Northern Africa 439: Vandal capture of Carthage

Political map of Northern Africa on 19 Oct 439 (Africa and Rome Divided: Vandal capture of Carthage), showing the following events: Aetius’ Pannonian cession; Vandal piracy; Valentinian III and Licinia Eudoxia; First Battle of Toulouse; Fall of Augusta Emerita; Capture of Carthage.

Taking advantage of Roman troubles with the Visigoths in Gaul, the Vandal king Gaiseric suddenly invaded Africa in late 439 and, by some form of trickery, seized control of Carthage. The fall of the third largest city in the Roman Empire—and a vital source of grain for Rome itself—sent shock waves throughout the empire.

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Main Events

435 Aetius’ Pannonian cession

In around 435 the Western Roman generalissimo Flavius Aetius sent his son Carpilio on an embassy to the Huns, probably to secure more troops for his upcoming campaigns but also to establish diplomatic relations with the new Hunnic king Attila. It is likely that it was at this time that Aetius formally ceded large parts of Pannonia to the Huns in return for their support. Much of this territory—which was desired by Hunnic herders—was in any case by now only loosely controlled by the Romans, who had long since abandoned the major Pannonian cities of Aquincum (Budapest) and Intercisa. in wikipedia

437–438 Vandal piracy

In 437 the Vandal king Gaiseric began persecuting followers of the orthodox Nicene Creed in favor of “the Arian heresy”, a move which may have gained him some support from the Donatists of Africa. At the same time, “barbarian deserters of the foederati” took to piracy, plundering many islands in the Mediterranean, especially Sicily. As these pirates were almost certainly operating from Vandal Africa, the claim that they were ‘deserters’ was probably a ruse by Gaiseric to avoid a direct confrontation with Rome. in wikipedia

29 Oct 437 Valentinian III and Licinia Eudoxia

In 437 the Western Roman emperor Valentinian III—now sixteen and of age—traveled to Constantinople to marry Licinia Eudoxia, the fifteen-year-old daughter of the Eastern emperor Theodosius II and the empress Eudocia. As part of the wedding celebrations, Valentinian gifted the Diocese of Illyricum to his new father-in-law, probably because the more stable and powerful Eastern Empire was better suited to defending that region from the Huns although it has also been suggested that Valentinian’s mother Galla Placidia had promised to make the cession in return for Theodosius’ recognition of her son in 424. in wikipedia

439 First Battle of Toulouse

In 439 the Western Roman dux Litorius invaded the territory of the Visigoths and soon approached their capital Tolosa (Toulouse). The Visigoths gave battle but, after he had inflicted heavy casualties on them, Litorius recklessly charged into the fray with his Hunnic auxiliaries. As a result, his Huns were slaughtered and he himself fell into the hands of the Visigoths, who put him to death a few days later. in wikipedia

439 Fall of Augusta Emerita

In 439 Rechila, King of the Suebi, marched into Augusta Emerita, capital of the Roman province of Lusitania in the Diocese of Hispaniae. Having secured Emerita, Rechila then besieged the comes Censurius—who had negotiated peace between Aetius and the Suebi in 432 and 437—at Martylis (perhaps Myrtilis/Mértola in what is now Portugal). Censurius capitulated at some point in 440, after which he seems to have spent the remaining eight years of his life in Suebian captivity. in wikipedia

19 Oct 439 Capture of Carthage

In late 439, taking advantage of Roman troubles with the Visigoths in Gaul, the Vandal king Gaiseric marched out of Hippo Regius into the province of Africa and seized control of Carthage by “a great strategem” or “trickery”. The fall of the third largest city in the Roman Empire—and a vital source of grain for Rome itself—would soon send shock waves throughout the empire, but does not seem to have been reported in Italy until early 440, when shipping routes reopened after the winter. With Carthage in his hands, Gaiseric placed his followers in positions of authority throughout the city and persecuted catholic Roman churches in favor of Arians and Donatists. in wikipedia