Title To return to this sets' summary please click Overview.

For Salem's main product directory, click Directory.

Benedict Arnold
Gilbert Gauthe
Ma Barker
William Bligh
William H. Bonney
John Wilkes Booth
Marcus Junius Brutus
Joseph McCarthy
Asahara Shoko

Other Elements
Publisher's Note
Category List
Geography List
Personages Index
Table of Contents

Customer Service If you need help with products and ordering, setting up a new account or working with this website, call or email us:

Phone: (800) 221-1592
Email: csr@salempress.com

This work is a delight to browse as well as being an excellent reference resource. The scope and depth of coverage make it a valuable resource for not just biographies but for criminal justice and popular culture as well.
To read the full review,  
click here  

This description of Hun warriors comes from Ammianus Marcellinus, a fourth-century Roman historian:

And though they do just bear the likeness of men (of a very ugly pattern), they are so little advanced in civilization that they make no use of fire, nor any kind of relish, in the preparation of their food, but feed upon the roots which they find in the fields, and the half-raw flesh of any sort of animal.

When attacked, they will sometimes engage in regular battle. Then, going into the fight in order of columns, they fill the air with varied and discordant cries. More often, however, they fight in no regular order of battle, but by being extremely swift and sudden in their movements, they disperse, and then rapidly come together again in loose array, spread havoc over vast plains, and flying over the rampart, they pillage the camp of their enemy almost before he has become aware of their approach.

When in close combat with swords, they fight without regard to their own safety, and while their enemy is intent upon parrying the thrust of the swords, they throw a net over him and so entangle his limbs that he loses all power of walking or riding.

In 448 another Roman historian, Priscius, attended a banquet as a member of an embassy from the emperor Theodosius II to Attila. The after-dinner entertainment showed him that Huns had grown a little more cultured and sentimental in the interim, but not much.

As twilight came on torches were lit, and two barbarians entered before Attila to sing some songs they had composed, telling of his victories and his valor in war. The guests paid close attention to them, and some were delighted with the songs, others excited at being reminded of the wars, but others broke down and wept if their bodies were weakened by age and their warrior spirits forced to remain inactive.

Source: Ammianus Marcellinus translation from Edward Gibbons, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-1788); Priscius translation from J. H. Robinson, Readings in European History (Boston: Ginn, 1905).

Great Lives from History: Notorious Lives

Editor: Carl L. Bankston III, Tulane University
ISBN: 978-1-58765-320-9
List Price: $295

January 2007 · 3 volumes · 1,244 pages · 8"x10"

Includes Online Database with Print Purchase

Attila the Hun (Library of Congress)

Great Lives from History: Notorious Lives

Identity: King of the Huns (r. 433-453 C.E.)
Born: c. 406 C.E.; probably Pannonia (now primarily in Hungary)
Died: 453 C.E.; probably Jazberin (now in Hungary)
Also Known As: Attila the Hun; Atli; Etzel; Flagellum Dei (Scourge of God)
Active: 433-453 C.E.
Locale: Southern and Central Europe

Cause of Notoriety
In his military campaigns against the Roman Empire, Attila engaged in invasion, conquest, and devastation involving mass murder, rape, and other atrocities.

Early Life
Attila (aht-TIHL-ah) was the son of Mundiuch, king of the Huns, but little is known of his youth. In 433 C.E., with his brother Bleda, Attila became coruler of the Huns, succeeding his uncle, Rua, who had united the Huns. At the beginning of their reign, the corulers negotiated with representatives of the Eastern Roman emperor Theodosius II about the return of several tribes, who, opposed to the new rulers, had fled into Roman (Byzantine) territory. The following year, the Hunnic kings, satisfied with the return of the tribes and a large tribute from the Romans, moved east in an attempt to conquer Persia.

Military Career
By 440, Attila and Bleda, accusing the Romans of breaking the agreement, invaded the Roman Balkans (approximately modern Croatia and Serbia). In 443, after Theodosius had refused the Huns' demands, the kings invaded Roman territory farther south, in modern Bulgaria, and ransacked cities; they were unable to breach the walls of Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The result was peace bought by the Romans for a much larger tribute. Attila murdered Bleda in 445 and became the sole Hunnish ruler. He attacked the Balkans again, demanding a larger tribute and Roman withdrawal from a large area in modern Serbia and Bulgaria.

In 447, another Hunnish attack on Constantinople was defeated because the city's walls had been restored and in places rebuilt as a result of destructive earthquakes. As a condition of peace, Attila demanded a still larger tribute together with Roman withdrawal from a vast area south of the Danube, in modern Serbia and Bulgaria. Negotiations continued for three years; the Roman embassy to Attila's camp included the historian Priscus, who later gave an elaborate description of Attila, Atilla's entourage, and events occurring during this period.

Around 449, Attila turned his interests westward and planned to attack the Western Roman Empire. Attila was allied with the Western Roman emperor Valentinian III, who had given him the honorary title of "military commander." Valentinian's sister, Princess Justa Grata Honoria, was caught in an illicit love affair and sent to Constantinople. She sent Attila a ring and appealed to him for help. Attila, interpreting this gesture as a proposal of marriage, asked for half of the Western Roman Empire as a dowry. A struggle ensued between Valentinian III and Attila, who, convinced that there was little left to plunder in the Eastern Empire, went west with an immense army, including many Germanic allies. Numerous cities in modern Belgium and northern France were plundered. However, after a battle near modern Châlons, France, Attila was defeated by Roman armies under his former ally Aetius, a Roman general. The Gothic king, Theodoric, temporarily allied with the Romans, died in the battle.

In 452, Attila invaded and plundered the Alps region of Italy but was persuaded not to attack Rome by a delegation headed by Pope Leo I, who reportedly told Attila that almost everything of value had been taken from the city during the invasion of Alaric I forty-two years earlier. Turning eastward to his palace near modern Budapest, conceivably because of an epidemic that may have broken out among his troops, Attila died there early in 453, either of disease or at the hand of his wife, Ildico, who, according to a later Roman historian, had married him earlier that day. After Attila's death, his three sons fought one another and were defeated by other tribes; the Huns lost their empire and were disbursed among other ethnic groups.

The impact of Attila's depredations arguably helped usher in the Dark Ages. It has been said that if Europe had had steppes such as those in Central Asia, the Huns and other Turkic and Mongol groups would have permanently destroyed Western civilization. In literature, Attila and the Huns figure prominently in the Nibelungenlied and other Germanic epics, including early Viking sagas. Some Turkish and Hungarian nationalists regard Atilla as a national hero, but among many Europeans, his name is synonymous with "barbarian" and "boor."

Further Reading
Gordon, C. D. The Age of Attila: Fifth-Century Byzantium and the Barbarians. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1960. A collection of translated original sources, with notes and commentary.

Maenchen-Helfen, Otto. The World of the Huns: Studies in Their History and Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. Continental Europe's leading expert on the Huns thoroughly surveys the topic.

Man, John. Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome. London: Bantam, 2005. Although intended primarily for a popular audience, this work covers the facts thoroughly and includes biblographical references.

Thompson, E. A. The Huns. Rev. ed. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1999. A revised edition of A History of Attila and the Huns, originally published by Oxford University Press in 1948. One of the standard works in English on the subject. The author attributes Attila's victories to the weakness and disorganization of opposing forces.

Stephen A. Stertz

See Also
Benedict VIII; Caligula; Charles II; Christian VII; Clement VII; Commodus; Cypselus of Corinth; Domitian; Elagabalus; Fulvia; Galerius; Genghis Khan; al-Hakim; Ibrahim I; Ivan the Terrible; Justin II; Murad IV; Mustafa I; Nero; Nicholas I; Peter the Cruel; Phalaris; Polycrates; Robespierre; Shi Huangdi; Lucius Cornelius Sulla; Theodora.

SALEM PRESS, a division of EBSCO Publishing. · 131 North El Molino Avenue · Pasadena · CA 91101
© Salem Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Terms of Use Privacy Statement Site Index Contact Salem