“The Huns are a blank canvas. That’s what makes them so interesting. We know only one word of Hunnic, the word strava, the Hunnic word for funeral. We have no Hunnic poetry, we have no Hunnic literature.”
My guest on this edition of Podularity is Cambridge classicist, Christopher Kelly. His book on Attila the Hun and the part he played in the downfall of the Roman empire has just come out in paperback.
In the interview, we talk about the difficulty of writing about someone whose civilization is only preserved in the annals of his enemies, in which the Huns were portrayed as “the scourge of God”.
Kelly sets that against the opinion of one Roman commentator who came to know Attila and was impressed by the civilization of his court and the Hun leader’s command of Latin.
And we tackle the key question – to what extent did the Huns bring about the fall of the Roman empire?
The end result may not be a “Hun’s eye view” – that may well be impossible to recapture – but it does at least demonstrate that Rome was not the only vantage point from which to view the world. As Kelly says in the interview, the Roman empire wrought far more destruction on the continent of Europe than the Huns ever did…