Attila the Hun Essay

This essay has a total of 1349 words and 6 pages.


Attila the Hun




Although he reigned no more than 20 years as king of the Huns, the image of Attila in
history and in the popular imagination is based upon two aggressive military campaigns in
the last two years of his life which threatened to dramatically redirect the development
of Western Europe.

Attila and his brother succeeded their uncle as leaders of the Huns in 434, with Attila in
the junior position until his brother’s death 12 years later. History has it that Attila
killed him or hired someone to do the job. Attila embarked immediately upon a series of
wars extending the Hun rule from the Rhine, across the north of the Black Sea as far as
the Caspian Sea. From that base he soon began a long series of negotiations with the
capital of the Roman Empire at Constantinople in the East and Ravenna in the West.

Finally, Attila forged an alliance with the Franks and Vandals and in the spring of 451 he
unleashed a long-threatened attack into the heart of Western Europe. After pillaging a
broad swath of cities in his path, he was close to obtaining the surrender of Orleans when
the combined Roman and Visigoth armies arrived and forced Attila’s retreat to the
northeast.

Near Troyes the opposing forces joined battle at Chalons in one of the decisive battles of
European history. Though the margin of victory was slim, the Western army prevailed,
precipitating Attila’s withdrawal back across the Rhine and avoiding a decisive shift in
the course of political and economic development in Western Europe. Attila’s adventures in
the West had not ended, however. In the following year he launched a devastating campaign
into Italy.

Little is known of Attila’s early life. Only that most people associate him as being a
cruel leader. In fact Attila’s nickname was “The Scourge God.” He struck fear into the
hearts of the opposing tribes. There were rumors that Attila had cannibalistic practices
and that he had eaten two of his sons.

In the book, “The Prince,” Niccolio Machiavelli presents many ways that leaders should
rule over the masses. Attila the Hun attempts to follow some of the recommended steps to
gain favor with his people. For example, in the second chapter of the book, Machiavelli
states that hereditary rulers have an easier time keeping power and regaining it because
they have less cause and less need to offend than a new one. Unless a hereditary ruler
does something truly despicable the people will fight to keep him in power. If a stronger
force strips him of his title, he will have an easier time regaining it, because of the
necessary cruelties of his overthrowers force on the people.

As I mentioned before, Attila the Hun inherited his position along side of his brother,
Bleda. After his brothers untimely death Attila ruled the Hunnic people. Machiavelli
also says that hereditary states are easier to maintain than newly established ones; the
people, once used to rule, will not want to change it. Even if deposed, the Prince of a
monarchy may be able to regain his post without much difficulty.

Attila was much more aggressive and ambitious than his predecessors had been, and
arrogance sometimes made him unpredictable. All these personality traits aside Attila
knew what it took to establish a successful clan. Which brings me to the next point that
Machiavelli makes in his book, which is found in chapter eighteen.

The Huns already had a reputation for cruelty. Attila had a very popular way to solve
problems of enemies. He would decapitate them and display their heads on pikes in the
middle of the village. The following is a writing from the Roman historian, Ammianus
Marcellinus showing Attila the Hun’s savage customs and military tactics:

The nation of the Huns…surpasses all other Barbarians in wildness of life…And though [the
Huns] do just bear the likeness of men (of a very ugly pattern), they are so little
advanced in civilization that they make no use of fire, nor any kind of relish, in the
preparation of their food, but feed upon the roots which they find in the fields, and the
half-raw flesh of any sort of animal.

Continues for 3 more pages >>




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