Attila the Hun was the ruler of the Huns in the 5th century. He successfully challenged the Roman Empire, expanded his own, and defeated several enemies in war. He is known as one of the most feared commanders of his time.

Attila the Hun

Attila the Hun was born in Pannonia (modern-day Hungary) around 406. In 434, Attila and his brother were made co-rulers of the Huns. Their first known act as co-rulers was the negotiation of a peace treaty with the Eastern Roman Empire. By 445, Attila had grown tired of sharing the throne and murdered his brother to become the king of the Hunnic Empire and sole ruler of the Huns.

Prior to the execution of his brother, Attila disregarded a peace treaty with the Roman Emperor Theodosius II and defeated several territories of the Eastern Roman Empire. He could not penetrate the walls at Constantinople, but he did destroy the remaining Eastern Roman forces. For years, he and Theodosius II negotiated another treaty, but Attila would once again disregard it.

In 451, Attila invaded Gaul. Apparently, his goal was to attack the Visigoths - a Germanic people who had conquered parts of the Roman Empire. Though Attila did not seem to have any issues with the Western Emperor Valentinian III, one year prior, his sister requested rescue by Attila from an arranged marriage. Attila took her as his wife and demanded half of the Western Roman Empire as her dowry. Aetius, the Roman man who was really in charge over Valentinian III, allied with the Visigothic king. The allies forced Attila and the Huns to withdraw, which marked Attila's first and only defeat.

Attila invaded Italy, taking many cities but sparing Rome, apparently due to Pope Leo I's diplomacy. The Huns could not continue because famine and disease were now widespread in Italy. Attila planned to attack and take Italy again, but he died the night after his marriage, in 453. The Huns killed those who buried Attila and his treasure to protect his grave from being discovered. Though Attila had appointed his oldest son as his successor, his three sons fought for control of their father's empire. Ultimately, Attila had left his family divided.

Attila the Hun was also called "Flagellum Dei", which is Latin for "Scourge of God". Apparently he was known for his fierce gaze and for scaring others by saying that he owned the actual sword of Mars, the Roman God of War. He is said to have been a just ruler of his people, but also aggressive and ruthless. He managed to expand the Hunnic Empire to include Germanic tribes, devastate territory from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, and inspire fear throughout the Roman Empire.

Attila the Hun Significant Accomplishments

  • Became the sole ruler of the Hunnic Empire and the Huns after executing his brother and co-ruler.

  • Sacked many cities of the Roman Empire, inspiring fear throughout the entire Empire.

  • Negotiated many peace treaties, from which he received financial gain, though he often disregarded the terms.

  • Destroyed much of the Eastern Roman Empire and its forces as well as the Balkans.

  • Expanded his Empire and conquered cities and territories.

  • Amassed powerful armies several times.

Attila the Hun Quotes

“There, where I have passed, the grass will never grow gain.”

“It takes less courage to criticize the decisions of others than to stand by your own.”

“Everybody has value; even if to serve as a bad example.”

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