Attila, (406?–453), a king of the Huns, 433–53. He is commonly known as Attila the Hun and was sometimes called "the scourge of God" because his conquests were so bloody some people thought he was sent by God as punishment for their sins. About 433 Attila became joint ruler, with his brother Bleda, of a barbarian tribe, the Huns, that had swept into eastern Europe from Asia, encamping in what is now Hungary. From 433 to 441, he fought other barbarians and soon had Vandals, Ostrogoths, Franks, and other tribes as vassals. During 441–442, Attila ravaged the Balkans. He murdered Bleda in 445 and assumed sole power over the warlike Huns, with an empire that stretched from the Rhine River to the Baltic and Caspian seas.

In three fierce battles in 447, Attila defeated the armies of Theodosius II, Roman emperor of the East, and forced him to pay large sums of money in tribute. By 450 Attila had laid waste the entire Balkan Peninsula. Turning westward with a huge army that included thousands of German vassals, he crossed the Rhine and advanced into Gaul early in 451. His purpose was to plunder the crumbling Western Roman Empire. Roman armies from Gaul led by the Roman general Flavius Aëtius and Visigoths under Theodoric I joined forces against the common threat. At the Battle of Chalons (near Troyes), Attila suffered heavy losses, and he withdrew across the Rhine.

In the spring of 452, Attila invaded northern Italy. His hordes pillaged several cities, but spared Rome because of the plea of Pope Leo I and the threat of possible famine and disease. Attila was planning another invasion of the Balkans when he died. Soon after, the Hunnish empire collapsed.