27 Historical Facts about Attila the Hun

Attila the Hun, recognized with short name Attila, was one of the leaders of the Hunnic Empire. The Huns were nomadic people for lived in Central Asia, Caucuses, and Eastern Europe between 4th and 6th century AD.  Attila was a fearsome leader who conquered a big part of Europe. He also made several attempts to conquer the Roman Empire. However, he was unable to claim Constantinople which was the capital city of the Roman Empire at the time.

Apart from his ruthless character and pillaging attacks, what else do you know about him? If your knowledge on Attila the Hun is limited, these 27 facts will help you to recognize him more closely.


  1. No one exactly knows the true origin of Attila the Hun

In other words, the origin of Huns remains somewhat mysterious since they were not good at recording their historical events. In general, the Huns were lacking a written history.

Nevertheless, some historians believe that they were pastoral nomads who were descendants of Turkic tribes that came from the areas of present-day Kazakhstan.


  1. Attila ruled the Hunnic Empire between 434 and 453

He claimed power after his uncle Rugila, also known as Ruga or Rua, passed away. There is no clear evidence of what age Attila had started ruling his nation.

He ruled the Hunnic empire jointly with his brother Bleda until the year 445. However, Attila murdered his brother and claimed the sole power over the Huns.


  1. Attila the Hun conquered Gaul, Greece, Italy, and Balkans provinces.

The tough and aggressive character of Attila helped him to lead his army with great coordination. He loved wars and took great admiration from invading lands.

He made several attempts to conquer the Roman Empires but none of those attempts granted access to Constantinople. However, some historians believe that the constant pressure from the Hunnic Empire weakened the Roman Empire, which eventually fell in 476.


  1. No one knows Attila’s real name

Historians think that the name Attila was not his real name. The name Attila means “Little Father”, which is believed to be his given after his successful military actions.

He got that name because his height was short and in a way, he was accepted as a father figure by the Huns.


  1. Attila was the short and squat man

The only factual description of him comes from the roman diplomat called Priscus. He visited Attila’s camp in 448, he had a chance to observe his behavior and outer appearance.

Priscus described him as a man with a short squat height, a thin beard, a flat nose, a large head, and deep-set eyes.

The depiction of Attila the Hun
Illustration of Attila the Hun / Credit: Wikimedia
  1. Attila the Hun was barbaric warmonger but he was a modest man.

This account also comes from Priscus who visited Attila’s camp in 448 and had a chance to be a guest in one of Attila’s banquets. Priscus stated that Attila only ate meat despite there were all sorts of food on the table.

He drank out of the wooden cup although his high-ranking commanders drank out of cups made of gold and silver. He also carried a plain sword and wore simple clothing.


  1. Attila married his brother’s widowed wife after killing him.

There are is no accurate evidence of why Attila killed his brother. Most scholars believe that he killed his brother to gain total control over the Huns.

Some sources suggest that his brother attempted to murder Attila during one of the hunting trips. As being a skilled warrior, Attila could deter the attempted murder and killed him instead. Along with absolute power, Attila also got his brother’s beautiful wife.


  1. Compared to the Roman generals, Attila was a strong leader.

Attila could control the vast army single-handedly whereas the roman leaders struggled to keep their soldiers under control. Historians believe his strong leadership skills allowed Attila the Hun to make coordinated attacks on Romans cities and towns with greater success. Being weaker in leadership, the Romans showed little or no resistance in most parts.


  1. He was called “Scourge of God” for his unprecedented violence.

There are two sides to this story. Most historians believe that Attila terrorized people of the newly invaded lands.

However, the bones found in Pannonia suggest that Hunnic people coexisted and kept cultural relationships with the Romans.


  1. Attila the Hun’s strong personality helped him to build a vast empire within only ten years.

To extend the Hunnic empire, he created one of the most effective fighting forces of his time. He strategically led his army to the places with the only victory in mind. He fought in the frontlines and used his outstanding horse-riding and archery skills during the battles.

Attila the Hun was a fearsome leader who conquered most parts of Europe
The depiction of battle between the Hunnic army and Alans / Credit: Wikimedia
  1. A historical writer Ammianus Marcellinus described the Hunnic people as savages 

According to Ammianus, the Huns were savage people who dwelled near the Sea of Azov. He stated that the Hunnic people were fierce. Therefore, going around and hitting people was a natural manner for them.


  1. Surprisingly, the Attila the Hun knew several languages

He and his brother Bleda were given a lesson on Latin and Gothic languages from a young age so they could do business with the Romans and the Goths.

From the available historical records, it looks like Attila leaned towards using weapons instead of utilizing education and diplomacy.

Additionally, Attila was taught how to ride and take care of horses. And he possessed the skills of archery.


  1. The Huns were excellent horse riders which allowed Attila to lead his army for distant lands.

The Huns got riding lessons during their early childhood. That was one of the primary warfare skills they received. All that riding skills helped the Huns battle more comfortably on the saddle than on the ground.


  1. Attila and his older brother Bleda brokered a peace deal with Rome, called the Treaty of Margus in 439.

The conditions of the treaty were to return the Hun refugees who fled to Rome, forbade the Rome making a pact with the enemies of the Hunnic Empire, establish the fair-trading rights, and made Rome pay about 700 lbs. (318 kg) gold to the Huns. As a return, the Attila promised not to attack Rome, and not making an alliance with the enemies of Rome.

However, the treaty collapsed when Attila accused the Romans of violating the conditions of the deals. Attila claimed that the Romans did not return all of the Hunnic refugees who were hiding from Attila’s rule. Also, he claimed that a Roman bishop secretly came to the Hunnic territory and desecrated several Hunnic graves to steal valuable goods from them.

Leo the Great met with Attila the Hun to stop him from attacking Rome
The Meeting between Attila the Hun and Leo the Great / Credit: Wikimedia
  1. The gold and silver were not the only objectives of Attila’s invasion.

Some historians claim that Attila and his army liked army life. They liked being in a war and invading territories. In general, they preferred fighting more than farming and looking after the livestock.


  1. The princess Honoria of France wrote a letter to Attila asking his help so she could avoid fixed marriage.

Fixed marriages were pretty popular back in history. Parents fixed their children’s marriage so the family could achieve wealth, status, and political alliance. In Princess Honoria’s case, her father tried to marry her to some person she did not like. So, she wrote a letter Attila asking support to escape from this marriage.

Attila the Hun attempted to rescue the princess and kill her father. But his attempts were met with fierce confrontation. Groups of Barbarians, Goths, and Romans attacked deterred his attempts.


  1. Kreka was Attila’s first wife and served as the Queen of Huns.

Although most historic leaders had numerous wives, only one of them was considered the main wife. Attila’s main wife was Kreka. She was served as the queen of the Hunnic Empire, and she gave birth to three of Attila’s heirs: Ellac, Dengizich, and Ernak.

Kreka was described as gentle and charming women by two Roman diplomats, Priscus and Maximus. She was also described as a woman who was capable of preserving diplomatic relationships.


  1. Attila the Hun spoke in the Hunnic language

But no one knows a whole lot about the Hunnic language except the fact it was spoken by the Huns. Some historians believe the language was closer to the Turkic languages, more specifically Chuvash language.

Attila the Hun riding a white horse
A painting by Artist Eugène Delacroix depicts Attila the Hun
  1. Attila died on his wedding night from a brain hemorrhage.

His last wife was a beautiful woman called Ildico. On the night of his wedding, he was found dead on his bed beside Ildico. The cause of death was described as internal bleeding that has choked him to death.

However, some sources suggest that Ildico had murdered him as an act of revenge for destroying his tribesmen. Historians suggest she may have mixed his wine with fatal poison.


  1. Attila the Hun was buried in a golden coffin and no one knows where he was buried.

His dead body was placed inside three coffins. The innermost coffin was made of gold. The middle one was made of silver and the outermost one was made of plain iron.

After the death of Attila, his loyal people made sure that no one could find his grave. And, they warned that if whoever digs his grave will be executed or cursed.


  1. Attila’s heirs were not as tough as he was so they could not preserve the power of the Hunnic Empire.

Without having enough ferocity and power to keep the bonds of the Hunnic army, Attila’s heirs weakened the Hunnic Empire. Plus, Attila’s heirs could not share the power and wealth left by their father.

Concisely, it was one of those historic instances where a nation collapses due to internal instability.


  1. Attila the Hun couldn’t write nor read

That means you may not find his diary or handwriting to come closer to his inner world. Although he learned the Latin and Gothic languages, he was still illiterate. Probably, he did not have nerves to handle small jobs such as reading and writing. Instead, he focused on greater endeavors such as occupying lands using outstanding military strategies.

This somehow proves that real-life experiences sometimes are more valuable than education to earn great fame and success.


  1. He considered himself a leader who was chosen by the Roman god of war, Mars.

Most historical leaders religiously believed that they were chosen by God. For instance, ancient Egyptians pharaohs or the leaders of other ancient empires considered themselves as chosen people who were accomplishing the will of God on Earth.

One of the Hunnic shepherds found an old sword from a desert and took it straight to Attila. Seeing the sword, Attila rejoiced and told that the sword was a gift for him from the god Mars. He genuinely believed that while his possessing that sword, he was unbeatable.


  1. Attila the Hun and his army ate half-cooked meat and roots of plants that they could find out in the wilderness.

According to the written records from Ammianus Marcellinus, the Hunnic soldiers ate half-cooked meat. By saying half-cooked, he meant that the Hunnic soldiers kept a slab of meat between the back of their horses and their thighs. As a result of friction, meat became somewhat tender.


  1. The Battle of Cataluanian Plains was the bloodiest war between the Romans and the Huns that stopped Attila’s invasions in Europe.

The battle took place in the year 451. To stop Attila’s fierce attacks, the Roman general Flavius Aetius and Visigoth King Theodoric I joined their army and were able to deter Attila’s ferocious army.

The Romans learned the attacking strategies of the Hunnic army and created a coordinated strategy so they could prevent Attila from performing his famous strategies.


  1. When the Attila the Hun died his army cut their long hairs and bloodied their faces by slashing their chicks.

They shed blood instead of tears. The army mourned with great sadness. They circled around the tent which held Attila dead body. The same night, He was buried at the unknown location.


  1. According to the legends, Attila’s inner circle buried him in the river bed and killed everyone who participated in his burial.

Supposedly, his descendants diverted a river and buried his body in the river bed. Then, they let the river flow on top of the grave. All of these were done to keep Attila’s graveyard in secret. His inner circle did not want anyone to disturb the leader’s resting place. They were especially eager to hide it from the Romans, fearing they will desecrate his grave and defame their leader.

Another reason for the secrecy is that valuable items such as gold and silver were placed in his grave. So, they did not want anyone to disturb his graveyard just to claim those valuable items.



Ancient History Encyclopedia


National Geographic

Penn State University

National Geographic

By Arslan Batyrovich

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