Excerpts From E.B. Elliott's



In the mean time, and long ere the extinction of the volcano, and death of the tyrant of the sea, Genseric, (which was not indeed till the year 477,) yet another plague was commissioned against the devoted empire; I mean "the scourge of God," the king of the Huns, Attila. Alone of conquerors, ancient or modern, he united at this time under his sway the two mighty kingdoms of Germany and Scythia. For the Huns had advanced their course and their conquests, since the time when the Goths fled before them some 70 years before, in the days of Valens, to the furthest limits, West and North, of Germany. The kings of the Ostrogoths and Gepidæ were among Attila’s subject-princes; and a crowd of vulgar kings watched his nod. Superstitious awe concerning him added to his power. He was deemed something greater than human. "The barbaric princes could not presume to gaze with steady eye on [what they deemed] his divine majesty." How much less his enemies! He was in their eyes like the baleful meteor that even then blazed in the heavens, boding ruin and war. For the first eight years from his accession (which was in A. D. 433) he had been occupied with other wars in Germany, Persia, Scythia. Then, descending on the Danube, he fixed the royal village near where it takes its great bend to the southward, not far from the modern Buda: crossed it to attack the Eastern empire; and, after ravaging the provinces of Thrace and Mæsia, and tracing the river-course downwards in blood as far as the Euxine, retired not until the Eastern emperor (A. D. 446) had purchased peace by surrendering to him a slip of territory S. of the Danube, from Belgrade to Novæ. "The Huns," says Gibbon, were acknowledged "masters (of this part of the lower half) of the great river."—But it is specially the river-frontier of the same Western third of the empire to which the other Trumpets refer, that I suppose to be chiefly intended in the present. Accordingly, about A. D. 450, in fulfilment of a treaty with Genseric, he moved against the Western provinces along the upper Danube: reached and crossed the Rhine at Basle; and thence, tracing the same great frontier stream of the West down to Belgium, made its valley one scene of desolation and woe; burning the cities, (of which Strasburg, Spires, Worms, Mentz, Andernach, Treves, Tongres, Maestricht, are specially particularized,) massacring the inhabitants, and laying the country waste:—until, at length, having left that valley, which had been marked out as one destined scene of his ravaging, and advanced farther into the interior, his course was arrested, and he was repulsed in the tremendous battle of Chalons.—And whither then, when thus forced to retrace his steps, did he direct them? Whither but to fall on another destined scene of ravage, "the European fountains of waters," in the Alpine heights and Alpine valleys of Italy. Then Aquileia, Padua, Verona, Mantua, Milan, Pavia, Turin, felt his vengeance. "From the Alps to the Apennines," says Sigonius, ‘all was flight, depopulation, slaughter, slavery, burning, and despair." Many fled to the low and marshy islands at the mouth of the Adige, Po, and Brenta, as their only safe refuge. And he who has seen the fair Venice, may do well to remember that he has seen in it a memorial of the terrors and ravages of that scourge of God, the Hun Attila.—But what further of his course of devastation? Surely, with Italy all defenceless before him, one might have expected that, like his predecessor Alaric, he would have continued it on to Rome and the far coast of Bruttium. Instead of this, behold, an embassy from the Western emperor Valentinian, accompanied by the venerable Romish bishop Leo the First, was successful at this point in deprecating his wrath: and, having granted them peace, he repassed the Alps, and retired; leaving bands only of Heruli and Ostrogoths in the Tyrolese country intermediate.—Wherefore a result, humanly speaking, so unlikely? Methinks we may see the reason. The prediction had expressly marked the term of Attila’s desolating progress;—"the third of the rivers, and the fountains of waters." Already Attila had made bitter, besides the surplusage of more Eastern scenes, the river-line of the upper Danube and Rhine, and the Alpine fountains of waters. Many had died, and still continued to die, that drank of the waters, through famine, disease, and pestilence. This being done, his course was to end. "Thus far thou shalt go, and no farther." Returned from Italy, he recrossed the Danube; reached the royal village between it and the Teiss; and there, the very next year, was suddenly cut off by apoplexy. This occurred A. D. 453. So the meteor was extinct; the empire and power of the Huns broken. The woe of the third Trumpet had past away.