6 Surprising Facts About Attila and the Huns

  • Illustration of Attila the Hun
Illustration of Attila the Hun
Photo credit: bauhaus1000/ DigitalVision Vectors via Getty Images

More than 1,500 years after his death, Attila the Hun remains one of the most fear-inducing figures in history. He and his nomadic empire spent decades terrorizing and conquering Europe on horseback, so much so that he’s still remembered all across the continent — sometimes with reverence, sometimes with hatred. But many details of his life are unclear, and some that have been reliably recorded aren’t as widely known as the apocryphal legends about him. Here are five such facts about Attila and his empire.

Photo credit: Tuul & Bruno Morandi/ The Image Bank via Getty Images

No One Knows Where the Huns Came From

The Huns were among the most feared people in the world, as well as some of the least understood. That’s exemplified by the fact that the tribe’s precise origins remain unknown to this day. They were nomads, after all, and while one popular theory posits that their roots can be traced back to the Xiongnu people of ancient Mongolia, it’s impossible to confirm. Even the etymology of the Huns’ name is disputed, with some historians ascribing it to the old Turkic word for “ferocious”; others thinking it comes from the Persian term hūnarā, meaning “skilled”; and others still of the belief that it’s derived from the Ongi River in Mongolia, which could possibly have been the Huns’ ancestral homeland.

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