Attila the Hun is depicted as a bloodthirsty barbarian with an “endless thirst for gold” and power. But a new study suggests an alternative explanation for his violent attacks: Attila may have carried out his desperate raids to save his people. drought and hunger.
Two thousand years of climate data recorded in the rings of oak trees around the floodplains of the Danube and Tisza rivers of Central Europe, Attila and his the Huns they made their biggest raids in very dry years when crop yields and pasturelands were sparse, meaning the attacks were probably due in part to desperation and starvation. The researchers reported their findings on Dec. Journal of Roman Archeology (opens in new tab).
It is thought that the Huns moved from Asia to Eastern and Central Europe. around 370 AD (opens in new tab) Before settling in the Great Hungarian Plain (part of the wider Carpathian Basin) east of the Danube. Just 60 years later, through a combination of advanced weapons, unrivaled equestrianism, and sophisticated warfare tactics, the Huns subjugated much of Central Europe to a confederation of Eurasian tribes over which they ruled supreme. At its peak, the Hun Empire stretched from the Black Sea to central Germany, and after Attila and his brother Bleda came to power in AD 434, it found itself on the verge of an empire divided in two. roman empireIn whose downfall the Huns would play an important role.
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“Historical sources tell us that Roman and Hun diplomacy was extremely complex,” the study author said. Susanne Hakenbeck (opens in new tab)an archaeologist at the University of Cambridge in England. said in a statement (opens in new tab). “Initially it contained mutually beneficial arrangements, and this resulted in huge amounts of Hun elites. gold [in exchange for not attacking the empire]. This system of cooperation broke down in the 440s, leading to regular raids on Roman territory and increased demand for gold.”
Living in the Eurasian Steppe between 420 and 450 AD would have subjected the Huns to a harsh and capricious climate, with multiple droughts forcing them to switch between farming in fixed places or herding their animals on greener pastures, archaeologists said.
“If resource shortages become too extreme, resident populations may be forced to relocate, diversify their subsistence practices, and switch between farming and herding livestock,” Hakenbeck said. “These could be important insurance strategies during a climatic recession.”
However, this unbalanced calorie balancing act soon gave way to more desperate times and measures. During years of severe drought, when the Huns faced starvation, they turned into ruthless raiders flooding the Carpathian Basin to plunder and plunder Western and Southern Europe. In fact, the most devastating Hunnic raids took place in AD 447, 451, and 452, all of which were extremely dry. summers.
The researchers suggested that raids, once thought to be driven primarily by the desire for gold and power, may have been mainly about obtaining food. However, gold could also come in handy to sustain Attila’s patchwork of warlord loyalties.
“Climate-induced economic disruption may have required Attila and others of high rank to extract gold from the Roman provinces to protect warbands and maintain inter-elite loyalty,” Hakenbeck said. Said. “The old horse-riding herders seem to have turned into raiders.”
In 451 AD, under Attila’s command, the Huns invaded the western Roman province of Gaul (in modern-day France) and northern Italy, taking the city of Milan and tearing through the besieged Western Roman Empire to stop their attack. they received the amount. . Archaeologists said Attila requested a piece of land “five days’ journey wide” across the Danube, likely to offer raiders guaranteed grazing land even during the worst drought.
The reign of the Huns did not last long. In AD 453, after having a binge drinking on the night of his last wedding (Attila had more than one wife), the Hun leader was found suffocated to death of his own nosebleed. The Huns fell into internal conflict and were soon torn apart into obscurity. Rome never fully recovered from the effects of the Hunnic raids, and the Western Roman Empire fell 23 years later – proof that climatic deterioration can fatally weaken even the most successful human societies, according to archaeologists.
“Climate changes what environments can provide, and this can drive people to make decisions that affect their economies, social and political organisations,” Hakenbeck said. Said. “Such decisions are not directly rational, and their consequences are not necessarily successful in the long run.
“This example from history shows that humans are responding to climate stress in complex and unpredictable ways, and short-term solutions can have negative long-term consequences,” he added.