Page 1073

1073 BARBARIAN ASCENDENCY-KINGDOM OF THE VANDALS.

contributed to its rapid conquest by Genseric. A

sect called the Donatists, so named from their

leader, Donatus, who flourished in the beginning of the fourth century, fell under the ban

of the orthodox party and were bitterly persecuted. Three hundred bishops and thousands of clergymen of inferior rank were deprived of their property, expelled from their

country, and driven into exile. Intolerable

fines were imposed upon persons of distinction supposed to be in sympathy with the

heretics. Under these persecutions many of

the Donatists gave way of necessity and entered the Catholic fold; but the fanatical element could not be subdued, and this numerous party became the natural ally of Genseric.

The sacking of the Catholic churches which

ensued, and which, as reported by the fathers,

has made the word vandalism a synonym for

wanton robbery, is doubtless to be attributed

to the uncontrollable vengeance of the Donatists rather than to the barbarians themselves, who, on the whole, were less to be

dreaded for their savagery than either the

Goths or the Huns.

In the year 430, the seven rich provinces

stretching from Tangier to Tripoli were overrun by the invaders. The cities were generally destroyed. The wealth accumulated by

ages of extortion was exposed by the torture

of its possessors, and seized with a rapacity

known only to barbarism. In many instances

the unresisting inhabitants of towns were

butchered by the frenzied Vandals. Boniface

himself, after vainly attempting to stay the

work which he had provoked, was besieged

in Hippo Rhegius. A powerful armament,

under the command of Aspar, leaving Constantinople, joined the forces of Boniface,

and the latter again offered battle to the Vandals. A decisive conflict ensued, in which

the Imperial army was destroyed. Boniface

soon after fell in Italy in a civil broil with his

old rival, Aetius.

It appears that, after the capture of Hippo Rhegius and the overthrow of Boniface, Genseric did not press his advantage as might

have been expected. He entered into negotiations with the Emperor of the West, and

agreed to concede to that sovereign the possession of Mauritania. Several aspirants for

the Vandal throne, notably the sons of Gonderic, appeared to annoy rather than endanger

the supremacy of the barbarian monarch.

Nor could the turbulent populations which he

had subdued be easily reduced to an orderly

state. An interval of eight years was thus

placed between the defeat of Boniface and

the capture of Carthage. When the city fell

into the hands of the assailants, it was despoiled of its treasures after the manner of

the age. The dominant party of the Carthaginians was subjected to the severest

treatment by the conqueror. The nobles,

senators, and ecclesiastics were driven into

perpetual banishment.

With the downfall of Carthage the supremacy of the Vandals in Northern Africa was

completely established. The maritime propensities of the Moorish nations had not been

extinguished by centuries of warfare. Nor

was Genseric slow to perceive that the ocean

was now the proper pathway to further conquest and glory. The coast towns again rang

with the shipbuilders ax, and the Vandals

emulated the nautical skill of the subject people. It was not long till an African fleet

conveyed an army into Sicily, which was

readily subjugated. Descents were made on

the coasts of Italy, and it became a question

with the emperors, not whether they could recover Africa, but whether Rome herself could

be saved from the clutches of Genseric.

A Vandal fleet anchored at the mouth of

the Tiber. Maximus had recently succeeded

Valentinian on the Imperial throne, but at the

end of three months he was murdered and his

body thrown into the Tiber. Three days after

this event, the Vandals advanced against the

city. The Roman bishop, Leo, and a procession of the clergy came forth, and in the name

of religion and humanity demanded that the

inoffensive should be spared and the city saved

from ruin. Genseric promised moderation,

but vain was the pledge of barbarism. For

fourteen days and nights Rome was given up

to indiscriminate pillage. The treasures of

the Eternal City were carried on board the

Vandal ships, and wanton destruction, fire,

and murder added to the horrors of the sack.