Attila the Hun

Major Political Events and the Death of Attila the Hun

Attila. An illustration from the Chronicon Pictum, c. 1360.
Attila. An illustration from the Chronicon Pictum, c. 1360. Public Domain. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Attila the Hun Profile | Major Events in his Life

Major Dates in the Life of Attila the Hun:

  • 406 Attila is born.
  • 433 Attila becomes ruler of the Huns.
  • 450 Emperor Valentinian II's sister Honoria writes to Attila. The emperor refuses to let his sister marry Attila.
  • 451 Defeat of Attila at Chalons.
  • 452 The pope persuades Attila not to sack Rome.
  • 453 Attila dies.

Attila's Rise to Power

Called the Scourge of God [flagellum dei] by the Romans, Attila the Hun was king and general of the Hun empire from A.D. 433 to 453. Succeeding his uncle, King Roas, in 433, Attila shared his throne with his brother Bleda. He inherited the Scythian hordes who were disorganized and weakened by internal strife. Attila's first order of affairs was to unite his subjects for the purpose of creating one of the most formidable and feared armies Asia had ever seen.

Peace Treaty Between Rome and Attila the Hun

In 434 East Roman Emperor Theodosius II offered Attila and Bleda 660 pounds of gold annually with hopes of securing an everlasting peace with the Huns. This peace, however, was not long lived. In 441 Attila's Huns attacked the Eastern Roman Empire. The success of this invasion emboldened Attila to continue his westward expansion. Passing unhindered through Austria and Germany, Attila plundered and devastated all in his path.

Attila Attacks Italy

In 451, having suffered a setback on the Plains of Chalons, by the allied Romans and Visigoths, Attila turned his attention to Italy. After having laid waste to Aquileia and many Lombard cities in 452, the Scourge of God met Pope Leo I who dissuaded him from sacking Rome.

Attila's Ignominious Death

Attila's death in 453 wasn't quite what one would have expected from such a fierce barbarian warrior. He died not on the battlefield, but on the night of his marriage. On that night Attila, who, despite common misconceptions, was not a heavy drinker, drank heavily in celebration of his new bride. In his wedding chambers at the end of the event, Attila passed out flat on his back. It was then and there that Attila had a massive nosebleed which caused him to choke on his own blood.

See an alternative death scenario (the hemorrhoid theory) or The Night Attila Died, which prefers foul play.

For more on Huns, Scythians, and others called "barbarian", see the following reviews: