"Attila the Hun" reigned King and Commander of the Huns from A.D. 434-453. For the first twelve years he co-reigned with his brother, Bleda, who died in 446, leaving Attila solely in command. Historians speculate Attila may have killed his brother.
Upon his brother's death, Attila began an aggressive military campaign that conquered lands stretching from the Rhine to the Black and Caspian Seas. Having extended Hun rule he began pressuring the Roman Empire, engaging in negations with Constantinople and Ravenna.
In 451 he made good on a long-time threat to invade Western Europe. Laying waste to city after city, he was nearly victorious in taking Orleans, but the combined armies of Rome and Visigoth defeated him. Attila was forced to retreat; however, the battle for Western Europe was not over.
Forces clashed yet again at Chalons with Attila narrowly defeated. He was forced back across the Rhine, sparing Western Europe a changed course of history.
The following year, 452, Attila waged another war, this time on Italy. Known to the Romans as the Scourge of God, Attila headed for Ravenna, the western capital of the Roman Empire. On the way he felled Aquileia at the Adriatic. Next he destroyed Concordia, Altinum and Patavium, sending parties out to pillage neighboring villages. The regional people fled in fear before his armies.
Attila's forces halted just short of Ravenna. Met by Pope Leo I on behalf of Rome, some say he was dissuaded from going further. Others believe the General wanted to cross the Alps back to his capital near Budapest before winter set in.
Attila died in 453 on his wedding night. Some historians believe he drank to excess that night, passed out on his back, and died of a nosebleed by drowning in his own blood. Others speculate he was likely an alcoholic, common at the time, and probably died from esophageal varices rupturing. This is a hemorrhaging of veins in the throat and stomach that results from chronic acid reflux -- a result of alcoholism, common even today.
The Huns were nomadic tribes thought to be of Mongolian decent known for their fierceness and readiness. The Hun state was among the first well-documented cases of horseback migration in history, and its empire, Europe's largest at the time. Nevertheless, the Hun Empire died with the death of Attila.