Attila the Hun (2001) TV




Director:  Dick Lowry

Starring:   Gerard Butler (Attila the Hun), Powers Boothe (Flavius Aetius), Simmone Mackinnon (N'Kara/Ildico), Reg Rogers (Valentinian), Alice Krige (Placida), Pauline Lynch (Galen), Steven Berkoff (King Rua), Andrew Pleavin (Orestes), Tommy Flanagan (Bleda), Kirsty Mitchell (Honoria), Jonathan Hyde (Felix), Tim Curry (Theodosius), Janet Henfrey (Palcharia), Liam Cunningham (King Theodoric), Rollo Weeks (Young Attila).



Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film.  

The movie portrays the youth of Attila whose father and mother were killed by another barbaric people. He goes to live with his uncle, King Ruhr? He lives with his elder brother and the two remain at odds. Attila captures plunder from a village and part of this plunder is a red-headed woman. He is intrigued by this, but unfortunately for him and the woman the brother takes the first pick of the spoils and knowing his brother likes her, he takes the red-head.

The Roman general is imprisoned, but the news of the approach of the fierce Huns causes the Queen to relent and have him freed. Apparently, the general has plotted against the Queen.

The Roman general had earlier lived among the Huns for a while and knew their ways well. He takes Attila with him to visit Rome where the general hopes that Attila will be seduced into loving the ways of Roman civilization and always want to align himself with the same. Attila has a brief fling with the sister of the Emperor.

Attila returns to his people when he learns of the news that his uncle has been killed (poisoned on orders of his nephew) and that his brother was about to be crowned. He challenges his brother to a duel of riding around in a circle shooting arrows at each other. In this the brother is killed and Attila becomes the leader of his people.

He then marries the red-head but she dies upon giving birth to a son for him.

Attila sets out on his conquests.

Meanwhile, the general has been busy. He plots a scenario to make the Emperor believe that the Queen mother was trying to assassinate him. This ensures his loyalty. The Emperor's sister is sent to a convent in Constantinople because she tried a plot to kill her brother. There we see the much put-upon Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire.

Attila mostly spoils the east. But when the Emperor's sister offers Attila her hand in marriage in exchange for half of the western empire, he turns west.

The general turns for an ally to Theodoric, a Visigoth. There is a subplot here where the daughter of the general is actually not the biological daughter. The young lady is actually the daughter of Theodoric.

Theodoric agrees to help the general if he returns his daughter. This is a bitter pill but the general agrees to the bargain. The Huns are turned back and the general gets revenge by having one of his aides kill Theodoric in the midst of battle.

Attila returns home where he is poisoned on his wedding night by his new wife, a woman whose family was killed by the Huns. In turn the general is killed by the emperor (who had learned that the general tricked him into believing his mother was against him) for his plotting.


Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:


395-423  --  reign of Flavius Honorius, Western Roman Empire and brother of Arcadius. 

395-408  --  reign of Arcadius, Byzantine Empire. 

406  --  Attila born. 

418  --  at age 12, following a peace negotiation, Attila was sent as a hostage to the Roman court of Emperor Honorius.  The Romans sent their general Flavius Aetius as hostage. 

Attila tried to escape but was unsuccessful.  He resigned himself to his situation and studied Roman internal and foreign policies. 

408-450  --  reign of Theodosius, Byzantine Empire.

By 432  --  the Huns were united under their leader Ruga.

434  --  Ruga died.  Now his nephews, Attila and Bleda, were in control of the united Hun tribes.

435  --  The Huns bargained with Theodosius to return several renegade tribes then living within the Byzantine Empire.  In a treaty Theodosius agreed to double the Empire's previous tribute, have open markets with the Huns and pay a ransom for each Roman taken prisoner held by the Huns.

The Huns turned now to invading the Persian Empire.  A Persian counterattack resulted in the Huns giving up on their efforts to conquer Persia.

440  --  the Huns reappeared, threatening war.  They said that the Romans did not live up to their end of the treaty and that the bishop of Margus desecrated the royal Hun graves on the Danube's north bank.

441  --  Attila and Bleda invaded the Balkans. 

442  --  a lull prevailed for a while.  Theodosius built up his forces and came to think he could successfully oppose the Huns.

443  --  the Huns go back to war, striking along the Danube.  They took Sofia, Plovdiv and Arcadiopolis. Worse, the Huns almost took Constantinople (but lacked the proper siege equipment).   Theodosius was defeated and now had to endure a new treaty with much worse terms. 

445  --  it is believed that Attila killed Bleda.

447  --  Attila attacked the Byzantine Empire again.  He defeated the Roman army under Amegisclus.  The Huns then freely rampaged through the Balkans.

As late as 450  --  with promised help from Valentinian III, Attila threatened to attack the powerful Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse.  

450 (spring)  --  then a new twist occurred.  Valentinian's sister Honoria did not want to marry a senator who she did not love and so she sent a letter to Attila asking for his assistance.  Attila interpreted the letter to mean that he and Honoria would marry.  As dowry, he asked for half of the west Roman Empire.  When he found out, Valentinian wanted to kill his sister, but he exiled her instead.  He wrote Attila saying that no such proposal of marriage was offered.  Attila responded by saying he would come to claim his promised bride. 

450  --  Theodosius died in a riding accident. 

450-457  --  reign of Marcian, Byzantine Empire.  He stopped paying tribute to the Huns.  He decided to go west with his vassals (Gepids, Ostrogoths, Rugians, Scirians, Heruls, Thuringians, Alans, Burgundians, et al.).  He said that he would ally himself with the Visigoths and the Romans.

451  --  as Attila moved west, Aetius gathered troops from the Franks, the Burgundians and the Celts to oppose him.  The Visigoths under King Theodoric I also allied themselves with Rome. 

Aetius reached Orleans ahead of Attila and the Huns turned back. Aetius chased and caught up with the Huns and in the Battle of Chalons they were able to cement the Hun advance to the far west.  But Rome and their allies suffered several setbacks:  Theodoric was killed; Aetius failed to press his advantage, and the disbanded. Attila, on the other hand, continued his campaign against Italy.

452  --  Attila came back to claim his bride.  He ravaged Italy.  Valentinian fled from Ravenna to Rome. Attila finally halted at the Po River.  There he received Pope Leo I.  After the meeting, Attila returned to his palace across the Danube. (No one really knows his reasons for the turn-around.)

453  --  Attila contemplated attacking Constantinople again.  But before he could do this he died. 

Attila celebrated his marriage to Hildico and drank way too much.  He developed a severe nosebleed and drowned in his own blood. 

A different version of his death is that Hildico killed Attila by stabbing him.  (No one really knows for sure.) 

Attila's empire soon fell apart.  



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