Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution

Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution

Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution

Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution


Among the peoples who occupied the territories of the Roman Empire in the West in the fifth century, the Vandals are notorious for their persecution of the Catholic inhabitants of Africa. By far the fullest narrative of their doings prior to the time of Justinian is that provided by Victor of Vita, who in 484 wrote the greater part of the work here translated.


Among those peoples who occupied the territory of the Roman empire in the West in the fifth century and who, in accordance with the perspective of the Romans, are conventionally termed 'barbarians', the Vandals occupy an important place. Having crossed the Rhine in the company of other tribal groups on New Year's Eve 406 they intermittently moved south-west through Gaul and Spain until 429, when, shortly after the accession of king Geiseric (428-477), they crossed the straits of Gibraltar and moved into Roman Africa. It was a desirable territory: a writer of the mid-fourth century had described Africa as 'rich in all things. It is adorned with all goods, grains as well as beasts, and almost alone it supplies to all peoples the oil they need.' Indeed, the export of oil may account for the remains of African potteiy of late antiquity which, as recent archaeological work is revealing, achieved a Svorldwide' distribution, a phenomenon which is currently suggesting major reinterpretations of the economic history of late antiquity. The Vandals made good headway, and in 435 Geiseric concluded a treaty with the Empire which granted them a considerable portion of the land of Africa, based on Numidia. But in 439 he made a surprise move eastward into proconsular Africa and occupied Carthage, the capital of Roman Africa. An expeditionary force sent against the Vandals failed to reach its destination, and in the following year a second treaty awarded them the proconsular province, Byzacena, Tripolitania and part of Numidia. The remaining, western part of Africa remained in the hands of the Romans, and so the Vandals were confirmed in their possession of the richest areas. From there they launched expeditions against many parts of the

Incomparably the most important work is that of Courtois 1955, whose status as the
standard synthesis is secure for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless it must be said that in both
this work and his shorter study on Victor 1954 the tone he adopts towards this author is
hypercritical; see Chatillon 1955 and Marrou 1967. Courtois has also come under attack for the
sharpness of the distinction he draws between civilized and 'forgotten' Africa: Whittaker 1978.
Prosopography is now on a more secure footing, thanks to the works of Maier 1973, Martindale
1980 and Mandouze 1982; note as well the comments of Diesner 1968. Archaeology is yielding
more results, as shown by the work of Koenig 1981.

Expositio totius mundi et gentium 61. Note that the Visigoth Alaric was presumably
leading his people towards Africa when he died at Consentia in Bruttium in 410 (literary sources
listed in PLRE 2: 48).

Carandini 1983, and more generally Giardina 1986.

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.