How Atilla the Hun Was a Game Changer Back in Western Civilization essay

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Huns, nomadic people and barbarians (from the Roman point-of-view) coming from the East, may have given the final blow to an empire that was already crumbling. They conquered semi-nomadic nomadic peoples they found on their way moving westwards, settling in territories north and south of Danube, and incorporated them in a new empire.

Attila, the Hun leader, had the merit to unite his people who used to be scattered in different clans and tribes, giving them to opportunity to unite under the same flag and fight like a nation. He was born at the dawn of the fifth century AD, at a ripe time, suitable to question and greatly endanger the Roman supremacy in the Mediterranean world and beyond.

Like other barbarians, the Huns were parasitic people, living off the possessions of those they pillaged and of the tributes the latter agreed to pay in exchange for peace. What the Huns could not conquer, they knew how to control by keeping it under the permanent fear of being attacked. The strategy worked most of the time. For example, the eastern Roman Empire was "under the sovereignty of the incapable Emperor Theodosius II. A complete overthrow and destruction of the eastern empire was not Attila's intention. His policy on the contrary aimed at keeping it, by continual extortions of money and actual depredations, in a state of permanent weakness and incapacity to resist"(J.B. Bury).

The Roman Empire, divided into two, the Western Roman Empire and the Easter, faced the new challenges imposed by wars on several fronts. The Goths, the Vandals, the Persians and others like them, were threatening to tear it to pieces. The Huns, on the other hand, did not necessarily intend to destroy it. Their goal was to live off the wealth of those Roman provinces they marched upon. Attila's formidable leadership and his ability to unite his tribes and make them act as a nation created the powerful force that would shatter an empire that was already on the verge of collapse.

During the fifth century AD, the Roman leaders had to change everything in their way of ruling over the empire. Attila, as Rua before him, and their merciless cavalry with its blitz attacks, forced the Romans rethink war strategies and even diplomacy. The most important example is the Huns' settlement in Pannonia. This concession on the part of the Roman Empire would cost it dearly, but the Huns left the Romans no chance in the deal.

Some historians speak of a hunnish rule over the Romans. While that may be an exaggeration, the fact that the Romans were no longer the absolute masters of the territories surrounding the Mediterranean see is true beyond a doubt.

Attila seized the opportunity to deeply penetrate both Roman Empires, taking turns at weakening it, on both sides, from the East and the West. He was a ruthless, leader, well trained in the art of war, fearless and ready to stop at nothing. Although probably illiterate, he had the ability to use the knowledge of those who knew how to read and write and most importantly, he knew how to motivate his troops and keep them under the same flag with an iron fist: "the policy of concentrating authority within the nation and extending it externally which was introduced by Rua was consciously developed by Bleda and Attila, especially by the latter after he had in 444 or 445 attained to exclusive dominion by setting aside his brother and co-ruler"(J. B. Bury). Thus, although his joint rule with his brother, Bleda, seemed to be successful, he chose to remain alone at the head of the newly united Hun nation and eventually had his brother eliminated.

Unfortunately, all the historic documents mentioning Attila are of Roman origin. The Huns do not appear to have recorded their historic evolution and the rest of the archeological evidence is inconclusive to help modern historians create a complete accurate portrait of the Hunnish leader. What is beyond any doubt is the fact that he launched fast and forceful attacks, on the model of the well-known model of the nomadic attacks on the settled provinces and Roman territories, with a force and effectiveness the Romans had hardly seen before. The Roman Empire was no longer able to sustain such powerful attacks of such magnitude and had to make huge concessions to these nomads. A mere century…[continue]

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