Attila the Hun Short Story Essay

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Why were the military campaigns of Attila the Hun successful? Attilas military success will be explained through his ability to lure the Romans into war on a pretext whenever the Romans were vulnerable. His motives behind each war was to abstract as much money from the Romans as possible. Also to be explored will be his ability to assert psychological domination over the Eastern Emperor at a time when the two Empires were at peace. Furthermore to be examined will be his ability to portray himself as diplomatic through treaties and embassy consultations between the Romans and the Huns. Also to be looked at will be how successful was Attilas at creating and seizing opportunities This will be done by looking at Attilas campaigns in the east and west Roman Empires. After the death of their Uncle Rua 435/6, Attila and his brother Bleda took control of the Hunnic Empire. The two brothers decided to renegotiate the relationship that existed between their Uncle Rua and the Eastern Roman Empire based in Constantinople.

The Treaty set up by Rua, stipulated that, the Romans paid him an annual subsidy of 350 lbs of gold. He also demanded fugitives who had fled to the Romans and threatened war if they were not returned. The negotiations took place near the city of Margus in 438. According to Priscus the meeting took place according to both parties customs. The Huns would hear what the Romans had to say while mounted on horseback while the Romans discussed the meeting on foot. The Huns dictated the new terms of the treaty, referred to as the Peace of Margus. The Huns decided the annual subsidy was to be raised to the sum of 700lbs. The treaty also fixed that for every Roman captive who had escaped from the barbarians, the Romans must pay eight pieces of gold. The treaty also predetermined that all fugitives must be returned to the Huns.

Furthermore the emperor Theodosius was to relinquish any ongoing treaties with enemies of the Huns. Moreover the Huns were to conduct the way the free markets on the northern side of the Danube were controlled. Attila used the markets as a pretext to wage war on the east. The free markets were attacked by Hunnic traders in 441/2 killing Roman merchants during the raid. Theodosius complained that the Huns had violated the Peace of Margus. The Huns reported to the Romans that the Bishop of Margus had crossed over to their territory and robbed their royal tombs. They complained that the Romans had not honoured the Peace of Margus by refusing to return fugitives to them. Additionally, they demanded the Bishop be handed over as well. The significance of these allegations was central to the Huns plan for an attack during the campaigning season. The Romans refused both claims and war was declared.

Having successfully provoked the Eastern Romans into a war had been a strategic move by the Hunnic leader. Attila knew the eastern Roman field forces were based in Sicily on a joint expedition with the Western Empire to recapture Carthage from the Vandals led by king Geseric. The North African campaign was partially why Theodosius readily agreed to the treaty of Margus. He thought it would give the east breathing space. Moreover Carthage was crucial to the Western Empire as it provided Rome with grain. Knowing that the east was vulnerable, the Huns would cause carnage throughout the Balkans. Margus was a key city that opened up the Balkans for the Hunnic invasion of the east. The Bishop of Margus defected to the Huns. In return for clemency he handed over the Episcopal city. The Huns swept through the Balkans raising cities to the ground. The key fortified city of Naissus was besieged and taken. Priscus gives an account of the siege.

He states ¦a large number of [Hunnic siege] engines had been brought up to the wall¦the so called rams were brought up also¦A beam is suspended by slack chains¦. However, Professor E.A Thompson disputes that the siege occurred and that Priscus borrows heavily on Thucydides account of the Battle at Plataea. Professor Thompson states four reasons to argue his point, among them the Huns inept ability to construct such machines and also it is unlikely that the Hunnic archers, who rarely dismounted, would on this occasion have left their horses for a totally alien form of warfare. On the other hand, they may have been quite capable of such construction for it is well documented they had enslaved many tradesmen. As for example in the bath which was made for the Hunnic noble Onegesius by a craftsman who was captured at Sirmium. Nevertheless the Huns ransacked and pillaged the Balkans taking fortified cities along the way such as Viminacium, Illyricum and defeated the Roman army at Chersonese. According to Brian Croke, In 441 the Huns invaded Illyricum only and in 442 broke into northern Thrace .

The Romans sued for peace and the Treaty of Anatolius was agreed. Attila terms demanded that the annual tribute be tripled to 2,100 pounds of gold. He also compelled the Romans to surrender all Hun deserters and to ransom their own deserters at a rate of twelve solidi each. The treaty, however, contained one provision that had no precedent. Attila forced the Romans to make an immediate payment of 6,000 pounds of gold. Attilas plan to force a war to bring about higher subsidies had worked. He would devastate the Balkans for a second time in 447 when he came looking for subsidies that were in arrears. When Atillas second campaign of the Balkans began in 447 he was sole leader of the Huns after having his brother Bleda killed in 445/6. A year later an embassy was sent by Attila to the Imperial court to address the issue of arrears and fugitives.

The Romans were now feeling in a stronger position. They had introduced a new law in 443 which insured Military readiness for the Eastern Field forces. They had been strengthened by a recruitment of a large number of Isaurians traditionally bandits- from the highlands of Cilicia in south-west Asia Minor. Moreover the Eastern army had been forced to return from Sicily after Attilas first campaign. Attila turned as far south to Thermopylae and then west, ransacking Marcianople, Arcadiopolis, and Callipolis. An earthquake at Constantinople had occurred, Attila decided to turn back. The Imperial City was heavily fortified with triple walls that had been repaired hastily after the earthquake. The legislated Military Readiness law was of little use to the Romans as Attila wreaked havoc on an unprecedented scale.

The results were the same as the first campaign, the Romans sued for peace and the second treaty of Anatolius was agreed. More subsides was agreed and a large track of land to act as a buffer zone between the Huns and the Romans was approved. Attila had succeeded at luring the Eastern Empire into war on a pretext to extort more subsidies. He was also adept at asserting his psychological domination, by humiliating the Eastern Emperor Theodosius at Constantinople. Theodosius was humiliated in 449 when his Eunuch Chrysaphius hatched a plot to assassinate Attila. The Plot was unbeknown to the Roman ambassador Maximinus, and his escort Priscus. They were sent to Attilas camp to discuss issues in the treaty such as the ongoing fugitives case and the issue of the land used as a buffer zone. To give a picture of the devastation Attila caused in the Balkans. Prisucus relates how when travelling to Attilas court in 449 they stopped at Naissus to pitch tent, he states how the place was littered with bones from Attilas first campaign. Attilas refusal to meet the missionaries irritated Maximinus and Priscus.

He ordered them to leave then ordered them to stay. Maximinus and Priscus were at a loss to Attilas behaviour. Maximinus was frustrated and urged Priscus to arrange a meeting with Attila. Priscus succeeded by offering gifts to Onegesius brother Scottas to secure them a meeting with Attila. The two missionaries were shocked when it was revealed to them by Attilas men the purpose of their mission. After nothing left to stay for they departed home despaired. They met their interpreter Bigilas travelling back to Attilas court whom he had dismissed earlier. When they had initially left Constantinople, Chrysaphius had persuaded Edeco to kill Attila. Edeco had arrived in Constantinople the previous spring as a Hunnic ambassador and was now returning to Attilas camp along with Maximinus and Priscus. Edeco a faithful and trustful servant to Attila had revealed the details at once. When Bigilas arrived he was immediately set upon by Attilas men and a bag with 50lbs of gold was found in his possession.

It was the reward money to Edeco if he had succeeded in killing Attila. Bigilas son was threatened with death if he did not come back with another 50lbs of gold. Attila sent his Roman secretary Orestes as a Hunnic ambassador to Constantinople with the empty bag around his neck. His instructions were to ask Theodosius if he recognised the bag. Priscus gives a clear account of the humiliation when he states Eslas was to say directly that Theodosius was the son of a nobly born father, and Attila too was off noble descent¦whereas Attila had preserved his noble linage, Theodosius had fallen from his and was Attilas slave bound to the payment of tribute. Attila had succeeded at psychologically humiliating Theodosius. Furthermore, as the interpreter returned with the 50lb of gold to free his son, Attila had gained more subsidies in the form of 100lbs gold even though the two sides were at peace. Priscus observed an interesting point at Attilas court.

He noticed Attila was asking western ambassadors to hand over a silver plate dealer who resided in Rome, named Silvanus. Attila claimed Silvanus had stolen gold vessels from him. Silvanus maintained he had bought the vessels from Attilas secretary Constantius. Attila had Constantius crucified and called for the surrender of the Silvanus. The Roman General Aetius refused Attilas demand. Aetius declared that Silvanus was Constantius creditor, despite the fact that he did offer to pay for the price of the vessels he would not hand over the innocent Silvanus. Attila had got his pretext to wage war in the west. Moreover in c.450 a Frankish succession crisis brought about a situation where one claimant appealed to the Huns and the other to the Vatican. In 451 Attila left the Hungarian plains and turned westwards to Gaul. The Hunnic invasion of Gaul was accompanied by allies such as the Rugian, Gepid, Burgundian, Scirian, Thuringian and Franks.

They initially swept away defenceless cities such as Metz and Constantines old Imperial city at Trier. At the city of Orleans they met heavy resistance from the Alans who were in the service of the Romans. Aetius and Theodoric along with several other mercenary tribes manage to lure Attila away from Orleans. The following month was the Battle of Chalons on the Catalaunian fields. The battle of Catulaunian Fields is regarded as one of the decisive battles of the western world. Attilas army was defeated by Aetius who represented the incapable Western Emperor Valentinian. Both sides suffered heavy losses, the Gothic king Theodoric had been killed in the battle. Aetius advised Theodorics son Thorismud to return home to defend his claim to the throne, as a result disabling Aetius pursuit of the battle against the Hunnic alliance.

Attila retreated back to the Hungarian plains to plan his next move. Within a year the Huns were on the move again. The Western Emperor Valentinian sister Honoria had been caught having an affair and was bethrothed to another man named Herculanus. She sent her eunuch Hyacinthus to Attila before he entered Gaul offering herself as his wife and half the western Empire as her dowry. She had sent her ring as proof of her commitment. Attila waged war on Italy in 452 on the pretext he was entitled to half the Western Empire. Attila pillaged the wealthiest cities in northern Italy most notably Aquileia and Milan.

When he was marching towards Rome papal legend claims Pope Leo persuaded him to abandon his plan and not to attack Rome. More practical issues would be his incompetence in preparing a supply line of food for his huge army. It could also be said the army was suffering from breakouts of various diseases. Furthermore an Eastern Roman General also named Aetius had invaded Attilas kingdom. Nonetheless, Attila decided to return home to his vast Empire north of the Danube where he died the following year on his wedding night.

The Huns had been inadvertently responsible for creating the instability the Western Empire now faced. Attilas predecessors had forced, Germanic, Alans, Suevi and other tribes into the Empire for sanctuary. In 376 the Romans were beseeched by Goths north of the Danube to be admitted into the Empire who had been retreating under Hunnic Pressure. They had been driven from their lands by the Huns and were now crossing the Danube to reach the Empire. When the Goths were admitted into the Empire during the late fourth century, the authorities gave them food and land to cultivate. The Eastern Emperor Valens viewed them as foedearti and more taxes; this would benefit the army and treasury alike. Moreover the rich landowners would benefit from their labourer. Too many refugees came across for the Romans to count, but it may possibly have been in the tens or hundreds of thousands. Many were dispersed to whether they were needed to stop them becoming a threat to the Empire.

The displacement of the Goths by the Huns and acceptance by Emperor Valens is often viewed as the beginning of the end for the Western Roman Empire. The invitation quickly turned to attempted invasion when the Romans in the east suffered their worst defeat in 600 years at the battle of Adrianople in 378. The Goths led by king Fritergen killed the emperor Valens; not until the ninth century would another emperor die in battle. They slaughtered two thirds of the Eastern Roman army. It was a self inflicted wound, near crippling the east. If the Goths had been treated better in the east, they may have helped the Romans face the Hunnic hordes already closing in from the Steppes. Furthermore slightly more than three decades later the Visigoths led by Alaric would sack Rome in 410.

These two conquests in the east and west is evident the once mighty Roman Empires glory days were almost at an end. By the time the Huns had turned west from the Hungarian plains into Gaul, the west was already a weakened Empire through lose of land, taxes and military power. By the time of Attilas arrival the Western Empire was dominated by barbarian tribes. Germanic forces had fought and weakened the empire in northern Gaul. Consequently it seems to have become a patchwork of territories ruled by unrecognised chiefs, leaders whose authority was based upon Roman titles, and barbarian warlords. The tribes were dominant enough to conduct their own foreign policy and more importantly, alliances, without Roman approval. For example Theodoric married his one of his daughters to the heir of the Vandal throne and another to the Suevic king.

In Gaul 406, 408, and 411, the Romans had fought among themselves and suffered heavy losses. Supported by the Huns in 425 they suffered further losses at the hands of the Vandals. In 439 Aetius was fighting the Goths in Gaul in and restoring order against local rebels named by Romans as Bagaudae at Aremorica. Geseric took advantage and took Carthage by surprise. Due to the manpower crisis the Empire could not afford to fight on two fronts. To protect Carthage, Aetius had to make peace with the Gothic king Theodoric to free himself in order to fight the Vandals. Aetius had increasingly become heavily depended upon recruiting barbarian allies outside the Empire.. Attila made unsuccessful attempts to extract wealth from the west.

Attilas campaigns can be measured as successful through his tactics, his ability to lure the Romans into war on a pretext. He tended to act diplomatic by negotiating treaties then he would dishonour his own treaty and blame the Romans, Attila repeatedly used the issue fugitives as a case to wage war. Attilas success can be measured on his achievements through the raising of subsides with each treaty. Attila achieved what he had set out to do from the start and that was to get as much money from the Romans as possible. Attila never wanted to conquer Constantinople or Rome.

He wanted to extract as much subsides as he could. The Eastern Empire collected taxes from Egypt to Asia Minor and the Huns had no navy to uphold this lucrative adventure. It was easier for them to collect of the Romans. His successful campaigns were planned strategically. His campaigns can be measured by breaking up an important joint East-West enterprise to save Carthage. This is also the case in the west. He knew it was in a factional position and politically unstable. It was an opportunity Attila Seized upon. Attila campaigns were thought out in advance and sometimes long before the enemy realised. Attila could also be tactful; evident to this was shown hen Attila humiliated Theodosius.

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[ 3 ]. P. Heather, The fall of the Roman Empire: A new history of Rome and the barbarians (USA, 2006), p.301 [ 4 ]. E. Gibbon, (2012-05-12). History of
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[ 6 ]. W. Bayless, The Treaty with the Huns of 443., p.177
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[ 9 ]. P. Heather, The fall of the Roman Empire, p.302
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[ 16 ]. P. Heather, The fall of the Roman Empire, p.302
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[ 20 ]. Medieval Sourcebook, Priscus at the court of Attila ( (30 Nov. 2012) [ 21 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West 376-568 (UK, 2007), p.250 [ 22 ]. P. Heather, The fall of the Roman Empire, p.324

[ 23 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West, p.253 [ 24 ]. E.A. Thompson, Romans and Barbarians, p.16
[ 25 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West, p.252 [ 26 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West, p.252 [ 27 ]. G.
Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West 376-568, p.254 [ 28 ]. P. Heather. The Huns and the End of the Roman Empire in The English Historical Review, Vol. 110, No. 435 (Feb., 1995), p.11 [ 29 ]. J. Moorhead, The Roman Empire divided 400-700 (UK, 2001), p12 [ 30 ]. E.A. Thompson, Romans and Barbarians: The decline of the Western Empire (USA, 1982), p.16 [ 31 ]. J. Moorhead, The Roman Empire divided, p.12

[ 32 ]. J. Moorhead, The Roman Empire divided, p.62
[ 33 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West, p.243 [ 34 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West, p.247 [ 35 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West, p.245 [ 36 ]. G. Halsall, Barbarians Migrations and the Roman West, p.254 [ 37 ]. J. Moorhead, The Roman Empire divided, p.53

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