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Attila the Hun

3.50  ·  Rating details ·  908 ratings  ·  105 reviews
The name Attila the Hun has become a byword for barbarism, savagery and violence. His is a truly household name, but what do we really know about the man himself, his position in history and the world in which he lived? This riveting biography reveals the man behind the myth.

In the years 434-454AD the fate of Europe hung upon the actions of one man, Attila, king of the Hun
Paperback, 400 pages
Published March 1st 2006 by Bantam (first published March 1st 2005)
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Hayley Shaver Because he can't make up anything, as he is a historian. There just isn't a lot of information, so no one is going to sketch out a blow by blow battle…moreBecause he can't make up anything, as he is a historian. There just isn't a lot of information, so no one is going to sketch out a blow by blow battle.(less)

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Brett C
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ancient-history

The city's Bishop came to confront the advancing Huns and said 'I am Lupus, a man of God.' At this, Attila came up with a smart one-liner, in impeccable Latin:
Ego sum Attilla, flagellum Dei — 'I am Attila, the Scourge of God.', pg. 220

I thought this was well-researched and put together well. The author did a good job at telling the back story and explaining the archaeological, cultural-historical, and folkloric dimensions attached to the mystique of the Huns. The author does a good job of showin
Aug 07, 2013 rated it did not like it
I get it. You got this great idea for a book about a Hun, so you pitch it..."yep going to be about 400 pages" and then you start researching.

Oh crap...there's not much on this guy. What's an author to do?

If you're John Man, you fill it with lots of random crap. Like (since it was audio) hours of discussion about this guy in modern day Hungary who taught himself how to shoot arrows from horseback, including how he picked out the land and how Man's translator thought he was hot. And how he made a
Myke Cole
Aug 05, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I prize accessibility almost as much as scholarly accuracy in historical monographs. Readers of my reviews have heard me rail time and time again against the turgidity of academic writing, which renders even monumental works useless due to their failure to win an audience.

This is not a problem for Man, whose background as a travel writer shines through. He breaks every academic rule, engaging in tangents and flights of fancy, chasing rabbits down holes and building castles in the air, injecting
Daniel Jon Kershaw
May 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
Hey there, I am a historical non-fiction about Attila the Hun. I might seem like a good read for those military historical buffs who want to get an insight into the general who brought Rome to her knees, but don’t be fooled.

I will spend 400 pages talking about pretty much everything else except the person who is titled on this book. Why do I do this? Because there is not a lot of information on him. Oh, don’t worry, I am are going to talk a lot about the lack of information. I will even dedicat
John Man, you always entertain us yet this time you fail us.

Both contemporary chroniclers and the archeological record are too meagre to fill a book on Atilla, so what do we get ? Fifty years of late Roman history, that's a good context for Flavius Aetius. A vivid reconstruction of what it's like to be on the receiving end of a Hun archery volley, that's promising for his showdown at the Catalaunian Plains.

Man fails to deliver on the military history.

Also, some of the filler is of questionable
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok
This work was disappointing. I would have liked a lot more information on Attila, the man and person.
Most of the writing was more of a war history during the time and not a true biography on Attila the man.
The first 40% of the book is a three-chapter historical introduction that doesn't even deal with Attila at all. I understand the need for a brief history lesson to put things in perspective and to let the reader know how things and people came into place. But 120 pages of just a 300 page book
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
For a decade or so, this book has glared down at me from its shelf. I imagined it would be deep and factual, in an intimidating way, mired in received wisdom; something I "really ought to" read. How wrong I was!
The author deconstructs the established truths about Attila, and Hun history, and builds it back up again, in front of our eyes! There are so many empty spaces and non-sequiturs in the standard text, that it takes a real expert, one with imagination and flair, to put this story together.
Jan 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful historical biography of one of the most misconstrued legends of ancient Europe. John Man takes us through the various times, sketching the birth, youth and the demise of the Huns and their most notable and notorious leader, Attila. This story grips you as strongly as a fantastical folklore, which is partly due to the author's prowess and partly to the intriguing subject of this book. Another remarkable biography enjoyed to its very last page. ...more
May 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
I am sorry but this book have not earned the paper which it has been printed. Since I am Hungarian (you know : HÚNgarian!!!) I think it is a pure and insidious reviling about me and my people.
Beside my feelings this "John MAN" has not the slightest idea of the history of Húns.
firts of all: He was called A-T-I-L-L-A , not A-T-T-I-L-A.
What he and you all in Western Europe know about the Húns and Atilla is 'filtered through Jordanes' works. (He was a Vizygot writer whose people were real murderers,
Luke DL Monahan
An absolutely awful book. John Man manages to strains even the loosest definition as he asserts himself into the role. Whereas most historians utilize things such as; evidence, sources, and logic, John Man instead uses conjecture, speculation, and Fiction. I was left unsure if Man is either deceitful or oblivious. He seems to completely misunderstand a host of sources the most egregious to me being the bizarre view he took away from the poem Waltharius. this in conjunction with his penchant for ...more
Faith Justice
Jan 31, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research
This book gave me fits. I bought it because Attila is a minor character in a couple of my books set in 5C Imperial Rome and I wanted more information on his background--just for my personal education. The author has a degree in history and has written several other "narrative histories" which I take as writing for a general audience (very few footnotes and more conversational style). In that he succeeded.

However he made lots of minor mistakes in his Roman history. Easily checked things such as
I feel that in this book Attila is just a unifying topic, and the book itself is about the author's / narrator's quest to learn about Attila, during which he explores different topics (such as literature barely or not at all connected to Huns), travels different places, meets different people etc. I would imagine this book as a voice-over of some National Geographic series, accompanied by visuals and interviews. But as a written narrative about Attila it leaves something to be desired.

There's pr
Sophia Cha
Jul 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
this book was quite an engaging in the sense that it shows the fact that attila was not just a barbarian like history makes him look like. Instead like a man that a person can look up to and see as a hero instead of a evil heartless man for his crafty and clever nature . John Man portrays Attila as a very admirable and tricky man that was very smart and was a hero not a villain. this was a very interesting book that put a person who is usually known as a villain as a hero that he was not usually ...more
Elliott Bignell
Aug 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I read this for a second time as part of an effort to thin my bookshelves, intending to pass it on to local asylum-seekers via a charity, but I can't do it. I just have to keep this and read it again. I've also hooked up with one of the practitioners of Hunnish archery on Facebook in the hope of one day seeing her perform. (I'm a bit long in the tooth to actually attend classes.) Yes, she's a she, Pettra Engeländer - a clear echo of the Hunnish women warriors who may have been part of an Asiatic ...more
Jul 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, europe
With little information available, Man gives as informative a book as might be expected. Maybe 1/3 of it is about Attila, including what is known of his family, his headquarters, his entertainments and of course his battles.

While the history of Huns and the rise and fall of Attila are the themes of the book, the author presents this period of the Roman Empire in a very readable way. Last year I had read the Peter Heather book on Rome and the barbarians, and for description of Rome in this period
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this one, the time period & historical events are fascinating and Man's writing is enjoyable, suspenseful while closely sticks to the facts. In the rare case where he does stray into speculation, he always clearly states so.

The chapters dealing strictly with Attila fill about a third of the book, while the rest deals with major events in the Balkans, some insights about mounted archery and personal anecdotes about various expeditions the author participated in. I understand why
Patrick Ross
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
After reading this book, I want to read more works by John Man. His conversational style and depth of research are top-notch. And he's chosen as the subject of this book a fascinating character from history that I wanted to know more about. Unfortunately, as Man admits, there isn't much of a historical record to work from on this subject; most of what was written down was by his enemies, and much of it was flat-out wrong.

Man does the best one can to craft a book regardless, and you'll learn a l
Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe the book's title is deceiving since not much is really known about Attila the Hun (not even his birth name). Huns aren't known as chroniclers of their own stories (much is learned from a Roman soldier and historian called Ammianus and a Goth named Jordanes). "Attila" by John Man is about everything else around the subject its title suggests. I found it to be quite interesting, kind of chatty and at times personally funny (at the moment I'm remembering that the author liked a Disney movie w ...more
May 19, 2018 rated it liked it
Attila the Hun is well known as a brutish barbarian but the details of his acheivements were little known until the telling of this story.

John Man has researched this subject extensively, which was a difficult task seeing as few people kept reliable records of this saga. The author disected historical records against probable biases to speculate what would likely have occurred.

The book is easy to read and doesn’t take alot of concentration.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes histor
David Warner
Jun 01, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an entertaining popular narrative, as much history as biography, which seeks to place Attila and the Huns in the context of the declining Roman empire of the west and the emerging Gernanic kingdoms of the barbarian tribes in fifth century Europe. The approach is very much personal, with John Man, as in his other books, detailing his own travels and meetings with experts, including a fascinating chapter on an Hungarian who has revived the arts of Hunnish horsemanship, so as to bring to li ...more
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People unfamiliar with Attila the Hun
I have always been fascinated by history; particularly those who have their names stand the test of time. When we're talking about people in that category - almost no leaders, despot or otherwise get mentioned in such horror as Attila the Hun; "The Scourge of God". I found this book to be really intriguing and found myself filled with excitement after reading some of the earlier chapters. Quickly rattling off random quotes or facts to friends and family - my love of The Huns had been rekindled a ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it did not like it
I gave myself a week to finish this and I thought I would...
Man starts out by explaining there is little known about the Huns that wasn't used for propaganda by the church or the Romans, a lot of it is exaggerated and xenophobic so everything has to be taken with a grain of salt. Fine. But then it takes him almost 6 chapters to actually talk about Attila!
I didn't mind the background information at first, like the theories as to where the Huns originally came from but this "background" stuff
It was interesting, despite not having a lot of specific information on Attila himself. As mentioned in other reviews, that's mainly because there isn't a lot of information. It's not like he was the most approachable guy on the frontier. Still, there a few things I don't quite understand. The Huns pushed a whole lot of peoples westward--who pushed the Huns? They, or it, must have been formidable indeed. Man theorizes a combination of leadership and the inability to find new pasturage, hence the ...more
Paul Colver
Jul 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I was surprised with the average rating of 3.49 as I rated the book a 5. A sense of humor, scholarly, well written, debunking the myths, tying Attila into the Roman Empire's troubles.
The description of the military tactics were precise and interesting.
Attilas character comes through. Like all the greats he has an Achilles heel. An no more monstrous than a 100o other leaders and no more so than Rome.
How they are locked into a rape and pillage system - as is always the case - and can't see anyth
Peter Welch
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mary Keen
Jul 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio-overdrive
Interested in Attila and have read other biographies about him and his "tribe", but so much isn't known as it's lost in the "mists of time."

I read that this book was criticized bc so little content was directly related to him. I actually liked it for that reason as learned a lot about medieval Europe. Gotta say i didn't take it all in as so much info, but reread parts for more understanding --just don't give me a test on the contents please!

Probably too much was guesswork and supposition, but o
Hayley Shaver
This is a good book that takes you as close to what and who the real Attila was as possible. He came from at or around Mongolia, sweeping over Hungary and finally conquering into Italy over years. He had a real urge to conquer Rome, which he came close to doing. The book explains why he wanted to, what he did to try to realize his dream, and how he died. It paints Attila as bold, but not always confident. He also is supposed to have been polite to his allies but brutal to his enemies, whoever th ...more
As with most history which is before things were written down, you have to take it with a pinch of salt as no one can confirm or deny the things which had happened or didn't happen within those moments and with those people. You can only listen to hearsay and rumours and theories and make your own mind up.
So while it was interesting in its own way, I also found that the information about Attila himself, seemed to be lacked in some way. I felt like I learnt more about the people who was around t
Aug 24, 2019 rated it liked it
There's not so much known about Atilla, but the author succeeds to create a book-length text by going on various side-trips into somewhat related areas. Overall interesting, and I liked the tale of the modern-day Hungarian mounted archer Kassai Lajos -- amazing speed & accuracy (see youtube).

But, did John Man suggest that the Battle of Cannae (216 BCE) was 150 years before the battle of Adrianople (378 CE)?! Did perhaps forget about the BCE part? That's a very weird mistake to make.

Jason Mashak
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great, engaging way to learn history. John Man writes like a true storyteller, indicating clearly the knowns, unknowns, and his own theories and what they're based on. He mentions where previous historians got things wrong, but he doesn't judge them harshly for it, as he carefully weighs the cultural pressures and knowledge that they were working with at the time. Highly recommended... and I look forward to his books on Genghis and Kublai also. ...more
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John Anthony Garnet Man is a British historian and travel writer. His special interests are China, Mongolia and the history of written communication. He takes particular pleasure in combining historical narrative with personal experience.

He studied German and French at Keble College, Oxford, before doing two postgraduate courses, a diploma in the History and Philosophy of Science at Oxford and Mon

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