When people hear the name Attila the Hun, thoughts and ideas immediately come to mind, both pro and con. Some think of him as a ruthless barbarian who slaughtered without thought or mercy. Others think of him as an impressive leader who was able bring an end to the greatest empire the world has ever known. Christopher Kelly, a professor of ancient history at Cambridge University and author of a couple of books on the Roman Empire, presents a complete biography in The End of Empire of Attila the Hun, while also educating readers on the downfall of Rome. After finishing it, readers will then be able to make their own assessment of the kind of man Attila truly was.
Kelly begins a little before the arrival of Attila, setting the stage with a weakening Rome and what’s going on with its infrastructure. There are the barbarian tribes on the very border of the empire, shunned and mistreated by the Romans, causing attacks and uprisings. Amidst these barbarian groups come the Huns from the distant steppes, perhaps seeking a more hospitable land. Kelly is quick to point out what is known and what is speculation. He lays out Attila’s history from birth, his rise to power and issues with his brother. Eventually he becomes ruler of the Huns, launching attacks at Rome. But Attila is a brilliant leader and strategist, forming alliances and negotiating deals and treaties where necessary to initially protect his people, but ultimately to gain the upper hand. One gets the sense that perhaps Attila was doing this not only just for the Huns, but the other barbarian groups who have been so shunned and mistreated by Rome. Kelly takes the reader through years at a time, advancing Attila’s age, and supplying important information and events, eventually leading to the great ruler’s death and the legacy he earned from his people.
The End of Empire is a fascinating history book, providing an in-depth look at the causes and events with the fall of Rome and the incredible story of the man known as Attila. His writing style is clear and easy to understand, keeping the reader interested, balanced with lots of photos and illustrations, and the short chapters keep the reader focused until the end. The End of Empire is a great biographical piece for readers looking not to get lost in the long, drawn-out debates of an old professor, but to read an incredible story about a renowned and often misunderstood person that will keep them hooked until the very end.
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Originally written on September 10th 2009 ©Alex C. Telander.