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White Huns

White Huns or Hephthalites (hĕfˈthəlĪtsˌ) [key], people of obscure origins, possibly of Tibetan or Turkish stock. They were called Ephthalites by the Greeks, and Hunas by the Indians. There is no definite evidence that they are related to the Huns. The White Huns were an agricultural people with a developed set of laws. They were first mentioned by the Chinese, who described them (A.D. 125) as living in Dzungaria. They displaced the Scythians and conquered Sogdiana and Khorasan before 425. They crossed (425) the Syr Darya (Jaxartes) River and invaded Persia. Held off at first by Bahram Gur, they later (483–85) succeeded in making Persia tributary. After a series of wars (503–13) they were driven out of Persia, permanently lost the offensive, and were finally (557) defeated by Khosru I. The White Huns also invaded India and succeeded in extending their domain to include the Ganges valley. They temporarily overthrew the Gupta empire but were eventually driven out of India in 528 by a Hindu coalition. Although in Persia they had little effect, in India the White Huns influenced society by altering the caste system and disrupting the hierarchy of the ruling families. Some of the White Huns remained in India as a distinct group.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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