barbarians and its impact on the fate of the Roman Empire, by Noel Lenski
  5. Migrations, ethnic groups, and state building, by Walter Pohl
  6. Kingdoms of North Africa, by Andy Merrills
  7. The reinvention of Iran: the Sasanian Empire and the Huns, by Richard Payne

Part III. Religious and Cultural Transformation:

  1. Ascetics and monastics in the early fifth century, by Susanna Elm
  2. Religious doctrine and ecclesiastical change in the time of Leo the Great, by Susan Wessel
  3. Christian sermons against pagans: the evidence from Augustine’s sermons on the new year and on the sack of Rome in 410, by Michele Renee Salzman
  4. Mediterranean Jews in a Christianizing empire, by Joseph E. Sanzo and Ra’anan Boustan
  5. Ordering intellectual life, by Edward Watts
  6. Real and imagined geography, by Scott Fitzgerald Johnson.