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THE Vandalic settlement of Africa (in Imperial nomenclature the name was officially reserved to the north­west portion of that continent) was more keenly resented by the Romans than the barbaric occupation of any other province of the Western Empire. In other instances disintegration had been gradual and the territory had been resigned to the new possessors with a sense of political inability to retain them, whilst a semblance of fealty to the Eastern Emperor indulged his pretensions to supremacy; but Africa had been snatched away by a sudden conquest, and became a hostile centre from which depredations against the opposite shores of Europe were for long the avowed object of its ruler.

Subsequent kings of the Vandals found the means to cement an alliance with the Empire, and Justinian himself was in amicable relationship with the contemporary member of the dynasty. Internal dissensions, however, had recently effected the abrupt overthrow of his ally and the Emperor vainly intervened on his behalf. A rupture of diplomatic relations followed, smouldering enmities were rekindled, and the question of despatching a military force for the reconquest of Africa was seriously mooted at Constantinople. Justinian felt strongly impelled to the execution of the project, and brought the subject up for discussion in his Consistorium.

There his proposals were received with tacit disfavour, the remembrance of a former expedition, which had ended in disaster, weighed on the minds of the nobles in attendance, and the army contemplated with dread the idea of a campaign of which a long sea voyage and naval warfare seemed to constitute the essential features, whilst the Counts of the Treasury trembled at the prospect of an expenditure which their funds might be inadequate to meet. But none dared to appear in open conflict with the manifest wishes of the Emperor, until at length John of Cappadocia rose and delivered a definitely adverse opinion. Interlarding his discourse with much that was deferential to Justinian and laudatory of his political capacity in general, he urged with bold logic the most obvious objections. The journey would occupy more than four months, wherefore news as to the progress of the war could not reach the capital in less than a year after the start. Should the announcement of victory at last break the suspense, it must at once be felt that the distant province could not be held in permanent subjection owing to Italy and Sicily being under foreign domination. On the other hand, should ill success attend the operations, the enmity of a powerful kingdom would have been provoked, and the limits of the Empire would have to be defended against hostile reprisals.

Justinian assented to these arguments, and for the time smothered his resentful ambition to punish the offending power, but after no long delay the question was finally determined by a point of religion. The Vandals were odious in the eyes of the ecclesiastics of the East, Arian heretics who had gained the upper hand over an orthodox Christian population; and a fanatical bishop, indignant at the failure of the deliberations, hurried from his see in Asia Minor to the Imperial Court. There he represented to the Emperor that in a divine vision he had been ordered to reprimand him for being deterred by vain fears from his righteous purpose of upholding the Church. God had spoken to him in definite language, and said, “Tell the Emperor that I will be with him and will reduce Africa under his dominion”. Justinian was convinced immutably, and made all haste with his preparations so that the expedition might be ready to start in the proximate summer (533).

The country which Justinian was now about to invade, a vast and fertile region sufficiently spacious to form a separate empire, has always within the historic period been the seat of a prosperous, though fluctuating civilization, yet never of indigenous growth. Successively Phoenician, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Mohammedan, and French, during the long tract of three thousand years, the numerous native population has invariably been a subsidiary and more or less disorderly element of the political entity. At one of the most picturesque moments of antiquity we are presented with the scene of Caius Marius sitting as an exile amid the ruins of Carthage. That incident occurred more than half a century after the destruction of the city (146 BC) owing to the subjugating animosity of Rome, but about thirty years previously a decree for the colonization of the deserted site had passed the Senate, and one of the Gracchi had actually conducted a party of six thousand settlers lo rebuild and re-people the Punic capital. Official sanction, however, was shortly withdrawn from the enterprise owing to a recrudescence of superstition, or rather, perhaps, to a shift of political power, and for nearly a century the district was abandoned to decay before an earnest effort was made to restore it to affluence and order.

The actual rebuilding of Carthage was due to the initiative of Julius Caesar and the action of Augustus; and the resuscitated city rose to importance so rapidly that in the time of the elder Severus it was regarded as second only to Rome. A Proconsul, the only deputy of that rank in the Western Empire, governed the province in which it was situated, and was held to be a magistrate of superior consequence to the Vicar of Africa, under whom five lesser governors controlled the country, with the exception of the westernmost district, which was in administrative conjunction with Spain. The seven provinces of Africa thus constituted extended for fifteen hundred miles in a straight line along the basin of the Mediterranean and included the modern divisions of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. Southwards, the uncertain delimitations of the Atlas mountains and the Libyan desert allowed the Romanized region a breadth which varied from fifty to two hundred miles.

Carthage was situated on the shore of a small bay, and faced to the east, over against the Hermaean promontory, looking towards Sicily from a distance of one hundred and twenty-five miles. Being essentially a maritime capital it was distinguished by the extent of the accommodation it offered to shipping; and for more than a mile along its seaward aspect was bounded by a line of quays protected by a series of breakwaters from the violence of the waves. On the south an inner harbour, called the Mandracium, artificially constructed, was entered by a narrow channel defended by the usual device of a chain. Still lower down a natural expanse of water, land-locked and of considerable area, known as the Stagnum, was capable of receiving a vast congregation of vessels. The Mandracium was circular in form, and contained in its centre a small island of the same shape. The annular channel thus formed was bordered all round on both sides by colonnades which extended into the water. A double ring of covered docks was thus constituted, the space between each pair of adjacent columns being adapted for giving shelter to a single vessel.

The palace of the Praefect in charge of the navigating interests rose from an elevated spot in the centre of the island, and was used as a post of observation from whence he could survey the activities of the port. From the northern extremity of the line of quays a stairway of great width and proportions, bounded and divided by ornamental balustrades, ascended by more than a hundred steps, and formed a grand approach to the city proper, which was built on ground somewhat raised above the sea level. A broad marble-paved terrace, from which the inhabitants could overlook the quay and the water, formed the marine limit of the city at this higher altitude. It was called the New Plaza.

Roman Carthage was adorned with all the usual components of a great capital in this age; a spacious forum lined with porticoes, colonnaded streets and public buildings suited to the needs of the governing class. The latter occupied the citadel, a lofty mound centrally situated, the transformed Punic Byrsa. As special features the main thoroughfares were shaded by rows of trees, and a remarkable street was devoted solely to the trade of the money-changers and silversmiths. Spacious halls for the accommodation of professors of the liberal arts and philosophers, churches, public baths, theatres, a hippodrome and a substantially constructed aqueduct more than fifty miles long, completed the equipment of the African capital. A remnant of jealous apprehension, inherited by successive generations of Romans, decreed that Carthage should remain without walls, and only in the first quarter of the fifth century was the defect supplied by the younger Theodosius. Soon after the establishment of the Empire Africa became the granary of Italy, and, as later Constantinople was dependent on Alexandria, the arrival in the Tiber of the corn fleets from Carthage was a matter of vital importance at Rome.

The character of the Africans has been painted in the blackest colours by more than one writer of this age, and it appears to be indisputable that for the extremes of luxury, vice, and perfidy they were justly censured by their fellow subjects. It was possible, we are told, that, owing to the populousness of the country, a few virtuous citizens might be found; but the most obvious impression was that all without exception were addicted to drunkenness and immorality of the vilest form. The prostitution of both sexes had attained to a degree elsewhere unknown: and the streets of Carthage were thronged with males, who unsexed themselves habitually by adopting the manners and costume of the opposite sex. Ethnologically it is certain that the population was extremely mixed, and the Semitic factor was well represented for many centuries after the Roman conquest. Hence the Latin language had not displaced the Punic tongue, even among the higher classes, as late as the reign of the Antonines. Again, the native races, known as the Moors, Kabyles, or Berbers, were more prone to live by war and rapine than to bow to the Roman sovereignty. On several occasions, therefore, the African provinces had been the scene of serious revolts which had to be suppressed with all the force of the Imperial arms. Christianity spread rapidly among this heterogeneous and hot-blooded population and, as might have been anticipated, assumed a very contentious character. Thus the fiercest schismatics and sectarians who arose in the West, the Donatists and the Novatians, had their origin exclusively or mainly at Carthage.

A fair proportion of the eminent men by whom the Latin half of the Empire was distinguished were Africans by birth and, perhaps, by blood. Among the Pagans we find the incomparable dramatist Terence, who flourished during the time of the Republic; the last of the great soldiers who ruled the Empire integrally before it began to succumb to the barbarians, the Emperor Septimius Severus; and the elegant writer Apuleius, whose apologue of Cupid and Psyche has secured a place in the literature of all modern languages. The Christian Africans also produced perhaps the most notable of the advocates and authors who illustrated the early centuries of the Church; the vehement Tertullian, whose fierce style would lead us to suspect him of kinship with the restless autochthons of the land; the scarcely less ardent Cyprian, the masterful champion of episcopal vigour, who suffered martyrdom under Valerian; and the diligent Augustine, devout, mild, and imaginative, to whom the theology of the West owes its distinctive character.

The romantic story of the loss of Africa, the veiled rivalry of Aetius and Bonifacius, and the treachery of the former, so fraught with evil to his country, is an oft-read tale to which a passing allusion will suffice for this page. The Count of Africa, being led to believe by his insidious friend that the Empress Placidia meditated his ruin, attempted to secure himself by inviting Genseric, king of the Vandals in Spain, to share with him the sovereignty of the seven provinces (429). Bonifacius discovered the deception, but too late to retrieve his error; the barbarian monarch had made good his footing in the country, and the Roman general, having failed to arrest his progress in battle, was ultimately driven out of Africa.

During ten years Genseric worked his way to the east, gradually possessing himself of the provinces, and in 439 crowned the success of his adventure by the capture of Carthage. A score of years later the Emperor Majorian fitted out an expedition for the expulsion of the Vandals; but the treason of his own officers brought about the destruction of his fleet in the bay of Carthagena, and the enterprise collapsed. A decade elapsed and Genseric was again threatened by the eastern Emperor Leo, who massed together ships and troops at an immense expenditure for the reconquest of Africa. Owing to the incapacity or, perhaps, the perfidy of the commander, Basiliscus, the brother-in-law of the Emperor, this expedition also resulted in a disastrous failure. During his long reign of nearly forty years Genseric was the terror of the Mediterranean, and in 455, incited by another unpatriotic invitation, invaded Italy and sacked Rome at the instance of the ex-Empress Eudoxia.

The orthodox Christians suffered much from the persecution of their Arian conquerors, but under the mild rule of Hilderic, who succeeded in 523, the peace of the Church throughout the Vandalic dominions at length became assured. At their advent into Africa the simple barbarians were revolted by the manners of the inhabitants; and, as soon as they had secured themselves in their conquest, proceeded to assimilate everything to their native ideas of chastity and temperance. Within the first decade of their supremacy they had worked a general reformation at Carthage; exterminated the androgynous males, suppressed the brothels, and settled all the courtesans in a state of legitimate nuptials. This ideal dispensation was, however, by no means permanent, and later generations of Vandals gradually became dissolved in the luxury, and yielded to the sexual allurements which had been abolished by their stern forefathers. Thus by the beginning of the sixth century the rude nomads had been transformed into untiring votaries of the theatre, the circus, and the chase, into revellers clad in silken vestments, who had planted themselves gardens and orchards, where they consumed their days in feasting and abandonment to sexual gratifications.

Between Hilderic and Justinian a firm and friendly pact had been cemented during the lifetime of Justin, and the alliance was maintained from year to year by a liberal interchange of costly presents. The unwarlike character, however, of the Vandal king and the defeat of his deputy by the Moors, had rendered him unpopular among his subjects, a circumstance which was taken advantage of by his cousin Gelimer, a grand-nephew of Genseric, and heir presumptive of the crown. He began by assuming an arrogant state, as if he had already succeeded; and, having reduced the authority of Hilderic to a nullity, in the seventh year of his reign persuaded the Vandal nobles to elect him king in his stead. Soon the deposed monarch, with his immediate supporters, was consigned to a prison, whilst the Byzantine alliance was repudiated as being hostile to the succession of Gelimer. On hearing of this revolution, Justinian despatched a letter of remonstrance to the usurper, urging him to allow Hilderic the nominal occupation of the throne, and to content himself for the present with the realities of kingly power. Hilderic, he reminded him, was advanced in years, so that his legitimate succession could not be long delayed. The reply of Gelimer was curt and insolent: “he had not seized on the crown, but had been duly elected by the accredited chiefs of the Vandal nation: the wisest monarchs were those who attended assiduously to their own affairs and refrained from interference with those of other people”. At the same time he imposed a stricter durance on Hilderic, and blinded his nephew Hoamer, who had been his principal minister. Justinian was now deeply offended and burned with the desire to coerce Gelimer by force of arms. How the question was debated at Constantinople, and the Emperor's wishes were shaped to a reality has already been related circumstantially.






On the midsummer's day of 533 the Byzantine fleet was assembled in the harbour of the Palace, in readiness to start on its voyage to the African coast. Belisarius, the commander-in-chief, accompanied by his wife Antonina and his secretary Procopius, was in occupation of the admiral's ship. As an auspicious rite a Christian proselyte, fresh from the baptismal font, was received on board at the hands of the Patriarch, who invoked the blessings of heaven on the expedition. The Emperor directed the departure from the shore, and the whole fleet, following in the wake of the admiral's ship, made sail for Heraclea in Thrace. There they remained several days in order to complete the supply of horses, which were delivered to them from the Imperial herds pastured in that country. The transport service consisted of five hundred ships, in which were carried the effective force of the expedition, ten thousand foot and five thousand horse.

Twenty thousand sailors manned the vessels, and, in view of naval warfare, they were convoyed by ninety-two roofed dromons, served by two thousand rowers. On putting out from Heraclea the voyage was fully entered on; and by the judicious use of sails and oars, according to the exigences of weather and locality, the fleet moved onwards to its destination. Belisarius and his staff were accommodated in three ships, which chose the course and led the way for all the rest to follow. Red sails by day and lights borne on lofty poles at night rendered them conspicuous objects on the water. They anchored at several places on their route, and the signal for leaving port was given by the blowing of trumpets. The city of Abydos, in the Hellespont, the promontory of Sigeum on the coast near Troy, Cape Malea in Laconia, the point of Taenarum, the town of Methone in Messenia, and the island of Zacynthus, marked stages of their voyage until they arrived in a deserted bay of Sicily at the foot of Mount Aetna. At Methone a lengthened stay was necessitated by the incidence of a calamity which resulted from the criminal parsimony of the Praetorian Praefect John. In his eagerness to save the cost of labour and fuel he had stocked the commissariat with imperfectly baked biscuit. After the lapse of two or three weeks this unsuitable provision fell into a state of poisonous decay, so that the troops who partook of it were seized with intestinal inflammation. Before the cause could be recognized five hundred had perished, and the spread of the disease was tardily checked by Belisarius, who procured a supply of proper bread from the shore. As soon as the Emperor had cognizance of the disaster he commended the conduct of the general, but took no steps to punish the guilty minister.

While in the Sicilian harbour a wave of doubt and depression swept over the minds of the Romans. They feared that an engagement might be imminent with a strange and formidable foe. “Where were now the Vandals, and what was their method of fighting?" was asked on every side. "Were they lying in wait to attack the expedition before it could arrive on the African coast?” The Byzantine military were scared at the prospect of a naval battle, and made no secret of their intention to avoid such a contingency by a precipitate flight. More enlightenment as to the task before them was, therefore, imperatively needed; and Belisarius decided to despatch Procopius on a mission of inquiry to Syracuse.

Fortune was propitious to the messenger at the outset; meeting with an old friend who was connected with the shipping trade, he found that one of his slaves present had left Carthage only three days previously. The man was produced and proved to be well informed as to the position in the Vandal kingdom. Gelimer was totally oblivious as to the approaching invasion, and had retired to his county house at Hermione, a distance of four days’ journey from the coast, whilst the flower of his army had just departed for Sardinia with the object of quelling a revolt in that island against the Vandal authority. Elated by this gratifying news, Procopius hastened back to the fleet, which in the meantime had moved down the coast to Caucana, within twenty-five miles of Syracuse. Confidence was at once restored by his favourable report, and without further delay Belisarius made sail for the African coast. They were now well provisioned, unusual facilities for the purpose having been granted to them in Sicily by Amalasuntha, the Queen-Regent of Italy, with whom Justinian had entered into amicable relations. Halting on the way at Melita, they arrived at Caputvada in the province of Byzacium just three months after they had set out from Constantinople. Carthage lay almost due north of their position, distant by land about one hundred and thirty miles.

A council of war was now held in order to decide as to the most advisable method of conducting the campaign. The question for discussion was whether Carthage should be approached by land or by sea. Archelaus, one of the lieutenant-generals, argued that they should sail along the coast with the object of entering the Stagnum, in whose ample space the whole fleet would be effectively sheltered from wind and waves. From thence the capital could be assaulted with facility, and, in view of the unprepared state of the enemy, its speedy capture might be expected.

Belisarius, however, pointed out that should a storm arise in the meantime, they must either perish on the coast or be driven far away from it; whilst in any case the delay which must ensue would give the enemy time to collect his forces. He also dwelt on the fact that his men had already asserted their determination to fly rather than fight a naval battle. He counselled, therefore, that they should forthwith disembark, with all their arms and horses, and fortify themselves in a camp on the shore. The advice of Belisarius was unanimously approved and immediately acted upon. At the outset their spirits were raised by a fortunate occurrence which they regarded as a typical omen of their future progress. In digging the trenches they struck a copious supply of water, a phenomenal circumstance in Byzacium, which was an exceptionally arid region. As to the fleet, a small complement of each ship's company was left on board, just sufficient to navigate the vessels or to repel a hostile attack.

The next step of Belisarius was to take possession of Syllectuni, a seaport which lay about thirty miles to the north. The town, like all others in Africa except Carthage, was unwalled in accordance with the policy adopted by Genseric, who had razed all fortifications throughout the country. The capture, therefore, was facile, and was accomplished without bloodshed. Here the general produced letters from Justinian explanatory of the invasion, and caused reports to be circulated which were likely to enlist the support of the inhabitants. To the Vandals he said that they had come merely to vindicate the rights of their legitimate king, who had been dethroned by a usurper; to the Romans, upon whose racial and religious affinities he counted, that the army would pay its way and no forcible seizure of private stores would be made. A favourable impression was at once created, and the procurator of the public posts handed over to Belisarius all the horses at his disposal.

The march towards Carthage was now begun at the rate of ten miles a day, with a methodical disposition of the troops. Two miles in front they were preceded by an advance guard of three hundred horse under John the Armenian. On the left six hundred Huns, all mounted archers, at an equal distance, kept watch against a surprise. To the right their safety was assured by the proximity of the sea; and on that side the fleet was ordered to follow the movements of the army as they advanced along the coast. Each night a camp was formed or quarters were taken up in such towns as were conveniently situated on the route. Proceeding in this manner they passed through Leptis and Madrumetum, and arrived at Grasse, which lay within forty miles of the capital. Here they found a palace of the Vandal kings, in the orchard of which they encamped amid trees laden with fruit in such profusion, that after the soldiers had regaled themselves there was no perceptible diminution of the supply.

In the meantime Gelimer had news of the invasion, whereupon he sent an order to his brother Ammatas at Carthage to slay Hilderic with all those affiliated to him, whilst he himself was to levy an army of the best attainable materials at Decimum, a suburb less than ten miles out from the city. Simultaneously the usurper started from Hermione with all his available forces in pursuit of the Romans, of whom he happened to be in the rear.

On the evening of his halt at Grasse scouts sent out by Belisarius collided with parties of Vandals on a similar errand, and thus did he first become cognizant that the enemy were active at his heels. The Byzantines continued their forward march, and in four days came to a stand in sight of Decimum. For a short time previously they had been out of touch with the fleet, as the coast had become broken and precipitous, whilst now their ways were divergent; but Archelaus, who was in command, had been instructed to round the Hermaean promontory and come to anchor in a position not less than twenty miles off Carthage.

At this juncture the Romans were beset by three divisions of the Vandal forces, but, owing to a want of concerted action, the combination failed. Ammatas sallied forth from Carthage, his troops straggling after him in detachments, and was unexpectedly brought up by the advance guard of three hundred. A sharp skirmish ensued; the Vandal leader was slain, his men fled, communicating their panic to those who were following on, and thus all returned to take refuge in the city. On the left Gibamundus, a nephew of Gelimer, at the head of two thousand cavalry, fell in with the Hunnish horse, who charged them incontinently and put them to flight with great slaughter. The Vandals were, in fact, stricken nerveless at the sudden appearance of these warriors, whom they had never encountered, but who were known to them by reputation.

Before the news of these engagements could reach him Belisarius had gathered all his cavalry about him, and advanced from the camp in expectation of meeting the enemy. He ordered a considerable part of his forces to explore in front, and these, after no long march, found themselves in sight of a great concourse of horse commanded by the Vandal king in person. A desultory conflict, in a region diversified by low hills, followed: the barbarians attacked with skill and bravery, and in the result the Byzantines were routed, nor did they relax their flight until they succeeded in rejoining Belisarius. At this moment the Vandals might have been victorious had they been led by a general who knew how to conquer. But Gelimer, neglecting his advantage, abandoned himself to lamentations for the death of his brother, of which information was just then brought to him, whilst the Roman general rallied his troops and bore down upon his adversaries with irresistible vigour. The Vandal leader, with all his forces, now fled indiscriminately, and, solicitous only for immediate safety, chose the unfrequented road to Numidia instead of retiring strategically on the capital.

Belisarius was now master of the situation, though himself unaware of the full extent of his success. Within Carthage, in fact, owing to the great preponderance of the Roman element, a bloodless revolution had already taken place. The gates had been thrown open on the Vandal defeat becoming known, and, at the sight of the fleet in the offing, the chain of the harbour had been withdrawn, whilst the bulk of the citizens awaited with joyful expectation the moment when they might fraternize with the victors. The Vandal officials fled into hiding or sanctuary; the gaoler of the prison on the citadel unbolted the doors and gave exit to all the political suspects whom the distrust of Gelimer had incarcerated; and even the Arian clergy abandoned their churches to the possession of the Orthodox bishops. Next day the Roman general broke up his camp, and, still keeping his line of battle, advanced with considerable caution to the capital, where at length he realized how completely he had won the day. A portion of the fleet was already moored in the Mandracium, the patency of which had been discovered accidentally through the temerity and disobedience of one of the subordinate officers. The soldiers were received into quarters throughout the town, while Belisarius, with his staff, ascended the Byrsa and established himself in the royal palace. The same evening a banquet was spread for the Romans by the servants of Gelimer, when the victorious general occupied the throne of the defeated king.

Belisarius now applied himself energetically to restoring the fortifications of Carthage, which had fallen into a ruinous condition, as he felt assured that before long he would have to defend his conquest against a siege. In an incredibly short time he repaired all the breaches in the walls, and surrounded the city with a fosse protected by a stout palisade. His foresight was amply justified, and it was soon found that the outlying districts were beset by the adherents of Gelimer to such an extent that no Byzantines could venture outside the city without the certainty of being cut off by some hostile band.

In a few weeks the Vandal king had collected a force which he deemed sufficient for the recovery of his capital; and, moreover, he attacked the city insidiously by means of secret emissaries whom he employed to seduce the allegiance of the Arian barbarians, who were numerous in the Roman army. His camp was situated at Bulla on the Numidian frontier, about one hundred miles to the west of Carthage. Here he awaited his brother Tzazo, the leader of the Sardinian expedition, whom he had summoned to take part in the war against the invaders. His approach was signalled, and, as soon as a landing was effected, the impulsive barbarians threw themselves into each other's arms and bewailed with tears and lamentations the sudden misfortunes which had overtaken their race.

The siege of Carthage was now begun, and Gelimer’s first hostile act was to cut off the main water supply by making a breach in the aqueduct. No military assault was attempted, nor did the Vandals raid the country, as they looked on everything as their own property. A passive beleaguerment, by isolating the inhabitants from the outside world, seemed to them to be sufficient to bring about the submission of the capital. Belisarius on his side at first maintained an equal quietude, deferring active measures until the walls had been fully consolidated. He was also distrustful of the Huns under his command, whose murmurs against their protracted absence from home augured ill for their loyal bearing in the event of a battle.

After the lapse of a few weeks the fortifications were rendered secure, and then the Byzantine general marched out with all his forces to seek the enemy. Gelimer’s encampment was soon discovered to be at Tricamerum, seventeen miles beyond the city. Belisarius hastened to the spot with all his cavalry, which on his arrival he disposed in three divisions opposite the hostile camp, he himself occupying the centre with his standard-bearer. The Huns drew themselves up apart, according to their custom, and in this instance meditated treachery should the fortune of the day prove adverse to the Byzantines. The infantry were halted at some distance in the rear. A rivulet now separated the two armies, and on the following morning the Vandals ranged themselves in order of battle on the opposite bank. Tzazo, with the veterans from Sardinia, led the van, whilst Gelimer rode along the line exhorting his troops to rely solely on their swords. First of all the Armenian John, with a small band, dashed across the stream against the Vandal centre, but was repulsed. He returned to the charge with a larger following, and was again repulsed. For the third onslaught Belisarius undertook the attack in person; the Romans sent up a great war-shout, and the Imperial standard was swept along as the whole centre drove down impetuously on the barbarians. A powerful impact resulted; the Vandals made a strenuous defence, but Tzazo was soon slain, whereupon they desisted and betook themselves to flight. All the Roman horse now put themselves into motion, including the vacillating Huns, and the enemy were hotly pursued, until they saved themselves by plunging into their camp. This victory cost the Byzantines only fifty men, but of the Vandals eight hundred fell.

On the evening of the same day Belisarius advanced with both horse and foot to assault the enemy's camp. On arriving he found, however, that Gelimer had hurried away secretly with a few friends, intent on hiding himself in the recesses of Numidia, and that the Vandal host, on perceiving themselves to be deserted by their King, had dispersed, eager only to preserve their lives. Thus the derelict camp, with its whole contents, became the immediate prize of the victors. It was found to be replete with wealth, the accumulated treasures of the Vandal nation, which had been amassed during the raids of Genseric on every part of the Roman dominions. Such an immense hoard of money, it seemed, could never before have been brought together into one repository. Pillage now became the sole object of the Byzantine soldiery, all discipline was ignored, and the army was only discernible in the form of numerous pairs of companions who overran the district engaged in rapine. This abandonment continued throughout the night, and at dawn Belisarius, with great difficulty, collected his men, when all returned to Carthage laden with immense booty. Besides valuables, the seizures comprised women and boys, all men who seemed to belong to the hostile nation being butchered. It was now the middle of December, and just three months since the Byzantines had entered the African capital.

To secure the person of Gelimer was a matter of prime importance, and John, the Armenian, with a company of two hundred, had been despatched in pursuit of the fugitive. For five days they hurried after him on his track, and then, by a deplorable mischance, the leader was transfixed and mortally wounded by an arrow discharged from the hand of one of his own men. Belisarius was at once informed, and hastened to the locality, but the unavoidable delay enabled the flying King to make good his escape. On inquiry, it was elicited that he had taken refuge among the Moors of Pappua, a rugged and almost inaccessible mountain in a remote corner of Numidia. Belisarius followed on, and, having made a survey of the stronghold, decided that it was impregnable to an attack. He therefore appointed one of his officers, Pharas, a Herule, to blockade the outlets and cut off supplies to the refugees. He himself returned to Carthage by way of Hippo Regius, where he had the good fortune to capture the reserve treasures of the Vandal King in a weather-bound ship, which had failed to convey them to the custody of Gelime’s ally, the King of the Visigoths in Spain. Belisarius now sent a legate to Sardinia and Corsica, who displayed the head of Tzazo, and secured the submission of those islands to the suzerainty of Justinian. Wherever the Vandals had ruled missions were despatched to announce the circumstances of the conquest, and thus the whole of North Africa, together with the islands of Ebusa, Majorca, and Minorca, were transferred to the dominion of the Eastern Emperor.

In the meantime the blockade of Pappua had been rigorously maintained, and Gelimer had been reduced to the greatest straits for the want of proper provisions. At length Pharas expostulated with him on his obduracy, and tempting proposals were made to him should he surrender himself to the clemency of Justinian; the rank of a Roman patrician fortified with a liberal endowment of lands and money. Gelimer replied that he would never accept a favour from one who had conquered him in an unjust war, and implored the officer not to aggravate his sufferings by the repetition of such offers. His letter concluded with the words, “I beg of you, my dear Pharas, to send me a lyre, a loaf of bread, and a sponge”. At a loss to understand this seemingly strange request, Pharas interrogated the messenger, who explained that the musical instrument was required in order to accompany a dirge in which the Vandal King bewailed his misfortunes; that the hard fare of the Moors did not include such a luxury as baked bread; and that the sponge was intended to bathe the eyes of the sufferer, which had become inflamed by weeping.

The officer compassionately acceded to the prayer, but maintained his guard as strictly as before. After the lapse of three months the pride and resentment of Gelimer became subdued, chiefly through his being a spectator of the hardships entailed on those who had attended him to his comfortless retreat; and he signified his willingness to resign himself to the custody of Belisarius. He was conducted to Carthage, and shortly afterwards the Byzantine leader, with his principal captives and all the spoils of the war, set sail for Constantinople. Belisarius was, in fact, glad that the time had come for him to take his departure, as envy and slander had lately begun to be rife about him; and it was insinuated at Court that he had assumed a regal state, as if he contemplated an independent sovereignly, a line of conduct which was wholly foreign to his temperament and aspirations.

On an appointed day in the autumn of the same year a scene was enacted in the Imperial capital which recalled the triumphs of former ages, but so modified as to exalt the glory of the Emperor far above that of his most conspicuous subject. Belisarius, accompanied by the deposed King, his relatives and nobles, moved through the city, on foot, at the head of a procession in which were displayed all the precious resources and costly appurtenances which illustrated the recent magnificence of the Vandal Kingdom, and were now become the prize of the conqueror. Golden chairs, state carriages, a profusion of sparkling gems, cups of gold, all the appointments of the royal banquets, myriads of silver talents, and the heirlooms of plate which had adorned the palace, were borne along the streets to the Hippodrome, in the area of which they were accumulated to make a dazzling exhibition. Among them were the spoils of Jerusalem, translated to Rome by Vespasian and Titus, and afterwards pillaged from thence by the insatiable Genseric, who carried them off to Carthage.

Justinian sat aloft upon his throne, and Gelimer, still invested with the insignia of a King, was conducted to his feet. There he was stripped of his purple robe and forced to kiss the ground before the triumphant monarch. After his illustrious captive the victorious general rendered a similar homage to his Imperial master. Throughout the ceremony the Vandal King maintained a dignified composure, but he repeated aloud continually the words of Scripture, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”. Subsequently ample estates in Galatia were conferred on him, but the patriciate was withheld, as he declined to abjure his Arian faith. All the scions of Vandal royally had been transported to Constantinople, and among them were the daughters of Hilderic, who in the female line were the direct descendants of the last Emperors of the West. These princesses were consigned to the care of Theodora, and the ultimate representatives of the dynasty founded by the great Theodosius became the pensioners of the fortunate prostitute.

As for the treasures of the extinct Hebrew nationality, a Jewish spectator of the pageantry inferred, within the hearing of Justinian, that the retention of these sacred relics had brought destruction to Rome, and determined the doom of Carthage, whence he foreboded that the Byzantine capital would fall under the ban of the Almighty should they remain inside its walls. No resting-place, he asserted, would be found for them unless where Solomon had consecrated them to the worship of Jehovah. The Emperor was struck by the admonition, and decided to divest himself of these fateful valuables by sending them to be deposited in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, at Jerusalem.

In the following January Belisarius was honoured with the Consulship of the year (535), and a large amount of the booty, which had fallen to his lot at Carthage, was distributed as largess among the populace. His reputation had now risen to such a height that he seemed to be too great to remain in the position of a subject; and the Imperial couple thought it prudent to extract from his complaisance a solemn pledge that he would never aim at the sovereignty during the lifetime of Justinian.

When it was reported to the Emperor that the Kingdom of the Vandals was overthrown, he at once drew up a scheme for the local government of this accession to his dominions. A third Praetorian Praefect, with a salary of 100 lb. of gold, was created to administer the Diocese of Africa, as it was now denominated. His official seat was at Carthage, and under him seven Rectors were nominated to rule the minor divisions of the country. The island of Sardinia was included in this disposition, and formed a separate province. The civil and military powers were kept apart, and a Master of Soldiers, with five local Dukes, was appointed to command the army corps required for the protection of the Diocese.

The Roman system of taxation had been suppressed by Genseric, and under the Vandal supremacy the inhabitants had been almost relieved from the burden of the imposts; but on the restoration a pair of logothetes were commissioned to survey the country, and assess the population for the benefit of the treasury. Much displeasure was felt by the Africans at this recurrence to the old methods of exaction, which they had become oblivious of during their remission for nearly a century.

Although the Vandal power in Africa was annihilated by the victories of Belisarius, the peaceful settlement of the Diocese was deferred for more than ten years owing to the insubordination of the army of occupation and the unwillingness of the Moors to submit to the Byzantine yoke. In two instances leaders of the rebellious soldiery promoted a mutiny with such effect that for the time being the recent conquest was virtually severed from the Empire. The episodes of Stotzas and Gontharis may be briefly recounted.




The episodes of Stotzas and Gontharis



1. In the first sedition three distinct parties were conjoined, who, through circumstances peculiar to each one, were inspired with animosity against the government. A large number of the Roman military found fortune in Africa by the capture of wives and daughters of Vandals who were either slaughtered at the time or expelled from their possessions. The newcomers married these women, and installed themselves in the lands and dwellings previously held by their male relatives. By Imperial decree, however, the estates of the conquered were confiscated to the crown; and thus the impromptu settlers in a short time found themselves exposed to summary ejection. Such was the most considerable complement of the malcontents. To these were added the Arian barbarians, numbering about a thousand, who had taken part in the expedition. The fanaticism of the latter was inflamed by the dispossessed Vandal clergy, to whom the practice of Christianity according to their heretical rites was now interdicted. The third contingent consisted of a remnant of the Vandal army, which had taken refuge in the Aurasian mountains on the south of Numidia. This party was made up almost wholly of fugitive prisoners of war who had been transported to Constantinople, whence it was decided to distribute them among the garrison towns of the East. They were despatched by sea to their destination, but on arriving at Lesbos about four hundred of them seized the ships in which they had been embarked and made good their escape to the African coast. Communication and conjuration between the first two sections was established at Carthage, and it was agreed that on Easter Sunday (536) Solomon, the Master of the Forces, who had replaced Belisarius, should be assassinated in church. The rebels would then seize the reins of government.

The secret of the conspiracy was well kept, for even the unaffiliated reserved their suspicions, being privately elated at the prospect of rapine; but the assassins elect shrunk from perpetrating the murder on the first, and even on a subsequent occasion. Noisy recriminations in the public places followed, and it became evident to everyone that there was a plot. The conspirators now threw off all disguise, having discovered that they were in a majority, and applied themselves to looting the city and suburbs. Solomon, with Procopius as his companion, under cover of night fled to the coast and made sail for Syracuse, where Belisarius was known to be engaged on a mission. The three returned with the utmost speed, and found that the rebels to the number of eight thousand, including the fugitive Vandals, had massed themselves on the plain of Bulla. They had chosen as their leader a guardsman of vigorous character named Stotzas. A march on Carthage was contemplated, but Belisarius, having levied as many loyal troops as possible, intercepted the project and forced them to give battle. Although his forces were quadrupled by those of the enemy, the prestige of his name, their indecision, and an adverse wind which blew in their faces, enabled him to win a victory. The sedition, however, was merely demulced for a time and Belisarius had to return immediately to Sicily.

Later on Justinian despatched his nephew Germanus to Africa, and this general, by tact and blandishments, succeeded in winning back nearly half of the supporters ol Stotzas. A battle was fought in which the rebel leader was utterly defeated and his followers scattered, with the loss of all the valuables they had collected in their camp. Stotzas himself fled to Mauritania, where he settled down with a daughter of one of the petty princes as his wife; but a few years afterwards (545) he reappeared in arms, fighting on the side of the Moors. In an encounter he was slain tragically by the Roman general opposed to him, who pierced him with one of his arrows, but was himself struck down forthwith by a mortal wound. The two antagonists expired almost in sight of one another, each one expressing his welcome acceptance of death in view of the gratification afforded by that of his rival.

2. About this time Areobindus, the husband of Justinian’s niece Prejecta, was appointed to be Master of the Forces in Africa. He was a man of a timid disposition, and totally unversed in war, to such an extent that he had never been present at the most trivial engagement. Under this inefficient hegemony, Gontharis, Duke of Numidia, aspired to be a despot with the aid of the factious soldiery and the Moorish insurgents. By a league with Antalas, the most potent of the native chiefs, he agreed to surrender to him the province of Byzacium and half the treasures of Areobindus as the price of his support in making himself king over the rest of the country. At first he proceeded insidiously and associated amicably with the Master of Soldiers at Carthage, where he simulated a capture of the city by the Moors in the hope of so terrifying Areobindus that he would see nothing left but to escape by flight to Constantinople. This project was just baulked by the sudden rise of a tempest, which arrested the departing general. Shortly afterwards the designs of Gontharis were fully penetrated, and he thought it wisest to proclaim himself boldly as the head of the government. An attack on the usurper was then organized, and the hostile bands met in the precincts of the palace; but at the sight of the first blood drawn Areobindus lost his nerve and fled to a fortified monastery near the harbour. Gontharis was now supreme, and received the submission of all the officials in the capital from the Praetorian Prefect downwards.

The late commander-in-chief was lured from his retreat by threats and a promise of safe dismissal to Constantinople with his household and property. He presented himself to the despot in the dress of a private citizen, leaning on the bishop as he held forth a Gospel, and made an abject profession of his acquiescence in the situation. Gontharis treated him deferentially, and retained him to supper the same evening. After the meal, however, he went out and sent in the captain of his guard, who slew him, regardless of his pitiable appeals for mercy. Africa was now to all appearances restored to independence as completely as if the conquest had never been achieved by Belisarius. The tyrant next attempted to substantiate his position by forming an alliance with Prejecta, whom he induced to send letters to the Emperor, in which the murder of Areobindus was represented as the wanton act of an insolent subordinate. But the foundations of his authority were insecure, and a counter-conspiracy was soon formed by the adherents of the Imperial government, whose allegiance was a mere pretence resorted to under the pressure of expediency. Among those who affected to support him cordially was Artabanes, the commander of an Armenian regiment, and a deserter from the Persian service, in which he had risen to some distinction. He and his associates were ambitious of recovering Africa for Justinian, and they concerted a plot for the assassination of Gontharis during a banquet. Artabanes had been invited by the usurper, and he entered the dining hall attended by two or three of his guards, whose customary duty it was to stand behind their maste’s couch during a meal. A number of their fellows he desired to loiter about the approaches, mixing with the guards of the palace, as if waiting on his orders.

The soldiers in the city, when not equipped for war, were forbidden to wear defensive armour, and allowed to carry only a sword. To obviate this difficulty, Artabanes instructed his men to make a pretence of playing with the shields of those on guard in the vestibule, as they lay ready for use, but to snatch them away altogether should they hear any commotion within. It had been agreed that Artasires, one of the guards in waiting at the couches, should strike the first blow; and he ingeniously protected his left arm by fastening the halves of a split arrow-shaft inside the sleeve of his tunic. At a certain moment it was judged that Gontharis was obfuscated by his potations, signs passed, and then Artasires, sidling towards him with his drawn sword hidden under his arm, aimed a sudden stroke at his head. An instant counter-stroke by the contiguous guard of the despot was parried by his shielded arm, and the man was laid low by a return thrust. Simultaneously Artabanes had sprung up and finished Gontharis with a stroke of his sword as he attempted to rise from his couch. A general clash of arms ensued, and many not in the plot joined the liberators. The rebel guards without, deprived of their shields as planned, were massacred, and soon a cry of “Justinian the Victor” was sent up. A raid on the adherents of the usurper was then undertaken, and they were exterminated in every part of the city. The tyranny of Gontharis had lasted only thirty-six days. Artabanes won great renown by this exploit, a splendid donation in money was bestowed on him by Prejecta, and shortly afterwards the Emperor's commission arrived, creating him Master of the Forces in Africa. To his immediate petition, however, Justinian conceded him the equivalent of his rank at Court, and he left the country without delay. He was, in fact, enamoured of the young princess (she is referred to as a girl), or, at least, of her Imperial connection, and he eagerly followed her when she returned to Constantinople.

For fifteen years after the conquest of the Vandals continual uprisings of the Moorish clans troubled the settlement of Africa, and a fitful warfare, sometimes furious, was waged between them and the Empire. Swarms of these nomads often appeared in the field, but their jealousy and distrust of each other was so inveterate that their forces could on no occasion he mustered to act in combination. Their internecine feuds were never allayed, and during most of their revolts great hosts of them elected to light as allies of the Byzantines in order to suppress the efforts of their own kin. On each side more than one hundred thousand often appeared in arms simultaneously, but to the disciplined and mail-clad soldiers of the Empire their martial equipment always seemed contemptible. Notwithstanding their contiguity to the Romans for so many centuries, they had not profited by their observation and experience to imitate the methods of warfare which had invariably proved effectual against themselves. A burnouse of white linen enveloped their head and body, leaving the legs and arms bare; a small leather shield formed their sole defensive armour: and their only weapons of attack were a short sword and a couple of javelins. When at war all the members of a tribe, accompanied by their flocks and herds, marched in conjunction to the battle-field. To the women was entrusted the duty of tending the cattle, sharpening the weapons, building huts, and entrenching the camp. A great circle was enclosed by a living lampart consisting of the domestic animals. Externally ranks of camels, linked together twelve deep, formed the main defence; within were ranged the oxen, sheep, and goats. Women, children, and old men, in charge of whatever valuables they possessed, were congregated in the central space. At the approach of an enemy the Moorish infantry packed themselves in the interstices of the camels' limbs, whilst the cavalry took advantage of whatever cover was afforded by the adjacent woods and hills. On the arrival of the hostile troops, javelins were hurled from the entrenchments, the warriors on horseback poured down on each side to assail the enemy’s flanks, and the women flung stones, balls of lead, and lighted torches from the interior of the camp. Horses were repelled by the sight and scent of the camels, and refused to carry their riders forward to the attack. Under the circumstances the only expedient was to dismount the cavalry and assault the men and animals determinedly on foot. On one occasion Solomon, by the slaughter of about two hundred camels, cut his way into the camp, whereupon the Moors fled precipitately in all directions. On another, the enemy had posted themselves in immense numbers on the level top of Mount Burgaon, but the Romans climbed the sides during the night, and at break of day suddenly appeared above the crest on both sides of the horde. A panic ensued, and a wild rush was made in the direction of a proximate summit. But the fugitives were intercepted by an unsuspected gulch, into which all dashed headlong, urged by the irresistible pressure from behind. Men and horses rolled down until the gap was filled to the level of the opposite side. The rest then saved themselves by passing over the bodies of those who had perished in this manner, to the number, it was estimated, of 50,000. After such victories all the occupants, contents, and constituents of the camp became the prize of the conquerors; and the slave market for Moorish captives at Carthage was so over­stocked that a youth could be purchased for the same price as a sheep.

The final pacification of Africa was due to John Troglita, the successor of Artabanes, who, in several campaigns extending over three years, inflicted many defeats on the Moors, and drove the most turbulent tribes beyond the Roman frontier. His deeds of valour provoked so much admiration among the Africans, and were of such signal benefit to the country, that one of their number, Cresconius Corippus, was impelled to celebrate his career in an epic poem designed to place him in the same niche of glory as the heroes immortalized by Homer, Virgil, and Claudian.

As a result of his conquest of Africa, Justinian came into collision with the Visigoths of Spain, an event which led to a permanent occupation of a portion of the south-east coast of that peninsula by the Byzantines. The castle of Septem, on the headland to the south of the Straits of Gades, was in the hands of these barbarians, wherefore a brigade was sent by Belisarius to capture it. Shortly after they had succeeded in doing so, Theudis, King of the Visigoths, despatched a counter expedition against the Byzantines, but this force was soon destroyed through being attacked unexpectedly on a Sunday. Nearly a score of years afterwards a religious war broke out in Spain through the Arian King, Agila, wishing to coerce his Catholic subjects, whom he besieged in their principal stronghold of Cordova. The leader of the rebels was Athanagild, and, as the Roman prestige was now supreme in the West, as well as because of the religious affinity, he applied to the Emperor for aid against the Arian persecutors. Justinian responded, and sent Liberius, a general who was then engaged in the reduction of Sicily, with the result that Agila was soon defeated and slain. The Visigoths at once surrendered, and elected Athanagild as king, whereupon a compact of tolerance was ratified between the two parties. They now wished to dispense with the services of the Byzantines, whose proceedings struck them with alarm, as, instead of preparing to evacuate the country, they seemed to have settled themselves permanently in those fortresses to which they had gained admittance through their alliance with the Catholics. A summons to depart having been disregarded, a petty war ensued; and, although the King gained some battles, he was ultimately obliged to acquiesce in the Byzantine occupation of several notable cities on the south-east coast, among which were Carthagena, Cordova, and Malaga. Such are the facts, so far as they are known, relating to this campaign, which is sometimes dignified by the title of Justinian’s conquest of Spain.