Who Killed Attila the Hun? Who Killed Joffrey?

Does the murder of Attila the Hun offer any clues about who killed Joffrey?

After reading Dr. Michael Babcock’s truly amazing book The Night Attila Died, I decided it might be fun to compare the suspects in Attila’s murder to the suspects in Joffrey’s murder.

While Michael Babcock’s highly compelling analysis provides evidence that Attila may have been killed as part of a conspiracy, George RR Martin wouldn’t have known that so if Attila’s murder inspired him, he could have chosen any combination of the  he was inspired by any of the legends concerning Attila’s death.

Historical Figure/Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent  Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent
Ildico – Attila’s new brideIldico was likely an Ostrogoth (E. Germanic) princess that Attila married
to shore up his alliance with the Ostrogoths.Historians, such as Michael Babcock, believe that Ildico was innocent. She has, however, been a traditional suspect. The Roman chronicler Marcellinus reported that “Attila, King of the Huns and ravager of the provinces of Europe, was pierced by the hand and blade of his wife.” Icelandic legendary sagas also pin the blame on Attila’s wife.

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent:

Margaery Tyrell

margaery
ChrysasphiusThe scheming, subtle, and brilliant eunuch in Theodossius II’s court was the puppet master behind many policies. He conspired with Edecon to kill Attila in 449 (during Theodossius II’s reign) and failed.

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent

Varys. We believe that Varys is motivated by the good of the realm. Maybe he killed or conspired to kill Joffrey, who was helping the realm in no way, shape, or form. Having spies everywhere, Varys could easily procure and get somebody else to administer the poison.

 varys-face
 marcian_face Marcian – the Eastern Roman EmperorThe tough former soldier and senator who allied in a sexless political marriage with the Byzantine heir Pulcheria to become emperor of the East. Marcian’s aimed to restore financial stability to the Byzantine empire and swore off making tribute payments to Attila.

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent

Tywin, who is in dire financial straights, might have sacrificed Joffrey for a marriage to the Tyrells if they had commanded it. This would save the Lannister’s finances, let him repay the Iron Bank, and preserve his family’s legacy.

tywin-head
 aetius-face Aeutius – the Western Roman generalAetius is tough, highly talented, and probably fluent in multiple languages. Aetius betrayed Attila only after his family’s advancement – with a marriage between his son and Valentinian’s daughter is assured.

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent

Possibly Olenna Tyrell the party leader who secretly betrays her allies (the Lannisters) to ensure her family’s health and happiness.

 olenna-face
EdeconEdecon, one of Attila’s inner circle, was originally a lieutenant of Attila’s brother Bleda. Edecon’s loyalty to Bleda was so great he protected Bleda’s beloved dwarf from Attila and tried to ensure the dwarf’s happiness. Edecon was likely motivated to kill Attila to avenge the death of Bleda.

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent

Maybe Sansa wanted to avenge the death of a illegally slain king (Robb Stark) to whom she was loyal.

sansa-pulls-up-hood
OrestesThe Roman secretary betrayed his master, Attila, to change alliances and gain a favorable position with a different political group (the Romans). Ultimately, Orestes appointed his twelve-year old son to be the Western Roman Emperor, but this only lasted a year before Orestes was executed.

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent

Petyr Baelish betrays the Lannisters to gain influence and ally himself with a different political (the Tyrells).

 250px-Littlefingerheadshotpromo

bleda

By Tamas Tulipan

BledaThere are some theories that Bleda never died at all and he murdered Attila. This could have been due to conflicts over policy: harsh and violent over more cooperation (moderated violence).

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent

Tommen. Tommen killing Joffrey would be the ultimate wildcard. But, Tommen could have numerous motives to kill Joffrey. He would become king, he would stop Joffrey from torturing animals, and he wanted to protect his beloved uncle, Tyrion, the
dwarf.

 

 tommen
Zerko, Bleda’s dwarfIt is probably not inconceivable that Zerko avenged his master Bleda’s death. Perhaps, he was present during the wedding festivities. He might have even been a cupbearer. Maybe. But there are no historical or legendary accounts that point to Zerko being the killer, and it seems highly unlikely.

Zerko was almost certainly innocent.

Possible Game of Thrones Equivalent

Tyrion. Like Zerko, Tyrion is likely innocent.

 Game-of-Thrones-Season-4-Tyrion

All Game of Thrones images are copyright HBO.

The image of Bleda was painted by the artist Tamas Tulipan and is licensed under Wikimedia Commons.

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

9 Comments

  • Reply May 16, 2014

    Jun

    Tommen is the least likely suspect. In the books, he was eight or nine and fond of kittens. By all account a sweet, plump boy weak of character and perhaps intelligence. Once on the throne he most enjoyed applying his royal seal on hot wax. Myrcella is repeatedly described as being far stronger and smarter than his younger brother (she learned Cyvasse quickly and beat the Dornish prince at the game) and therefore a better heir to the Iron Throne. She did not cry (unlike the TV depiction) when she was sent off to Dorne.

    • Reply May 16, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      I checked before I came up with my absurd Tommen theory and he is 10 or 11 at the time of Joffrey’s death. It is old enough to kill, but I admit given his character, this theory is really pushing it. I was trying to think of a twist that could be based on history.
      Other possible ideas? It is interesting that his own family — father Jaime and grandfather Tywin — aren’t all that choked up about his death. I mean, it would be pretty wild if they conspired to kill him — I hate to use this analogy, but theoretically they could have seen it like putting down a rabid dog. If there is a twist, and it wasn’t Petyr and Olenna, it could be Varys and a few others maybe. Thoughts? I know these are wacky theories, but I enjoy thinking about it. I guess I like mysteries. 🙂

      • Reply May 17, 2014

        Jamie Adair

        So I stumbled across Tommen’s age earlier today while reading Storm of Swords. While he is 10 or 11 in the show, he is only 8 going on 9 in the books. It is a bit young, I have to admit.

  • Reply May 17, 2014

    Watcher on the Couch

    I know very little about Attila the Hun, so I must put the book you refer on my “to read” list. I seem to recall that on an earlier post I referred to the British Library. They have an online website “Discovering Literature” though this link takes one through to Victorian and romantic type literature http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians which might be more of interest to “Penny Dreadful” fans than “GoT” enthusiasts. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of medieval stuff available digitally yet though obviously it is a work in progress. There is something about Caxton’s edition of Chaucer. All this is terribly off-topic for Attila the Hun though.

    Reading the article above, Ildico would be taking a heck of a risk. She would surely have been punished severely if she had failed, but then again she might have been a woman of spirit. Would she have been what we would consider a young girl now, considering how young some brides were in former times? Edecon has a good motive – did he have the opportunity? Chrysasphius and Marcian seem possibilities. Would they have used the “dark ages” equivalent of a “hit man” [or woman] {“faceless man}. Given that so many people appear to have had a motive I would not rule out a conspiracy, though obviously as I know virtually nothing about Attila’s death I can’t say definitely that it was so.

  • Reply May 17, 2014

    Grant

    We don’t know what Martin’s thinking, and he’s the final word on the matter, but setting aside the issues I mentioned before in an earlier post, it would make much more sense if Tywin decided to do it in a manner that looked like an accident. Sure, this might allow him to get rid of an unwanted and despised son of his, but it says to the world that an assassin could get in to the event, plus there was the risk of Joffrey doing something so stupid it would ruin the engagement before his death.

    • Reply May 17, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      Didn’t some people think that it was designed to look like an accident? E.g., using the “Strangler” poison so he would appear to choke on a piece of pie? Did anyone else eat that pie besides Joffrey?

  • Reply May 18, 2014

    Grant

    That is the sort of thing that pops up in adaptations. Because the show needed an older character (because it is very hard to get Arya-level performances out of children not even thirteen and because the scene with Margaery would be possibly illegal otherwise) they had to make Tommen a bit older, but this makes the implications and reactions change.

    Anyway while his mother did kill someone at a very young age in the books, I don’t think we have anything to indicate that Tommen has anything other than possible motive. No opportunity, either through agents or on his own, no specialized knowledge of the subject that I know of and possibly not even enough basic knowledge yet (on account of his youth( to do anything like it).

    So Martin might reveal in the last book that Tommen was the murderer all along, but it seems so incredible (in the older sense of the word, hard to credit) that he’d have to pull out a lot of references and hints that no one noticed before to avoid people accusing him of making it up as he went along.

    • Reply May 19, 2014

      Jamie Adair

      This is a very interesting observation: “(because it is very hard to get Arya-level performances out of children not even thirteen and because the scene with Margaery would be possibly illegal otherwise) they had to make Tommen a bit older, but this makes the implications and reactions change.”
      Well, I might be stretchy it with my Tommen theory. I do agree that he would have to lay the ground work. I think there are some subtle clues that he could have done it. But, I do think his age presents a real problem. It isn’t inconceivable, but it is problematic.

      Realistically, if there is a twist, I think the most likely suspect might be Varys. But, after Tyrion made his speech last night about father getting what he wants it really made me wonder if the death of Tyrion wouldn’t be all too convenient for Tywin. (Strangely I don’t remember that speech from the books even though I was just re-reading those sections over the last week. I should check to see if it exists.)

  • Reply May 18, 2014

    Grant

    Perhaps, but it was far too suspicious for anyone to not immediately suspect poison. While technically it could have been a case of choking on food, much the same as Eustace could have been, the timing and convenience of his death would make anyone question it.

    Had Joffrey been poisoned at some other, less important, date or fallen to his death or something of the sort, obviously people would have been suspicious anyway but it wouldn’t have had such weight.

    Also there was the danger to Margaery. If we assume that Tywin decided Joffrey would die, then it would make at least some sense because he had another grandson to engage her to. But if Margaery died, the Tyrell’s main line doesn’t have another daughter available, something that would put more tension on their alliance with the Lannisters.
    Of course the same is true for Olenna, her actions in the books could be explained if she had gone over it with Margaery (who I don’t think we’ve had a POV chapter from) and in the show she outright claims responsibility.

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