Attila the Hun and the Sword of God

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When Attila was a young boy his mother would have told him the story of an ancient Scythian sword that was forged by the Gods for Scythian kings. During his childhood, the Sword of God was that of legend since it had been lost, and the children would often hear the elders exclaim “Look for it, search for it, for he who finds God’s sword will rule the world”.

The Sword of God, also called the Sword of Mars and the Sword of Attila, was forged from the iron of a meteorite by the Gods so that the Scythian kings would have the power to conquer all nations. Legend says that the sword was won by the Huns and the Magyars after the two joined forces to defeat the Scythians. The Huns wanted to move west while the Magyars wanted to remain, so they decided to give the sword to a blind man that would spin the sword 7 times and toss it; if the sword faced west, then the Huns would take it on their travels, and if it faced east, then it would stay with the Magyars. As a twist of fate, a gust of wind blew on the seventh spin and carried the sword west and out of sight. That was how the Sword of God was lost to the world. That is until the sword found Attila.

The story of how Attila came to possess the Sword of God is that a shepherd was watching his animals grazing, one story claims the animals were sheep and another claims cows, but both state that the shepherd noticed that one of his animals was hurt. The shepherd noticed a trail of blood on the ground that led to the animal so he followed the trail but on the way something caught the corner of his eye. After inspecting the grass, the shepherd found the tip of a sword sticking straight out of the ground and immediately dug the sword up. Realizing that it was the Sword of God, he ran to Attila and presented him with the sword, saying that Attila was the only one worthy to possess such power.

Even though the Sword of God was coveted, swords were not typical weapons for the Huns, they actually preferred bows. The Huns were so good at using bows that they were able to shoot while riding horses and in full retreat but they were not typical bows. Each bow was made of seven bone plaques used to stiffen the structure, and the bows were made asymmetrically which is thought to be because they could increase the size of the bow allowing for easier use while riding horses. This unique construction allowed the Huns arrows to fly farther than their enemies, giving them an advantage during battle. The Huns also carried axes for close combat once their arrows had done significant enough damage to ensure victory. The sword though, that was an uncommon sight for anyone battling against the Hunnic Army. There is no proof that Attila would have used the sword in battle, it could have been for ceremonial purposes or for special occasions only, but Roman accounts of Attila with the sword would indicate that it was used to fight.

Attila's Empire with the routes of invasions and battles

Attila’s Empire with the routes of invasions and battles

Attila knew that he was the rightful owner and wielded the Sword of God with such vigor that he put fear into the hearts of people all over the world, convincing everyone that it was his right to conquer and claim the entire world. The Hunnic empire was at its largest during Attila’s reign, spanning across modern day Germany, Russia, Poland, and much of south-eastern Europe.

The empire could have been much larger if it had not been due to his untimely and unexpected death. It is said that he gained the sword only just before his death, not allowing Attila to utilize the magical power that it contained. In 453, Attila had married a woman by the name of Ildico, one of his many wives, as Attila was a polygamist. He was found dead the morning after his wedding in a pool of his own blood in the bed where he slept with Ildico. As there is no specific evidence as to what happened, the theories range from a nose bleed, a blood vessel that burst causing him to choke on his own blood, that he drank too much during the wedding festivities causing hemorrhaging, and even that Ildico had killed him. What we do know is that Attila never had the opportunity to lay claim to being ruler of the world over, the promise of what the Sword of God would do for him.

The burial plot of Attila is unknown as the men who buried him were all murdered. A legend about his burial is that all the people who were involved in his funeral were tasked with diverting a river, burying Attila in the river bed, and then allowing the river to flow once again over the burial site. All those tasked with this job were immediately killed by one of Attila’s sons to protect the burial site so that no one would ever know where to find him. It was customary to bury certain belongings with the person for them to carry and have with them after death, but it is unknown if the Sword of God is still with Attila or in the hands of another.

The Sword that some historians believe to be that of Attila's located at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna

The Sword that some historians believe to be that of Attila’s located at the Kunsthistorisches Museum of Vienna

So the Sword of God slips into the mysterious realm of legend once again. There have been numerous claims that archaeologists have found Attila’s grave but they are all false hope. Some of the archaeologists who find graves who they believe to be Attila claim that the body was with a sword, which of course is immediately assumed to be the Sword of God. There is also a claim that the Art Museum of Vienna, which houses swords of all kinds, is the home to Attila’s Sword of God. Historians have examined the sword, which is actually more of a saber, and they all agree that it is the work of a Hungarian goldsmith from the 4th or 5th centuries. This particular sword was not made for battle since it is decorated with precious stones and there is no wear on this sword, which would be in contrast to the idea that Attila wielded the sword with fury.

Charlotte