Atilla the Hun
406 - 453
The Scourge of Godby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
This Hun was no yellow coward in the pages of history. Rather he is known as number one in the gallery of ruthless and uncivilized barbarians. Even though there are no photos of the devastation that he delivered upon his enemies, the reports still paint a bloody picture. The sadistic terror that he instilled as he drove cities under the thumb of bondage caused him to become known as "Flagellum Dei" (The Scourge of God). While most people see Atilla [more often spelled "Attila"] as being just a ferocious warrior, the more obscure side of him shows us that as result of his lust for power, he was a great king, possessing passion [click thumb pic right for image of the Hun with a doll for babes], and organization. He is quoted as saying, "When in a political war, a Hun must always keep an eye to the rear."
Atilla the Hun was born in approximately 406 AD to the ruling Hun family, his uncle being the king over the nomadic people that had already reached the out skirts of the Roman Empire in the late 4th century. Not much is known about Atilla's childhood other than he could shoot a bow while straddling a horse, a leg mounted in each stirrup. (The invention of the stirrup gave the Huns the advantage over those they conquered.) Atilla was obviously a sly hustler who took advantage of his athletic prowess and his political connections.
By his late teens, Atilla was no amateur at leading the Huns in merciless battle against the Visigoths and Rome. About 418 Rome and the Huns negotiated peace terms. To secure peace, important persons, such as the young Atilla, were exchanged as hostages between the Romans and the Huns. During Atilla's two years in Rome, he was awed by the sensual grandeur and wealth of the Empire. Upon his return home, he vowed to someday go back to Rome not as a hostage, but as a conqueror.
He was soon back to pillage towns, snatch young women for sexual pleasure, and cause mayhem and devastation. No one could match him in battle, and by his thirties, he had thrust himself into the most powerful position as the Huns' leading commander despite that his brother Bleda had also succeeded the throne upon the king's death in 433.
War between the Romans and the Huns broke out again in 440 when a Roman
bishop was caught desecrating Hun tombs. Atilla and his army proved unbeatable
as they swept into the Roman Empire defeating them time after time. The
Hun had hard core women in his army who also fought and supported the
main body of warriors. (This practice extended into the 12th century Golden
Horde of Genghis Khan when he invaded toward the West.) In 445, Atilla
murdered his brother and obtained domination over the Hun kingdom. As
king, Atilla demanded large amounts of tribute from the Roman Empire and
pillaged their villages when his demands were not met. For many years,
the Eastern Roman Empire, ruled by Theodosius II, paid Atilla extreme
amounts of money and gifts to keep an unsteady state of peace.
Even though he was very rich, Atilla led a very simple life. In the tradition of Mongol warriors, the Hun ate mare's milk, blood, and raw meat if necessary. He wore plain clothes and animal skin layered against the cold central Asian steeps (which is a far cry from the nearly nude depictions in movies like Conan the barbarian and their busty barbarian babes such as Xena the Warrior Princess). His belief system was unknown but he demonstrated little, if any, concern for local religions or Christianity. In contrast to the violent and sexual movies which play with man's temptations, the real Atilla seems to have been motivated by raw power rather than blood lust or erotic orgies. It was reported that it was uncommon for him to be drunk.
There appeared many legends surrounding the life of Atilla. He was said to have found a sword of the war god Mars buried in the ground of a field, with which he was an invincible warrior. Atilla probably did find a sword of some dead warrior and believed it to be a sign that he was destined to rule the world. Another rumor was that he was a cannibal, eating two of his sons. It was believed that one of Atilla's wives killed and prepared the children, for an unapparent reason, and told Atilla the flesh was that of an animal.1
Reports of his wicked sins were exaggerated in Christian Rome. The Hun's diabolic reputation spurred fear based revival for the church where the Darkside served to create dreams of hell and anarchy to be avoided. Armageddon was just around the corner given the presence of "The Hun"! The sinful action of the Hun gave rise to virtuous action of Romans who tossed aside that which was forbidden by the church. Yet some renegade pagans claimed the scourge was because the old pagan gods had been abandoned for the Christian God. They advocated a return to temple prostitution and, rather than be appalled at the stories of the Hun's whores, they viewed this as one reason for the Hun's successful exploits.
In 451, Atilla turned his aggression towards the Western Roman Empire in an attempt to expand his kingdom. The Huns organized one of the largest invasions of the time composed of perhaps as many as a half a million men. The Huns spread across Gaul (today's France) and wreaked collateral damage on the great cities of Europe. The aftershock caused the Romans to quickly unite with the Visigoths, enemies of the Huns, to confront the Huns. The Huns were surprisingly halted and forced to retreat a hundred miles. The enemy pursued them and once again attacked. The battle that ensued caused mutual retreat for the loss of men on both sides.
Atilla was not discouraged however, and planned to redirect his invasion into Italy, the heart of the Western Empire. So, in 452 the Yellow Peril struck once again at the Romans. His ultimate goal was Rome itself. The Huns devastated the Roman countryside. However, in Rome, Pope Leo was able to convince him to spare the city. Atilla made peace with the Romans because of a famine and plague that existed in Italy at the time.
Back home, Atilla planned his next campaign on the Romans. However, in 453, his plans were suddenly cut short with his untimely death. Atilla had just married to Ilico, his seventh wife. During the night of the wedding, he got drunk and suffered from a hemorrhage of the nose. Another theory is that he was murdered (Babcock, 2005). He died in his bed that night at the age of about 47.
After his death, the sons of Atilla gained leadership of the Huns. They lacked the qualities and experience to run a kingdom. In fighting over the throne, they divided the empire, which soon led to its crippling. By 469, the Hun Empire was completely dissolved, faded into a mere memory.
Atilla was a fierce, merciless warrior on the battlefield who left behind unmatched devastation. Through his aggression, he posed an extreme threat to the Romans and nearly conquered Rome itself. During his prosperous reign, he was able to transform the nomadic Huns into a sedentary empire by collecting immense riches through plunder and extortion. In many eastern European cultures today, Atilla the Hun is honored as a hero.
The Hun and Movies
1954 saw the romantic film drama over Attila the Hun. Slightly more realistic was the Arts and Entertainment for adults movie called "Atilla: Scourge of God". Entertainment for children and adults came about with the playful retelling of an ancient Chinese legend about a girl who tightly wrapped her breast (early sport bra) to join the army under cover. In the digital animated Disney video, Mulan's revenge on the Hun consisted of warning the forbidden emperial city of the Hun's attack. The movie does not date to the single Hun of this report but rather is a mere fantasy of the romance between a dominant male and a young girl coming of age in the historical context of the Hun.
Want another great biography? See Yasser Arafat.
Endnotes:1 This story is loosely based on the Norse version of the Niebelungensage also called Niebelungenlied, a German epic poem. This passage refers to Kriemhilde, who in the Niebelungenlied is believed to be Attila's wife. However, in another version of the Niebelungenlied Kriemhilde/Gudrun wanted to have Hagan killed, who was responsible for the death of her beloved Siegfried. She tricked Hagen to Hungary, and upon arrival he kills Etzel/Attila's and Kriemhild's son. "Atilla had just married to Ilico, his seventh wife." - The name is Ildiko or Ildico, daughter of a Goth or Burgundy (German) prince. Also, there is no evidence that supports that Ildico was in fact his seventh wife.
1. Babcock, Michael A., Ph.D. Night Attila Died, The : Solving the Murder of Attila the Hun, Berkley Hardcover, July 2005.
2. Blackwood, Allan. Twenty Tyrants. New York. Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 1990.
3. Thompson, E.A. A History of Attila And The Huns. Westport, Connecticut. Greenwood Press, 1975.
4. Atilla, Scourge of God. A&E Biography., A&E Television Network., New York, NY.
5. Realm-of-shade 16 October , 2002
6. Art1 Candor 16 October, 2002