The Huns were a nomadic* people, probably originating in Mongolia, who moved westward into southeastern Europe during the late A.D. 300s. They were skilled horsemen who knew little about agriculture. Their advance into Europe forced fleeing barbarian* tribes into the Roman Empire, beginning an age of migrations.
The swiftly moving Huns destroyed the kingdom of the Ostrogoths in the Ukraine in A.D. 370. In A.D. 376, they overran the Visigoths, a barbarian people who lived in present-day Romania, forcing large numbers of refugees across the Danube River into Roman-controlled lands. The
* nomadic referring to people who wander from place to place to find food and pasture
* barbarian referring to people from outside the cultures of Greece and Rome, who were viewed as uncivilized
Romans permitted the Visigoths to settle in a part of the empire, allowing them to retain their own government. This marked the first time barbarians were permitted to settle within the Roman Empire and not be subject to Roman laws.
During the early A.D. 400s, the Huns moved into central Europe, pushing the Vandals and other barbarian tribes into Italy and the Roman province* of Gaul. The Huns formed their own empire, which was located primarily north of the Danube River. The empire of the Huns reached its peak under the leadership of Attila, who ruled from A.D. 434 to A.D. 453. During his reign, the Huns controlled land that stretched from the Ukraine to the Rhine River in Germany, and they raided as far west as Paris.
The Huns attacked the Eastern Roman Empire numerous times. After A.D. 447, however, peace negotiations took place between the Huns and the Romans. In A.D. 451, Pope Leo I successfully diverted the Huns from entering Italy. Two years later, Attila died suddenly. The empire of the Huns was divided between his two sons, but they were soon overthrown by their German subjects. After A.D. 455, the Huns ceased to be a great power. (See also Germans; Migrations, Late Roman; Wars and Warfare, Roman.)
* province overseas area controlled by Rome