Popular Audio-Visual Representations of Historical Subject Matter : Attila the Hun

Final Grade 88%

Heritage Management Year 1
History and Public Identity

Popular Audio-Visual Representations of Historical Subject Matter

Report on Representations of Attila the Hun


Attila the Hun was leader of the Hunnic Empire from 434-453 AD. The Empire, a loose confederation of Hunnic tribes, incorporated much of Northern Europe from Germany to the Baltic Sea.   Attila waged a series of campaigns for more than twenty years against a weakened Eastern and Western Roman Empire, exacting tribute from both. Attila’s invasion of Gaul was finally halted in 451 AD by an alliance of Romans and Visigoth troops   at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains (also known as the Battle of Chalons) in Eastern France.   He was dissuaded from attacking Rome in 452 AD by Pope Leo I and died of natural causes in 453 AD. (Thomson, 1948)

Attila is chiefly remembered today for the ferocity and ruthlessness of his campaigns. Called the ‘Scourge of God’ the Romans, his name inspired fear throughout the Roman Empire and beyond and is still synonymous with slaughter and carnage.

Attila’s campaigns were chronicled by several Roman writers, notably Priscus, a Roman diplomat, who wrote the only surviving first-hand account of a visit to Attila’s encampment, and Jordanes. Ammianus Marcellinus, a 4th Century Roman historian wrote detailed descriptions of the Huns’ appearance, culture and military tactics about fifty years before Attila was born. (Thomson, 1948)

Attila has become part of European folk-mythology to the extent that Germans were referred to as ‘Huns’ during the First and Second World Wars. This report examines some popular media representations of Attila and his achievements from the last fifty years.
‘Attila, il flagello di Dio’ (‘Attila, Scourge of God’) (1954)
‘This is the legacy of the Hun. Barbarian hordes sweeping with the force of a tidal wave across the fertile plains of the West. A mighty tide of blood, destruction and death.’ (Attila, il...