The Huns were horsemen. No one knows exactly where they came from, but we do know the lands to which they went and later took up residence. As nomads, they had a unique approach to warfare. Their main weapon was fear: the fear of the unknown. The Huns existed as a horror story in the minds of settled people long before they actually arrived. Part of the reason may well be because the Huns were forever on the move.

The Huns spent a great deal of time riding horses and spent their lives saddled to their prized stallions. In addition to horses, ancient sources mention that the Huns used wagons for transportation. While the horses were utilised to transport the warriors themselves; the wagons were used to transport their tents, their bounty and other members of the tribe such as: the elderly, women and children.

The Huns’ mythical origins as well as never-before-encountered battle stratagem made them extremely difficult to defeat. The Huns are believed to have invented an early type of composite bow which bends back on itself to exert extra pressure. The invention of the weapon is not the impressive aspect of their war legacy.

While other ancient technological innovations in warfare were copied as soon as they were discovered, the Huns’ skill at horse archery was far more difficult to replicate. It took exacting effort and years of dedicated practice to hit a target while on horseback.

Archery was a way of life for the Huns and they learned to ride and shoot from a mobile horse from a very young age. The Huns were also masters of speedy raids. They were able to move in on a group of soldiers, fire hundreds of arrows and ride off again. And they were able to do all of this without engaging their enemy at close proximity.

While nomadism had given the Huns unparalleled skills in warfare, it had also deprived them of the comforts of a settled civilisation. The Huns are therefore said to have sought to enrich themselves by establishing an empire on Rome’s borders.

The myths say that they were successful.

Feast of Attila (1870) by Mor Than

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