8 Things You Might Not Know About Attila the Hun
1. His upbringing was privileged. Far from the stereotype of the unwashed, uneducated barbarian, Attila was born (probably at the beginning of the fifth century A.D.) into the most powerful family north of the Danube River. His uncles, Octar and Rugila (also Ruga or Rua), jointly ...read more
10 Things You May Not Know About the Byzantine Empire
1. It wasn’t called the Byzantine Empire until after it fell. The term “Byzantine Empire” came into common use during the 18th and 19th centuries, but it would’ve been completely alien to the Empire’s ancient inhabitants. For them, Byzantium was a continuation of the Roman ...read more
Who were the Goths and Vandals?
The Goths and the Vandals were two of the Germanic groups that clashed with the Roman Empire throughout Europe and North Africa from the third to the fifth centuries A.D. Because nearly all of the surviving information about the Goths and Vandals comes from Roman sources, history ...read more
6 Reasons the Dark Ages Weren’t So Dark
1. The idea of the “Dark Ages” came from later scholars who were heavily biased toward ancient Rome. In the years following 476 A.D., various Germanic peoples conquered the former Roman Empire in the West (including Europe and North Africa), shoving aside ancient Roman traditions ...read more
8 Famous Barbarian Leaders
1. Arminius Born into a noble family of the Germanic Cherusci tribe around 18 B.C., Arminius (known in Germany as Hermann) was plucked from his home by the Romans as a boy and served in the Roman army. In 9 A.D., his Cherusci forces ambushed and massacred three Roman legions ...read more
These Are the 7 Weapons the Barbarians Used to Take Down Rome
1. The Battle-Axe Few barbarian weapons inspired more horror than the axe. While most tribal warriors carried spears or swords into combat, Germanic soldiers were known to wield heavy battle-axes capable of smashing through shield, armor and helmet in a single blow. The Franks, ...read more
Who Was Boudica?
Boudica (also written as Boadicea) was a Celtic queen who led a revolt against Roman rule in ancient Britain in A.D. 60 or 61. As all of the existing information about her comes from Roman scholars, particularly Tacitus and Cassius Dio, little is known about her early life; it’s ...read more
Where did the word “barbarian” come from?
The word “barbarian” originated in ancient Greece, and was initially used to describe all non-Greek-speaking peoples, including Persians, Egyptians, Medes and Phoenicians. The ancient Greek word “bárbaros,” from which it derives, meant “babbler,” and was onomatopoeic: In the ...read more
7 Famous Border Walls
1. The Sumerians’ Amorite Wall The world’s earliest known civilization was also one of the first to build a defensive wall. During the 21st century B.C., the ancient Sumerian rulers Shulgi and Shu-Sin constructed a massive fortified barrier to keep out the Amorites, a group of ...read more
6 Infamous Sacks of Rome
1. The Gauls The story of the first sack of Rome is steeped in myth and legend, but it most likely began when the young city became embroiled in a conflict with a band of Gallic Celts led by the warlord Brennus. On July 18, 387 B.C., the two sides met in battle along the banks ...read more
10 Things You May Not Know About Roman Gladiators
1. They weren’t always enslaved. Not all gladiators were brought to the arena in chains. While most early combatants were enslaved peoples and people who had committed crimes, grave inscriptions show that by the 1st century A.D. the demographics had started to change. Lured by ...read more
8 Reasons Why Rome Fell
1. Invasions by Barbarian tribes The most straightforward theory for Western Rome’s collapse pins the fall on a string of military losses sustained against outside forces. Rome had tangled with Germanic tribes for centuries, but by the 300s “barbarian” groups like the Goths had ...read more