Attila the Hun


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In the year of 375 AD, Europe is terrified, as if the earth were shaking. Wild hordes of horsemen, coming from the vast steppes of Asia, overrun Europe’s eastern borders. Shocking messages of murder, torture and scorched villages precede their onslaught. The whole Roman world is in turmoil and panic. The Huns are coming! Is the end of the world imminent? Is this the Bible’s prophecy of the apocalypse?


ZDF, Arte, 1995
Length: 43/53 minutes
Written and directed by: Jens-Peter Behrend, Eike Schmitz
Camera: Lars Barthel
Editor: Ellen Bader
Music: Torsten Sense
Commissioning editor: Hans-Christian Huf

The Barbarians, from regions beyond the Limes, the northern border, had attacked Rome long before the Hun attack. But only the Huns succeeded in defeating the world empire. How was that possible? How could the robbing and plundering hordes of Asian rider nomads overcome the military superpower Rome, and thereby, give a deathblow to glorious antiquity?

The empire was in upheaval. The old world of the gods had to make way for the new cult of the light god Mithras. The temples of Jupiter and Mars were desecrated. From Asia Minor, a new religion arrived, which evolved out of a small Jewish sect, and traveled west to become the most powerful religion in the entire Roman Empire: Christianity. The old cults were not only rejected, due to a change in the way people believed. The battle over the gods was also a battle for political power in Rome.

The epoch of the great migrations had arrived. Tribes migrating to the west caused unrest in Europe. Middle- and Northern-European Tribes began to move. They destroyed the old world order of the „Roman Peace“; the Pax Romana. The Huns have been considered the embodiment of the Asian threat, ever since they attacked Europe, 1.500 years ago. Since that time, Western Civilization has been afraid of the strange strangers to the East.

The storming of Europe by the Huns is one of the greatest puzzles in Western history. Where exactly did these people come from? What was the reason that they moved thousands of kilometers westward into unknown territories? What impact did they have on Western civilization?