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Any member of a nomadic pastoralist people who invaded southeastern Europe c. AD 370. Appearing from central Asia after the mid-4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga and Don rivers, and then overthrew the Ostrogoths living between the Don and Dniester rivers. About 376 they defeated the Visigoths living in what is now approximately Romania and reached the Danubian frontier of the Roman Empire. As warriors, they inspired almost unparalleled fear throughout Europe; they were accurate mounted archers, and their rapid, ferocious charges brought them overwhelming victories. They extended their power over many of the Germanic peoples of central Europe and allied themselves with the Romans. By 432 the leadership of the various groups of Huns had been centralized under a single king, Rua (Rugila). After his death (434), he was succeeded by his two nephews, Bleda and Attila. By a peace treaty with the Eastern Roman Empire, the Romans agreed to double the subsidies they had been paying the Huns; when they apparently failed to pay the stipulated sums, Attila launched a heavy assault on the Roman Danubian frontier (441), and other attacks spread the Huns' control into Greece and Italy. After Attila's death (453), his many sons divided up his empire and began a series of costly struggles with their subjects. The Huns were finally routed in 455 by an alliance of Gepidae, Ostrogoths, Heruli, and others in a great battle in Pannonia. The Eastern Roman government then closed the frontier to the Huns, who gradually disintegrated as a social and political unit.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on Hun, visit Britannica.com.