Attila the Hun - Short Essay

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Why were the military campaigns of Attila the Hun successful? Attila’s military success will be explained through his ability to lure the Romans into war on a pretext whenever the Romans were vulnerable. His motives behind each war was to abstract as much money from the Romans as possible. Also to be explored will be his ability to assert psychological domination over the Eastern Emperor at a time when the two Empires were at peace. Furthermore to be examined will be his ability to portray himself as diplomatic through treaties and embassy consultations between the Romans and the Huns. Also to be looked at will be how successful was Attila’s at creating and seizing opportunities This will be done by looking at Attila’s campaigns in the east and west Roman Empires. After the death of their Uncle Rua 435/6, Attila and his brother Bleda took control of the Hunnic Empire. The two brothers decided to renegotiate the relationship that existed between their Uncle Rua and the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople. The Treaty set up by Rua, stipulated that, the Romans paid him an annual subsidy of 350 lbs of gold. He also demanded fugitives who had fled to the Romans and threatened war if they were not returned. The negotiations took place near the city of Margus in 438. According to Priscus the meeting took place according to both parties’ customs. The Huns would hear what the Romans had to say while mounted on horseback while the Romans discussed the meeting on foot. The Huns dictated the new terms of the treaty, referred to as the Peace of Margus. The Huns decided the annual subsidy was to be raised to the sum of 700lbs. The treaty also fixed that for every Roman captive who had escaped from the barbarians, the Romans must pay eight pieces of gold. The treaty also predetermined that all fugitives must be returned to the Huns. Furthermore the emperor Theodosius was to relinquish any ongoing treaties with enemies of the Huns. Moreover the Huns were to conduct the way the free markets on the northern side of the Danube were controlled. Attila used the markets as a pretext to wage war on the east. The free markets were attacked by Hunnic traders in 441/2 killing Roman merchants during the raid. Theodosius complained that the Huns had violated the “Peace of Margus”. The Huns reported to the Romans that the Bishop of Margus had crossed over to their territory and robbed their royal tombs. They complained that the Romans had not honoured the Peace of Margus by refusing to return fugitives to them. Additionally, they demanded the Bishop be handed over as well. The significance of these allegations was central to the Huns plan for an attack during the campaigning season. The Romans refused both claims and war was declared. Having successfully provoked the Eastern Romans into a war had been a strategic move by the Hunnic leader. Attila knew the eastern Roman field forces were based in Sicily on a joint expedition with the Western Empire to recapture Carthage from the Vandals led by king Geseric. The North African campaign was partially why Theodosius readily agreed to the treaty of Margus. He thought it would give the east breathing space. Moreover Carthage was crucial to the Western Empire as it provided Rome with grain. Knowing that the east was vulnerable, the Huns would cause carnage throughout the Balkans. Margus was a key city that opened up the Balkans for the Hunnic invasion of the east. The Bishop of Margus defected to the Huns. In return for clemency he handed over the Episcopal city. The Huns swept through the Balkans raising cities to the ground. The key fortified city of Naissus was besieged and taken. Priscus gives an account of the siege. He states “...a large number of [Hunnic siege] engines had been brought up to the wall...the so called rams were brought up also...A beam is suspended by slack chains...”. However, Professor E.A Thompson disputes that the siege occurred and that...
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