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  • Print publication year: 2007
  • Online publication date: August 2009



To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what has been planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.

Ecclesiastes, III. 1–4

THE EURASIAN STEPPE is a plain that lies north of the deserts and mountains of Central Asia, curving from Manchuria to the Black Sea. It was home to successive waves of nomadic predators, among them the Huns. They migrated across Asia to reach Eastern Europe in the late fourth century and settled down just beyond the borders of the Roman Empire. Under Attila they so terrorized the Visigoths (western Goths) that they were driven to seek refuge within Roman frontiers. Not especially grateful, the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 and then occupied the western portion of its Empire, the Iberian Peninsula.

Meanwhile, Attila continued to conduct bloody campaigns in the Balkans until he was finally defeated by an army of Romans and Goth allies. Undiscouraged, he attacked Italy (but spared Rome at the behest of Pope Leo I). However Attila's death in 453 (the story has it that he drank too much honey wine – supposed to enhance fertility – following his wedding to Ildico) signaled the disintegration of the Hun empire, which in turn opened the door to another group of invaders, the Ostrogoths (eastern Goths), who added Italy to their kingdom in 489.

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A Movable Feast
  • Online ISBN: 9780511512148
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