Attila

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It is a right of nature to glut the soul with vengeance.

Attila (434–453), frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. Attila was a leader of the Hunnic Empire, a tribal confederation consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Alans among others, on the territory of Central and Eastern Europe. During his reign, he was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires.

Quotes[edit]

  • Here you stand, after conquering mighty nations and subduing the world. I therefore think it foolish for me to goad you with words, as though you were men who had not been proved in action. Let a new leader or an untried army resort to that. It is not right for me to say anything common, nor ought you to listen. For what is war but your usual custom? Or what is sweeter for a brave man than to seek revenge with his own hand? It is a right of nature to glut the soul with vengeance. Let us then attack the foe eagerly; for they are ever the bolder who make the attack. Despise this union of discordant races! To defend oneself by alliance is proof of cowardice. See, even before our attack they are smitten with terror. They seek the heights, they seize the hills and, repenting too late, clamor for protection against battle in the open fields. You know how slight a matter the Roman attack is. While they are still gathering in order and forming in one line with locked shields, they are checked, I will not say by the first wound, but even by the dust of battle. Then on to the fray with stout hearts, as is your wont. Despise their battle line. Attack the Alani, smite the Visigoths! Seek swift victory in that spot where the battle rages. For when the sinews are cut the limbs soon relax, nor can a body stand when you have taken away the bones. Let your courage rise and your own fury burst forth! Now show your cunning, Huns, now your deeds of arms! Let the wounded exact in return the death of his foe; let the unwounded revel in slaughter of the enemy. No spear shall harm those who are sure to live; and those who are sure to die Fate overtakes even in peace. And finally, why should Fortune have made the Huns victorious over so many nations, unless it were to prepare them for the joy of this conflict. Who was it revealed to our sires the path through the Maeotian swamp, for so many ages a closed secret? Who, moreover, made armed men yield to you, when you were as yet unarmed? Even a mass of federated nations could not endure the sight of the Huns. I am not deceived in the issue;--here is the field so many victories have promised us. I shall hurl the first spear at the foe. If any can stand at rest while Attila fights, he is a dead man.

Quotes about Attila[edit]

He was a man born into the world to shake the nations, the scourge of all lands, who in some way terrified all mankind by the dreadful rumors noised abroad concerning him. ~ Jordanes
Attila reminds me of a drug lord, a Pablo Escobar; they're interested only in naked power, money. They create nothing, they build nothing. If anyone gets in your way, kill them. ~ David Mallott
Attila was less savage than the Romans, who cast thousands of Christians to wild animals for mere entertainment. In comparison, he was less cruel than Ivan the Terrible, Cortes or Pizarro. In his sparing of Rome, he showed more mercy than did Genserich, Belizar, the Norsemen, the Germans and the Spanish mercenaries, who all pillaged it without regard. ~ Wess Roberts
I know nothing of the mother of Attila, but I rather suspect that she spoilt the little darling, who subsequently found the world irritating because it sometimes resisted his whims. ~ Bertrand Russell
  • If Attila the Hun were alive today, he'd be a drama critic.
    • Edward Albee, as quoted in Theater Week (1988); also in The Book of Poisonous Quotes (1993) edited by Colin Jarman, p. 100
  • Attila is a brilliant tactician; he comes to the walls of Constantinople, he threatens, he gets his bribe, he goes away, he can come back, so he's like that mafia boss that keeps on coming, keeps on extorting. In the end, he's a part of your life, he's a part of your culture, and you can't get rid of him.
    • Darius Arya, as quoted in Ancients Behaving Badly: Attila the Hun. History Channel, 13 November, 2009. Documentary.
  • In the title which he assumed, we shall see the skill with which he availed himself of the legends and creeds of other nations as well as of his own. He designated himself 'Attila, Descendant of the Great Nimrod. Nurtured in Engaddi. By the grace of God, King of the Huns, the Goths, the Danes, and the Medes. The Dread of the World.'
    • Edward Shepherd Creasy (1969), "Chapter VI. The Battle of Chalons, A.D. 451", Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World from Marathon to Waterloo (Harper ed.). Heritage Press/BiblioLife, p. 149, ASIN B000LF91OK
  • He called himself flagellum Dei, the scourge of God, and even today, 1,500 years after his blood-drenched death, his name remains a byword for brutality. Ancient artists placed great stress on his inhumanity, depicting him with goatish beard and devil’s horns. Then as now, he seemed the epitome of an Asian steppe nomad: ugly, squat and fearsome, lethal with a bow, interested chiefly in looting and in rape.
    • Mike Dash, "Nice Things to Say About Attila the Hun", Smithsonian (February 3, 2012)
  • What devil or what witch was ever so great as Attila, whose blood is in these veins?
    • Count Dracula, as quoted in Bram Stoker (1897), Dracula
  • The haughty step and demeanour of the king of the Huns expressed the consciousness of his superiority above the rest of mankind; and he had a custom of fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror which he inspired. Yet this savage hero was not inaccessible to pity; his suppliant enemies might confide in the assurance of peace or pardon; and Attila was considered by his subjects as a just and indulgent master. He delighted in war; but, after he had ascended the throne in a mature age, his head, rather than his hand, achieved the conquest of the North; and the fame of an adventurous soldier was usefully exchanged for that of a prudent and successful general.
  • The crowd of vulgar kings, the leaders of so many martial tribes, who served under the standard of Attila, were ranged in the submissive order of guards and domestics round the person of their master. They watched his nod; they trembled at his frown; and at the first signal of his will, they executed, without murmur or hesitation, his stern and absolute commands. In time of peace, the dependent princes, with their national troops, attended the royal camp in regular succession; but when Attila collected his military force he was able to bring into the field an army of five, or, according to another account, of seven hundred thousand barbarians.
  • His is one of the few names from antiquity that still prompt instant recognition, putting him alongside the likes of Alexander, Caesar, Cleopatra and Nero. Attila has become the barbarian of the ancient world.
    • Adrian Goldsworthy (2009), The Fall Of The West: The Death Of The Roman Superpower, Hachette UK
  • Attila's not interested in taking cities; he just wants to break down the gate, get in and trash the city, then get out as fast as he can, and the more people that get killed in the process, the better it is for his reputation.
    • Mike Ibeji, as quoted in Ancients Behaving Badly: Attila the Hun. History Channel, 13 November, 2009. Documentary.
  • His army is said to have numbered five hundred thousand men. He was a man born into the world to shake the nations, the scourge of all lands, who in some way terrified all mankind by the dreadful rumors noised abroad concerning him. He was haughty in his walk, rolling his eyes hither and thither, so that the power of his proud spirit appeared in the movement of his body. He was indeed a lover of war, yet restrained in action, mighty in counsel, gracious to suppliants and lenient to those who were once received into his protection. He was short of stature, with a broad chest and a large head; his eyes were small, his beard thin and sprinkled with gray; and he had a flat nose and a swarthy complexion, showing the evidences of his origin. And though his temper was such that he always had great self-confidence, yet his assurance was increased by finding the sword of Mars, always esteemed sacred among the kings of the Scythians.
  • On the following day, when a great part of the morning was spent, the royal attendants suspected some ill and, after a great uproar, broke in the doors. There they found the death of Attila accomplished by an effusion of blood, without any wound, and the girl with downcast face weeping beneath her veil. Then, as is the custom of that race, they plucked out the hair of their heads and made their faces hideous with deep wounds, that the renowned warrior might be mourned, not by effeminate wailings and tears, but by the blood of men. Moreover a wondrous thing took place in connection with Attila's death. For in a dream some god stood at the side of Marcian, Emperor of the East, while he was disquieted about his fierce foe, and showed him the bow of Attila broken in that same night, as if to intimate that the race of Huns owed much to that weapon. This account the historian Priscus says he accepts upon truthful evidence. For so terrible was Attila thought to be to great empires that the gods announced his death to rulers as a special boon.
    His body was placed in the midst of a plain and lay in state in a silken tent as a sight for men's admiration. The best horsemen of the entire tribe of the Huns rode around in circles, after the manner of circus games, in the place to which he had been brought and told of his deeds in a funeral dirge in the following manner: "The chief of the Huns, King Attila, born of his sire Mundiuch, lord of bravest tribes, sole possessor of the Scythian and German realms—powers unknown before—captured cities and terrified both empires of the Roman world and, appeased by their prayers, took annual tribute to save the rest from plunder. And when he had accomplished all this by the favor of fortune, he fell, not by wound of the foe, nor by treachery of friends, but in the midst of his nation at peace, happy in his joy and without sense of pain. Who can rate this as death, when none believes it calls for vengeance?"
    When they had mourned him with such lamentations, a strava, as they call it, was celebrated over his tomb with great revelling. They gave way in turn to the extremes of feeling and displayed funereal grief alternating with joy. Then in the secrecy of night they buried his body in the earth. They bound his coffins, the first with gold, the second with silver and the third with the strength of iron, showing by such means that these three things suited the mightiest of kings; iron because he subdued the nations, gold and silver because he received the honors of both empires. They also added the arms of foemen won in the fight, trappings of rare worth, sparkling with various gems, and ornaments of all sorts whereby princely state is maintained. And that so great riches might be kept from human curiosity, they slew those appointed to the work—a dreadful pay for their labor; and thus sudden death was the lot of those who buried him as well as of him who was buried.
  • The slaughter of the Burgundians by Attila reinforces in my mind this view that he's working for money. There's no greater goal. It's destruction for destruction's sake, out of pure spite and hatred.
    • David Mallott, as quoted in Ancients Behaving Badly: Attila the Hun. History Channel, 13 November, 2009. Documentary.
  • The method that Attila uses to kill his enemies demonstrates a particularly brutal and sadistic cruelty.
    • David Mallott, as quoted in Ancients Behaving Badly: Attila the Hun. History Channel, 13 November, 2009. Documentary.
  • His violence, his conquering doesn't seem directed to any specific end. He wants to go out and destroy almost for destruction's sake itself. He's a cruel, remorseless killer. Attila is at the top of a scale of psychopathic behavior... Compared to the other ancient tyrants, Attila is very low on a scale of creativity. He doesn't solve problems, he doesn't build anything, he doesn't leave anything behind. When in doubt, kill... Attila reminds me of a drug lord, a Pablo Escobar; they're interested only in naked power, money. They create nothing, they build nothing. If anyone gets in your way, kill them.
    • David Mallott, as quoted in Ancients Behaving Badly: Attila the Hun. History Channel, 13 November, 2009. Documentary.
  • Attila the Hun is a dubious character upon whom to base a metaphor on leadership. He's been portrayed throughout history as a barbaric, ugly little tyrant whose hordes, in total disregard of accepted principles of conservation, ruthlessly destroyed the beautiful and tranquil countryside, then went on to plunder and pillage numerous cities and villages inhabited by more civilized citizens of European nations.
    Void of any characterization as a brilliant leader, a genius civilizer or a compassionate and adept king, the sinister Attila is commonly used as a referent for entertaining satire and serves as a universally agreed upon example of those qualities and attributes dreadfully abhorred in leaders of any generation, organization or cause.
  • Seen in perspectives different from those who wrote his history — much of which must be to some degree apocryphal, if not biased by political preferences — Attila might today be characterized as an entrepreneur, diplomat, social reformer, statesman, civilizer, brilliant field marshal and host of some terrific parties.
  • Attila resisted the propaganda spewed at him by his Roman mentors. He personally rejected everything about them. Though he tried to ignite the spirit of resistance among the other child hostages, his attempts failed. On at least two occasions, Attila tried to escape. Failing to gain freedom, he prowled the palace as if he were a caged animal. His hatred for the empire's policies and practices grew stronger day by day.
  • His rule as King of Huns was marked by swift yet considerate justice. He did not act in haste. He gave the Huns a national goal — to bring under their control the Germanic and Slavic nations, to conquer Rome and Constantinople, to march against all of Asia, then on to Africa. Thus, the Huns would reign over all the lands to the north, south, east and west. Indeed, Attila would rule the world.
    Attila's plan was ambitious, fired by boyhood dreams, shaped by those images formed in his youth. He aimed to realize it step by step. His method was tempered by patience and unrelenting tenacity born of Asiatic virtues and by the political insight mastered by one who listens and watches while he waits for the precise moment to act.
  • Attila is an example of the type of leader who is never satisfied — preferring to take the initiative, acting rather than doing nothing.
    Attila was less savage than the Romans, who cast thousands of Christians to wild animals for mere entertainment. In comparison, he was less cruel than Ivan the Terrible, Cortes or Pizarro. In his sparing of Rome, he showed more mercy than did Genserich, Belizar, the Norsemen, the Germans and the Spanish mercenaries, who all pillaged it without regard.
    Attila's legacy is generally unfamiliar to us in the Western World. We are naive about his historical importance as a genius civilizer, his open-mindedness and richness of views, in all of which he far exceeded Alexander the Great or Caesar.
    The controversy surrounding Attila will perhaps never be resolved, but his "leadership secrets" present insightful opportunity to learn, by way of metaphor, age old characteristics, values and principles that separate those who lead from those who follow.
  • Attila was well-schooled in the power of rumor. He knew that advantageous rumor in the hearts and minds of ten could result in thousands becoming his victims. Thus, through rumor, many obstacles to his "great conquest" could be removed.
    He considered himself to be above the reproach of the masses; therefore, his reputation was important to him and him alone. He knew who he was, what he could achieve; his reputation was not as important to his feelings of self-worth as it was to influencing the outcome of battles and negotiations. Thus, Attila turned a nickname that in certain circles might have been considered unflattering into an advantage and, in doing so, gained riches for his treasury and tribute from untold thousands.
  • Scorning the pompous garb of noble Romans, Attila attired himself in the simple, crude skins of animals, which was the custom of his people. Even his crown, as king, was one of a simple leather helmet adorned by only a single feather. It was headgear similar to that of his warriors.
  • By way of fulfilling the obligation of his title, Attila exhibited patience — not haste — and never showed a lack of prudent judgment; his plan had been formulated over years. It was a calculated scheme of sequenced events that resulted in Attila's short-lived but complete leadership over a nation of barbarians whom, for a time, the world held in fear.
  • I know nothing of the mother of Attila, but I rather suspect that she spoilt the little darling, who subsequently found the world irritating because it sometimes resisted his whims.
    • Bertrand Russell (1938), Power: A New Social Analysis, Ch. 2: Leaders and Followers
  • Of course we do not know how the name sounded in the language of the Huns. Sometime, somewhere, somehow a proto-form like *agtala- changed to *attila. We cannot tell if the assimilation of "gt" to "tt", and/or if loss of a final consonant took place in Hunnic or if these changes were part of the adaptation process into Latin, Gothic and Greek... Truly, our knowledge of the Hunnic language is almost zero. One can only guess a solution to this riddle of Attila's name.
    • Magnús Snædal (2015). "Attila" (PDF). Studia Etymologica Cracoviensia 20 (3): 211–219.

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