What is the origin of the Huns?

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,493
Blachernai
#13
But what of the descriptions, they seemed to have looked Asiatic, certainly not Germanic?
Let me get this straight.

You think the Huns were blue eyed brown haired Indo-Europeans?
Or do you think that they were full on Germanics?
I see little reason to put any faith in Roman ethnography. To Ammianus, the Huns were what they were because they were alien to him. They shared certain traits with Saracens. This is not to imply any actual connection, but rather the construction of "the barbarian" in Graeco-Roman thought. Whether they were Germanic or Asiatic is completely irrelevant: they were what they believed they were and what parameters they used to set out group membership defined who was a Hun and who wasn't.

Even if we're going to work on descriptions, one needs to explain Jordanes' claim that the Huns were born from Gothic witches, which implies a perceived connection between the two groups as late as the sixth century.
 
Jan 2014
416
Calgary
#14
I will defer your knowledge of sources is better than mine, but the Sarmatians, who were western steppe nomads, were never described the way the Huns were. A different period i know but still.

Also one must be careful to discount Roman ethnography, than use a line from a source that would be just as suspect.

It is not irrelevant because it is the matter at hand, who and what were the Huns
 
Last edited:
Oct 2012
1,266
SF bay area
#15
I see little reason to put any faith in Roman ethnography.
Nor do I.
To Ammianus, the Huns were what they were because they were alien to him. They shared certain traits with Saracens.
This is not to imply any actual connection, but rather the construction of "the barbarian" in Graeco-Roman thought.
Ammianus' writings have nothing to do with my understanding of Altaic peoples.

If you are carrying this argument to me, then it is misplaced as I put no faith in what Roman historians saw when they looked to the east; we know far more than they ever did.

Whether they were Germanic or Asiatic is completely irrelevant
Is that statement in any way a part of an answer to the question in the OP?( What is the origin of the Huns?)

Even if we're going to work on descriptions, one needs to explain Jordanes' claim that the Huns were born from Gothic witches, which implies a perceived connection between the two groups as late as the sixth century.
I discount everything Jordanes said almost 100%, his schtick is fantastic to the point of nonsensical.

Am I correct in guessing that you are primarily a Roman historian? You appear so to me. The reason I ask has to do with the reason I became interested in the east (which for me includes the Sarmations/Scythians (aka Indo-Iranian speaking IE peoples), and the Tocharians, which led me to the Altaic and Baltic peoples - was the obvious misunderstandings and blind spots the Romans had, which the Roman Historians seem to have bought into lock stock and barrel.

It is completely understandable, the History of the Roman Republic and then the Empire(s) is so vast and the regions to the east are so foreign and unrelated to everything else a Roman historian studies, that it is more than understandable, it is predictable that Roman oriented historians would have but a superficial knowledge of the east.

The history of the northern tribes, the ones above China, is every bit as rewarding as Roman History is. Apparently more so for me, I never looked back; I haven't read much of anything on Roman history in years.

There's a whole apparently virgin field of study awaiting you if you ever want to learn about the east.
 
Last edited:
Oct 2012
1,266
SF bay area
#16
I will defer your knowledge of sources is better than mine, but the Sarmatians, who were western steppe nomads, were never described the way the Huns were. A different period i know but still
I don't know exactly what you mean when you say that the Sarmatians, were never described the way the Huns were, but when we look at the Afanasevo culture which was certainly Indo-European, either Sarmation or Tocharian or a combination of both and see how it evolved into the Karasuk culture which then turned up as the Tagar culture and the Tashtyk culture which were occupying adjacent territory (at the same time) with the Altaic Glazkov culture we can surmise that at some point in history these peoples rode together.

This is supported by the knowledge that the Yue-chi aka Yuezhi aka Tocharians who were driven out of Gansu in 174 bce by the Xiongnu had alliances with other Altaic tribes who traveled with them.

In fact, in the second century bce it must have been a mishmash just east of Gansu, when some portion of the Yuezhi (half?) sided with the Chinese against the Xiongnu and went east instead of west with the rest of the Yuezhi. Other than the fact that they existed, these Indo-Euros are lost to history, but they were blue eyed brown haired steppe warriors.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,493
Blachernai
#18
I will defer your knowledge of sources is better than mine, but the Sarmatians, who were western steppe nomads, were never described the way the Huns were. A different period i know but still.

Also one must be careful to discount Roman ethnography, than use a line from a source that would be just as suspect.

It is not irrelevant because it is the matter at hand, who and what were the Huns
Nor do I.Ammianus' writings have nothing to do with my understanding of Altaic peoples.

If you are carrying this argument to me, then it is misplaced as I put no faith in what Roman historians saw when they looked to the east; we know far more than they ever did.

Is that statement in any way a part of an answer to the question in the OP?( What is the origin of the Huns?)

I discount everything Jordanes said almost 100%, his schtick is fantastic to the point of nonsensical.
Once we've ditched Ammianus, Priscus, Eunapius, and Jordanes, what sort of contemporary material on the Huns do we actually have other than a few kettles and belt buckles (and the whole attributing certain types of finds to Goths or Avars or whoever thing has come under fire recently.) All that I'm trying to get across here (which it seems you agree with) is that we need to be really, really careful with the Roman historians because they have literary models that they're following, namely Tacitus and Herodotos. My concern with Ammianus is that in the context of classical ethnography his picture is one that creates the Huns as the basest of all barbarians - they eat uncooked food, rarely leave their horses, have no "settled" skills, etc. This does not mean that Ammianus has nothing true to say about the Huns, but it does say to me that his picture was constructed around a desired image, and that we need to be careful of it.

Am I correct in guessing that you are primarily a Roman historian? You appear so to me. The reason I ask has to do with the reason I became interested in the east (which for me includes the Sarmations/Scythians (aka Indo-Iranian speaking IE peoples), and the Tocharians, which led me to the Altaic and Baltic peoples - was the obvious misunderstandings and blind spots the Romans had, which the Roman Historians seem to have bought into lock stock and barrel.

It is completely understandable, the History of the Roman Republic and then the Empire(s) is so vast and the regions to the east are so foreign and unrelated to everything else a Roman historian studies, that it is more than understandable, it is predictable that Roman oriented historians would have but a superficial knowledge of the east.
Byzantine. 7-9th and 12th century, focusing mainly on historiography, political history, relations with Armenia, and the conflict with the Arabs. I also dabble a bit on 6th c. eastern empire topics, typically pertaining to Greek philology and Procopius, because my supervisor works on that.
 
Mar 2014
440
Goettingen
#19
Even if we're going to work on descriptions, one needs to explain Jordanes' claim that the Huns were born from Gothic witches, which implies a perceived connection between the two groups as late as the sixth century.
Interesting point. However, Jordanes is also known for having invented the confusion between Getae and Goths, which led to the fantasy denomination of Dacia for Danemark, in the 12-14-th centuries ... It would be interesting to study in detail the Graf Etzel recordings in the various Niebelungenlied - versions. Can it be possible to guess if the early Germans retained Etzel as scary or rather similar to them?
 
Mar 2014
440
Goettingen
#20
It is completely understandable, the History of the Roman Republic and then the Empire(s) is so vast and the regions to the east are so foreign and unrelated to everything else a Roman historian studies, that it is more than understandable, it is predictable that Roman oriented historians would have but a superficial knowledge of the east.
I read about a multitude of reports of Chinese diplomatic missions to Rome, dating from the centuries around Christ. Their point of view could be a good complement to the Roman description. The important parituclarity being that in a diplomatic mission, somehow the two parties had to communicate, thus have common points of reference ...
 

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