Part Three: The Pelagian Crisis (411–430)
Edited By Frederick Van Fleteren
Article 338: Vandals
After spending some time in Africa Genseric, leader of the Vandals, began to establish a strategy.1 To render his army seem more fearsome to the population, he ordered a census from small children to the old and decrepit, from master to slave. He recorded eighty thousand people, but made it appear as if he had eighty thousand soldiers. Not all were Vandals; some were Alains, Goths, or others.2
Upon their arrival the barbarians found Africa flourishing in peace and abundance.3 Salvianus describes it as the richest part of the empire and the very soul of the republic.4 However the face of Africa was soon to change. Troops of the impious overran the land, pillaging, ravaging, burning, and massacring what they encountered, sparing not even fruit trees, nor leaving even a little nourishment for those in caves, mountains, and subterranean places in nearby regions.5 Not content to leave the entire country desolate they returned to destroy it—nothing escaped their pillaging and furor.
The Vandals exercised cruelty and hostility particularly against churches, cemeteries, and monasteries. They set fire to houses of the Lord and entire cities. If they found doors closed, they broke them open with axes. In the words of the psalmist: “They gathered together to tear down the doors, as if in a forest. They broke doors with axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary. They profaned tabernacles in the land where your name was revered.”6