Attila (/ˈætɪlə, əˈtɪlə/; fl. circa 406–453), frequently
Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the
Huns from 434 until his
death in March 453. He was also the leader of a tribal empire
consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and
Alans among others, on the
territory of Central and Eastern Europe.
During his reign, he was one of the most feared enemies of the Western
and Eastern Roman Empires. He crossed the
Danube twice and plundered
the Balkans, but was unable to take Constantinople. His unsuccessful
Persia was followed in 441 by an invasion of the Eastern
Roman (Byzantine) Empire, the success of which emboldened
invade the West. He also attempted to conquer
Roman Gaul (modern
France), crossing the
Rhine in 451 and marching as far as Aurelianum
(Orléans) before being defeated at the Battle of the Catalaunian
He subsequently invaded Italy, devastating the northern provinces, but
was unable to take Rome. He planned for further campaigns against the
Romans, but died in 453. After Attila's death, his close adviser,
Ardaric of the Gepids, led a Germanic revolt against Hunnic rule,
after which the
Hunnic Empire quickly collapsed.
1 Appearance and character
3 Historiography and source
4 Early life and background
5 Campaigns against the Eastern Roman Empire
6 Solitary kingship
7 In the west
8 Invasion of
Italy and death
9 Later folklore and iconography
10 Depictions of Attila
12 External links
Appearance and character
Attila the Hun" portrait by sculptor George S. Stuart
Figure of Attila
in a museum in Hungary.
There is no surviving first-hand account of Attila's appearance, but
there is a possible second-hand source provided by Jordanes, who cites
a description given by Priscus.
He was a man born into the world to shake the nations, the scourge of
all lands, who in some way terrified all mankind by the dreadful
rumors noised abroad concerning him. He was haughty in his walk,
rolling his eyes hither and thither, so that the power of his proud
spirit appeared in the movement of his body. He was indeed a lover of
war, yet restrained in action, mighty in counsel, gracious to
suppliants and lenient to those who were once received into his
protection. 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
Some scholars have suggested that this description is typically East
Asian, because it has all the combined features that fit the physical
type of people from Eastern Asia, and Attila's ancestors may have come
from there.:202 Other historians also believed that the same
descriptions were also evident on some
The origin of the name "Attila" is unclear, and there is no consensus
Otto J. Maenchen-Helfen considered an East Germanic origin;
formed from Gothic or Gepidic noun atta, "father", by means of the
diminutive suffix -ila,:386 meaning "little father". The
Gothic etymology can be tracked up to
Jacob Grimm and
Wilhelm Grimm in
the early 19th century. Maenchen-Helfen noted that Hunnic names
were "not the true names of the
Hun princes and lords. What we have
are Hunnic names in Germanic dress, modified to fit the Gothic tongue,
or popular Gothic etymologies, or both".:389 Peter Heather, who
strongly considered Germanic etymology of the name
Attila and some of
noble Huns,:29–30, 177 stated that the possibility
Attila was of
Germanic ancestry cannot be ruled out. The names of Attila's
brother Bleda, and most powerful minister Onegesius, also have
hypothetical Germanic etymology. The only credible Germanic
etymologies are for Attila's blood relative Laudaricus,:388 and
the Hun-Goth Ragnaris.:383, 389
Hyun Jin Kim argued that the "Germanization of Hunnic names may have
been a conscious policy among the Hunnic elite in the West in order to
ease the transition to their rule of formerly independent German
tribal unions".:93 In the Western part of Hunnic Empire, where
mostly lived subjected Gothic tribes,
Huns probably spoke both Hunnic
and Gothic language, and as such bore Germanized or Germanic name,
like Laudaricus.:30 Maenchen-Helfen also expressed concern over
orthography of the writer, possible morphological change, that some
names writers heard from the Goths, the tendency of Roman and
Byzantine writers to alter foreign names, and manuscript
However, Kim noted that those names considered by Heather to be
Gothic, especially in this case of
Attila and Bleda, have more natural
and probable Turkic etymology.:30 Heather also ignored the fact
that all Hunnic rulers before Attila, as well his father Mundzuk,
paternal uncles Octar, Ruga and Oebarsius, wife Kreka, father-in-law
Eskam, and sons Ellac,
Dengizich and Ernak, have names of Turkic
Omeljan Pritsak considered ̕Άττίλα (Atilla) a composite
title-name which derived from Turkic *es (great, old), and *t il (sea,
ocean), and the suffix /a/.:444 The stressed back syllabic til
assimilated the front member es, so it became *as.:444 It is a
nominative, in form of attíl- (< *etsíl < *es tíl) with the
meaning "the oceanic, universal ruler".:444 Peter Golden, citing
Pritsak, like László Rásonyi connected Attila's name with Menander
note in which used term Attilan as the name of the
Volga River (Turkic
Atil/Itil; "great river").:90
J.J. Mikkola connected it with
Turkic āt (name, fame). H. Althof considered it was related to
Turkish atli (horseman, cavalier), or Turkish at (horse) and dil
Tom Shippey in his work
Goths and Huns: The Rediscovery of Northern
Cultures in the Nineteenth Century (1982), argued that the Gothic
etymology is a product of 19th century Germanic romantic philological
M. Snædal casts doubt on the Germanic origin of the name
Attila in a
recently published article. "The Gothic origin of the name
questionable," Snædal writes. "It is at least as likely to be of
Hunnic origin". The article points out that the word atta is a
migratory term for "father/forefather" common in multiple languages,
Turkic languages (see Ata). The article also indicates
that Attila's name could have originated from Turkic-Mongolian at,
adyy/agta (gelding, warhorse) and Turkish atli (horseman, cavalier),
meaning "possessor of geldings, provider of warhorses", a suitable
name for a warlord. He concludes:
Of course we do not know how the name sounded in the language of the
Huns. Sometime, somewhere, somehow a proto-form like *agtala- changed
to *attila. We cannot tell if the assimilation of "gt" to "tt", and/or
if loss of a final consonant took place in Hunnic or if these changes
were part of the adaptation process into Latin, Gothic and Greek...
Truly, our knowledge of the
Hunnic language is almost zero. One can
only guess a solution to this riddle of Attila's name.
The name has many variants in several languages: Atli and Atle in Old
Norse; Etzel in
Middle High German
Middle High German (Nibelungenlied); Ætla in Old
English; Attila, Atilla, and Etele in Hungarian (
Attila is the most
popular); Attila, Atilla, Atilay, or Atila in Turkish; and Adil and
Edil in Kazakh or Adil ("same/similar") or Edil ("to use") in
Historiography and source
The historiography of
Attila is faced with a major challenge, in that
the only complete sources are written in Greek and
Latin by the
enemies of the Huns. Attila's contemporaries left many testimonials of
his life, but only fragments of these remain.:25
Priscus was a
Byzantine diplomat and historian who wrote in Greek, and he was both a
witness to and an actor in the story of Attila, as a member of the
embassy of Theodosius II at the Hunnic court in 449. He was
obviously biased by his political position, but his writing is a major
source for information on the life of Attila, and he is the only
person known to have recorded a physical description of him. He wrote
a history of the late Roman Empire in eight books covering the period
from 430 to 476.
Today we have only fragments of Priscus' work, but it was cited
extensively by 6th-century historians
Procopius and Jordanes,:413
especially in Jordanes' The Origin and Deeds of the Goths. It contains
numerous references to Priscus's history, and it is also an important
source of information about the Hunnic empire and its neighbors. He
describes the legacy of
Attila and the Hunnic people for a century
after Attila's death. Marcellinus Comes, a chancellor of Justinian
during the same era, also describes the relations between the
the Eastern Roman Empire.:30
Numerous ecclesiastical writings contain useful but scattered
information, sometimes difficult to authenticate or distorted by years
of hand-copying between the 6th and 17th centuries. The Hungarian
writers of the 12th century wished to portray the
Huns in a positive
light as their glorious ancestors, and so repressed certain historical
elements and added their own legends.:32
The literature and knowledge of the
Huns themselves was transmitted
orally, by means of epics and chanted poems that were handed down from
generation to generation.:354 Indirectly, fragments of this oral
history have reached us via the literature of the Scandinavians and
Germans, neighbors of the
Huns who wrote between the 9th and 13th
Attila is a major character in many Medieval epics, such as
the Nibelungenlied, as well as various Eddas and sagas.:32:354
Archaeological investigation has uncovered some details about the
lifestyle, art, and warfare of the Huns. There are a few traces of
battles and sieges, but today the tomb of
Attila and the location of
his capital have not yet been found.:33–37
Early life and background
Main article: Huns
Huns in battle with the Alans. An 1870s engraving after a drawing by
Johann Nepomuk Geiger (1805–1880).
Huns were a group of Eurasian nomads, appearing from east of the
Volga, who migrated further into Western Europe c. 370 and
built up an enormous empire there. Their main military techniques were
mounted archery and javelin throwing. They were in the process of
developing settlements before their arrival in Western Europe, yet the
Huns were a society of pastoral warriors:259 whose primary form of
nourishment was meat and milk, products of their herds.
The origin and language of the
Huns has been the subject of debate for
centuries. According to some theories, their leaders at least may have
spoken a Turkic language, perhaps closest to the modern Chuvash
language.:444 One scholar suggests a relationship to
Yeniseian. According to the Encyclopedia of European Peoples, "the
Huns, especially those who migrated to the west, may have been a
combination of central Asian Turkic, Mongolic, and Ugric stocks".
Mundzuk was the brother of kings
Octar and Ruga, who
reigned jointly over the Hunnic empire in the early fifth century.
This form of diarchy was recurrent with the Huns, but historians are
unsure whether it was institutionalized, merely customary, or an
occasional occurrence.:80 His family was from a noble lineage, but
it is uncertain whether they constituted a royal dynasty. Attila's
birthdate is debated, journalist
Éric Deschodt and writer Herman
Schreiber have proposed a date of 395. However, historian
Iaroslav Lebedynsky and archaeologist Katalin Escher prefer an
estimate between the 390s and the first decade of the fifth
century.:40 Several historians have proposed 406 as the
Attila grew up in a rapidly changing world. His people were nomads who
had only recently arrived in Europe. They crossed the
during the 370s and annexed the territory of the Alans, then attacked
the Gothic kingdom between the
Carpathian mountains and the Danube.
They were a very mobile people, whose mounted archers had acquired a
reputation of invincibility, and the Germanic tribes seemed unable to
withstand them.:133–151 Vast populations fleeing the
Germania into the Roman Empire in the west and south, and along
the banks of the
Rhine and Danube. In 376, the
Goths crossed the
Danube, initially submitting to the Romans but soon rebelling against
Emperor Valens, whom they killed in the
Battle of Adrianople
Battle of Adrianople in
378.:100 Large numbers of Vandals, Alans, Suebi, and Burgundians
Rhine and invaded
Roman Gaul on December 31, 406 to
escape the Huns.:233 The Roman Empire had been split in half since
395 and was ruled by two distinct governments, one based in
the West, and the other in
Constantinople in the East. The Roman
Emperors, both East and West, were generally from the Theodosian
family in Attila's lifetime (despite several power struggles).:13
Huns dominated a vast territory with nebulous borders determined
by the will of a constellation of ethnically varied peoples. Some were
assimilated to Hunnic nationality, whereas many retained their own
identities and rulers but acknowledged the suzerainty of the king of
the Huns.:11 The
Huns were also the indirect source of many of the
Romans' problems, driving various Germanic tribes into Roman
territory, yet relations between the two empires were cordial: the
Romans used the
Huns as mercenaries against the Germans and even in
their civil wars. Thus, the usurper
Joannes was able to recruit
Huns for his army against Valentinian III in 424. It
was Aëtius, later Patrician of the West, who managed this operation.
They exchanged ambassadors and hostages, the alliance lasting from 401
to 450 and permitting the Romans numerous military victories.:111
Huns considered the Romans to be paying them tribute, whereas the
Romans preferred to view this as payment for services rendered. The
Huns had become a great power by the time that
Attila came of age
during the reign of his uncle Ruga, to the point that Nestorius, the
Patriarch of Constantinople, deplored the situation with these words:
"They have become both masters and slaves of the Romans".:128
Campaigns against the Eastern Roman Empire
The Empire of the
Huns and subject tribes at the time of Attila.
The death of
Rugila (also known as Rua or Ruga) in 434 left the sons
of his brother Mundzuk,
Attila and Bleda, in control of the united Hun
tribes. At the time of the two brothers' accession, the
were bargaining with Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II's envoys
for the return of several renegades who had taken refuge within the
Eastern Roman Empire, possibly Hunnic nobles who disagreed with the
brothers' assumption of leadership.
The following year,
Bleda met with the imperial legation at
Margus (Požarevac), all seated on horseback in the Hunnic manner,
and negotiated an advantageous treaty. The Romans agreed to return the
fugitives, to double their previous tribute of 350 Roman pounds
(c. 115 kg) of gold, to open their markets to Hunnish
traders, and to pay a ransom of eight solidi for each Roman taken
prisoner by the Huns. The Huns, satisfied with the treaty, decamped
from the Roman Empire and returned to their home in the Great
Hungarian 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.
Huns remained out of Roman sight for the next few years while they
invaded the Sassanid Empire. They were defeated in
Armenia by the
Sassanids, abandoned their invasion, and turned their attentions back
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
Danube that had been established by the treaty.
Crossing the Danube, they laid waste to the cities of Illyricum and
forts on the river, including (according to Priscus) Viminacium, a
city of Moesia. Their advance began at Margus, where they demanded
that the Romans turn over a bishop who had retained property that
Attila regarded as his. While the Romans discussed the bishop's fate,
he slipped away secretly to the
Huns and betrayed the city to them.
Huns attacked city-states along the Danube, the
by Geiseric) captured the Western Roman province of Africa and its
capital of Carthage.
Carthage was the richest province of the Western
Empire and a main source of food for Rome. The Sassanid Shah
Yazdegerd II invaded
Armenia in 441.
The Romans stripped the Balkan area of forces, sending them to Sicily
in order to mount an expedition against the
Vandals in Africa. This
Bleda a clear path through Illyricum into the Balkans,
which they invaded in 441. The Hunnish army sacked Margus and
Viminacium, and then took
Singidunum (Belgrade) and Sirmium. During
442, Theodosius recalled his troops from
Sicily and ordered a large
issue of new coins to finance operations against the Huns. He believed
that he could defeat the
Huns and refused the Hunnish kings' demands.
Attila responded with a campaign in 443. The
Huns were equipped
with new military weapons as they advanced along the Danube, such as
battering rams and rolling siege towers, and they overran the military
centers of Ratiara and successfully besieged Naissus (Niš).
Advancing along the
Nišava River, the
Huns next took Serdica (Sofia),
Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and Arcadiopolis (Lüleburgaz). They
encountered and destroyed a Roman army outside
Constantinople but were
stopped by the double walls of the Eastern capital. They defeated a
second army near Callipolis (Gelibolu).
Theodosius, stripped of his armed forces, admitted defeat, sending the
Magister militum per Orientem Anatolius to negotiate peace terms. The
terms were harsher than the previous treaty: the Emperor agreed to
hand over 6,000 Roman pounds (c. 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 (c.
700 kg) in gold; and the ransom for each Roman prisoner rose to
Their demands were met for a time, and the
Hun kings withdrew into the
interior of their empire.
Bleda died following the Huns' withdrawal
from Byzantium (probably around 445).
Attila then took the throne for
himself, becoming the sole ruler of the Huns.
Mór Than's painting The Feast of Attila, based on a fragment of
Attila again rode south into the
Eastern Roman Empire
Eastern Roman Empire through
Moesia. The Roman army, under 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
Balkans as far as Thermopylae.
Constantinople itself was saved by the Isaurian troops of magister
militum per Orientem Zeno and protected by the intervention of prefect
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
The general path of the
Hun forces in the invasion of Gaul
Attila proclaimed his intent to attack the
Visigoth kingdom of
Toulouse by making an alliance with Emperor Valentinian III. He
had previously been on good terms with the
Western Roman Empire
Western Roman Empire and
its influential general Flavius Aëtius. Aëtius had spent a brief
exile among the
Huns in 433, and the troops that
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 had sent the Hunnish
king a plea for help—and her engagement ring—in order to escape
her forced betrothal to a Roman senator in the spring of 450. Honoria
may not have intended a proposal of marriage, but
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 Honoria, rather than killing
her. He also wrote to Attila, strenuously denying the legitimacy of
the supposed marriage proposal.
Attila sent an emissary to
proclaim that Honoria was innocent, that the proposal had been
legitimate, and that he would come to claim what was rightfully his.
Attila interfered in a succession struggle after the death of a
Attila supported the elder son, while Aëtius
supported the younger. (The location and identity of these kings is
not known and subject to conjecture.)
Attila gathered his
vassals—Gepids, 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
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
Servatus is alleged to have saved
Tongeren with his prayers,
Genevieve is said to have saved Paris. Lupus, bishop of
Troyes, is also credited with saving his city by meeting
Aëtius moved to oppose Attila, gathering troops from among the
Franks, the Burgundians, and the Celts. A mission by
Attila's continued westward advance convinced the
Theodoric I (Theodorid) to ally with the Romans. The combined
Orléans ahead of Attila, 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
Attila decided to fight the Romans on plains
where he could use his cavalry.
The two armies clashed in the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, the
outcome of which 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
Attila was in retreat and disarray, and the Romans had the
benefit of appearing victorious.
Italy and death
Raphael's The Meeting between Leo the Great and
Attila depicts Leo,
Saint Peter and Saint Paul, meeting with the
Attila returned in 452 to renew his marriage claim with Honoria,
invading and ravaging
Italy along the way. Communities became
established in what would later become Venice 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 so
completely that it was afterwards hard to recognize its original
site.:159 Aëtius lacked the strength to offer battle, but 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 taken hold in Attila's camp, thus helping to stop his
Emperor Valentinian III sent three envoys, the high civilian
Gennadius Avienus and Trigetius, as well as the Bishop of
Rome Leo I, who met
Mincio in the vicinity of Mantua
and obtained from him the promise that he would withdraw from Italy
and negotiate peace with the Emperor.
Prosper of Aquitaine gives a
short description of the historic meeting, but gives all the credit to
Leo for the successful negotiation.
Priscus reports that superstitious
fear of the fate of Alaric gave him pause—as Alaric died shortly
Rome in 410.
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.:161 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
Attila to conclude peace and retreat back to his
Furthermore, an East Roman force had crossed the
Danube under the
command of another officer also named Aetius—who had participated in
Council of Chalcedon
Council of Chalcedon the previous year—and proceeded to defeat
Huns who had been left behind by
Attila to safeguard their home
territories. Attila, hence, faced heavy human and natural pressures to
Italy without ever setting foot south of the Po".:163
Hydatius writes in his Chronica Minora:
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 disease. In
addition, they were slaughtered by auxiliaries sent by the Emperor
Marcian and led by Aetius, and at the same time, they were crushed in
their [home] settlements ... Thus crushed, they made peace with
the Romans and all returned to their homes.
The Huns, led by Attila, invade
Italy (Attila, the Scourge of God, by
Ulpiano Checa, 1887).
Marcian was the successor of Theodosius, and he had ceased paying
tribute to the
Huns in late 450 while
Attila was occupied in the west.
Multiple invasions by the
Huns and others had left the
little to plunder. After
returned to his palace across the Danube, he planned to strike at
Constantinople again and reclaim the tribute which
stopped. However, he died in the early months of 453.
The conventional account from
Priscus says that
Attila was at a feast
celebrating his latest marriage, this time to the beautiful young
Ildico (the name suggests Gothic or Ostrogoth origins).:164 In the
midst of the revels, however, 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, possibly a
condition called esophageal varices, where dilated veins in the lower
part of the esophagus rupture leading to death by hemorrhage.
Another account of his death was first recorded 80 years after the
events by Roman chronicler Marcellinus Comes. It reports that "Attila,
King of the
Huns and ravager of the provinces of Europe, was pierced
by the hand and blade of his wife". The Volsunga saga and the
Poetic Edda claim that King Atli (Attila) died at the hands of his
wife Gudrun. 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. 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
Eastern Roman Empire from 450 to 457) was the political
force behind Attila's death.
On the following day, when a great part of the morning was spent, the
royal attendants suspected some ill and, after a great uproar, broke
in the doors. There they found the death of
Attila accomplished by an
effusion of blood, without any wound, and the girl with downcast face
weeping beneath her veil. Then, as is the custom of that race, they
plucked out the hair of their heads and made their faces hideous with
deep wounds, that the renowned warrior might be mourned, not by
effeminate wailings and tears, but by the blood of men. Moreover a
wondrous thing took place in connection with Attila's death. For in a
dream some god stood at the side of Marcian, Emperor of the East,
while he was disquieted about his fierce foe, and showed him the bow
Attila broken in that same night, as if to intimate that the race
Huns owed much to that weapon. This account the historian Priscus
says he accepts upon truthful evidence. For so terrible was Attila
thought to be to great empires that the gods announced his death to
rulers as a special boon.
His body was placed in the midst of a plain and lay in state in a
silken tent as a sight for men's admiration. The best horsemen of the
entire tribe of the
Huns rode around in circles, after the manner of
circus games, in the place to which he had been brought and told of
his deeds in a funeral dirge in the following manner: "The chief of
the Huns, King Attila, born of his sire Mundiuch, lord of bravest
tribes, sole possessor of the
Scythian and German realms—powers
unknown before—captured cities and terrified both empires of the
Roman world and, appeased by their prayers, took annual tribute to
save the rest from plunder. And when he had accomplished all this by
the favor of fortune, he fell, not by wound of the foe, nor by
treachery of friends, but in the midst of his nation at peace, happy
in his joy and without sense of pain. Who can rate this as death, when
none believes it calls for vengeance?"
When they had mourned him with such lamentations, a strava, as they
call it, was celebrated over his tomb with great revelling. They gave
way in turn to the extremes of feeling and displayed funereal grief
alternating with joy. Then in the secrecy of night they buried his
body in the earth. They bound his coffins, the first with gold, the
second with silver and the third with the strength of iron, showing by
such means that these three things suited the mightiest of kings; iron
because he subdued the nations, gold and silver because he received
the honors of both empires. They also added the arms of foemen won in
the fight, trappings of rare worth, sparkling with various gems, and
ornaments of all sorts whereby princely state is maintained. And that
so great riches might be kept from human curiosity, they slew those
appointed to the work—a dreadful pay for their labor; and thus
sudden death was the lot of those who buried him as well as of him who
— Jordanes, in his Getica:254–259
Attila's sons Ellac,
Dengizich and Ernak, "in their rash eagerness to
rule they all alike destroyed his empire".:259 They "were clamoring
that the nations should be divided among them equally and that warlike
kings with their peoples should be apportioned to them by lot like a
family estate".:259 Against the treatment as "slaves of the basest
condition" a Germanic alliance led by the Gepid ruler
Ardaric (who was
noted for great loyalty to Attila:199) revolted and fought with the
Huns in Pannonia in the
Battle of Nedao 454 AD.:260–262 Attila's
Ellac was killed in that battle.:262 Attila's sons
Goths as deserters from their rule, came against them
as though they were seeking fugitive slaves", attacked Ostrogothic
Valamir (who also fought alongside
Attila at the
Catalaunian Plains:199), but were repelled, and some group of Huns
moved to Scythia (probably those of Ernak).:268–269 His brother
Dengizich attempted a renewed invasion across the
Danube in 468 AD,
but was defeated at the
Battle of Bassianae by the
Dengizich was killed by Roman-Gothic general
Anagast the following year, after which the Hunnic dominion
Attila's many children and relatives are known by name and some even
by deeds, but soon valid genealogical sources all but dried 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 Nominalia of the Bulgarian khans
Avitohol and Irnik from the
Dulo clan of the
Later folklore and iconography
Hun in popular culture
Illustration of the meeting between
Attila and Pope Leo from the
Chronicon Pictum, c. 1360
Attila himself is said to have claimed the titles "Descendant of the
Great Nimrod", and "King of the Huns, the Goths, the Danes, and the
Medes"—the last two peoples being mentioned to show the extent of
his control over subject nations even on the peripheries of his
Jordanes embellished the report of Priscus, reporting that
possessed the "Holy War Sword of the Scythians", which was given to
him by Mars and made him a "prince of the entire world".
By the end of the 12th century the royal court of
their descent from Attila. Lampert of Hersfeld's contemporary
chronicles report that shortly before the year 1071, the Sword of
Attila had been presented to
Otto of Nordheim
Otto of Nordheim by the exiled queen of
Hungary, Anastasia of Kiev. This sword, a cavalry sabre now in the
Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, appears to be the work of
Hungarian goldsmiths of the ninth or tenth century.
An anonymous chronicler of the medieval period represented the meeting
of Pope Leo and Atilla as attended also by
Saint Peter and Saint Paul,
"a miraculous tale calculated to meet the taste of the time" This
apotheosis was later portrayed artistically by the
Raphael and sculptor Algardi, whom eighteenth-century historian Edward
Gibbon praised for establishing "one of the noblest legends of
According to a version of this narrative related in the Chronicon
Pictum, a mediaeval Hungarian chronicle, the Pope promised
if he left
Rome in peace, one of his successors would receive a holy
crown (which has been understood as referring to the Holy Crown of
Some histories and chronicles describe him as a great and noble king,
and he plays major roles in three Norse sagas: Atlakviða,
Volsunga saga, and Atlamál. The Polish Chronicle represents
Attila's name as Aquila.
Frutolf of Michelsberg and
Otto of Freising
Otto of Freising pointed out that some
songs as "vulgar fables" made Theoderic the Great,
Ermanaric contemporaries, when any reader of
Jordanes knew that this
was not the case.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven conceived the idea of writing an opera
Attila and approached
August von Kotzebue
August von Kotzebue to write the libretto.
It was, however, never written.
In World War I, Allied propaganda referred to Germans as the
"Huns", based on a 1900 speech by Emperor Wilhelm II praising
Attila the Hun's military prowess, according to Jawaharlal Nehru's
Glimpses of World History.
Der Spiegel commented on November 6,
1948, that the
Sword of Attila was hanging menacingly over
Cecelia Holland wrote The Death of
Attila (1973), a
historical novel in which
Attila appears as a powerful background
figure whose life and death deeply impact the protagonists, a young
Hunnic warrior and a Germanic one.
Hungary and in Turkey, "Attila" and its Turkish variation
"Atilla" are commonly used as a male first name. In Hungary, several
public places are named after Attila; for instance, in
Attila Streets, one of which is an important street behind the
Buda Castle. When the
Turkish Armed Forces
Turkish Armed Forces invaded
Cyprus in 1974, the
operations were named after
Universal International film
Sign of the Pagan
Sign of the Pagan starred Jack
Palance as Attila.
Depictions of Attila
Attila the Hun, also known as Atli.
Attila the Hun, also known as Atli, in an illustration to the Poetic
A nineteenth century depiction of Attila.
Certosa di Pavia
Certosa di Pavia - Medallion
at the base of the facade. The
Latin inscription tells that this is
Attila, the scourge of God.
with the legend,
Atila, Flagelum Dei
"Attila, Scourge of God")
Image of Attila
The Meeting of Leo I
by Alessandro Algardi
^ a b Harvey, Bonnie (2003) [1st Published in 1821 by Chelsea House
Hun (Ancient World Leaders). Infobase
Publishing. ASIN B01FJ1LTIQ.
^ a b Cooper, Alan D (2008). The Geography of Genocide. University
Press of America. ISBN 978-0761840978.
^ a b Peterson, John Bertram (1907). "Attila". The Catholic
Encyclopedia vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved May
^ Bakker, Marco. "
Attila the Hun". Gallery of reconstructed portraits.
Reportret. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
^ a b Wolfram, Herwig (1997). The Roman Empire and its Germanic
Peoples (Hardcover). Dunlap, Thomas (translator) (1st ed.). University
of California Press. p. 143. ISBN 978-0-520-08511-4.
Retrieved May 18, 2014.
^ a b c d e f g h i j
Jordanes (1908). The Origin and Deeds of the
Goths. Project Gutenberg. Translated by Mierow, Charles Christopher.
Princeton: Princeton University.
^ Sinor, Denis (1990). The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia.
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-24304-9.
^ Wolff, Larry. Inventing Eastern Europe: The Map of Civilization on
the Mind of the Enlightenment. Stanford University Press; 1 edition
(January 1, 1994). pp. 299-230. ISBN 978-0804727020
^ Fields, Nic.
Hun (Command). Osprey Publishing; UK ed.
edition (August 18, 2015). p. 58-60. ISBN 978-1472808875
^ a b c d e f g h Hyun Jin Kim (2013). The Huns,
Rome and the Birth of
Europe. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-00906-6.
^ a b c d e f Maenchen-Helfen, Otto (August 1973). The World of the
Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture. University of California
Press. ISBN 978-0-520-01596-8.
^ a b c d e Snædal, Magnús (2015). "Attila" (PDF). Studia
Etymologica Cracoviensia. 20 (3): 211–219. (Registration required
^ Bruhns, Annette (March 26, 2013). "Die Epoche der Völkerwanderung:
Bestien auf zwei Beinen" [The Age of Mass Migration: Beasts on Two
Legs]. Spiegel Online: Wissenschaft [Science] (in German). SPIEGELnet
GmbH. Archived from the original on April 28, 2014. Retrieved May 18,
^ a b c d Pritsak, Omeljan (December 1982). "The Hunnic Language of
Attila Clan" (PDF). Harvard Ukrainian Studies. Ukrainian Research
Institute, Harvard University. VI (4): 428–476. ISSN 0363-5570.
Retrieved May 18, 2014.
^ a b Golden, Peter Benjamin (1992). An introduction to the History of
the Turkic peoples: ethnogenesis and state formation in medieval and
early modern Eurasia and the Middle East. Wiesbaden: Otto
Harrassowitz. ISBN 978-3-447-03274-2.
^ Van Ruysbroeck, Willem (January 1, 1998). The Journey of William of
Rubruck to the Eastern Parts of the World, 1253–1255. Rockhill,
William Woodville (translator) (New ed. of 1900 ed.). Asian
Educational Services. p. 107. ISBN 978-81-206-1338-6.
^ a b c d e f g h Lebedynsky, Iaroslav; Escher, Katalin (December 1,
2007). Le dossier
Attila Report] (Paperback) (in French).
Editions Errance. ISBN 978-2-87772-364-0.
^ Given, John (2014). The Fragmentary History of Priscus: Attila, the
Huns and the Roman Empire, AD 430–476 (Paperback). Arx Publishing.
^ a b c d e f g h Rouche, Michel (July 3, 2009). Attila: la violence
nomade [Attila: the Nomadic Violence] (Paperback) (in French).
[Paris]: Fayard. ISBN 978-2-213-60777-1.
^ Grousset, Rene (1970). The Empire of the Steppes. Rutgers University
Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-8135-1304-1.
^ Vovin, Alexander (2000). "Did the
Xiongnu speak a Yeniseian
language?". Central Asiatic Journal. 44 (1).
ISBN 978-3-447-09164-0. ISSN 0008-9192.
^ Waldman, Carl; Mason, Catherine (April 1, 2006). Encyclopedia of
European Peoples. Facts On File. p. 393.
^ Deschodt, Éric (May 1, 2006). Folio Biographies (Book 13): Attila
(in French). Paris: Éditions Gallimard. p. 24.
^ Schreiber, Hermann (1976). Die Hunnen:
Attila probt den
Weltuntergang [The Huns:
Attila Rehearses the End of the World]
(Hardcover) (in German) (1st ed.). Düsseldorf: Econ. p. 314.
^ Bóna, István (April 8, 2002). Les Huns: le grand empire barbare
d'Europe (IVe-Ve siècles) [The Huns: The Great Empire of Barbaric
Europe IVth–Vth Century] (in French). Escher, Katalin (translation
of the Hungarian). Paris: Errance. p. 15.
^ a b Lebedynsky, Iaroslav (2011). La campagne d'
Attila en Gaule [The
Attila in Gaul] (in French). Clermont-Ferrand: Lemme edit.
^ Howarth, Patrick (1995). Attila, King of the Huns: The Man and The
Myth. Barnes & Noble Books. pp. 36–37.
^ Dupuy, R. Ernest; Dupuy, Trevor N. (March 1993). The Harper
Encyclopedia of Military History: From 3500 BC to the Present (4th
ed.). HarperCollins. p. 189. ISBN 978-0-06-270056-8.
^ Haas, Christopher. "Embassy to Attila:
Priscus of Panium". Villanova
University. Archived from the original on February 21, 2014. Retrieved
May 18, 2014.
^ Hodgkin, Thomas (2011).
Italy and Her Invaders: 376–476. Volume
II. Book 2. The Hunnish Invasion; Book 3. The Vandal Invasion and the
Herulian Mutiny. New York: Adegi Graphics LLC.
^ Goyau, Georges (1912). "Troyes". The Catholic Encyclopedia vol. 15.
New York: Robert Appleton Company.
Rome Halts the Huns". 2017-01-17. Retrieved 2017-01-28.
^ a b c d e Thompson, Edward Arthur (1948). The Huns. Peoples of
Europe Series (1999 ed.). Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
^ Kirsch, Johann Peter (1910). "Pope St. Leo I (the Great)". The
Catholic Encyclopedia vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
^ Burgess, R. W., ed. (1993). The Chronicle of
Hydatius and the
Consularia Constantinopolitana. Oxford: Clarendon Press. p. 103.
ISBN 0198147872. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
^ Man, John (February 17, 2009). Attila: the Barbarian King Who
Challenged Rome. New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press.
p. 264. ISBN 978-0-312-53939-9.
^ Chadwick, Hector Munro (1926). The Heroic Age. London: Cambridge
University Press. p. 39, n 1.
^ a b "Völsunga Saga" (Online). Morris, William; Magnússon, Eiríkr
(translators). The Northvegr Foundation. 1888. Archived from the
original on July 25, 2013. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
^ a b c "Atlakvitha en Grönlenzka" [The Greenland Lay of Atli]. The
Poetic Edda. Bellows, Henry Adams (translator). Internet Sacred Text
Archive. 1936. Archived from the original on April 9, 2014. Retrieved
May 20, 2014.
^ a b Babcock, Michael A. (July 5, 2005). The Night
Solving the Murder of
Attila the Hun. Berkley Books.
^ Biliarsky, Ivan (2013). The Tale of the Prophet Isaiah: The Destiny
and Meanings of an Apocryphal Text. Brill. pp. 255–257.
^ Creasy, Edward Shepherd (1969). "Chapter VI. The Battle of Chalons,
A.D. 451". Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World from Marathon to
Waterloo (Harper ed.). Heritage Press/BiblioLife. p. 149.
ASIN B000LF91OK. In the title which he assumed, we shall see the
skill with which he availed himself of the legends and creeds of other
nations as well as of his own. He designated himself 'Attila,
Descendant of the Great Nimrod. Nurtured in Engaddi. By the grace of
God, King of the Huns, the Goths, the Danes, and the Medes. The Dread
of the World.'
^ Geary, Patrick J. (October 28, 1994). "Chapter 3. Germanic Tradition
and Royal Ideology in the Ninth Century: The Visio Karoli Magni".
Living with the Dead in the Middle Ages. Cornell University Press.
p. 63. ISBN 978-0-8014-8098-0.
^ Oakeshott, Ewart (May 17, 2012). "Chapter Eight. The Curved and
Single-Edged Swords of the Sixteenth Century". European Weapons and
Armour: From the
Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution. Woodbridge,
UK: Boydell Press. p. 151. ISBN 978-1-84383-720-6.
^ Róna-Tas, András (July 1, 1999). "Chapter XIV. Historical
Attila and the Hunnish-Magyar Kinship". Hungarians and
Europe in the Early Middle Ages: An Introduction to Early Hungarian
History. Bodoczky, Nicholas (translator). Budapest: Central European
University Press. p. 425. ISBN 978-963-9116-48-1.
^ Fillitz, Hermann (1986). Die Schatzkammer in Wien: Symbole
abendländischen Kaisertums [The Vault in Vienna: Symbols of
Occidental Imperial Rule] (in German). Salzburg: Residenz.
^ Robinson, James Harvey (January 1996). "Medieval Sourcebook: Leo I
and Attila". Fordham University. Archived from the original on January
28, 2014. Retrieved May 20, 2014.
^ Gibbon, Edward (1776–1789). History of the Decline and Fall of the
Roman Empire. Milman, Rev. H. H. (notes). London: Strahan &
^ Urbańczyk, Przemysław (1997). Early christianity in central and
east Europe: Volume 1 of Christianity in east central Europe and its
relations with the west and the east. Instytut Europy
Środkowo-Wschodniej. p. 200. ISBN 9788386951338 – via
^ Innes, Matthew (June 26, 2000). Hen, Yitzhak; Innes, Matthew, eds.
The Uses of the Past in the Early Middle Ages. Cambridge University
Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0-521-63998-9.
^ Thayer, Alexander Wheelock (1921). Forbes, Elliot, ed. Thayer's Life
of Beethoven (Revised 1967 ed.).
Princeton University Press (published
1991). p. 524. ISBN 978-0-691-02717-3. ... I could not
refrain from the lively wish to possess an opera from your unique
talent .... I should prefer one from the darker periods,
Attila, etc., for instance, ...
^ Nehru, Jawaharlal (1934). Glimpses of World History. London: Penguin
Books India (published March 30, 2004). p. 919.
^ "Attilas Schwert über Oesterreich: Mit ferngelenktem "New Look""
[Attila's Sword over Austria: With remote-controlled "New Look"]
(Online). Vol. 45/1948 (in German). Der Spiegel. November 6, 1948.
Archived from the original on May 20, 2014. Retrieved May 20,
^ Martin, Elizabeth, ed. (December 2006). A Dictionary of World
History (2nd ed.).
Oxford University Press. p. 41.
ISBN 978-0-19-920247-8. The invasion, which was likened to the
Attila the Hun, put into effect Turkey's scheme for the
Cyprus (Atilla Plan).
Frazee, Charles A. (November 2002). Two Thousand Years Ago: the World
at the Time of Jesus. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Heather, Peter (2010). Empires and Barbarians: The Fall of
the Birth of Europe.
Oxford University Press.
Heather, Peter (2007). The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History of
Rome and the Barbarians.
Oxford University Press.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Attila
Media related to
Hun at Wikimedia Commons
Bleda & Attila
The Dietrich von Bern Cycle
Legends about Theoderic the Great
The Historical Poems
Dietrich und Wenezlan
The Fantastic Poems
Der Rosengarten zu Worms
Theoderic the Great