Hun Society

Ethnicity

The Hun Empire was a multi-ethnic confederation of steppe tribes. The original Xiong-nu (Hun) Empire was made up of Turkic, Mongolic, Iranian, Tungusic, and Yeniseian elements. The later Hunnic Empire maintained many of the former elements but also included a large Sarmatian and Germanic population. The Ostrogoths had embraced steppe nomad life even before they were brought into the Hun Empire and the Gepids assimilated so completely with the Huns that some scholars have even referred to them as the Gepid-Huns.

Due to its ethnic diversity, the Hun empire was multi-lingual. The main language of the Hun elite, however, was Oghuric Turkic.

The Banners

When reading about the Huns, one will often come across the terms “Black Huns” and “White Huns”. It is important to note that this has nothing to do with race but instead refers to their banner affiliation. Each Hunnic nation was associated with one of the four sacred colors of their shamanic beliefs: Black, White, Blue, and Red. The black and blue banners always were seen as dominant to red and white banners.

Proto-feudalism

The Hun society has been labeled “proto-feudal”. In a traditional feudal society, fiefs of land are passed down but in Hun society, people were passed down. As the Huns conquered more and more nations, members of the royal house were given those people to rule.

Dual Kingship

The governing system of steppe nomads had always been broken down into Eastern and Western (or Left and Right) “wings”. The Eastern/Left king held power over their Western/Right vassal- king. This was true of the Xiong-Nu and the Rouran and it was also true of the Migration-Era Huns.

Rank and Order

In this structured society, it was important to recognize rank and to follow protocols surrounding it. Everything had to be done according to rank including tent size and where you were allowed to set your camp. Chroniclers of the time noted how seating and eating arrangements always went in order of rank. Breaking the order could result in dire consequences. Once, the outcome of a civil war was affected when a gift had been given out of order of precedence and caused one faction to switch sides out of rebuke.

Women

Women among the Huns enjoyed a great deal of freedom and high status. Women were not secluded from public or prohibited from serving office like some of their counterparts in Europe. Women rode, hunted, and fought in battle just as the men. They held influence in the family. There are records of powerful Hun women leaders who held court and took meetings with foreign diplomats.

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