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Attila the Hun

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Attila the Hun, although a legend in our time, does not have a well-documented history. The Romans had sent an ambassador, Maximinus, to try to work out a diplomatic answer to stop the invasions of their territory with the Huns. Priscus was a Sophist philosopher who travelled with Maximinus during these proceedings, Priscus kept journals that documented his time with the Huns. This account is one of the very few accounts we have of Attila’s life. It is reported that he wrote seven or eight volumes on his experiences with the Huns but only a small fraction has survived and during that time his records were edited by the Romans that were assigned to them. Attila was born in was born in Hajdúböszörmény, in 406 AD. His father’s name was Mundiuch and it is unknown who is mother was. He is believed to have had a privileged upbringing because uncles, Octar and Rua, jointly ruled the Huns during this time. Most of his youth was spent in training with his older brother Bleda. Attila was disciplined in archery, swords, lasso and tending to the horses. He is reported to have been most likely bilingual speaking both Latin and Goth. He most likely would have spoken in Latin for his business dealings with the Romans. Goth would be spoken in his dealings with conquered territories. In the book, “The End of Empire” by Christopher Kelly, there is speculation that both Attila and his older brother Bleda were intended to rule just as their uncle’s Octar and Rua had ruled, in joint power. After Octar died, sometime during in the 420’s, Rua was left to rule on his own. Rua set up a peace treaty with Rome in 430 A.D. for a tribute of 350 pounds of gold annually. Attila and his brother Bleda took control in 434 A.D. when Rua died. There is speculation that there may have been some treachery that enabled Bleda and Attila to take power of the Huns, because most likely Rua had sons of his own that would have inherited their place as rulers once their father died. The details of how Bleda and Attila became the Hun leaders are not very well documented.
During this time of joint leadership Attila was tolerant but not always in agreement with the ideals of his brother Bleda. Fundamentally Attila and Bleda had different belief systems. Attila believed that when a herdsman found and brought him The Warlord’s Sword, a sword that had been lost long ago and believed to have been the war god’s sword, that it confirmed his belief that he was meant to rule the world. He took it as a sacred sign and believed himself to be favored by a powerful deity. Bleda on the other hand did not believe in the idea of a sacred sword he felt it was little more than a campfire storied. He believed more in the power of real swords and thought he could rule by force. There was another recorded incident where these two powerful brothers did not see eye to eye. There was a man, Zercon a Roman captive, whom Bleda had taken advice from. Attila found feelings of disgust for Zercon and did not approve of his brothers dealings with him. It is believed that Attila did not like Zercon due to his strange appearance. He was described as having a very odd appearance with a hunched back and flat nose as well as having an odd annoying way of halted speech. Zercon had escaped from prison after being captured by the Romans and upon being brought to Bleda he had explained the reason he had run away was because his master did not provide him with a wife. Bleda then offered him a high ranking woman from a good bloodline to be his wife. Attila did not feel it was right or honorable to the girl’s bloodline and was bothered by the outcome. Attila controlled his anger and continued to work his interests with Bleda until he could secure sole rule.
Attila gained sole control of the Huns in 445 AD when his brother Bleda died. Although there was no proof that Attila himself actually killed his brother in order to gain sole control over their empire, there has always been much speculation. Though it is speculative whether or not t he did murder Bleda the outcome remains the same. Attila is now free to rule his empire and as he believes he is destined to do, rule the world.
In 442 the tribute that the brothers were demanding from the Romans had increased to 1400 pounds of gold. After two years of this the Romans refused to continue to pay. Attila placed demands for them to continue to pay the money as well as demands for fugitives. Constantinople denied these demands. The Huns continued to attack and capture Roman forts and by 447 they were in control of the Balkans from the Black Sea to the Dardanelles. They then demanded of the Romans that they pay them 6,000 pounds of gold in back-tribute, yearly cost increased to 2,100 pounds of gold, and fugitive Huns handed over for impaling.
The Romans devised a murder plot against Attila. Their plan was to have one of Attila’s foreign body guards named Edeco and a man named Vigilas, who served as an interpreter; carry out this deadly scheme. Vigilas was to be paid fifty gold pieces which was a great sum of wealth for a man of his stature. This plot was possibly suspected by one of Attila’s servants named Orestes. Attila learned of this plot against his life, it may have even been Edeco himself who told Attila of the murder plot planned against him by the Emperor, Vigilas, and Edeco. When he confronted Vigilas, he denied such betrayal and made excuses for the bag that had contained the gold pieces. Vigilas later confessed when his son, who had accompanied him, was threatened by sword and begged for no harm to come to his innocent son and instead pleaded that the sword be turned onto him. Atilla had then placed him in bonds and ordered Vigilas’s son to head back to Constantinople with another fifty pounds of gold as a ransom. He ultimately gave a very generous verdict to the man who plotted to take his life. He sent Orestes to accompany Vigilas to Constantinople where Vigilas was to wear a bag around his neck with a hundred pounds of gold in it.
According to the books, “Attila King of the Huns the Man the Myth” by Patrick Howarth and “The End of an Empire” by Christopher Kelly, Attila was portrayed by Priscus, the philosopher who accompanied the ambassador Maximinus to meet with Attila in 449, to be not the barbarian that people had been lead to believe he was. Although Maximinus felt slighted because he and Priscus were seated further down the table as though they weren’t important guests as well as being disturbed that none of the business they had come to discuss was mentioned, Priscus’ accounts seemed that he was more in awe as he described the evening. Priscus states that while other dinner participants were dressed up for the celebration that Attila was clean but not fancy, he presented a golden goblet and filled it with wine and then the goblet was passed around to each of the guests at the table in order of their worth to the evenings events. He tells us of how the food was laid out so that it did not need to be passed and people could eat what they liked, the drinks flowed freely and while the table was set with fine dinner utensils and goblets Attila’s cup was made of wood and he only ate meat. Priscus tells us of how they were like Roman’s in the fact that they enjoyed similar spices and were not the raw meat eating barbarians that they were thought to be some months back. Priscus tells of how affectionate Attila was with his son that evening and how Attila seemed reserved while others around him were loud and filled with laughter from the evening’s festivities. Maximinus seemed to have taken all he could and told Priscus that it was time to go and according to Priscus’ accounts he could hardly take his eyes off the Hun King and would have probably stayed and drank all night with the Huns if Maximinus would have let him. The second evening the rituals were much the same but the ambassadors were sat much closer to Attila and this thrilled Maximinus as he felt he had more access to the Hun King.
In the beginning of 453 Attila married his last wife Ildico, how many wives he had during the course of his life is not known but it is reputed to be a great many. On his wedding night after an evening of great celebration with the Huns Attila consumed what is reported to be great indulgence of food and drink, the next morning he was found to be dead of what looked to be a nose bleed causing him to choke on his own blood. There is of course speculation on whether Ildico had anything to do with her new husband’s death along with Aetius’s claim a few days later that he bribed Attila’s bodyguard to kill the Hun King but there was never any proof and people seemed to accept it for what it looked to be. So a simple nose bleed mixed with too much alcohol is what took a great King out of existence after a short eight year sole rule of the Huns.
After his death it is reported that Attila was honored in death as equally as he was honored in life by his Hun’s. His body was decorated with magnificent jewelry that was given as gifts from Roman Emperors that had failed to defeat this King. He was buried with three coffins. The first was gold, the second was silver and the third was iron. The gold and the silver represented all the plunder that Attila had seized and the iron represented victories of war. In his tomb he was buried with weapons of his enemies along with treasures from his victories. The servants who buried him were killed so that his tomb would remain a secret; this was considered an honorable death. Ironically the word “strava” which is Hunnic for funeral is the only word of his language to have survived.…...

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