by M.X. Rienzi
In the middle of the year 451 A.D., a titanic battle was fought, probably on or about June
20, that would have a lasting influence on world history. This battle, the Battle of Chalons,
in the Catalaunian Plains in Gaul (France), pitted the forces of the West, of Europe, against
those of the OTHER, the barbarian from the East, Attila, his Hun army, and his allies. There
are lessons to be learned from this historical event, lessons about Western Unity in the face
of crises, lessons about the potential cost of treason to your civilization, many lessons
The Huns were a people from the steppes of Asia who turned their attention to Europe and the
West possibly after being rebuffed in an attempt to conquer the great empire of China.
Sweeping westward, the Hunnic horsemen spread terror and destruction among the peoples they
encountered. The Roman historian Ammianus described them thusly:
"The nation of Huns...surpasses all other Barbarians in wildness of life...And though (the
Huns) do just bear the likeness of men (of a very ugly pattern), they are so little advanced
in civilization that they make no use of fire, nor any kind of relish, in the preparation of
their food, but feed upon the roots which they find in the fields, and the half-raw flesh of
any sort of animal..."
Other accounts described in detail the foreign, alien, Asiatic nature of Hun physiology,
their ruthlessness in battle, and thus their complete incompatibility with the peoples of
the West, Roman and Germanic alike.
The Huns first made impact on Western history in late 4th century A.D. when they conquered
the Ostrogoths and forced the Visigoths into the lands of the Roman Empire, precipitating a
chain of events leading to the catastrophic defeat of the Romans, under Emperor Valens, by
the Visigoths, at Adrianople in 378.
Eventually, the Huns settled along the Danube, and for about half a century they found
themselves more frequently "allied" with the Romans than in conflict with them. Indeed,
the Empire of the Roman East found it expedient to pay the Huns an annual "subsidy" starting
sometime in the 420s. The Roman peoples would soon regret their coddling of the Huns, and
the "convenience" of using these alien savages as "allies."
Things started to change with the Hunnic Kingship of Attila, the "Scourge of God." In The
History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon quotes a Gothic
historian describing Attila thusly: "...a large head, a swarthy complexion, small,
deep-seated eyes, a flat nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, broad shoulders, and a
short square body..."; more important, he "delighted in war" and, according to some sources,
was a cannibal, who may have eaten two of his own sons (whether this was intentional or not
is open to question). Such was the individual who would lead the attack of Asia, of the
East, against Europe and the West. Once more, just as the Greeks had to stand fast against
the Persian, the men of the West would have to stop the ravages of the Hun.
The Huns turned their attentions first to the Balkans, and spread devastation and terror
wherever they went, slaughtering White Europeans with abandon. The Hunnic destruction of
the city of Naissus, south of the Danube, was so complete that, years later, the area was
still covered with human bones, and the death-stench was such that no one could enter the
ruins of the once-proud metropolis. Coming in contact with White, Western civilization
obviously inflamed the bloodlust of the Asiatic Attila and his hordes, and they reveled in
blood, suffering, and death. The Eastern Emperor Theodosius II "dealt" with this by
increasing the annual "subsidy" to the Huns, and ceding territory. However, when
Theodosius died, his successor, Marcian, took a harder line against Attila. The enraged
Hun decided to take his revenge against the Western Roman Empire, at that time weaker than
the Eastern Roman Empire. Indeed, not that long before, in 410 A.D., the Germanic
Visigoths, under Alaric, had sacked Rome. Soon, however, Romans and Germans would have to
join forces for the survival of the West.
Attila's "justification" for his invasion of the West came as a result of the despicable
and racio-culturally treasonous behavior of the Roman Princess Honoria (a most inappropriate
name!). This "lady" had been caught having an affair with her steward, who was executed,
with the (probably) pregnant Honoria tucked away in seclusion. What then did this spoiled,
self-indulgent "lady" do? In an act which smacks of modern-day hyper-individualism,
race-treason, and petulant, self-absorbed xenophilia (philia, not phobia!) Honoria had a
ring and a message smuggled to Attila -- she asked him to become her "champion!" Ah, yes,
that would let her "get even" with those terrible Euros and their Western values. Attila
jumped at this, and stated that the West would be his dowry!
Attila crossed the Rhine in 451 A.D. to invade Gaul and topple the Western Empire, already
faltering under the strain of repeated Germanic attacks. The Hunnic devastation of Gaul
was similar to what had taken place in the Balkans. The Roman Emperor Aetius turned to
Rome's long-time enemies, the Western Barbarians, for assistance -- Visigoths, Alans, and
Burgundians. Traditional foes came together out of a realization of the need to defend the
West, the need to defend the soil of Europe against the "other," to finally attempt to put
an end to the savagery of Attila. On the other side, in addition to his Huns, Attila had
under his leadership conquered Ostrogoths as well as Vandal allies. The Vandals, under
their King Gaiseric, turned traitor to the West out of a long-standing dispute with the
Visigoths; in addition, the Vandals were no friends of the Romans.
So, finally, on or about June 20, 451 A.D., these forces met on the Catalaunian Plains to
once again, so many years after Thermopylae, Salamis, and Marathon, decide whether the West
would live, or die under the heels of the Asia. Attila put his Huns in the middle, his
Vandal allies on his right, and the Ostrogoths (who, in theory, should have rebelled at
this point, and switched sides, but did not) on his left. Aetius (known as "the last of
the Romans") put the relatively "unreliable" Alans in the center, to absorb the initial Hun
attack; the Romans were on the left, the Visigoths on the right.
The Romans were able to move efficiently against the Hunnic right in the early stages of
the battle, seizing valuable high ground. As the Huns moved ruthlessly against the Alans
in the Roman center, the Visigoths and Romans on the flanks moved to attack. The slaughter
on all sides was horrendous. One ancient author descried the battle losses as "cadavera
vero innumera" ("truly countless bodies"); another sources indicates a death toll of
200-300,000! Whatever the exact number, the loss of life was great, the battle incredibly
fierce, and even the King of the Visigoths, Theodoric, lost his life in the struggle.
Attila was beaten back, and under the protection of his Hunnic archers made his retreat.
Some wanted Aetius to pursue and destroy the Hun, but Aetius decided, probably wisely, that
his own forces had been so reduced, that to begin another battle would potentially transform
a world-historical victory into a devastating defeat. For although greatly weakened, the
Hun forces were still capable of inflicting damage. Attila had been turned back, the West
had been saved to survive and fight another day.
That day would come soon enough, when Attila invaded and devastated Italy in 452. Attila
claimed he would conquer all of Italy, destroy, destroy, destroy, and present Rome as a
gift for his "beloved Honoria." Attila made headway, but, with weakened forces, and cowed
by the cultural power of Pope Leo I, who interceded in the affair, Attila withdrew. Had he
been victorious at Chalons, however, nothing would have saved Rome and the rest of Italy and
all of Europe from being despoiled and decimated by the Hun.
In 453 Attila died, and the Ostrogoths, and others, finally rebelled against the Huns. At
long last, the Hun nightmare ended. By joining forces, Romans and Goths, Latins and Teutons,
South and North, were able to save Western Civilization, save Europe, from a possibly fatal
and permanent despoilage at the hands of Attila and the East. Traditionally hostile, these
peoples recognized the common racial/cultural Western heritage that bound them together, and
the alienness that marked the Hun, the "other." Therein lies the important lesson of the
great victory of Chalons. Despite the foolishness of earlier Romans in coddling the Huns,
and in spite of the treason of Honoria and Gaiseric, the Men of the West were able to come
together and win. Future battles against the "other" -- Mongol, Moor, Saracen and Turk --
would be necessary to ensure the future of the West, but in 451 A.D., Aetius and Theodoric
did their part, and allowed for the birth of the modern Faustian age of Western Civilization.
To honor them, to honor the idea of pan-European, pan-Western UNITY in the face of the
"other," we celebrate June 20th as "Chalons Day," and reaffirm the ideal of Western Unity
in our own day and age, where it is sorely needed to battle the modern-day equivalents of
Attila, who would destroy the West just as surely as the Huns.