#12 The Huns – From The Horse’s Mouth

“I know you are busy galloping, cantering, trotting, grazing and doing other horse things that horses do. But I have a strange request… I was wondering if you could tell me a story?”

“Sure buddy, anything for you (a horse sound followed. A Neigh… Eiehhehhehhia. Onomatopoeia at its finest). I will tell you my favorite story… The story of the Huns.”

“Never mind…”

“No, I promise, it’s entertaining. Just listen. Their lives were surrounded by war. They basically lived for fighting. They never really farmed or anything like that. All they did was conquer, loot and bring fear into their enemy’s eyes.”

“Okay, I guess it sounds sort of interesting.”

“Why yes, of course. It is my favorite story because if it wasn’t for us, the Huns wouldn’t be able to even get into the history books. We made them who they were. They spent their whole lives on our backs. The Huns were so good at riding that some of their enemies even thought that they were not capable of walking. They would basically go straight from the cradle to the saddle, and at a very early age start training to fight on horseback.”

“But, who were they? Where did they come from?”

“Eiehhehhehhia! Hard to say. For the western people it seemed as if they came from nowhere. Demons, that spawned from nothing to destroy the land. Realistically though, they probably came from the area of modern Kazakhstan, maybe somewhere around the Volga river or some even believe that they were the “Xiongnu” (raiders that warred with the Han dynasty) from china. Regardless of where they came from, they sure left a mark on the world.”

“How do you know all of this stuff?”

“Priscus, the Roman diplomat, was a great friend of mine. He spent some time with the Huns and wrote about it.”

“Romans? What did they have to do with the Huns?”

“Everything… Look over there, let’s walk over to that field. The grass looks greener on that side… That’s better.”

“So… the Romans?”

“Right! The Romans! Well, after the Huns conquered the Alans (old-time pastoral Iranian people), they kept pushing on, forcing the Goths, Visigoths, and Vandals into the Roman Empire. To get away from the Huns, the bar-bar-barbarians had to relocate in search of new lands, which lead them to the Roman Empire”

“Why did you say “barbarians” like that?”

“Oh, that’s because the dialect of those tribes sounded like that to the Romans: “bar bar bar”. That’s why the romans started calling them Barbarians. “Barbarian” is a very derogatory term, they named them that to divide the people into what the Romans considered civilized and uncivilized, Barbarians being uncivilized. You see, the Romans lived in cities, while the barbarians were mainly pastoral, traveling the land. When the Huns invaded the roman territories, they didn’t settle there. They just looted the cities and kept going.”

“Come on, Rome was powerful. What could a relatively small number of “uncivilized” folks traveling on your equine backs could do against the whole Roman army?”

“Let me just give you a well placed kick in your jaw, and then ask me the same question again.”

“Sorry, didn’t mean it like that.”

“The Huns were great warriors, and took great pride in fighting. They were fearless and went into battle without any regard for their own safety. They attacked swiftly, without rules and used scare tactics to stop the enemy in their tracks. If attacked they would encircle their waggons and create an instantaneous fort to protect themselves. They also had very good bows. Their bows were different than others of that time, they were inverted (reflex bows) thus making the tension greater and improving the distance the arrow can fly. Also, being good cowboys, ropes and nets helped their campaigns quite a bit. This enabled them to take the upper hand.”

“Wow Mr. Horse, so what did the Romans do to defend themselves?”

“First of all, Mr. Horse is not my name. My name is Bucephalus, its Greek. A mononym, like Cher. Secondly, the romans did what any sensible people would do, they paid off the Huns. The Huns accepted money for peace.”

“So, is that it? The end?”

“Neigh-o, not even close. Rugula was the great leader of the Huns for a while during the assaults on Rome. After him came his two nephews: Attila and Bleda. They ruled the Huns together. The nephews agreed to the “Treaty of Margus” with Rome. The Romans would keep paying them off and they would in turn leave the Roman cities alone. This allowed Rome to concentrate their troops on fighting the vandals in Africa and allowed the Huns to invade the Sassanid empire (Persia). The Huns did not succeed with their invasion. So, they were like: “whatever, I guess we will go back to Rome… they were easier.” So, they launched their offensive on Rome and broke the Treaty of Margus.”

“Just like that?”

“Yep, yep, yep, just like that. I think it was Theodosius II who thought it was a good idea to trust the Huns. But, as was expected, Attila and Bleda could not be trusted, and Theodosius was forced to pay triple what the roman people paid before. Ha-ha, and I am sure that left him red in the face.”

“I have heard of Attila before, but never of Bleda.”

“That’s because Atilla murdered Bleda and became the one and only ruler of the Huns. He made quite a name for himself. He was feared so much by the west, that they called him “the scourge of god”. Attila was a ruthless warrior and always had his mighty sword at his side which he claimed came from the god Mars himself. He led many successful campaigns against the romans and came very close to Constantinople.

Priscus once told me that he dined with Attila and he kind of even liked the guy. He told me that Attila was smart (even though he could not read and write) and that he had a great sense of humour. He also told me that Attila did not overindulge, he drank out of a wooden cup while his guests drank from golden ones.”

“Wow, I bet he fought to the end and died in combat like a true warrior.”

“Not exactly. He died from a nosebleed when he got too drunk at one of his weddings.”



“Well, what happened to the Huns after he died?”

“The Huns weakened. Fighting for control and losses on the battlefield, even before Attila’s death, broke up the Huns. Their enemies studied their tactics and were able to mimic their weapons and styles to match them on the battlefield. Most of the Huns got absorbed or killed by the people that they ruled over. The terrifying Hun warrior became just a memory, a scary dream, and a reality no more.”

“Wow great story! Could I hear another?”

The horse would not answer. It neighed, grunted, looked surprised and continued to munch on the grass.

“Hello! Bucephalus, please answer me. Why aren’t you talking… Hello! Answer me!”

A family passing by through the field curiously approached the man screaming at the horse. “Are you alright sir?” The man of the family asked.

“No… I guess not.” The man with the horse replied quietly.














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