« ՆախորդըContinue »
with Gaiseric, Alaric the Goth seemed a model of knightly courtesy, and Attila the Hun a straightforward, if a brutal, enemy. The Vandal king's special foibles were the conclusion of treaties and armistices which he did not intend to keep, and a large piratical disregard for the need of any pretext or justification for his raids, save indeed the single plea that the city or district that he attacked was at that particular moment not in a good position to defend itself.
From his contact with the empire, Gaiseric had picked up the characteristics of the two most odious types of the day— the tax-collector and the persecuting ecclesiastical bigot. There was more systematic financial oppression in Africa than in any of the other new Germanic kingdoms, and far more spiteful persecution of religious enemies.
The system on which the Vandal organised his realm was not the comparatively merciful 'thirding of the land' that Odoacer and Theodoric introduced into Italy. He confiscated all the large estates of the great Africa landowners, and turned them into royal domains, worked by his bailiffs. Of the smaller estates, tilled by the provincials who owned them, he made two parts; those in the province of Africa proper and the best of those beyond it, were appropriated and made into Vandal military fiefs for his Teutonic followers. These
oppression, sortes Vandalorum, as they were called, were hereditary and free from all manner of taxation. The royal revenue was raised entirely from those of the poorer and more remote provincial proprietors, who had not been expropriated, and from them Gaiseric, by pitiless taxation, drew a very large revenue.
But it was for his persecution, far more than his fiscal oppression, that Gaiseric was hated. The Vandals, like most of the other Teutons, had embraced Arianism when they were converted, and Gaiseric—evil-liver as he was—had set his mind on forcing his subjects to conform to the religion of their masters. He confiscated all the Catholic churches in Africa, and either handed them over to the Arians or destroyed them. He forbade the consecration of new Catholic bishops, and banished or imprisoned all whom he found already existing in his dominions. Occasionally he put to death, and frequently he imprisoned or sold as slaves, prominent supporters of the orthodox faith. If martyrdoms were few,'Dragonnades' were many, and, by their systematic cruelty, the Vandal king and people have gained for themselves an ill name for ever in the pages of history.
Their hateful oppression of the provincials made the Vandal's power in Africa very precarious. They were far too few for the mighty land they had conquered, even when Gaiseric had attracted adventurers of all sorts to his banner, and had even enlisted the savage Moors of Atlas to serve on his fleet. The fanatical Africans, the race who had produced the turbulent Donatist sectaries and the wild Circumcelliones, were not likely to submit with meekness to their new masters. They only waited for a deliverer in order to rise against the Vandals, and twice, during the reign of Gaiseric, it seemed as if the deliverer were at hand. On each occasion, the Vandal snatched a success by his cunning and promptitude, when all the probabilities of success were against him. In 460, the Emperor Majorian had collected a fleet of overwhelming strength at Carthagena, and was already gathering the army that was to be conveyed in it. But warned and helped by traitors, Gaiseric came down on the ships before they were manned or equipped, and carried off or burnt them all. In 468, a Gaiseric in still greater danger had threatened the Vandal; the dangcrEmperors of East and West, Leo and Anthemius, had joined their forces to crush the nest of pirates at Carthage. They actually sent to Africa an army that is said to have amounted to nearly 100,000 men, and overran the whole country from Tripoli to the gates of Carthage. In the hour of danger Gaiseric's courage and treachery were both conspicuous. After deluding the imbecile Roman general Basiliscus, by asking and gaining a five days' truce for settling terms of submission, he sent fire-ships by night against the hostile fleet, and, while the Roman troops were endeavouring to save their vessels, attacked their unguarded camp. After suffering a defeat, the coward Basiliscus drew off his armament, and the Vandal, saved as by a miracle, could breathe again.
The last ten years of Gaiseric's reign were filled with countless pirate raids on Italy and Sicily, unopposed by the five puppet-emperors who ruled at Rome and Ravenna in those evil days. Gaiseric survived the fall of Romulus Augustulus just long enough to enable him to make a treaty with Odoacer. By this agreement the Vandal, always more greedy for money than for land, gave up his not inconsiderable conquests in Sicily in return for an annual payment from the newly-enthroned king of Italy.
Gaiseric died in 477, and with him the greatness of the Vandals, though their kingdom was to endure fifty years more. He left behind him a fine fleet and a full treasury, and a palace resplendent with the spoils taken at the great sack of Rome in 455. But the dominion of his handful of Vandal followers in Africa was still as precarious as ever; their one security had been the cunning and courage of their aged king, and when he was gone there was no defence left to prevent the Vandal dominion from falling, the moment that it should be attacked. Dreading rebellion among the provincials, Gaiseric had dismantled the walls and gates of every African town save Carthage. One battle lost would place the whole country-side in the hands of an assailant, and at no very distant day the assailant was to come, to avenge the sufferings of three unhappy generations of the oppressed subjects of the Vandals.
Gaiseric was succeeded by his son, Hunneric, a man already
Hunneric, advanced in years, who was, like his father, an 477-84- Arian and a bitter persecutor. He was married to Eudocia, the daughter of the emperor Valentinian in., a prisoner of the sack of Rome in 455. But his wife did not much influence him; he drew from her no tincture of Roman civilisation, nor did her persistent orthodoxy wean him from his Arianism. After living with him for sixteen unhappy years and bearing him two sons, she at last contrived to escape secretly from Carthage, fled to Jerusalem, and died there enjoying once more the Catholic communion of which she had been so long deprived.
Hunneric was a tyrant of the worst type. His dealings with his family are a sufficient proof of his character. Gaiseric, to avoid the danger of a minority—a contingency which would have been fatal to his precarious monarchy—had prescribed that each Vandal king should be succeeded, not by his next-ofkin, but by his eldest relative. Such successions were very usual among the Teutonic tribes, though they had never before been formally made into a rule. Now Hunneric had a grown-up son, Hildecat, whom he destined for his successor; but the prince was, of course, younger than the king's own brothers. Instead of cancelling his father's law, Hunneric set to work to exterminate his brothers, and slew them with all their children, save two youths, the sons of his next brother, Genzo, who saved themselves by timely flight.
During the seven years of his reign (477-484) Hunneric waged no wars; his fleet could no longer prey on the dying carcase of the Western Empire. The two formidable kingdoms of the Visigoth Euric and the Scyrrian Odoacer could not be ravaged like the realm of a Maximus or a Glycerius. They were left alone, while the energies of Hunneric were devoted to persecution of the Catholics in his own realm. The orthodox declared that he from first to last caused the death of 40,000 persons, a hyperbolical exaggeration which half causes us to doubt the reality of what was in truth a very cruel and severe persecution. Hunneric delighted more in mutilation of hands and eyes and tongues than in death given by the sword and the rope, but there is no doubt that, in a considerable number of cases, he punished Catholics with the extreme penalty.
While Hunneric was thus employed it is not strange to hear that he was vexed by rebellions. The Moors of Mount Atlas rose against him, and, by no means to the grief of the Latin speaking provincials, encroached on the Southern border of the Vandal kingdom, and pushed their incursions as far as the Mons Aurasius in Numidia. While preparing to attack them the king died, smitten, if the Catholic chroniclers are to be believed, by the same horrid disease which made an end of Herod Agrippa. His eldest and only grown-up son, Hildecat, had died before him, and the Vandals at once placed on the throne Gunthamund, the eldest of his two surviving nephews, a prince who showed great forbearance, when the circumstances are considered, in imprisoning instead of murdering Hunneric's two younger children.
While we turn from the Vandal kingdom in Africa to the dominions of Odoacer in Italy, we are struck at once by the internal contrast between the methods of government emof0odTa«ernt ployed in the two countries. While Gaiseric and in Italy. Hunneric ruled as mere barbarians, and cast away all the ancient Roman machinery of administration, king Odoacer kept up the whole system as he found it. He
THE VANDAL KINGS, 427-530.
[The names of kings in Capital letters.]
King, 427; reigned at
Eudocia, = HUNNERIC, Genzo.
daughter of Valentinian in.