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What made Attila the Hun a great leader

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I chose to research Attila the Hun because of his extraordinary achievements. He was able to hold the Eastern and Western Roman Empires at his mercy, conquer most of central Europe, and unite the Huns. So for my assignment I decided to research the focus question, ‘What made Attila the Hun a great leader?’ and see how he was able to accomplish such feats. I discuss in my assignment, the ten features of Attila that I thought made him great.

Attila the Hun was an aggressive and ambitious general. When he was still a young man, his uncle died, leaving the throne to be shared between Attila and his brother, Bleda. But that wasn’t good enough for the determined Attila. He wanted to be the sole ruler of the Huns so badly that he killed his own brother. Attila took his chances and never let anyone rival his authority. Attila was power-hungry; he was determined to succeed under any circumstances, fair or unfair.

Attila always appeared as the one in charge. His walk was that of prowess, and made aware of his dominance over the rest of the Huns. In battle he was easily distinguished between his men. Attila had the habit of fiercely rolling his eyes, and watching on with joy to see the terror that it inspired. To add to his appearance, Attila rode a beautiful black horse, and carried at his side the sword of Tiew, the god of war. The sword of Tiew, as legend goes was found by a farmer, who then dug it out of the ground and gave it to King Attila. When Attila received the sword he declared, “I shall never be defeated in battle, as long as I fight with the sword of Tiew.”


Attila refused to accept things done anyway but his way. For example, when Attila had conquered the barbaric tribes in northern Europe, a lot of his men wanted to launch an attack on the Western Roman Empire. But Attila didn’t buckle under pressure; he stuck to his plan of sweeping across the east of Europe and attacking the Eastern Roman Empire. Other things such as the raiding of towns and how a soldier presents himself in battle were all done Attila’s way.


Attila did not put up with disrespect. He killed people at the first sign of disobedience, thereby setting the standard of respect between him and his people. Attila didn’t allow uncontrolled celebration, and only let his men loot towns when done for the good of the Hunnish empire, and not for personal gain.

A lot of Attila’s army was made up of people he had conquered. So the majority of them would share a common hatred of the Huns. The new recruits personal ambitions were of revenge, which was a danger to the Huns. But after some time most people lose their ambitions and become team players. The remaining disloyal soldiers were disposed and made example of by Attila; he had no room for treachery in his ranks.


Attila’s worst enemies called him the “Scourge of God” and the “Fear of the World.” So naturally, he tried to live up to these names. He used his savage, barbaric nature to be the fear of all cultures in Europe at the time. No barbarian chief could look into his eyes without flinching. To add to the reputation was the Huns habit of eating the half-raw flesh of any animal, and the harsh cries that they filled the air with when they were in battle.

The three major people of the time were the Visigoths, Western Romans and Eastern Romans. So Attila set up friendly relations between each one of them. He always made it seem friendly between the three different people; never telling them more than they needed to know. This made them a sitting target, so when the time was right, Attila would invade or demand annual payments. He always started off friendly, and never made enemies unless there was something to gain from it.

When Attila was a young man, he had the opportunity to visit Rome. There he gained knowledge about Roman innovations, which he brought back to the Huns. From that point onwards, Attila began encouraging learning and innovation. He did this by creating ‘building’ competitions among the people. Attila was regularly looking to upgrade the standards of the Huns, so that they could be in the same league as the Romans.

The young Attila encouraged technological advancement

Attila never rushed a decision; he always made sure that the outcome was the right one. Before a battle, Attila would take timeout to survey the area to find the obscure places and critical elements that could play a key part in ensuring the right decision. In battle, a good decision and a perfect decision could be the difference between victory and defeat.

Attila rewarded his men with minor gains after every looting. He believed that with these small rewards, he could buy the obedience and loyalty of his soldiers. Attila also kept plenty of booty for times when they were travelling a lot.

After researching ‘What made Attila the Hun a great leader?’ I have been able to narrow it down to ten features Attila has shown throughout his life. Numerous of Attila’s ten features can be found in other great commanders, such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Julius Caesar. I have learnt that victory and defeat in battle depends on the range of skills shown by the commander. The soldiers who do the fighting put their trust in their leader, and expect him to lead them to victory. Through Attila the Hun, other barbaric tribes were influenced to take on the Roman Empires, which evitable led to the ‘Fall of Rome’. I have also learnt that warfare is what drives technological advancement. Attila wanted the Huns to be able to match the innovations of Rome. This is what took the Huns out of the ‘Stone Age Era’, so to speak.

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