Famous Battles in History Atilla the Hun at Chalons

About the famous battle at Chalons between the army of Atilla the Hun and the Romans, history and account of the fight.

MORE FAMOUS BATTLES--ON LAND AND AT SEA

CHALONS, 451

Attila, "the Scourge of God," with 40,000 Hun warriors swept across the Rhine and invaded Gaul in 451. As a pretext for his invasion, Attila stated that the West Roman emperor's sister, Honoria, had sent him her ring and asked him to rescue her from an unwanted, arranged marriage. Attila accepted Honoria's request, claimed her as his bride, and demanded half of the West Roman Empire as her dowry.

The Huns plunged into central Gaul and besieged Orleans. The Roman military commander, Flavius Aetius, quickly negotiated an alliance with Theodoric I, king of the Visigoths. The allied Roman-Visigothic army marched north to Orleans and rescued the city. Attila was forced to retreat to the Catalaunian Plains, near Chalons-sur-Marne, with the Roman-Visigothic army in pursuit.

Near Chalons, Attila halted his withdrawal and swung his army around to face his enemies. The allied army encountered the Huns on June 20. The opposing battle lines were formed, running roughly east to west, with the Huns to the north. Aetius placed his own Roman legions on a sloping hill on the west (left) flank, Theodoric's Visigoths on the east (right) flank, and, in the center of the line, a force of Alan tribesmen.

Attila began the battle by launching a furious assault on the Roman legions on the west flank. However, having the advantage of the terrain, the Romans repeatedly threw back the Hun charges. In the center, the Huns pushed back the Alans. To counter this, Theodoric led his cavalry into an attack on the east flank. Struck by a javelin, he fell from his horse and was trampled to death by his own charging Visigoths. His son, Thorismond, took command of the Visigoths, who were enraged by the death of their king. The Visigoth onslaught mauled the east flank of Attila's army, endangering the Hun center. The Huns fell back on their camp, fighting off the Visigoths with volleys of arrows. By the end of the day, the Huns were defeated. Some 3,000 Romans and Visigoths and 6,000 Huns had died.

The next day, Aetius allowed Attila to retreat back across the Rhine. Attila had experienced his first and only defeat, and western Europe was saved from his domination. The Hun threat to Europe ended two years later, when Attila died on his wedding night of a heart attack, while having sex with his bride, Hilda.

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