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Useful Notes / Attila the Hun

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Attila was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in 453. He was leader of the Hunnic Empire, which stretched from the Ural River to the Rhine River and from the Danube River to the Baltic Sea. During his reign he was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, earning him the title, "The Scourge of God". He also attempted to conquer Roman Gaul (modern France), crossing the Rhine in 451 and marching as far as Aurelianum (Orléans) before being defeated at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (aka the Battle of Chalons). Subsequently he invaded Italy, devastating the northern provinces, but was unable to take Rome. He planned for further campaigns against the Romans but died in 453.


There is no universally accepted image of Attila the Hun, though he is normally depicted as a large hairy barbarian similar in appearance to Genghis Khan, another horseback archer barbarian conqueror.

He is a notorious conqueror, plunderer and pillager everybody has heard about, yet nobody is able to tell much more than a few lines about. There isn't even a universally accepted image of him. Many people will often confuse him with Genghis Khan, about whom we know a whole lot more. However, he's left a large footprint on popular culture—in fact, before World War II made Those Wacky Nazis the absolute shorthand for "evil", Attila the Hun was one of the most-invoked "historical villains"note  for such comparisons. For example, during World War I, the Germans were widely referred to as "Huns", in reference to their supposed savagery.


  • Blood from the Mouth: He was found dead choking on his own blood. Exactly what killed him is up for debate; most sources cite internal bleeding in the throat/sinuses, while one source claims an assassination.
  • Death by Irony: The bloody king Attila drowned in his own blood on his wedding night, possibly from drinking too much alcohol.
  • Depending on the Writer: There are two traditions concerning Atilla, the Niebelungenlied, written in Germany, and the Icelandic accounts. The first version, giving him the name Etzel, tells the story of a benevolent and just ruler. According to J. R. R. Tolkien, this mirrors the tradition of the Eastern Goths, who were allied with him if not downright served under him. The Icelandic tradition tells of a vicious, greedy and ruthless king who showed no mercy. This happens to be the tradition of the Western Goths and the other Germanic tribes which fought against him. How he really was, might seem to be somewhere in the middle.
  • The Napoleon: He was apparently rather short and possibly suffered some form of dwarfism. Although, considering that most sources on his appearance tend to be generally quite negative about him, it could be inferred that such unflattering depictions may be a result of demonisation. In the sources where he is depicted favourably (mainly continental Germanic legends where he is said to be a noble and generous king) he's more of a background character and his appearance isn't elaborated upon.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Best known for it.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Called off his invasion of Rome and withdrew his armies after meeting with The Pope Leo I and a few other Roman envoys. The relieved Christians considered it a miracle. But modern historians favor other reasons like an outbreak of infectious disease within his armies, making it more of Know When to Fold 'Em.

Works featuring Attila:

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    Comic Books 
  • In Requiem Vampire Knight, Attila reincarnates in Hell as a vampire and as membber of the ruling elite governed by Count Dracula. He serves as Admiral of the Count's armies and is known by many colorful nicknames besides "the Scourge of God" such as The Anti-Christ, King of Tartarus and Hades, and Commander of the 666 Legions.
  • One of Shazam's villains Ibac derives his superpowers from four ruthless historical figures, with Attila the Hun providing his fierceness and the latter "a" in his name.
  • The French comic "Attila Mon Amour" is about a Roman noblewoman betrayed by her people who ends up siding with the Huns to get her revenge.
  • The French comic "Le Fléau des Dieux" (The Scourge of Gods) is Attila Recycled In Space, although the story takes a turn for the weird when Attila and the Roman woman worshipped as a goddess by his tribe turn out to be unkillable (much to their surprise).

    Comic Strips 


  • Attila appears in rather mythologized form in the Nibelungenlied and the Völsunga saga under the name of Etzel or Atli.
  • The eponymous hero of Waltharius grows up as a hostage at Attila's court.
  • Attila appears in Dante's The Divine Comedy in the seventh circle of Hell.
  • The White Stag: A highly fictionalized Origin Story for the Huns.
  • Several Historical Fiction novels:
    • The Attila Trilogy by William Napier
    • The Scourge of God by William Dietrich
    • The Sword of Attila by Michael Curtis Ford
  • Attila is depicted surprisingly sympathetically in Thomas Costain's The Darkness and the Dawn.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus once did a parody of a typical American sitcom called The Attila the Hun Show, with John Cleese as the eponymous conqueror in the starring role.
  • Attila: A miniseries starring Gerard Butler.
  • Defeated Alexander the Great in Deadliest Warrior.
  • Attila and his hordes occasionally show up on Kaamelott, where he is an easily fooled short Asian man and his hordes consist of a single bodyguard... yet is apparently a legitimate Scourge of God.
  • The Daily Show wrote a segment about China's ban on puns; Jon Stewart panics when he sees China-related puns until it moves to slide that said "Attila the Pun".
    Jon: That doesn't make any sense, Attila was nowhere near China.'

  • A Trinidadian calypso singer from the first half of the 20th century called himself Atilla the Hun. He is notable for being the first calypso musician to be elected into the City Council of Port of Spain and the Legislative Council of Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Billy Joel started his career as part of a Psychedelic Rock band called Attila. Their only album Attila (1970) is often called "one of the worst albums ever created."
  • There is also a 2005 Metalcore band from Atlanta, Georgia called Attila.

    Video Games 
  • Attila's is one of the historical campaigns you can play in Age of Empires II: The Conquerors, showcasing the Hun faction that was included in that expansion.
  • Appears as the faction leader of the Huns in Civilization V. The AI assigned for him is easily the most aggressive out of all the leaders in the game (even memetic asshole Montezuma). His unique units and powers make him the the best choice for an early game conquest victory.
  • Serves as the namesake of Total War: Attila, and is essentially the Final Boss in the campaign. Unless you play as the Huns, in which case he is an Infinity +1 Sword.
  • A Gender Flipped version of him appears as a Saber in Fate/Grand Ordernote , though she prefers to be called "Altera". This depiction is also a very favorable one, as her In-Universe Character Alignment is Chaotic Good, and she's one of the more just Servants. It briefly mentions that she was married to Siegfried's wife Kriemhild for a time, like in Nibelungenlied. However, the fact that the Attila of the Nasuverse is female becomes tame when it's revealed in Fate/Extella: The Umbral Star that she's actually the remains of an alien superweapon that wiped out all prehistoric human civilization, found in the ruins of her original shattered form and raised as a warrior and conqueror by the Huns.

    Western Animation 
  • In Time Squad Attila is a sniveling, neurotic and strangely Ambiguously Jewish wannabe leader. Time Squad comes in to turn him into a leader that his men can respect and follow orders.
  • In the episode "Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch" of Futurama, Attila was one of several simulations of evil characters accidentally brought to life (others included Jack the Ripper and Professor Moriarty)
  • In Los Trotamúsicos, an adaptation of The Bremen Town Musicians, the four animals were confronted by three robbers whose evil dog was named Attila.
  • In The Simpsons pilot episode Simpsons Roasting On An Open Fire the family tries to sing Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer but Bart keeps adding lines of his own to Homer's annoyance. After singing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: you'll go in history." Bart belts out: "Like Attila the Hun!", which is the final straw for Homer who starts strangling him.
  • In the Garfield and Friends segment "Fine Feathered Funnyman", Roy gives the viewers a sneak peak of an upcoming U.S. Acres cartoon called "Hiya Hun", in which he tries to convince the animals that Attila has returned while dressed up like him, with the clip shown being of him warning Wade of his return. It is unknown if this was going to be an actual episode of Season 7 of the show, but got scrapped, or if it was intended to be a joke like "Much Ado About Orson".
  • Animaniacs had a song called "Here Comes Attila" which was about him.

  • Margaret Thatcher was known as "Attila the Hen" by her detractors.
  • In the famous essay "For the New Intellectual," Ayn Rand used Attila as the symbol of all historical figures who think and act like The Brute, without thinking about the long-term future, or any form of morality (particularly the reasons why dealing with people through brute force is a bad thing), or an understanding of things that uses the concepts of philosophy and science, etc.
  • Giuseppe Verdi wrote an opera about Attila the Hun in 1846.


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