Front Page Titles (by Subject) 10.: THE ORIGIN OF THE HUNS — ( C. XXVI .) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4
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10.: THE ORIGIN OF THE HUNS — ( C. XXVI .) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 4 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 4.
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THE ORIGIN OF THE HUNS — (C. XXVI.)
Excerpts of ethnological interest from the voluminous Annals of the Han dynasty (in about a hundred volumes)1 were translated by Mr. Wylie (at Sir H. Howorth’s request) and published in the third and fourth volumes of the Journal of the Anthropol. Institute. Sir H. Howorth wrote a preface, arguing that the Hiung-Nu cannot be identified with the Huns. His argument is: the Hiung-Nu were Turks; the Huns were Ugrians; therefore the Huns were not Hiung-Nu. “The Huns, as I have elsewhere argued, were a race of Ugrians led by a caste of another race now represented by some of the Lesghian tribes of the Caucasus. The Hiung-Nu were not Ugrians. It was Klaproth, whose grasp of the whole subject of the ethnography of Northern Asia was most masterly, and who, notwithstanding some failures, I hold to have been facile princeps among Asiatic ethnologists, first proved that the Hiung-Nu were Turks, and his conclusions were endorsed by the very competent authority of Abel Remusat, and since by other scholars.”
That the Hiung-Nu were a Turkic race (the correct way of stating it is: the Turks were Hiung-Nu) may indeed be regarded as certain; but so much cannot be said of Sir H. Howorth’s other premiss, that the Huns were Ugrians.
For Klaproth’s proof that the Huns were Lesghians, see his Tableaux historiques de l’Asie, and Howorth, Journal Anth. Inst. iii. p. 453-4. His comparative list of Hunnic and Lesghian names presents such strikingly close resemblances that it is hard to resist his conclusions; and his identification of the Hunnic var “river” (Jordanes, Get. 52) with Lesghian or, ouor, is plausible. While admitting that the Huns may be connected with this Caucasian race, I cannot follow Sir H. Howorth in his further speculations, or admit that an affinity has been proved with the Finno-Ugrian languages. Sir H. Howorth’s comparative table of Hunnic with Hungarian names (p. 470) is quite unconvincing.
On the other hand I cannot accept as proven, or as more than a brilliant conjecture, the identification of the Huns with the Hiung-Nu. The thesis has been recently defended by Mr. E. H. Parker, a Chinese scholar, whose work I have used and referred to in additional footnotes on Gibbon’s account of the Hiung-Nu in this volume. In “A Thousand Years of the Tartars,” p. 99, Mr. Parker puts it thus: The Northern Hiung-Nu, unable to maintain their ground against various enemies, “disappeared far away to the North, many of them no doubt finding their way by the upper waters of the Selinga and the Irtysh to Issekul, the Aral, and the Caspian, struggling with the Bashkirs, the Alans, and the unknown tribes then occupying Russia into Europe.” And again in an article on “The Origin of the Turks” in the English Hist. Review, July, 1896, p. 434, he defends the view that “the Hiung-Nu were in fact the Huns, who afterwards appeared as the Hunni in Europe.”
While I am not convinced that on the ethnographical side there is any a priori objection to the identification of the Huns with the “Hiung” slaves — Mr. Parker observes that to this day Hiung “is in some parts of China still pronounced Hiln” — I cannot, from the historical side, see the justification for asserting the identity. The resemblance of the name is in fact the only proof. It is a mortal leap from the kingdom of the northern Zenghi to the steppes of Russia, and he who takes it is supported on the wings of fancy, not on the ground of fact. On this question research in the Chinese annals has added nothing to the data which were so ably manipulated by Deguignes.
The Geougen, who will be more important afterwards in connection with the Turks (see chapter xlii.), were wrongly identified with the Avars by Deguignes. Mr. Parker (Eng. Hist. Rev. loc. cit. p. 435) is unable to decide whether they were of Hunnic or Tungusic origin, and suspects a mixture of both races.
The close connection of the Huns and Avars seems clear. Professor Vámbéry in his A Magyarok Eredete (1882), p. 415 sqq., has collected the Hun and Avar words and names that can be gleaned from literature, and attempted to interpret them by the help of Turkish. His list however is not complete.
[1 ]There is a Russian translation of the entire work.