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Attilla the Hun

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Attila the Hun (Old Norse: Atle, Atli; German: Etzel; ca. 406-453 AD) was the last and most powerful king of the Huns. He reigned over what was then Europe's largest empire, from 434 until his death. His empire stretched from Central Europe to the Black Sea and from the Danube River to the Baltic. During his rule he was among the direst enemies of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires: he invaded the Balkans twice and encircled Constantinople in the second invasion. He marched through France as far as Orleans before being turned back at Chalons; and he drove the western emperor Valentinian III from his capital at Ravenna in 452.

Though his empire died with him, and he left no remarkable legacy, he has become a legendary figure in the history of Europe. In much of Western Europe, he is remembered as the epitome of cruelty and rapacity. In contrast, some histories lionize him as a great and noble king, and he plays major roles in three Norse sagas.



* 1 Background and beginnings

* 2 Shared kingship

* 3 Sole ruler

* 4 Attila in the west

* 5 Invasion of Italy and death

* 6 Appearance, character, and name

* 7 Notes

* 8 See also

* 9 References

* 10 External links


Background and beginnings

Main article: Huns

The European Huns are often thought to have been a western extension of the Xiongnu (XiōngnÑŠ), (匈奴) n., a group of nomad tribes from north-eastern China and Central Asia. These people achieved military superiority over their rivals (most of them highly cultured and civilized) by their state of readiness for combat, amazing mobility, and weapons like the Hun bow.

Attila was born around 406. Nothing certain is known about his childhood; the supposition that at a young age he was already a capable leader and a capable warrior is reasonable but unknowable.

Following negotiation of peace terms in 418, the young Atilla, at the age of 12, was sent as a child hostage to the Roman court of Emperor Honorius. In return, the Huns received Flavius Aetius, in a child hostage exchange arranged by the Romans.

Most likely the empire schooled Attila in its courts, customs and traditions and in its luxurious lifestyle, in the hope that he would carry an appreciation of these things back to his own nation, thus serving to extend Roman influence. The Huns would probably have hoped that Attila would enhance espionage capabilities by the exchange.

Attila attempted escape during his stay in Rome but failed. He turned his attention to an intense study of the empire while outwardly ceasing to struggle against his hostage status. He studied the internal and foreign policies of the Romans. He often secretly observed them in diplomatic conference with foreign ministers. He learned about leadership, protocol and other essentials suited to future rulers and diplomats.


Shared kingship

The Hunnish empire stretched from the steppes of Central Asia into modern Germany, and from the Danube river to the Baltic Sea


The Hunnish empire stretched from the steppes of Central Asia into modern Germany, and from the Danube river to the Baltic Sea

By 432, the Huns were united under Ruga. In 434 Ruga died, leaving his nephews Attila and Bleda, the sons of his brother Mundjuk, in control over all the united Hun tribes. At the time of their accession, the Huns were bargaining with Theodosius II's envoys over the return of several renegade tribes who had taken refuge within the Byzantine Empire. The following year, Attila and Bleda met with the imperial legation at Margus (present-day Poћarevac) and, all seated on horseback in the Hunnic manner, negotiated a successful treaty: the Romans agreed not only to return the fugitive tribes (who had been a welcome aid against the Vandals), but also to double their previous tribute of 350 Roman pounds (ca. 114.5 kg) of gold, open their markets to Hunnish traders, and pay a ransom of eight solidi for each Roman taken prisoner by the Huns. The Huns, satisfied with the treaty, decamped from the empire and departed into the interior of the continent, perhaps to consolidate and strengthen their empire. Theodosius used this opportunity to strengthen the walls of Constantinople, building the city's first sea wall, and to build up his border defenses along the Danube.

The Huns remained out of Roman sight for the next five years. During this time, they were conducting an invasion of the Persian Empire. However, in Armenia, a Persian counterattack resulted in a defeat for Attila and Bleda, and they ceased their efforts to conquer Persia. In 440, they reappeared on the borders of the empire, attacking the merchants at the market on the north bank of the Danube that had been arranged for by the treaty. Attila and Bleda threatened further war, claiming that the Romans had failed to fulfil their treaty obligations and that the bishop of Margus (not far from modern Belgrade) had crossed the Danube to ransack and desecrate the royal Hun graves on the Danube's north bank. They crossed the Danube and laid waste to Illyrian cities and forts on the river, among them, according to Priscus, Viminacium, which was a city of the Moesians in Illyria. Their advance began at Margus, for when the Romans discussed handing over the offending bishop, he slipped away secretly to the barbarians and betrayed the city to them.

Theodosius had stripped the river's defenses in response to the Vandal Geiseric's capture of Carthage in 440 and the Sassanid Yazdegerd II's invasion of Armenia in 441. This left Attila and Bleda a clear path through Illyria into the Balkans, which they invaded in 441. The Hunnish army, having sacked Margus and Viminacium, took Sigindunum (modern Belgrade) and Sirmium before halting its operations. A lull followed during 442, when Theodosius recalled his troops from North Africa and ordered a large new issue of coins to finance operations against the Huns. Having made these preparations, he thought it safe to refuse the



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