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Attila The Hun

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Attila The Hun

Attila is known in Western history and tradition as the grim flagellum dei (Latin: "Scourge of God"), and his name has become a byword for cruelty and barbarism. Some of this may have arisen from confusion between him and later steppe warlords such as Genghis Khan and Timur (Tamerlane). All are considered to be cruel, clever, and blood-thirsty lovers of battle and pillage. The reality of his character is probably more complex. The Huns of Attila's era had been mingling with Roman civilization for some time, largely through the Germanic foederati of the border, so that by the time of Theodosius's embassy in 448 Priscus could identify two primary languages among the Huns, Gothic and Hunnic, with some people knowing Latin and Greek. Priscus also recounts his meeting with an eastern Roman captive who had so fully assimilated into the Huns' way of life that he had no desire to return to his former country, and the Byzantine historian's description of Attila's humility and simplicity is unambiguous in its admiration.

The origin of Attila's name is not known with confidence. The etymology "oceanic (universal) [ruler]" has been proposed, supposing that the Hunnic language was Danube-Bulgarian. Alternatively the word might originate from Turkic Atyl/Atal/Atil/Itil meaning water, river (also, ancient name of Volga river), with adjective suffix -ly. (Compare also Turkic medieval notable title atalyk – "senior as father").The Polish Chronicle represents Attila's name as Aquila derived from the Latin aqua. Others believe that the name may have connection to Hungarian ítélet meaning judgement. Old-Turkic might have loaned the word atta ("father") to Goths (or Gepid) who then added the diminutive suffix -ila. 'Attila' has many variants: Atli and Atle in Norse, Ætla, Attle and Atlee in English, Attila/Atilla/Etele in Hungarian (all the three name variants are used in Hungary; Attila is the most popular variant), Etzel in the German Nibelungenlied, or Attila, Atila or Atilla in modern Turkish.

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