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"They made their foes flee in horror because their swarthy aspect was fearful, and they had, if I may call it so, a sort of shapeless lump, not a head, with pinholes rather than eyes. Their hardihood is evidence in their wild appearance, and they are beings who are cruel to their children on the very day they are born... Though they live in the form of men, they have the cruelty of wild beasts." -Jordanes (trans. Mierow), The Origin and Deeds of the Goths
Ever since the first Age of Empires II Attila the Hun campaign was released, I have maintained a cursory interest in the life and times of one of Rome's most notable enemies. So naturally you can imagine that upon seeing that HaT Industrie release of their mounted Huns set in 2014, I was immediately interested and bought two boxes. The figures are quite large for 1/72 and have 15 figures with only 12 horsemen, but I like their soft plastic and size differentials are not a deal breaker for myself as much as it is for others. Led by their leader named Tarkan, they ride around my establishment largely unimpeded at this point, occasionally collaborating with Linear-A's Silk Road caravan set and taking some horses from MiniArt's Germanic Warriors. They also inspired me to do further research into the Huns, or at least what we think Attila's Huns were at this time.
Attila remains one of the most mysterious characters of antiquity. Our 100% concrete sources on his life consist of a few scraps penned by a few Roman writers and one Romanized Goth, the aforementioned Jordanes. They were not big fans to put it mildly, and have largely shaped the rather pillage/murder centric narrative that surrounds Attila's life to this day. However during the course of their stories they point out some very peculiar things about his life. One was that he regularly employed ex-Roman Imperial experts, attracted trained Roman infantry to his ranks (a feat not altogether uncommon in his time), and seems to have been intimately connected with the Imperial structure in general.
Now rampaging barbarian leaders being connected to Rome was nothing new as of the early 400s AD, but Attila's political sphere of influence seems to have extended far beyond that of his peers. In fact, the whole alleged inspiration behind his invasion of the Western Roman Empire was to claim the hand of Honoria, a Roman princess who held much of the empire as her dowry. His chosen allies were all known Foderati who had served the empire before Attila's life (including the Huns themselves), and his power seems to have been so great that the line between what was and what was not Roman became very blurred. In short, he was a Roman patrician's worst nightmare, somebody that was corroding the glory of Roman culture and trying to make it something else. This gives is a pretty good motive for why many Roman writers had such vile hatred for him.
So coming back to the HaT set, where do we stand? HaT and their PC game contemporaries (namely the Total War series) represent the Huns as very, very Asiatic. While Jordanes does indeed describe them as such, given the above information it is a virtual guarantee that Attila's forces wore high amounts of Roman style clothing and armour especially toward the end of his life. These guys are clearly not dressed in such a manner, with all five poses wearing fur trimmed felt (or felt like) coats and three of them with fur trimmed hats. The lone armoured man employs a full suit of lamellar armour, something that would become more associated with the Byzantines than the 5th Century Western Romans. So the first thing we can say about these Huns is they are not very good for Attila's armies. In fact, HaT's excellent set of Roman Light cavalry is likely superior in almost every respect if you are looking for some of Attila's fearsome horsemen.
So, who exactly are they good at representing? The round fur trimmed hat is clearly pulled from Barker 1981's WRG book, as is the idea that most of them wore their hair long (this was uncommon among most of the late antiquity/medieval nomads, who usually cut it in one way or another). But where the heck do the coats and two of the hats come from? They look almost Mongolian in appearance, but are not quite right for the greatest of Khan's armies either (albeit they are certainly close enough to get away with, especially considering the lack of proper Mongolian light cavalry in the scale). In fact the only place I can find that specific head covering and coat being worn at the same time is Osprey's Elite #30 Attila and the Nomad Hordes (Nicolle & McBride 1990), which offers the Asiatic interpretation of Attila himself on the front cover (Plate B1). Luckily Nicolle and McBride sourced their information for the plate in this instance, and it turns out the clothing is from a 1st Century BC/AD burial at Noin Ula, northern Mongolia, which contained several notable Xiongnu leaders.
So I would say that HaT has done quite an interesting set here that is worth a buy, but titling them as Huns of any type (even Hephthalite, or 'White,' Huns) is a little misleading. They are actually most appropriate as 1st Century BC/AD Xiongnu cavalry, who could provide a suitable opponent for something like Caesar's Han Dynasty troopers. In fact given their lack of cavalry those Han think that maybe teaming up with the riders makes more sense, so they can push into the Tarim Basin and expand as far west as possible! :grin: :sunglasses:
That's quite an analysis and a candidate for one of the longer postings/essays of the year, esteemed Babylonian 109!
I have boxes of said Huns and have not applied anything like the scrutiny that you have, although I admit that it would have been good if HaT had included some spare 'Mongol' heads to allow these to be converted easily to become Mongol light horse archers.
Have you posted this on the HaT Forum site I wonder? Would be interesting to know what the view is there, and indeed whether this stays up or is taken down. I have given up posting on that Forum for now as even mild/constructive criticism seems to be removed.
To give a creditable mention to Strelets here: I also have a couple of sets of their Dismounted Mongols (set M028) and quite like them.
Thank you. :sunglasses: I just started writing and did not feel the inspiration to stop. :sweat_smile:
I have never posted on HaT's own blog, but do know about it and like quite a few of the sets they produce of course. Was able to recently pick up their El Cid command sets, which are nice. I like them as command figures for the Strelets Military Order (STRM012) and Normans (STRM001), which are two of my favorite sets of all time.
As Minuteman wrote, the HaT forum now does not brook the slightest negative comment. Indeed, there aren't many "comments", positive or negative, posted there any more.
It was, in the past, quite a decent & lively place with many informative & useful comments (much like your Hun OP).
There appears to be several knowledgeable chaps here & I am comfortable with asking some, perhaps, esoteric questions and gaining factually accurate answers.
The bottom line is; AFAIC, please keep posting such posts sa your OP.
Thanks! I do remember the HaT forum about 10-15 years ago, just never posted on it myself. My second 1/72 scale set was some Hat Nappys, so I generally have fond memories of them past and present.
Have a Happy New Year! :sunglasses:
My first set was after returning to modelling was HaT Rocket set. They have produced such sets like the Gatling gun but their current sets leave me totally disinterested.
I have written HaT off a long time ago (along with Caesar miniatures and their third reich fixation) as both no longer produce figures that interest me. Over the years they have produced many interesting and unusual subjects especially for the Great War era. Unfortunately, very few of the latter sets have materialise and I suspect they are now in room 101.
They have BEF and US infantry sets that probably would sell very well but they appear to be rigid in order of production. Seems rather a backward approach to selling products and seem to have lost their way.
Happy New year
I got the Hat Huns to stand in for the Tatars in my Ottoman army
Not perfect match but close enough for a wargamer
Hat have somewhat lost their way which is a pity given their services to the hobby.
Good Post and the fall of the Western Empire an interesting era
The best eye witness source is Priscus.... he met Attila... their Romanisation is somewhat born out by grave goods :wink: