Northern Africa 427: Revolt of Bonifatius

Political map of Northern Africa on 03 Aug 427 (Africa and Rome Divided: Revolt of Bonifatius), showing the following events: Capture of Joannes; Arrival of Aetius; Vandal seizure of the Spanish fleet; Insubordination of Bonifatius; Fall of the Fossatum Africae; Mavortius, Gallio, and Sanoeces.

In 425 the Eastern Roman Empire invaded Italy to depose the usurper Joannes, replacing him with the young Valentinian III, who would rule under the regency of his mother Galla Placidia. Having secured power, Galla Placidia summoned Count Bonifatius from Africa to Italy in 427, but Bonifatius, fearing a plot against him, refused. Angered, Placidia ordered the commander Felix to bring Bonifatius to justice. Felix promptly dispatched a force to Africa, only to face a humiliating setback when the three generals leading the expedition were killed in a sequence of betrayals.

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Main Events

May 425 Capture of Joannes

In early 425 the fleet of the Eastern Roman magister militum Ardabur was hit by a storm while crossing the Adriatic to invade Italy and Ardabur himself fell into the hands of the Western usurper Joannes at Ravenna. Hoping to restore relations with the Eastern emperor Theodosius II, Joannes gave his important captive considerable freedom, which Ardabur exploited to plot with some of Joannes’ officers and to send a message to his son Aspar in Aquileia. Aspar quickly rode south with his cavalry and, guided through the marshes by defectors, entered Ravenna through open gates. After a short struggle, the Eastern Romans captured Joannes, who they sent back to the empress Galla Placidia in Aquileia for his inevitable execution. in wikipedia

425 Arrival of Aetius

Three days after the execution of the usurper Joannes (May or June 425), Joannes’ general Flavius Aetius appeared in northern Italy with a force of several thousand recently recruited Huns and immediately attacked Aspar’s Eastern Roman army. Both sides suffered significant losses, after which they came to an agreement that the new Western regime of Valentinian III would pardon Aetius and give him a command in Gaul, and in return he would persuade the Huns to depart for their homes. This ended the civil war but left the Western Empire under three rival generals: Aetius in Gaul, the newly appointed Flavius Felix in Italy, and the veteran Bonifatius in Africa. in wikipedia

425–427 Vandal seizure of the Spanish fleet

In 425/426, perhaps encouraged by the fighting between the Visigoths and the Romans over Arelate (Arles), the Vandals emerged from the mountains of southern Hispaniae and captured the important naval base of Carthago Spartaria (also known as Carthago Nova or Cartagena). Here they found much of the Roman Western Mediterranean fleet, which they promptly used to launch raids on the Balearic Islands and possibly North Africa, while another Vandal force threatened the town of Hispalis (Seville). in wikipedia

427 Insubordination of Bonifatius

In 427 the Western Roman empress regent Galla Placidia, under the influence of the magister militum Felix, summoned the comes Africae Bonifatius to Ravenna. Convinced by Felix’s intrigues that the empress meant to have him arrested, Bonifatius refused the summons and remained in Africa. In response, Placidia denounced Bonifatius as a rebel and ordered Felix to dispatch an army to Africa to deal with him. in wikipedia

427 Fall of the Fossatum Africae

In 409 the emperors Honorius and Theodosius II warned the vicar of Africa that he needed to maintain the fossatum Africae (fortifications and trenches on the Roman African frontier) or they would turn over the frontier territory to friendly local tribes. It is uncertain what happened after this, but by 417–418 St Augustine was commending the tribune Bonifatius for his successful expeditions against hostile tribes (perhaps the Mauri). However, Bonifatius proved less successful as comes Africae, leading Augustine to complain in 427 that invading tribes were laying waste to populated areas of Africa while Bonifatius himself was preoccupied with his own circumstances. This probably marked the end of the fossatum Africae, as there would have been little opportunity to restore the frontier during the years of civil war and Vandal invasion that immediately followed. in wikipedia

427 Mavortius, Gallio, and Sanoeces

In response to Bonifatius’ insubordination in Africa, the Western Roman magister militum Felix dispatched an expedition against him under the generals Mavortius, Gallio, and Sanoeces in the summer of 427. The three generals promptly laid siege to Bonifatius in Carthage, only for Mavortius and Gallio to be suddenly killed when Sanoeces—who may have been a Hun—betrayed them. Shortly after this, Sanoeces himself was betrayed and killed, bringing the entire expedition to an ignominious end. in wikipedia