ATTILA

ATTILA ca. 400 453. King of the Huns. Son of Mundzuk, brother of Octar and Roas Jordanes, Hist. Goth. 35, he settled in 434 in the region of the vast Hungarian plain and from there began his great expansion eastward, conquering S Russia and the entire Danube basin. At the death of his brother Bleda he remained the sole leader of the Huns. From 441 447 he engaged in a great military campaign against the Byzantine Empire: he invaded the Balkan peninsula and pushed through Greece as far as Thermopylae, withdrawing from there in exchange for major concessions on the part of the emperor Theodosius II. He maintained cordial relations with Rome thanks to the mediation of the general Aetius but, emboldened by his power, made ever more insistent demands of the emperor Valentinian III, who refused them. In spring 451 he crossed the Rhine with a huge army and invaded Gaul as far as Orlans, sowing terror and destroying many cities, including Metz. The Roman army, led by Aetius and helped by a large group of Visigoths led by King Theodoric I, attacked the Huns at the Catalaunian Fields, or Campus Mauriacus, between Chlon-sur-Marne and Troyes, stopping Attila’s advance and forcing him to retreat to Pannonia Jordanes, Hist. Goth. 36. In 452 Attila moved from the Danube region into Italy, destroying the cities of Aquileia, Milan and Pavia. Pope Leo I met him on the River Mincio near Mantua before he could reach the gates of Rome, to beg him in God’s name to spare the city of Peter and Paul. The impression of his encounter with the pope, which has become popular legend, and the condition of his army, tired and decimated by sickness, led Attila to accept the emperor’s peace proposals, and he withdrew from the Italian peninsula to return to his domains in Hungary. He died unexpectedly in 453. His death meant the end of the kingdom of the Huns, which broke up rapidly due to rivalry between his sons. F. Altheim, Attila und die Hunnen, Baden-Baden 1950; E.A. Thompson, A History of Attila and the Huns, Oxford 1948, It. tr. Florence 1963; E. Demougeot, La formation de l’Europe et les invasions barbares, 2. De l’av¨nement de Diocltien 284   l’occupaton germanique de l’Empire romain d’Occident dbut du VIe si¨cle, II, Paris 1979, 522-557; Attila Flagellum Dei?, Convegno internazionale di studi storici sulla figura di Attila e sulla discesa degli Unni in Italia nel 452 d.C., S. Blason Scarel ed., Studia Historica 129, Rome 1994; P. Howarth, Attila, King of the Huns: Man and Myth, London 1994; E.A. Thompson, The Huns, Oxford 1996; A. Arecchi, Attila e Teodorico. L’impero finisce a Pavia, Pavia 1997.

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