Hun nobleman and raider being ambushed by Balkan farmers. Mid 5th century. Note the gold decorations sewn onto the Hun noble’s clothing and horse trappings.

Hunnic social and political organization was very complex and so only a basic outline will be here. It is important to note, however, that there was more than one Hunnic Empire and each Hunnic group was associated with one of the four sacred colors of their shamanic beliefs: Black, White, Blue, and Red. Black and blue always were seen as superior to red and white banners. When referring to Black or White Huns, it is important to note that this does not refer to their race but to their banner affiliation.

The imperial system of the steppe had always been broken down into Eastern and Western or Left and Right “wings”. This was true of the Hsiung-Nu and the Rouran and it was also true of the Huns. The Eastern (or Left king) held power over their Western (or Right) vassal. Furthermore, several other sub-kings were appointed by the Khagan from members of the royal family to oversee territories of conquered peoples. The Hun society has been labeled “proto-feudal”. In a traditional feudal society, fiefs of land are passed down but in Hun society, people were passed down. As the Huns conquered more and more nations, members of the royal house were given those people to rule. Hunnic rulers would have “picked men” who were trusted above all. These men and women would be the confidants of the ruler, serve as governors, ambassadors, and other important offices that made up the central government of the empire.

Foreign captives were often enslaved and sold to the Roman slave dealers. The Huns did not have Hun slaves. Rich Huns would sometimes own a foreign slave but for the most part, slaves were not as common as they were among other peoples of the time such as the Romans. A slave owned by a Hun family was often well treated and were allowed to buy their freedom or earn it by fighting by their master’s side in combat. If this occurred, they would become a member of the family. Many Romans defected to the Huns during the fifth century because of the oppressive Roman tax system. They found more freedom among the Huns and chose to stay with them.

Below photo: Women among the Huns had higher status than their European counterparts. Women hunted and fought along side of the men and there are records of powerful Hun women leaders who held court and took meetings with foreign diplomats.