Friday, July 14, 2006

I've been thinking again about "alternate history" scenarios for Britannia. This would be events such as Charlemagne attacking Britain. At one time someone suggested the Huns might have beaten the "Romans" in 451, then raided Britain. This was my response:

In counterfactual history we can posit whatever we want, really, but as I see it there are two possibilities, the plausible and the "no way!".

Because of a fairly obscure circumstance, the Huns were never going to stay in Gaul, any more than the Avars or Magyars did when they raided France. In case anyone is interested I will explain.

All of these were horse nomads, "warriors of the steppe". They required grasslands to survive (living on their herds), and there aren't many natural grassland areas in Europe (which is good for us descendants of Europeans). The Hungarian plain is the westernmost, another is Bulgaria. The Huns, moving west for whatever reasons, settled in Hungary (which is actually named after a Magyar word, I understand, not after the Huns). They displaced some Germans in the process, who moved south and west. They raided from Hungary but always came back to where their horses would thrive. When the Huns were defeated by Gepids and others, the remnants either streamed back into the Russian steppe, or hung out in Bulgaria--many of these first Bulgarians may been Huns. (There was another, slavic, lot, more or less, later on.) Some Bulgars went to Bulgaria, some went up the Volga to become the Volga Bulgars. Who knows how many were Huns?

Anyway, the Avars showed up and took over the H. plain. They raided all over the place, besieged Constantinople unsuccessfully, finally got stomped by the Byzantines (but the emperor was murdered before he could finish them off (602)). After that they made much less trouble, but Charlemagne had to stomp them and "more or less" finish them off.

Then Magyars turned up in Hungary, and they raided all over, Balkans, Italy, Germany, France, until defeated twice by Germans (second time 955). After that they turned into Christian European Hungarians.

The Mongols stomped the Hungarians; fortunately for us, they streamed back into Asia when the Great Khan died. Could the Mongols have conquered Europe? Maybe they had the technical knowhow to take castles, but there were no grasslands to attract them, not much treasure--so why bother in the long run? And they never came back.

There were grasslands in between the two rivers of Mesopotamia, the Aljazeera (I've seen it spelled different ways), which is where the Seljuk Turkish nomads were happy to base themselves. The other horse area down there is the central Anatolian plateau--unfortunately for the Byzantines.

Why are these areas grasslands instead of forest? Insufficient rainfall, I think, same as the American Great Plains. Only near rivers did you see trees, out there, before men intervened.

So I'd count the Huns as "no way".

BTW, the Goths became horsie types when they migrated to the steppes, but I suspect they maintained an agricultural orientation, and so could adapt back when forced off the plains by the Huns. And they were willing to migrate to areas that, while not grasslands, had been cleared of forests for agriculture, that is, Spain, Italy, France. Not Germany (which wasn't cleared until 1100-1200 thereabouts).

Forests are heavy-duty barriers to the non-technological. Southern Sweden used to be part of Denmark because forest intervened between it and the main part of Sweden.

Copyright 2006 Lewis Pulsipher

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