Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous chapter]
Book II
Chapter 2

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London, 1892

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Book II
Note B

Book 2 (continued)

Vol. II
Chapter II

Attila in Gaul


Sources: —

At the outset we derive a little further information as to Attila's embassies from Priscus, but our chief source is again Jordanes. He gives, of course, always the Gothic version of the events which he describes; but the chapters relating to the invasion of Gaul and the battle of Châlons, rise to a far higher level of literary merit than the rest of the history, and seem to have something of the vividness and picturesqueness of contemporary narration.

Apollinaris Sidonius, the Gaulish nobleman, wit and bishop, whose relation to the politics of the time will be hereafter portrayed, writes about the events of this year in his usual declamatory style. He lived 430‑488, and was therefore twenty‑one years old at the time of Attila's invasion of Gaul. I quote from Grégoire and Collombet's edition of his works in three vols.: Lyons 1836.

Gregory of Tours, who wrote his History of the Franks about 590, supplies some meagre details about Attila's invasion.

The Bollandist Acta Sanctorum, in the lives of St. Geneviève, St. Lupus, and St. Anianus, give further details of a more or less legendary character. A student who should possess sufficient patience and discrimination to winnow the wheat from the chaff in the vast mass of ecclesiastical literature collected by the Bollandists, would bestow a great service on the history of the Middle Ages.

The Panegyric of Aetius, attributed to a Spanish poet named  p100 Merobaudes, and edited by Niebuhr, contains some interesting hints as to the life of Aetius previous to the year 446 (the date of the poem), but in its extremely fragmentary state it is difficult to extract much sold historical material from it. The imitation of Claudian's style is obvious.

A story of very doubtful authority1 represents the monarch of the Huns as sending, shortly before the death of Theodosius II, a Gothic messenger to each of the two Roman Emperors, with this insulting mandate, 'Attila, thy master and mine, bids thee to prepare a palace for his reception.' Whether any such message was actually sent or not, the story indicates not inaptly the attitude which the great Hun maintained for the ten years between 440 and 450, hovering like a hawk over the fluttered dove-cots of Byzantium and Ravenna, and enjoying the terrors of the Eastern and the Western Augustus alternately.

Attila turns his menaces towards the Western Empire. Now that the palace by the Bosporus was occupied by an inmate whose beak and claw looked more like those of the old Roman eagle than any that had been seen there for the last half-century, the Barbarian began to turn his thoughts more definitely to the hapless pigeon of the West. He needed to be at no loss for pretexts in making war on Rome. Whether the great grievance of the communion-plate of Sirmium was still unredressed we cannot say, for History, after wearying us with the details of this paltry affair, forgets to tell us how it ended, whether the vases were surrendered to the service of the king or the silversmith  p101 to his rage, or whether the latter was deemed to be 'a bona-fide holder of the goods for valuable consideration,' and his title respected accordingly.

Championship of Honorius. But the grievances of the Princess Honoria undoubtedly still remained, possibly even were increased by the death of the easy-tempered Theodosius and the accession to the Byzantine throne of that severe model of feminine virtues, the Augusta Pulcheria, who was now fifty‑one years of age, while her cousin was but thirty‑two, a juniority which was in itself almost treason against a female sovereign. It is possible that the unhappy princess was removed at this time from the Eastern to the Western court, for we find Attila sending one of his usual insulting embassies to Valentinian III, 'to say that Honoria, whom he had betrothed to himself, must suffer no harm, and that he would avenge her cause if she were not also allowed to wield the imperial sceptre.' The Western Emperor replied, 'that Honoria could not enter into the married state with him, having been already given to a husband' (to whom, when, or under what circumstances, we are not informed); and they met the audacious claim set up on behalf of the princess by an equally audacious misstatement of their own customs, daring to assert in the face of the still-existing royalty of Placidia and Pulcheria, 'that Honoria ought not to receive the sceptre, since the succession to the throne among the Romans was vested not in females, but in males.' Both parties probably felt that the claim was an unreal one: the Hun was determined on war, and would have it, whether he redeemed the ring of Honoria or no. One more embassy takes place, in which Attila prefers the modest claim to one half of the Western Empire, 'as the betrothed husband of  p102 Honoria, who had received this portion from her father, and was wrongfully kept out of it by her brother's covetousness.' This request is of course refused. Then Honoria too, like the vases of Sirmium, fades out of history; whether she ever saw the fierce face of her affianced, when he wasted Italy in her name, nay even whether she was present at the death‑bed of her mother Placidia, who expired at Rome in the same year as Theodosius (450), and there received and conferred a mutual forgiveness, we know not.

Two more pretexts for war must Attila accumulate, or at least two more alliances must he conclude, and then all would be ready for his great westward movement.

Alliance with a Frankish prince. One was with a Frankish prince. A certain king of the Franks, whose name is not recorded, had just died, and there was strife between his sons as to the succession to his rude royalty. The younger son was the candidate whom the Romans favoured. He had been to Rome (probably so years before) on an embassy from his father. He had gazed there, doubtless, on the still undiminished glories of the Palatine and the Forum and the great Flavian Amphitheatre, and while he gazed, the observant eye of the rhetorician Priscus, who happened to be at Rome, had likewise gazed on him. A young warrior, with not even the first down of manhood on cheek or lip, but with a cloud of yellow hair descending thickly upon his shoulders, such is the appearance of the first Frankish king whom we meet with in history. Whether he was Meroveus himself,2 the half- p103 mythical ancestor of the Merovingian dynasty, may be doubted, and cannot now be ascertained; but that long tawny chevelure identifies him with the race who reigned in France for 250 years, till the hair of the last fainéant king fell beneath the scissors of Pepin.

The all‑powerful Aetius regarded this young Frankish king with favour. He loaded him with presents, conferred upon him the title of his adopted son, and sent him back to his father as the bearer of a treaty of friendship and alliance. It may have been this title of adopted son of the great Aetius which suggested ambitious thoughts to the mind of the young prince. At any rate, on the death of his father, he, though the younger son, with Roman help, made good his claim to the succession to the kingdom. His elder brother fled to the court of Attila, who undertook to recover for him his lost inheritance.

Alliance with Gaiseric. The other alliance of Attila was with Gaiseric, king of the Vandals. This monarch, whose career we shall have to trace in the following book, was now undisputed master of the whole Roman province of Africa, had ravaged Sicily, and was making the name of Carthage, his capital city, as terrible to Italian hearts as ever it had been in the days of Hannibal. There can be little doubt that if the Hunnish hordes by land, and the Vandal pirates by sea, had simultaneously attacked the Western Empire, they must have achieved a complete and crushing success. But for some reason or other, perhaps because neither nation wished to share so rich a booty  p104 with a rival, this united action was not taken; and though the Hunnish king received large sums of money by way of subsidy from the Vandal, it may be doubted whether he did not lose far more than he gained by an alliance which made him accessory after the fact to a cruel and impolitic outrage. For Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, who was at this time far the most powerful ruler in the Gaulish provinces, had bestowed his daughter in marriage on Hunneric, the son of Gaiseric. Gaiseric chose to suspect, apparently on very trifling grounds, that the new bride had attempted to poison him; and with a cruelty which seems to have been characteristic of the Vandal nature, he cut off the nose and ears of the Visigothic princess, and in this condition sent her back to the palace of Theodoric, a living and daily remembrancer of the vengeance due to the Vandal, and therefore an argument against any co‑operation with Attila, who was that Vandal's friend.

The Bagaudae in Gaul. One more, not ally, but summons to war must be mentioned, which may perhaps have assisted powerfully in turning the hosts of Attila towards Gaul rather than towards Italy. The iniquities of judges and the exactions of tax‑gatherers, which were so loudly complained of by the barbarianised Roman in the camp of Attila, had in Gaul stirred up the peasants to a tumultuary war not unlike that which the mediaeval knights termed a Jacquerie. The name given to the peasant warriors with whom we are now concerned was Bagaudae;3 and  p105 their insurrection, a striking proof of the hollowness of the fabric of Roman prosperity, had smouldered for more than a century and a half, ever since the days of Diocletian. A man, of whom we would gladly know more than the few lines which the chroniclers bestow on him, was the link between these marauders within the Empire and the great Barbarian without. In the year 448, as we learn from the Pseudo-Prosper, 'Eudoxius, a doctor by profession, a man of evil, though cultivated intellect, being mixed up with the movements of the Bagaudae at that time, fled to the Huns.'4 It is probable enough that we have here to do with a mere selfish adventurer such as float ever upon the surface of revolutionary change: yet before condemning the man of 'evil though highly-cultured intellect,' who  p106 flashes thus for a moment upon the page of history, we would gladly have known whether he too may not have been in his day an apostle of 'the Enthusiasm of Humanity,' whether the miseries which Eudoxius' 'arte medicus' saw among the pillaged peasants of Gaul were not the original cause of his being condemned as a 'Bagauda' by delicately-living senators and prefects, and forced to appeal against the injustices of civilization at the bar of its terrible antagonist.

451 The army of Attila moves westwards. At length, in the spring of 451, the preparations of Attila were completed, and the huge host began to roll on its way towards the Rhine. This army, like those which modern science has created, and under which modern industry groans, was truly described as a nation rather than an army; and though the estimates of the chroniclers, which vary from half a million to seven hundred thousand men, cannot be accepted as literally accurate, we shall not err in believing that the vast multitude who looked to the tent of Attila for orders were practically innumerable. Sidonius describes how the quiet life of the Roman provincial senator was suddenly disturbed by the roar of a mighty multitude, when barbarism seemed to be pouring over the plains of Gaul all the inhabitants of the North. The nationalities which composed it. If his enumeration of the invading tribes, which no doubt partakes of some of the vagueness of his style of poetry, be at all correct, the Geloni from the shores of the Volga, the Neuri and Bastarnae from the Ukraine, the Sciri, whom we are in doubt whether to place near Riga on the Baltic or Odessa on the Euxine, were serving in that army. The ethnological affinities of these obscure tribes are very doubtful. Some of them may have been of Sclavonic origin. The Teutonic family was represented  p107 by the Rugii from Pomerania, the Bructeri from the Weser; one half of the Frankish people from 'the turbid Neckar;' the Thuringians (Toringi) from Bavaria, and the Burgundians — these too only a portion of the tribe who had lingered in their old homes by the Vistula. The bone and marrow of the army were of course the Huns themselves, and the two powerful Teutonic tribes, enemies to the Hun in the past and to be his enemies in the future, but for the present his faithful allies and counsellors, the Gepidae and the Ostrogoths. Thus if we go back to the old story of the Gothic migration from 'the island of Sweden,' we have the crews of two of the ships being led on to attack their fellows in the other vessel, the Ostrogoths and the 'torpid' Gepidae marching right across Europe at the bidding of a leader whose forefathers came from Siberia, to overmaster their Visigothic brethren, who are dwelling by the Garonne.5 The Ostrogoths, who possibly occupied a territory in the north of Hungary, were commanded by three brothers, sprung from the great Amal lineage, Walamir and Theudimir and Widemir;  p108 'nobler,' as the patriotic Jordanes observes, 'than the king whose orders they obeyed.' The Gepidae, whose land probably bordered on the northern confines of the Ostrogothic settlement, were led to battle by Arderic, bravest and most famous of all the subject-princes, and him on whose wise and loyal counsels Attila chiefly relied.

While this vast medley of nations are hewing down the trees of the Thüringer Wald, in order to fashion their rude boats and rafts the passage of the Rhine,6 let us glance for a moment at the tribes, scarcely less various and not so coherent, which, on the Gaulish side of the river, are awaiting their dreaded impact.

Tribes inhabiting Gaul. Near the mouths of the Rhine, the Scheldt, and the Somme, that is to say, in the modern countries of Belgium and Picardy, clustered Franks. the great confederacy of the Salian Franks. The Ripuarian brethren held the upper reaches of the Great River, and it is to these probably that Sidonius refers when he places them by the turbid Neckar, and describes them as furnishing a contingent to the army of Attila. All the Franks were still heathen, the fiercest of the Teutonic settlers in Gaul, and they bore an ill repute for unfaithfulness to their plighted word and even to their oaths. Small sign as yet was there that to them would one day fall the hegemony of the Gallic nations. Visigoths. In the opposite corner of the country, between the Loire, the Garonne, and the Bay of Biscay, the Visigoths had erected a monarchy, the most civilized and compact  p109 of all the barbarian kingdoms, and the one which seemed to have the fairest promise of a long and triumphant life. By the peace which their king Walia concluded with Honorius (416) after the restoration of Placidia, they had obtained legal possession of the district called Aquitania Secunda, together with the territory round Toulouse, all of which allotment went by the name of Septimania7 or Gothia. For ten years (419‑429) there had been firm peace between Visigoths and Romans; then, for ten years more (429‑439), fierce and almost continued war, Theodoric, king of the Visigoths, endeavouring to take Arles and Narbonne; Aetius and his subordinate Litorius striving to take the Gothic capital of Toulouse, and all but succeeding. And in these wars Aetius had availed himself of his long-standing friendship with the Huns to enlist them as auxiliaries against the warriors of Theodoric, dangerous allies who plundered friends and enemies, and carried back doubtless to their dreary encampment in Hungary vivid remembrance of the sunny vineyards of Languedoc and Guienne. For the last twelve years (439‑451) there had been peace, but scarcely friendship, between the Courts of Ravenna and Toulouse.

Armorican Confederacy. North of the Visigoths, the Celtic population of Brittany, known by the name of the Armoricans, had risen in arms against their Roman rulers, and had with some degree of success maintained their independence. From this time, perhaps, we ought to date that isolation of Brittany from the politics of the rest of France, which has not entirely disappeared even at the present  p110 day. But the terrible invader from the East welded even the stubborn Breton into temporary cohesion with his neighbours, and in the pages of Jordanes we find the 'Armoritiani' fighting side by side with the Roman legions against Attila.

Saxons. The same list includes a yet more familiar name, 'Saxones.' How came our fathers thither; they, whose homes were in the long sandy levels of Holstein? As has been already pointed out, the national migration of the Angles and Saxons to our own island had already commenced, perhaps in part determined by the impulse northward of Attila's own subjects. Possibly like the Northmen, their successors, the Saxons may have invaded both sides of the English Channel at once, and may on this occasion have been standing in arms to defend against their old foe some newly‑won possessions in Normandy or Picardy.

Burgundians. In the south-east of Gaul, the Burgundians had after many wars and some reverses established themselves (443) with the consent of the Romans in the district then called Sapaudia and now Savoy. Their territory was somewhat more extensive than the province which was the cradle of the present royal house of Italy, since it stretched northwards beyond the lake of Neufchatel, and southwards as far as Grenoble. Here the Burgundian immigrants, under their king, Gundiok, were busy settling themselves in their new possession, cultivating the lands which they had divided by lot, each one receiving8 half the estate of a Roman host or hospes,  p111 (for under such gentle names the spoliation was veiled), when the news came that the terrible Hun had crossed the Rhine, and that all hosts and guests in Gaul must unite for its defence.

Alans. The Alans, who had wandered thus far westwards from the country between the Volga and the Don, had received (440) the district round Valence for a possession from the Romans, on much the same terms probably as those by which the Burgundians held Savoy.9 Of all the barbarian tribes now quartered in Gaul they were the nearest allied to the Huns, and Sangiban, their king, was strongly suspected of having some secret and treacherous understanding with Attila.10

Remnants of Roman dominion in Gaul. This chaos of barbarian tribes occupied perhaps one half of Gaul. Wherever Chaos was not, wherever some remains of the old imperial Cosmos were still left unsubmerged, there was Romania. We may conjecture  p112 that by this time very little of Roman domination remained in the Belgic Gaul. The eastern portions of Gallia Lugdunensis and Gallia Aquitanica, especially the city of Lyons and the mountains of Auvergne, seem to have been fervently loyal to the Emperor. Gallia Narbonensis with its capitals of Arles and Narbonne, but excepting Toulouse and its surrounding country, had successfully beaten back the Visigothic invader, and was almost more Roman than Rome itself.

But the question of transcendent importance for Gaul, and indirectly for the whole future of Western Europe, was — 'Would Chaos and Cosmos blend for a little space to resist the vaster and wilder Chaos which was roaring for them both, fierce from its Pannonian home? Especially could Aetius and Theodoric, so lately at death-grips for the possession of one another's capitals — Aetius who had all but lost Arles, Theodoric who had all but lost Toulouse, unite heartily enough and promptly enough to beat back Attila?'

Attila's embassies to the Roman and Visigothic courts"> Would the Romans and Barbarians in Gaul coalesce against the Huns? But the question of transcendent importance for Gaul, and indirectly for the whole future of Western Europe, was — 'Would Chaos and Cosmos blend for a little space to resist the vaster and wilder Chaos which was roaring for them both, fierce from its Pannonian home? Especially could Aetius and Theodoric, so lately at death-grips for the possession of one another's capitals — Aetius who had all but lost Arles, Theodoric who had all but lost Toulouse, unite heartily enough and promptly enough to beat back Attila?'

Attila's embassies to the Roman and Visigothic courts. This was the doubt, and Attila thought he saw in it an opportunity to divide his foes. 'A subtle man, and one who fought by artifice before he waged his wars,'11 he sent ambassadors to Valentinian, representing his intended invasion as only a continuation of the old joint campaigns of Roman and Hun against the Visigoth. To Theodoric he sent other messengers, exhorting him to break off his unnatural alliance with Rome, and to remember the cruel wars which so lately had been kindled against his people by the lieutenants of the Augustus.

Happily there was a little too much statesmanship  p113 both at Ravenna and Toulouse to allow of the success of so transparent an artifice. Valentinian's embassy to Theodoric. Valentinian's ambassadors to Theodoric addressed the Visigothic nation (if we may believe their panegyrist Jordanes) in some such words as these:

'It will comport with your usual wisdom, oh bravest of the nations, to confederate with us against the tyrant of the universe, who longs to fasten the chains of slavery on the whole world, who does not seek for any reasonable excuses for battle, but thinks that whatsoever crimes he may commit are lawful because he is the doer of them. He measures the frontiers of his dominions by what? By the space that his arms can ravage. He gluts his pride by license, he spurns the ordinances of earth and of heaven, and shows himself the enemy of our common nature.12 Surely he deserves your hatred who proves himself the spiteful foe of all. Recollect, I pray you, (what assuredly he does not forget) blood has once flowed between you, and with whatever wiles he may now cover his thirst for vengeance, it is there, and it is terrible. To say nothing of our grievances, can you any longer tolerate with patience the pride of this savage? Mighty as you are in arms, think of your own griefs' [and here, doubtless, words were used which would recall to the mind of Theodoric the cruel outrages inflicted on his daughter by Attila's Vandal ally], 'and join your hands with ours. Help the Republic which has given you one of her fairest provinces for a possession. If you would know how necessary the alliance of each of us is to the other, penetrate the council-chamber of the foe, and see how he labours to divide us.'

 p114  451 Theodoric was probably already meditating the Roman alliance, but these words are said to have decided him, and he replied, 'Romans, you have your will. Attila is your foe; you have made him ours also. Wheresoever the sound of his ravages shall call us, thither will we follow him; and all‑inflated as he is with his victories over so many proud nations, yet the Goths too know how to do battle with the proud. Strong in the goodness of my cause, I deem no war laborious. No evil omen daunts me when the majesty of the Emperor of Rome smiles upon me.'

There is something hollow and unreal, doubtless, in these orations. In point of fact the Goths showed no alacrity in the defence of Roman Gaul till the storm of war rolled up to their own borders, and even then, according to one account,13 required a special messenger to rouse them from their unreadiness. But the foundation for an alliance between Roman and Visigoth was laid, and it saved Gaul.

Attila's invasion of Belgic Gaul. Attila, foiled in his diplomacy, swept with his vast host across the Rhine, and began the congenial work of destruction. City after city of the Belgic Gaul (which comprised all France north-east of the Seine) fell before him. What help he may have received from the Bagaudae, or rendered to the young Frankish chieftain, his ally, we know not. We only hear that one city after another was broken up (effracta) by his savage hordes; but no simple human voice comes out of the Chaos to tell us what common men and women suffered in that breaking up of the great deep. The ecclesiastics, intent on the glorification of their own favourite saint or chapel, tell us a little of what was done, or was  p115 not done in the way of miraculous interposition on behalf of particular places, and even for their childish legends, of uncertain date, and bearing elements of fiction on the face of them, we have to be grateful, so complete is the silence of authentic history as to the earlier events of the invasion.

Vision of the Bishop of Tongres. The bishop of Tongres in Belgium, Servatius by name, implored God, amidst fastings and watchings and constant showers of tears, that he would never permit 'the unbelieving and ever-unworthy nation of the Huns' to enter Gaul.14 Feeling sure in his spirit that this prayer was not granted, he sought the tomb of the Apostle Peter at Rome, and there, after three days' fasting, pressed his suit. The Apostle appeared to him in a vision and told him that according to the councils of the Most High, the Huns must certainly enter Gaul and ravage it for a time. But so much was conceded to Servatius, that he should not see the misery which was coming on his flock. He was therefore to return at once to his home, choose out his grave-clothes, and set his house in order, and then should he 'migrate from this body.' He returned accordingly, set all things in order for his burial, and told his flock that they should see his face no more. 'But they following him with great wailing and many tears, humbly prayed him — "Leave us not, oh holy father; forget us not, oh good shepherd!" Then, as they could not prevail upon him to stay, they received his blessing, kissed him, and departed. He went to the city of Utrecht, where he was seized with a mild fever, and his soul departed from his body. His corpse was brought back to Tongres, and buried by the city wall.' Such was  p116 the end of Servatius. Of the fate of his flock we have no further particulars.

Metz. 'On the very eve of the blessed Easter, the Huns, coming forth out of Pannonia and laying waste everything on their march, arrived at Metz. They gave up the city to the flames, and slew the people with the edge of the sword, killing the priests themselves before the sacrosanct altar of the Lord. And in all that city no place remained unburnt except the oratory of the blessed Stephen, protomartyr and Levite.' Gregory of Tours15 then proceeds to describe at unnecessarily length a vision in which some one saw the blessed Levite, Stephen, interceding for this oratory with the Apostles Peter and Paul, and obtaining a promise that it should remain unharmed, 'that the nations might see that he availed somewhat with the Lord.'

Rheims. From Lorraine into Champagne rolled on the devastating flood. St. Nicasius, bishop of Rheims, was hewn down before the altar of his church, while his lips were uttering the words of the Psalm, 'My soul cleaveth unto the dust, quicken thou me according to thy word.' Thus he attained the crown of martyrdom, though it has been truly remarked16 that the bishops and priests who fell beneath the swords of the Huns perished, not strictly as confessors of a religion, but as chief citizens of their dioceses, and as guardians of sacred treasure. Attila was a plunderer, but not a persecutor. He made war on civilization and on human nature, not on religion, for he did not understand it enough to hate it.

Lutetia Parisiorum. The inhabitants of a little town17 upon a clayey island in the Seine, near its junction with the Marne,  p117 were in such dread of its invasion by the Huns that they had made up their minds to flee, when a young girl of the neighbouring village of Nanterre, named Genovefa, succeeded in communicating to the wives of the inhabitants her own calm and heaven-born confidence that the place would not be assailed. The men disbelieved her mission, called her a false prophetess, would gladly have stoned her, or drowned her in the river. But the influence of the women, aided by the remembrance of the undoubted holiness of a neighbouring saint, Germanus of Auxerre, who had in former days taken the part of Genovefa, saved her from insult, and her counsels from rejection. The inhabitants remained; the prayers of the women, or the insignificance of the place, saved it from the presence of the enemy. Could the squalid Pannonian hordes have overleapt fourteen centuries of time as well as the few miles of space which intervened, how their eyes would have sparkled, and their hearts well-nigh stopped beating with the ecstasy of rapine, for the town which was then scarcely worth attacking is now known by the name of Paris. Justly, if the story be true, are Saint Geneviève and Saint Germain among the names still held in highest honour by the beautiful city on the Seine.

Mediaeval tales of Attila's destructions. In the after-growth of mediaeval ecclesiastical chronicles it may well be supposed that Attila's destroying hand is made responsible for even more ruin than it actually caused. Thus, 'Maistre Jacques de Guise,' writing his history of Hainault in the fourteenth century, informs his readers that

'they must know that no town, fortress, or city, however strong it might be, could resist this people, so cruel was it and malevolent. . . . . Moreover, by this tyrant Attille were destroyed  p118 nearly all the cities of Gaul and Germany.18 Firstly, Reims, Cambray, Treveres (Trèves), Mectz (Metz), Arras, Tongres, Tournay, Therouenne, Coulongne (Cologne), Amiens, Beauvais, Paris, and so many towns, cities, and fortresses that whoso should wish to put them all in writing he would too much weary the readers. . . . .19

'Item, by him were destroyed in Germany, Maience, a very noble city, Warmose (Worms), Argentore (Strasbourg), Nymaie (?),a Langres and Nerbonne (?). In this year, as saith Sigebert, were martirised the eleven thousand virgins in the city of Coulongne.'20

This extract does not, of course, possess any shadow of historical authority. It is certainly wrong as to Narbonne and Nismes (if that be the city intended by Nymaie), and it is probably wrong as to Paris. But, with these exceptions, the cities named are all either in or upon the confines of Gallia Belgica, the chief scene of Attila's ravages, and the list is not an improbable one, though we can well believe that, as every defaced tomb and mutilated statue in an English church claims to have been maltreated by 'Cromwell's soldiers,' so no monkish chronicler who had a reasonable opportunity of bringing 'Attille' and his malevolent Huns near to the shrine of his favourite saint would be likely to forego the terrible fascination.

 p119  Attila marches to the Loire. When Belgic Gaul was ravaged to his heart's content, the Hun turned his footsteps towards Aquitaine, which contained the settlements of the Visigoths, and where, as he well knew, his hardest task awaited him. The Loire, flowing first northwards, then westwards, protects, by its broad sickle of waters, this portion of Gaul, and the Loire itself is commanded at its most northerly point by Defence of Orleans. that city which, known in Caesar's day as Genabum, had taken the name Aureliani from the great Emperor, the conqueror of Zenobia, and is now called Orleans. Three times has Aureliani played an eminent part in the history of Gaul. There broke out the great insurrection of B.C. 52 against the victorious Caesar; there Attila's host, in A.D. 451, received their first repulse; and there in 1429, the maid of Domremy, by forcing the Duke of Bedford to raise the siege, wrested from the English Plantagenets their last chance of ruling in France.

St. Anianus. The hero of Orleans, in this defence of her walls, was the Bishop, Anianus. He had visited Aetius at Arles, and strongly impressed upon the mind of that general the necessity of relieving Orleans before the 24th of June at the very latest. Then returning to teach he cheered his flock with words of pious hope. The battering-rams of Attila thundered against the walls, and the hearts of the people began to fail them. To Anianus himself the promised help seemed to linger. He knew not, and we cannot with certainty state the true cause of the delay which is related to us only by one doubtful authority.21 Aetius, it is said, emerged from the Alpine  p120 passes with only a slender and ill‑officered train of soldiers, and then found that the Goths, instead of moving eastward to join him, were thinking of awaiting the attack of the dreaded foe in their own territory behind the Loire. In this unforeseen perplexity, Aetius availed himself of the services of Avitus, a Roman noble of Auvergne, and a persona grata at the court of Theodoric. His visit to the Gothic king proved successful.

'He aroused their wrath, making it subservient to the purposes of Rome,22 and marched in the midst of the skin-clothed warriors to the sound of the trumpets of Romulus.'

Meanwhile the consternation within the city of Orleans went on increasing, as the citizens saw their walls crumbling into ruin beneath the blows of the battering-rams of Attila. One day, when they were fervently praying in the church,

'Anianus said, "Look forth from the ramparts and see if God's mercy yet succours us." They gazed forth from the wall, but beheld no man. He said, "Pray in faith: the Lord will liberate you to‑day." They went on praying; again he bade them mount the walls, and again they saw no help approaching. He said to them the third time, "If ye pray in faith, the Lord will speedily be at hand to help you." Then they with weeping and loud lamentation implored the mercy of the Lord. When their prayer was ended, a third time, at the command  p121 of that old man, they mounted the wall, and looking forth they saw from afar, as it were, a cloud rising out of the ground. When they brought him word of it he said, "It is the help of God." In the meanwhile, as the walls were now trembling under the stroke of the rams, and were already on the point of falling into ruin, lo! Aetius and Theodoric, the king of the Goths, and Thorismund, his son, come running up to the city, turn the ranks of the enemy, cast him out, and drive him far away.'23

It was apparently on the very day fixed between the bishop and the general (the 24th of June) that this relief came.

Retreat towards the Rhine. Foiled in his attempt to take Orleans and to turn the line of the Loire, Attila, with his unwieldy host, again to retreat towards the Rhine. It is the weakness of those marauding warriors of whom he may be considered the type, that their recoil must be as rapid as their onset. A ruined and devastated country cannot be compelled to furnish the subsistence for lack of which it is itself perishing. Everywhere along the line of march are thousands of bitter wrongs waiting for revenge. And the marauders themselves to whom pillage, not patriotism or discipline, has been the one inspiring motive, and the common bond of union, when the hope  p122 of further pillage fails, are each secretly revolving the same thought, how to leave the ravaged country as soon as possible with their plunder undiminished.

Attila reaches Troyes. Doubtless Aetius and Theodoric were hovering on Attila's rear, neglecting no opportunity of casual vengeance on the stragglers from the host, and endeavouring to force him to battle at every point where, from the nature of the country, he would be compelled to fight at a disadvantage. But we hear no details of his retreat till he reached the city of Troyes, 114 Roman miles from Orleans.24 Bishop Lupus. The Bishop of Troyes was the venerable Lupus, a man who was by this time nearly 70 years of age, and who, in common with St. Germanus, had greatly distinguished himself by his opposition to the Pelagian heresy, which he had combated in Britain as well as in Gaul. Troyes was an open city, undefended by walls or arsenals, and the immense swarm of the Huns and their allies who came clamouring round it were hungering for spoil and chafed with disappointment at their failure before Orleans.25 Lupus, as we are told in the Acta Sanctorum, betook himself to his only weapon, prayer, and thereby successfully defended  p123 his city from the assaults of the enemy. The ecclesiastical biographer seems to be purposely enigmatic and obscure, but there are touches in the story which look like truth. It appears that Attila, who may have been partly swayed by the remembrance that the allies were close upon his track, and that a night of pillage would have been a bad preparation of his troops for the coming battle, was also impressed — 'fierce wild beast as he was'26 — by something which seemed not altogether of this earth in the face and demeanour of Lupus, something unlike the servile and sordid diplomatists of Byzantium who had hitherto been his chief exemplars of Christianity. In granting the bishop's prayer for the immunity of his city from pillage, he made one stipulation, that, 'for the safety of himself and his own army the holy man should go with them and see the streams of the Rhine, after which he promised that he would dismiss him in peace. And so it was; as soon as they arrived at the river he offered him a free passage back, did not hinder his return, sent guides to show him the way; and even earnestly besought, by the mouth of the interpreter Hunagaisus, that the bishop would pray for him.'

This Hunagaisus is undoubtedly the same minister with whom we have made acquaintance in the Hunnish camp under the name of Onegesius or Onégesh, and the introduction of his name here in a biography probably composed about the middle of the sixth century, affords some guarantee that we are on the track of a genuine tradition. If so, the thought that a Gaulish theologian was present in the camp of Attila during the scenes  p124 which are next to follow, gives a fresh interest to the picture, some of the details of which he may himself have described.

Battle of the Mauriac Plain, commonly called the Battle of Châlons. For in the interval between Attila's arrival before Troyes, and his dismissal of Lupus on the banks of the Rhine, occurred that great clash of armed nations which decided the question whether the West of Europe was to belong to Turanian or to Aryan nationalities. Posterity has chosen to call it the battle of Châlons, but there is good reason to think that it was fought five miles distant from Châlons-sur‑Marne, and that it would be more correctly named the battle of Troyes, or, to speak with complete accuracy, the battle of Mery-sur‑Seine.27

By what preceding arts of strategy the campaign was marked, whether Attila willingly offered battle or was so sorely harassed in his retreat that he was unable to decline it, we know not, except that we read of a skirmish between the Franks and Gepidae on the night preceding the general engagement.28 it was probably in the early days of July29 that the two great armies at length came together. What followed shall be told in the (freely rendered) words of Jordanes himself, who throws all his heart into the narration, rightly feeling that this death-grapple with the enemies of Rome was in some sense the mightiest deed that his kinsmen had achieved, and sympathising, notwithstanding  p125 his own Ostrogothic descent, with Theodoric the Visigothic antagonist of Attila, rather than with Walamir his Ostrogothic feudatory.30

After enumerating in the passage already quoted31 the various nationalities which fought under the banner of Aetius, he continues,

'All come together therefore into the Catalaunian, which are also called the Maurician plains, 100 Gallic leugae in length and 70 in breadth. Now the leuga is equivalent to one Roman mile and a half.b So then that district of the world becomes the parade ground of innumerable nationalities. Both the armies which there meet are of the mightiest; nothing is done by underhand machinations, but everything by fair and open fight. What worthy reason could be assigned for the deaths of so many thousands? What hatred had crept into so many breasts and bidden them take up arms against one another? It is surely proved that the race of man live but for the sake of Kings; since the mad onset of one man's mind could cause the slaughter of so many nations, and in a moment, by the caprice of one arrogant king, the fruit of nature's toil through so many centuries could be destroyed.

'Chapter 37

Preliminary movements. 'But before relating the actual order of the fight, it seems necessary to explain some of the preliminary movements of the war, because famous as the battle  p126 was, it was no less manifold and complicated. For Sangiban, king of the Alans, foreboding future disaster, had promised to surrender himself to Attila, and to bring into obedience to him the city of Orleans where he was then quartered. When Theodoric and Aetius had knowledge of this, they built great mounds against the city and destroyed it before the coming of Attila.32 Upon Sangiban himself they set a close watch, and stationed him with his own proper tribe in the very midst of their auxiliaries. Auguries. Attila meanwhile, struck by this occurrence, distrusting his own powers, fearing to engage in the conflict, and secretly considering the expediency of flight, which was more grievous to him than death itself, resolved to enquire as to the future from the augurs. These men, according to their wont, first pored over the bowels of some sheep, then pondered the direction of the veins in some scraped bones, and at last gave forth their augury, "Ill fortune to the Huns." They qualified it however with this crumb of comfort, "that the chief leader on the opposite side should fall in the midst of victory, and so mar the triumph of his followers." To Attila the death of Aetius [whom he supposed to be intended by the words "the chief leader of the enemy"] seemed to be worth purchasing even by the defeat of his army, yet being naturally rendered anxious by such an answer, and being a man of much address in warlike matters, he determined, with some fear and trembling, to join battle about the ninth33  p127 hour of the day [3 P.M.], so that if his affairs turned out ill, impending night might come to his aid. . . . .

'Chapter 38

Skirmish. 'Now this was the configuration of the field of battle.34 It rose [on one side] into a decided undulation which might be called a hill; and as both parties wished to get the not inconsiderable advantage of the ground which this eminence conferred, the Huns took possession of the right-hand portion of it with their troops; the Romans and Visigoths of the left with their auxiliaries.'35 Leaving for a while the fight for the possession of this ridge [let us describe the order of the main battle]. Roman line of battle. On the right wing stood Theodoric with the Visigoths, on the left Aetius with the Romans. In the middle they placed Sangiban, the leader of the Alans, — a piece of military caution to enclose him, of whose disposition they were none too confident, in a mass of loyal soldiers. For the man in the way of whose flight you have interposed a sufficient obstacle, easily accepts the necessity of fighting.

Hunnish line of battle. 'The line of the Huns was drawn up on a different principle, for in their centre stood Attila with all his bravest warriors. In this arrangement the king consulted his own personal safety, hoping that by taking his place in the very heart and strength of his own people he at least should be delivered from the impending danger. Upon the wings of his army hovered  p128 the many nations and tribes whom he had subjected to his dominion. Preeminent among them was the host of the Ostrogoths, led by the three brothers, Walamir, Theodemir, and Widemir, men of nobler birth than the king himself whom they then obeyed, since the mighty line of the Amals was represented by them. There too, at the head of the countless warriors of the Gepidae, was their king Ardaric, that man of valour and of fame who for his extraordinary fidelity towards Attila was admitted into his inmost counsels. For Attila, who had well weighed his sagacious character, loved him and Walamir the Ostrogoth, above all his other subject princes; Walamir, the safe keeper of a secret, the pleasant in speech, the ignorant of guile, and Ardaric, who, as we have said, was illustrious both by his loyalty and his wise advice. To these two nations Attila believed, not undeservedly, that he might safely entrust the battle against their Visigothic kindred. As for all the rest, the ruck of kings — if I may call them so — and the leaders of diverse nationalities, these, like subaltern officers, watched each nod of Attila; and, when a look of his eye summoned them, in fear and trembling they would gather round him waiting in submissive silence to receive his commands, or at any rate' (i.e. if their subservience was less abject) 'they would carry out whatever he ordered.36 But Attila alone, king of all the kings, was over all in command, and had the care of all upon his shoulders.

 p129  'As I before said, the fight began with a struggle for the possession of some rising ground. Attila directed his troops to occupy the summit of the hill, but was anticipated by Thorismund and Aetius, who [from the other side] struggled up to the highest point, and then, having the advantage of the hill in their favour, easily threw into confusion the advancing Huns.

'Chapter 39

Attila's speech to his troops. 'Then Attila, seeing his army somewhat disturbed by this skirmish, thought the time a suitable one for confirming their courage by an address.

'Speech of Attila

' "After your victories over so many nations, after a whole world subdued, if ye only stand fast this day, I should have deemed it a fond thing to whet your spirits with words, as though ye were yet ignorant of your business. Let a new general or an inexperienced army try that method. It were beneath my dignity to utter, and beyond your obligation to listen to, any of the commonplaces of war. For what other occupation are you practised in, if not in fighting? And to the strong man what is sweeter, than with his own right hand to seek for his revenge? It is one of the greatest boons which nature gives us to glut our souls with vengeance. Let us therefore go forward with cheerfulness to attack the enemy, since they who strike the blow have ever the boldest hearts. You who are united under my sway — I tell you to despise these jarring nationalities, leagued together for the momentary purpose of self-defence by an alliance which is in itself an index of their terror.  p130 Lo! ere they have yet felt our onset, they are carried to and fro by their fear; they look out for the rising ground, they are exciting themselves over the occupation of every little hillock, and bewailing too late their own rashness; they are clamouring for ramparts in these open plains.37 Known to you right well are the flimsy arms and weak frames of the Roman soldiers; I will not say at the first wound, at the first speck of dust on their armour they lose heart. While they are solemnly forming their battle array and locking their shields together into the testudo, do you rush into the conflict with that surpassing courage which it is your wont to show, and, despising the Roman line, charge at the Alans, press heavily on the Visigoths. It is there that we must look for speedy victory, for they are the key of the position. Cut the sinews and the limbs will be at once relaxed; nor can the body stand if you have taken away its bones.

' "O ye Huns, raise your hearts battle-high and let your wonted fury swell your veins. Now put forth all your cunning; now use all your arms. Let him who is wounded seek still for at least one enemy's death; let him who is unhurt revel in the slaughter of the foe. Him who is fated to conquer, no dart will touch; him who is doomed to die, fate will find in the midst of slothful peace. And, last of all, why should Fortune have set her mark upon the Huns as conquerors of so many nations, unless she was preparing them for the delights of this battle too? Who  p131 opened the way across the pool of Maeotis,38 for so many centuries an impenetrable secret from our ancestors?c Who made armed men bow before them while they were still unarmed? Yonder motley host will never endure to look upon the faces of the Huns. The event cannot mock my hopes; this, this is the field of victory which so many previous successes have avouched us of. I shall be the first to hurl my weapon against the enemy, and if any one can linger inactive when Attila fights, he is a thing without a soul, and ought to be buried out of hand."39

'Their hearts were warmed at these words, and all rushed headlong into the fray.

'Chapter 40

'The position of their affairs was not without its suggestions of fear, but the presence of their king removed all tendency to delay even from the most hesitating.

The Battle commenced. Hand to hand the two armies were soon engaged. It was a battle, — ruthless, manifold, immense, obstinate, — such as antiquity in all its stories of similar encounters has nought parallel to, such as, if a man failed to see, no other marvel that he might behold in the course of his life would compensate for the omission.40 For if we may believe the report of our elders, a brook which was gliding down between low banks through the aforesaid plain, receiving the blood which gushed from  p132 thousands of wounds, was, not by showers of rain, but by that ghastly intermingling, swollen from a brook into a torrent. And those whom parching thirst, the consequence of their wounds, drove to its banks, found that murder was mixed with the draught. A miserable fate for them who drank of the gore which their own wounds poured forth.

Death of Theodoric. 'Here the King Theodoric, while he was galloping backwards and forwards, cheering on his army, was thrown from his horse, and being trampled under the feet of his own party, thus ended his life in a ripe old age. Others however assert that he was smitten by a javelin from the hand of Andages, of the nation of the Ostrogoths who were then following the lead of Attila. This was the event which Attila's soothsayers had foretold to him in their divinations, though he understood them to speak of Aetius.

Visigothic onset before which Attila gives way. 'Then the Visigoths, splitting off from the Alans, rushed upon the squadrons of the Huns, and had well-nigh slaughtered Attila himself, but he prudently fled, and straightway enclosed himself and his followers within the defences of his camp, upon which he had placed the waggons by way of rampart. It seemed a frail bulwark to be sure, still they clung to it as their last chance of life; and yet these were the men whose desperate onset a little while ago stone walls could not stand against. Meanwhile Thorismund, the son of King Theodoric, the same who had taken part with Aetius in the occupation of the hill, and in driving down the enemy from that higher ground, lost his way in the blind night, and thinking that he was rejoining his own men on their line of march, came unawares upon the waggons of the enemy. Here, while he was  p133 fighting bravely, his horse was killed under him by a wound in the head. He fell to the ground, but was rescued by the care of his people, and persuaded to desist from the unequal encounter. Aetius in the same way was separated from his host in the confusion of the night, and went wandering through the midst of the enemy,41 trembling lest some untoward event should have occurred to the Goths, and ever asking the way, till at length he arrived at the camp of his allies, and passed the remainder of the night under the shelter of their shields.

Morning after the fight. 'Next morning when day dawned, and the allied generals beheld the vast plains covered with corpses, but saw that the Huns did not venture to sally forth, they concluded that the victory was theirs. They knew perfectly well that it could have been no common slaughter which had compelled Attila to fly in confusion from the battle-field; and yet he did not act like one in abject prostration, but clashed his arms, sounded his trumpets, and continually threatened a fresh attack. As a lion, close pressed by the hunters, ramps up and down before the entrance to his cave, and neither dares to make a spring, nor yet ceases to frighten all the neighbourhood with his roarings, so did that most warlike king, though hemmed in, trouble his conquerors. The Goths and Romans accordingly called a council of war and deliberated what was to be done with their worsted foe. As he had no store of provisions, and as he had so posted his archers within the boundaries of his camp as to rain a shower of missiles on an advancing assailant, they decided not to attempt a  p134 storm, but to weary him out by a blockade. It is said however that seeing the desperate condition of his affairs, the aforesaid King, high-minded still in the supreme crisis of his fate, had constructed a funeral pyre of horses' saddles, determined, if the enemy should break into his camp, to hurl himself headlong into the flames, that none should boast himself and say, "I have wounded Attila," nor that the lord of so many nations should fall alive into the hands of his enemies.

'Chapter 41

Burial of Theodoric. 'During the delays of this blockade the Visigoths were looking for their old king, and marvelling at his absence from the scene of victory. After a long search they found him, as is wont to be the case with brave men, lying there where the bodies were thickest; and singing their songs in his honour, they bore away his corpse from the gaze of the enemy. Then should you have seen the Gothic companies lifting up their untuned voices in a wild strain of lamentation, and, while the battle still raged around them, giving all heed to the exact observance of the rites of burial. Tears were shed, but they were the tears which are rightly paid to brave men dead. The death had been on our [the Gothic] side, but the Hun himself bore witness that it had been a glorious one, and even Attila's pride might bow when he saw the corpse of such a king borne out to burial with all his kingly ornaments about him.42

 p135  Elevation of Thorismund. 'The Goths, while still paying the last honours to Theodoric, by the clash of their weapons hailed the majesty of a new king, and the brave and glorious Thorismund, decked with that title, followed the funeral of his dearly-loved father as became a son. Then, when that was finished, grief for the loss which he had sustained, and the impulse of his own fiery valour, urged him to avenge the death of his father upon the Hunnish host. First, however, he consulted Aetius the patrician, as the senior general and a man of ripened experience, what step he would advise to be next taken. He, fearing lest if the Huns were destroyed root and branch, the Roman Empire might be still more hardly pressed by the Goths, earnestly tendered this advice, "that he should return to his own capital and grasp the kingdom which his father had left; lest otherwise his brothers should seize on his father's treasures, and so make the realm of the Visigoths their own, whereupon he would have to commence a laborious campaign, and one in which victory would be a wretched business, since it would be over his own flesh and blood."

Return of Thorismund to Toulouse. 'Thorismund received this advice as the best thing for his own interest, without perceiving the duplicity which lurked beneath it, and leaving the Huns, he returned to his own district in Gaul. So does human frailty, if it becomes entangled in suspicion, often lose irretrievably the opportunity of achieving great results.43

Numbers of the slain. 'In this most famous battle, which was fought between the bravest nations in the world, it is reported  p136 that 162,00044 men were slain on both sides, not including 15,000 of Gepidae and Franks, who, falling foul of one another the night before the battle, perished by mutually inflicted wounds, the Franks fighting on the side of the Romans, the Gepidae on that of the Huns.

Unexpected deliverance of Attila. 'When Attila learned the departure of the Goths, the event was so unexpected45 that he surmised it to be a stratagem of the enemy, and kept his troops within the camp for some time longer. But when he found that the absence of the enemy was followed by a long time of silence, his mind again rose with the hope of victory, future joys unfolded themselves before him, and the courage of this mighty king returned again to its old level. Meanwhile Thorismund, who had been clothed with the regal majesty on the Catalaunian plains on the very place where his father had fallen, entered Toulouse, and here, notwithstanding that his brothers had a strong party among the chiefs, he so prudently managed the commencement of his reign, that no dispute was raised as to the succession.'

Why was the victory not followed up? So far Jordanes. The battle then was lost but not won: lost as far as Attila's invasion of Gaul was concerned, but not won for the Roman Empire by the destruction of its most dreaded foe. In reading the story of Attila's escape from Aetius, one is naturally reminded of Alaric's escape from Stilicho, forty-eight years before, and of the imputations then thrown out46  p137 as to the connivance of the Roman general. And the same remark which was made then may be to some extent applicable now. With troops of such uncertain temper, and, in this case, with such imperfect cohesion as the greater part of the Roman auxiliaries showed, it might be dangerous to animate the vast host of Attila with the irresistible courage of despair. In all ages, from Sphacteria to Saratoga, and from Saratoga to Sedan, the final operation of compelling the surrender of a beaten army, the landing, so to speak, of the fisherman's prize, has been an operation requiring some nicety of generalship and a pretty high degree of confidence in the discipline of the victorious troops. Even the clash of arms and the blast of trumpets in the camp of the Huns — the lashing the lions' tail, and the deep thunder of his roar — may have struck some terror into the hearts of his hunters. But after all, Jordanes is probably not very wide of the mark when he imputes both to Aetius and to Thorismund a want of whole-heartedness in securing the fruits of victory.

Reasons which influenced Aetius. Aetius had not, most probably, such accurately wrought‑out views of the balance of power as the historian imputes to him, nor such an over-mastering dread of Gothic bravery as their countryman supposed. But, in the very outset of his career, his life had been passed alternately in the Hunnish camp and the Roman palace; he had been 'mingled among the heathen and learned their works.' He had used the help of his barbarian friends in the marshes of Ravenna and under the walls of Toulouse. Reasons of sentiment as well as of policy may have made him reluctant to aid in obliterating the very name of the Huns from the earth.  p138 And above all, as the events of the next few years showed, he himself was safe only so long as he was indispensable. There was a dark and rotten-hearted Augustus skulking in the palace at Ravenna, who endured the ascendancy of Aetius only because he trembled at the name of Attila.

Reasons which influenced Thorismund. On the Gothic side there were also good reasons for not pushing the victory too far. It scarcely needed the whisper of the Roman general to remind Thorismund how uncertain was his succession to the royalty of his father. The kingly office among the Visigoths became, in days subsequent to these, a purely elective dignity. If at this time some notion of hereditary right, or at least of hereditary preference, hovered round the family of the dead king, it was by no means clear that one son alone must succeed, nor that son the eldest. All was still vague and indeterminate in reference to these barbaric sovereignties. In point of fact Thorismund, though he now succeeded to the throne, 453 was, only two years later, deprived of crown and life by his brother Theodoric II, who, after a peaceful and prosperous reign, 466 succumbed in like fashion to the fratricidal hand of his successor Euric. Every motive therefore of individual ambition and far‑seeing patriotism concurred in recommending to Thorismund and his chiefs a speedy return to Toulouse, that the same army which brought the tidings of the death of Theodoric might also announce the election of his successor.

Recent discovery of the grave of a Gothic chief near the site of the battle. This is all that history can say with unhesitating voice concerning the death of the Visigothic king and the accession of his son on the Mauriac plain. Archaeology, however, offers a contribution to our knowledge, which, if not raised beyond the reach of all contradiction,  p139 is at least curious and interesting. In 1842, a labourer digging for gravel near the little village of Pouan, on the south bank of the Aube, and about ten miles from Mery-sur‑Seine, found at a depth of nearly a yard below the surface 'some human bones, two rusted blades, and several jewels and golden ornaments of considerable weight.' Examined more in detail, the most interesting objects in this find appeared to be

I. A two‑edged sword, 2 feet 8 inches long, and 3 inches broad. The point is protected by a little oblong hoop of iron, to prevent it from penetrating into the scabbard, which was probably of wood, and which of course has disappeared.

II. A cutlass, about 22 inches long, and 1¼ inch broad. Both of these two weapons have the hilts richly adorned with gold, and at the top a sort of lattice-work of gold and purple glass.

III. A golden necklace, serpent-shaped, weighing three ounces.

IV. A golden armlet, five ounces in weight, with the ends left open, so as to give it elasticity in fitting on to the forearm.

V. Two golden clasps (fibulae) with the same lattice-work of gold and purple glass which is found on the hilts of the swords.

VI. A golden signet-ring, an ounce-and‑a‑half in weight, with the word HEVA in Roman capitals on the flat surface.

Some gold buckles and other ornaments, one of which has an inlay of garnets instead of purple glass, complete the treasure-trove, which, having been eventually purchased by the Emperor Napoleon III, was presented by him to the museum of the city of Troyes.

 p140  The question arises, 'Can we form any probable conjecture whose grave is this in which we find a skeleton surrounded with articles of adornment, worth even now perhaps £100 in intrinsic value, and pointing by the style of their workmanship towards the fifth or sixth century, as the time of their fashioning, and towards a Gothic or Frankish artificer as their maker?'

Is this the tomb of Theodoric? M. Peigné Delacourt, to whom we are indebted for these details,47 answers unhesitatingly, 'We can. It is probably the tomb of Theodoric I, king of the Visigoths.' But how reconcile such a theory with the narrative of Jordanes? To accomplish this, M. Delacourt imagines a few unrecorded details, which of course no one is bound to accept, but which certainly seem to bring us a little nearer to that tremendous battle-field, dim with the haze of fourteen centuries. 'When the servants of Theodoric,' so his imagined story runs, 'found that their king was wounded to death, they dragged him a little aside from the "vast and manifold and ruthless conflict." They dug a shallow trench in the gravelly soil, and there they laid the bruised and trampled body of the snowy-bearded warrior. His golden-hilted sword was still by his side, his cutlass hung from the baldric, the purple robe of his royalty was fastened over his shoulders by the golden fibula. Round his neck was the golden torque, his forearm was clasped by the unclosed bracelet, on his finger was the ring of gold bearing  p141 the mysterious name Heva, perhaps a remembrance of his dead wife, perhaps48 a symbol of his kingship. All these things were buried with him. The only object of his henchmen was to find a temporary resting-place for their lord. When the tide of battle should have rolled away from that spot, they would come again and disinter him and carry him southwards, to be laid with proper pomp in Gothic Toulouse by the Garonne. Such was their thought, but Fortune, in making void their counsel, worked a strange reprisal for the barbarity practised in the burial of Alaric. As his tomb was dug by the unwilling hands of captives, whose instant death insured their secrecy, so the few faithful friends of Theodoric were all slain in the terrible turmoil of war which raged round the spot where he had fallen, and thus his grave remained unmarked for 1391 years. The battle was won, and the cry was raised, "Where is the body of the king?" They found it at last, says Jordanes, lying under a heap of dead. Who knows if they really did find it? In those hot July days it might not be an easy task to identify a body gashed with wounds and lying under a pile of slain. Thorismund's interest was obviously to get his father's funeral and his own elevation to the sovereignty accomplished as speedily as possible. Perhaps he did not insist too punctiliously on the recovery of the right corpse out of all that vast slaughter-house, the one strangely missing body out of all those acres upon acres of dead Romans, Goths, and Huns.'

 p142  And so, M. Delacourt suggests, the body round which the Visigothic warriors circled, singing their wild chorus of lamentation, may not have been that of Theodoric at all. He all the while lay in that shallow trench in the gravel‑bed at Pouan, not to be disturbed until Jacques Bonhomme, in blouse and sabots, came with his pick-axe in 1842 to break the repose of centuries. The story is well imagined, and certainly cannot be pronounced impossible. What militates most against it is that Jordanes says that the body was borne out to burial with its ornaments.49 In its favour is a certain peculiar silence of his concerning the actual interment of the corpse. He may have felt that it was improbable that the Goths should have left their beloved chieftain lying there in alien territory, in the cold Catalaunian plains, and yet no tradition authorised him to say that they took him back to the sepulchre of his predecessors at Toulouse, a course which Thorismund may have had sufficient reasons for emphatically prohibiting.

Finally, whether this body and these ornaments be Theodoric's, or belong to one of the 'turba regum,' who swarmed around the car of Attila; in either case their discovery, coupled as it appears to be with that of numerous other human remains in the not distant village of Martroy, seems to add great probability to the theory that here and not at Châlons (two days' march to the northward) was fought the great battle which decided that Europe was to belong to the German and the Roman, not to the Tartar race.

The Author's Notes:

1 The story rests only on the authority of the Alexandrian Chronicle and John Malalas. The former was composed during the reign of Heraclius, about 630; the date of the latter historian is uncertain, not earlier, however, than 600, and not later than 900.

2 Meroveus is the so‑called grandson of Pharamond and grandfather of Clovis; but no names of the Frankish kings before Childeric, father of Clovis, are now accepted as thoroughly historical. The silence of Gregory of Tours as to some of these earlier kings and the hesitating way in which he speaks of others seem almost conclusive against the pretension of the medieval genealogists to trace their names and pedigree. (See Sismondi, Hist. des Français, I.177.)

3 The authorities quoted by Ducange (Glossarium, s.v. Bagaudae), imply that the name was of Celtic origin and meant 'robbers' or 'native oppressors.' He suggests a derivation from Bagat, which, he says, is the Welsh for a mob of men, and the Breton for a flock or herd. The monastery of Fossat, four miles from Paris, was called in the time of Charles le Chauve, Castrum Bagaudarum. Salvian (De Gubernatione Dei, V.6) draws a striking picture of the judicial and fiscal iniquities which had driven men into the hands of the Bacaudae (as he spells the word), 'De Bacaudis nunc mihi sermo est: qui per malos judices et cruentos spoliati, afflicti, necati, postquam jus Romanae libertatis amiserant, etiam honorem Romani nominis perdiderunt. Et imputatur his infelicitas sua? Imputamus his nomen calamitatis suae? Imputamus nomen, quod ipsi fecimus? Et vocamus rebelles? Vocamus perditos, quos esse compulimus criminosos? Quibus enim aliis rebus Bacaudae facti sunt, nisi iniquitatibus nostris, nisi improbitatibus judicum, nisi eorum proscrip­tionibus, et rapinis, qui exactionis publicae nomen in questus proprii emolumenta verterunt et indictiones tributarias praedas suas esse fecerunt.' Compare also the following interesting notices in 'Tiro's' Chronicle: 435, 'Gallia ulterior Tibatonem principem rebellionis secuta, a Romanâ societate discessit, a quo tracto initio omnia paene Galliarum servitia in Bagaudam conspiravere.' 437, 'Capto Tibatone et caeteris seditionis partim principibus vinctis, partim necatis, Bagaudarum commotio conquiescit.'

4 'Eudoxius arte medicus, pravi sed exercitati ingenii, in Bagauda id temporis mota delatus, ad Chunnos confugit' (Chronicle of 'Tiro,' 448).

5 The lines of Apollinaris Sidonius which enumerate the nations at Attila's disposal are these —

'Subito cum rupta tumultu

Barbaries totas in te transfuderat arctos,

Gallia; pugnacem Rugum comitante Gelono

Gepida trux sequitur; Scyrum Burgundio cogit,

Chunus, Bellonotus, Neurus, Basterna, Toringus,

Bructerus, ulvosâ quem vel Nicer abluit undâ

Prorumpit Francus.' — (Panegyric of Avitus, 319‑325.)

It is singular that he makes no mention of the Ostrogoths. 'Bellonotus' seems to be the name of some tribe not yet identified. The Geloni are probably only inserted because their name fits in nicely into a hexameter and has a classical ring about it, as having been used by Horace.

Thayer's Note: Rather than hunt for a lost tribe, I'd prefer to read Chunus bello notus = "the Hun notable in warfare".

6 So Sidonius —

'Cecidit cito secta bipenni

Hercynia in lintres, et Rhenum texuit alno.

(Panegyric of Avitus, 325‑6.)

7 From the seven chief cities comprised therein, which were — taking them from north to south — Toulouse (the Visigothic capital), Agen, Bordeaux, Perigueux, Angoulême, Saintes, and Poitiers.

8 A later division was effected, which gave the Burgundians two‑thirds of the arable land; but the primary apportionment seems to have been in equal shares (see Binding's Burgundisch-Romanische Königreich, I p28).

9 'Tiro' says (440), 'Deserta Valentinae urbis rura Alanis, quibus Sambida praeerat partienda traduntur' [ab Aetio]. (442) 'Alani, quibus terrae Galliae ulterioris cum incolis dividendae a Patritio Aetio traditae fuerant, resistentes armis subigunt, et expulsis dominis terrae, possessionem vi adipiscuntur.'

10 Jordanes (cap. 36) thus enumerates the nations who fought against Attila: 'Hic enim adfuere auxiliares Franci, Sarmatae, Armoritiani, Litiani, Burgundiones, Saxones, Riparioli, Ibriones aliaequaeº nonnullae Celticae vel (= et) Germanicae nationes.' The Sarmatae may perhaps stand for the Alani (or the Taifalae whom Thierry speaks of as settled at Poitiers). The Litiani are identified both by Böcking (Notitia, p1057) and by Thierry (Hist. d'Attila, I.169) with the Laeti, military colonists from among various Teutonic nations, many of whom had been settled in Gaul since the time of Diocletian. The Riparioli are probably the Ripuarian Franks. The Ibriones are declared by Thierry to be 'un petit peuple des Alpes, les Brenes ou Brennes, qu'Aetius avait ralliés pendant son voyage et amenés en Gaule;' but he does not quote his authority for this identification.

11 'Homo subtilis antequam bella gereret, arte pugnabat' (Jordanes, cap. 36).

12 'Hostem se exhibet naturae cunctorum.'

13 Sidonius, Panegyric of Avitus, 329‑351.

14 Gregory of Tours, II.5.

15 II.5, 6.

16 By Thierry and Herbert.

17 πολίχνη, Zosimus, Julian.

18 'Et est a sçavoir que nulle ville / forteresse: ou cite tant forte q̃lle fust ne resistoit a ce peuple / tant estoit cruel et maliuolent.

'Dessous celluy tirant Attille furẽt destruictes presque toutes les citez de Gaulle et de Germanie,' II.18.

19 'Et tant de villes citez et forteresses / que qui les vouldroit toutes mectre en escript il pourroit trop ennuyer les lisants.' Ib. 19.

20 'En celluy an / comme dit Sigibert / furẽt martirisez les xi mil vierges en la cité de Coulogne.'

21 Apollinaris Sidonius, Panegyric of Avitus, 328‑256. As the whole object of this poem is to pour laudation on the head of Avitus, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the backwardness of the Visigoths has been exaggerated or even invented in order to enhance his glory. He may have simply borne to the camp of Theodoric a message from Aetius arranging the time and place of meeting for the two armies.

22 'Famulas in proelia concitat iras.'

23 This is the account of the siege of Orleans given by Gregory of Tours about a century and a half after the event (II.7). The story given in the life of St. Anianus in the Acta Sanctorum differs in some particulars from this. Nothing is said of the three visits to the walls or the far‑off cloud of dust; but the prayers of the saint bring a four‑days' storm of rain, which greatly hinders the work of the besiegers. They have, however, made a practicable breach and are actually within the city, when the relieving army appears. Gregory's word 'ejiciunt' (cast them out of the city) gives some probability to this part of the narrative.

24 The distances and the stations on the Roman road between Metz and Orleans are quoted by Thierry (Hist. d'Attila, I.162). He makes five halting-places between Orleans and Troyes (Aureliani and Tricasses).

25 It is only by conjecture that the following incident is assigned to the time of Attila's retreat. The word of the Acta Sanctorum would be consistent with the interpretation that the Huns were still moving on into Gaul. But the expression 'Rheni etiam fluenta visurum,' looks as if Attila's face was now set Rhinewards. The first Life given by the Bollandists is evidently of far greater value than the second: in fact, this latter is worthless. It is curious to observe that it contains the cant phrase 'flagellum Dei,' which is absent from the other record.

26 'At ille feralis Attila et immitis' (Bollandist Acta Sanctorum, July 29).

27 In contemporary language 'the battle of the Mauriac Plain.'

28 See Jordanes, cap. 41, quoted below.

29 I venture here to dissent from a conclusion arrived at in the Fasti Romani (I.642). Clinton, on the authority of Isidore of Seville, fixes the date of the battle after Sept. 27th. This seems contrary to the whole tenour of the history and to the order of events described in Idatius, from whom Isidore has copied.

30 Mommsen (p. xxxvi of the Introduction to his Jordanes), while highly praising this part of the history, thinks it is probably taken over straight from Priscus. But how then account for the Gothic colour of the narrative? Cassiodorus seems to me a more likely source.

31 See note on p111.

32 If the text is not corrupt here, Jordanes must have received some very distorted account of the events of the siege of Orleans.

33 This note of time suits July better than October. Even for July, the interval between three o'clock and sunset seems full short for such a battle 'multiplex et immane.'

34 'Erat autem positio loci declivi tumore, in modum collis excrescens.'

35 Perhaps Jordanes means that the right wing of the Hunnish army and the left wing of the confederates both endeavoured to occupy this ground. 'Dextram partem Hunni cum suis, sinistram Romani et Vesegothae cum auxiliariis occuparunt.'

36 'Reliqua autem, si dici fas est, turba regum, diversarumque nationum ductores, ac si satellites, nutibus Attilae attendebant, et ubi oculo annuisset, absque aliquâ murmuratione cum timore et tremore unusquisque adstabat, aut certe quod jussus fuerat exsequebatur.'

37 'Et serâ poenitudine in campis munitiones efflagitant.' An incidental argument against the theory that the so‑called 'Camp of Attila' (which would be precisely 'in campis munitio') was occupied by his troops.

38 The sea of Azof.

39 'Si quis potuerit Attila pugnante otio ferre, sepultus est.'

40 A free translation of 'ut nihil esset quod in vitâ suâ conspicere potuisset egregius qui hujus miraculi privaretur aspectu.' Egregius is evidently the neuter comparative.

41 Having from his youth been accustomed to intercourse with the Huns, he probably spoke their language like a native.

42 A conjectural expansion of 'Nostra mors erat, sed Hunno teste gloriosa, unde hostium putaretur inclinata fore superbia, quando tanti regis efferre cadaver cum suis insignibus inspiciebant.'


'And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought.'

44 Idatius puts the number of slain at 300,000. Of course all estimates of the slain on such a battle-field are of the vaguest and most untrustworthy kind.

45 Doubtful translation.

46 By Orosius, VII.37. 'Taceo de Alarico cum Gothis suis saepe victo, saepe concluso, semperque dimisso.'

47 See 'Recherches sur le lieu de la Bataille d'Attila en 451 par Peigné-Delacourt, Membre correspondant de la Société Impériale des Antiquaires de France,' &c., Paris, 1860, with Supplement published at Troyes, 1866. This monograph is sumptuously illustrated with chromo-lithographic pictures of the find itself and other ornaments found in France and Spain, which, in the author's opinion, point to a similarity of date or origin.

48 Heva may possibly mena 'wife' or 'house.' But it seems more probable that it is a proper name. The termination a is frequent in Gothic names; more so, however, we must admit in those of men than of women.

49 'Cum suis insignibus.'

Thayer's Notes:

a Surely Nijmegen?

b The equivalence should not be taken as precise, and the actual figure was something more like 1.65 Roman miles. See my note to Ammian XVI.12.7, and the further links there.

c The passage of the Maeotian shallows, viewed as miraculous by the Huns, is described by Jordanes, chapter 24; Hodgkin provides a translation in I.243 f.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 17 Jun 20