Attila the Hun By Vickie Chao

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Attila the Hun
By Vickie Chao


1     Since its debut in 27 B.C., the Roman Empire had been a superpower. At the peak of its time, the empire conquered and controlled a vast territory that stretched across three continents -- Europe, Africa, and Asia. For nearly 400 years, the Roman soldiers represented a formidable force. Known for their rigorous training and superior weaponry, they rarely lost a battle. Even after the empire's official split in 395 A.D., both the eastern and western kingdoms still had a considerable influence over the regions nearby. The eastern half was called the Eastern Roman Empire or the Byzantine Empire, whereas the western half the Western Roman Empire or, simply, the Roman Empire.
2     The big break-up in 395 A.D. was one of the many signs that the Romans were slowly losing their authority. Their decline in power was no secret. Thus, many tribes previously under the Romans' control became restless. They were eager to take the Romans' place and become the next superpower. Of those tribes who tried, the Huns were probably the most famous. Even though the Huns were never able to overtake either the Byzantine or the Roman Empires, they plundered both and inflicted tremendous damage. As a result, back in those days, the mere mentioning of their name, especially their leader's name -- Attila or Attila the Hun -- would probably be scary enough to quiet any misbehaving children!
3     Attila was born around 406 A.D. At the time of his birth, the Huns were nomadic tribes scattered across Central Asia and Europe. By 432 A.D., however, they were all forged into a single nation under the command of Rua (also spelled as Ruga or Rugulas). Rua was an ambitious leader, but sadly, he did not live long to enjoy his success. Merely two years after he brought the Huns together, he passed away. Upon his death, the power went to his two nephews, Attila and Bleda, who co-ruled the country for nearly a decade. At the time of their accession, the Huns had grown very strong and very aggressive. Their first line of business was to negotiate with the emperor Theodosius II of the Byzantine Empire. It did not take long for both sides to reach an agreement. For Attila and Bleda's part, they would withhold from advancing their forceful troops. In exchange, Theodosius II would pay the Huns an annual tribute of 660 Roman pounds (about 216 kilograms) of gold. Pleased with the result, Attila and Bleda withdrew their armies and returned home.
4     Theodosius II was relieved to see the Huns go. He probably thought that this would be the last time he ever had to deal with them, but he was wrong. In 440 A.D., the Huns came back. They claimed that the Romans failed to fulfill the obligations that they had agreed to five years earlier. Furthermore, they claimed that the bishop of Margus (near modern day's Belgrade, Serbia) had crossed the Danube River to ransack the royal Hun graves on the northern bank. To retaliate, Attila and Bleda crossed the Danube River and attacked the Romans. Everywhere they went, victories followed. By 443 A.D., they were alarmingly close to the Byzantine Empire's capital, Constantinople (today's Istanbul, Turkey). In haste, Theodosius II admitted defeat and dispatched a government official to negotiate with the Huns. The new treaty carried many harsh terms and conditions against the Byzantine Empire. For example, the Romans would need to pay the Huns 6,000 Roman pounds (about 1,963 kilograms) of gold for not honoring the previous agreement. They would also have to triple their annual tribute to the Huns to 2,100 Roman pounds (about 687 kilograms) of gold. As ludicrous as the demands were, Theodosius II had no choice but to accept them all. With their coffers full of extorted fortune, Attila and Bleda withdrew their armies once again and returned home. Two years later, Bleda died. Rumor had it that Attila was the one who killed him.
5     With Bleda out of the picture, Attila became the sole ruler of the empire. His standing was supreme and undisputed among his people. Shortly after he ascended the throne, he started to plot another round of attacks against the Byzantine Empire. Theodosius II was not ready to throw in the towel so easily. He dispatched troops to fight head-on with Attila's men. Unfortunately, like all the prior battles, the Romans lost this one, too, and were forced to give more gold to the Huns. For the next several years, the Huns continued to harass the Byzantine Empire and plunder its wealth. Slowly, they stripped this once affluent kingdom to its bare bones. Throughout the entire time, they left the Western Roman Empire alone. Little did the emperor Valentinian III know that his luck was about to run out!
6     In 450 A.D., Theodosius II fell from his horse and died. His successor, Marcian, took a hard line on the Huns. He announced that he would stop paying them the annual tribute. This unexpected news made Attila very angry. But he decided to take his fury out on the Western Roman Empire who was now weaker than the Byzantine Empire. Aside from that reason, Attila had come across a perfect pretense for attacking the Western Roman Empire. Several months prior, Honoria, the sister of Valentinian III, was caught having an affair. For punishment, she was locked up and her lover executed. To seek a way out, Honoria smuggled a ring to Attila, asking for his help. Attila was thrilled to receive the ring. He decided to take it as a gesture of a wedding proposal. He told Valentinian III that he wanted to marry Honoria and asked for half of the kingdom as her dowry. Not surprisingly, Valentinian III was unhappy with Honoria and her treacherous act. He told Attila that the marriage proposal was not binding, leaving no ground for the claim of dowry. Undeterred by the refusal, Attila led his troops westward, ready for a showdown against the Western Roman Empire. The two sides collided in 451 A.D. Attila had an upper hand at first. He captured Mez in early April and pressed on. By mid-year, however, things took a different turn. Challenged by the allied forces between the Romans and the Visigoths, Attila suffered a major defeat in the Battle of Chalons. He withdrew his men and turned southward to attack Italy. For the next few months, he ransacked many cities, forcing Valentinian III to flee from his capital of Ravenna to Rome. Just as Attila was getting dangerously close to Rome, he met Pope Leo I. After the meeting, he turned his troops back. He claimed that he no longer wanted to marry Honoria and had no interest in gaining more land. That surprising turn of events left many historians scratching their heads and wondering why Attila suddenly halted the attacks. One possible reason was the spread of the plague. Another concerned the troops that Marcian had recently sent across the Danube River to aid the Western Roman Empire. Whatever the true reason might be, it would forever remain a mystery.
7     After Attila retreated back to his palace, he planned to strike at Constantinople again. He wanted to reclaim the annual tribute that Marcian had suspended several years ago. However, he never got around to do it. In early 453 A.D., Attila died unexpectedly after a night of celebration for his latest marriage. According to the official account, Attila suffered a severe nosebleed after the feast and choked to death on his own blood. This cause of death was often challenged. Some people believed that Attila's bride, Ildico, murdered Attila on their wedding night, but some said that Marcian might have played a role in killing Attila.
8     Attila's death was a huge blow to his empire. None of his sons were competent enough to lead the kingdom. To make matters worse, they fought among themselves all the time! In less than a year, both the Byzantine and the Western Roman Empires' worst enemy ceased to exist. The Hun Empire crumbled and faded into history.
9     Attila, in the eyes of many historians, was a barbarian who had little regard for civilizations. For every city he conquered, he allowed his men to loot the place inside out. He also allowed them to kill and rape its residents. As he rampaged across Europe, he terrorized the entire continent. Subsequently, he had earned a reputation of extreme cruelty and a fitting nickname - the Scourge of God!

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Name _____________________________

Date ___________________

Attila the Hun


Which of the following about Attila the Hun is true?
  He captured and ransacked Rome in 452 A.D.
  He co-ruled with Bleda for nearly two decades.
  He defeated and conquered the Byzantine Empire in 443 A.D.
  He was the king of the Hun Empire.


Which Roman emperor refused to pay Attila annual tribute and got away with it?
  Theodosius I
  Valentinian III
  Theodosius II


Who united the Huns?


What kind of dowry did Attila demand for marrying Honoria?
  2,100 Roman pounds of gold
  Half of the Byzantine Empire
  6,000 Roman pounds of gold
  Half of the Western Roman Empire


Where was the Eastern Roman Empire's capital?


Where was the Western Roman Empire's capital during Attila the Hun's attacks?


After meeting with whom did Attila suddenly decide to spare Rome and withdraw his troops?
  Pope Leo I
  Valentinian III


For how many years did Attila reign?
  32 years
  27 years
  12 years
  19 years

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