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THE CHARACTER, CoNQUESTs, AND Court OF ATTILA, KING OF THE HUNS.—DEATH OF THEODOSIUS THE YOUNGER.— ELEVATION OF MARCIAN TO THE EMPIRE OF THE EAST.
THE Western world was oppressed by the Goths and Vandals, who fled before the Huns; but the achievements of the Huns themselves were not adequate to their power and prosperity. Their victorious hordes had spread from the Volga to the Danube; but the public force was exhausted by the discord of independent chieftains; their valor was idly consumed in obscure and predatory excursions; and they often degraded their national dignity, by condescending, for the hopes of spoil, to enlist under the banners of their fugitive enemies. In the reign of ATTILA,” the Huns again became the terror of the world; and I shall now describe the character and actions of that formidable Barbarian; who alternately insulted and invaded the East and the West, and urged the rapid downfall of the Roman empire. In the tide of emigration which impetuously rolled from the confines of China to those of Germany, the most powerful and populous tribes may commonly be found on the verge of the Roman provinces. The accumulated weight was sustained for a while by artificial barriers; and the easy. condescension of the emperors invited, without satisfying, the insolent demands of the Barbarians, who had acquired an eager appetite for the luxuries of civilized life. The Hungarians, who ambitiously insert the name of Attila among their native kings, may affirm with truth that the hordes, which were subject to his uncle Roas, or Rugilas,
* The authentic materials for the history of Attila may be found in Jornandes (de l'oebus Geticis, c. 34–50, pp. 668–688, edit. Grot.) and Priscus (Excerpta de o: pp. 33–76, Paris, 1648). I have not seen the lives of Attila, comR. y Juvencus Caelius Calamus Dalmatinus, in the twelfth century, or by Nicholas Olahus, archbishop of Gran, in the sixteenth. See Mascou's History of the Germans, ix. 23, and Maffei Osservazioni Litterarie, tom i. pp. 88,89. Whatever the modern Hungarians have added must be fabulous ; and they do not seem to have excelled in the art of fiction. They suppose, that when Attila invaded Gaul, and Italy, married in numerable wives, &c., he was one hundred and o years of age. TheWrocz Chron. p. i. c. 22, in Script. Hungar. tom. i. p. 76.
had formed their encampments within the limits of modern Hungary,” in a fertile country, which liberally supplied the wants of a nation of hunters and shepherds. In this advantageous situation, Ikugilas, and his valiant brothers, who continually added to their power and reputation, commanded the alternative of peace or war with the two empires. His alliance with the Romans of the West was cemented by his personal friendship for the great Aëtius; who was always secure of finding, in the Barbarian camp, a hospitable reception and a powerful support. At his solicitation, and in the name of John the usurper, sixty thousand Huns advanced to the confines of Italy; their march and their retreat were alike expensive to the state; and the grateful policy of Aëtius abandoned the possession of Pannonia to his faithful confederates. The Romans of the East were not less apprehensive of the arms of Rugilas, which threatened the provinces, or even the capital. Some ecclesiastical histolians have destroyed the Barbarians with lightning and pestilence; * but Theodosius was reduced to the more humble expedient of stipulating an annual payment of three hundred and fifty pounds of gold, and of disguising this dishonorable tribute by the title of general, which the king of the Huns condescended to accept. The public tranquillity was frequently interrupted by the fierce impatience of the Barbarians, and the perfidious intrigues of the Byzantine court. Four dependent nations, among whom we may distinguish the Bavarians, disclaimed the sovereignty of the Huns; and their revolt was encouraged and protected by a Roman alliance; till the just claims, and formidable power, of Rugilas, were effectually urged by the voice of Eslaw his ambassador. Peace was the unanimous wish of the senate: their decree was ratified by the emperor; and two ambassadors were named, Plinthas, a general of Scythian extraction, but of consular rank; and the quaestor Epigenes, a wise and experienced statesman, who was recommended to that office by his ambitious colleague. The death of Rugilas suspended the progress of the treaty. His two nephews, Attila and Bleda, who succeeded to the throne of their uncle, consented to a personal interview with the ambassadors of Constantinople; but as they proudly refused to dismount, the business was transacted on horseback, in a spacious plain near the city of Margus, in the Upper Maesia. The kings of the Huns assumed the solid benefits, as well as the vain honors, of the negotiation. They dictated the conditions of peace, and each condition was an insult on the majesty of the empire. Besides the freedom of a safe and plentiful market on the banks of the Danube, they required that the annual contribution should be augmented from three hundred and fifty to seven hundred pounds of gold; that a fine or ransom of eight pieces of gold should be paid for every Roman captive who had escaped from his Barbarian master; that the emperor should renounce all treaties and engagements with the enemies of the Huns; and that all the fugitives who had taken refuge in the court or provinces of Theodosius, should be delivered to the justice of their offended sovereign. This justice was rigorously inflicted on some unfortunate youths of a royal race. They were crucified on the territories of the empire, by the command of Attila : and as soon as the king of the Huns had impressed the Romans with the terror of his name, he indulged them in a short and arbitrary respite, whilst he subdued the rebellious or independent nations of Scythia and Germany." Attila, the son of Mundzuk, deduced his noble, . his regal, descent” from the ancient Huns, who had formerly contended with the monarchs of China. His features, according to the observation of a Gothic historian, bore the stamp of his national origin; and the portrait of Attila exhibits the genuine deformity of a modern Calmuk;" a large head, a swarthy complexion, small, deep-seated eyes, a flat nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad shoulders, and a short square body, of nervous strength, though of a disproportioned form. The haughty step and demeanor 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 effects of personal valor are so inconsiderable, except in poetry or romance, that victory, even among Barbarians, must depend on the degree of skill with which the passions of the multitude are combined and guided for the service of a single man. The Scythian conquerors, Attila and Zingis, surpassed their rude countrymen in art rather than in courage; and it may be observed that the monarchies, both of the Huns and of the Moguls, were erected by their founders on the basis of popular superstition. The miraculous conception, which fraud and credulity ascribed to the virgin-mother of Zingis, raised him above the level of human nature; and the naked prophet, who in the name of the Deity invested him with the empire of the earth, pointed the valor of the Moguls with irresistible enthusiasm." The religious arts of Attila were not less skilfully adapted to the character of his age and country. It was natural enough that the Scythians should adore, with peculiar devotion, the god of war; but as they were incapable of forming either an abstract idea, or a corporeal representation, they worshipped their tutelar deity under the symbol of an iron cimeter.” One of the shepherds of the Huns per.
2 o has been successively occupied by three Scythian colonies. 1. The Huns of Attila ; 2. The Abares, in the sixth century; and, 3. The Turks or Magiars, A. D. 889; the immediate and genuine ancestors of the modern Hullarians, whose connection with the two former is extremely faint and remote. The Prodromus and Notifia of Matthew Belius appear to contain a rich fund of information concerning ancient and modern Hungary. I have seen the extracts in Bibliothèque Ancieiune et Moderne, tom. xxii. pp. 1–51, and Bibliothèque Raisonnée, tom. xvi. pp. 127–175.” * Socrates, 1. vii. c. 43. Theodoret, l. v. c. 36. Tillemont, who always depends on the faith of his ecclesiastical authors, strenuously contends (Hist. des Emp. tom. vi. pp. 136,607) that the wars and personages were not the same.
* Mailáth (in his Geschichte der Magyaren) considers the question of the origin of the Magyars as still undecided. The old Hungarian chronicles unanimously derived thern from the Huns of Attila. See note, vol. iv. pp. 341, 342. The later opinion, adopted by Schlözer, Belnay, and Dankowsky, ascribes them, from their language, to the Finnish race. Fessler, in his history of Hungary, agrees with Gibbon in supposing them Turks. Mailáth has inserted an ingenious tlissertation of Fejer, which attempts to connect them with the Parthians. Wol. i. Ammerkungen, p. 50–M. - - - - - -
4 See Priscus pp. 47, 48, and Hist des Peuples de l’Europe, tom. vii. c. xii. xiii. xiv. xv.
5 Priscus, p. 39. The modern Hungarians have deduced his genealogy, which ascends in the thirty-fifth degree, to Ham, the son of Noah ; yet they are ignorant of his father’s real name. (f)e Guignes, Hist, des Huns, tom. ii. p. 297).
o Compare Jornandes (c. 35, p. 661) with Buffon, Hist, Naturelle, tom. iii. p. 380. The former had a right to observe, originis Fuao sigila re-pituens. The character and portrait of Attila are probably transcribed from Cassioğgos;
7 Abulpharag. Dynast, vers. Pocock, p. 281. Genealogical History of the Tarlars, by Abulghazi Bahader Khan, part. iii., c. 15, part iv. c. 3. Vie de Gengiscan, *ar Petit de la Croix, 1.1, c. 1. 6. The relations of the missionaries. who visitei Tartary in the thirteenth century (see the seventh volume of the Histoire des o gpress the popular language and opinions; Zingis is styled the son of O(1, &c., &c. * Nee templum apud eos visitur, aut delubrum. ne tugurium quidem culmo tectum cerni usquam potest; sed gladius Barbarico rità humi figitur nudus, oumque ut Martem regionum quas'circumcircant praesulem overecundius colunt.
oan. Marcellin. xxxi. 2, and the learned notes of Lindenbrogius and Wa
ceived, that a heifer, who was grazing, had wounded herself in the foot, and curiously followed the track of the blood, till he discovered, among the long grass, the point of an ancient sword, which he dug out of the ground and presented to Attila. That magnanimous, or rather that artful, prince accepted, with pious gratitude, this celestial favor; and, as the rightful possessor of the sword of Mars, asserted his divine and indefeasible claim to the dominion of the earth.” If the rites of Scythia were practiced on this solemn occasion, a lofty altar, or rather pile of fagots, three hundred
ards in length and in breadth, was raised in a spacious plain; and the sword of Mars was placed erect on the summit of this rustic altar, which was annually consecrated b the blood of sheep, horses, and of the hundredth captive.” Whether human sacrifices formed any part of the worship of Attila, or whether he propitiated the god of war with the victims which he continually offered in the field of battle, the favorite of Mars soon acquired a sacred character, which rendered his conquests more easy and more permanent; and the Barbarian princes confessed, in the language of devotion or flattery, that they could not presume to gaze, with a steady eye, on the divine majesty of the king of the Huns.” His brother Bleda, who reigned over a considerable part of the nation, was compelled to resign his sceptre and his life. Yet even this cruel act was attributed to a super. natural impulse; and the vigor with which Attila wielded the sword of Mars, convinced the world that it had been reserved alone for his invincible arm.” But the extent of his empire affords the only remaining evidence of the number and importance of his victories; and the Scythian monarch, however ignorant of the value of science and philosophy, might perhaps lament that his illiterate subjects were destitute of the art which could perpetuate the memory of his exploits.
9 Priscus relates this remarkable story, both in his own text (p. 65) and in the quotation made by Jornandes (c. 35, p. 662). He might have explained the tradition, or fable, which characterized this famous sword, and the name, as well as attributes, of the Scythian deity, whom he has translated into the Mars of the Greeks and Romans.
10 Herodot. 1. iv. c. 62. For the sake of economy. I have calculated by the smallest stadium. In the human sacrifices, they cut off the shoulder and arm of the victim, which they threw up into the air, and drew omens and presages from the manner of their falling on the pile.
11 Priscus, p. 55. A more civilized hero, Augustus himself, was pleased, if the person on whom he fixed his eyes seemed unable to support their divine instre. Sueton, in August. c. 79,
12 The Count de Buat (Hist. des Peuples de l’Europe, tom. vii. pp. 428,429) attempts to clear Attila from the murder of his brother ; and is almost inclined to o the concurrent testimony of Jornandes, and the contemporary ChroniGles.