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3.3 out of 5 stars
Attila The Hun: A Barbarian King and the Fall of Rome
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on 12 September 2013
i now know a lot more about ATTILA i.e i never knew he was hungarian But like most of history,a lot of educational guess work has gone into this book.But still a good read.....
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 16 April 2011
I have to admit that I was somewhat disappointed in this. This is a quick easy and read. In some cases, the largely informal style of writing used by Man can be engaging, but it did not work for me in this book. Maybe I was being too demanding, expecting a scholarly, in-depth look at Attila. Unfortunately, this is not what I got.

For a book about Attila, he appears very little in this book. To be fair, given the paucity of sources on Attila, this is not all Man's fault. Other reviewers have noted Man's often digressions into travelogue-mode, be it in Mongolia, Hungary or France, as well as many largely irrelevant (or tenuously indirectly related at best) passages on bit-part characters in the Attila story. I have to agree with a previous reviewer in that the whole chapter (written somewhat in a silly, great revelatory manner) on Lajos Kassai, a practitioner of mounted archery, is unnecessary. The controversial Xiongnu-Hun link is also given too much space, although I think it is possible, it is unlikely that they are one and the same.

However, it is not all bad, hence the two stars. Part II is by far the best section of the book, in particular chapter 6, where Man does a good job in recreating Priscus' embassy to Attila's court. Using Priscus' account of the trip and his own intuition (using imaginary speech of the leading characters), Man does well to bring Attila's court to life, and brings to life the tension involved in the Roman plot to assassinate Attila.

In summary I wouldn't recommend this book if you wish to learn about Attila the man, but it may be useful as a basic overview of the Huns (if you skip Part I).
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14 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on 31 March 2006
I was so looking forward to this book but I am sorry to say that I ended up being ultimately disappointed. I found that even after reading it I know very litlle about the Atilla or the Huns. Maybe because of the scant historical sources parts of the book are padded out with travelogue details of the authors trips to either Hungary or Mongolia. It is also written in a conversational tone which doesn't add any seriouness to the subject matter. There are some interesting asides, eg did you know that the name Humphrey stems from associations dating back to the Huns? Neither did I, but that's not the point I wanted more detail about the Huns themselves not just trivia. The first few chapters include interesting speculation on the roots of the Huns book but afterwards very little on the central character himself. Maybe I can blame my mate who shared a hotel room with the author in Mongolia a few years back and kept disturbing his sleep when he would stumle back drunk and wake Mr. Mann up. So I will not be reading his Genghis Khan book.
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9 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on 12 September 2009
This is an awful book. First of all, it's not even a biography of Attila the Hun, and for that alone one ought to ask for one's money back. Man seems mostly concerned to disprove the Roman prejudice against the Huns, but even here, every time the text threatens to get interesting, he spoils it by asking some silly rhetorical question ('I don't think so, do you?') as if this somehow makes 'history' more palatable, by telling some unamusing and largely irrelevant story about his own travels, or, for instance, by spending a whole tedious chapter talking about some nutty Hungarian who imagines he has rediscovered the art of horseback archery without an iota of supporting evidence.
The worst aspect of the book, though, is its ideological flaw. Man tells us that we should respect the Huns because they were a distinct culture with their own traditions. He then goes on to show how they were a simple clan of nomads from the steppes who decided to make a living from murder and pillage. Now, respecting people or societies that deliberately decide to cast all morals aside may sound fine to afficionados of THE SOPRANOS, but personally I never got past the first season. The idea that people who have dedicated their lives to murder and theft are 'just like anybody else' is Oxbridge 'church of reason' Liberal orthodoxy at its most destructive worst. If we are to respect the Huns for being murdering savages, why not also respect the nazis? After all, they were a specific culture with their own traditions. And if they murdered 6 million Jews, so what? I mean, after all, it was just their culture, and who are we do judge that? As one of the few people of my generation who has lived with a traditional nomad tribe, I can state confidently that Man's claim that nomads covet the material wealth of settled people is wrong. If the Huns were an exception, and DID decide one day to live by killing others and stealing their goods, then all Man has demonstrated, to me, is that the Romans were right.
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on 10 February 2015
Very good read.
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 18 March 2009
I was looking for encompassing information about Attila and the Huns, instead I was left with the feeling of void on the base subject.
The book discusses widely in lenghty descriptions about marginal topics. Since this is also useful information I gave a 2 star rating but the information this book reveals about Attila and the Huns could also be accessed using a wider Wikipedia search.
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4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2008
Want to know about Attila the Hun, well after reading this book so do I. Early on John Man admits that there aren't that many contemporary sources about Attila and proves this by padding out the first half and running out of steam completely in the second.

What little of interest there is here could really be summarised in an essay rather than a book. This is lightweight stuff and while it tells the story roughly and also does a relatively good job of countering some of the myths about Attila this is ultimately a waste of your time and money, go on Wikipedia and you'll probably get the same info better summarised and for free.

If you liked this there's more historical debate and fun at @HistoryGems on Facebook and Twitter
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 29 July 2008
I bought this title expecting a serious history of the Huns and their most famous leader, Attila. Now more than halfway through the book I am compelled to write an early review as I'm not entirely sure I will finish it for the simple reason that I have gained very little information from what I have read so far. I appreciate that sources are lacking for this subject, but surely that should simply result in a shorter book concerned with facts, and not a narrative account of the author's encounters with Mongolian professors or Hungarian archers? Most historian's manage to write eminently readable and often exciting accounts of their subjects without waffling on about their trip to the British Library and their impressions of the librarian they met there, so why does John Man think this improves his history of Attila? Also, he very often makes up for the lack of real information with simple unsubstantiated speculation. And finally, to top it all, he sometimes gets his facts wrong, such as when he refers to the Bosphorus and calls it the Hellespont - an entirely different strait at the opposite end of the Sea of Marmara - which kinda undermines my faith in him as an authority.

The book's light tone may perhaps make it accessible to a wider audience, which can only be a good thing, but I am no academic and yet found this an unrewarding, simplistic and uniformative read.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
I had bought John Man's Ghengis Khan and have recently read his Attila the Hun. I know there is little or no written record of either of these men but I had expected some research to add to what I already knew. However, like some of the other readers, I found the books padded out with the author's personal intrepid adventures along the assumed paths of these leaders.
I sometimes wondered if I was reading excerpts from Planet Earth or a very thin history. I wonder if his next book is about the life story of the warrior Goliath!!
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2 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 10 October 2007
..though not, perhaps sinister. I'm referring to a line where a Roman dignitary is described as "flawed, sinister and reckless". Sinister and reckless? Odd choice of words, though evidently thought highly of by the author who uses the same phrase a few lines later to describe said dignitary's troops.
Sorry, I'm being petty, I know....but it made me chuckle, albeit in a flawed, sinister and reckless way!
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