Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gaiseric and the Vandal Conquest of North Africa, 406 - 477 CE

Gaiseric and the Vandal Conquest of North Africa, 406 - 477 CE. Excerpts from the 1914 Heinemann Harvard translation of Procopius' History of the Wars, Book III, chapters iii-vii at the Ancient History Sourcebook. Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar who is commonly held to be the last major ancient historian.

From the site:

Now the Vandals, dwelling about the Maeotic Lake [the Sea of Azov], since they were pressed by hunger, moved to the country of the Germans, who are now called Franks, and the river Rhine, associating with themselves the Alans, a Gothic people [Arkenberg: actually, they were one of the Indo-Iranian peoples]. Then from there, under the leadership of Godigisclus, they moved and settled in Hispania, which is the first land of the Roman Empire on the side of the ocean [406-07 CE]. At that time Honorius made an agreement with Godigisclus that they should settle there on condition that it should not be to the detriment of the country. But there was a law among the Romans, that if any persons should fail to keep their property in their own possession, and if, meanwhile, a time amounting to thirty years should pass, that these persons should thenceforth not be entitled to proceed against those who had forced them out, but they were excluded by demurrer from access to the court; and in view of this he established a law that whatever time should be spent by the Vandals in the Roman domain should not be spent by the Vandals in the Roman domain should not by any means be counted toward this thirty-year demurrer. And Honorius himself, when the West had been driven by him to this pass, died of disease [August 27, 423 CE].

Now before this, as it happened, the royal power had been shared by Honorius with Constantius, the husband of Placidia [Galla Placidia], the sister of Arcadius and himself; but he lived to exercise the power only a few days, and then, becoming seriously ill, he died [421 CE] while Honorius was still living, having never succeeded in saying or in doing anything worth recounting; for the time was not sufficient during which he lived in possession of the royal power. Now a son of this Constantius, Valentinian, a child just weaned, was being reared in the palace of Theodosius, but the members of the imperial court in Rome chose one of the soldiers there, John by name, as emperor. This man was both gentle and well-endowed with sagacity and thoroughly capable of valorous deeds. At any rate he held the tyranny five years [actually he only ruled eighteen months] and directed it with moderation, and he neither gave ear to slanderers nor did he do any unjust murder, willingly at least, nor did he set his hand to robbing men of money; but he did not prove able to do anything at all against the barbarians, since his relations with Byzantium were hostile. Against this John, Theodosius, the son of Arcadius [Theodosius II, reigned 408-450 CE], sent a great army and Aspar and Ardaburius, the son of Aspar, as generals, and wrested from him the tyranny and gave over the royal power to Valentinian, who was still a child [Valentinian III, reigned 423-455 CE].

And Valentinian took John alive, and he brought him out in the hippodrome of Aquileia with one of his hands cut off and caused him to ride in state on an ass, and then after he had suffered much ill treatment from the stage-performers there, both in word and in deed, he put him to death. Thus Valentinian took over the power of the West. But Placidia, his mother, had reared this emperor and educated him in an altogether effeminate manner, and in consequence he was filled with wickedness from childhood. For he associated mostly with sorcerers and those who busy themselves with the stars, and, being an extraordinarily zealous pursuer of love affairs with other men's wives, he conducted himself in a most indecent manner, although he was married to a woman of exceptional beauty. And not only was this true, but he also failed to recover for the empire anything of what had been wrested from it before, and he both lost Libya in addition to the territory previously lost and was himself destroyed. And when he perished, it fell to the lot of his wife and children to become captives. Now the disaster in Libya came about as follows.

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