For Edward Gibbon—no great admirer of the Roman Empire that the Huns ravaged repeatedly between 434 and 453 A.D.—Attila was a “savage destroyer” of whom it was said that “the grass never grew on the spot where his horse had trod.” For the Roman historian Jordanes, he was “a man born into the world to shake the nations.” As recently as a century ago, when the British wanted to emphasize how barbarous and how un-English their opponents in the First World War had grown—how very far they had fallen short in their sense of honor, justice and fair play—they called the Germans “Huns.”, Yet there are those who think we have much to learn from a people who came apparently from nowhere to force the mighty Roman Empire almost to its knees. Twice a week we compile our most fascinating features and deliver them straight to you. Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. New York: AMS, 1974. Attila the Hun Bustby Zsolt Varga - Kazi (Copyright). For their part, the Huns promised not to attack Rome, not to enter into pacts or treaties with Rome's enemies, and to defend the Danube frontier and the provinces of the Roman Empire. Attila's horsemen smeared their faces with blood and rode slowly, in a steady circle, around the tent which held his body. Ward-Perkins, Bryan. London: Macmillan, 1923. The Huns had learned a great deal about Roman siege warfare from their time serving in the Roman army and expertly put this knowledge to use, literally wiping whole cities, such as Naissus, off the map. When Valentinian learned of this, he obviously rejected this idea. [We were invited to a banquet with Attila at three o'clock] When the hour arrived we went to the palace, along with the embassy from the western Romans, and stood on the threshold of the hall in the presence of Attila. He was born to a nomadic tribe known as the Huns. His palace was a huge loghouse floored and walled with planed planks, but adorned with elegantly carved or polished wood, and reinforced with carpets and skins to keep out the cold. Along with Heather 2005, the most recent proponent of the “catastrophe model” for the end of the western Roman Empire; uses examples of material culture, such as roof tiles and coinage, to suggest that that Germanic invasions “were undoubtedly the principal cause of the death of the Roman economy” (p. 134) and brought “the end of ancient sophistication” (p. 182) in the western empire. With Hun forces looming just 20 miles of Constantinople, Theodosius was forced to make terms, and agreed to pay Attila the staggering sum of 2,100 pounds of gold per year. He lied down on his bed and passed out on his back, resulting in his death by drowning in his own blood. The Roman writer Priscus, who provided what was considered the most reliable Roman account of the Huns, claimed that in 445 “Bleda, king of the Huns, was assassinated as a result of the plots of his brother Attila.” Two years later, Attila led another, even more ambitious assault on the Eastern Roman Empire. He had, Gibbon adds, been “glorious in his life, invincible in death, the father of his people, the scourge of his enemies, and the terror of the world.” The Huns buried him in a triple coffin—an iron exterior concealing an inner silver casket which, in turn, masked one of gold—and did it secretly at night, massacring the prisoners whom they had forced to dig his grave so that it would never be discovered. 02 Nov 2020. or He wrote an eight volume history in Greek of the exact period in which the Hun lived. This suited the soldiers, for they were much more comfortable in the saddle than on the ground. Here, as in Gaul, he spread a wide swath of destruction and so completely sacked the city of Aquileia that not only would it never rise again, but no one even knew where it had stood. (c)Paul Halsall Jan 1996 His spectacular demise, on one of his many wedding nights, is memorably described by Gibbon: Before the king of the Huns evacuated Italy, he threatened to return more dreadful, and more implacable, if his bride, the princess Honoria, were not delivered to his ambassadors…. Army of Attila the Hunby The Creative Assembly (Copyright). Mobilizing a shrewd mixture of terror, military might, and diplomatic subtlety, Attila created a short-lived barbarian empire that stretched from the Baltic Sea to Mongolia. Please support Ancient History Encyclopedia Foundation. He has taught history, writing, literature, and philosophy at the college level. When Attila learned that a Roman army was approaching, he offered to withdraw in exchange for a new treaty. Mike Dash is a contributing writer in history for Smithsonian.com. The arrival of the Huns in Europe is forever associated with one of the most significant events in world history, the fall of the western Roman Empire, variously dated to 476 CE, when the usurper Romulus, the last emperor to reside in Rome, was deposed, or 480 CE, at the death of Julius Nepos, the last legitimate western emperor. The house of the chieftain Onegesius was second only to the king's in splendor and was also encircled with a wooden enclosure, but it was not adorned with towers like that of the king. https://www.ancient.eu/Attila_the_Hun/. The Huns arrived in Europe around 370 and settled in modern-day Hungary. Honoria, sister of the Western emperor, Valentinian III, had been sadly disappointed with the husband that her brother had selected for her and sent her engagement ring to Attila with a request for aid. The next morning, after the king failed to appear, his guards broke down the door of the bridal chamber and found Attila dead, with a weeping, hysterical Ildico at his bedside. He has been depicted since his death as the epitome of a warrior-king, and recent portrayals follow this traditional image. (61), Feast of Attilaby Fine Arts in Hungary (Public Domain). In the early 20th century Bury 1923 was for a long time considered the standard account of the late Roman Empire after 395. Still, it is difficult to know whether these storms of anger were genuine or simply displays intended to awe the ambassadors, and there are things to admire in the respect that Attila accorded Bleda’s widow—when Priscus encountered her, she held the post of governor of a Hun village. In 451, some 200,000 of Attila’s Hun forces invaded Gaul. Advertising Notice According to legend, Gilgamesh was buried at the bottom of the Euphrates when the waters parted upon his death. Some Rights Reserved (2009-2020) under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license unless otherwise noted. The cupbearers gave us a cup, according to the national custom, that we might pray before we sat down. DOI: 10.1093/ehr/CX.435.4Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation ». (Jordanes, 102). Our latest articles delivered to your inbox, once a week: Our mission is to engage people with cultural heritage and to improve history education worldwide. Following his funeral, his empire was divided among his sons who fought with each other for the greatest share, squandered their resources, and allowed the kingdom to fall apart. Cookie Policy Theodosius II, realizing he was defeated but unwilling to admit total defeat, asked for terms; the sum Rome now had to pay to keep the Huns from further destruction was more than tripled. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 46-49. All Rights Reserved. And he came forth from the house with a dignified strut, looking round on this side and on that. Though the Western Roman Empire was not his target; he had forged a tentative alliance with Emperor Valentinian. for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Cite This Work The historian Jordanes (6th century CE), who wrote the only ancient account of the Goths still extant, includes their interactions with the Huns, describing Attila at length: He was a man born into the world to shake the nations, the scourge of all lands, who in some way terrified all mankind by the rumors noised abroad concerning him.