Throughout history there have been numerous counts of individuals who have seemingly sprung from nowhere and ravaged prosperous empires. Attila the Hun is no different. To most people, he is merely known as a mindless barbarian. Nothing about the man himself, his world, or his significance is ever discussed, which detracts from the influential person that he was. There was so much more to him than mere barbarism. Attila’s power derived from his astonishing character. He was brutal and arrogant, but also was able to gain the support of millions with his brilliance. The Huns thought him semi divine, Goths and other barbarians adored him, and educated Westerners were proud to serve him. Not only was he a powerful leader, but also a canny politician. With his vast array of qualities, Attila played a significant role in Europe during his lifetime and very nearly altered the course of its future. By becoming such a prominent figure in such a short period of time, it is a disgrace to his legacy that people do not know more about Attila the Hun other than the fact that he was a savage. This portrayal of him in itself does not do him justice because he truly was so much more.
The story of Attila begins in Mongolia, which has been the progenitor of great and violent leaders. Though his origins are in question, with a certain amount of empirical evidence it has been popularly concluded that Attila belonged to a group of Mongolian or Turkic nomadic tribes from northeastern China and Mongolia.1 Attila himself was born in 406 to Mundzuk. The name Attila, given to him by his father, signifies iron in the Hunnic language, and this foresees the great future that he had in store.2 His lineage can be traced along the lines of an ancient imperial family, which had once ruled over the whole powerful nation of the Huns.3 So from the start it was clear that Attila was destined for great things.
In 434, Rua died and left Mundzuk’s two sons, Attila and Bleda to dually rule the Hun Tribes. At the time of two brothers' accession, the Hun tribes were bargaining with Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II's envoys for the return of several renegades who had taken refuge within the Eastern Roman Empire.4 The following year Attila and Bleda met with the imperial legation at Margus and, all seated on horseback in the Hunnic manner, negotiated a successful treaty. The Romans agreed to not only return the fugitives, but to also double their previous tribute of 350 Roman pounds of gold, to open their markets to Hunnish traders, and to pay a ransom of eight solidi for each Roman taken prisoner by the Huns. The Huns, satisfied with the treaty, decamped from the Roman Empire and returned to their home in the Hungarian Great Plain to consolidate and strengthen their empire.5 From the very beginning of Attila’s rule, it was obvious that he was going to be an excellent ruler. Even with the inherited issues with Theodosius II, he was able to prove himself. Attila was able to successfully accomplish what Rua was not able to do, and that was to regain the captured fugitives. If that were not enough, he was able to bargain the Roman Emperor to give the Huns a much higher tribute than originally agreed upon. The start of his rule being with his brother may attribute to some of his original success. He was able to confide in Bleda and learned much about ruling because his brother was significantly older than he was. Being able to successfully work together shows that Attila not only had the potential to become a great ruler, but also to work with others. Attila and the Huns remained out of Roman sight for the next few years while they invaded the Sassanid Empire. When defeated in Armenia by the Sassanids, the Huns abandoned their invasion and turned their attentions back to Europe.6 This is a true testament of Attila’s militaristic intelligence because he knew when it was time to move on. He had attempted to gain control over Armenia, but when it failed, he did not...
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