The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire
By Edward Gibbon
          THE WESTERN world  was  oppressed  by the Goths and Vandals,
          who fled before  the  Huns; but the achievements of the Huns
          themselves were not  adequate to their power and prosperity.
          Their victorious hordes  had  spread  from  the Volga to the
          Danube; but the public force was exhausted by the discord of
          independent chieftains; their  valour  was  idly consumed in
          obscure and predatory  excursions;  and  they often degraded
          their national dignity,  by  condescending, for the hopes of
          spoil,  to  enlist  under  the  banners  of  their  fugitive
          enemies. In the  reign of ATTILA(1) the Huns again became the 
          terrors of the world; and I shall now describe the character
          and actions of  that  formidable  barbarian, who alternately
          insulted and invaded  the  East  and  the West and urged the
          rapid downfall of the Roman Empire.

          In the tide  of emigration which impetuously rolled from the
          confines of China to those of Germany, the most powerful and
          populous tribes may  commonly  be  found on the verge of the
          Roman provinces The  accumulated  weight was sustained for a
          while by artificial  barriers; and the easy condescension of
          the  emperors  invited,  without  satisfying,  the  insolent
          demands  of  the  barbarians,  who  had  acquired  an  eager
          appetite for the luxuries of civilised life. The Hungarians,
          who ambitiously insert the name of Attila among their native
          kings, may affirm  with  truth  that  the  hordes which were
          subject to his  uncle  Roas,  or  Rugilas,  had formed their
          encampments within the  limits  of  modern  Hungary, (2) in a 
          fertile country which  liberally  supplied  the  wants  of a
          nation  of  hunters  and  shepherds.  In  this  advantageous
          situation,   Rugilas,  and   his   valiant   brothers,   who
          continually added to  their  power and reputation, commanded
          the alternative of  peace  or  war with the two empires. His
          alliance with the  Romans  of  the  West was cemented by his
          personal friendship for  the  great  Aetius,  who was always
          secure  of finding  in  the  barbarian  camp  an  hospitable
          reception and a  powerful  support. At his solicitation, and
          in  the name  of  John  the  usurper,  sixty  thousand  Huns
          advanced to the  confines  of  Italy;  their march and their
          retreat were alike  expensive to the state; and the grateful
          policy of Aetius abandoned the possession of Pannonia to his
          faithful confederates. The  Romans of the East were not less
          apprehensive of the  arms  of  Rugilas, which threatened the
          provinces,  or  even   the   capital.   Some  ecclesiastical
          historians have destroyed  the barbarians with lightning and
          pestilence;(3) but  Theodosius was reduced to the more humble 
          expedient of stipulating  an annual payment of three hundred
          and  fifty  pounds   of   gold,   and   of  disguising  this
          dishonourable tribute by  the  title  of  general, which the
          king  of  the   Huns  condescended  to  accept.  The  public
          tranquillity  was  frequently   interrupted  by  the  fierce
          impatience of the barbarians and the perfidious intrigues of
          the Byzantine court.  Four  dependent nations, among whom we
          may distinguish the Bavarians, disclaimed the sovereignty of
          the Huns; and their revolt was encouraged and protected by a
          Roman alliance; till the just claims and formidable power of
          Rugilas were effectually  urged  by  the voice of Eslaw, his
          ambassador. Peace was  the  unanimous  wish  of  the senate:
          their  decree  was   ratified   by   the  emperor;  and  two
          ambassadors were named  -  Plinthas,  a  general of Scythian
          extraction, but of consular rank; and the quaestor Epigenes,
          a wise and  experienced  statesman,  who  was recommended to
          that office by his ambitious colleague.

          The death of  Rugilas  suspended the progress of the treaty.
          His two nephews,  Attila  and  Bleda,  who  succeeded to the
          throne of their  uncle,  consented  to  a personal interview
          with the ambassadors  of Constantinople; but as they proudly
          refused  to  dismount,   the   business  was  transacted  on
          horseback, in a  spacious  plain near the city of Margus, in
          the Upper Maesia.  The  kings  of the Huns assumed the solid
          benefits, as well  as  the vain honours, of the negotiation.
          They dictated the  conditions  of  peace, and each condition
          was an insult  on  the  majesty  of  the empire. Besides the
          freedom of a  safe  and plentiful market on the banks of the
          Danube, they required that the annual contribution should be
          augmented from three  hundred  and  fifty  to  seven hundred
          pounds of gold;  that  a  fine or ransom, of eight pieces of
          gold, should be paid for every Roman captive who had escaped
          from his barbarian  master; that the emperor should renounce
          all treaties and  engagements  with the enemies of the Huns;
          and that all the fugitives who had taken refuge in the court
          or  provinces of  Theodosius  should  be  delivered  to  the
          justice  of  their  offended  sovereign.  This  justice  was
          rigorously inflicted on  some  unfortunate youths of a royal
          race. They were  crucified on the territories of the empire,
          by the command  of  Attila:  and, as soon as the king of the
          Huns had impressed  the  Romans with the terror of his name,
          he indulged them in a short and arbitrary respite, whilst he
          subdued the rebellious or independent nations of Scythia and

          Attila, the son  of  Mundzuk, deduced his noble, perhaps his
          regal, descent(5)  from  the  ancient  Huns, who had formerly 
          contended  with  the   monarchs   of  China.  His  features,
          according to the observation of a Gothic historian, bore the
          stamp of his  national  origin;  and  the portrait of Attila
          exhibits the genuine  deformity  of  a  modern  Calmuck;(6) a 
          large head, a  swarthy complexion, small deep-seated eyes, a
          flat nose, a  few  hairs  in  the  place  of  a beard, broad
          shoulders, and a  short  square  body,  of nervous strength,
          though of a  disproportioned  form.  The  haughty  step  and
          demeanour  of  the   king   of   the   Huns   expressed  the
          consciousness of his  superiority above the rest of mankind;
          and he had  a  custom of fiercely rolling his eyes, as if he
          wished to enjoy  the  terror  which  he  inspired.  Yet this
          savage hero was  not  inaccessible  to  pity;  his suppliant
          enemies might confide  in  the assurance of peace or pardon;
          and Attila was  considered  by  his  subjects  as a just and
          indulgent master. He  delighted  in  war;  but, after he had
          ascended the throne  in  a mature age, his head, rather than
          his hand, achieved  the  conquest of the North; and the fame
          of an adventurous soldier was usefully exchanged for that of
          a prudent and  successful  general.  The effects of personal
          valour are so  inconsiderable,  except in poetry or romance,
          that victory, even  among  barbarians,  must  depend  on the
          degree of skill with which the passions of the multitude are
          combined and guided  for  the  service  of a single man. The
          Scythian conquerors, Attila and Zingis, surpassed their rude
          countrymen in art,  rather  than  in  courage; and it may be
          observed that the  monarchies,  both  of the Huns and of the
          Moguls, were erected  by  their  founders  on  the  basis of
          popular superstition. The miraculous conception, which fraud
          and credulity ascribed  to  the  virgin  mother  of  Zingis,
          raised him above  the  level  of human nature; and the naked
          prophet, who, in  the  name  of the Deity, invested him with
          the empire of  the  earth,  pointed the valour of the Moguls
          with irresistible enthusiasm.(7) The religious arts of Attila 
          were not less  skilfully adapted to the character of his age
          and country. It was natural enough that the Scythians should
          adore, with peculiar  devotion,  the god of war; but as they
          were incapable of  forming  either  an  abstract  idea  or a
          corporeal  representation,  they  worshipped  their  tutelar
          deity under the  symbol  of  an  iron  cimeter.(8) One of the 
          shepherds of the  Huns  perceived  that  a  heifer,  who was
          grazing, had wounded  herself  in  the  foot,  and curiously
          followed the track  of  the blood, till he discovered, among
          the long grass,  the  point of an ancient sword which he dug
          out  of  the   ground,   and   presented   to  Attila.  That
          magnanimous, or rather  that  artful,  prince accepted, with
          pious gratitude, this celestial favour; and, as the rightful
          possessor of the  'sword  of  Mars', asserted his divine and
          indefeasible claim to  the  dominion  of the earth.(9) If the 
          rites of Scythia  were  practised on this solemn occasion, a
          lofty altar, or  rather pile of faggots, three hundred yards
          in length and  in  breadth,  was raised in a spacious plain;
          and the sword of Mars was placed erect on the summit of this
          rustic altar, which was annually consecrated by the blood of
          sheep, horses, and  of  the  hundredth  captive. (10) Whether 
          human sacrifices formed  any  part of the worship of Attila,
          or whether he  propitiated  the  god of war with the victims
          which he continually  offered  in  the  field of battle, the
          favourite of Mars  soon  acquired  a sacred character, which
          rendered his conquests more easy and more permanent; and the
          barbarian princes confessed,  in the language of devotion or
          flattery, that they could not presume to gaze, with a steady
          eye, on the  divine  majesty of the king of the Huns.(11) His 
          brother Bleda, who  reigned  over a considerable part of the
          nation, was compelled  to  resign  his sceptre and his life.
          Yet even this  cruel  act  was  attributed to a supernatural
          impulse; and the  vigour with which Attila wielded the sword
          of Mars convinced  the world that it had been reserved alone
          for his invincible  arm. (12)  But  the  extent of his empire 
          affords  the only  remaining  evidence  of  the  number  and
          importance  of his  victories;  and  the  Scythian  monarch,
          however ignorant of  the  value  of  science and philosophy,
          might  perhaps lament  that  his  illiterate  subjects  were
          destitute of the  art  which  could perpetuate the memory of
          his exploits.

          If a line of separation were drawn between the civilised and
          the savage climates of the globe; between the inhabitants of
          cities,  who cultivated  the  earth,  and  the  hunters  and
          shepherds, who dwelt  in  tents,  Attila might aspire to the
          title of supreme  and  sole monarch of the barbarians.(13) He 
          alone, among the  conquerors  of  ancient  and modern times,
          united the two  mighty  kingdoms of Germany and Scythia; and
          those vague appellations,  when  they  are  applied  to  his
          reign, may be  understood with an ample latitude. Thuringia,
          which stretched beyond  its  actual  limits  as  far  as the
          Danube, was in  the  number of his provinces; he interposed,
          with the weight  of  a  powerful  neighbour, in the domestic
          affairs of the Franks; and one of his lieutenants chastised,
          and almost exterminated,  the  Burgundians  of the Rhine. He
          subdued  the  islands   of   the   ocean,  the  kingdoms  of
          Scandinavia, encompassed and  divided  by  the waters of the
          Baltic; and the  Huns  might  derive  a tribute of furs from
          that northern region,  which  has  been  protected  from all
          other conquerors by  the  severity  of  the  climate and the
          courage of the natives. Towards the East, it is difficult to
          circumscribe  the  dominion  of  Attila  over  the  Scythian
          deserts; yet we  may be assured that he reigned on the banks
          of the Volga;  that  the  king  of the Huns was dreaded, not
          only as a  warrior,  but  as a magician;(14) that he insulted 
          and vanquished the  khan of the formidable Geougen; and that
          he sent ambassadors  to negotiate an equal alliance with the
          empire of China.  In  the  proud  review  of the nations who
          acknowledged  the  sovereignty  of  Attila,  and  who  never
          entertained, during his  lifetime,  the thought of a revolt,
          the Gepidae and  the  Ostrogoths were distinguished by their
          numbers, their bravery,  and  the  personal  merit  of their
          chiefs. The renowned  Ardaric,  king of the Gepidae, was the
          faithful  and  sagacious  counsellor  of  the  monarch,  who
          esteemed his intrepid  genius,  whilst he loved the mild and
          discreet  virtues  of   the   noble  Walamir,  king  of  the
          Ostrogoths. The crowd  of  vulgar  kings,  the leaders of so
          many  martial tribes,  who  served  under  the  standard  of
          Attila, were ranged  in  the  submissive order of guards and
          domestics round the person of their master. They watched his
          nod; they trembled  at his frown; and at the first signal of
          his will, they  executed,  without murmur or hesitation, his
          stern and absolute commands. In time of peace, the dependent
          princes, with their national troops, attended the royal camp
          in  regular  succession;   but  when  Attila  collected  his
          military force he  was  able to bring into the field an army
          of five, or,  according to another account, of seven hundred
          thousand barbarians.(15) 

          The ambassadors of  the  Huns  might awaken the attention of
          Theodosius, by reminding  him  that they were his neighbours
          both in Europe  and  Asia;  since they touched the Danube on
          one hand, and  reached  with the other as far as the Tanais.
          In the reign  of  his father Arcadius, a band of adventurous
          Huns had ravaged the provinces of the East, from whence they
          brought away rich  spoils  and  innumerable  captives.  They
          advanced, by a  secret path, along the shores of the Caspian
          Sea; traversed the  snowy  mountains  of Armenia; passed the
          Tigris, the Euphrates,  and the Halys; recruited their weary
          cavalry  with  the  generous  breed  of  Cappadocian  horses
          occupied the hilly  country  of  Cilicia;  and disturbed the
          festal songs and dances of the citizens of Antioch.(16) Egypt 
          trembled at their  approach;  and  the monks and pilgrims of
          the Holy Land  prepared  to  escape  their  fury by a speedy
          embarkation. The memory of this invasion was still recent in
          the minds of  the  Orientals.  The  subjects of Attila might
          execute,  with  superior  forces,  the  design  which  these
          adventurers had so  boldly attempted; and it soon became the
          subject of anxious conjecture whether the tempest would fall
          on the dominions  of  Rome  or  of Persia. Some of the great
          vassals of the  king of the Huns, who were themselves in the
          rank  of powerful  princes,  had  been  sent  to  ratify  an
          alliance and society  of  arms  with  the emperor, or rather
          with the general,  of  the  West. They related, during their
          residence at Rome,  the circumstances of an expedition which
          they had lately  made  into the East. After passing a desert
          and a morass  supposed by the Romans to be the lake Maeotis,
          they penetrated through  the  mountains, and arrived, at the
          end of fifteen  days'  march, on the confines of Media where
          they advanced as  far  as  the  unknown  cities of Basic and
          Cursic.(17) They  encountered  the Persian army in the plains 
          of Media, and  the  air,  according to their own expression,
          was darkened by a cloud of arrows. But the Huns were obliged
          to retire before  the  numbers of the enemy. Their laborious
          retreat was affected  by  a  different  road;  they lost the
          greatest part of  their booty; and at length returned to the
          royal camp, with  some  knowledge  of  the  country,  and an
          impatient desire of revenge. In the free conversation of the
          Imperial ambassadors, who discussed, at the court of Attila,
          the character and  designs  of  their  formidable enemy, the
          ministers of Constantinople  expressed  their  hope that his
          strength might be  diverted  and  employed  in  a  long  and
          doubtful contest with  the  princes  of the house of Sassan.
          The  more  sagacious   Italians   admonished  their  Eastern
          brethren of the  folly  and  danger  of  such  a  hope;  and
          convinced them, that  the  Medes and Persians were incapable
          of resisting the  arms  of  the  Huns; and that the easy and
          important acquisition would  exalt  the  pride,  as  well as
          power, of the  conqueror. Instead of contenting himself with
          a moderate contribution and a military title, which equalled
          him only to the generals of Theodosius, Attila would proceed
          to impose a disgraceful and intolerable yoke on the necks of
          the  prostrate  and   captive  Romans,  who  would  then  be
          encompassed on all sides by the empire of the Huns.(18) 

          While the powers of Europe and Asia were solicitous to avert
          the impending danger,  the alliance of Attila maintained the
          Vandals in the  possession of Africa. An enterprise had been
          concerted between the  courts  of Ravenna and Constantinople
          for the recovery of that valuable province; and the ports of
          Sicily were already  filled  with  the  military  and  naval
          forces of Theodosius.  But  the  subtle Genseric, who spread
          his negotiations round  the  world, prevented their designs,
          by exciting the  king  of  the  Huns  to  invade the Eastern
          empire; and a  trifling  incident soon became the motive, or
          pretence, of a  destructive  war. (19) Under the faith of the 
          treaty of Margus,  a  free  market  was held on the northern
          side of the  Danube, which was protected by a Roman fortress
          surnamed Constantia.  A  troop  of  barbarians  violated the
          commercial security, killed,  or dispersed, the unsuspecting
          traders, and levelled the fortress with the ground. The Huns
          justified this outrage  as  an act of reprisal; alleged that
          the bishop of  Margus  had  entered  their  territories,  to
          discover and steal  a  secret  treasure  of their kings; and
          sternly demanded the guilty prelate, the sacrilegious spoil,
          and the fugitive  subjects, who had escaped from the justice
          of Attila. The refusal of the Byzantine court was the signal
          of war; and  the  Maesians  at  first applauded the generous
          firmness of their  sovereign. But they were soon intimidated
          by the destruction of Viminiacum and the adjacent towns; and
          the people was persuaded to adopt the convenient maxim, that
          a private citizen,  however  innocent or respectable, may be
          justly sacrificed to  the  safety of his country. The bishop
          of Margus, who  did  not  possess  the  spirit  of a martyr,
          resolved to prevent  the  designs  which  he  suspected.  He
          boldly treated with  the  princes  of  the Huns; secured, by
          solemn oaths, his  pardon  and  reward;  posted  a  numerous
          detachment of barbarians,  in silent ambush, on the banks of
          the Danube; and, at the appointed hour, opened, with his own
          hand, the gates of his episcopal city. This advantage, which
          had been obtained  by treachery, served as a prelude to more
          honourable and decisive victories. The Illyrian frontier was
          covered by a  line of castles and fortresses; and though the
          greatest part of them consisted only of a single tower, with
          a small garrison, they were commonly sufficient to repel, or
          to intercept, the  inroads  of  an enemy who was ignorant of
          the art, and impatient of the delay, of a regular siege. But
          these slight obstacles  were  instantly  swept  away  by the
          inundation of the  Huns. (20)  They ,destroyed, with fire and 
          sword, the populous  cities  of  Sirmium  and Singidunum, of
          Ratiaria and Marcianopolis,  of  Naissus  and Sardica; where
          every circumstance in  the  discipline of the people and the
          construction of the  buildings had been gradually adapted to
          the sole purpose of defence. The whole breadth of Europe, as
          it extends above  five  hundred miles from the Euxine to the
          Hadriatic, was at once invaded, and occupied, and desolated,
          by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into the field.
          The public danger  and  distress could not, however, provoke
          Theodosius to interrupt  his  amusements  and devotion or to
          appear in person  at  the head of the Roman legions. But the
          troops which had  been  sent  against  Genseric were hastily
          recalled from Sicily;  the garrisons, on the side of Persia,
          were  exhausted; and  a  military  force  was  collected  in
          Europe,  formidable  by  their  arms  and  numbers,  if  the
          generals had understood  the  science  of command, and their
          soldiers the duty  of  obedience.  The armies of the Eastern
          empire were vanquished  in three successive engagements; and
          the progress of  Attila  may  be  traced  by  the  fields of
          battle. The two  former, on the banks of the Utus, and under
          the walls of  Marcianopolis,  were  fought  in the extensive
          plains between the  Danube  and  Mount Haemus. As the Romans
          were pressed by  a  victorious  enemy,  they  gradually, and
          unskilfully, retired towards  the Chersonesus of Thrace; and
          that narrow peninsula,  the  last extremity of the land, was
          marked  by  their  third  and  irreparable  defeat.  By  the
          destruction of this  army,  Attila acquired the indisputable
          possession of the  field. From the Hellespont to Thermopylae
          and  the  suburbs  of  Constantinople  he  ravaged,  without
          resistance and without  mercy,  the  provinces of Thrace and
          Macedonia. Heraclea and  Hadrianople  might, perhaps, escape
          this dreadful irruption  of the Huns; but the words the most
          expressive of total  extirpation  and erasure are applied to
          the calamities which they inflicted on seventy cities of the
          Eastern empire.(21)  Theodosius, his court, and the unwarlike 
          people, were protected  by  the walls of Constantinople; but
          those walls had  been shaken by a recent earthquake, and the
          fall of fifty-eight towers had opened a large and tremendous
          breach. The damage  indeed  was  speedily repaired; but this
          accident was aggravated  by a superstitious fear that Heaven
          itself had delivered  the  Imperial city to the shepherds of
          Scythia, who were  strangers  to the laws, the language, and
          the religion of the Romans.(22) 

          In all their  invasions  of  the  civilised  empires  of the
          South, the Scythian  shepherds  have been uniformly actuated
          by a savage  and  destructive  spirit. The laws of war, that
          restrain the exercise  of  national  rapine  and murder, are
          founded  on two  principles  of  substantial  interest:  the
          knowledge of the permanent benefits which may be obtained by
          a moderate use of conquest, and a just apprehension lest the
          desolation which we  inflict  on  the enemy's country may be
          retaliated on our  own. But these considerations of hope and
          fear are almost  unknown  in  the pastoral state of nations.
          The Huns of  Attila may without injustice be compared to the
          Moguls  and Tartars  before  their  primitive  manners  were
          changed by religion and luxury; and the evidence of Oriental
          history may reflect  some  light  on the short and imperfect
          annals of Rome.  After  the  Moguls had subdued the northern
          provinces of China,  it  was  seriously proposed, not in the
          hour of victory and passion, but in calm deliberate council,
          to exterminate all the inhabitants of that populous country,
          that the vacant  land  might  be converted to the pasture of
          cattle.  The  firmness   of   a  Chinese  mandarin, (23)  who 
          insinuated some principles  of rational policy into the mind
          of Zingis, diverted  him  from  the execution of this horrid
          design. But in  the  cities  of  Asia  which  yielded to the
          Moguls, the inhuman abuse of the rights of war was exercised
          with a regular  form  of  discipline,  which may, with equal
          reason though not  with  equal  authority, be imputed to the
          victorious Huns. The  inhabitants who had submitted to their
          discretion were ordered  to  evacuate  their  houses  and to
          assemble  in some  plain  adjacent  to  the  city,  where  a
          division was made  of  the  vanquished into three parts. The
          first class consisted  of  the  soldiers of the garrison and
          the young men  capable  of  bearing arms; and their fate was
          instantly  decided: they  were  either  enlisted  among  the
          Moguls, or they  were  massacred  on the spot by the troops,
          who, with pointed  spears  and  bended  bows,  had  formed a
          circle  round  the  captive  multitude.  The  second  class,
          composed of the young and beautiful women, of the artificers
          of every rank  and  profession,  and  of the more wealthy or
          honourable citizens, from  whom  a  private  ransom might be
          expected, was distributed  in  equal or proportionable lots.
          The remainder, whose  life or death was alike useless to the
          conquerors, were permitted  to  return to the city, which in
          the meanwhile had  been  stripped of its valuable furniture;
          and a tax  was imposed on those wretched inhabitants for the
          indulgence of breathing  their  native  air.  Such  was  the
          behaviour of the  Moguls when they were not conscious of any
          extraordinary rigour.(24)  But  the  most casual provocation, 
          the  slightest  motive  of  caprice  or  convenience,  often
          provoked them to involve a whole people in an indiscriminate
          massacre;  and the  ruin  of  some  flourishing  cities  was
          executed with such unrelenting perseverance, that, according
          to their own  expression, horses might run without stumbling
          over the ground  where  they had once stood. The three great
          capitals  of Khorasan,  Maru,  Neisabour,  and  Herat,  were
          destroyed by the  armies  of  Zingis;  and the exact account
          which was taken of the slain amounted to four millions three
          hundred  and forty-seven  thousand  persons. (25)  Timur,  or 
          Tamerlane, was educated  in  a less barbarous age and in the
          profession  of  the   Mahometan  religion;  yet,  if  Attila
          equalled the hostile  ravages  of  Tamerlane, (26) either the 
          Tartar or the  Hun  might deserve the epithet of the SCOURGE
          OF GOD.(27) 

          It may be  affirmed  with  bolder  assurance  that  the Huns
          depopulated the provinces  of  the  empire  by the number of
          Roman subjects whom  they  led  away  into captivity. In the
          hands of a  wise legislator such an industrious colony might
          have contributed to  diffuse  through the deserts of Scythia
          the rudiments of  the  useful and ornamental arts; but these
          captives, who had  been  taken  in  war,  were  accidentally
          dispersed among the  hordes that obeyed the empire of Attila
          The estimate of  their  respective  value  was formed by the
          simple   judgment   of    unenlightened   and   unprejudiced
          barbarians. Perhaps they might not understand the merit of a
          theologian profoundly skilled  in  the  controversies of the
          Trinity  and  the   Incarnation;   yet  they  respected  the
          ministers of every  religion;  and  the  active  zeal of the
          Christian missionaries, without  approaching  the  person or
          the palace of  the  monarch,  successfully  laboured  in the
          propagation of the  gospel.(28) The pastoral tribes, who were 
          ignorant of the  distinction  of  landed property, must have
          disregarded  the  use   as   well  as  the  abuse  of  civil
          jurisprudence; and the  skill  of  an  eloquent lawyer could
          excite only their  contempt  or  their  abhorrence. (29)  The 
          perpetual  intercourse  of   the  Huns  and  the  Goths  had
          communicated the familiar  knowledge  of  the  two  national
          dialects; and the barbarians were ambitious of conversing in
          Latin, the military idiom even of the Eastern empire.(30) But 
          they disdained the  language  and the sciences of the Greeks
          and the vain  sophist  or  grave philosopher who had enjoyed
          the flattering applause  of  the  schools,  was mortified to
          find that his robust servant was a captive of more value and
          importance than himself.  The  mechanic arts were encouraged
          and esteemed, as  they  tended  to  satisfy the wants of the
          Huns. An architect  in  the service of Onegesius, one of the
          favourites of Attila,  was employed to construct a bath: but
          this work was  a  rare  example  of  private luxury; and the
          trades of the  smith, the carpenter, the armourer, were much
          more adapted to  supply  a  wandering people with the useful
          instruments of peace and war. But the merit of the physician
          was  received  with   universal   favour  and  respect:  the
          barbarians, who despised  death,  might  be  apprehensive of
          disease; and the  haughty conqueror trembled in the presence
          of a captive  to whom he ascribed perhaps an imaginary power
          of prolonging or  preserving  his life.(31) The Huns might be 
          provoked to insult  the  misery  of  their slaves, over whom
          they exercised a despotic command;(32) but their manners were 
          not susceptible of  a  refined system of oppression, and the
          efforts of courage  and  diligence were often recompensed by
          the gift of  freedom The historian Priscus, whose embassy is
          a source of curious instruction, was accosted in the camp of
          Attila by a stranger, who saluted him in the Greek language,
          but whose dress  and  figure  displayed  the appearance of a
          wealthy Scythian. In  the  siege  of Viminiacum he had lost,
          according to his  own  account,  his fortune and liberty: he
          became the slave  of  Onegesius  but  his  faithful services
          against the Romans  and  the  Acatzires had gradually raised
          him to the  rank of the native Huns, to whom he was attached
          by the domestic  pledges of a new wife and several children.
          The spoils of  war  had  restored  and  improved his private
          property; he was  admitted  to  the table of his former lord
          and the apostate  Greek  blessed  the hour of his captivity,
          since  it  had   been   the  introduction  to  a  happy  and
          independent state, which he held by the honourable tenure of
          military  service.  This  reflection  naturally  produced  a
          dispute  on  the   advantages   and  defects  of  the  Roman
          government, which was  severely  arraigned  by the apostate,
          and defended by  Priscus in a prolix and feeble declamation.
          The  freedman of  Onegesius  exposed,  in  true  and  lively
          colours, the vices  of a declining empire of which he had so
          long been the  victim;  the  cruel  absurdity  of  the Roman
          princes, unable to protect their subjects against the public
          enemy, unwilling to  trust  them  with  arms  for  their own
          defence; the intolerable  weight  of  taxes,  rendered still
          more oppressive by  the  intricate  or  arbitrary  modes  of
          collection;  the obscurity  of  numerous  and  contradictory
          laws;  the  tedious   and   expensive   forms   of  judicial
          proceedings; the partial  administration of justice; and the
          universal corruption which  increased  the  influence of the
          rich and aggravated  the misfortunes of the poor A sentiment
          of patriotic sympathy was at length revived in the breast of
          the fortunate exile,  and  he lamented with a flood of tears
          the guilt or weakness of those magistrates who had perverted
          the wisest and most salutary institutions.(33) 

          The timid or  selfish  policy  of  the  Western  Romans  had
          abandoned the Eastern  empire  to  the  Huns.(34) The loss of 
          armies  and the  want  of  discipline  or  virtue  were  not
          supplied  by  the   personal   character   of  the  monarch.
          Theodosius might still affect the style as well as the title
          of 'Invincible Augustus',  but he was reduced to solicit the
          clemency of Attila  who imperiously dictated these harsh and
          humiliating conditions of  peace. I. The emperor of the East
          resigned, by an  express  or  tacit convention, an extensive
          and important territory  which  stretched along the southern
          banks of the Danube, from Singidunum, or Belgrade, as far as
          Novae, in the  diocese of Thrace. The breadth was defined by
          the vague computation  of  fifteen  days' journey; but, from
          the proposal of  Attila  to  remove  the  situation  of  the
          national market, it  soon  appeared that he comprehended the
          ruined city of  Naissus  within the limits of his dominions.
          II. The king  of  the  Huns  required  and obtained that his
          tribute or subsidy  should  be  augmented from seven hundred
          pounds of gold  to  the  annual  sum  of  two  thousand  one
          hundred; and he  stipulated  the  immediate  payment  of six
          thousand pounds of  gold  to  defray  the  expenses,  or  to
          expiate the guilt, of the war. One might imagine that such a
          demand,  which scarcely  equalled  the  measure  of  private
          wealth, would have  been  readily  discharged by the opulent
          empire of the  East;  and  the  public  distress  affords  a
          remarkable proof of  the  impoverished,  or  at least of the
          disorderly, state of the finances. A large proportion of the
          taxes extorted from  the people was detained and intercepted
          in  their  passage  through  the  foulest  channels  to  the
          treasury of Constantinople.  The  revenue  was dissipated by
          Theodosius  and  his  favourites  in  wasteful  and  profuse
          luxury,  which  was  disguised  by  the  names  of  imperial
          magnificence or Christian  charity.  The  immediate supplies
          had been exhausted  by  the unforeseen necessity of military
          preparations.  A  personal   contribution,   rigorously  but
          capriciously imposed on the members of the senatorian order,
          was the only  expedient  that  could  disarm without loss of
          time the impatient avarice of Attila: and the poverty of the
          nobles compelled them  to  adopt  the scandalous resource of
          exposing to public auction the jewels of their wives and the
          hereditary ornaments of  their  palaces.(35) III. The king of 
          the Huns appears  to  have  established  as  a  principle of
          national  jurisprudence,  that   he  could  never  lose  the
          property which he  had  once acquired in the persons who had
          yielded either a  voluntary  or  reluctant submission to his
          authority.  From  this   principle  he  concluded,  and  the
          conclusions of Attila  were  irrevocable laws, that the Huns
          who had been  taken  prisoners  in  war  should  be released
          without delay and  without  ransom; that every Roman captive
          who had presumed  to  escape  should  purchase  his right to
          freedom at the  price of twelve pieces of gold; and that all
          the barbarians who  had  deserted  the  standard  of  Attila
          should be restored  without  any  promise  or stipulation of
          pardon. In the  execution  of  this  cruel  and  ignominious
          treaty the Imperial officers were forced to massacre several
          loyal and noble  deserters  who refused to devote themselves
          to certain death;  and  the  Romans forfeited all reasonable
          claims to the  friendship  of  any  Scythian  people by this
          public confession that  they  were destitute either of faith
          or power to  protect  the  suppliant  who  had  embraced the
          throne of Theodosius.(36) 

          The firmness of  a  single  town,  so obscure that except on
          this occasion it  has  never been mentioned by any historian
          or geographer, exposed  the  disgrace  of  the  emperor  and
          empire. Azimus, or Azimuntium, a small city of Thrace on the
          Illyrian borders,(37)  had  been distinguished by the martial 
          spirit of its youth, the skill and reputation of the leaders
          whom they had  chosen, and their daring exploits against the
          innumerable  host  of  the  barbarians.  Instead  of  tamely
          expecting  their  approach,  the  Azimuntines  attacked,  in
          frequent and successful sallies, the troops of the Huns, who
          gradually declined the dangerous neighbourhood, rescued from
          their hands the  spoil and the captives, and recruited their
          domestic force by the voluntary association of fugitives and
          deserters. After the  conclusion  of the treaty Attila still
          menaced  the  empire   with   implacable   war,  unless  the
          Azimuntines were persuaded  or  compelled to comply with the
          conditions which their sovereign had accepted. The ministers
          of Theodosius confessed,  with  shame  and  with truth, that
          they no longer possessed any authority over a society of men
          who so bravely  asserted their natural independence; and the
          king of the Huns condescended to negotiate an equal exchange
          with the citizens  of  Azimus. They demanded the restitution
          of  some  shepherds,   who   with   their  cattle  had  been
          accidentally surprised. A  strict  though  fruitless inquiry
          was allowed; but  the  Huns  were obliged to swear that they
          did not detain  any  prisoners  belonging to the city before
          they  could  recover   two  surviving  countrymen  whom  the
          Azimuntines had reserved  as pledges for the safety of their
          lost companions. Attila,  on  his  side,  was  satisfied and
          deceived by their  solemn  asseveration that the rest of the
          captives had been  put  to  the  sword and that it was their
          constant practice immediately  to dismiss the Romans and the
          deserters who had obtained the security of the public faith.
          This prudent and officious dissimulation may be condemned or
          excused by the  casuists as they incline to the rigid decree
          of St. Augustin,  or  the  milder sentiment of St. Jerom and
          St. Chrysostom: but  every  soldier,  every  statesman, must
          acknowledge that, if  the  race  of the Azimuntines had been
          encouraged and multiplied,  the barbarians would have ceased
          to trample on the majesty of the empire.(38) 

          It  would have  been  strange,  indeed,  if  Theodosius  had
          purchased,  by the  loss  of  honour,  a  secure  and  solid
          tranquillity,  or  if  his  tameness  had  not  invited  the
          repetition of injuries.  The Byzantine court was insulted by
          five or six  successive  embassies; (39) and the ministers of 
          Attila were uniformly  instructed  to  press  the  tardy  or
          imperfect execution of the last treaty; to produce the names
          of fugitives and  deserters  who were still protected by the
          empire;  and to  declare,  with  seeming  moderation,  that,
          unless  their  sovereign  obtained  complete  and  immediate
          satisfaction, it would  be  impossible for him, were it even
          his wish, to  check  the  resentment  of his warlike tribes.
          Besides the motive  of pride and interest which might prompt
          the king of  the Huns to continue this train of negotiation,
          he was influenced  by  the less honourable view of enriching
          his favourites at  the  expense of his enemies. The Imperial
          treasury was exhausted  to  procure  the friendly offices of
          the  ambassadors  and   their  principal  attendants,  whose
          favourable report might conduce to the maintenance of peace.
          The barbarian monarch was flattered by the liberal reception
          of his ministers;  he  computed  with pleasure the value and
          splendour of their gifts, rigorously exacted the performance
          of every promise  which  would  contribute  to their private
          emolument, and treated as an important business of state the
          marriage  of  his  secretary  Constantius. (40)  That  Gallic 
          adventurer, who was recommended by Aetius to the king of the
          Huns,  had  engaged   his   service   to  the  ministers  of
          Constantinople for the  stipulated  reward  of a wealthy and
          noble wife; and  the daughter of Count Saturninus was chosen
          to discharge the  obligations of her country. The reluctance
          of  the victim,  some  domestic  troubles,  and  the  unjust
          confiscation  of her  fortune,  cooled  the  ardour  of  her
          interested lover; but  he  still  demanded,  in  the name of
          Attila, an equivalent  alliance;  and,  after many ambiguous
          delays and excuses,  the  Byzantine  court  was compelled to
          sacrifice to this  insolent  stranger the widow of Armatius,
          whose birth, opulence,  and  beauty  placed  her in the most
          illustrious rank of the Roman matrons. For these importunate
          and oppressive embassies  Attila  claimed a suitable return;
          he weighed with  suspicious pride, the character and station
          of the Imperial  envoys; but he condescended to promise that
          he would advance  as  far as Sardica to receive any minister
          who had been invested with the consular dignity. The council
          of  Theodosius eluded  this  proposal  by  representing  the
          desolate and ruined  condition of Sardica; and even ventured
          to insinuate that every officer of the army or household was
          qualified  to  treat  with  the  most  powerful  princes  of
          Scythia. Maximin,(41) a respectable courtier, whose abilities 
          had been long  exercised  in civil and military employments,
          accepted  with  reluctance   the  troublesome,  and  perhaps
          dangerous, commission of reconciling the angry spirit of the
          king of the  Huns.  His  friend,  the  historian Priscus,(42) 
          embraced the opportunity  of observing the barbarian hero in
          the peaceful and  domestic scenes of life: but the secret of
          the embassy, a  fatal  and guilty secret, was intrusted only
          to the interpreter Vigilius. The two last ambassadors of the
          Huns, Orestes, a  noble  subject  of the Pannonian province,
          and Edecon, a  valiant chieftain of the tribe of the Scyrri,
          returned at the  same  time from Constantinople to the royal
          camp. Their obscure names were afterwards illustrated by the
          extraordinary fortune and  the  contrast  of their sons: the
          two servants of  Attila became the fathers of the last Roman
          emperor of the  West,  and  of  the  first barbarian king of

          The ambassadors, who  were  followed  by a numerous train of
          men and horses,  made  their  first  halt at Sardica, at the
          distance of three hundred and fifty miles, or thirteen days'
          journey, from Constantinople. As the remains of Sardica were
          still included within  the  limits  of  the  empire,  it was
          incumbent  on  the   Romans   to   exercise  the  duties  of
          hospitality.  They provided,  with  the  assistance  of  the
          provincials, a sufficient  number  of  sheep  and  oxen, and
          invited the Huns  to  a  splendid, or, at least, a plentiful
          supper.  But the  harmony  of  the  entertainment  was  soon
          disturbed  by  mutual   prejudice   and   indiscretion.  The
          greatness  of  the   emperor   and  the  empire  was  warmly
          maintained by their  ministers; the Huns, with equal ardour,
          asserted the superiority  of  their  victorious monarch: the
          dispute was inflamed  by  the rash and unseasonable flattery
          of Vigilius, who  passionately  rejected the comparison of a
          mere mortal with  the  divine  Theodosius,  and  it was with
          extreme difficulty that  Maximin  and  Priscus  were able to
          divert the conversation  or  soothe  the  angry minds of the
          barbarians.  When  they   rose   from   table  the  Imperial
          ambassador presented Edecon  and  Orestes with rich gifts of
          silk  robes  and   Indian   pearls,  which  they  thankfully
          accepted. Yet Orestes  could not forbear insinuating that he
          had  not  always   been   treated   with  such  respect  and
          liberality: and the  offensive distinction which was implied
          between his civil  office  and  the  hereditary  rank of his
          colleague seems to  have  made  Edecon a doubtful friend and
          Orestes an irreconcilable  enemy.  After  this entertainment
          they travelled about  one  hundred  miles  from  Sardica  to
          Naissus. That flourishing city, which had given birth to the
          great  Constantine,  was   levelled  with  the  ground;  the
          inhabitants were destroyed  or dispersed; and the appearance
          of some sick  persons,  who  were  still  permitted to exist
          among the ruins of the churches, served only to increase the
          horror of the  prospect.  The  surface  of  the  country was
          covered with the  bones  of  the slain; and the ambassadors,
          who directed their course to the north-west, were obliged to
          pass the hills  of  modern Servia before they descended into
          the flat and  marshy  grounds  which  are  terminated by the
          Danube. The Huns  were  masters  of  the  great river: their
          navigation was performed  in  large  canoes, hollowed out of
          the trunk of a single tree; the ministers of Theodosius were
          safely landed on  the  opposite  bank;  and  their barbarian
          associates immediately hastened to the camp of Attila, which
          was equally prepared  for  the  amusements  of hunting or of
          war. No sooner had Maximin advanced about two miles from the
          Danube than he  began to experience the fastidious insolence
          of the conqueror.  He  was sternly forbid to pitch his tents
          in a pleasant  valley,  lest  he should infringe the distant
          awe that was  due  to  the  royal  mansion. The ministers of
          Attila pressed him  to  communicate  the  business  and  the
          instructions  which  he   reserved  for  the  ear  of  their
          sovereign.  When  Maximin  temperately  urged  the  contrary
          practice of nations,  he  was  still more confounded to find
          that the resolutions of the Sacred Consistory, those secrets
          (says Priscus) which  should  not  be  revealed  to the gods
          themselves, had been  treacherously  disclosed to the public
          enemy. On his refusal to comply with such ignominious terms,
          the Imperial envoy  was  commanded  instantly to depart; the
          order was recalled;  it  was  again  repeated;  and the Huns
          renewed their ineffectual  attempts  to  subdue  the patient
          firmness of Maximin.  At  length,  by  the  intercession  of
          Scotta, the brother  of Onegesius, whose friendship had been
          purchased by a  liberal  gift,  he was admitted to the royal
          presence; but, instead  of  obtaining  a decisive answer, he
          was compelled to  undertake  a  remote  journey  towards the
          North, that Attila  might  enjoy  the  proud satisfaction of
          receiving in the  same  camp  the ambassadors of the Eastern
          and  Western empires.  His  journey  was  regulated  by  the
          guides, who obliged  him to halt, to hasten his march, or to
          deviate  from  the  common  road,  as  it  best  suited  the
          convenience of the king. The Romans who traversed the plains
          of Hungary suppose  that  they  passed  'several'  navigable
          rivers, either in  canoes  or  portable  boats; but there is
          reason to suspect  that the winding stream of the Theiss, or
          Tibiscus, might present  itself  in  different  places under
          different names. From  the contiguous villages they received
          a plentiful and  regular  supply of provisions, mead instead
          of wine, millet  in the place of bread, and a certain liquor
          named 'camus', which,  according  to  the report of Priscus,
          was distilled from  barley.(43) Such fare might appear coarse 
          and  indelicate  to   men  who  had  tasted  the  luxury  of
          Constantinople; but, in their accidental distress, they were
          relieved by the  gentleness  and  hospitality  of  the  same
          barbarians,  so  terrible  and  so  merciless  in  war.  The
          ambassadors had encamped  on  the  edge of a large morass. A
          violent tempest of  wind and rain, of thunder and lightning,
          overturned their tents, immersed their baggage and furniture
          in the water,  and  scattered their retinue, who wandered in
          the darkness of  the  night,  uncertain  of  their  road and
          apprehensive of some  unknown  danger, till they awakened by
          their cries the  inhabitants  of a neighbouring village, the
          property of the  widow of Bleda. A bright illumination, and,
          in a few  moments,  a comfortable fire of reeds, was kindled
          by their officious  benevolence:  the  wants,  and  even the
          desires, of the  Romans  were  liberally satisfied; and they
          seem to have  been embarrassed by the singular politeness of
          Bleda's widow, who  added  to her other favours the gift, or
          at least the  loan,  of a sufficient number of beautiful and
          obsequious damsels. The  sunshine  of the succeeding day was
          dedicated to repose,  to collect and dry the baggage, and to
          the refreshment of  the men and horses; but, in the evening,
          before they pursued their journey, the ambassadors expressed
          their gratitude to  the  bounteous  lady of the village by a
          very acceptable present  of  silver cups, red fleeces, dried
          fruits, and Indian  pepper.  Soon  after this adventure they
          rejoined the march  of  Attila,  from  whom  they  had  been
          separated  about six  days;  and  slowly  proceeded  to  the
          capital of an  empire which did not contain, in the space of
          several thousand miles, a single city.

          As far as  we  may ascertain the vague and obscure geography
          of Priscus, this capital appears to have been seated between
          the Danube, the  Theiss,  and  the  Carpathian hills, in the
          plains  of  Upper   Hungary,   and   most  probably  in  the
          neighbourhood of Jazberin, Agria, or Tokay.(44) In its origin 
          it could be  no  more than an accidental camp, which, by the
          long  and  frequent  residence  of  Attila,  had  insensibly
          swelled into a huge village, for the reception of his court,
          of the troops  who  followed  his person, and of the various
          multitude of idle  or  industrious  slaves and retainers.(45) 
          The baths, constructed  by  Onegesius, were the only edifice
          of stone; the  materials had been transported from Pannonia;
          and since the  adjacent  country was destitute even of large
          timber, it may  be  presumed  that the meaner habitations of
          the royal village  consisted of straw, of mud, or of canvas.
          The wooden houses  of  the  more illustrious Huns were built
          and adorned with  rude  magnificence, according to the rank,
          the fortune, or  the  taste of the proprietors. They seem to
          have  been  distributed   with  some  degree  of  order  and
          symmetry;  and  each  spot  became  more  honourable  as  it
          approached  the person  of  the  sovereign.  The  palace  of
          Attila, which surpassed  all  other houses in his dominions,
          was built entirely  of  wood,  and covered an ample space of
          ground. The outward enclosure was a lofty wall, or palisade,
          of smooth square  timber,  intersected with high towers, but
          intended rather for  ornament than defence. This wall, which
          seems  to  have   encircled   the   declivity   of  a  hill,
          comprehended a great  variety of wooden edifices, adapted to
          the uses of  royalty.  A separate house was assigned to each
          of the numerous  wives  of Attila; and, instead of the rigid
          and illiberal confinement  imposed by Asiatic jealousy, they
          politely admitted the  Roman  ambassadors to their presence,
          their table, and even to the freedom of an innocent embrace.
          When Maximin offered  his  presents  to  Cerca the principal
          queen, he admired  the singular architecture of her mansion,
          the height of  the round columns, the size and beauty of the
          wood, which was  curiously  shaped or turned, or polished or
          carved; and his  attentive  eye  was  able  to discover some
          taste  in  the   ornaments,   and  some  regularity  in  the
          proportions. After passing  through  the  guards who watched
          before the gate,  the  ambassadors  were introduced into the
          private apartment of  Cerca.  The  wife  of  Attila received
          their visit sitting,  or  rather lying, on a soft couch; the
          floor was covered  with  a  carpet;  the  domestics formed a
          circle round the  queen;  and  her  damsels,  seated  on the
          ground, were employed  in  working the variegated embroidery
          which adorned the  dress  of the barbaric warriors. The Huns
          were ambitious of  displaying  those  riches  which were the
          fruit and evidence  of  their  victories;  the  trappings of
          their horses, their  swords,  and  even  their  shoes,  were
          studded with gold and precious stones; and their tables were
          profusely spread with plates, and goblets, and vases of gold
          and silver, which  had  been  fashioned  by  the  labour  of
          Grecian artists. The  monarch  alone  assumed  the  superior
          pride of still  adhering  to  the simplicity of his Scythian
          ancestors. (46) The  dress  of  Attila,  his  arms,  and  the 
          furniture of his horse, were plain, without ornament, and of
          a single colour.  The  royal table was served in wooden cups
          and platters; flesh  was his only food; and the conqueror of
          the North never tasted the luxury of bread.

          When Attila first  gave audience to the Roman ambassadors on
          the banks of  the  Danube,  his  tent was encompassed with a
          formidable guard. The monarch himself was seated in a wooden
          chair. His stern  countenance, angry gestures, and impatient
          tone astonished the  firmness  of  Maximin; but Vigilius had
          more reason to  tremble,  since he distinctly understood the
          menace, that if  Attila  did not respect the law of nations,
          he would nail  the  deceitful  interpreter  to  a cross, and
          leave his body to the vultures. The barbarians condescended,
          by producing an  accurate list, to expose the bold falsehood
          of Vigilius, who  had  affirmed  that no more than seventeen
          deserters could be found. But he arrogantly declared that he
          apprehended  only  the   disgrace  of  contending  with  his
          fugitive slaves; since he despised their impotent efforts to
          defend the provinces which Theodosius had intrusted to their
          arms: "For what fortress" (added Attila), "what city, in the
          wide extent of  the  Roman empire, can hope to exist, secure
          and impregnable, if  it  is  our  pleasure that it should be
          erased  from  the   earth?"   He   dismissed,  however,  the
          interpreter,  who  returned   to   Constantinople  with  his
          peremptory demand of  more  complete restitution, and a more
          splendid embassy. His  anger  gradually  subsided,  and  his
          domestic satisfaction in  a  marriage which he celebrated on
          the road with the daughter of Eslam might perhaps contribute
          to mollify the native fierceness of his temper. The entrance
          of Attila into  the  royal  village  was  marked  by  a very
          singular ceremony. A  numerous  troop  of  women came out to
          meet their hero  and  their  king.  They marched before him,
          distributed  into long  and  regular  files:  the  intervals
          between the files  were filled by white veils of thin linen,
          which the women  on  either  side bore aloft in their hands,
          and which formed a canopy for a chorus of young virgins, who
          chanted hymns and  songs  in the Scythian language. The wife
          of  his  favourite   Onegesius,   with  a  train  of  female
          attendants, saluted Attila  at the door of her own house, on
          his way to  the palace; and offered, according to the custom
          of the country,  her respectful homage, by entreating him to
          taste the wine  and  meat  which  she  had  prepared for his
          reception. As soon  as  the  monarch had graciously accepted
          her hospitable gift,  his  domestics  lifted  a small silver
          table to a  convenient  height,  as he sat on horseback; and
          Attila, when he  had touched the goblet with his lips, again
          saluted the wife  of  Onegesius,  and  continued  his march.
          During his residence  at  the  seat of empire his hours were
          not wasted in  the  recluse  idleness of a seraglio; and the
          king of the Huns could maintain his superior dignity without
          concealing his person  from  the  public view. He frequently
          assembled his council,  and gave audience to the ambassadors
          of the nations;  and  his people might appeal to the supreme
          tribunal, which he  held  at stated times, and, according to
          the Eastern custom,  before the principal gate of his wooden
          palace. The Romans,  both  of the East and of the West, were
          twice invited to  the  banquet where Attila feasted with the
          princes and nobles  of  Scythia.  Maximin and his colleagues
          were stopped on  the  threshold, till they had made a devout
          libation to the  health  and  prosperity  of the king of the
          Huns; and were  conducted,  after  this  ceremony,  to their
          respective seats in  a  spacious  hall.  The royal table and
          couch, covered with  carpets  and  fine linen, was raised by
          several steps in the midst of the hall; and a son, an uncle,
          or perhaps a  favourite  king,  were  admitted  to share the
          simple and homely  repast  of  Attila.  Two  lines  of small
          tables, each of  which  contained three or four guests, were
          ranged in order  on  either hand; the right was esteemed the
          most honourable, but  the  Romans  ingenuously  confess that
          they were placed  on  the  left;  and that Beric, an unknown
          chieftain, most probably  of  the  Gothic race, preceded the
          representatives of Theodosius and Valentinian. The barbarian
          monarch received from  his  cupbearer  a  goblet filled with
          wine, and courteously  drank  to  the  health  of  the  most
          distinguished guest, who  rose  from his seat and expressed,
          in the same  manner,  his  loyal  and  respectful vows. This
          ceremony was successively performed for all, or at least for
          the illustrious persons  of the assembly; and a considerable
          time must have  been  consumed, since it was thrice repeated
          as each course  or  service was placed on the table. But the
          wine still remained after the meat had been removed; and the
          Huns continued to  indulge their intemperance long after the
          sober  and  decent   ambassadors  of  the  two  empires  had
          withdrawn themselves from  the nocturnal banquet. Yet before
          they  retired  they   enjoyed   a  singular  opportunity  of
          observing the manners  of  the  nation  in  their  convivial
          amusements. Two Scythians  stood before the couch of Attila,
          and recited the  verses which they had composed to celebrate
          his valour and  his  victories. A profound silence prevailed
          in the hall;  and the attention of the guests was captivated
          by the vocal  harmony,  which  revived  and  perpetuated the
          memory of their  own exploits: a martial ardour flashed from
          the eyes of the warriors, who were impatient for battle; and
          the tears of  the  old  men expressed their generous despair
          that they could  no  longer  partake the danger and glory of
          the field.(47)  This entertainment, which might be considered 
          as a school  of  military  virtue,  was succeeded by a farce
          that debased the  dignity  of  human nature. A Moorish and a
          Scythian buffoon successively  excited the mirth of the rude
          spectators,  by their  deformed  figure,  ridiculous  dress,
          antic   gestures,   absurd   speeches,   and   the   strange
          unintelligible confusion of  the  Latin, the Gothic, and the
          Hunnic languages; and  the  hall  resounded  with  loud  and
          licentious  peals  of   laughter.   In  the  midst  of  this
          intemperate  riot,  Attila   alone,   without  a  change  of
          countenance,  maintained  his   steadfast   and   inflexible
          gravity, which was  never relaxed, except on the entrance of
          Irnac, the youngest  of his sons: he embraced the boy with a
          smile of paternal  tenderness,  gently  pinched  him  by the
          cheek, and betrayed a partial affection, which was justified
          by the assurance  of  his  prophets  that Irnac would be the
          future support of his family and empire. Two days afterwards
          the ambassadors received  a  second invitation; and they had
          reason to praise the politeness, as well as the hospitality,
          of Attila. The  king  of  the  Huns held a long and familiar
          conversation with Maximin;  but his civility was interrupted
          by rude expressions  and  haughty  reproaches;  and  he  was
          provoked,  by  a   motive  of  interest,  to  support,  with
          unbecoming  zeal,  the   private  claims  of  his  secretary
          Constantius. "The emperor"  (said Attila) "has long promised
          him a rich  wife:  Constantius must not be disappointed; nor
          should a Roman  emperor  deserve  the  name of liar." On the
          third day the  ambassadors  were  dismissed;  the freedom of
          several captives was granted, for a moderate ransom to their
          pressing entreaties; and,  besides  the royal presents, they
          were permitted to  accept  from  each of the Scythian nobles
          the honourable and useful gift of a horse. Maximin returned,
          by the same  road,  to  Constantinople;  and  though  he was
          involved  in an  accidental  dispute  with  Beric,  the  new
          ambassador of Attila,  he  flattered  himself  that  he  had
          contributed, by the  laborious  journey to confirm the peace
          and alliance of the two nations.(48) 

          But the Roman  ambassador  was  ignorant  of the treacherous
          design which had been concealed under the mask of the public
          faith. The surprise  and  satisfaction  of  Edecon,  when he
          contemplated the splendour  of Constantinople had encouraged
          the  interpreter  Vigilius  to  procure  for  him  a  secret
          interview with the  eunuch  Chrysaphius,(49) who governed the 
          emperor and the  empire.  After  some previous conversation,
          and a mutual  oath of secrecy, the eunuch, who had not, from
          his own feelings  or experience, imbibed any exalted notions
          of ministerial virtue,  ventured  to  propose  the  death of
          Attila, as an  important  service,  by  which  Edecon  might
          deserve a liberal  share  of  the wealth and luxury which he
          admired. The ambassador of the Huns listened to the tempting
          offer; and professed,  with  apparent  zeal, his ability, as
          well as readiness,  to  execute  the bloody deed: the design
          was communicated to  the  master  of  the  offices,  and the
          devout Theodosius consented  to  the  assassination  of  his
          invincible  enemy.  But   this   perfidious  conspiracy  was
          defeated by the dissimulation, or the repentance, of Edecon;
          and though he might exaggerate his inward abhorrence for the
          treason which he  seemed  to approve, he dexterously assumed
          the merit of  an  early  and voluntary confession. If we now
          review the embassy  of  Maximin and the behaviour of Attila,
          we must applaud  the  barbarian,  who  respected the laws of
          hospitality, and generously  entertained  and  dismissed the
          minister of a prince who had conspired against his life. But
          the   rashness  of   Vigilius   will   appear   still   more
          extraordinary, since he returned, conscious of his guilt and
          danger, to the  royal  camp  accompanied  by  his  son,  and
          carrying  with him  a  weighty  purse  of  gold,  which  the
          favourite eunuch had  furnished,  to  satisfy the demands of
          Edecon and to  corrupt  the  fidelity  of  the  guards.  The
          interpreter was instantly  seized  and  dragged  before  the
          tribunal of Attila  where  he  asserted  his  innocence with
          specious firmness; till  the  threat  of  inflicting instant
          death on his  son  extorted  from him a sincere discovery of
          the criminal transaction.  Under  the  name  of  ransom,  or
          confiscation, the rapacious  king  of  the Huns accepted two
          hundred pounds of  gold  for  the  life of a traitor whom he
          disdained to punish. He pointed his just indignation against
          a nobler object.  His  ambassadors,  Eslaw and Orestes, were
          immediately despatched to  Constantinople  with a peremptory
          instruction, which it  was  much  safer  for them to execute
          than to disobey.  They  boldly entered :he Imperial presence
          with the fatal  purse hanging down from the neck of Orestes,
          who interrogated the  eunuch Chrysaphius, as he stood beside
          the throne, whether he recognised the evidence of his guilt.
          But the office  of  reproof  was  reserved  for the superior
          dignity of his  colleague  Eslaw,  who gravely addressed the
          emperor of the  East  in the following words: "Theodosius is
          the son of  an  illustrious  and  respectable parent: Attila
          likewise is descended  from  a  noble  race;  and  'he'  has
          supported, by his  actions,  the  dignity which he inherited
          from his father  Mundzuk.  But  Theodosius has forfeited his
          paternal honours, and,  by  consenting  to  pay tribute, has
          degraded  himself  to  the  condition  of  a  slave.  It  is
          therefore just that he should reverence the man whom fortune
          and merit have placed above him, instead of attempting, like
          a  wicked  slave,  clandestinely  to  conspire  against  his
          master." The son of Arcadius, who was accustomed only to the
          voice  of  flattery,  heard  with  astonishment  the  severe
          language of truth:  he  blushed  and  trembled;  nor  did he
          presume directly to  refuse  the  head of Chrysaphius, which
          Eslaw  and Orestes  were  instructed  to  demand.  A  solemn
          embassy, armed with  full  powers and magnificent gifts, was
          hastily sent to deprecate the wrath of Attila; and his pride
          was gratified by  the  choice  of  Nomius and Anatolius, two
          ministers of consular or patrician rank, of whom the one was
          great treasurer, and  the  other  was  master-general of the
          armies  of  the   East.   He   condescended  to  meet  these
          ambassadors on the  banks of the river Drenso; and though he
          at first affected  a  stern and haughty demeanour, his anger
          was insensibly mollified  by their eloquence and liberality.
          He condescended to  pardon  the emperor, the eunuch, and the
          interpreter;  bound  himself  by  an  oath  to  observe  the
          conditions of peace;  released  a  great number of captives;
          abandoned the fugitives  and  deserters  to  their fate; and
          resigned a large  territory,  to  the  south  of the Danube,
          which  he  had   already   exhausted   of   its  wealth  and
          inhabitants. But this  treaty  was  purchased  at an expense
          which might have  supported  a  vigorous and successful war;
          and the subjects  of Theodosius were compelled to redeem the
          safety of a  worthless  favourite  by oppressive taxes which
          they would more  cheerfully  have  paid for his destruction.

          The  emperor  Theodosius  did  not  long  survive  the  most
          humiliating circumstance of  an  inglorious  life. As he was
          riding or hunting  in  .the neighbourhood of Constantinople,
          he was thrown from his horse into the river Lycus: the spine
          of his back  was  injured  by  the fall; and he expired some
          days afterwards, in  the  fiftieth  year of his age, and the
          forty-third of his  reign. (51)  His  sister Pulcheria, whose 
          authority   had  been   controlled   both   in   civil   and
          ecclesiastical affairs by  the  pernicious  influence of the
          eunuchs, was unanimously proclaimed empress of the East; and
          the Romans, for the first time, submitted to a female reign.
          No  sooner  had  Pulcheria  ascended  the  throne  than  she
          indulged her own  and  the  public  resentment  by an act of
          popular  justice.  Without   any  legal  trial,  the  eunuch
          Chrysaphius was executed  before  the gates of the city; and
          the  immense  riches  which  had  been  accumulated  by  the
          rapacious favourite served only to hasten and to justify his
          punishment.(52) Amidst the general acclamations of the clergy 
          and people, the  empress  did  not  forget the prejudice and
          disadvantage to which  her  sex  was exposed; and she wisely
          resolved  to prevent  their  murmurs  by  the  choice  of  a
          colleague who would  always  respect  the  superior rank and
          virgin chastity of his wife. She gave her hand to Marcian, a
          senator, about sixty  years  of age, and the nominal husband
          of  Pullcheria  was  solemnly  invested  with  the  Imperial
          purple. The zeal  which he displayed for the orthodox creed,
          as it was  established  by  the  council of Chalcedon, would
          alone have inspired the grateful eloquence of the catholics.
          But  the  behaviour  of  Marcian  in  a  private  life,  and
          afterwards on the throne, may support a more rational belief
          that he was  qualified  to  restore and invigorate an empire
          which had been  almost  dissolved by the successive weakness
          of two hereditary  monarchs.  He  was  born  in  Thrace, and
          educated to the  profession of arms; but Marcian's youth had
          been severely exercised by poverty and misfortune, since his
          only resource, when  he  first  arrived  at  Constantinople,
          consisted  in two  hundred  pieces  of  gold  which  he  had
          borrowed of a  friend.  He  passed  nineteen  years  in  the
          domestic  and  military   service   of  Aspar  and  his  son
          Ardaburius; followed those  powerful generals to the Persian
          and African wars;  and  obtained,  by  their  influence, the
          honourable rank of tribune and senator. His mild disposition
          and  useful  talents,   without   alarming   the   jealousy,
          recommended Marcian to the esteem and favour of his patrons;
          he had seen,  perhaps he had felt, the abuses of a venal and
          oppressive administration; and  his  own example gave weight
          and  energy  to  the  laws  which  he  promulgated  for  the
          reformation of manners.(53) 

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