Different Motives

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The ancient Romans portrayed the invading Huns and their leader, Attila the Hun, as ransacking barbarians with an “infinite thirst for gold.”

Some of these depictions had good reason, but a new study suggested that the motives of Attila and his people were a matter of survival, instead of greed, Science Alert reported.

A research team reconstructed climate data from tree rings taken from the Czech Republic and Germany. They also studied the teeth of ancient human remains found in the Great Hungarian Plains to determine the diet of the period’s inhabitants.

Their findings showed a very complex picture: Between 420 and 450 CE, the area – including the whole Eurasian steppes – experienced a chaotic climate. The Great Hungarian Plains were marked by a number of very dry summers that resulted in droughts and forced Huns to migrate to better pastures.

The teeth analysis also showed that the Huns fed on anything they could find because of scarcity, which might have triggered a shift in societal roles.

The team notes that Huns and Romans cohabited in a mutually beneficial relationship, but collaborations went downhill in the 440s CE.

Attila the Hun, who came to power in the 430s CE, is frequently blamed for sparking the worst of the fighting. Roman historians noted that the Hun commander launched raids, as well as demanded Roman gold and territory during his reign.

These demands included a strip of land from the empire along the Danube River – which the authors suggest could have been used as a great place for herding animals.

The team acknowledges that further archaeological evidence is needed to confirm this theory, but if proven it could show that the leader was mainly looking out for his people.

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