Biography of Attila the Hun

Known as the Scourge of God

Portrait of Attila the Hun
Corbis via Getty Images / Getty Images

Who was Attila the Hun? Attila was the fierce 5th-century leader of the nomadic, barbarian group known as the Huns who struck fear in the hearts of the Romans as he plundered everything in his path, invaded the Eastern Empire and then crossed the Rhine into Gaul.

Occupation

Ruler

Dates

We don't know when Attila was born. It could have been around 406 A.D. He ruled from about 433 until his death in 453.

Offices and Titles

Attila was the king of the Scythian hordes known as the Huns, who frightened those in their paths even with their appearance. For devastating much of Europe -- mostly while on horseback shooting javelins, composite bows and arrows, Attila the Hun is also known as the Scourge of God. Jordanes says the following about Attila:

" His army is said to have numbered five hundred thousand men. 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."
The Origin and Deeds of the Goths

Military

Attila successfully led his forces to invade the Eastern Roman Empire, whose capital was in Constantinople, in 441. In 451, on the Plains of Châlons (also known as the Catalaunian Plains), which was located in Gaul (modern France), although the exact located is disputed, Attila suffered a setback.

Attila was ranged against the Romans and the Germanic Visigoths who were settled in Gaul. This didn't stop him, though; he made progress and was on the verge of sacking Rome when, in 452, the pope (Leo I [d. 461]) dissuaded Attila from sacking Rome.

Death

The death of Attila was the following year, on his wedding night in 453, supposedly of a nosebleed.

There are other explanations, including an assassination plot. With Attila's death, the Huns fade from prominence as a foe of the Romans.

Sources

We know about Attila through Priscus (5th century), a Roman diplomat and historian, and Jordanes, a sixth-century Gothic historian, and author of the Getica.

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Gill, N.S. "Biography of Attila the Hun." ThoughtCo, Feb. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/attila-the-hun-p2-112483. Gill, N.S. (2017, February 9). Biography of Attila the Hun. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/attila-the-hun-p2-112483 Gill, N.S. "Biography of Attila the Hun." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/attila-the-hun-p2-112483 (accessed December 15, 2017).