Aetius, Attila's Friend and Enemy
There is a back-story to Attila's tale of his life: a prophecy that everyone remembers, but only in part. Attila, himself, remembers parts that prefigure him terrorizing the established empires (the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire centered in Constantinople, and the Persian Empire). He, and some others, believe it means he will become world conqueror. Others hear of it and interpret it as a threat to their power. Prominent among them are the reigning King, Attila's uncle, Rugila, and also, Attila's older brother, Bleda. Both therefore have one more reason to get rid of him if they can.
The prophecy also foretells the miraculous "sword of the Huns," that will lead Attila to victory, but no one knows where to find it, until Attila embarks on a nearly foolhardy expedition to uncover it, or die trying. And yet, it becomes a key to his later power.
There is also something vague about the prophecy that implies Attila is invulnerable. Only one person, Attila's first wife and Queen, Erekan, sees the flaw, the Achilles heel lying in wait in the half-remembered phrase that lulls Attila into believing he need fear no one.
The problem is: no one remembers the full prophecy, because Huns had no writing system and the prophecy was uttered by a White Hun just captured, before he is killed by his captor. The young warrior, a friend of Attila's, took umbrage at the old man brushing him aside, in court, to deliver his message. The old man was in a trance, driven by the compulsion of his vision and he disregarded the unsheathed sword of his captor. In another moment, before anyone could stop him, it split his skull.
Attila as Told to his Scribes is available here.
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Flavius Aetius made a career of being sent as a hostage to "allied peoples" in the barbaricum. First, he was sent as hostage to King Rugila's court, and in Attila's telling of it, he arrived, and was assigned to Attila's young band of warriors, prior to Attila himself being sent in exchange, to Ravenna, seat of the Western Roman Empire.
In any case, it is highly likely that they knew each other, and apparently respected each other.
Aetius was later sent as hostage to the Visigoths, when Alaric was on his rampage against Rome. Alaric, it should be remembered, had been a Roman ally: he had even been given the title of Roman General. But.he became discontented by Rome's cavalier mistreatment--his people were nearly starving. Ergo, the beginning of his conquests, which included the sacking of Rome in 410, before his successors took the Goths up into Gaul.
So, Aetius had connections both to the Huns and to the Goths and he was fluent in both languages, and both people's methods of warfare. He initially surrounded himself with Huns, in his personal elite guard, and he depended, first on King Rugila, and then upon Attila for a good part of his field armies--most Romans no longer joined the army in his day, and Huns were considered to be the best warriors in the world.
It was a commercial arrangement: the King was paid a handy sum, and each warrior was paid in Roman gold--and given the right, on occasion, to carry off loot--more than he could have dreamed of in Hunland.
It was a commercial arrangement that went sour, and with it, Aetius's friendship with Attila.
However, even as enemies, even when Aetius had stopped Attila's surge into Gaul, at the battle of Chalons, Attila and his army were allowed to escape. Why? No one, until now, has been able to answer that question.
The reason is revealed in Attila as Told to His Scribes, available here.