Men are born ignorant, not stupid. They are made stupid by education. -Bertrand Russell
Question #88738 posted on 01/10/2017 10:51 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I noticed there were an appalling lack of questions about barbarians. Here's 10 for now.

1. Who would win: Gheghis vs. Attila 3 Scenarios
I. One on One combat
II. Both with the exact same army size and tech as they had in real life, and no terrain advantages
III. Both are given equal sized armies with modern weapons.

2. If Attila's army somehow was transported to 1200's Asia at the height of the Khan's rule, and Ghenghis and Attila formed an alliance could they take Europe?

3. I know Attila died of a nose-bleed. Ghenghis' cause of death is disputed I know, but is there any one leading theory?

4. Which of the two were more brutal?

5. Did the Vikings have an impact on the Americas? Or was their influence limited? (Also why didn't livestock brought by Vikings get taken by Natives)

6. If the Natives had taken Viking livestock (Horses, cows, pigs lets say) would they be in a better position to fend off later European incursions?

7. The Magyars had campaigns across Europe just as far reaching as the Vikings. Why is their wikipedia page so small? :)

8. Best fictional barbarian in your opinions

9. Best barbarian general in real life (I know barbarian is subjective)

10. Did Boudica have a chance?

-KingFrost

A:

Dear friend,

First of all, I love you. Second, I'm no barbarian connoisseur by any means (so take this very much at face value), but hopefully these answers satisfy some of your questions:

1) Who would win: Genghis vs. Atilla?

a) One-on-one combat: Well, let's see. In this... I mean, this corner, you've got Mr. "Responsible for the Death of 40 Million People," who was born with his fist clenched in blood and had no qualms about massacring villages who didn't submit to his rule. And in this corner, you've got Atilla the Hun, a man so hungry for riches that he killed his own brother to gain absolute power, and literally called himself "the Scourge of God."

So we've got a man known for fits of unbridled rage (hello, Atilla) versus a man whose fights end in absolute submission or death. It sounds like you could make arguments for either side. If Atilla wins, it would be out of sheer strength and emotional charge. If Khan wins, it's a more calculated victory.

b) Same army and tech as real life, no terrain advantages: Let's look at their styles of warfare. Khan was all about strategy. He'd spy on a territory, spot weaknesses in their army/enforcement, and exploit those when invading. He fought to conquer, and he never took "no" for an answer: it was surrender or mercilessly killing the entire city. He used a mixture of bows/arrows and swords, and his army mainly rode on horseback.

Atilla's soldiers also rode on horseback--this gave him the advantage against the horseback-less Romans, but here it just puts him on equal footing with Khan. Atilla did not plan. He used brutality and swiftness to achieve his goals and once he got what he was looking for (riches), he left them desolate but usually somewhat alive.

If we're looking for a winner, I think it depends on the circumstances and motives. If Atilla struck out of nowhere and was looking to raid Khan's army (...somehow) and go, he might have a fighting chance. If Khan, however, wanted Atilla's power, he would probably investigate their army's weaknesses and attack and just the right time. In that case, I don't know if poor Atilla has much hope. 

c) Equal-sized armies with modern technology: With modern technology, all bets are off, but I have a feeling it'd be pretty gruesome and probably extinguish a lot of life as we know it on planet earth. I am also pretty sure that Genghis would be rocking to this in his headphones as he gets his Khan on. That's all we can really say for certain.

2) If Atilla's army was somehow transported to 1200's Asia at the height of Khan's rule, and Genghis and Atilla formed an alliance, could they take Europe? Hmm, okay. So 1200's in Europe... what military powers did they have during that time? At this point, much of Europe looks like it was a bunch of fractured fiefdoms without substantial power. Sure, you've got the Crusades going on, but I feel like that might just leave Europe with less people here to defend themselves. If you've got Khan's planning strategies/take no survivors mentality mixed with Atilla's swift, devastating attacks, I think they might be able to pull that off. Juuust maybe.

I mean, the Roman Empire did it and Atilla gave them a run for their money. Why not Genghis and Atilla?

3) Genghis' cause of death is disputed, I know, but is there any one leading theory? It sounds like you're very right. Nobody's quite sure how Khan died. Rumors range from sustained injuries after falling from a horse to malaria. We also know that he was about 65 years old. Interestingly, though, we also don't know where he was buried. According to legend surrounding his burial, swordsmen killed anyone who came into contact with his funeral procession and then rode horses over his grade to conceal the spot. That is another reason why we can't determine his cause of death for certain, though: even if we wanted to, we can't do an autopsy. 

In life and in death, Khan remains an enigma. A very murderous enigma. 

4) Which of the two were more brutal? Both of them were not nice people, but I'm going with Khan. Atilla's armies seem like they were more likely to be reasoned with (at least in terms of bribery) and less bloodthirsty. With Khan, if his armies attacked your village, you have two choices: become a slave or say your last prayers. Atilla didn't destroy cities just because he could. Khan was known for it. The Huns were very cruel, but Khan took brutality to a whole new level.

5) Did the Vikings have an impact on America? Vikings were advanced shipbuilders and ocean navigators, and Norse explorers such as Lief Erickson (hinga dinga durgen) may have colonized parts of the Americas as early as the the 800-1000s.

Unfortunately, there is very little we know about Viking exploration of the Americas. We don't even know if their voyage stories are true records or more like sagas. If they left outposts influenced any part of culture in the Americas, we don't necessarily know because there is so little documentation. The same goes for why those living in America didn't pick up their livestock. We can't really say. Maybe the Viking outposts died of starvation and their animals were long-gone. Maybe Native people preferred their own way of life and didn't feel a need to include livestock. 

6) If the natives had taken Viking livestock, would they be in a better position to fend off later European incursions? Possibly. From what I'm reading, disease was possibly the greatest devastation for American native people once the Europeans came. Around 95% of them were killed by European diseases (which is horrific), and those left may have been weakened by the foreign diseases.

The livestock might have helped. Agriculture encourages higher, more dense populations. More people in a concentrated area means that germs spread more quickly, leave antibodies, and allow populations to fight them off more effectively later on. Europeans didn't experience the same problems when living in the Americas because they had already been exposed to so many pathogens via their livestock and domesticated animals.

7) Why is the Magyar Wikipedia page so small? From the looks of it, less seems to be known about the Magyars in comparison to the Vikings. Maybe that's the reason? If you don't think this is true, though, Wikipedia's Magyar page is open to edits... if you have sources and want to bring the Magyars their much-deserved glory, give it a shot.

8) Best fictional barbarian, in your opinion: "The Dying Gaul." This sculpture is one of my favorites, and definitely my favorite Greco-Roman artwork. Even though the figure was likely portrayed as a noble and fearless soldier, in this moment we see as he realizes that he is dying and that there is nothing he can do about it. There is no hope, anger, or even misery in his expression: there is only vulnerability in the face of death. We see him letting go as he transitions from this world into the frightening unknown. When I look at this sculpture, the emotional intensity and questions about mortality it brings give me the chills.

9) Best barbarian general in real life: Now that you have introduced me to Boudica, I'm going with her for sure. Was she a general, technically? No, no she was not. But did she rally her people together and lead an uprising against the Romans which was so impressive that it left three Ancient Roman cities in ruins? She did, indeed. Thank you for introducing me to the most hardcore person I've read about in a while.

10) Did Boudica have a chance? It's hard to say. Boudica lead a pretty impressive uprising against the Roman Empire, but it sounds like even if she had succeeded in the short-term, more Roman armies would have come. She and her Celtic tribe couldn't have defended herself against them Her armies didn't have the same training or strength in numbers that an entire empire has... especially not that empire.

That doesn't mean her life was for naught though. She and her uprising died defending their culture and Britain as they knew it. Standing up for your people when the odds are against you is still commendable.

And bonus random fun fact: when my two year old sister was a little chubby baby, we'd call her "Atilla the Hunny" because a) she's adorable and b) she has our family wrapped around her finger like we're her army. We more or less are, though, so it's alright.

-Van (Visi) Goff