White Hun Empire

Establishment Date: 420

Date of Destruction: 562

Founder: Aksuvar

Capital: Balkh

Language: Hun Turkish

Head of State: Hakan


Upon the disintegration of the Great Hun Empire, most of the Huns migrated to the West over the Volga river, while some of them descended to the South. The Huns who descended to the south later established the White Hun Empire. White Huns, also called Middle Eastern Huns, dominated and maintained their empire in Khorasan, Punjab, Afghanistan, India, Khwarezm, Iran and East Turkestan regions for more than a century.


Especially in Chinese sources, there is extensive information about the White Huns. As they dominated Turkestan for a while, they encountered the Chinese from time to time. In addition to Chinese sources, information about the White Huns can be found in ancient Iranian, Latin and Byzantine sources. During the establishment of the Western Hun Empire, the White Huns were also trying to establish their own empires in Afghanistan and Northern India. The White Huns had very close relations and wars with the Sassanids who dominated Iran at that time. In Islamic sources, information about the White Huns state is given indirectly in the sections related to the Sassanid state. In recent history studies in India, there are also large sections about the White Huns and the Huns in general.


Archaeological finds about the White Huns are very few. But money and inscriptions take the first place among the items that provide information about their history. Most of the money and inscriptions were found in the regions of Eastern Iran and Afghanistan. Most of them are related to the Toraman and Mihrakula periods. As a result of various researches on White Hun coins, it was understood that they were divided into three types as horsemen, busts and half-drachmas.


Some Mongols and Iranians also lived in the Ak Hun state. The dominant element of the empire and the majority of the society were Turks from the Huns. Another center of the White Hun Empire was the city of Huo in Kunduz. After Gor, this city also became an important center. Huo was also located in the Tocharistan region. Toharistan is known as the region that includes places such as Hulm, Kunduz, Iskamış, Talakan-Simigan, Bağlan, south of the Ceyhun river, which falls to the east of the city of Belh. In Turkish sources, this region is also called Tukri or Tukharistan. The last and greatest centers of the White Huns were Himatala, west of Bedahshan. This region was a very fertile place with its mountains and rivers. Himatala meant those who lived at the foot of the snowy mountain.

The White Huns lived together with other tribes in Central Asia for a while. During this period of common life, a cultural exchange took place. It has been seen that various tribes influenced the White Huns, especially in terms of language and some traditions. The Tohar language, which emerged after settling in Toharistan, is actually nothing but the White Hun language. Tocharian had a different structure from other languages ​​and consisted of twenty-five letters.


Before the White Huns, the Kushans dominated the Toharistan region. However, they later split and began to live in the form of small principalities. Among the Hun tribes that continued to live in Central Asia after the collapse of the Great Hun Empire, the White Huns were the largest. Later, they migrated towards the southern regions due to the force of the conditions. The White Huns appear as a tribe descending from the Altai mountains to Khorasan, Toharistan and then to India. At the beginning of the 5th century, the White Huns crossed the Ceyhun river and attempted to invade Sassanid lands. Such events took place in Islamic sources in the form of a Turkish invasion. It is understood from the comparisons in Chinese sources that the White Huns dominated Sogdiana before. Along with Sogdiana, the new dominant power of the Samarkand region was the White Huns. The White Huns, who crossed the Ceyhun river, began to invade the eastern and northeastern regions of the Sassanid state after the beginning of the 5th century. The descent of the White Huns to the south shook all the countries of Asia Minor and the tribes living there. During the reign of Bahram Gur V (420-438), the White Huns crossed the Ceyhun river through the Tirmidhi region. During this transition, the White Huns were a community of three hundred thousand people. Behram Gur's inactivity in the face of the White Huns' entry into the Sassanid country put the state in a state of bewilderment. Advancing from the White Hun Ruler, Hakan Khorasan, Rey came in front of them. The Sassanids offered to give large sums of money to the White Huns. The White Huns did not accept this. Sassanid Ruler Bahram Gur, who learned that Hakan and the White Huns had randomly set up headquarters in the Kuşmuhan region, suddenly launched a raid on the White Huns. The Sassanids gained from the night raid and dispersed the White Huns. The head of the White Huns, Hakan, was killed on the battlefield and his possessions were plundered. The White Huns, who were scattered as a result of the raid and lost their ruler Hakan, this time crossed to the opposite shore of the Ceyhun river. The region up to the Ceyhun river was thus cleared of the White Huns. The Sassanids built a monument here to document the Kusmihan victory. After this victory, the Sassanids recaptured the city of Balkh. After the Kusmihan defeat, the White Huns wandered for a long time without a head.


When the Sassanids became uncomfortable with the White Huns living on their eastern borders after a while, they sent an army against this tribe again. However, this time the White Huns defeated the Sassanids and the Sassanid army had to retreat. Upon this victory, the White Huns regained the lands they had lost before. The name of the ruler who brought this victory to the White Huns was Ahshunvar. Another name of this ruler was Aksuvar. During the Aksuvar period, Sassanid and Ak Hun relations were intense. When a fight for the throne and Firuz's succession became a problem in the Sassanid state, Aksuvar intervened and declared that he could support Firuz's accession to the throne under certain conditions. The White Huns entered the borders of the Sassanid state with an army of thirty thousand and supported Firuz and ensured his accession to the throne. When Firuz came to power, he gave great gifts to the White Hun army and left the Tirmiz and Vasgirt regions on Ceyhun to the White Huns.

Five years later, the relationship between Firuz and Aksuvar broke down. In one of the peace talks, Firuz said that he would give his own daughter to Aksuvar. Aksuvar wanted this promise to be fulfilled. Firuz, on the other hand, did not keep his promise and sent a concubine to Aksuvar as his own daughter. The concubine told Aksuvar about this trick in order not to lose her life. When Aksuvar realized this, he had the commanders Firuz sent for help killed. Firuz paid the penalty for sending a false princess by losing his commanders. Thereupon, the Sassanids gathered their armies to teach the White Huns a lesson. Firuz occupied the border town of Balam, but returned before meeting Aksuvar. In the next ten years, there were no important events between the White Huns and the Sassanids. He organized a new campaign against Firuz Aksuvar in 475. Aksuvar also worked to prepare an order similar to the Turan tactic, one of the war tactics of the Turks, in order to teach Firuz a good lesson. The White Huns decided to withdraw the army to a mountainous region rather than encountering the Sassanids on a flat land. Firuz was passing through the gates without taking any precautions. As a matter of fact, when the Sassanid army left the gates behind, the rearguard forces of the White Huns surrounded the Sassanid army. Aksuvar stated that he could open the circle on the condition that Firuz fell at his feet and apologized. After long discussions, Firuz accepted this condition. The soldiers of the two armies watched the scene with an example. Thus, the two armies parted without a battle.


Firuz started to prepare an expedition against the White Huns to recover his broken pride. His surroundings insisted that this would be wrong, but Firuz was full of vengeance. As the border arrangements improved to the detriment of the White Huns, Aksuvar again declared war on the Sassanids. Before the Sassanid army came to the battlefield, Aksuvar had deep trenches dug and covered them. He left small passages known to his own soldiers and withdrew his army first to deceive his enemy. Seeing this, Firuz ordered his army to attack. While passing over the covered ditches, the Sassanid army suffered heavy losses and Firuz lost his life. The Governor of Sicistan, Suhra, launched an attack on Aksuvar, but later the Sassanids and the White Huns made peace. With the help of Governor Suhra, Kavad took the throne of Sassanid, and when Kavad was deposed as a result of internal turmoil, he took refuge with the White Huns. A few years later, he again became the head of the Sassanid state with the support of the White Huns. Kavad then paid the White Huns large sums of money. He also accepted the protection of the White Hun ruler. The Sassanids later received the support of the White Hun army in their wars against Byzantium.


After the White Huns captured the city of Belh, they started to fight the Sassanids. The White Huns easily took some principalities that emerged after the collapse of the Kushan state under their sovereignty. First, they abolished the Kushan-Kidara principality. After the abolition of such principalities, it was time for the invasion of India. The White Huns made their first attack on India in 480, and after a while, they dominated the North Indian region. The Guptas, who had established a state in India at that time, were able to stop the attacks of the White Huns for a while. During the raids to India, there was a ruler named Toraman at the head of the White Huns. Some information about the history of that period was obtained with the coins and inscriptions from the excavations. There are three main inscriptions regarding the Toraman period. The first is the Eran inscription and was found in the Sagar region. The second is the Kura inscription located in the north of Punjab. The Gwalior inscription is the last to be found. With these three inscriptions, the Toraman period came to light.

Those who saw the White Huns as the followers of the Kushans also claimed that Toraman was basically a Kushan Prince. Toraman is the third conqueror of India after Alexander and Kushan Ruler Kanishka. Taking advantage of the internal turmoil of the Guptas, Toraman advanced to the inner regions of North and West India, and the Punjab region came under the control of the White Huns. After the harsh continental climate of Asia, the hot climate of India shook the White Huns, but they got used to it over time. Batarka, one of the raja of Valahbi, was able to stop Toraman from advancing towards the inner regions. In the war between the two sides, Toraman was unsuccessful. After Toraman's death, the White Huns entered a period of stagnation.


In 515, his son Mihirakula took the throne of the White Huns, who left Toraman. The Indians described Mihirakula as the enemy of Buddhism, the bloodthirsty khan. Some historians also call this ruler the Attila of India. Indeed, the new White Hun Emperor constantly organized expeditions and raids and expanded the borders of his country. The center where Mihirakula resided was Sakkala. This is the present town of Sialkot, in the Indu river region. Mihirakula was the most powerful ruler of his time and was fiercely hostile to Buddhists. When he returned to Sakkala after the wars, he saw his brother on the throne and besieged the city again. Later, he took the Gandara region and destroyed all the Buddhist temples. He created a different army order by adding elephants to the cavalry units in his army. Sakkala in the Kashmir region became the center as a result of the administration of the empire. Until 530 B.C., the White Hun raids continued all over India. However, after capturing the city of Citrakuta, the White Hun attacks entered a period of stagnation. After this date, the White Huns could not show much success and entered a period of decline. Mihirakula died in 550, when the general depression blew for the White Huns. There is no definite information about who succeeded him as ruler. Later sources speak of self-governing principalities and principalities within the borders of the White Hun Empire.


VI. At the beginning of the century, the border between the White Huns and the Sassanids passed through the city of Gurgan, located in the southeast corner of the Caspian Sea. The region between the Ceyhun and Seyhun rivers was also under the control of the White Huns. The White Huns had established a vast empire, starting from Iran, extending to the inner regions of Central Asia and encompassing half of India. The remnant tribes of the Hun Empire, who later lived in the Central Asian and Turkestan regions, took their place in the White Hun Empire and participated in the wars of the White Huns. The White Huns, who are also neighbors with China, did not organize expeditions to this country because they mostly dealt with the south and west.


The White Huns, who held the silk trade of Asia, had established a certain political balance with the Avars. After a while, when the Göktürks came to the stage of history, this economic and political balance was disrupted. While the Göktürks were establishing their own empire, they were slowly descending towards the south. In order for the Göktürk sovereignty to be fully established in Central Asia, the Ak Hun state had to be abolished. Meanwhile, a powerful emperor named Anuşirvan was at the head of the Sassanid Empire, and he wanted to regain the destroyed honor of his state against the White Huns. The Sassanids and Gokturks gradually agreed to abolish the White Hun state and began to act together. Thereupon, the White Huns wanted to establish cooperation by sending ambassadors to China.

Gokturk Emperor Istemi Khan became related to the Sassanids and took over the Transoxiana region by acting together with them. After taking the cities of Nasef and Karshi, he faced the White Hun army in front of the city of Nahshab. The Göktürks won a difficult victory against the superior White Hun armies towards the end of the war, and Varz, the commander of the White Huns, died in this war. Upon the victory of Istemi Khan, the Sassanid army entered the city of Belh and captured Toharistan and Zabulistan. The Ak Hun Empire collapsed abruptly in the face of the attacks of the two armies, and its lands were shared between the Göktürks and the Sassanids. The Sassanids took the region up to the Samarkand region within their borders.

The Silk Road, which affected the economic destiny of Asia, had been in the hands of the White Huns for years, and after it came under the rule of the Göktürks, the White Huns wanted to continue this trade. However, they lost their superiority because of other tribes that emerged as rivals, and the Silk Road came under the control of the Göktürk Empire.


The White Huns continued their lives in the Toharistan region even after their empire collapsed. There is not much information about the White Huns about the next period, as they were not very influential in terms of politics, but when they came under the definitive rule of the Göktürks, they accepted the administration of a state that was formed in Toharistan under the protection of the Göktürks. In a long time, the White Huns became citizens of the Gokturk Empire and dissolved into the empire.


Later, with the spread of Islam, the White Huns living in the southern and western regions adopted this religion. In 662, those who were dissatisfied with the Muslim rule in Toharistan revolted, and in 667, the Islamic armies and the White Hun army fought and the Muslims drove the Ak Huns to the Kuhistan region. Since Kuhistan is a very mountainous region, the White Huns were able to protect themselves here. The White Huns, who did not want to accept the sovereignty of the Arabs, finally came to an agreement with the Arabs and their leader, Nizek Tarhan, stopped the White Hun attacks. When Nizek Tarhan realized that the Muslims would abandon the agreement, he immediately gathered his soldiers and had measures taken in important parts of his region. Muslim armies came to this region from several directions and surrounded the centers and castles of the White Huns. They killed Nizek Tarhan and his men. After the Muslim invasion, the White Huns withdrew from the stage of history. Over time, they also lost their ethnic character. According to recent studies, it has been suggested that the Yeftali people living in the Feyzabad region of Afghanistan are the descendants of the White Huns.


The White Huns re-established a great empire as the southern wing of the Great Hun Empire and kept it alive for a long time. When their empires collapsed after the Göktürk and Sassanid attacks, various states and principalities emerged in this region. Kengines, Karlıks, Gurlus, Gujars, Midler can be given as examples. The continuing tribes of the White Huns, such as the Gurlus and the Karluks, later established new states in the regions where they lived. In particular, the state of the Ghurlus was active in India. Gujars also have an important place in the history of India along with the Gurlus.


The White Huns were also Buddhists, like the Kushans, who had established a state in this region before them. Although their emperors declared war against Buddhism and destroyed the temples of Buddhists, Buddhism religion was widespread among the White Huns. The White Huns, who lived in the steppes of Central Asia until 400 B.C., entered Afghanistan in 425 and started to rise on the stage of history after this date. They encountered Buddhists in their raids to the southern regions, and they believed in this religion under their influence. The Muslim movements that emerged after the collapse of the empire led the White Huns to Islam later on.


In Western sources, the White Huns are encountered as "Ephthalites" or "Ephthalite Empire". The Chinese called this nation "Yeta", the Arabs "Hayta", the Indians "Huna" and the Greeks "Hephtalit". In Indian sources, the word "Turuşka", that is, "Turk", is also used for the White Huns. This is another evidence confirming that the White Huns were a Turkish state.


The reason why the White Hun Empire is called "Eftalits" in the West is due to Byzantine and Greek sources. The origin of this word is that Aksuvar, who defeated the Sassanid Emperor Firuz, was also named Epthalanos. Various scientific studies made in Western sources on behalf of the Ephthalites have clarified the history of this state and nation. In scientific studies on the Silk Road, Asia Minor, India, Sassanids and Göktürks, information was obtained about the White Huns.


The White Huns carried the traditional culture of Central Asia, which was their starting point, to the region where they established a state. Being a nomadic tribe, the White Huns continued their nomadism after establishing a state. In addition to being Central Asian and nomadic, the third characteristic of the White Huns was that they were a characteristic Hun tribe. Thus, they continued the old Hun culture. Buddhism and recently Islam contributed to the Ak Hun culture formed by these features. When all these elements are combined, the general framework of the White Hun culture emerges. The White Huns were also a tribe that lived on horseback. They gave importance to the subject of animals both in daily life and in their culture and arts. Animal motifs stand out in his works and ornaments. The nomadic life continued the tent phenomenon, social life and relations as well as cultural and artistic phenomena were shaped accordingly. In the regions where the White Huns established a state, they did not leave permanent monuments behind because of the establishment of many states later and the White Huns continuing their nomadism. The most important findings about the White Hun culture are the inscriptions and coins found as a result of the excavations in the regions where they lived. With the reading and interpretation of the writings and figures on them, the history and culture of the White Huns came to light.


Ak Hun history is full of interesting data in terms of Iranian, Indian and Central Asian history, as well as in terms of Turkish history. The White Huns, who were able to establish an empire in difficult conditions on several countries and on the passageways, left behind a history worth examining.

Rulers of the White Hun Empire


1) Aksuvar (420 – 470)

2) Toraman (496 – 502)

3) Mihirakula (502 – 530)

4) It could not be determined who was the khan between 530 and 562.


Note: This historical text has been translated by Google from http://www.turkosfer.com/ak-hun-imparatorlugu/