Attila: Wikis


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Ruler of the Huns
Detail from Atilla and his Hordes Overrun Italy and the Arts by Eugène Delacroix
Reign 434–453
Born 406
Birthplace Place unknown
Died 453 (aged 47)
Place of death unknown, possibly in modern Hungary
Predecessor Bleda and Rugila
Successor Ellac
Father Mundzuk
Mother unknown

Attila (pronounced /ˈætɨlə/ or /əˈtɪlə/; 406–453), widely known as Attila the Hun, was the Ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire which stretched from Germany to the Ural River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his rule, he was one of the most fearsome of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires' enemies: he invaded the Balkans twice and marched through Gaul (modern France) as far as Orléans before being defeated at the Battle of Châlons. He refrained from attacking either Constantinople or Rome. His story, that the Sword of Attila had come to his hand by miraculous means, was reported by the Roman Priscus.

In much of Western Europe, he is remembered as the epitome of cruelty and rapacity. However, in Hungary, Turkey, and other Turkic-speaking countries in Central Asia, he is regarded as a hero and his name is revered.[citation needed] Some histories and chronicles describe him as a great and noble king, and he plays major roles in three Old Norse works: Atlakviða[1], Völsungasaga[2], and Atlamál.[3]



The Huns were a group of Eurasian nomads who, appearing from beyond the Volga, migrated into Europe c. 370 and built up an enormous empire in Europe. Their main military technique was mounted archery. They were possibly the descendants of the Xiongnu who had been northern neighbours of China three hundred years before[4] and may be the first expansion of Turkic people across Eurasia[5][6][7][8][9]. The origin and language of the Huns has been the subject of debate for centuries. One scholar suggests a relationship to Yeniseian.[10] The leading current theory is that their leaders at least may have spoken a Turkic language, perhaps closest to the modern Chuvash language.[11]

Shared kingship

The Hunnic Empire stretched from the steppes of Central Asia into modern Germany, and from the River Danube to the Baltic Sea.

The death of Rugila (also known as Rua or Ruga) in 434 left his nephews Attila and Bleda (also known as Buda), the sons of his brother Mundzuk (Hungarian: Bendegúz, Turkish: Boncuk), in control over all the united Hun tribes. At the time of their accession, the Huns were bargaining with Eastern Romen Emperor Theodosius II's envoys over the return of several renegades (possibly Hunnic nobles not in agreement with the brothers' leadership) who had taken refuge within the Eastern Roman Empire. The following year Attila and Bleda met with the imperial legation at Margus (present-day Požarevac) and, all seated on horseback in the Hunnic manner,[12] negotiated a successful treaty: the Romans agreed not only to return the fugitives, but also to double their previous tribute of 350 Roman pounds (ca. 115 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 returned to their home in the Hungarian Great Plain, 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 few years as a Hunnic force invaded the Sassanid Empire. A defeat in Armenia by the Sassanids caused them to abandon this attempt and return their attentions to Europe. In 440 they reappeared in force on the borders of the Roman Empire, attacking the merchants at the market on the north bank of the Danube that had been established by the treaty. Crossing the Danube, they laid waste to the cities of Illyricum and forts on the river, among them, according to Priscus, Viminacium, which was a city of Moesia. Their advance began at Margus, whose bishop they had demanded for retaining property which Attila regarded as his; when the Romans discussed handing over the offending bishop, he slipped away secretly to the Huns and betrayed the city to them.

The Huns in battle with the Alans, Johann Nepomuk Geiger, 1873.

As the Huns conquered the Danube defences, the Vandals, under the leadership of Geiseric, captured the Western Roman province of Africa with its capital of Carthage in 440 and the Sassanid Shah Yazdegerd II invaded Armenia in 441. Stripping the Balkan defenses of forces requested by the West Romans, in order to launch an attack on the Vandals in Africa (which was the richest province of the Western empire and a main source of the food supply of Rome) left Attila and Bleda a clear path through Illyricum into the Balkans, which they invaded in 441. The Hunnish army, having sacked Margus and Viminacium, took Singidunum (modern Belgrade) and Sirmium before halting. A lull followed in 442 and during this time Theodosius recalled his troops from Sicily 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 Hunnish kings' demands.

Attila responded with a campaign in 443.[13] Striking along the Danube, the Huns overran the military centres of Ratiara and successfully besieged Naissus (modern Niš) with battering rams and rolling siege towers—military sophistication that was new to the Hun repertoire. Then, pushing along the Nisava River, they took Serdica (Sofia), Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and Arcadiopolis. They encountered and destroyed a Roman army outside Constantinople and were stopped by the double walls of the Eastern capital. A second army was defeated near Callipolis (modern Gallipoli) and Theodosius, now without any armed forces to respond, admitting defeat, sent the Magister militum per Orientem Anatolius to negotiate peace terms. These were harsher than the previous treaty: the Emperor agreed to hand over 6,000 Roman pounds (ca. 2000 kg) of gold as punishment for having disobeyed the terms of the treaty during the invasion; the yearly tribute was tripled, rising to 2,100 Roman pounds (ca. 700 kg) in gold; and the ransom for each Roman prisoner rose to 12 solidi.

Their demands met for a time, the Hun kings withdrew into the interior of their empire. According to Jordanes (following Priscus), during the peace following the Huns' withdrawal from Byzantium (probably around 445), Bleda died (killed in a hunting accident arranged by his brother, according to the classical sources), Attila took the throne for himself, and became the sole ruler of the Huns.[14]

Sole ruler

Mór Than's painting The Feast of Attila, based on a fragment of Priscus

In 447 Attila again rode south into the Eastern Roman Empire through Moesia. The Roman army under the Gothic magister militum Arnegisclus met him in the Battle of the Utus and was defeated, though not without inflicting heavy losses. The Huns were left unopposed and rampaged through the Balkans as far as Thermopylae. Constantinople itself was saved by the Isaurian troops of the magister militum per Orientem Zeno and protected by the intervention of the prefect Flavius Constantinus, who organized the reconstruction of the walls that had been previously damaged by earthquakes, and, in some places, to construct a new line of fortification in front of the old. An account of this invasion survives:

The barbarian nation of the Huns, which was in Thrace, became so great that more than a hundred cities were captured and Constantinople almost came into danger and most men fled from it. … And there were so many murders and blood-lettings that the dead could not be numbered. Ay, for they took captive the churches and monasteries and slew the monks and maidens in great numbers. (Callinicus, in his Life of Saint Hypatius)

In the West

In 450, Attila proclaimed his intent to attack the powerful Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse, making an alliance with Emperor Valentinian III in order to do so. He had previously been on good terms with the Western Roman Empire and its influential general Flavius Aëtius. Aëtius had spent a brief exile among the Huns in 433, and the troops Attila provided against the Goths and Bagaudae had helped earn him the largely honorary title of magister militum in the west. The gifts and diplomatic efforts of Geiseric, who opposed and feared the Visigoths, may also have influenced Attila's plans.

However, Valentinian's sister was Honoria, who, in order to escape her forced betrothal to a Roman senator, had sent the Hunnish king a plea for help – and her engagement ring – in the spring of 450. Though Honoria may not have intended a proposal of marriage, Attila chose to interpret her message as such. He accepted, asking for half of the western Empire as dowry. When Valentinian discovered the plan, only the influence of his mother Galla Placidia convinced him to exile, rather than kill, Honoria. He also wrote to Attila strenuously denying the legitimacy of the supposed marriage proposal. Attila sent an emissary to Ravenna to proclaim that Honoria was innocent, that the proposal had been legitimate, and that he would come to claim what was rightfully his.

The general path of the Hun forces in the invasion of Gaul.

Attila interfered in a succession struggle after the death of a Frankish ruler. Attila supported the elder son, while Aëtius supported the younger.[15] Attila gathered his vassalsGepids, Ostrogoths, Rugians, Scirians, Heruls, Thuringians, Alans, Burgundians, among others and began his march west. In 451 he arrived in Belgica with an army exaggerated by Jordanes to half a million strong. J.B. Bury believes that Attila's intent, by the time he marched west, was to extend his kingdom – already the strongest on the continent – across Gaul to the Atlantic Ocean.[16]

On April 7, he captured Metz. Other cities attacked can be determined by the hagiographic vitae written to commemorate their bishops: Nicasius was slaughtered before the altar of his church in Rheims; Servatus is alleged to have saved Tongeren with his prayers, as Saint Genevieve is to have saved Paris.[17] Lupus, bishop of Troyes, is also credited with saving his city by meeting Attila in person.[18]

Aëtius moved to oppose Attila, gathering troops from among the Franks, the Burgundians, and the Celts. A mission by Avitus, and Attila's continued westward advance, convinced the Visigoth king Theodoric I (Theodorid) to ally with the Romans. The combined armies reached Orléans ahead of Attila,[19] thus checking and turning back the Hunnish advance. Aëtius gave chase and caught the Huns at a place usually assumed to be near Catalaunum (modern Châlons-en-Champagne). The two armies clashed in the Battle of Châlons, whose outcome is commonly considered to be a strategic victory for the Visigothic-Roman alliance. Theodoric was killed in the fighting and Aëtius failed to press his advantage, according to Edward Gibbon and Edward Creasy, because he feared the consequences of an overwhelming Visigothic triumph as much as he did a defeat. From Aëtius' point of view, the best outcome was what occurred: Theodoric died, Attila was in retreat and disarray, and the Romans had the benefit of appearing victorious.

Invasion of Italy and death

Raphael's The Meeting between Leo the Great and Attila

Attila returned in 452 to claim his marriage to Honoria anew, invading and ravaging Italy along the way. The city of Venice was founded as a result of these attacks when the residents fled to small islands in the Venetian Lagoon. His army sacked numerous cities and razed Aquileia completely, leaving no trace of it behind. Legend has it he built a castle on top of a hill north of Aquileia to watch the city burn, thus founding the town of Udine, where the castle can still be found. Aëtius, who lacked the strength to offer battle, managed to harass and slow Attila's advance with only a shadow force. Attila finally halted at the River Po. By this point disease and starvation may have broken out in Attila's camp, thus helping to stop his invasion.

Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys, the high civilian officers Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, as well as the Bishop of Rome Leo I, who met Attila at Mincio in the vicinity of Mantua, and obtained from him the promise that he would withdraw from Italy and negotiate peace with the emperor.[20] Prosper of Aquitaine gives a short, reliable description of the historic meeting, but gives all the credit of the successful negotiation to Leo. The later anonymous account,[21] a pious "fable which has been represented by the pencil of Raphael and the chisel of Algardi" (as Gibbon called it) says that the Pope, aided by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, convinced him to turn away from the city. According to a later mediaeval Hungarian chronicle, the Pope promised Attila that if he left Rome in peace, one of his successors would receive a holy crown.[22] Priscus reports that superstitious fear of the fate of Alaric—who died shortly after sacking Rome in 410—gave him pause.

Illustration of the meeting from the Chronicon Pictum, ca. 1360

In reality, Italy had suffered from a terrible famine in 451 and her crops were faring little better in 452; Attila's devastating invasion of the plains of northern Italy this year did not improve the harvest.[23] To advance on Rome would have required supplies which were not available in Italy, and taking the city would not have improved Attila's supply situation. Therefore, it was more profitable for Attila to conclude peace and retreat back to his homeland.[24] Secondly, an East Roman force had crossed the Danube under the command of another officer also named Aetius—who had participated in the Council of Chalcedon the previous year—and proceeded to defeat the Huns who had been left behind by Attila to safeguard their home territories.[25] Attila, hence, faced heavy human and natural pressures to retire "from Italy without ever setting foot south of the Po."[25] As Hydatius writes:

The Huns, who had been plundering Italy and who had also stormed a number of cities, were victims of divine punishment, being visited with heaven-sent disasters: famine and some kind of disaster. In addition, they were slaughtered by auxiliaries sent by the Emperor Marcian and led by Aetius, at the same time, they were crushed in their [home] settlements....Thus crushed, they made peace with the Romans and all retired to their homes.[26]

After Attila left Italy and returned to his palace across the Danube, he planned to strike at Constantinople again and reclaim the tribute which Marcian had stopped. (Marcian was the successor of Theodosius and had ceased paying tribute in late 450 while Attila was occupied in the west; multiple invasions by the Huns and others had left the Balkans with little to plunder.) However Attila died in the early months of 453. The conventional account, from Priscus, says that at a feast celebrating his latest marriage to the beautiful and young Ildico (if uncorrupted, the name suggests a Gothic origin)[27] he suffered a severe nosebleed and choked to death in a stupor. An alternative theory is that he succumbed to internal bleeding after heavy drinking or a condition called esophageal varices, where dilated veins in the lower part of the esophagus rupture leading to death by haemorrhage.[28]

Another account of his death, first recorded 80 years after the events by the Roman chronicler Count Marcellinus, reports that "Attila, King of the Huns and ravager of the provinces of Europe, was pierced by the hand and blade of his wife."[29] The Volsunga saga and the Poetic Edda also claim that King Atli (Attila) died at the hands of his wife, Gudrun.[30] Most scholars reject these accounts as no more than hearsay, preferring instead the account given by Attila's contemporary Priscus. Priscus' version, however, has recently come under renewed scrutiny by Michael A. Babcock.[31] Based on detailed philological analysis, Babcock concludes that the account of natural death, given by Priscus, was an ecclesiastical "cover story" and that Emperor Marcian (who ruled the Eastern Roman Empire from 450-457) was the political force behind Attila's death.

Jordanes says: "The greatest of all warriors should be mourned with no feminine lamentations and with no tears, but with the blood of men." His horsemen galloped in circles around the silken tent where Attila lay in state, singing in his dirge, according to Cassiodorus and Jordanes: "Who can rate this as death, when none believes it calls for vengeance?"

Then they celebrated a strava (lamentation) over his burial place with great feasting. Legend says that he was laid to rest in a triple coffin made of gold, silver, and iron, along with some of the spoils of his conquests. His men diverted a section of the river, buried the coffin under the riverbed, and then were killed to keep the exact location a secret.

His sons Ellac (his appointed successor), Dengizich, and Ernakh fought over the division of his legacy, specifically which vassal kings would belong to which brother. As a consequence they were divided, defeated and scattered the following year in the Battle of Nedao by the Ostrogoths and the Gepids under Ardaric who had been Attila's most prized chieftain.

Attila's many children and relatives are known by name and some even by deeds, but soon valid genealogical sources all but dry up and there seems to be no verifiable way to trace Attila's descendants. This has not stopped many genealogists from attempting to reconstruct a valid line of descent for various medieval rulers. One of the most credible claims has been that of the khans of Bulgaria (see Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans). A popular, but ultimately unconfirmed, attempt tries to relate Attila to Charlemagne.

Appearance, character

There is no surviving first-person account of Attila's appearance. There is, however, a possible second-hand source, provided by Jordanes, who claimed Priscus described Attila as:

Short of stature, with a broad chest and a large head; his eyes were small, his beard thin and sprinkled with grey; and he had a flat nose and tanned skin, showing evidence of his origin.[32]

Attila has been portrayed in various ways, sometimes as a noble ruler, sometimes as a cruel barbarian. Attila is known in Western history and tradition as the grim flagellum dei (Latin: "Scourge of God"), and his name has become a byword for cruelty and barbarism. Some of this may have arisen from confusion between him and later steppe warlords such as Genghis Khan (Timuchin) and Timur (Tamerlane). All have been regarded as cruel, clever, and blood-thirsty lovers of battle and pillage; all have been recorded mainly by their enemies. The reality of his character is probably more complex. Priscus also recounts his meeting with an eastern Roman captive who admired Hunnic governance over Roman, so that he had no desire to return to his former country, and the Byzantine historian's description of Attila's humility and simplicity is unambiguous in its admiration.

Attila from an illustration to the Poetic Edda

The origin of Attila's name is not known with confidence. Most suggestions assume Turkish roots. The etymology "oceanic (universal) [ruler]" has been proposed, supposing that the Hunnic language was Danube-Bulgarian.[11] Alternatively the word might originate from Turkic Atyl/Atal/Atil/Itil meaning water, river (also, ancient name of Volga river), with adjective suffix -ly. (Compare also Turkic medieval notable title atalyk – "senior as father").[33][34][35] Old-Turkic might have used the word atta ("father") (as in Atatürk) then added the diminutive suffix -ila, which means ("little father") from Attaila [36] 'Attila' has many variants: Atli and Atle in Norse, Ætla, Attle and Atlee in English, Attila/Atilla/Etele in Hungarian (all the three name variants are used in Hungary; Attila is the most popular variant), Etzel in the German Nibelungenlied, or Attila, Atila or Atilla in modern Turkish. In Hungary and in Turkey "Attila" is commonly used as a male first name. In Turkey sometimes the name is spelled with double ll rather than double tt (Atilla).

The Polish Chronicle represents Attila's name as Aquila supposedly (by some authors of the article) derived from the Latin aqua, however it can simply be the Latin aquila (eagle). Others believe that the name may have a connection to Hungarian ítélet meaning judgement.


In Hungary, several public places are named after Attila; for instance, in Budapest there are 10 Attila Streets and an Attila Lane, one of which is an important street behind the Buda Castle. See: Public place names of Budapest

In Turkey many military operations were named after Attila. When the Turkish army intervened or invaded in Cyprus in 1974 the operation was nicknamed Attila as well. Turks also named hundreds of streets and regions after his name in different cities and towns across Turkey.

See also


  1. ^ Atlakvitha en grönlenzka Henry Adams Bellows' translation and commentary
  2. ^ R. G. Finch (ed. and trans.), The Saga of the Volsungs (London: Nelson, 1965), available at [1]
  3. ^ Atlamol en grönlenzku Translation and commentary by Henry A. Bellows
  4. ^ De Guignes, Joseph (1756-1758). Histoire générale des Huns, des Turcs, des Mongols et des autres Tartares. 
  5. ^ Transylvania through the age of migrations
  6. ^ Calise, J.M.P. (2002). 'Pictish Sourcebook: Documents of Medieval Legend and Dark Age History'. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. p279, ISBN 0313322953
  7. ^ Peckham, D. Paulston, C. B. (1998). Linguistic Minorities in Central and Eastern Europe. Clevedon, UK : Multilingual Matters. p100, ISBN 1853594164
  8. ^ Canfield, R.L. (1991). Turko-Persia in Historical Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p49, ISBN 0521522919
  9. ^ Frazee, C.A. (2002). Two Thousand Years Ago: The World at the Time of Jesus. Wm. B. Eerdmans
  10. ^ Vovin 2000
  11. ^ a b Omeljan Pritsak (1982). "Hunnic names of the Attila clan". Harvard Ukrainian Studies VI: 444. 
  12. ^ Howarth, Patrick (1995). Attila, King of the Huns. New York: Barnes & Noble Publishing. pp. 191–92.,M1. 
  13. ^ Cawthorne, Nigel (2004). Military Commanders. Enchanted Lion Books. p. 41. 
  14. ^ Priscus of Panium: fragments from the Embassy to Attila
  15. ^ The location and identity of these kings is not known and subject to conjecture.
  16. ^ J.B. Bury, The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians, lecture IX (e-text)
  17. ^ The vitae are summarized in Thomas Hodgkin, Italy and Her Invaders (New York: Russell & Russell, 1967 reprint of the original 1880–89 edition), volume II pp. 128ff.
  18. ^ St. Lupus – Saints & Angels – Catholic Online
  19. ^ Later accounts of the battle site the Huns either already within the city or in the midst of storming it when the Roman-Visigoth army arrived; Jordanes mentions no such thing. See Bury, ibid.
  20. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Pope St. Leo I (the Great)" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.
  21. ^ Medieval Sourcebook, Leo I and Attila
  22. ^ Chronicon Pictum, this is the first occasion when an artist presented an angel graphically
  23. ^ E.A. Thompson, The Huns, revised with an afterword by Peter Heather, Blackwell Publishers, 1996. p.161
  24. ^ Thompson-Heather, pp.160-161
  25. ^ a b Thompson-Heather, p.163
  26. ^ Hydatius, Chron Min. ii pp.26ff
  27. ^ Thompson, The Huns, p. 164.
  28. ^ Man, Nigel (2006). Attila. Thomas Dunne Books. p. 264. 
  29. ^ Marcellinus Comes, Chronicon (e-text), quoted in Hector Munro Chadwick: The Heroic Age (London, Cambridge University Press, 1926), p. 39 n. 1.
  30. ^ Volsunga Saga, Chapter 39; Poetic Edda, Atlamol En Grönlenzku, The Greenland Ballad of Atli
  31. ^ Babcock, Michael A. The Night Attila Died: Solving the Murder of Attila the Hun, Berkley Books, 2005 ISBN 0-425-20272-0
  32. ^ The Goths by Jordanes. Translated by Charles Christopher Mierow. Chapter 35: Attila the Hun.
  33. ^ The History Files: The Origins of the Huns, based on conversations with Kemal Cemal, Turkey, 2002
  34. ^ The World of the Huns. Chapter IX. Language – O. Maenchen-Helfen
  35. ^ Gene Expression
  36. ^ Maenchen-Helfen, Otto (1973). "Chapter 9.4". The World of the Huns. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0520015968. 

Primary sources


  • Babcock, Michael A. (2005) The Night Attila Died: Solving the Murder of Attila the Hun (Berkley Publishing Group, ISBN 0-425-20272-0)
  • Blockley, R.C. (1983) The Fragmentary Classicising Historians of the Later Roman Empire, vol. II (ISBN 0-905205-15-4). This is a collection of fragments from Priscus, Olympiodorus, and others, with original text and translation.
  • Gordon, C. D. (1960) The Age of Attila: Fifth-century Byzantium and the Barbarians (Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, ISBN 0472061119). This is a translated collection, with commentary and annotation, of ancient writings on the subject, including Priscus.
  • Heather, Peter (2005) The Fall of the Roman Empire—A New History of Rome and the Barbarians (Oxford University Press, ISBN 0195159543)
  • Howarth, Patrick (1994) Attila, King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth (ISBN 0786709308).
  • Maenchen-Helfen, J. Otto (1973) The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture (Berkeley, University of California Press, ISBN 0520015967)
  • Man, John (2005) Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome (Bantam Press, ISBN 0-593-05291-9)
  • Thompson, E. A. (1948) A History of Attila and the Huns (London, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0837176409). This is the authoritative English work on the subject. It was reprinted in 1999 as The Huns in the Peoples of Europe series (ISBN 0-631-21443-7). Thompson did not enter controversies over Hunnic origins and considers that Attila's victories were achieved only when there was no concerted opposition.

External links

Preceded by
Hunnic rulers
jointly with Bleda
434 – 453
Succeeded by

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ATTILA (d. 453), king of the Huns, became king in 433, along with his brother Bleda, on the death of his uncle Roua. We hear but little as to Bleda, who died about 445, possibly slain by his brother's orders. In the first eight years of his reign Attila was chiefly occupied in the wars with other barbarian tribes, by which he made himself virtually supreme in central Europe. His own special kingdom comprised the countries which are now called Hungary and Transylvania, his capital being possibly not far from the modern city of Buda-Pest; but having made the Ostrogoths, the Gepidae and many other Teutonic tribes his subjectallies, and having also sent his invading armies into Media, he seems for nearly twenty years to have ruled practically without a rival from the Caspian to the Rhine. Very early in his reign, Honoria, grand-daughter of the emperor Theodosius II., being subjected to severe restraint on account of an amorous intrigue with one of the chamberlains of the palace, sent her ring to the king of the Huns and called on him to be her husband and her deliverer. Nothing came of the proposed engagement, but the wrongs of Honoria, his affianced wife, served as a convenient pretext for some of the constantly recurring embassies with which Attila, fond of trampling on the fallen majesty of Rome, worried and bullied the two courts of Constantinople and Ravenna. Another frequent subject of complaint was found in certain sacred vessels which the bishop of Sirmium had sent as a bribe to the secretary of Attila, and which had been by him, fraudulently, as his master contended, pawned to a silversmith at Rome. There were also frequent and imperious demands for the surrender of fugitives who had sought shelter from the wrath of Attila within the limits of the empire. One of the return embassies from Constantinople, that sent in 448, had the great advantage of being accompanied by a rhetorician named Priscus, whose minute journalistic account of the negotiations, including as it does a vivid picture of the great Hun in his banquet-hall, is by far the most valuable source of information as to the court and camp of Attila. What lends additional interest to the story is the fact that in the ambassador's suite there was an interpreter named Vigilas, who for fifty pounds of gold had promised to assassinate Attila. This base design was discovered by the Hunnish king, but had never been revealed to the head of the embassy or to his secretary. The situations created by this strange combination of honest diplomacy and secret villainy are described by Priscus with real dramatic power.

In 450 Theodosius II., the incapable emperor of the East, died, and his throne was occupied by a veteran soldier named Marcian, who answered the insulting message of Attila in a manlier tone than his predecessor. Accordingly the Hun, who had something of the bully in his nature, now turned upon Valentinian the trembling emperor of the West, and demanded redress for the wrongs of Honoria, and one-half of Valentinian's dominions as her dowry. Allying himself with the Franks and Vandals, he led his vast many-nationed army to the Rhine in the spring of 451, crossed that river, and sacked, apparently, most of the cities in Belgic Gaul. Most fortunately for Europe, the Teutonic races already settled in Gaul rallied to the defence of the empire against invaders infinitely more barbarous than themselves. Prominent in this new coalition was Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, whose capital city was Toulouse. His firm fighting alliance with the Roman general Aetius, with whom he had had many a conflict in previous years, was one of the best auguries for the new Europe that was to arise out of the ruins of the Roman empire. Meanwhile Attila had reached the Loire and was besieging the strong city of Orleans. The citizens, under the leadership of their bishop Anianus, made a heroic defence, but the place was on the point of being taken when, on the 24th of June, the allied RomanoGothic army was seen on the horizon. Attila, who knew the difficulty that he should have in feeding his immense army if his march was further delayed, turned again to the north-east, was persuaded by the venerable bishop Lupus to spare the city of Troyes, but halted near that place in the Catalaunian plains and offered battle to his pursuers Aetius and Theodoric. The battle which followed - certainly one of the decisive battles of the world - has been. well described by the Gothic historian Jordanes as "ruthless, manifold, immense, obstinate." It lasted for the whole day, and the number of the slain is variously stated at 175,000 and 300,000. All such estimates are, of course, untrustworthy, but there is no doubt that the carnage was terrible. The Visigothic king was slain, but the victory, though hardly earned, remained with his people and his allies. Attila did not venture to renew the engagement on the morrow, but retreated, apparently in good order, on the Rhine, recrossed that river and returned to his Pannonian home. From thence in the spring of 452 he again set forth to ravage or to conquer Italy. Her great champion Aetius showed less energy in her cause than he had shown in his defence of Gaul. After a stubborn contest, Attila took and utterly destroyed Aquileia, the chief city of Venetia, and then proceeded on his destructive course, capturing and burning the cities at the head of the Adriatic, Concordia, Altinum and Patavium (Padua). The fugitives from these cities, but especially from the last, seeking shelter in the lagoons of the Adriatic, laid the foundations of that which was one day to become the glorious city of Venice. Upon Milan and the cities of western Lombardy the hand of Attila seems to have weighed more lightly, plundering rather than utterly destroying; and at last when Pope Leo I., at the head of a deputation of Romall senators, appeared in his camp on the banks of the Mincio, entreating him not to pursue his victorious career to the gates of Rome, he yielded to their entreaties and consented to cross the Alps, with a menace, however, of future return, should the wrongs of Honoria remain unredressed. As he himself jokingly said: he knew how to conquer men, but the Lion and the Wolf (Leo and Lupus) were too strong for him. No further expeditions of Italy were undertaken by Attila, who died suddenly in 453, in the night following a great banquet which celebrated his marriage with a damsel named Ildico. Notwithstanding some rumours of violence it is probable that his death was natural and due to his own intemperate habits.

Under his name of Etzel, Attila plays a great part in Teutonic legend (see Nibelungenlied) and under that of Atli in Scandinavian Saga, but his historic lineaments are greatly obscured in both. He was short of stature, swarthy and broadchested, with a large head which early turned grey, snub nose and deep-set eyes. He walked with proud step, darting a haughty glance this way and that as if he felt himself lord of all.

The chief authorities for the life of Attila are Priscus, Jordanes, the Historia Miscella, Apollonius Sidonius and Gregory of Tours. (T. H.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun


  1. A taxonomic genus of flycatchers in the family Tyrannidae

See also


Proper noun




  1. A king of the tribes of Huns.

Derived terms

External links



  • IPA: /ˈɒtilːɒ/ (pronounced with short t and long l)
  • Hyphenation: At‧ti‧la

Proper noun


  1. A male given name.
  2. A king of the tribes of Huns.



Proper noun

Attila m.

  1. A male given name.
  2. A king of the tribes of Huns.



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Aves
Subclassis: Carinatae
Infraclassis: Neornithes
Parvclassis: Neognathae
Ordo: Passeriformes
Subordo: Tyranni
Infraordo: Tyrannides
Parvordo: Tyrannida
Familia: Tyrannidae
Genus: Attila
Species: A. bolivianus - A. cinnamomeus - A. citriniventris - A. phoenicurus - A. rufus - A. spadiceus - A. torridus


Attila Lesson, 1831


Traite d'Ornithologie livr.5 p.360


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