Attila The Hun Was The Most Feared Man On Earth, But An Unlikely Threat Caused His Demise

Attila the Hun was famed for his ruthlessness in battle and for his colossal empire, which stretched all the way from northern Europe to the Middle East. He was only in his mid-40s when he died, but when he did, he was a long way from the battlefield. No, Attila’s bizarre demise didn’t come at the hands of his many bitter enemies; what killed him was entirely unexpected.

1. Who were the Huns?

As Attila’s title makes clear, he was a Hun. But where exactly did the Hun people come from? That’s actually a surprisingly difficult question to answer and one that historians continue to argue over. Some researchers say that the nomadic Huns were originally from Kazakhstan, a nation just to the south of modern Russia. But not all experts agree with that theory. 

The Xiongnu

There are historians who assert that the predecessors of the Huns were the Xiongnu of Mongolia. They were a bellicose people who waged war in China during the time of the Qin Dynasty. That short-lived ruling house only controlled the nation for 14 years from 221 B.C., but it had great influence on Chinese affairs for centuries. Some experts claim that the Great Wall of China was initially built to defend against the Xiongnu. 

2. Brother bother

The two brothers who ruled the Huns, Rugila and Octar, both died in the year 434. Attila and his older brother Bleda then inherited the Hun leadership, reigning jointly as their uncles had. That arrangement appears to have worked well for a time, but it seems that rivalry between the brothers increased. Then Bleda died, leaving Attila as sole ruler of the Huns.


So did Attila have anything to do with his brother’s death? He certainly had the motivation, since once Bleda was out of the way he could rule without the inconvenience of having to share power. One Roman historian, Priscus, believed that there had been foul play. The History website quotes words Priscus wrote in 445, “Bleda, king of the Huns, was assassinated as a result of the plots of his brother Attila.”