History has witnessed a number of formidable leaders. But perhaps none of them were as terrifying as Attila the Hun.
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Recognised as one of the most brutal and tyrannical rulers of all time, Attila was the leader of the nomadic Hun tribe in the fifth century AD. He swept through much of the Roman empire, like a tornado of destruction, seizing its cities and claiming them for his own. Winning nearly every battle he ever started, his name alone was enough to strike terror in the hearts of Roman citizens.
Here are some facts about Attila the Hun that will help you know him better:
1. He had a privileged upbringing
Although he was stereotyped to be an illiterate, unwashed barbarian, Attila the Hun was born into the most powerful family north of the Danube River. His uncles jointly ruled the Hun empire in the late 420s and both Attila and his older brother Bleda, were instructed in archery, sword fighting, and equestrian skills. They also spoke – and maybe even read – both Gothic and Latin, and learned military and diplomatic tactics.
2. He killed his own brother to grab absolute power
When their uncles died in 434, Bleda and Attila inherited joint control over the Hun empire. But years later, in 445, Attila decided to challenge Bleda for absolute reign over the empire. Bleda was killed, and two years later, Attila’s army stormed through the Balkans and into Greece, until the Romans finally managed to stop them at Thermopylae and negotiate a complicated treaty.
3. He invaded Gaul for a wife
In the year 450, Honoria, the sister of the emperor of Western Rome, Valentian III, secretly sent Attila a ring and begged him to help her get out of an impending marriage to a Roman aristocrat. Attila, who already had several wives, considered this to be a marriage proposal and claimed Honoria as his bride, and half the Western Empire as her dowry. When she learned of this, a distraught Honoria told her brother she didn’t intend to do such a thing. Furious with her scheming, Valentian III nearly agreed to send her to Attila, but eventually calmed down. Attila didn’t give up so easily, though – he waged two military campaigns in Honoria’s name.
4. His death is a mystery
Despite being a celebrated warrior and military leader, Attila did not die on the battlefield. When he married a beautiful young woman named Ildico in 453, he was simultaneously preparing another attack on the Eastern Roman Empire and its new emperor, Marcian. During the wedding night, Attila ate and drank late into the night. But the next morning, when he didn’t appear, his guards broke down the door of his room to find Attila dead, with a hysterical, sobbing Ildico at his bedside. He had no would, but it appeared Attila had suffered a bad nosebleed while lying face down, and choked to death on his own blood. Some think Ildico played a role in his death, while others think it was because of a conspiracy by Marcian. No one knows to this day.
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