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Attila The Hun: Barbarian Terror and the Fall of the Roman Empire

3.72  ·  Rating Details ·  297 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Attila the Hun - godless barbarian and near-mythical warrior king - has become a byword for mindless ferocity. His brutal attacks smashed through the frontiers of the Roman empire in a savage wave of death and destruction. His reign of terror shattered an imperial world that had been securely unified by the conquests of Julius Caesar five centuries before. This book goes i ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published September 3rd 2009 by Vintage (first published January 1st 2006)
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Jun 26, 2015 Stian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, owned-books, history
Writing about Attila poses problems for the historian: the only sources that really exist about him were written by those considered among his fiercest enemies, namely the Romans. The Romans essentially considered everything non-Roman as "barbarian." The Huns, then, and especially Attila, are remembered in popular culture and history as vile barbarians who only cared about murder and thievery. In general, little is really known about the Huns. There are only three words that we know for sure wer ...more
Jul 20, 2010 Steve rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Excellent. I'm not sure Kelly adds much more to the story, but he tells it well. Kelly does bring you up to date as far as what recent archaeology has brought to light, but it isn't much. The Huns were not some far eastern, "yellow menace," but beyond that, there's not a lot to go on. Kelly points out that the Huns, as invaders, were parasitic, and adapted themselves, to some extent, to the peoples they conquered. In other words, Hun artifacts, intermingled with Goth artifacts, show little or no ...more
Aug 24, 2014 Bandit rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An exhaustive exhausting at times historical account of a fascinating time in ancient history. This went well as a companion piece to the book on Caesar I've recently read. A great empire from its creation to its end, a behemoth so massive, it was unable to sustain itself. The book was interesting, well written and educational, which is pretty much what I look for in nonfiction. It had some strong dynamic parts, but some of it, particularly in the middle, sort of dragged and made for a long slig ...more
Alex Telander
When people hear the name Attila the Hun, thoughts and ideas immediately come to mind, both pro and con. Some think of him as a ruthless barbarian who slaughtered without thought or mercy. Others think of him as an impressive leader who was able bring an end to the greatest empire the world has ever known. Christopher Kelly, a professor of ancient history at Cambridge University and author of a couple of books on the Roman Empire, presents a complete biography in The End of Empire of Attila the ...more
Feb 21, 2010 Stefan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-politics
In the “End of Empire” Christopher Kelly insightfully dissected the stereotypical image of Attila. The narrative was readable and effective. Christopher Kelly provided a brief, but excellent summary of Attila’s diplomatic, political, and military relationship with both the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. The failed Roman policies to contain the Huns, Vandals, and so forth were explained in an easy-to-understand way. In short, “End of Empire” explored the personalities, events, and forces whic ...more
Drew Patrick Smith
May 30, 2011 Drew Patrick Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History and Rome Buffs
Shelves: nyc-books
Review from the PFS Book Club...

What I Liked: The main strength of this book is how it's written. Kelly manages to take ancient history (filled with strange names and places nobody's ever heard of) and make it come alive through simplistic connections - he frequently points out an ancient place's closest equivalent, tries to make the names seem normal enough to follow, and goes out of his way to make the complex cultural differences between then and now plainly explained.

Kelly's structure, with
Kenneth Sherman
Jun 28, 2013 Kenneth Sherman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bill Veeck said that "saying Rogers Hornsby has a bad personality was like saying Attila the Hun had bad table manners." However we learn that Attila was not quite the savage barbarian that we have always believed him to be. Going all the way back to the first Greek historians, the barbarians were painted as uncouth, uncivilized, sleeping and living on their horses and in wagons and eating raw meat, well meat heated by putting it under your saddle. Of course the Huns did not have permanent sett ...more
Sep 02, 2012 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not bad, not bad.

The centerpiece of Kelly's presentation is his take on an account of Priscus, a teacher of rhetoric who found himself caught up in a diplomatic mission to the king of the Huns in the mid-5th century. Priscus later wrote of his adventure beyond the Danube, leaving history with the only surviving in-person depiction of Attila. As Kelly shows, Priscus's account is not a typical Roman screed against the barbarians; Attila comes off as a shrewd politician, his court as somewhat soph
Aug 12, 2014 Semnebune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pasionat îndeosebi de istoria Imperiului Roman și de studiile clasice, istoricul Christopher Kelly a acordat o atenție surprinzătoare mărețului imperiu în studiile sale, astfel că a oferit publicului o altfel de viziune în comparație cu cea care se găsește în toate manualele de istorie: Ruling the Later Roman Empire (2006), Unclassical Traditions I: Alternatives for the Classical Past in late Antiquity și Unclassical Traditions II: Perspectives from East and West in late Antiquity (2010, 2011) ...more
Jan 11, 2013 Simon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Having enjoyed William Napier's Attila trilogy I wanted to read a history book about Attila the Hun. Christopher Kelly's very readable and informative book has met my need and reassured me about the historical accuracy of the novels. I did however find that Kelly's book became too speculative so that I stopped reading it for several years before finally finishing it. I didn't like his overuse of modern concepts (such as asylum seekers, binge drinking, etc) to describe this remote period in order ...more
Aug 16, 2011 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Christopher Kelly's book on Attila, the Huns and their influence on the fall of the Roman empire was a good the latter half of the book. The author tells the reader from the beginning that all the information comes from the Roman side of the story, since the Huns did not have a written record of their own history. So the first half is Roman history leading up to the Hun invasion and the second half is taken from a Roman historian who was actually present for most of the events during a ...more
Jun 03, 2009 Jby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
A fun romp through the 5th century. The book sticks to Priscus account(roman contemporary of Attila, the main point being that Attila can hardly be seen as a primitive barbarian chieftain) and has some very interesting chapters on the shifting alliances of Gothic Kingdoms, Romans and Huns towards the end of the western roman empire. Kelly refuses to speculate on the origin of the Huns since there are no hunnic sources available. Kelly also convincingly (to me at least) rejects a Mongol origin of ...more
Sarah(All The Book Blog Names Are Taken)
The title can certainly be a bit misleading, but the problem with tackling a subject like Attila is the lack of recorded history of the Huns. The entire first half of the book was about the Roman empire in the generation before Attila lead his people. Even the second half of the book that actually focused on Attila is shaky at best, given that the information comes from a Roman historian - though he appears far less biased than those who were content to simply label Attila as a barbarian and lea ...more
Ray Francis
Oct 30, 2016 Ray Francis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Attila the Hun, as Christopher Kelly tells it, is not the barbarian history (as recorded by the Romans) reports. Attila was foreign, which made him an enigma to the powers in Roma (and Ravenna) and Constantinople. He worship the wrong gods, seemed to espouse the wrong values, and did not seem to respect the achievements and refinements of Roman civilization. Even if that were all true, Attila had a keen understanding of what motivated his adversaries; and he ruthlessly played them against each o ...more
David R.
Jan 17, 2011 David R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-history
A fine treatment of a subject that's been given short shrift in the popular historical press. Kelly breathes a great deal of life into his study of Attila, shattering stereotypes both of the Huns and the Romans Attila regularly humiliated in his short reign. Furthermore, Kelly looks at four separate theatres (e.g. Western Empire, Eastern Empire, France, North Africa) and does a splendid job illustrating how Attila impacted each, either by active efforts or by creating trouble elsewhere. Be prepa ...more
Kevin Milligan
Jun 12, 2014 Kevin Milligan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
I'm really impressed with this novel. Now, normally I do not enjoy empires collapsing but I must say I underestimated Attila. My previous studies on the rise of Rome, fall of Carthage and the history of Greece made me uneasy on studying the fall of Rome. Here though I must admit I was wrong, for here I wasn't studying the fall of Rome, but the rise of the Huns and it's Alexander like collapse after the death of Attila. So in this novel I have a rise and fall that fills me with joy and sadness at ...more
Feb 21, 2010 WRH rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a scholarly book on the impact of Attila the Hun on the collapse of the Roman Empire. The Huns along with the other Barbaian tribes have always been portrayed as barbaric and without redeeming qualities. Kelly makes the point that, while they had gruesome characterics, so did the Romans. Attila displayed some smart diplomatic abilities in keeping the Roman Empire off balance. The conclusion was that you couldn't say one was completely good and one was evil but more that they were differe ...more
Derek Weber
Jun 08, 2016 Derek Weber rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written and accessible history of a very significant character in Western history who has always got a bad wrap. Although it's clear the author struggles for primary sources, there's plenty of material to counter the traditional view of Attila being the barbarian bane of western civilisation. He was a shrewd international player and although he was brutal, it was at a time when almost everyone was brutal. He just wasn't Christian and he was arguably oriental. The final chapters summarise ...more
This book details the part the Huns in particular Attila made in bringing down the Roman Empire in particular the Western Empire as the Eastern managed to hold on in Constantinople for a while longer. This book details how the Goths, Vandals and Huns nibbled away and took large chunks of the Roman Empire and the various treaties and maneuvering by the Emperors and their representatives during this period. An excellent layout in a readable way of the relationship between Attila and Rome.
Karen Floyd
Jun 29, 2011 Karen Floyd rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I enjoyed this so much I raced through it. Archeology and modern views of people of other cultures and races have done so much to help us understand periods and people that were previously dismissed as "barbaric." This has implications for the present day as well as for the old views of the Huns, Goths and Vandals. The first millennium AD is a fascinating and underrated period of history. Calling it the "Dark Ages" dismisses it unfairly and unrealistically.
Robert Monk
This was pretty good. I read about the Huns in Peter Heather's Fall of the Roman Empire, specifically about how the common image of them has little to do with the reality, and wanted to go a little deeper into the subject. This... well, it sort of did, but not that much. It does a pretty good job of presenting the basics, but Kelly isn't the gangbusters writer that a good popularizer needs to be. Basically, this didn't add all that much to what I already knew.
Daniel Kukwa
A solid piece of scholarship, and one that manages to debunk, trash, and re-examine several myths and misconceptions about who Attila the Hun actually say nothing of being equally revealing of the Roman Empire in its twilight. I simply wish the writing style could have been less dry and more engaging.
Jul 22, 2009 Al rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book provides a very detailed and updated view of the end of the Roman Empire in the West as well as the waning years of the Eastern Empire. The fall of the Western Empire was much driven by the actions of Attila the Hun who is presented in a more favorable light than much of what has been stereotypically written about him.
May 30, 2009 P. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of "perhaps", "we can imagine", "[so and so] must have" etc. But this seems inevitable when working with so relatively few contemporary sources. The middle of the book which paints the picture of an actual Roman embassy to Attila is the most interesting part. Definitely gave me a different impression of the period.
Dec 21, 2010 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I thought this looked interesting at the library, but I'm giving up on it. It is hard to stay interested in. I liked learning the history about Rome and the Huns, but it's taking too long to get to the Attila part. They keep mentioning countries that don't exist anymore and even with a map, it's hard to tell where these relate to countries today.
Feb 20, 2012 Alvin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would have liked more ethnographic info about the Huns and less about battles and generals and such, but I guess that wasn't possible because the Huns didn't leave much behind. The Roman empire's collapse made me think a lot about America's current state of imperial over-reach. Well, at least we don't have to marry off Sasha and Malia Obama to the sons of barbarian potentates.
Aug 30, 2013 Craig rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is well-written and has some interesting information. Because of the lack of contemporary data, alot of it is speculation. The author does a good job of supporting his theories even if they can't be completely backed up by facts and it is a good read.
An icredible look at Attilla the Hun and the twilight of the Roman Empire. Attilla wasn't the bloodthirsty thug he's portrayed as, albeit he was of course, violent. He was also a genius. Read this book, it's fascinating!
Aug 14, 2009 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Sean by: my wife, Kristin
Given the paucity of historical record, Kelly avoids romanticizing Attila and provides a glimpse into this legendary person. Although the writing was uneven at times, I enjoyed and learned from his account.
Aug 22, 2014 Jennah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very pleasantly organized and accessible read. This book could have been a slog of historical details but was instead elegantly told and captivating. It provided a thought provoking assessment of Attila's potential motives and the context of the state of the Roman Empire at his time.
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“Imperiul hun a fost, mai intai de toate, unul parazitar; succesul sau a constat in abilitatea de a imita cultura celor cuceriti, de a se folosi de bunurile lor si de a consuma hrana produsa de acestia.” 1 likes
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