Attila, The Scourge of God,or a visionary misunderstood by history?
Attila was born in about the year 406 AD to Mundzuk, one of the many kings of the Huns
. It is believed that his name comes from the Hun word for the river Volga
, or the word for iron, however since his language died shortly after he did we may never know. While he was still an infant his father died and his Uncle Rua, a powerful Hun king, takes in him and his older brother Bleda.
It is Rua and his other uncles who see to it that Attila receives the education that a young Hun should receive. He is taught at an early age to ride and fight. Being a nomadic tribe the Huns have no permanent settlements and are master horsemen.
As a young boy Attila meets another young man whose destiny seems to be intertwined with his, Flavius Aetius. As a young boy, Flavius Aetius is part of a prisoner exchange, which sends important youth of both sides to live among the other side to insure peace. Shortly after this meeting Attila, himself is sent to Rome
to live among the Romans.
In Rome Attila finds the Romans weak and decadent. This as much as anything leads to his belief that the Romans are losing their grip upon their empire. But more importantly these exchanges gave both Attila and Flavius Aetius a chance to learn the tactics
of their futures enemies.
When his uncle, Rua, dies in 433, Attila and his brother Brela, rule the Huns jointly for a time. They begin to unite the Hun
tribes. It should be noted that the Hun tribes were a multicultural group, but in short order they are united under the rule of Attila. As one historian notes Attila was an, ‘equal opportunity barbarian
Always willing to do anything to make a buck, Attila plunges his powerful nation into Roman politics. Twice he invades Italy
to help, Flavius Aetius, who with his backing rises to the Master of the Military, magister utriusque militiae. In one of history great ironies the two of them form an alliance that crushed the Visigoths
, who had only become Rome enemy when pushed west by the Huns.
The relationship with the Eastern Roman empire
was often strained. Upon coming to power Attila doubled the amount of tribute he was to receive from Theodosius II emperor of the Eastern Empire to 700 lbs of gold a year. This gold along with the gold captured and given as tribute gave Attila power. He used this power to gain even more power and gold.
When a priest was captured on the wrong side of Danube River
robbing graves Attila had an excuse to raid the Eastern Empire. The Huns made short work of the Roman cities that stood in his way. Theodosius II quickly worked a truce out with Attila that gave him 1000lbs of gold as tribute each year.
With the death of his brother, Bleda, in 445 became the sole ruler of the Hun Empire. He became more and more powerful. After cow stepped on the Sword of the War God and it came into the Attila possession he was in position to conquer the world.
Honoria was the sister of the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, and after being caught in compromising position with her steward she was forced into an unhappy marriage. She then sent word to Attila offering her hand in marriage for her rescue, and half of the Western Roman Empire as a dowry.
Rarely has a proposal of marriage caused such havoc. Attila launched attacks the Western Empire province of Gaul
, and was unchallenged until he reached the city of Orleans
. After a siege the city fell but it was too late. Roman reinforcements arrived and drove him out of the city. Now Attila faced a combined army of Visigoths and Romans
under the command of his old friend Flavius Aetius. The two armies met on the Catalaunian Plains in a battlefront that was four miles long. Attila despite being a great warrior was unable to organize his men effectively, that added with the fact that his horse man were ineffective because of terrain and position led to a draw after a battle lasted into the night.
He then turned his army south toward Rome, where the Emperor had fled. As he entered Italy, the heart of the Western Roman Empire, he laid waste to any city that dared to oppose him. A group of nuns reported that one city smelled so bad that they could not get close to it, and they could not camp at the river because of all of the bones. As he approached Rome a truce was reached, and he withdrew to his homelands.
Once back home he planed for his wedding, it was after a long night of celebration that he died drunk in his sleep of a nosebleed. Had he lived he would have attacked the Eastern Empire in the spring. He was buried in a riverbed along with his sword.
Thought of as an evil force in the west, Attila is a remembered as a hero and a benevolent leader in those countries he conquered in Eastern Europe. Even in our time his people have been used to describe the Germans in both World Wars, the British called the Germans the Huns
. To this day if one is considered too conservative is often described as being right