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M. O. M. Research Paper World History Charlie Linkenheil Monday, May 11, 2009 Attila the Hun – The Renowned Leader There is a great leader that we have all known about since we were children and a leader whom many fear and respect, Attila the Hun has a more complex background than most are aware of.
The Huns wrote very little but it is known that Attila the Hun was a fierce warrior and king who led the Huns during the fifth century and harassed the Roman Empire. i Throughout the years, Attila constantly posed a threat towards the Roman Empire and most of Europe and Asia, conquering and destroying all who stood in his way.The Huns were a nomadic confederation of European and Central Asian tribes who were known for being outstanding horsemen who were nearly impossible to defeat. ii The Huns have been called “ugly”, “ferocious”, and “awe-inspiring” that is known to have traveled on horseback using their smaller Mongolian Ponies. iii Although he has destroyed many of the ancient world’s large cities, he is admired by modern day Hungary and many historians throughout the world. Attila is known for his readiness for battle and his tactical skills. He was a man born into the world to shake the nations, the scourge of all lands, which in some way terrified all mankind by the dreadful rumors noised abroad concerning him.
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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. He was indeed a lover of war, yet restrained in action, mighty in counsel, gracious to suppliants and lenient to those who were once received into his protection,” writes Jordanes. iv The Huns also had unusual mobility for their era because they lived on their horses and always rode to battle on the reliable steeds.Not only did the Huns control Europe and Asia during Attila’s reign, but they also had many inventions that aided them in battle such as the composite bow that current day archers use today. Attila and his brother succeeded their uncle Rua as leaders of the Huns in 434, with Attila in the junior role until his brother’s death 12 years later. v During the Spring of 451 C.
E. Attila’s reign he forged an alliance with the Franks and Vandals, which he used to unleashed his attack into the heart of Western Europe. vi The title of being a Great Leader is not one than can be easily gained; one must persevere through hardships, have many victories, make advancements in their culture’s technology and be a beacon of light for his citizens, current and future. Although Julius Caesar converted a Roman Republic into a Roman Empire, Attila the Hun was the worlds greatest leader because he learned leadership secrets at a young age, he doubled the size of his empire, his Hunnic Empire,vii as well as formed an empire that had never been brought together and transformed it into a successful and helpful empire that would change the world.Gaius Julius Caesar was born in 100 BC, and he well-known for transforming a Roman Republic into a Roman Empire which occupied and expanded throughout ancient Europe and made many technological advancements and political ones as well.
Julius Caesar was a dictator who was loved by thousands and hated by few. He led the Roman military to many victories. By many scholars and the ancient citizens of Rome, Caesar was considered a “God” who led Rome through their darkest ages and provided a safe haven for the people of Rome.Unfortunately for him, the few that did hate him and were envious of his power were willing to risk their lives to bring him down.
Before he was the Emperor of Rome, he served in the military where he learned the hardships of life which would later help him with his career as a leader and general. One of his most well known accomplishments as a military general was when he was trying to invade Germania and had to cross the wide river, Rhine. Instead of trying to find the mouth of the river, Julius Caesar decided that he would build a bridge that crossed the river.For an architect of that period it would have taken them months to complete this wonder but for godlike Julius Caesar it only took 10 days. viii Julius Caesar was in several wars over the period of his ruling and most of them took place over several years.
One of his longest wars was between Rome and Italy which was fought over a period of several years and was fought over a dispute about Roman Citizenship. He took an crumbling civilization and turned it into one of the greatest and most powerful Empires the world has ever seen.Julius Caesar will always be remembered for his courage and leadership skills that he possessed who led Rome through the worst of times. Attila the Hun was leader of the Huns from 434 C. E. until his death in 453 C. E.
He was leader of the Hunnic Empire which stretched from Germany to the Ural River and from the River Danube to the Baltic Sea . During his rule, he was one of the most fearsome of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires’ enemies, but his knowledge all relates back to his childhood when he had a brilliant teacher, his Uncle Rua who was the leader for the Huns at that time.Attila was born in 406 AD in the area of modern day Hungary. When Attila was growing up, the Huns were busy solidifying their power in central Europe which would play a major role in Attila’s upbringing.
ix Not only was Attila’s Uncle an essential part of Attila’s development, but he was influential over the power of the Huns empire all together. Rua led the Hun empire for several years and initiated their great success which he would later pass onto Attila. Some of the essential teachings that Rua taught Attila as a child was how to ride a horse before the infant could even walk. x Another teaching that would be important in his career was how to shoot a bow at a very young age and how to swing a saber as a child.
xi In the year 435 Attila’s Uncle Rua died in battle and Attila and his brother Bleda took the throne as they became young men. Before Attila and Bleda had taken the throne, Rua had created a treaty with Rome which required the Roman Empire to pay an annual tribute of 350 pounds of gold. Once Attila and Bleda took the throne they threatened the Roman Empire and created a new treaty known as The Treaty of Margus.This treaty doubled Rome’s annual tribute of 350 pounds of gold per year to 700 pounds of gold per year. Attila also required that all deserters from the Hun empire had to be returned or were held at the ransom value of a Roman Soldier who would be crucified. xii The Roman Empire also could not make treaties with the Huns’ enemies and all of their fairs and profits must be shared. Because of Rua’s foundational treaty with Rome, Attila was able to capitalize on that.
There is no doubt that Attila’s upbringing had a major impact on his ruling and governing of the Hun Empire.Not only did Attila take the throne at a young age, but he demanded many things from his cowering enemies and started to develop his soon to be dominant and influential Empire as soon as he became their leader. In order to be a great and successful leader, you must expand or develop something that your culture previously contained and Attila certainly expanded his land. One of the several ways that Attila gained new land was by attacking the European barbarian tribes on their Northern and Eastern Frontier.
Theodosius II declined Attila’s Treaty of Margus and posed Attila’s first real threat.Attila then proved his skillful tactics and decided to attack Theodosius and Rome while they were fighting Persia, making it hard for Rome to fight both battles at once. Attila easily won the battle against Theodosius and razed a number of cities including Singidenum (Belgrade), Serdica (Sofia), and Naissus (Nis). xiii In these three cities, the stench of Death was so tremendous that the cities were abandoned and no one could stand the smell, cutting off all supply of citizens. So many people died in Singidenum, Serdica, and Naissus that the nearby Danube river filled with human bones and blood. xiv When Attila realized how powerful his army was and how easily they could destroy the Roman Empire he decided to renegotiate The Treaty of Margus. He raised the tribute once again to 2,100 pounds of gold per year along with a once time payment of 6,000 pounds for their missed tributes.
xv When Attila’s enemies thought that they could get the best of him he demanded even more from them, letting them know that he was in command and was not one to reckon with, a very important characteristic of a great leader.Later during Attila’s reign his horses and their riders were struck with a major epidemic which killed most of his army making him vulnerable and weak. Not only did the Huns have very limited numbers but there were military lapses and mistakes that occurred.
Attila blamed his brother Bleda for the setbacks. He claimed that Bleda had lost the “favor of the gods” and that they were no longer happy with his actions and that Attila should take over the empire, so Attila murdered him. xvi This was very important because Attila now had the sole power of the Empire and could make any decisions that he wished without being questioned or argued with. Sure enough Attila’s conquest became even greater without Bleda at his side and the empire soon was back to full strength.
An event that proved Attila’s strength was shortly after he regained power; he challenged Rome again in 447 C. E. Rome, instead of fighting back, pleaded for peace and Attila renewed the tribute, which had lapsed, of 2,100 pounds of gold a year again.However, this was not enough for Attila and he requested them to hand over some of their land, part of their Danubian Territory, which made the Huns that much more powerful and Rome that much weaker.
Several years went by and Attila slowly gained more power and more land from Rome while gaining thousands of pounds of gold per year. In the year 450 C. E. he decided to attack Western Rome, not because they were weak but because he held a grudge with Western Rome, they thought that they could defeat Attila and refused to pay his tribute.The reason that he held a grudge with Western Rome was because of their Emperor, Valentinian the III.
Valentinian’s daughter, Honoria caused much conflict between Western Rome and Attila’s Huns. It all started when Honoria was caught courting with a slave which deeply angered her father Valentinian. He decided that he would betroth her to a well known senator; however, she detested the marriage and sent a ring to Attila. xvii He interpreted this as a sign that she wanted to marry him and so he demanded Valentinian to hand her over.
However, one does not just hand over their daughter to their enemy, and Attila had to take Honoria by force. Although Honoria had no desire to marry Attila at first they were very happy together along with his several of his other wives. Once again, Attila proves another important fact about being a great leader and that is that even while ruling a nation he must always lead a balanced personal life, and in this case Attila the Hun did just that. One of Attila’s greatest battles was when the Huns entered Gaul in the Western Roman Empire. Attila and his troops were able to gather from 300,000-700,000 troops to join him at his side. xviii Their troops consisted of the Alans, the Burgundians, the Heruls, the Ostrogoths, the Riprarian Franks, the Sarmatians, the Suebi, and the Vandals. Unfortunately, the Romans created an alliance which was led by Flavius Aetius; these troops included the Celts, the Salian Franks and the Visigoths.
This battle is known as the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains and is one of the most famous and decisive battles in all of world history. It all began on June 16, 452 on the plains between Troyes and Chalons and although it is memorable and important it was a very bloody and terrible battle where about 165,000 men are said to have died. xix “A small stream nearby filled with the blood of my brothers,” writes a soldier who survived. xx Attila was a very superstitious man and would not take any chances before each of his battles and decided to make sacrifices the morning before the battle.
For this battle there was no exception. Attila understood that this would be a hard-fought battle and was not going to take any chances and let his opponents get the best of him and through is overconfidence. Attila gave the orders for combat, but delayed until the ninth hour so that the sunset would help his troops to flee the battlefield in case of defeat.
xxi On one side of the plains there was a sharp ridge which acted like a bowl and made this area the center of the battlefield. xxii The Huns first seized the right side of the ridge, while the Roman’s seized the left, with the crest unoccupied between the two of them. xxiii However, the Huns were overly aggressive and attempted to take control of the Romans territory in the plains but were repelled.
xxiv Shortly after they were repelled, the Romans produced a counter attack which caught Attila and his men off guard. Attila attempted to assemble his forces, while he was struggling to hold his position.Meanwhile, Theodoric (Theodosius’ son), was leading his own men after Attila and was killed without his men noticing. xxv Jordanes states that Theodoric was thrown from his horse and trampled to death by his advancing men, which threw Aetius off guard providing Attila enough time to escape from the battlegrounds.
xxvi At this point, Attila was not happy with his odds of victory and even planned his own funeral. xxvii Eventually Attila had to withdraw from the Catalaunian Plains because he had already lost thousands of his men and also was running low on provisions making the Huns weak and susceptible to attack.None the less, Attila was not sorrowful about their defeat, but was determined to destroy the Roman Empire and devised an even greater attack on Rome. xxviii Even though Attila was the strongest military force of his time, he did not become full of himself and let his opponents catch him off guard. After Attila’s dramatic loss on the Catalaunian Plains he was determined more than ever to kill Flavius Aetius and raze Rome to the ground.
He started off by recruiting hundreds of his men with their horses and clarified that they must be willing to cross the Alps in order to get to Italy.After the long and perilous journey across the Alps, Attila made it known that he was there and that Rome knew he was there and ready for another battle. xxix By the time that Rome discovered that Attila was on their doorstep, Aetius could not rally his troops quickly enough. Even if they had a weeks’ notice Aetius would still have not been ready for another battle so quickly.
Attila set his camp up near Milan. There he waited for the appropriate time to strike and destroy his enemy. The only thing that Aetius could do was spread the word of Attila’s whereabouts and soon it came to the attention of Pope Leo.
Since Attila was a very superstitious man he would never harm a Pope or any other religious figure in worries of a curse. When Pope Leo approached Attila near Milan he caused them no harm and simply had a conversation with him. xxx The Pope and the Saints threatened Attila with death via natural disaster or through sickness but Attila was not ready to back down. xxxi However, before Attila was getting ready to release his wrath upon the Roman Empire a horse plague struck the Huns and all of their horses were greatly weakened them and susceptible to attack.Attila, knowing his weakness, decided to back out of Rome and to take a break while his Huns, his horses and himself all recovered from the perilous plague that had overcome them. Once Attila and his men had recovered from the epidemic they laid low and slowly conquered more tribes and acquired their territory.
One very important thing to note about Attila is that even when he lost a battle and thousands of his men’s morale was low, he continued to fight and regain their confidence acting as a guiding light for his people, a very important attribute for a great leader to possess.While Attila was pillaging small encampments he had died during the night of one of his marriages. Attila had been celebrating his marriage and was found unconscious lying in bed next to his young and new wife. There are many theories of Attila’s death, some of which include the idea that his new wife had poisoned him or that he had a fatal stroke. The most convincing and rational story is that Attila and his men had been celebrating the night of his wedding and in his drunken stupor he had drown in his own blood from a nose hemorrhage.The Huns decided that they would lay out the most magnificent funeral in order to honor their military general as well as the leader of their empire. They put Attila in a tent that was made of the finest Chinese silk with a glowing appearance when Attila’s body was laid into it.
xxxii The Huns then rode on their horses around this Chinese tent chanting a dirge while gashing their own faces and pulled out their hair in frustration of the concerns of what had happened and of what the empire was to become.Once they had created his coffin which was made of gold, silver, and iron they buried him. The whereabouts of his body are still unknown and always will be.
As for the empire that Attila had built during his reign, it began to crumble. Once a new leader was appointed to the throne, none of the leaders could stand up to the standards of Attila the Hun, and soon the subjects started to revolt and slowly destroyed the empire that they had been a part of for so many years.This is yet another important feature for a great leader to have; a role in his culture in which his empire could not maintain their power without. Throughout the course of history, there never has been a ruler quite like Attila the Hun.
Attila was “short of stature, with a broad chest and a large head; his eyes were small, his beard thin and sprinkled with gray; and he had a flat nose and a swarthy complexion. ”xxxiii He managed to unite a large group of people who had never lived as a whole and built a giant and powerful empire with his two hands.Not only did Attila the Hun destroy many strong empires, but he was able to celebrate with the Huns and recover from a dreadful loss. Something that Attila was able to do better than any other leader, was that when he lost a battle, he created a plan to counter attack his enemies who were busy celebrating from their current win and destroy them when they least expected it.
Attila was the main threat against the Roman Empire which eventually would fall apart and was the only man who could lead the Huns to victory.Although Julius Caesar converted a Roman Republic into a Roman Empire, Attila the Hun was the worlds greatest leader because he learned leadership secrets at a young age, he doubled the size of his empire, his Hunnic Empire,xxxiv as well as formed an empire that had never been brought together and transformed it into a successful and helpful empire that would change the world. Attila the Hun will always be respected and admired for his wise guidance and his physical strength, and as the greatest leader that the world will ever see.
———————– i Professor Peter Heather. “The Hun we love to hate. ” Sunday Times, The (n. d. ).
. Newspaper Source, EBSCO host (accessed January 20, 2009). ii “Attila the Hun. ” World History: Ancient and Medieval Eras. ABC – CLIO.
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o? &contentSet=GSRC&type=retrieve&tabID=T001&prodID=SRC-1&docID=EJ2102100078&source=gale&srcprod=SRCG&userGroupName=poudrehs&version=1. 0 iv Jordanes, The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, trans. Charles C.
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” DISCovering Biography. vii Thompson E. A.
, The Huns (Blackwell Publishers, 1996), 139 viii Engineering an Empire, DVD, hosted by Peter Weller.September 25, 2007; A&E Homevideo, 2005. ix “Attila the Hun” World History x Ibid. xi Ibid.
xii Thompson, The Huns, 81-85. xiii “Attila the Hun” World History xiv Ibid. xv Thompson, The Huns, 81-85. xvi “Attila the Hun” World History xvii Ibid.
xviii Ibid. xix Ibid. xx Thompson, The Huns, 143-151. xxi Jordanes, The Origin of the Goths xxii Ibid. xxiii Ibid. xxiv Ibid.
xxv Ibid. xxvi Ibid. xxvii “Attila the Hun” World History xxviii Ibid. xxix Ibid.