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Did Attila the Hun Really Die of a Nosebleed?

Attila the Hun has become infamous in history as the bloodthirsty leader of the Hunnic Empire. He did not die a warriors death, however. He died of a nosebleed…

Attila the Hun has become infamous in history as the bloodthirsty leader of the Hunnic Empire. Especially in The West, he is remembered for his cruelty and the destruction that his half million man army inflicted upon the defenseless citizens of the crumbling Roman Empire. Although many scholars doubt that Attila was actually responsible for the atrocities that have been attributed to him, there is no doubt that he was one those responsible for the collapse of the Roman Empire. Although he never sacked Rome itself, his army defeated the Romans in several battles which made it possible for the Vandals to eventually enter the Roman capital itself. The manner of his death, however, seems incongruous next to the ferocity of his life. He died not in battle, but of a severe nosebleed.

In 453AD, Attila the Hun married another wive. Her name was Ildico and although she was famous for her beauty, she was but one of many wives held by the great Khan. To celebrate the marriage, Attila and the rest of the wedding party enjoyed a night of heavy drinking. Early in the morning, he made his way to his bedchamber with his new bride. By the next day, he was dead. His servants waited a long time for him to arise, but eventually became alarmed and entered to see what had happened. They found his new bride sobbing over his corpse. Attila the Hun, the man who made the Roman Empire tremble, had died in his sleep in his 40s.

Although a few sources say that Attila was murdered by Ildico, the majority of the sources agree that the death of the great Khan was a complete accident. According to Priscus, an ambassador to Attila’s court, the Khan died of a nosebleed. It seems that Attila suffered from chronic nosebleeds and that in his drunken stupor, he chocked to death on his own blood after having a particularly severe one. While it may seem strange that so fearsome a warrior could be killed by so trivial an “injury”, the heavy drinking he had done the night before prevented him from doing anything as he suffocated on his own blood.

Although he may not have enjoyed the death of a warrior, Attila the Hun was given the burial of a great Khan. According to legend, his followers slashed their cheeks so that they would weep tears of blood as Attila was laid to rest. If the legends can be believed, those followers diverted the river Tisza and buried him in the river bed in a triple coffin of gold, silver, and iron. They then diverted the river back to its normal course before being themselves murdered to prevent anyone from discovering his place of burial. This made it completely impossible for any of the Khan’s many enemies to find his body and desecrate it.

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  1. Dee Huff

    On February 1, 2008 at 8:31 am


    This is really interesting. I wonder if anyone’s gone looking for the triple coffin. It would be a great treasure hunt.

  2. Moses Ingram

    On February 1, 2008 at 11:59 am


    Very interesting article. I learn something new everyday.

  3. Ruby Hawk

    On February 1, 2008 at 7:43 pm


    That is very interesting, I don’t think I had read how Atilla the Hun died or if I did I had forgotten.

  4. JESOS

    On March 25, 2008 at 4:44 am


    Maybe HE was a SHE- Like ME…;)

  5. Michele Cameron Drew

    On November 4, 2008 at 10:40 am


    Interesting and informative, well penned. :)

  6. Jellybean luvr

    On January 25, 2009 at 9:04 pm


    i find it interesting that in all his violence, he choked on his own blood from… a nosebleed! watch out, kids, nosebleeds are deadly!

  7. Lily G. Lorber

    On May 17, 2009 at 7:39 am


    Does anyone know “under’ what part of the river Tisza is Attila’s grave ? [The river runs through Hungary, Romania and Transylvania.]

  8. Mika Reljin

    On October 15, 2009 at 8:18 am


    Tisza or Tisa actually runs through Ukraine, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary and Serbia. It merges into Donau/Danube/Dunav by Slankamen in Serbia. As for Attila, each of these European countries claims that he is buried in their part of the river. There are certain claims that he was buried close to Singidunum (today’s Belgrade) but as all other claims, this is unfounded.
    The “record” of his death is highly debatable though. Priscus was a Byzantine ambasador, Attila terrorized the Roman/Byzantine Empire constantly, so it was quite (politcally) fitting to document that the man whom all feared, died from a mere nosebleede. Personally I think this was just done to deminish Attilas greatnes! Depending on the region, Attila was/is regarded either as a brutal tyrant or a hero, but one thing is for sure, which is true for all history, one man’s bad guy is another’s hero, depending who writes it…

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