He threatened to fall upon the two empires, and an embassy was sent to him at his camp. The Huns would not dismount, and thus the Romans were forced to address them on horseback. The only condition upon which he would abstain from invading the empire was the paying of an enormous tribute, beyond what almost any power of theirs could attempt to raise. However, he did not then attack Italy, but turned upon Gaul. So much was he hated and dreaded by the Teutonic nations, that all Goths, Franks, and Burgundians flocked to join the Roman forces under Aetius to drive him back. They came just in time to save the city of Orleans from being ravaged by him, and defeated him in the battle of Chalons with a great slaughter; but he made good his retreat from Gaul with an immense number of captives, whom he killed in revenge.
The next year he demanded that Valentinian’s sister, Honoria, should be given to him, and when she was refused, he led his host into Italy and destroyed all the beautiful cities of the north. A great many of the inhabitants fled into the islands among the salt marshes and pools at the head of the Adriatic Sea, between the mouths of the rivers Po and Adige, where no enemy could reach them; and there they built houses and made a town, which in time became the great city of Venice, the queen of the Adriatic.
[Illustration: ST. MARK’S, VENICE.]
Aetius was still in Gaul, the wretched Valentinian at Ravenna was helpless and useless, and Attila proceeded towards Rome. It was well for Rome that she had a brave and devoted Pope in Leo. I., who went out at the head of his clergy to meet the barbarian in his tent, and threaten him with the wrath of Heaven if he should let loose his cruel followers upon the city. Attila was struck with his calm greatness, and, remembering that Alaric had died soon after plundering Rome, became afraid. He consented to accept of Honoria’s dowry instead of herself, and to be content with a great ransom for the city of Rome. He then turned to his camp on the Danube with all his horde, and soon after his arrival he married a young girl whom he had made prisoner. The next morning he was found dead on his bed in a pool of his own blood, and she was gone; but as there was no wound about him, it was thought that he had broken a blood-vessel in the drunken fit in which he fell asleep, and that she had fled in terror. His warriors tore their cheeks with their daggers, saying that he ought to be mourned only with tears of blood; but as they had no chief as able and daring as he, they gradually fell back again to their north-eastern settlements, and troubled Europe no more.