white huns

White Huns | Who are the White Huns?

More detailed descriptions of the White Huns have been passed down from the words of the 6th-century Byzantine writers. These White Huns were pagans; at a certain point of their nomadic migrations, they reached an “attractive” land close to the northern frontier of Persia and settled there, thus becoming a permanent population. They abandoned nomadism, adopted a monarchical government, and sanctioned a constitution that established rights and duties according to laws and principles of justice, which they observed both in internal relations and with the concerns of foreign countries.

Physically the White Huns had Iranian features. They were tall and good-looking, different from the Red Huns (of which there are ancient records in China ) and the central nucleus of the Black Huns, who maintained the nomadic lifestyle even when he established their headquarters in Hungary. 

Initially not very worried, the Roman Empire let the White Huns act as they pleased beyond the limes (fortification marking the border of the Empire). Because they attacked the barbarian Goths. But the situation changed abruptly in 408 when the Huns entered the Roman territory and launched numerous raids. Around 425, a Hunnic empire was formed on the Middle Danube.

According to the descriptions left by the Roman historian Ammien Marcellin, the Huns were nomadic pastoralists who ignored agriculture, had no permanent dwellings, and tirelessly roamed the steppe in search of pastures and watering places for their herds. They exist thanks to hunting and gathering and are dressed in linen clothes and furs. Living almost constantly on horseback, they do not seem to have a king (until 434), each clan having its leader.

The White Huns in history were known as fearsome warriors, archers, and horsemen mounted on sturdy little horses. The Huns surprise their enemies with rapid charges, unexpected retreats, and permanent harassment. Hunnic tombs found near the Dnieper indeed attest to their taste for looting.

the white huns

Representation of the White Huns

Nomads and riders of Mongolian origin are probably related to the Huns. Traversed since the middle of the 5th century AD. The Middle East and India. Around 460, they established themselves in Kabul (Afghanistan). From here, the main target of the attack was initially the Persian Empire of the Sassanids. In 484, the horde leader Aksunvar defeated the Persians. And gained control of the Sasanian Empire for a time. Then push against India.

The horde leader Mihirakula (502-530; “Attila of India”) established a reign of terror in Punjab. (Bloody persecution of Buddhism ). The empire of the White Huns stretched from Punjab and eastern Iran to Turkestan and the Aral Sea. Around 560, the White Huns succumbed to the combined power of the Sassanids and Turkic peoples; Remnants survived in Punjab until the 7th century.

The Hephalite Huns, called white Huns by the Byzantines, were a Mongol-Turkic horde from Altai, settled towards the end of the fourth century in the steppes of Turkestan. At the beginning of the sixth century, the Hephthalites conquered vast territories of India. Still, the action was cut short by a counter-offensive of Hindu princes, and not long after, the same Hephthalites of Turkestan attacked one side by Khosrau I of Persia and the other by Turkish tribes, was exterminated or dispersed (in about 563), and their culture disappeared almost every trace. In all, they are assimilated into the Bulgarians.

King Attila was the first king of the White Huns. Under the leadership of King Attila (nicknamed by his enemies the “scourge of God”), the power of the Huns reached its peak. He instructs emissaries, the lodges, to travel to the Roman Empire to demand tribute in pain of destruction. He launches raids on the Eastern Empire every year and regularly ruins the cities of the Balkans.

In 450, he turned against the Western Empire. He crossed the Rhine at Mainz and entered eastern Gaul before his army was routed by the coalition led by Romain Aetius near Troyes ( Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, 451). The White Huns then flow back towards the east. A year later, Attila launched a new raid on the Italian peninsula. He devastates the Po plain, meets Pope Leo the Great, and suddenly decides to return to Pannonia with his army. When he died in 453, his empire fell apart.

Primary Takeaways

The White Huns are the nomadic people of the steppe who, from the end of the th century, made deep inroads into Europe and Central Asia as far as India.

The White Huns are probably two branches of the same people of Mongolian origin, the White Huns (also called Hephthalites), who, towards the end of the 4th c. AD, one migrated to the Volga Valley (now in western Russia) and the other to the Oxus (now the Amu Darya, in Central Asia). The former strongly marked the imagination of the peoples of the Roman Empire by the aggressive nature of their exactions, which was at the origin of a vast migratory movement: the ” great invasions. “


The word Hun occurs in all languages ​​of people. Some things are the same in all these peoples, which is why this Central Asian essential culture is called the Central Asian cultural syndrome. The word Hun has the same meaning everywhere: man or people. So in modern Mongolian: Man = Hün. The Mongols only came into being as a people through Chinggis Khan. Even linguistically, one cannot identify them before him. Several culturally very different peoples had closely related languages, which developed the Mongolian.

In the east of today’s Mongolia, a small number of people are called Sari You’re (Gelbuigur). So, from a purely ethnic point of view, they belong to the Turkic peoples, but these Sari Yogur speak Mongolian. Sometimes even Chinese. They see themselves as related to the Manchu but are different people.

The Huns and the Mongols are only indirectly related to the Central Asian cultural syndrome. Otherwise, they are two completely different people at different times. About the Black Huns, it is even questionable to speak of a people that was instead a very heterogeneous group of people.