The authentic history of the Huns in Europe practically begins about the year A.D. 372, when under a leader named Balamir they began a westward movement from their settlements in the steppes lying to the north of the Caspian. After crushing, or compelling the alliance of, various nations unknown to fame, they at length reached the Alani, a powerful nation which had its seat between the Volga and the Don; these also, after a struggle, they defeated and finally enlisted in their service. They then proceeded, in 374, to invade the empire of the Ostrogoths, ruled over by the aged Ermanaric, or Hermanric, who died while the critical attack was still impending. Under his son Hunimund a section of his subjects promptly made a humiliating peace; under Withemir, however, who succeeded him in the larger part of his dominions, an armed resistance was organized; but it resulted only in repeated defeat, and finally in the death of the king. The representatives of his son Witheric put an end to the conflict by accepting the condition of vassalage. Balamir now directed his victorious arms still farther westward against that portion of the Visigothic nation which acknowledged the authority of Athanaric. The latter entrenched himself on the frontier which had separated him from the Ostrogoths, behind the "Greutungrampart" and the Dniester; but he was surprised by the enemy, who forded the river in the night, fell suddenly upon his camp, and compelled him to abandon his position. Athanaric next attempted to establish himself in the territory between the Pruth and the Danube, and with this object set about heightening the old Roman wall which Trajan had erected in north-eastern Dacia; before his fortifications, however, were complete, the Huns were again upon him, and without a battle he was forced to retreat to the Danube. The remainder of the Visigoths, under Alavivus and Fritigern, now began to seek, and ultimately were successful in obtaining, the permission of the emperor Valens to settle in Thrace; Athanaric meanwhile took refuge in Transylvania, thus abandoning the field without any serious struggle to the irresistible Huns. For more than fifty years the Roman world was undisturbed by any aggressive act on the part of the new invaders, who contented themselves with over-powering various tribes which lived to the north of the Danube. In some instances, in fact, the Huns lent their aid to the Romans against third parties; thus in 404-405 certain Hunnic tribes, under a chief or king named Uldin, assisted Honorius in the struggle with Radagaisus and his Ostrogoths, and took a prominent part in the decisive battle fought in the neighborhood of Florence. Once indeed, in 409, they are said to have crossed the Danube and invaded Bulgaria under perhaps the same chief, but extensive desertions soon compelled a retreat.
About the year 432 a Hunnic king, Ruas or Rugulas, made himself of such importance that he received from Theodosius II. an annual stipend or tribute of 350 pounds of gold, along with the rank of Roman general. Quarrels soon arose, partly out of the circumstance that the Romans had sought to make alliances with certain Danubian tribes which Ruas chose to regard as properly subject to himself, partly also because some of the undoubted subjects of the Hun had found refuge on Roman territory; and Theodosius, in reply to an indignant and insulting message which he had received about this cause of dispute, was preparing to send off a special embassy when tidings arrived that Ruas was dead and that he had been succeeded in his kingdom by Attila and Bleda, the two sons of his brother Mundzuk. Shortly afterwards the treaty of Margus, where both sides negotiated on horseback, was ratified. By its stipulations the yearly stipendium or tribute payable to Attila by the Romans was doubled; the fugitives were to be surrendered, or a fine of £8 to be paid for each of those who should be missing; free markets, open to Hun and Roman alike, were to be instituted; and any tribe with which Attila might be at any time at war was thereby to be held as excluded from alliance with Rome. For eight years afterwards there was peace so far as the Romans were concerned; and it was probably during this period that the Huns proceeded to the extensive conquests to which the contemporary historian Priscus so vaguely alludes in the words: "He has made the whole of Scythia his own, he has laid the Roman empire under tribute, and he thinks of renewing his attacks upon Persia. The road to that eastern kingdom is not untrodden by the Huns; already they have marched fifteen days from a certain lake, and have ravaged Media." They also appear before the end of this interval to have pushed westward as far as to the Rhone, and to have come into conflict with the Burgundians. Overt acts of hostility, however, occurred against the Eastern empire when the town of Margus was seized and sacked, and against the Western when Sirmium was invested and taken.
In 445 Bleda died, and two years afterwards Attila, now sole ruler, undertook one of his most important expeditions against the Eastern empire; on this occasion he pushed southwards as far as Thermopylae, Gallipoli and the walls of Constantinople; peace was cheaply purchased by tripling the yearly tribute and by the payment of a heavy indemnity. In 448 again occurred various diplomatic negotiations, and especially the embassy of Maximinus, of which many curious details have been recorded by Priscus his companion. Then followed, in 451, that westward movement across the Rhine which was only arrested at last, with terrible slaughter, on the Catalaunian plains. The following year, that of the Italian campaign, was marked by such events as the sack of Aquileia, the destruction of the cities of Venetia, and finally, on the banks of the Mincio, that historical interview with Pope Leo I. which resulted in the return of Attila to Pannonia, where in 453 he died. Almost immediately afterwards the empire he had amassed rather than consolidated fell to pieces. His too numerous sons began to quarrel about their inheritance, while Ardaric, the king of the Gepidae, was placing himself at the head of a general revolt of the dependent nations. The inevitable struggle came to a crisis near the river Netad in Pannonia, in a battle in which 30,000 of the Huns and their confederates, including Ellak, Attila's eldest son, were slain. The nation, thus broken, rapidly dispersed, exactly as the White Huns did after a similar defeat about a hundred years later. One horde settled under Roman protection in Little Scythia, others in Dacia Ripensis or on the southern borders of Pannonia. Many, however, appear to have returned to what is now South Russia, and may perhaps have taken part in the ethnical combinations which produced the Bulgarians.
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