Balamber (Balamir, Balamur) was the ruler of the Huns, mentioned by Jordanes in his Getica (c. 550 AD).[1] Jordanes simply called him "king of the Huns" (rex Hunnorum) and tells us the story of Balamber crushing the kingdom of Ostrogoths in the 370s, somewhere between 370[2] and more probable 376[3] AD.


The name is recorded in three variants by Jordanes, and additional two by copyists: Balaber, Balamber, Balamur, Balambyr, Balamir.[4] Balaber with omission of -m- is a corruption of Balamber.[4] Balamber and Balambyr probably evolved from a dittography b-b.[4] Balamir has Gothic onomastic suffix -mir/-mer.[4]

Omeljan Pritsak considered Balamur as the only original Hunnic form of the name. He derived it from Mongolian balamut, balamud, balamad (savage, wild, venturous, daring).[4] In the Hunnic suffix "r" appears in the place of Mongolian "d", while the whole suffix corresponds to Bulgarian "ma", Middle Turkic mat, meaning "the greatest among".[5] The name in form bala + mur means "the greatest among the venturous", which would be a suitable designation for that Hunnic conqueror.[6]


Jordanes recounts:

"Balamber, king of the Huns, took advantage of his ill health to move an army into the country of the Ostrogoths, from whom the Visigoths had already separated because of some dispute. Meanwhile Hermanaric, who was unable to endure either the pain of his wound or the inroads of the Huns, died full of days at the great age of one hundred and ten years. The fact of his death enabled the Huns to prevail over those Goths who, as we have said, dwelt in the East and were called Ostrogoths."[7]

"When he had ruled with such license for barely a year, Balamber, king of the Huns, would no longer endure it, but sent for Gesimund, son of Hunimund the Great. Now Gesimund, together with a great part of the Goths, remained under the rule of the Huns, being mindful of his oath of fidelity. Balamber renewed his alliance with him and led his army up against Vinitharius. After a long contest, Vinitharius prevailed in the first and in the second conflict, nor can any say how great a slaughter he made of the army of the Huns. But in the third battle, when they met each other unexpectedly at the river named Erac, Balamber shot an arrow and wounded Vinitharius in the head, so that he died. Then Balamber took to himself in marriage Vadamerca, the grand-daughter of Vinitharius, and finally ruled all the people of the Goths as his peaceful subjects, but in such a way that one ruler of their own number always held the power over the Gothic race, though subject to the Huns."[8]

Those events were preceded by the Huns' attack on the Alans at the Don River, who bordered the Greuthungi, and according to Ammianus Marcellinus, occurred an alliance between them.[9]

The events and names which followed vary according to Ammianus and Cassiodorus (from whose Gothic History was summarized Getica):

Ammianus wrote that after death of Ermanaric in 375, Vithimiris became the king of the Greuthungi, he resisted the Huns and Alans, but was killed in battle and was succeeded by young son Videric, so they were ruled by duces Alatheus and Safrax. They managed to make a confederation of Greuthungi, Alans and Huns, who escaped from the majority of Huns, crossed the Danube in 376, and fought Battle of Adrianople in 378.[10]

Cassiodorus, ie. Jordanes recounts that after Ermanaric's death Goths separated in Western Visigoths and Eastern Ostrogoths, the latter remained in "their old Scythian settlements" under Hunnic rule. The Amal Vinitharius retained the "insignia of his princely rank", and trying to escape from the Huns, he invaded the lands of the Antes and their king Boz for merely one year, but Balamber put an end to Ostrogoths independence. After the subjection, followed more complex Ostrogoths royal descending; Ermanaric > Hunimund-Thorismund-Berimud moved with his son Videric with the Visigoths to the West because "despised the Ostrogoths for their subjection to the Huns". Then happened forty years of interregnum and Ostrogoths decided to give the rule to Vandalaris's son Valamir, a relative of Thorismund.[11] Valamir eventually deserted Attila's sons in c. 454.[12][10]

Herwig Wolfram argued the possibility that unknown river Erac could be identified with the river Phasis in Lazica.[13][14] Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen denied the connection with ancient Erax, and considered Tiligul or lower Dnieper.[15] Wolfram puts the geographical location of events after the battle in 376, in Scythia, but the term shifted more westward and actually meant Dacia and Pannonia.[16]

Maenchen-Helfen considered that Cassiodorus would not admit that the Gothic princess became a wife of Balamber if he was not some sort of a king.[2]

Wolfram argued that although scholars often identify "Vithimiris" with Vinitharius, and "Videric" with Vandalarius, onomatological and genealogical methods do not go along with historical events, and many difficulties arise.[17] One of them was that Balamber lived in the time of Valamir. However, although of similar etymological names, Balamber, Wolfram related to Iranian Balimber, and as such considered them two different personalities.[16] Some scholars like Edward Arthur Thompson and Peter Heather consider Balamber's story historically improbable, and he may be a version of better-attested Valamir,[18][19] or was an invention by the Goths to explain who defeated them.[20]


  1. ^ Mitchell, Stephen (2007), A history of the later Roman Empire, AD 284-641., Oxford: Blackwell, ISBN 978-1-4051-0856-0 
  2. ^ a b Maenchen-Helfen 1973, p. 414.
  3. ^ Wolfram 1990, p. 248, 253.
  4. ^ a b c d e Pritsak 1982, p. 433.
  5. ^ Pritsak 1982, p. 433–435.
  6. ^ Pritsak 1982, p. 435.
  7. ^ Jordanes 1905, p. §130.
  8. ^ Jordanes 1905, p. §248–249.
  9. ^ Maenchen-Helfen 1973, p. 18–22.
  10. ^ a b Wolfram 1990, p. 249.
  11. ^ Wolfram 1990, p. 251.
  12. ^ Maenchen-Helfen 1973, p. 156.
  13. ^ Wolfram 1990, p. 252–253.
  14. ^ Schütte, Gudmund (2013) [1929–1933]. Our Forefathers. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107674783. 
  15. ^ Maenchen-Helfen 1973, p. 25.
  16. ^ a b Wolfram 1990, p. 254.
  17. ^ Wolfram 1990, p. 253–255.
  18. ^ Heather 2007, p. 357–358.
  19. ^ Heather 2010, p. 666.
  20. ^ Sinor 1990, p. 181.
Preceded by
Hunnic rule
Succeeded by