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Who Was Attila the Hun?

R. Kayne
R. Kayne

"Attila the Hun" reigned King and Commander of the Huns from A.D. 434-453. For the first twelve years he co-reigned with his brother, Bleda, who died in 446, leaving Attila solely in command. Historians speculate Attila may have killed his brother.

Upon his brother's death, Attila began an aggressive military campaign that conquered lands stretching from the Rhine to the Black and Caspian Seas. Having extended Hun rule he began pressuring the Roman Empire, engaging in negations with Constantinople and Ravenna.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

In 451 he made good on a long-time threat to invade Western Europe. Laying waste to city after city, he was nearly victorious in taking Orleans, but the combined armies of Rome and Visigoth defeated him. Attila was forced to retreat; however, the battle for Western Europe was not over.

Forces clashed yet again at Chalons with Attila narrowly defeated. He was forced back across the Rhine, sparing Western Europe a changed course of history.

The following year, 452, Attila waged another war, this time on Italy. Known to the Romans as the Scourge of God, Attila headed for Ravenna, the western capital of the Roman Empire. On the way he felled Aquileia at the Adriatic. Next he destroyed Concordia, Altinum and Patavium, sending parties out to pillage neighboring villages. The regional people fled in fear before his armies.

Attila's forces halted just short of Ravenna. Met by Pope Leo I on behalf of Rome, some say he was dissuaded from going further. Others believe the General wanted to cross the Alps back to his capital near Budapest before winter set in.

Attila died in 453 on his wedding night. Some historians believe he drank to excess that night, passed out on his back, and died of a nosebleed by drowning in his own blood. Others speculate he was likely an alcoholic, common at the time, and probably died from esophageal varices rupturing. This is a hemorrhaging of veins in the throat and stomach that results from chronic acid reflux -- a result of alcoholism, common even today.

The Huns were nomadic tribes thought to be of Mongolian decent known for their fierceness and readiness. The Hun state was among the first well-documented cases of horseback migration in history, and its empire, Europe's largest at the time. Nevertheless, the Hun Empire died with the death of Attila.

Discussion Comments


Of all the battles this man led and survived, what a surprise to hear of how Attila the Hun died.

I was expecting to read he was killed in battle, not from a nosebleed on his wedding night. I wonder how many days this Empire lasted after his death and whatever became of the rest of the people?


I briefly remember reading about Attila the Hun in one of my history classes. I didn't realize the Hun Empire was over once Attila died.

It sounds like he was pretty young at the time of his death, yet he accomplished a lot for his empire during his life span.

I don't think I would have wanted to get on his bad side. If the rumors were true that he killed his brother, there probably wouldn't be much of anything standing in his way of getting what he wanted.


Great straightforward information with accurate information without going on for too long about anything. Thank you so much!


This was helpful but i need more info. Like where he came from and any other thing that made him famous. Thanks!

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