By Benjamin Clun
One of the most feared leaders of his era, Atilla the Hun, swept across Europe in an unstoppable frenzy, being undefeated in almost every battle. He razed entire cities to the ground, and was known for his incredible cruelty towards his enemies, along with an exceptional military mind that allowed him to win battle after battle.
He became so feared throughout the Byzantine empire that the holy roman church gave him the moniquer “Flagellum Die”, which can be translated to “The scourge of god”, due to his seeming ability to kill with impunity, and reduce entire cities to dust.
It was his fast moving mounted archers that allow Atilla the upper hand in most conflicts, his horsemen surging in, launching volley after volley of arrows, before darting back out of danger before the enemy could attack. This style of fighting was very hard to combat at the time, and when you have infantry fighting cavalry with long distance weapons, as well as devastating close quarters combat skills, it is hard to match.
In his one defeat at the battle of Catalaunian Plain, his army found itself up against a coalition of romans and Visigoths, who had banded together against a greater threat. With roughly 50-80 thousand men on each side, and each determined to win at all costs, it was an absolute bloodbath. To give some indication of how intense the battle was, a Latin saying, attributed to the romans who witnessed the aftermath of the battle, was “Cadavera vero innumera”. Truly Countless Bodies. While it was technically a roman victory, it was a phyric one, and was one of the last great actions on behalf of the Western Roman Empire.
Atilla was ruthless in his rule, very probably killing his own brother to ensure he had sole command of the Hun Empire. However, this ruthlessness was by no means exceptional in the incredibly warlike Hun community. Atilla would offer his esteemed guests plates made of gold, while he himself ate off a wooden board. Instead of the ornate armour that was customary for other leaders in his era, Atilla wore nothing special, and used a regular sword. This is stunning evidence of the discipline that allowed the Huns to be so successful in pillaging Europe. When the commander of an army is willing to face the same privations as his men, the loyalty and discipline he asks for is more than likely to be given.
Not much is known about his death, although the leading theory at the moment is that it was orchestrated by the Emperor Marcian, of the Eastern Roman Empire. When he was found dead, the accounts we have tell us that, as was the custom for the Huns, they “plucked out the hair of their heads and made their faces hideous with deep wounds, that the renowned warrior might be mourned, not by effeminate wailings and tears, but by the blood of men”.
To honour a true warlord, not tears. Blood. The Hun empire, and its way of life, is an example of primal masculinity, where violence and aggression were utmost, and discipline and superb fighting skills were required of men. While the time of this unrestrained manliness has long since passed, it provides an example of what used to be required to rule, and lead.
Empires, and greatness, are forged by, and mourned with, the blood of men.
Writers note: Atilla the Hun and Genghis Khan are easy to mix up, due to the way they both fought, and ruled. And while Genghis Khan was also intense, you need to be truly one of a kind to earn the nickname that Atilla did. Strongly recommend reading up on him more, if you’re interested in reading about the exploits about one of the most badass men in history.