Posts by tag: barbarians

Redoubtable Huns

The people of the Huns . . . exceed every degree of savagery. Since the cheeks of the children are deeply furrowed with steel from their very birth, in order that the growth of hair, when it appears at the proper time, may be checked by the wrinkled scars, they grow old without beards and without any beauty, like eunuchs. They all have compact, strong limbs and thick necks, and are so monstrously ugly and misshapen, that one might take them for two-legged beasts or for the stumps, rough-hewn into images, that are used in putting sides to bridges . . . they have no need of fire nor of savoury food, but eat the roots of wild plants and the half-raw flesh of any kind of animal whatever, which they put between their thighs and the backs of their horses, and thus warm it a little. They are never protected by any buildings, but they avoid these like the tombs, which are set apart from everyday use. . . . They dress in linen cloth or in the skins of field-mice sewn together, and they wear the same clothing indoors and out. But when they have once put their necks into a faded tunic, it is not taken off or changed until by long wear and tear it has been reduced to rags and fallen from them bit by bit. . . . They are almost glued to their horses. . . . From their horses by night or day every one of that nation . . . eats and drinks, and bowed over the narrow neck of the animal relaxes into a sleep so deep as to be accompanied by many dreams.

– Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 325 – 391 A.D.), quoted by Jacques Le Goff in Medieval Civilization, trans. Julia Barrow (Blackwell, 1988).