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The Story of Attila the Hun

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Many of his European contemporaries dubbed Attila the Hun the Scourge of God because to his reputation for terrible warfare, razing towns, and massacring people, including children and women. However, much remains unknown about both Attila and the Huns, who had a tremendous effect on Europe and Asia Minor in the fourth and fifth centuries but scattered into many areas after their great ruler’s death. Their roots are unknown, since they most likely descended from nomadic tribes, and despite the fact that they taught their children Latin in order to interact with the outside world, their own language remains little understood.

What can be stated is that they were epic warriors who utilized cranial deformation to lengthen their skulls and trained their men from infancy to withstand agony, even branding or burning the newborn’s cheek on the day of a son’s birth. Though they were often referred to as “barbarians” because to their nomadic lifestyle and brutality, it was their technical supremacy that contributed to their victory, owing to their long range composite bow and distinctive high front and rear saddle.

Attila’s birth date is also unclear, although the majority of evidence indicates that he was born in the early 400s, as the nephew of the previous king, Ruga. Attila and his brother, Bleda, wasted little time in establishing their presence in Europe, invading the Eastern Roman Empire despite the fact that they had signed a contract with them. Surprisingly, one of their biggest friends was a former prisoner of war, Aetius of the Western Roman Empire, who helped them in fighting the Burgundians and almost annihilating their people. Aetius also employed the Huns virtually as mercenary forces to fight back against the Goths and Franks, who posed a challenge to Rome’s monopoly on power in most of Europe.

The Huns in Battle | Public Domain

This connection between the Western Romans and the Huns was possible because, despite their military might, Attila’s Huns were not conquerors. They earned their money by providing “protection” to different European citizens in exchange for payments ranging from 700–2,100 lbs. of gold each year. In essence, it was similar to the mafia, but on a much larger scale and with an awful lot of horses.

Attila then invaded the Balkans, raided Constantinople, and actually burned down Naissus, dumping the corpses of its people into the riverbank. Despite payment, Attila proceeded to assault the Eastern Romans and then rampaged through the Balkans and into Greece, slaughtering an unknown number of troops and citizens and staying victorious despite wave after wave of resistance.

According to legend, Attila wielded the Sword of Mars, the Roman god of battle, and after so much bloodshed, he accomplished what no one else had: he united the many citizens of Europe to the extent that they set their differences aside and chose to fight him together. The Battle of Catalaunian Fields determined Europe’s very destiny, as his old buddy Aetius led troops against him, and the Romans —along with the Franks, Goths, and Alans — managed to defeat him despite severe losses. It was Attila’s first and only loss.

huns led by Attila invade italy
Huns Invade Italy | Public Domain

However, nothing could contain the Scourge for long, and he soon made his way to Italy, where he was allegedly dissuaded from further bloodshed by Pope Leo, though evidence of the claimed incident is scant. In the end, it was not battle that brought an end to Attila, but love, or at the very least its celebration. On the eve of his third wedding, he had a nosebleed (perhaps as a result of inebriation), which suffocated him to death after he passed out from the festivities. According to legend, he was buried in a iron, silver, and gold casket, and to prevent others from discovering and vandalizing their beloved leader’s bones, Attila’s servants buried him in a secret place before being slain themselves.

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