Attila the Hun is known as one of the most ferocious leaders of ancient times. He was given the nickname “Scourge God” because of his ferocity. During the twentieth century, “Hun” was one of the worst name you could call a person, due to Attila. The Huns were a barbaric and savage group of people, and Attila, their leader, was no exception. He was the stereotypical sacker of cities and killer of babies. The Huns lasted long after their disappearance in mythology and folklore, as the bad guy. Generally, they were not fun people to be around.
Priscus saw Attila the Hun at a banquet in 448. Priscus described him as being a short, squat man with a large head and deep-set eyes. He also had a flat nose and a thin beard. Historians say that his general personality was irritable, blustering, and truculent. He was said to be a persistent negotiator, and not at al pitiless.
While Priscus was at the banquet in 448, he observed a few other details about Attila. All of Attila’s chief lieutenants were served dainties on silver platters, but he was served only meat on wooden plates. No other real qualities of Attila as a general really survived through time, but he is thought to have been an outstanding commander from his accomplishments as a barbarian.
Huns themselves were mysterious and feared people. They first appeared in the Fourth Century around the Roman Empire. They rode their warhorses around and cause the Germanic barbarians and Romans alike to fear them. Yet, it was said that they were very uncivilized. It was said that they made no use of fire, and just ate the roots of plants they found in fields. They were also said to have eaten the almost raw meat of animals. The only reason the meat was “almost raw” was because they were said to have “cooked” it by placing it between their thighs and the backs of their horses to give it warmth.
The Huns sometimes engaged in regular battle. They would attack in an order of columns, and scream very disorderly and savage cries. Most of the time, though, the Huns just fought in a very random way. They would scream and run about and then all come together in a large group. They would then, as a group, approach the camp or town of the people they were attacking, and destroy it. Most of the time, the people the Huns attacked never even saw them coming.
There were many ways in which the Huns chose to fight. They often started from a distance, and missiled sharpened bones and other objects attached to a long stick into the territory of their victims. When they were forced to fight in close combat, they often fought without regard to their own safety. They often fought with swords, and they threw a net over their enemy as to entangle his limbs so that he could no longer walk or ride or horse. This is how they earned the title of Barbarians.
The Romans initial impression of the Huns was fear. But after awhile, the Huns settled on the coast of Danube, the great Hungarian Plain, and became allies of the Romans, instead of attacking them as enemies. In return, the Roman Empire paid them a sum of money to not attack them Roman Empire. The Huns agreed with this, and remained mostly neutral toward the Romans for about fifty years.
Things between the Romans and the Huns began to fall apart when Attila was named King of the Huns in 434. Attila and his brother, Bleda, inherited a large empire. They had been made joint kings of a vast area from the Alps to the Caspian seas, in the east, to the Baltic Sea in the West. Because of the Roman treaty with the Huns at Margus, The Romans had to pay the Huns seven hundred pounds of gold annually to leave them alone. Attila’s actions between 435 and 439 are basically unknown, and were not major or overly important. It is said that he may have subdued barbarians to the north of east of his dominions, but no one can be sure.
In 441, Rome had become delinquent on their payments to the Huns, so Attila and Bleda decided to attack the Roman Empire. While the Roman officials were occupied in the Western Front, Attila attacked the Eastern Front on the Danubian Frontier. The Huns managed to attack and raze many of the cities they came upon, and attract the attention of the Roman Empire. The Romans called a truce in 442, but this only satisfied Attila for a short amount of time. In 443, the Huns attack the towns in Danube again, destroying Naissus and Serdica. He proceeded to toward Constantinople and took Philipopolis. He defeated the main Eastern Roman forces in a succession of battles. Finally, the Romans arranged a peace treaty that gave the Huns 2,100 pounds of gold each year. This made Attila happy, and the Huns went back to protecting the Romans as their allies.
In 445, Attila decided that he no longer wanted his older brother, Bleda, to rule with him. So he killed him. He planned in 447 to attack Rome again, on an even larger scale than his previous attack. But this idea turned out to be much less than he thought. He sent his army to attack the Utus River, and defeated them. But he himself suffered loss and devastation. After that, he moved on to the Balkan provinces, and devastated them. Then he traveled down to Greece, but was stopped at Thermpylae.
Attila spent the next three years working out complicated agreements and negotiations with the Romans. He spent most of his time with the diplomats of the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II. The result of the agreement was that Attila gained the territory of land to the south of Danube. The Romans also had to pay the Huns even more money to not attack, though the actual sum of money is not known.
In 450, Attila claimed Honoria, the sister of Valentinian III, as his wife. The problem with this was that Valentinian III was the emperor of the Western Empire. Because of this marriage, Attila decided that he deserved half of the Western Empire. In order to get his way, he invaded Gaul in 451.
Aetius got the Visigothic King, Theodoric I, to resist the Huns with him, when they invaded Gaul. It is told the Attila almost succeeded in occupying Aurelianum before the Allies came. Aetius and Theodoric forced him to withdraw from the city, which he had already gained foot in. Some historians called this particular battle the Battle Catalaunian Plains, or The Battle of Maurica. The Visigothic king was killed in the fight, but it things turned out good for the Allies, because Attila was forced to withdraw: his first, and only, defeat.
In 452, the Huns invaded Italy. They sacked many cities, including Aquilieia, Patavium, Verona, Brixia, Bergomum, and Mediolamun. There wasn’t much Aetius could do about this. Luckily, famine and pestilence caused the Huns to leave before crossing the Apennines.
In 453, Attila planned to attack the Eastern Empire because the Emperor wasn’t paying the money set in previous treaties (author’s note: Don’t these emperors ever learn anything?). Nothing ever actually came of these plans because, quite suspiciously, Attila died in his bed the night after his marriage.
When Attila was buried, the Huns went through a lot of trouble. They had to kill anyone who was involved with the burial, so that no one would know of the exact place that Attila was buried. Attila was succeeded by his sons, between which the empire was divided.
Attila didn’t have a huge impact on history, because the Romans very well could have done without him. He mainly caused trouble for the Romans, and killed a lot of innocent people just to get his way. Attila the Hun was one of the most important kings of the Huns, though, and he definitely has his place in history, as a barbaric, baby-killing, rude leader of a very ruthless group of warriors.