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The Night Attila Died: Solving the Murder of Attila the Hun Hardcover – July 5, 2005

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Editorial Reviews


"Babcock can flat-out write.... J.R.R. Tolkien would have inhaled this book." -- Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 23, 2005

"Babcock has created a tour de force." -- Thomas R. Martin, author of "Ancient Greece" -- History Book Club Review, July 2005

"Babcock presents a convincing case for homicide." -- Joe Mysak, Bloomberg News Columnist -- Bloomberg Newswire, July 13, 2005 (

From the Author

The product of some twenty years of research, "The Night Attila Died" is not just an intriguing detective story about "what happened" to one of the most feared men in history. This book is also about how we know what we know about the past -- and how we know it.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Berkley Hardcover (July 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425202720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425202722
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,441,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Babcock is professor of humanities at Liberty University. A graduate of the University of North Carolina, he did his doctoral work at the University of Minnesota in medieval languages and literature. He is the author of "The Night Attila Died" and has spoken at conferences from Harvard to Hawaii. Professor Babcock is married and has two children. He lives in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he is active in the missions and teaching ministries of his local church.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes VINE VOICE on July 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The classic story of Attila's death was handed down by the historian Jordanes in his "Gothic History," written in Constantinople about 100 years after Attila died. According to this narrative, Attila married a Germanic princess, Ildico, enjoyed a wild night of drunken revelry, and retired to his bed with his new bride. The next day, his guards found him dead with Ildico weeping by his side--he had evidently drowned from a nosebleed during his drunken stupor.

Not a very flattering ending for the Scourge of God--and that, according to Babcock, is exactly the point. The author uses his skills as a philologist to explore the ancient texts and what they have to say about Attila's life and, ultimately, his death. It turns out there is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that Jordanes wasn't telling the truth. Babcock theorizes that Attila was murdered, possibly in revenge for the death of Bleda (the Hun's elder brother) and almost certainly with the complicity of the eastern and western Roman empires. And once Attila was gotten rid of, the historians and their powerful patrons conspired to make sure that his death would be remembered as a humiliating one, the better to discourage those who would attack the divinely protected Roman world.

The conclusion that Attila was murdered is not all that surprising--he was a violent man in a violent time, and the traditional story of his demise sounds too much like a fable with a moral attached. After all, if you're a powerful, warlike Hun, what could be worse than to die in the comfort of your bed rather than on the battlefield?
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Erika Borsos VINE VOICE on February 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Michael Babcock makes a compelling case that Attila the Hun did not die of natural causes - a nosebleed - but instead was murdered. Given the lifestyle Attila led, the liklihood of murder is a much higher probability in any case, than natural causes ... Like a modern detective the author examines the key players who had something to gain by Attila's death. He discovers the clues obtained from historical documents, some of which were altered in an attempt to mislead anyone who was looking for evidence, but just enough detail is left that points to an assasination plot which succeeded.

The author suspected something was amiss in the generally accepted explanations for Attila's death when he was a student of philology (the study of reconstructing the past from words, taking into consideratin culture, history, phonetics and graphics). The author read the detailed account of Attila's death initially in the book "Gothic History" by Jordanes which included a tightly constructed explanation filled with precise details ... however the account was written a hundred years after Attila's death. It was written based on a historical document left by Priscus, a Fifth Century historian and diplomat. Priscus had attended Attila's court in 449 A.D. and a detailed description of this event survived in his autobiography. Unfortunately, Priscus's account of Attila's death did not survive, the only thing which remained was the second hand version written by Jordanes ...

The most fascinating information contained within this book is how the politics of the past are revealed. At the time, the Roman Empire was separated into East and West: Marcinion was Emperor in the East and Valintinian III ruled as Emperor of Rome.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By L. E. Cantrell VINE VOICE on January 25, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Here is the tale of Attila's death in the year 453 as told by Edward Gibbon in "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire": "Before the king of the Huns evacuated Italy, he threatened to return more dreadful, and more implacable, if his bride, the princess Honoria[*], were not delivered to his ambassadors within the term stipulated by the treaty. Yet, in the mean while, Attila relieved his tender anxiety by adding a beautiful maid, whose name was Ildico, to the list of his innumerable wives. Their marriage was celebrated with barbaric pomp and festivity, at his wooden palace beyond the Danube; and the monarch, oppressed with wine and sleep, retired at a late hour from the banquet to the nuptial bed. His attendants continued to respect his pleasures or his repose the greater part of the ensuing day, till the unusual silence alarmed their fears and suspicions; and, after attempting to awaken Attila by loud and repeated cries, they at length broke into the royal apartment. They found the trembling bride sitting by the bedside, hiding her face with her veil, and lamenting her own danger, as well as the death of the king, who had expired during the night. An artery had suddenly burst: and as Attila lay in a supine posture, he was suffocated by a torrent of blood, which, instead of finding a passage through the nostrils, regurgitated into the lungs and stomach. His body was solemnly exposed in the midst of the plain under a silken pavilion and the chosen squadrons of the Huns, wheeling round in measured evolutions, chanted a funeral song to the memory of a hero, glorious in his life, invincible in his death, the father of his people, the scourge of his enemies, and the terror of the world.Read more ›
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