In the 5th century there was a man who brought a fantastic amount of destruction, death and terror to millions of people throughout Europe, his name was Attila the Hun.
Although not in reality a true despot, Attila the Hun was the king and general of the Hunnic empire from 433A.D to 453A.D. He succeeded his uncle, King Roas, in 433A.D. Attila initially shared his throne with his brother Bleda. Attila the Hun inherited the Scythian hordes who were a disorganized rabble, weakened by infighting and rivalry. Attila consolidated his subjects for the main reason of assembling perhaps the most formidable and feared armies Europe had ever seen.
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Attila the Hun lived between 406A.D until his death in 453A.D aged fortyseven, during his lifetime he became one of the worlds most infamous and notorious warriors. He was the ruler of the Barbarians and he murdered, tortured and pillaged his way through villages, towns and cities, mercilessly killing all who were unfortunately enough to be in his way.
Attila the Huns ferocity and barbarianism knew no bounds whatsoever, he slaughtered his own men who deserted and had his own brother murdered. Attila the Hun and his marauding army struck absolute terror even into the mighty Roman Empire and their infamous soldiers. Indeed the Roman Empire who were themselves a cruel people were ravaged by a brand of cruelty that surpassed even theirs.
Attila the Hun raised entire cities to the ground and killed everyone, leaving no survivors at all, he did all this for one reason and one reason only...the search for gold. The church believed that Attila the Hun was a descendant of hell, sent to the earth by the devil himself to punish all of Gods sinners. So much so that Attila the Hun was known throughout Europe as The scourge of God.
Out of all the worlds despots, bad rulers, corrupt kings and evil leaders, Attila the Hun was at the top of his profession and the top of the list, he was the worst in every detail for his maximum cruelty. He struck fear into everybody with no exceptions the main reason being was that he was absolutely merciless.
Right from the day he was born in 406A.D Attila's family expected a great deal from him, he had to be a winner and a fighter even before he learned to walk and talk. He grew up as a part of the Hunnic Royal family and henceforth knew that he would always be competing for power, respect and fortitude.
At that time way back in the dark ages, the stakes were exceedingly high for such a person, if you were weak you were dead, if you were strong you lived. The dog eat dog rules of the jungle were never more so true than in those distant, hard and terrible times.
Even though Attila was in a lofty position as a member of his countries royal household, it did not exclude him from being confronted with some horrific scenes and experiences. Attila for example had both cheeks on his face slashed wide open with a dagger so that he could experience pain and blood at an early age, he was not allowed to bleed to death but was told in as many words to get on with it!
Attila was encouraged to become a horseman even before he learned to walk properly, he also had to handle a knife, a sword and other weapons of warfare. This was the tradition of the Huns, to get them battle ready from an early age. The Huns also practically lived in the saddle, they stayed seated on horseback from dusk till dawn. The old saying was that if you got a Hun off his horse he could not walk, this bore a striking resemblance of truth.
The Huns were generally feared right across Europe for their violence, pillaging, plundering, and the unrestrained methods of total combat. Methods that as stated earlier included killing every combatant or civilian in every fight they had. The Huns were basically unmerciful, they forgot no one and forgave no one, they were indeed the scourge of God.
After a battle they were trained to plunder all the dead and at the same time stab and cut into them to ensure they were all dead and that no one was faking it to get away. Any survivors were often impaled, beheaded or had their intestines pulled out, this was to terrorize whoever went to the scene after they departed.
The Huns actually descended from Mongolian nomadic tribes, so they were Mongols by characteristic and excelled in the same militaristic manners as Genghis Khan would eight hundred and twenty years later...indeed the Huns future generations could have taught Genghis Khan how to go about business.
The Huns arrived in Europe at around 370A.D, they settled in Pannonia just off the banks of the River Danube where Budapest now stands and when they settled they built up their huge empire and the rest of the world soon learned about it. At the time of their arrival in Europe, the mighty Roman Empire dominated most of the civilized word. Although the Huns communicated with the Romans they had a very fragile and jagged alliance with them.
Their actual arrival in Pannonia was on the outskirts of the Roman Empire and their presence there was not wanted, as they were taking gold from many areas by hiring themselves out as mercenaries and policing areas for gold...pretty much like Al Capone ran his protection rackets in 1930's Chicago. Even so, the Huns were always in a constant state of warfare and trouble with other tribes, war was their very nature and peace was unheard of to people like Attila the Hun.
At an early age of around sixteen or seventeen it is thought that Attila the Hun was given command of a small army to get used to soldiering and all aspects of military leadership. Inspiring his men and facing frontline battle to toughen him up, win or lose. This was the mainstay tried and tested way of the Huns for building up a future leader, the practicality of it has to be admired.
Their entire way of life was based on warfare from their first day to their last. It is little wonder that Attila the Hun and his marauding armies were never truly defeated in any conquest, campaign, battle or raid. Attila the Huns victories were rewarded with political power and greater stature within the Hunnic Empire. If there was one thing above all else that Attila the Hun craved, it was power, shear unadulterated power.
Around 440A.D Attila the Huns name appears vividly in history along with his brother Bleda. For a short while at this junction the two brothers actually ran the Hunnic empire together in a sort of joint venture. However as history dictates Attila the Hun was not very happy with this arrangement, as he wanted all the power and all the glory for himself. The anecdote " This town aint big enough for the both of us " would be the best method of explaining his feelings.
The time wasn't quite right yet, so Attila the Hun had to bide his time before making his move to consolidate all the power for himself. In the mean time Attila the Hun lead some violent excursions deep into Roman territory where he plundered, pillaged and killed several hundred citizens who were supposedly under Roman protection.
Attila the Hun, being a barbarian left nothing but death and terror in his wake, he was renowned for his rapid attacks on villages and communities. The psychological element of the way that he waged war spread around most of Europe as he never announced when, where or even why he was going to attack...he just did it.
There was no negotiation, no way to avert his terrible strategy as he was out of reach from the normal channels of communication...he was always on the move with his nomadic army, the true strength as he had no home as such to defend.
WEAPONS AND WARFARE
The Huns used a superior flex bow, it was much stronger than the Roman straight bow and the Huns could fire whilst standing up in their saddles, the way they had been trained since childhood. Shooting their arrows this way was accurate up to two hundred meters, often hitting their targets at one hundred and fifty meters. The immensely strong and powerful Hunnic bow is seen below.
The same, fast arrow could penetrate chain mail and kill a man up to and over one hundred meters. This of course was out of range for ordinary Roman archers firing at moving targets, had they been stationary then maybe a Roman archer could hit them at one hundred meters but it was a lot harder. The Hun on horseback with his bow and arrow was a deadly combination.
The Hunnic and Mongolian sword was typically of the long curved Shamshir blade variety as seen below. It was ideal for slashing and stabbing thrusts from either mounted on horseback or on foot. The handle had an offset pommel that helped to give extra leverage for long powerful slashing swipes. The blade was only sharpened on the outside edge but was tapered into an extremely sharp needle point.
Of course the Huns would use any sword that came to hand, if theirs became blunted or damaged. They could be seen with a variety of swords, initially taken off their fallen victims. So the gladius along with sabres, scimitars, broad swords, mortuary swords, and cutlass varieties would also have fallen into their hands.
Attila's army also made appropriate use of the deadly guan dao, as seen below. It was similar to a spear but had a large, broad and very sharp blade attached to the end, it was like using a five foot long sword. The guan dao was a very efficient killer in skilled hands, either on horseback or on foot. The design is thought to have originated in China several thousand years ago.
Imagine a hoard of screaming mad, large, hairy Mongolian looking Huns coming at you, wielding their guan dao's! This is one of the ways that they swept out entire towns of all their armed or unarmed inhabitants, rush in quick and slash away before they had time to react. To be attacked by the Huns in the 4th century was the equivalent of Hitlers blitzkrieg of the 20th century...very fast, very deadly and very decisive.
SPIES LIKE THESE
Attila the Hun was not just a brutish warrior, a barbarian who killed without mercy, he was also intelligent. His intelligence was evident by the fact that he had built up a network of loyal informants all along the length of the River Danube and indeed, further inland.
In 441A.D when Attila later won a huge conquest, he was helped by the fact the he was previously told by his spies that the Danube Red Army had relocated. He was informed that most of their legions from around the Danube area had moved out to North Africa to recapture lost territory to the Vandals and henceforth it was a good time to attack.
Attila the Huns ideology was that he and his army were the masters, whilst everyone else were the slaves. With this in mind, all enemies were entirely dispensable, expendable to the core, or in other words if you were not a Hun you were worthless and in need of a sword in your guts...the ideology of the Hun.
When Attila the Hun raided a village that was close to a Roman settlement and then left after taking his plunder, the Romans ventured out to find out why their water supply had slowed up...only to find that the river was totally clogged up and dammed with thousands of corpses. Attila had thrown all the dead from his raid into the river. Inflicting maximum casualties was all in a days work for Attila the Hun, the village had been entirely obliterated of all life, leaving only fear for those who discovered it.
Attila was having a great time with his raids and attacks but was getting impatient for total glory and absolute power. So he looked towards home with possible solutions to his dilemma growing in the firmament of his mind...to kill his brother Bleda...the old saying no honor amongst thieves again rings true!
Attila the Hun decided to have his brother murdered in his sleep and assigned one of his assassins to do the dirty deed, which was promptly carried out. Now, at the ripe old age of 40, Attila the Hun became the sole ruler of the Hunnic Empire. He had no remorse whatsoever for the death of his brother, he probably regarded him as just another casualty of war.
ATTILA THE TYRANT
Attila the Hun now set his sights on total expansion of his empire and total expansion of his army, he was now looking at Europe and was out for the kill. With a huge army of bloodthirsty barbarians under his leadership Attila the Hun was convinced that anything was possible. The Roman army, fierce and renowned as they were, would of course be no match for Attila the Hun. He was not in the slightest but perturbed and wanted blood...buckets of it, if at all possible!
Attila the Hun amalgamated all the different Hunnic tribal groups into one huge army of barbarians and then sought spiritual guidance of his next move. Attila was very superstitious and always communed with the spiritualists of the tribe before battle. He was brought up to believe that their warring nations success was due to divine guidance and resolve from the Gods.
Attila the Hun saw himself as the hand of all Gods wishes and praised the inner sanctum of his religious beliefs for foresight and strength that he believed was only given to the Hun. Attila always fought with the Sword of Mars, it was a special sword that had been found on the Mongolian plains and Attila believed it was a mystical sword and a gift from God.
Attila's actual sword is pictured below, it was very ornate being encrusted with precious stones in the handle and much gold adornments.
With his guidance sorted and his majestic sword in hand, Attila the Hun was now ready to attack the Roman Empire, sure of nothing but complete victory.
It is historically known that Attila the Hun had over half a million savage and bloodthirsty barbarian warriors under his command and he knew how to use them. Attila the Hun started by carrying out large raids deep into the eastern Roman empires, this was to test roman reactions and shows of strength, of which there was little to worry him.
In 446A.D his brutal barbarian armies swept across the black sea and deep into the Mediterranean, they left their mark by desecrating graves, burning down churches and temples and slaughtering civilians in their droves. Attila the Hun was seen to laugh and shout triumphantly over these gory and dreadful scenes of total devastation and death.
He sat on his horse and laughed and laughed at the terror that he was creating and made it known to all his men how delighted and happy he really was. In all the blood and guts, Attila the Hun was at home, like a pig is in mud. Attila the Hun sacked over 100 towns and cities, killing everyone, there were so many dead and dying that they numbered as countless tens of thousands.
THERES GOLD IN THEM HILLS
Attila the Hun rampaged through what is now Greece and was about to slaughter the entire inhabitants of several villages when he was bought off with vast amounts of gold from the Roman governors.
This is a good idea, thought Attila, threaten them with total annihilation and if they don't pay me gold...annihilate them! So Attila promptly held entire towns to ransom and the Romans paid in pure gold. As long as the gold kept coming, Attila backed off from his slaughter.
Attila the Hun had such a reputation as a wicked and vile barbarian that he was totally free to go wherever he wanted in the north western Roman Empire...no Roman would raise a sword against him or any of his men.
Attila was satisfied with all the arrangements in that he practically owned the north western Roman empire and all the gold within it. So he rested and thought about attacking the east. The east always paid over three hundred pounds in gold to keep him happy but a new general there refused to pay so Attila the Hun decided to go east and obliterate it.
AN INTERESTING PROPOSITION
At the same time in 450A.D, Attila was contacted with an incredible offer by Honoria the sister of Valentinian II the western Roman emperor. She wanted to marry Attila, this due to the fact that she had been caught having an affair with a high ranking servant and her brother the emperor had him executed and wanted to marry her off to a quiet city citizen to keep her out of the way.
She was apparently having none of it and wanted her fair share of power and hence wanted Attila to be her husband. She wanted Attila to have the entire western empire and all its gold plus her as a wife, but he had to rescue her from the clutches of her enslavement by her brother. So she sent him a letter and an expensive ring as a sign of her good intentions.
Attila said he would seriously consider it, the premise of having a hopefully beautiful woman and the western Roman empire as a dowry was too good an offer and he also thought that as a great ruler...he deserved it.
This was refused as the emperor said it was not hers to give. So instead of going east Attila the Hun now went west and he invaded the western Roman empire to claim what was rightfully his...with or without the marriage. The west was unchartered territory as far as Attila the Hun was concerned but he didn't let it bother him, he never had before and didn't want to start now...so the west was next on the Attila Agenda.
Western Europe then felt the full force of Attila the Huns joint barbarian forces as they started to ransack and slaughter their way through towns, cities and villages. When Attila got as far as Cologne he came across a huge nunnery and met St Ursula the perpetual virgin. Attila was suddenly overcome by her beauty, having never seen such a gorgeous woman before, so he halted his campaign and instantly proposed marriage. There was a sparkle in Attila's good eye, his flat spatula nose and Mongolian features with sloping brow were alight with optimism, he had found love.
Unfortunately...St Ursula refused his advances and told him to leave.
Attila the Hun was a little stunned by this rejection and went berserk, he immediately had her killed, he then turned his wrath on all of her colleagues, acquaintances and associates killing them all out of hand. Every single person in and around the nunnery was killed. The building was then set ablaze along with all other buildings in the vicinity, the entire area was a blaze.
Then Attila went on a special rampage and killed all eleven thousand pilgrims in and around Cologne, no one survived, he wiped them all out. A peculiarity was that if Attila the Hun didn't understand something, he destroyed it and there was a lot that Attila didn't understand!
The great city of Tournai was next on Attila's list so he went up and destroyed everything and killed every inhabitant therein...leaving no survivors...the city had basically been wiped off the face of the map. Then onwards to the next city and the next and the next.
Attila was quite methodical in the destruction of towns and cities, it was said that the only intact structure left in Metz was the bridge and that was only because Attila found it useful!
Attila rampaged through France going through Tournai, Cambrai, Amiens, Beauvais, Trier, Metz, and Reims and by May 451A.D Attila the Huns barbarian army had reached Orleans. The map below shows Attila's path of the invasion of Germany and France from Worms and Strasbourg up through Mainz and beyond.
Here at Orleans they met a very superior force of battle hardened western Roman soldiers and seasoned Visigoths, all lead by Flavius Aëtius the tough Roman General.
They battled at the Catalaunian Plains in Chalons just south of Reims where they had already sacked. The Roman army put up a very strong defense and stopped Attila the Huns barbarians from advancing any further, this was the first time in barbarian history that this had occurred.
Attila was going to kill himself but was talked out of it saying that it wasn't as bad as he thought, stop fretting over a slight upset and that he must regroup.
The Battle of Chalon decimated a large portion of Attila the Huns barbarians as the Roman army and the Visigoths fought relentlessly against them. It was said that the spilt barbarian blood collected in hundreds of little rivers and ponds of coagulated gore. In fact, all drinking water for miles around was tainted with human blood, as it had soaked into the water table.
The Roman army had waged into them, tore into them with such ferocity that they had killed tens of thousands of Huns with only thousands off losses their side. However, it was not the end of Attila the Hun, far from it...
ROME MUST FALL
Attila the Hun made a strategic withdrawal and regrouped his men, the Romans thought they had beaten Attila but could not be more wrong. Attila later amassed his forces right on the Romans doorstep and attacked Italy. He rampaged through the north, going through villas, villages, towns and cities killing everyone in his path.
Attila the Huns reputation preceded him so much that many towns refused to fight, their citizens just sat there as they knew it would be futile and did not want to prolong their inevitable suffering and death. They opened their gates and allowed the Barbarians free passage, begging on their bended knees for mercy, some lying prostrated on the ground in front of Attila's men. Attila showed them not one iota of difference and slaughtered them where they stood, sat, knelt and lay.
Smashing skulls open, stabbing, slashing, burning, beating, plundering, pillaging and destroying his way through like a fire storm from hell. Hundreds of thousands of Italian citizens were left dead all around the countryside, in the streets, in the town centers, the buildings, the barns and stables....everywhere.
Attila was out to prove that his defeat at Chalons was nothing to worry about nothing that his reputation should be marred for and was insistent that every town, city and village in Italy be obliterated of all human life and burned to the ground. Attila was not a man that you would want to upset lightly and Attila was upset.
Attila the Huns barbarian hoards rampaged through every town, city and villa killing everyone, estimated at over a million people. He rampaged on until he reached the gates of Rome, he then halted his army and made camp just down the valleys.
PEACE DEALS AND PAY OFFS
The absolutely terrified out of his wits emperor Valentinian quickly put together a peace delegation headed by Pope Leo 1st on the flimsy hope in hell that he would accept a truce. This was actually to Attila's best advantage as there was illness and disease in his ranks and all the heavy gold and plunder that was with them was slowing them down a hundred fold. Also Attila's army were getting short of supplies, feeding an army of tens of thousands whilst on the move must have been difficult at the best of times.
Attila needed a break and accepted the truce deal. He demanded vast quantities of gold and free passage back home, not to be hindered in any way or to loose a single man by way of any combat. The Romans accepted, gave reassurances and paid Attila the gold.
Attila the Hun actually hated having to accept a peace deal, it was not in his nature to do so and he wrestled with it. However, he still returned to Pannonia and after counting all the gold and amassing together all the booty he threatened to gather his forces and go back for more gold and to sack Rome completely.
This threat was about to be put into operation in
453A.D but the fortyseven year old Attila the Hun took another young wife, a
German noblewoman of great beauty by the name of Ildico. The wedding
party was an absolute blast and the beer and wine did
Ildico was found in the morning crying under her veil and very upset that her newly wed husband was as dead as a doornail. The Huns were in total shock and disarray that their god like leader was dead, it took all their strength and they no longer went on any more crusades.
The Huns built three coffins for Attillas body, a coffin of gold, that was within a coffin of silver, that was within a coffin of iron. Attila was then buried...somewhere...no one knows where this big heavy coffin was buried, as all those that interred him were all killed so that no one had any idea where Attila lay. To this day no one has ever found out where or discovered the body.
Attila the Huns rule was only for eight years but during that time he indelibly made his name in history. He rampaged across Europe and killed millions of people, spreading terror and horror wherever he went, destroying towns, cities, villas and villages.
Attila the Hun took no prisoners and burned every building to the ground. He slaughtered men, women, children and babes in arms, he mutilated corpses and tortured whoever, whenever it pleased him to do so. He also impaled and burned to death a fair few thousand people all over his conquered lands.
The sight of impaled corpses would have the effect of instilling fear into anyone entering the place where Attila had ravaged.
Attila the Hun fought only until his army grew weary, sick and slow with their heavy plunder. He spread so much terror and killed so many people that his name is still spoke of today some 1500 years later. Attila the Hun is burned into history for ever more.
What ever happened to Flavius Aëtius the victorious Roman general who initially defeated Attila the Hun in the Chalons battle? In 454A.D Aëtius, whose son Gaudentius had married Valentinian's daughter Placidia was personally assassinated by emperor Valentinian because he believed Aëtius wanted to place his son upon the imperial throne.
A year later on March 16th, 455A.D the emperor himself got assassinated in Rome, by two Hunnic assassins.