A Hunnic people (or peoples) who menaced Persia (q.v.) from 427-557. Referred to by Prokopios (q.v.) as "white" (hence the term White Huns [q.v.]), due to their fair complexion, their precise relationship to other Hunnic peoples is unclear. Their conquests of the lands between the Caspian Sea and the Indus River were completed by about 425, after which they turned their attention to Persia (q.v.). For over a century, intermittently, the Ephthalites distracted the Persians from frontier warfare with Byzantium (q.v.) and disrupted Persia's caravan trade with China (q.v.), prompting the Persians to insist that Byzantium continue to pay for the defense of the Caspian Gates (q.v.). In 427 hostilities erupted that resulted in a Persian victory, but the remainder of the fifth century was less fortunate to the Persians. In 469 the Persians were defeated, and in 484 the Ephthalites killed the Persian king Peroz. However, from 496-498 Kavad (q.v.) was in exile among the Ephthalites and it was they who reinstated him on the throne in 499. From 503-513 they suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the Persians, who ejected them from Persian territory. In 557 an alliance of Turks (q.v.) and Persians destroyed them.

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