Most helpful critical review
on 17 January 2010
The name Attila, the Hun, has long been synonymous with barbarism, savagery and violence. This classic biography reveals the man behind the myth and how, between 434-454 AD, the fate of Europe hung upon the actions of one man, Attila, king of the Huns. The Roman Empire still stood as the rock of civilisation in the Western World dominating most of Europe from its twin capitals of Rome and Constantinople. However it was being threatened by a new force in the form of the much-feared Barbarian hordes. It was Attila who united the Barbarian tribes into a united and effective army. Attila launched two devastating attacks against both halves of the Roman Empire, which earned his reputation for mindless devastation and brutality. Attila's campaigns brought an end to Rome's pre-eminence in Europe but after his rather unusual death (read the book) the barbarian hordes reverted back to uncoordinated regional or tribal groups and relative in obscurity. A ruthless but brilliant leader, Attila was also a wily politician who used a network of titled personage to gather intelligence on his behalf. In addition, as were all of the great leaders of his day, Attila was also not averse to using torture on his enemies or on those who simply displeased him. There is a rather interesting section in the book that refers to his unpleasant and gruesome form of impaling! There is another interesting section which explains the successful role and tactics of his `Parthian' archers who did so much to win Attila's battles. If he had a fault it was that he failed to ensure a strong successor to his mantle of barbarian leadership, which ensured the collapse of his empire after his death.
This book is an enjoyable read and is concentrated with an amazing amount of factual, well researched information. If anything it provides a scholarly insight to Attila but I didn't find it a particularly gripping read. I didn't find the book grabbed my attention as much as I would have liked. It's my first John Man book but I have `Genghis Ghan' already lined up on the bookshelf.