chapter  9
21 Pages

Hypothesis I: the Huns in Scandinavia

This was the song that was sung over the dead body of Attila when he died in ad 453 (Thompson 1996: 164). This short curriculum vitae is, so to speak, a compressed presentation of his position as the paramount ruler of Barbarian Europe and a superior to the Roman emperors, who paid him tribute. He kept his power through a sophisticated balance of terror and reward, well known as the strategy employed by later steppe empires, too. He never took, nor held land; he controlled space by movement and kept it by means of mobility and speed (Pohl 2001). Throughout the first millennium ad the nomadic system developed and expanded continuously. Its frontiers moved forward, neighbouring peoples were conquered and the ‘ethnic’ map and geopolitical configurations of western Eurasia were redrawn (Barfield 1989; Martynov 1991: ch. 5; Howard-Johnston forthcoming: ch.1). However, nomadic empires rose and fell with astonishing swiftness but the pastoral societies of the Eurasian steppes remained unchanged for ages; Herodotus’ description of the Scythians from the fifth century bc is valid to the Mongols of the thirteenth century

ad. Therefore, the Mongol history is a pertinent analogy for studying the Huns and their strategy when meeting with the western world, and also their military techniques are comparable.1 When the Mongols in 1237-42 invaded Europe (Chingis Khan died 1227), they held supremacy of the globe from Germany to Korea. During the thirteenth century the Mongols destroyed kingdoms and empires and left greater parts the Old World traumatised and transformed (Saunders 1971: 12). They practised genocide in a magnitude never witnessed since the ancient Assyrians who killed or deported whole nations. The Mongol conquests forever transformed the ethnic character of many regions where whole peoples were uprooted and dispersed. During their campaigns they encountered the world religions Buddhism, Islam and Christianity and they permanently changed their history (ibid.: ch.10).