If the extraordinary individual, who styled himself not unjustly the scourge of God and terror of the world, had never existed, the history of the Huns would have been very little more interesting to us at the present epoch, than that of the Gepidae, or Alans, or any of the chief nations that were assembled under his banner; but the immensity of the exploits, and the still greater pretensions of that memorable warrior, render it a matter of interest to know the origins of his power, and the very beginnings from which his countrymen had arisen, to threaten the subjugation of the civilized world, and the extirpation of the Christian religion. There has probably existed, before or since the time of Attila, but one other potentate, who, in his brief career, passed like a meteor over Europe, building up an empire, that was maintained by his personal qualities, and crumbled to atoms the moment he was withdrawn from it, leaving, however, consequences of which it is difficult to calculate the extent or termination.
One of the greatest losses that the history of Europe has sustained, is that of the eight books of the life of Attila, written in Greek by Priscus, who was his cotemporary and personally acquainted with him, and who, by the fragments that have been preserved to us, appears to have been most particular, candid, and entertaining, in his details. The loss is the more to be regretted, as it is certain that they did exist entire in the library of the Vatican after the restoration of literature, though it appears to have been ascertained by anxious research, that they are no longer to be found there; and there seems reason to suspect, that they may have been purposely destroyed through the jealousy of the Church of Rome, lest their publication should bring to light any facts or circumstances, that might militate against its policy or doctrines; when we consider the conspicuous part which was acted by the bishop of Rome, at the close of the Italian campaign of Attila, a period not long antecedent to the claim advanced by his successors to religious and political supremacy.
As we are thus deprived of the great fountain of information, our materials relating to the events of some of the most important portions of his life, and especially the particulars of its termination, are lamentably deficient. Under these circumstances it will be necessary to compare the brief and conflicting notices which have descended to us, with the copious and varied details of the most rude and ancient romances of Europe, which, however involved in confusion, and discredited by fiction and anachronism, can scarcely be supposed to have been built upon no foundation. The little we know concerning the origin and early habits of the Huns, is chiefly derived from Chinese writers who were consulted by Des Guignes, which may be compared with the statements of ancient chroniclers, and, as far as relates to the general manners of the Huns and other tribes that emerged from Asia, is most strikingly confirmed by Latin authority...