Attila the Hun: A Bit Bloodthirsty?

  • Erika 

It was fun to teach about a villain this week that most of the kids had heard of before. Most knew the name, Attila the Hun, from the movie Night At the Museum, so they were at least familiar with him.

Attila the Hun
c. 406 AD – 453 AD

The Hunnic People

  • Hunnic people originally came from the part of Asia north and west of where the Great Wall of China would be.
  • Nomadic tribes – settled down near present day Budapest by Attila’s life.
  • Not actually sure when he was born. Sometime between 395 and 406.
  • Born into the royal family. His uncle, Rugila, was king of the Huns
  • Would have learned to ride a horse around the time he learned to walk. Also would have been taught how to fight from atop his horse.
  • Would have been involved in war from a young age – involved in war negotiations and councils.
  • Huns were well known as expert warriors.

Expert Horsemen

  • Attila the Hun and his brother Bleda became co-kings in 433, when Regula died.
  • Huns were expert horsemen who taught their horses to fight along with them, biting and stomping or kicking the enemy.
  • They had special saddles that allowed them to use their hands to shoot with their bow and arrow.
  • They moved quickly because they were on horseback and could sneak up on whomever they were attacking.
  • The build of their bows allowed them to stay out of reach of the other army. They would fein retreat, and as the attacking army would start to follow, spreading out, they would turn and easily pick them off.
  • They would go through and slaughter towns, either killing everyone, or taking anyone of value as slaves, and then plunder the town.
  • People were so afraid of Attila, he was often called Flagelum Dei, Scourge of God
  • Rome paid him money every year to not attack them. Sometimes it kept him away, but not always. After he would attack again, they would pay more money to again try to persuade him to leave them in peace.
  • In addition to the payments with Rome, they agreed to return to him any deserters. The deserters were killed. He used this as a way to try and keep soldiers from deserting. They might die in battle, but they would certainly die if they deserted and were found.
  • Bleda died in 445, probably murdered.
Attila the Hun saddle

Meanwhile, in the Western Roman Empire…

  • In 450, the sister of the Western Roman Empire was promised in marriage to a man she didn’t want to marry. She sent a letter to Attila the Hun, with her ring, asking for his help.
  • While Attila probably didn’t care about marrying her, he had many wives, this was a great excuse to try and take half of the Western Roman Empire.


  • The next year he started a campaign through Italy. Entire villages would flee when they heard he was coming. This is how Venice was settled. The refugees didn’t think he would attack such a swampy area, and they were right.
  • They only made it about as far as Rome.

A Vast Empire

  • Attila the Hun died on his wedding night, from drowning on his own blood. (Either a blood nose, or a ruptured blood vessel.)
  • He was placed inside a gold coffin, that was placed inside a silver one, that was placed inside an iron one. He was buried in a river, and after he was buried those that buried him were killed so no one would know the location of his burial.
  • His empire was split between his sons, and had fallen apart by 469.

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