Attila the Hun died of a nosebleed on his wedding night.

  • Attila the Hun in battle
Attila the Hun in battle
Photo credit: Christine_Kohler/ iStock

Almost everything about Attila the Hun’s life was remarkable, including his death. Though some details of the story remain unknowable — this was the year 453 CE, after all — we do know that the leader of the Hunnic Empire married a beautiful young woman named Ildico just as he was preparing his latest attack on the Eastern Roman Empire, then ruled by Marcian. The celebration lasted all night, with Attila leading the way by drinking and feasting to his heart’s content. But his guards became nervous when he didn’t wake at the normal time the following morning. Breaking down the door to the bridal chamber, they found their leader dead and his new wife sobbing at his side.

Attila had no visible wounds; according to an account from Byzantine historian Priscus (a diplomat who had dined with Attila), the Hunnic leader had choked to death on his own blood after suffering a drunken nosebleed. Though some later theories suspected Ildico of foul play, and others thought Marcian was somehow behind it, no proof has ever emerged for either theory. Attila is far from the only world leader to depart this mortal coil under strange circumstances, of course. King Adolf Frederick of Sweden ate himself to death after consuming everything from lobster and caviar to champagne and a sweet roll called “semla.” Greece’s King Alexander I, meanwhile, was done in by an infected monkey bite, and Greek philosopher Chrysippus is thought to have died of laughter after seeing a donkey eat his figs.

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