Origins of Huns
Attila the Hun belong to the fierce and warlike tribe, called the Huns. They came from Asia into Southeastern Europe.
The Huns were a group of Eurasian nomads, appearing from east of the Volga.
They took possession of a large territory lying north of the River Danube.
They migrated further into Western Europe 370AD.
Rise of Attila the Hun
In 434 AD, the Huns had a famous king named Attila. He became king at the age of twenty-one years.
Although young, he showed bravery and ambition. He wanted to be a great and powerful king.
He gathered together the best men from the various tribes of his people and trained them into a great army of good soldiers.
Sword of Attila the Hun
About this time one of the king’s shepherds, while taking care of cattle in the fields, noticed blood dripping from the foot of one of the oxen.
The shepherd followed the streak of blood through the grass and at last found the sharp point of a sword sticking out of the earth.
He dug out the weapon, carried it to the palace, and gave it to King Attila.
The king declared it was the sword of Tiew, the god of war.
He then strapped it to his side and said he would always wear it.
“I shall never be defeated in battle,” he cried, “as long as I fight with the sword of Tiew.”
Attila the Hun attack on Roman Empire
He got his army ready and marched with it into countries which belonged to Rome.
He defeated the Romans in several great battles and captured many of their cities.
The Roman Emperor Theodosius had to ask for terms of peace.
Attila agreed that there should be peace, but soon afterwards he found out that Theodosius had formed a plot to murder him.
This betrayal enraged him and he again began war.
He plundered and burned cities wherever he went.
At last the emperor had to give him a large sum of money and a portion of country south of the Danube.
This made peace, but the peace did not last long. In a few years Attila appeared at the head of an army of 700,000 men.
Attila the Hun attack on Germany
With this great force he marched across Germany and into Gaul.
He rode on a beautiful black horse, and carried at his side the sword of Tiew.
He attacked and destroyed towns and killed the inhabitants without mercy.
The people had such dread of him that he was called the “Scourge of God”and the “Fear of the World.”
Attila and his terrible Huns marched through Gaul until they came to the city of Orleans.
Here the people bravely resisted the invaders.
They shut their gates and defended themselves in every way they could.
Attila tried to take Orleans, but soon after he began to attack the walls he saw a great army at a distance coming towards the city.
Battle of Catalonia Field
He quickly gathered his forces together, marched to the neighboring plain of Champagne and halted at the place where the city of Chalons now stands.
The army which Attila saw was an army of 300,000 Romans and Visigoths.
It was led by a Roman general name Aetius and the Visigoth king, Theodoric.
The Visigoths after the death of Alaric had settled in parts of Gaul.
Their king had now agreed to join the Romans against the common enemy—the terrible Huns.
So the great army of the Romans and Visigoths marched up and attacked the Huns at Chalons.
It was a fierce battle. Both sides fought with the greatest bravery. At first the Huns seemed to be winning.
They drove back the Romans and Visigoths from the field, and in the fight Theodoric was killed.
Attack of Visigoths
Aetius now began to fear that he would be beaten, but just at that moment Thorismond, the son of Theodoric, made another charge against the Huns.
He had taken command of the Visigoths when his father was killed, and now he led them on to fight.
They were all eager to have revenge for the death of their king, so they fought like lions and swept across the plain with great fury.
The Huns were soon beaten on every side, and Attila himself fled to his camp.
It was the first time he had ever been defeated.
Thorismond, the conqueror, was lifted upon his shield on the battle-field and hailed asking of the Visigoths.
When Attila reached his camp he had all his baggage and wagons gathered in a great heap.
He intended to set fire to it and jump into the flames if the Romans should come there to attack him.
“Here I will perish in the flames,” he cried, “rather than surrender to my enemies.”
But the Romans did not come to attack him, and in a few day she marched back to his own country.
Attila the Huns Invasion of Italy
Very soon, however, he was again on the war path. This time he invaded Italy.
He attacked and plundered the town of Aquileia, and the terrified inhabitants fled for their lives to the hills and mountains.
Some of them took refuge in the islands and marshes of the Adriatic Sea. Here they founded Venice.
The approach of the dreaded Attila the Hun alarmed the people of Rome and the Emperor Valentinian.
He was now near the city, and they had no army strong enough to send against him.
Rome would have been again destroyed if it had not been for Pope Leo I who went to the camp of Attila and persuaded him not to attack the city.
Priestly robes of Leo awed the Atilla the Hun.
It is also told that the apostles Peter and Paul appeared to Attila in his camp and threatened him with death if he should attack Rome.
He did not go away, however, without getting a large sum of money as ransom.
Death of Attila the Hun
Shortly after leaving Italy Attila suddenly died.
Only the day before his death he had married a beautiful woman whom he loved very much.
The Huns mourned their king in a barbarous way.
They shaved their heads and cut themselves on their faces with knives, so that their blood, instead of their tears, flowed for the loss of their great leader.
They enclosed his body in three coffins—one of gold, one of silver, and one of iron—and they buried him at night, in a secret spot in the mountains.
When the funeral was over, they killed the slaves who had dug the grave, as the Visigoths had done after the burial of Alaric.
After the death of Attila we hear little more of the Huns.