Attila ( fl. circa 406–453), frequently referred to as Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. Attila was a leader of the Hunnic Empire, a tribal confederation consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Alans among others, on the territory of Central and Eastern Europe. During his reign, he was one of the most feared enemies of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. He crossed the Danube twice and plundered the Balkans, but was unable to take Constantinople. His unsuccessful campaign in Persia was followed in 441 by an invasion of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, the success of which emboldened Attila to invade the West. He also attempted to conquer Roman Gaul (France), crossing the Rhine in 451 and marching as far as Aurelianum (Orléans) before being defeated at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains. He subsequently invaded Italy, devastating the northern provinces, but was unable to take Rome . He planned for further campaigns against the Romans but died in 453. After Attila's death his close adviser Ardaric of the Gepids led a Germanic revolt against Hunnic rule, after which the Hunnic Empire quickly collapsed.
The death of Rugila (also known as Rua or Ruga) in 434 left the sons of his brother Mundzuk , Attila and Bleda, in control of the united Hun tribes. At the time of the two brothers' accession, the Hun tribes were bargaining with Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II 's envoys for the return of several renegades who had taken refuge within the Eastern Roman Empire, possibly Hunnic nobles who disagreed with the brothers' assumption of leadership. The following year, Attila and Bleda met with the imperial legation at Margus (Požarevac), all seated on horseback in the Hunnic manner, and negotiated a successful treaty. The Romans agreed to return the fugitives, to double their previous tribute of 350 Roman pounds (c. 115 kg) of gold, to open their markets to Hunnish traders, and to pay a ransom of eight solidi for each Roman taken prisoner by the Huns. The Huns, satisfied with the treaty, decamped from the Roman Empire and returned to their home in the Great Hungarian Plain, perhaps to consolidate and strengthen their empire. Theodosius used this opportunity to strengthen the walls of Constantinople, building the city's first sea wall, and to build up his border defenses along the Danube. The Huns remained out of Roman sight for the next few years while they invaded the Sassanid Empire. They were defeated in Armenia by the Sassanids, abandoned their invasion, and turned their attentions back to Europe. In 440, they reappeared in force on the borders of the Roman Empire, attacking the merchants at the market on the north bank of the Danube that had been established by the treaty. Crossing the Danube, they laid waste to the cities of Illyricum and forts on the river, including (according to Priscus) Viminacium, a city of Moesia. Their advance began at Margus, where they demanded that the Romans turn over a bishop who had retained property that Attila regarded as his. While the Romans discussed the bishop's fate, he slipped away secretly to the Huns and betrayed the city to them. While the Huns attacked city-states along the Danube, the Vandals (led by Geiseric) captured the Western Roman province of Africa and its capital of Carthage. Carthage was the richest province of the Western Empire and a main source of food for Rome. The Sassanid Shah Yazdegerd II invaded Armenia in 441. The Romans stripped the Balkan area of forces, sending them to Sicily in order to mount an expedition against the Vandals in Africa. This left Attila and Bleda a clear path through Illyricum into the Balkans, which they invaded in 441. The Hunnish army sacked Margus and Viminacium, and then took Singidunum (Belgrade) and Sirmium. During 442, Theodosius recalled his troops from Sicily and ordered a large issue of new coins to finance operations against the Huns. He believed that he could defeat the Huns and refused the Hunnish kings' demands. Attila responded with a campaign in 443. The Huns were equipped with new military weapons as they advanced along the Danube, such as battering rams and rolling siege towers, and they overran the military centers of Ratiara and successfully besieged Naissus (Niš). Advancing along the Nišava River, the Huns next took Serdica (Sofia), Philippopolis (Plovdiv), and Arcadiopolis ( Lüleburgaz). They encountered and destroyed a Roman army outside Constantinople but were stopped by the double walls of the Eastern capital. They defeated a second army near Callipolis (Gelibolu). Theodosius, stripped of his armed forces, admitted defeat, sending the Magister militum per Orientem Anatolius to negotiate peace terms. The terms were harsher than the previous treaty: the Emperor agreed to hand over 6,000 Roman pounds (c. 2000 kg) of gold as punishment for having disobeyed the terms of the treaty during the invasion; the yearly tribute was tripled, rising to 2,100 Roman pounds (c. 700 kg) in gold; and the ransom for each Roman prisoner rose to 12 solidi. Their demands were met for a time, and the Hun kings withdrew into the interior of their empire. Bleda died following the Huns' withdrawal from Byzantium (around 445). Attila then took the throne for himself, becoming the sole ruler of the Huns. In 447, Attila again rode south into the Eastern Roman Empire through Moesia. The Roman army, under Gothic magister militum Arnegisclus, met him in the Battle of the Utus and was defeated, though not without inflicting heavy losses. The Battle of the Utus was fought in 447 between the army of the Eastern Roman ( Byzantine) Empire, and the Huns led by Attila at what is today the Vit river in Bulgaria. It was the last of the bloody pitched battles between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Huns, as the former attempted to stave off the Hunnic invasion. The details about Attila's campaign which culminated in the battle of Utus, as well as the events afterwards, are obscure. Only a few short passages from Byzantine sources (Jordanes' Romana, the chronicle of Marcellinus Comes , and the Paschal Chronicle) are available. Beginning in 443, when the Eastern Empire stopped its tribute to the Huns, Attila's army had invaded and ravaged the Balkan regions of the Eastern Empire. Attila's army invaded the Balkan provinces again in 447. A strong Roman force under Arnegisclus, magister utriusque militiae, "master of both forces" (both foot and horse) of Thrace, moved out of its base at Marcianople westwards and engaged the Hunnic army at Utus in the Roman province of Dacia Ripensis. Arnegisclus was one of the Roman commanders who had been defeated during Attila's campaign of 443. The Roman army was most likely a combined force, including the field armies of Illyricum, Thrace, and the Army in Emperor's Presence. The Romans were defeated, but it seems that losses were severe for both sides. Arnegisclus' horse was killed and he fought bravely on foot until he was cut down. Marcianople fell immediately to the Huns, who destroyed it; the city then lay desolate until the Emperor Justinian restored it one hundred years later. Even worse, Constantinople , the capital of the eastern half of the Roman empire, was under the grave threat of the Huns, as its walls had been ruined during an earthquake in January 447 and its population suffered from the ensuing plague. However, the Praetorian prefect of the East Constantinus managed to repair the walls in just two months by mobilizing the city's manpower, with the help of the Circus factions. These hasty repairs, combined with the urgent transfer of a body of Isaurian soldiers into the city, and the heavy losses incurred to the Huns' army in the Battle of Utus, forced Attila to abandon any thought of besieging the capital. Instead, Attila marched south and laid waste the now-defenseless Balkan provinces (including Illyricum, Thrace, Moesia, Scythia and provinces of Roman Dacia) until he was turned back at Thermopylae. Callinicus of Rufinianae wrote in his Life of Saint Hypatius , who was still living in Thrace at the time, that "more than a hundred cities were captured, Constantinople almost came into danger and most men fled from it", although this was probably exaggerated. Peace was only restored when a treaty was signed a year later in 448. By this treaty, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II agreed to pay Attila a large annual tribute. Additionally, a vast no man's land in the Roman territory was created; this extended to the distance of a five days' journey south of the Danube and functioned as a buffer zone. The Huns were left unopposed and rampaged through the Balkans as far as Thermopylae in Greece. Constantinople itself was saved by the Isaurian troops of magister militum per Orientem Zeno and protected by the intervention of prefect Constantinus, who organized the reconstruction of the walls that had been previously damaged by earthquakes and, in some places, to construct a new line of fortification in front of the old.
Marcian (Flavius Marcianus Augustus ; 392 - 457) was Eastern Roman Emperor from 450 to 457. Marcian's rule marked a recovery of the Eastern Empire, which the Emperor protected from external menaces and reformed economically and financially. On the other side, the isolationistic policies of Marcian left the Western Roman Empire without help against barbarian attacks, which materialized in the Italian campaigns of Attila and in the Vandal sack of Rome (455). The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes Marcian as a saint for his role in convoking the Council of Chalcedon. Marcian was born in 392 in Illyricum or Thracia. The son of a soldier, he spent his early life as an obscure soldier, member of a military unit located at Philippopolis. Marcian was dispatched with his unit for a war against the Sassanids (probably the Roman-Sassanid war of 421–422 ), but along the road East he fell ill in Lycia; at this time he might have already been tribunus and commander of his unit. After recovering from his illness, he went to Constantinople, where he served for fifteen years as domesticus under the generals Ardaburius and Aspar. In 431/434, while fighting in Africa under Aspar, Marcian was taken prisoner by the Vandals; according to a later legend, he was brought before King Geiseric (428–477), who knew by an omen that Marcian was to be Emperor and was released on his oath never to take up arms against the Vandals. Through the influence of these generals he became a captain of the guards, and was later raised to the rank of senator. On the death of Theodosius II (450) he was chosen as consort by the latter's sister and successor, Pulcheria, and called upon to govern a Roman Empire greatly humbled and impoverished by the ravages of the Huns. Upon becoming Emperor, Marcian repudiated the embarrassing payments of tribute to Attila the Hun (434–453), which the latter had been accustomed to receiving from Theodosius II in order to refrain from attacks on the Eastern Empire.He cancelled the subsidies paid to Attila the Hun, stating, 'I have iron for Attila, but no gold'. Aware that he could never capture the eastern capital of Constantinople, Attila turned to the west and waged his famous campaigns in Gaul 451 and Italy (452) while leaving Marcian's dominions alone. Marcian reformed the finances, checked extravagance, and repopulated the devastated districts. He repelled attacks upon Syria and Egypt in 452, and quelled disturbances on the Armenian frontier in 456. The other notable event of his reign is the Council of Chalcedon in 451, in which Marcian endeavored to mediate between the rival schools of theology. Marcian generally ignored the affairs of the Western Roman Empire, leaving that tottering half of the empire to its fate. He did nothing to aid the west during Attila's campaigns, and, living up to his promise, ignored the depredations of Geiseric even when the Vandals sacked Rome in 455. It has recently been argued, however, that Marcian was more actively involved in aiding the Western Empire than historians had previously believed and that Marcian's fingerprints can be discerned in the events leading up to, and including, Attila's death. Shortly before Attila's death in 453, conflict had begun again between him and Marcian. However, the powerful Hun king died before all-out war broke out. In a dream, Marcian claimed he saw Attila's bow broken before him, and a few days later, he got word that his great enemy was dead. Marcian died on 27 January 457 of a disease, possibly gangrene, contracted during a long religious journey. He was buried in the church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople, together with Pulcheria. Despite his short reign and his writing off of the west Marcian is considered one of the best of the early Eastern Roman Emperors. The Eastern Orthodox Church recognizes him and his wife Pulcheria as saints , with their feast day on 17 February.