wiser today

A man should never be ashamed to own that he is wrong, which is but saying in other words that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.

John Bury

History of the Later Roman Empire

The strong fortress of Asemus on the Danube, in Lower Moesia, won high praise for its valiant resistance to Hunnic squadrons, which separating from the main body had invaded Lower Moesia. They besieged Asemus, and the garrison so effectually harassed them by sallies that they were forced to retreat. A successful defence was not enough for the men of Asemus. Their scouts discovered the times when plundering bands were returning to the camp with spoils, and these moments were seized by the garrison, who unexpectedly assailed these small bodies of Huns and rescued many Roman prisoners.

The Imperial troops, which had been operating against the Persians and the Vandals, must have been available for operations against the Huns in A.D. 442 or 443, but it is not recorded that Aspar or Areobindus took the field when they returned from Persia and Sicily. We hear that a battle was fought in the Thracian Chersonese and that Attila was victorious, and after this a peace was negotiated by Anatolius (A.D. 443). The terms were humiliating for the Emperor. Henceforward the annual Hun-tribute of 700 lbs. of gold was to be trebled, and an additional payment of 6000 lbs. was to be made at once. All Hun deserters were to be surrendered to Attila, while Roman deserters were to be handed over to the Emperor for a payment of ten solidi a head.

Hitherto the realm of the Huns had been divided between the two brothers, Bleda and Attila. Of Bleda's government and deeds we hear nothing. We may conjecture that he ruled in the east, from the Lower Danube to the Volga, and Attila in the west. Soon after the Peace of Anatolius, Attila found means to put Bleda to death and unite all the Huns and vassal peoples under his own sway. For the next nine years (A.D. 444-453) he was the most powerful man in Europe.

The Illyrian and Thracian provinces enjoyed a respite from invasion for three years. But in A.D. 447 the Huns appeared again south of the Danube. The provinces of Lower Moesia and Scythia, which had suffered less in the previous incursions, were now devastated. Marcianopolis was taken, and the Roman general Arnegisclus fell in a battle on the banks of the river Utus (Wid). At the same time, another host of the enemy descended the valley of the Vardar and advanced, it is said, to Thermopylae. Others approached Constantinople, and many of its inhabitants fled from it in terror. So we are told by a contemporary, who says that more than a hundred towns were taken, and that the monks and nuns in the monasteries near the capital were slain, if they had not already fled.

Attila was now in a position to enlarge his demands. A new peace was concluded (A.D. 448) by which a district, along the right bank of the Danube, extending from Singidunum eastward to Novae, and of a breadth of five days' journey, should be left waste and uninhabited, as a march region between the two realms, and Naissus, which was now desolate, should mark the frontier.' But Attila continued to vex the government at Constantinople with embassies, complaints, and demands, and as the drain on the treasury was becoming enormous, the eunuch Chrysaphius conceived the base idea of bribing an envoy of Attila to murder his master. Edecon, the principal minister of Attila, accepted the money and returned to his master's residence, which was somewhere between the rivers Theiss and Korss, in company of a Roman embassy at the head of which was Maximin. But the plot was revealed to Attila. He respected the person of the ambassador, but he sent to Constantinople Orestes (a Roman provincial of Pannonia who served him as secretary) with the bag which had held the bribe tied round his neck, and ordered him to ask Chrysaphius in the Emperor's presence whether he recognised it. The punishment of the eunuch was to be demanded. The Emperor then sent two men of patrician rank, Anatolius (Master of Soldiers in praesenti) and Nomus (formerly Master of Offices), to pacify the anger of the Hun. Attila treated them haughtily at first, but then showed surprising magnanimity and no longer insisted on the punishment of Chrysaphius. He promised to observe the treaty and not to cross the Danube (A.D. 449-450).

Until the end of the reign of Theodosius the oppressive Hunmoney was paid to Attila, but, as we saw, Marcian refused to pay it any longer. It seemed that the Illyrian provinces would again be trampled under the horse-hoofs of the Hun cavalry, though little spoil can have been left to take. But Attila turned his eyes westward, where there was hope of richer plunder, and the realm of Valentinian, not that of Marcian, was now to be exposed to the fury of the destroyer.