{1-179.} 2. THE HUNS

Once they had earned their remarkable victory on the Dniester in the late summer of 376, the Huns chose not to pursue the shattered Visigothic forces as the latter fled towards the Lower Danube. They allowed both Athanaric's Goths and most of the followers of Alavivus and Fritigern to seek refuge across the Danube. To the Huns, the Visigoths' land must have seemed densely populated compared to the endless steppes that they had conquered in Eastern Europe. They waited until the Lower Danubian Plain, washed by broad rivers, had been evacuated by its inhabitants before they moved in. It was ideally suited to their nomadic, cattle-herding life and to serve as a base of military operations.

The first sizeable Hun army crossed the Lower Danube in 395 to launch raids into Moesia. Traces of their dwellings include copper cauldrons and rich graves of women wearing jewelled diadems. At Dulceanca, just beyond the Limes Transalutanus, the fragment of a diadem has been unearthed, along with the remains of a Mongoloid male whose skull had been purposely elongated, a feature that horrified Europeans; the isolated grave had been dug near the ruins of an abandoned Gothic settlement of the Marosszentanna type.

Apart from the diadems, the unmistakable signs of the first Hun invasion of Wallachia and Oltenia (which had been evacuated by the Taifals) are the copper cauldrons that have been found at Boşneagu. Hotărăni, Ioneşti, Desa, Celei, Hinova, and near Bucharest(?). When Uldin's Huns established their military headquarters in the former Dacia Inferior, there, as in other conquered Danubian regions, they chose former Roman towns located at major crossroads.

{1-180.} At first, Uldin tried to placate the Eastern Roman empire by scaring away or exterminating warring bands of Goths (thus the slaughter of Gaina and his followers in December 400), and he adopted a conciliatory attitude with regards to Western Roman rulers as well. Responding to Stilicho's appeal, he 'helped' to rout Radagaisus' disorderly forces at Fiesole in 406; in 408–409, he held in check the forces of Alaric I, who had set up quarters in Illyricum. Having already suffered a crushing defeat at hands of the Huns, the Visigoths had no choice but to lie low. Thus Wallachia and Oltenia acquired importance in international politics as the bases from which Hun armies would range as far as Italy, Pannonia, and Moesia.

The Germanic tribes living in the northern reaches of the Carpathian Basin felt less threatened by Uldin's occasional forays along the Sava River than by the bold (and unrecorded) advance of another Hun group. The latter swept northward around the Carpathians and made camp on the upper reaches of the Vistula and the Oder rivers. Their archaeological traces correspond in almost every detail to those found on the Romanian Plain. It was this invasion, coming from an unexpected direction, that caused the second 'Hun panic' sometime before 406. Vandals, Alans, and Quads (the latter being henceforth known by their tribal name of Svebs) fled in great numbers. This development had a lasting significance, for the Gepids remained the sole Germanic people in the Carpathian Basin; free of rivals, they could exercise absolute dominion east of the Tisza and in Transylvania.

In 409, the Huns came into open conflict with the Eastern Roman empire. Uldin's armies, made up of Huns and Skirs, laid siege to the Moesian stronghold of Castra Martis. Relations remained hostile between the Huns and the Eastern Roman empire until the very end — that is, until the death of Attila and his son Dengizik (469). Although in 410 the Huns withdrew to their quarters north of the Lower Danube, in the new state of war they could {1-181.} not tolerate the threatening proximity of Roman outposts along the left bank of the Danube; they annihilated Sucidava and the fortress at Hinova around 410–411.

Thus, at the beginning of the 5th century, the Huns had become exclusive masters of the lowlands between the Lower Danube and the southern Carpathians. By 412 at the latest, they had secured militarily the frontiers of their new domain. Archaeological evidence of the Hun occupation is sparse but unequivocal. The negative signs are perhaps even more conclusive: there are no traces of a settled population in the first half of the 5th century.

In 422, a great Hun army under the command of King Ruga crossed the Lower Danube and made a devastating incursion into Thrace. It appears that the Huns' first foray into Transylvania occurred when they occupied the Olt valley. The discovery at Brassó of a gold 'boot buckle' with garnet, typical of those worn by leading Huns, evokes the possibility that a nomadic Hun nobleman established summer residence in the area; a gold solidus of Theodosius II, minted in Thessaloniki, also discovered near Brassó, serves as indirect evidence of a Hun presence around 430.

In or around 425 (the year King Ruga lent a hand to Aetius in Italy), the Huns transferred their main base of activity to a part of the Hungarian Plain lying between the Tisza, Maros, and Körös rivers; it was probably from this base that Uptar launched his Burgundian campaign in 430. In 435, at the time of the Margus peace talks, Bleda and Attila travelled from the Temes region to meet with the Eastern Roman negotiators; in 440, Bleda crossed the Danube at Viminacium (Kosztolác) to attack Eastern Roman towns. After Ruga's death, and between 434 and 444–45, the central ordu, situated in the middle of the region east of the Tisza, was Bleda's place of residence, and it later became the 'capital' of Attila's empire. Earlier, between 434 and 445, Attila's ordu had been situated somewhere between the Lower Danube and the southeastern Carpathians, in present-day Wallachia. There he {1-182.} received the Eastern Roman emissaries, and it was from there that he launched his campaigns in 441.

In the autumn of 449, a mission led by Maximinus and Priskos travelled for two days beyond the Danube to meet Attila and his escort. On his way back from his summer residence on the upper reaches of the Maros, the Hun leader stopped over in the Temes region for a wedding. Attila then proceeded in a north-northwesterly direction to his ordu, where he was welcomed with much ceremony; the Western Roman and Eastern Roman delegations took a parallel route to the same destination.

The Transylvanian traces, dating from 425 to 455, of the Huns and their era are surprisingly few, and all lie in the lowlands of the Maros valley. The earliest find is an oriental ornament, the pure gold cicada discovered at Sáromberke; this unusual badge of honour was crafted on the northern shore of the Black Sea in the early 400s.

The most important testimonies to Hun rule and occupation are the two separate sets of coins discovered at Szászsebes, which presumably had been the site of a Hun ordu or aul. The first find yielded fourteen gold coins of the Kushan-Sasanid king Varahram (Bahram) V (420–438). They had been brought back by Huns in the 420s from their campaign in Asia Minor, and were subsequently buried, probably after King Bleda's fall, by a follower about to suffer the same fate. On the other hand, another solidus, minted in 429–430 under Theodosius II and bearing the inscription VOT XXX MVLT XXXXX, must come from an Eastern Roman 'peace tribute'; there may well have been more of these coins in the find, for a set of the same type of coin was found at Hódmezővásárhely-Szikáncs. The Theodosius II solidus, inscribed CONCORDIA AVGG, and found near the methane gasworks at Gyulafehérvár, dates from the same period. These two Eastern Roman gold coins confirm that the Huns understood the region's advantages in terms of communication, as did their Avar and Magyar successors. The {1-183.} Huns' presence is also indicated by finds of coins of the Western Roman emperors: at Vizakna-Táborhegy, a solidus minted under Honorius (395–423), and at Marosludas, solidi of Valentinian III (425–455).

Typical Hun settlements and graves (which yielded grey jugs with smoothed decoration, vessels, and a glass) have been unearthed on the site of the chemical works and the brick factory in Marosvásárhely; they match Hun finds in other parts of the Carpathian Basin. Another Hun-type jug, with smoothed decoration, has been found at Maroskarna-Lunkatanya. More recently, a burial ground of common people, dating from the Hun period, was discovered at Újős — the first such find in the region. The site yielded engraved bronze fibulae (of the 'Perse-Léva' type) that help to date the find, as well as earrings ending in a compact polyhedral button; the deceased had been interred with their horses. Finally, a solid gold bracelet with expanded ends was discovered at Marosvásárhely; a remarkably similar ornament was retrieved from the grave of a Hun girl at Mezőberény.

Another interesting find is the laminated bronze fibula unearthed at Gyulafehérvár-Partos. It is of a Caucasian Alanic type dating from around 400, similar to some found in Pannonia, and attests to the presence in Transylvania of the Huns' earliest allies.

It is eminently likely that between the 420s and 455, Hun princes and notables established summer residences in Transylvania. Accompanied by their escorts and herds (on his encounter with Maximinus, Attila, who was coming from the east, sent the Roman emissary an ox for food), they would repair to the mountains, where part of their time was spent hunting. Transylvanian settlement stood at its nadir during this period, for there are no traces of human presence on the most hospitable land, the river valleys; the only exceptions are the valleys of the Szamos and the Maros, and the road along the Olt. Transylvania's settled area shrank considerably; from this time until the 12th century, the area in the {1-184.} Transylvanian Basin and its valleys that was suitable for settlement or was occasionally populated scarcely surpassed the area of two counties (such as Pest and Bács-Kiskun) in present-day Hungary.