Page:15 decisive battles of the world (New York).djvu/173

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BATTLE OF CHALONS. 167


a desperate resistance. But the "Scourge of God" resolved that no man should boast of the honor of having either captured or slain him, and he caused to be raised in the centre of his encampment a huge pyramid of the wooden saddles of his cavalry: round it he heaped the spoils and the wealth that he had won; on it he stationed his wives who had accompanied him in the campaign; and on the summit Attila placed himself, ready to perish in the flames, and balk the victorious foe of their choicest booty, should they succeed in storming his defenses.

But when the morning broke and revealed the extent of the carnage with which the plains were heaped for miles, the successful allies saw also and respected the resolute attitude of their antagonist. Neither were any measures taken to blockade him in his camp, and so to extort by famine that submission which it was too plainly perilous to enforce with the sword. Attila was allowed to march back the remnants of his army without molestation, and even with the semblance of success.

It is probable that the crafty Aetius was unwilling to be too victorious. He dreaded the glory which his allies the Visigoths had acquired, and feared that Rome might find a second Alaric in Prince Thorismund, who had signalized himself in the battle, and had been chosen on the field to succeed his father Theodoric. He persuaded the young king to return at once to his capital, and thus relieved himself at the same time of the presence of a dangerous friend, as well as of a formidable though beaten foe.

Attila's attacks on the Western empire were soon renewed, but never with such peril to the civilized world as had menaced it before his defeat at Chalons; and on his death two years after that battle, the vast empire which his genius had founded was soon dissevered by the successful revolts of the subject nations. The name of the Huns ceased for some centuries to inspire tenor in Western Europe, and their ascendency passed away with the life of the great king by whom it had been so fearfully augmented.*

  • If I seem to have given fewer of the details of the battle itself than

its importance would warrant, my excuse must be, that Gibbon has enriched our language with a description of it, too long for quotation and too splendid for rivalry. I have not, however, taken altogether the same view of it that he has. The notes to Mr. Herbert's poem of "Attila" bring together nearly all the authorities on the subject.