Battle of Catalaunian Plains, 451

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Attila the Hun versus Flavius Aetius: A Hunnic army under Attila turns to face its pursuer – a Roman army under Aetius – when it runs low on supplies. Both armies comprise a vast variety of nationalities so how will these divisions affect the conduct of this truly international battle?Also known as the Battle of Catalaunian Field, Chalons, Chalon and the Campus Mauriacus.

catalaunian plains preview 1

Significance

The significance of this battle has been over-stated by authors such as Creasy (1851) and Ferrill (1989), and marginalized by authors such as Howarth (1994) and Fuller (1954). The battle is chronologically between two more important engagements: the abandoned Siege of Orleans, which Fuller refers to as the real decisive battle in repelling the Hunnic invasion (1954: 294), and the Battle of Nedao, which forced the decline of the Hunnic Empire after Attila’s death.

Analysis

Attila’s defeat can be attributed to his neglect of protecting his flanks. Due to the Visigoths’ imposing presence on the hill, Attila’s left flank was exposed as soon as he led his army out of the wagon laager. His penetration of the Roman center was ill-advised for it only created more vulnerable flanks and constricted the use of his cavalry; he therefore lacked the proper amount of force to successfully defeat his enemy with this maneuver. Aetius’ tactics were largely political; he preserved his Roman units while maneuvering just enough to gain the field by falling upon the Hunnic rear. Aetius then ensured the balance of power in the region by preventing Thorismund from destroying the Huns with a clever ploy.

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Notes

Sources for this battle are extremely vague and contradictory, frustrating early attempts to animate it. For example, both Fuller (1954) and Howarth (1994) reverse the positions of the Gepids and Ostrogoths in the Hunnic battle line while no contemporary recorded the battle, or lack thereof, between the Romans and Gepids (Gordon, 2000). As such, much of the events shown during this animation are admittedly assumed.

– Jonathan Webb

Works Consulted

DeVries, Kelly. “Catalaunian Field, AD 451.” In Battles of the Ancient World 1300 BC – AD 451, 206-215. London: Amber, 2007.

Ferrill, Arthur. “Attila at Châlons.” Military History Quarterly 1.4 (1989): 48-55.

Fuller, J.F.C. A Military History of the Western World Vol. 1. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1954.

Gordon, Richard. “Battle of Chalons: Attila the Hun Versus Flavius Aetius.” History Net. http://www.historynet.com/battle-of-chalons-attila-the-hun-versus-flavius-aetius.htm (accessed July 10, 2010).

Howarth, Patrick. Attila, King of the Huns: The Man and the Myth. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2001.

Man, John. Attila: The Barbarian King Who Challenged Rome. New York: T. Dunne/St. Martin’s, 2006.

Images

Attilla the Hun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attila_the_Hun

Flavius Aetius: http://theo.inrne.bas.bg/~dtrif/abv/Aetius,%20two%20pictures.htm

Hunnish soldiers: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=262012

Map of Europe: https://sites.google.com/a/umich.edu/imladjov/maps

Map of the world: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_map_projections

Ostrogoth soldiers: http://www.flashkit.net/ostrogoths.html

Roman and Visigoth soldiers: http://www.twcenter.net/forums/showthread.php?t=262012
http://www.tagmata.it/the_battle_of_catalaunian_fields.htm

 

If you enjoyed the Battle of Catalaunian Plains 451 battle animation, you may also enjoy these other battle animations:

Battle of Daras 530, the next battle chronologically on the site:

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Battle of Dresden 1813, another battle featuring the penetration of the center against the envelopment of both flanks maneuver:

dresden preview 1

Battle of Breitenfeld 1631, another battle featuring the challenge of unreliable allies for one commander:

breitenfeld preview 1Thank you for visiting The Art of Battle: Animated Battle Maps.

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