Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome

Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome

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by John Man
     
 

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A stunning biography of history's most infamous warlord, Attila the Hun

For a crucial twenty years in the early fifth century, Attila held the fate of the Roman Empire and the future of all Europe in his hands. He created the greatest of barbarian forces, and his empire briefly rivaled Rome's. In numerous raids and three major campaigns against the Roman

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Overview

A stunning biography of history's most infamous warlord, Attila the Hun

For a crucial twenty years in the early fifth century, Attila held the fate of the Roman Empire and the future of all Europe in his hands. He created the greatest of barbarian forces, and his empire briefly rivaled Rome's. In numerous raids and three major campaigns against the Roman Empire, he earned himself an instant and undying reputation for savagery. But there was more to him than mere barbarism. Attila was capricious, arrogant, brutal, and brilliant enough to win the loyalty of millions. In the end, his ambitions ran away with him. He did not live long enough to found a lasting empire--but long enough to jolt Rome toward its final fall.
In this riveting biography, masterful storyteller John Man draws on his extensive travels through Attila's heartland and his experience with the nomadic traditions of Central Asia to reveal the man behind the myth.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Entertaining and lucid account of a phenomenal militarist unable to resist a crumbling empire’s vast, unprotected wealth.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Full of military adventures and political maneuverings, Man's lively narrative provides a glimpse of a leader whose name has become synonymous with ruthlessness.” —Publishers Weekly

“Man’s book is a highly readable account of a bellicose steppe people and their leader who, long after they departed from the West, continue to haunt the European imagination.” —Library Journal

“One could not wish for a better storyteller or analyst than John Man. . . . His Attila is superb, as compellingly readable as it is impressive in its scholarship.” —Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of Stalin

Publishers Weekly
Attila the Hun was "the Genghis Khan of Europe," says British historian Man in this fast-paced though often prosaic account of the rise and fall of the Huns and their infamous leader. Man traces the origin of the Huns, following these restless nomads from the steppes of Mongolia to present-day Hungary. Attila led his people in terrifying raids into new lands in the fifth century. Relying on scant written sources, Man (Genghis Khan; Gobi: Tracking the Desert) portrays Attila as a man of "extreme contradictions" and moods, skillful at deceiving both his closest advisers and his greatest enemies. In his military campaigns, Attila moved quickly to loot as many villages as he could in order to satisfy his followers. His armies of mounted archers, a throng that could shoot up to 12,000 arrows a minute, wrought destruction and terror wherever they went. He terrified the Romans as he approached their city, but Man says Attila would never have been able to penetrate the fortresses of Rome or Constantinople, and he died of a burst varicose vein in his stomach before he could even try. Full of military adventures and political maneuverings, Man's lively narrative provides a glimpse of a leader whose name has become synonymous with ruthlessness. Illus., maps. (July 18) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Man (Genghis Khan: Life, Death, and Resurrection), a historian with an interest in Mongolia and archaeology, has written a popular history as much about the Huns as about their notorious leader. He begins by identifying the Huns as possible descendants of Turkish nomads who created the first large steppe empire beyond China's western borders on the strength of their horse-mounted archers. The steppe empire would, in time, be crushed by the Chinese, its remnants fleeing west to become the Huns. This old theory of Hunnic origins has gained new authority owing to recent archaeological finds in the Altai Mountains and advancements in the study of Mongolian folklore. Man's chapter on the causes for the Huns' military superiority is fascinating, relying on the work of the Hungarian archer expert Lajos Kassai. After years of study and practice, Kassai re-created the bow and the riding and shooting skills of the Hunnish horse archers. His demonstrations of horse archery have given onlookers a chilling glimpse into the destructive power of Attila's mounted archers. Man's book is a highly readable account of a bellicose steppe people and their leader who, long after they departed from the West, continue to haunt the European imagination. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Robert J. Andrews, Duluth P.L. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A surprisingly intimate view of the man labeled "God's scourge" by a Roman Empire in its death throes. British historian Man (Genghis Khan, 2005, etc.) is also a travel writer (Gobi, 1999), and his physical knowledge of the venues about which he writes lend authority to his reconstitution of ancient history. In recalling a certain Carpathian pass, for instance, through which the Hunnish horde would have passed on its way to wreak havoc and chaos on the fifth-century remnants of Imperial Roman civil order, he writes, "Good skiing in winter; pleasant Alpine hikes in summer." He's equally adept at mining scholarly and contemporary sources: In a nearly chapter-long paraphrase of Priscus, the one Roman administrative apparatchik to have met Attila and left an extensive written record, Man serves up an episode of courtly intrigue worthy of Shakespeare. The author tends to favor the speculative view that the Huns were descendants of a central Asian tribe with possible Turkish origins known by the Chinese, whom they first harassed, as the Xiongnu (pronounced with a guttural "h" sound). Their military might, derived from a pastoral nomadic ancestry, was based on the terrifying expertise of mounted archers; their power would not be surpassed, Man suggests, until the modern era of automatic weapons. Couple this with the known cruelty (at least in the view of contemporaries including other so-called barbarians) of a short, unattractive, but definitely charismatic man with beady, shifty eyes who regularly impaled his captive victims on wooden stakes, and the basis for the myth of Attila becomes clear. Yet, the author notes, in Eastern Europe, particularly Hungary, it persists as the legend of a hero.Entertaining and lucid account of a phenomenal militarist unable to resist a crumbling empire's vast, unprotected wealth.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780312539399
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
02/17/2009
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
423,085
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

John Man is a historian and travel writer with a special interest in Mongolia. His book Gobi: Tracking the Desert was the first book on the subject in English since the 1920s. He is also the author of Atlas of the Year 1000, Alpha Beta, The Gutenberg Revolution, Genghis Khan, The Terracotta Army, and The Great Wall, among others.

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