Today, Attila remains the most enduring bogeyman in history, his name a byword for barbarism, savagery, and violence. Masterful storyteller John Man brings to life this marauding figure of the battlefield. His descriptions of the Huns' grotesque techniques of impaling enemies and unruly family members will leave you with curled toes and crossed legs. Packed with many new insights, Attila is a riveting work of historical scholarship that sounds just like an adventure story.
©2005 John Man; (P)1997 Blackstone Audiobooks
"Full of military adventures and political maneuverings, Man's lively narrative provides a glimpse of a leader whose name has become synonymous with ruthlessness." (Publishers Weekly)
"Entertaining and lucid account of a phenomenal militarist unable to resist a crumbling empire's vast, unprotected wealth." (Kirkus Reviews)
This book is an interesting read with good narration. If you are a history buff you'll love it, but if you are looking for an epic tale written in a dramatic fashion you will be disappointed. It reads like a textbook, a good entertaining, and informative textbook, but definitely not an epic tale of adventure written for entertainment.
The sources are slim for Attila, his literate contemporaries feared and hated him but the author does a great job of walking you through what is known about Attila from written sources and archaeology, and separating fact from fiction. He clearly knows his subject and you will too after you listen to this audiobook.
If you're interested in archery, horsemanship or ancient warfare you'll enjoy this book because the author goes into detail explaining exactly how the Huns fought, the incredible skill and dedication required for horse archery,(the section on horse archery is amazing) and the devastating effect of their tactics.
Apparently there is not much information about Attila from primary sources so much of this book is the author's speculations complete with descriptions of the curtains, invented dialog and such. I think it would have been a better book if he had taken less time making things up and more time presenting archeological or other evidence to create a picture of Attila. The discussions of horse archery and bow making were interesting but invented narratives of what a possible assasin may have said are just a waste of time. Perhaps he really wanted to write a historical novel. I give this a thumbs down. There must be better books that you could be listening to.
I feel I got about two hours of speculative Atilla, two hours of the ancient world in general, and six hours of stories about the author's experiences meeting this or that expert source for the book. I think there was an hour about a modern man's efforts to resurrect the art of archery from horseback -- one of the sources the author got to meet.
Kenan is right about the author's disdain for Christianity. I have read and listened to a large number of historical biographies, and I have not seen this level of disrespect for religion. I found myself wondering if this tone is the mode for European historians.
Phrases like "Of course, the writer embelished things as any good Christian would be inclined to do" and "of course the Christians interpreted the comet to mean ..." abounded. To be "fair," the author was almost as scornful of ancient pagan religions, but I have no idea why he couldn't just treat all religious influences without the snorting. Other historians seem to find a way.
Patrick is also spot-on. The book makes it seem like there is almost nothing to know about Attila. I found this disappointing, because I was inspired to check this out by a friend who read a book on the Hun years ago. That volume seemed much more substantive, and I hope he can find the title for me.
Kenan's pan of this audiobook is very misleading. I enjoyed the book and could find no basis for his criticism. Not sure he listened to the same book.
This is an mildly interesting history/ exploration of Attila and the Huns, but it contains all the biases of contempory academia i.e. Christianity is evil and impaling someone is a venerable craft that takes skill. Attila is a nationalist freedom fighter and the Romans with there "roads" and "aquaducts" and "laws" are evil. Western Civilization is currupt and Attila is misunderstood.
After establishing that we should not judge the Huns for looting and killing because that was the best way for them to make a living, The author actually cites two Roman laws which he claims made life difficult for the Huns that their only economic choice was to loot (I guess the rape, killing and destruction of civilization were just a perks that came with the job- like health insurance.)
In a sane world the author would be given odd looks as he walks down the street, but in the modern world I am sure that all he got was tenure (and my $10).
If you hold these prejudices (and if you went to college you probably do) this will seem a jolly good listen.
Based on his slander I am going to something I thought I would never dare - read all of Edward Gibbons Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. [actually I going to listen to it - the unabridged version. I suggest you do too.]
Avid history and fiction/non-fiction fan.
This work is a fascinating and concise account of a man and a people, that never wrote anything down. John Man goes beyond conjecture and legend to produce some tangible points, where none exist in history. Highly recommended...
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