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History Makers: Attila the Hun

Described as being “born into the world to shake nations”, the king of the Hunnic Empire certainly shook Europe, but he would eventually bow to diplomacy, writes Miles Russell

ATILLA THE HUN: THE MAN WHO DARED TO TAKE ON ROME

GO HARD OR GO ROME Despite the brutality of the campaign, Attila’s ultimate objective was not to destroy the Empire but to bring it to its knees
ALAMY X1, MÓR THAN/THE FEAST OF ATTILA/SZÉPM VÉSZETIMÚZEUM /MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, 2016 X1

Early summer AD 452, and the whole of northern Italy is ablaze. The city of Aquileia, one of the largest and wealthiest in the Roman Empire, is the first to fall to the enemy, its treasures looted and population butchered without mercy. The towns of Bergamo, Brescia, Mantua, Milan, Padua, Verona and Vicenza follow, together with the villas, temples, farms and all other centres of population. Those fortunate enough to escape the horror flee to the relative safety of the islands and marshy lagoons of the Adriatic. Many believe this to be Armageddon, the end of days, a war of terror coordinated by none other than Satan himself.

SCOURGE OF GOD

Attila the Hun, later branded as “the scourge of God”, is arguably one of history’s most infamous characters, standing as the ultimate barbarian. He was certainly a powerful warlord, but he was also an astute politician, keeping a diverse confederation of tribes together for decades, and a successful crime lord, extorting money from his enemies with a ruthlessness that exceeded any later mafia don.

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The Christmas 2016 issue of History Revealed.