The Ancient Library
 

Scanned text contains errors.

416

ATT1LA.

as being the most formidable of the invaders of the Roman empire, and (except Radagaisus) the only-one of them who was not only a barbarian, but a savage and a heathen, and as the only conqueror of ancient or modern times who has united under his rule the German and. Sclavonic nations. He was the son of Mundzuk, descended from the an­cient kings of the Huns, and with his brother Bleda, in German Blodel (who died, according to Jornandes, by his hand, in A. D. 445), at­tained in A. d. 434 to the sovereignty of all the northern tribes between the frontier of Gaul and the frontier of China (see Desguignes, Hist, des Huns., vol. ii. pp. 295-301), and to the command of an army of at least 500,000 barbarians. (Jor­nandes, Reb. Get. cc. 35, 37, 49.) In this position, partly from the real terror which it inspired, partly from his own endeavours to invest himself in the eyes of Christendom with the dreadful character of the predicted Antichrist (see Herbert, Attila, p. 360), and in the eyes of his own countrymen with the invincible attributes attendant on the possessor of the miraculous sword of the Scythian god of war (Jornandes, Reb. Get. 35), he gradually concentrated upon himself the awe and fear of the whole an­cient world, which ultimately expressed itself b affixing to his name the well-known epithet of "the Scourge of God." The word seems to have been used generally at the time to denote the bar­barian invaders, but it is not applied directly to Attila in any author prior to the Hungarian Chro­nicles, which first relate the story of his receiving the name from a hermit in Gaul. The earliest contemporary approaches to it are in a passage in Isidore's Chronicle, speaking of the Huns as "virga Dei," and in an inscription at Aquileia, written a short time before the siege in 451 (see Herbert, Attila, p. 486), in which they are described as "imminentia peccatorum flagella."

His career divides itself into two parts. The first (a. d. 445—450) consists of the ravage of the Eastern empire between the Euxine and the Adriatic and the negotiations with Theo-dosius II., which followed upon it, and which were rendered remarkable by the resistance of Azimus (Priscus, cc. 35, 36), by the embassy from Constantinople to the royal village beyond the Danube, and the discovery of the treacherous design of the emperor against his life. (Ib. 37-72.) They were ended by a treaty which ceded to Attila a large territory south of the Danube, an annual tribute, and the claims which he made for the sur­render of the deserters from his army. (Ib. 34-37.)

The invasion of the Western empire (a. D.450-453) was grounded on various pretexts, of which the chief were the refusal of the Eastern emperor, Marcian, the successor of Theodosius II., to pay the above-mentioned tribute (Priscus, 39, 72), and the rejection by the Western emperor Valentinian III. of his proposals of marriage to his sister Ho-noria. (Jornandes, Regn. Succ. 97, Reb. Get. 42.) Its particular direction was determined by his alli­ance with the Vandals and Franks, whose domi­nion in Spain and Gaul was threatened by Ae'tius and Theodoric. With an immense army composed of various nations, he crossed the Rhine at Stras-burg, which is said to have derived its name from his having made it a place of thoroughfare (Klemm, Attila, p. 175), and marched upon Orleans. From hence he was driven, by the arrival of Ae'tius, to the plains of Chalons on the Maine, where he was

ATTILA.

defeated in the last great battle ever fought by Romans, and in which there fell 252,000 (Jornan­des, Reb. Get, 42) or 300,000 men. (Idatius and Isidore.) He retired by way of Troyes, Cologne-, and Thuringia, to one of his cities on the Danube, and having there recruited his forces, crossed the Alps in a. d. 451, laid siege to Aquileia, then the second city in Italy, and at length took and ut­terly destroyed it. After ravaging the whole of Lombardy, he was then preparing to march upon Rome, when he was suddenly diverted from his purpose, partly perhaps by the diseases which had begun to waste his army, partly by the fear in­stilled into his mind that he, like Alaric, could not survive an attack upon the city, but ostensibly and chiefly by his celebrated interview with Pope Leo the Great and the senator Avienus at Peschiera or Governolo on the banks of the Mincius. (Jornandes, Reb. Get. 42.) The story of the apparition of St. Peter and St. Paul rests on the authority of an ancient MS. record of it in the Roman church, and on Paulus Diaconus, who wrote in the eighth cen­tury, and who mentions only St. Peter. (JBaronius, Ann. Eccl. A. D. 452.)

He accordingly returned to his palace beyond the Danube, and (if we except the doubtful story in Jornandes, de Reb. Get. 43, of his invasion of the Alani and repulse by Thorismund) there remained till on the night of his marriage with a beau-tifiil girl, variously named Hilda, Ildico, Mycolth, the last of his innumerable wives, possibly by her hand (Marcellin. C'Jironieon), but probably by the bursting of a blood-vessel, he suddenly expired, and was buried according to the ancient and savage customs of his nation. (a. d. 454.) - The instan­taneous fall of his empire is well symbolized in the story that, on that same night, the emperor Marcian at Constantinople dreamed that he saw the bow of Attila broken asunder. (Jornandes, Reb. Get. 49.)

In person Attila was, like the Mongolian race in general, a short thickset man, of stately gait, with a large head, dark complexion, flat nose, thin beard, and bald with the exception of a few white hairs, his eyes small, but of great brilliancy and quick­ness. (Jornandes, Reb. Get. 1 ]; Priscus, 55.) Pie is distinguished from the general character of sa­vage conquerors only by the gigantic nature of his designs, and the critical era at which he appeared, —unless we add also the magnanimity which he shewed to the innocent ambassador of Theodosius II. on discovering the emperor's plot against his life, and the awe with which he was inspired by the majesty of Pope Leo and of Rome. Among the few personal traits recorded of him may be men­tioned the humorous order to invert the picture at Milan which represented the subjugation of the Scythians to the Caesars (Suidas, s.v. Kopu/cos); the command to burn the poem of Marullus at Padua, who had referred his origin to the gods of Greece and Rome (Hungarian Chronicles, as quoted by Herbert, Attila, p. 500); the readiness with which he saw in the flight of the storks from Aquileia a favourable omen for the approaching end of the siege (Jornandes, Rel>. Get. 42 ; Procop. Bell. Vand. i. 4); the stern simplicity of his diet, and the im-moveable gravity which he alone maintained amidst the uproar of his wild court, unbending only to caress and pinch the cheek of his favourite boy, Irnac (Priscus, 49—70); the preparation of the funeral pile on which to burn himself, had the

Pages
About | First

415

416

417
letter/word  
volume
page #  
Search this site
Google


ancientlibrary.com
WWW
All non-public domain material, including introductions, markup, and OCR © 2005 Tim Spalding.
Ancient Library was developed and hosted by Tim Spalding of Isidore-of-Seville.com.