Attila the Hun
Atilla the Hun was the scourge of the Romans between 434 and 453 AD. He created an empire that ran from Germany to the Baltic Sea, forged from Roman territory, and the deaths of thousands of Roman citizens. The name ‘Attila’ is not his actual name. Instead, it was an honorific meaning ‘little father’ a title that awarded when Attila ascended to become the leader of the Huns. In 433AD. However, Attila did not begin that rule alone.
Historical records of Attila’s reign are admittedly few, and the most complete were written by the chroniclers of the eastern and western Roman empires who were the Huns and so Attila’s enemies. The most reliable is that of Priscus, a Byzantine diplomat who, although biased, did actually serve in Attila’s court as an ambassador in 449AD and so witnessed and heard of many events.
Piecing together the evidence, it seems that Attila inherited the throne from his Uncle, Rugila. Rugila had no sons to succeed him, so his natural heir was Attila- and his brother, Bleda. Both boys were presented at Hun war councils and educated to become formidable fighters. In 433AD, Rugila died during one of the Hun campaigns against Constantinople and his leadership passed jointly to Attila and Bleda.
Initially, at least, the brothers ruled jointly, and seemingly in harmony. They took charge of their own regions but still acted in accord- especially when facing foreign foes. In 439BC, the brothers jointly brokered the Treaty of Margus with the western Romans. The Huns promised to leave the city of Rome unmolested- in return for tribute and a promise that Rome would return any refugees who fled from Hunnish lands into the empire. Once the treaty was concluded, the brothers continued to their next joint venture: stealing territory from the eastern Empire.
However, soon afterward, Bleda disappears from history, with all documents referring solely to Attila as the commander of the Huns. According to Priscus, who met Bleda’s widow during his sojourn in Hunnish lands, Bleda disappeared because: “Bleda, King of the Huns was assassinated as a result of the plots of his brother Attila.” Other accounts, however, claim that both brothers were plotting to kill each other. In one report, Bleda’s death occurred on a hunting trip. He died either because Attila killed him in self-defense or from mutual combat that arose between the two. Either way, all accounts agree that Attila killed his brother.
A similar power struggle occurred between cousins in Europe just over a thousand years later. This time, however, both parties eventually ended up dead.