In Attila's boyhood, the Huns comprised a group of nomadic people living to the east of the Volga river in separate tribes. Rua united them under his sole kingship by 432. In 434, Attila, the nephew of Rua, gained control over all Hun tribes together with his brother Bleda, whom he murdered in 445.
The Hun forces invaded the Balkans in 441, while Vandal and Persian conflicts distracted the Roman armies. After a short period of peace, Attila invaded Gaul with an army reputed to be half a million strong, but Aetius ("last of the Romans") with Visigothic and Bugundian allies defeated him at the Battle of Chalons (20 September 451). Attila then turned back and began to invade Italy in 452. He withdrew from capturing Rome, possibly because of shortages of goods and a pestilence, though according to tradition because a meeting with Pope Leo I the Great awed him.
Attila died after a nasal hemorrhage and his sons divided his empire amongst themselves. After his death, he lived on as a legendary figure: the character of Etzel in the Nibelungenlied (or Atli in the Volsunga Saga) possibly represent Attila.
"Attila" and "Ildikó" (Attila married Ildikó just before he died) still feature as popular names in Hungary.