The Vandal invasion and the Arian persecution

In 439, the Vandals, who were Germanic Arians, entered Carthage. The Vandal kings showed varying attitudes towards the Catholic Church in North Africa; persecution and tolerance followed one another, sometimes within the same reign. The persecution of Catholics was probably harsher in Africa Proconsularis than elsewhere; in Byzacena and Tripolitana it was almost non-existent.52 Moderan identifies two main phases during the Vandal period: the first started in 439 and culminated in the great persecution of 483-4; the second was characterised by a more benevolent attitude towards Catholics.53

Sources tell us that only three churches survived the sack of Geiseric's army: Hippo, Cirta and Carthage.54 Geiseric initiated a long persecution of Catholics and the remaining Donatists.55 In Carthage, the churches of Restituta and two of Cyprianus became Arian churches; Geiseric also seized other religious buildings, i.e., churches and basilicas of saints, cemeteries of martyrs and monasteries.56 The Catholic see of Carthage was vacant from 440 to 454. Then Deogratius was nominated, but after three years he was exiled. Only after Zeno's treaty with the Vandals (481) was that see occupied again.57 Huneric (477-84) summoned all bishops, Catholic and Arian, to a conference in May 483. Some 466 bishops are named as participants in the Notitia provinciarum et civita-tumAfricae.58 Huneric turned the laws made to restrict Donatists against many Catholic bishops: they could choose conversion or exile. Under Guthamund (regn. 484-96), some Catholic bishops were deported in 492, while churches were taken over by Arians.59 Catholics, however, remained intellectually superior and no defender of Arianism appeared after Thrasamund (regn. 496-523).60 Hilderic allowed exiled bishops to return, Catholic churches to re-emerge,

52 Ch. Courtois's Les Vandales et l'Afrique used a new approach and claimed that the Vandal conquest was not destructive. But Y. Modéran, 'L'Afrique et la persécution vandale,' 254 and 'L'etablissement territorial des vandales en Afrique', 107 refuted that view for North Africa as a whole.

53 Moderan, 'L'Afrique et la persecution vandale', 254.

54 Possidius, Life of Augustine 23.

55 The persecution has been interpreted by Modéran, 'L'Afrique et la persecution vandale', 252 as part of the Vandal government's aim to impose its power especially in Zeugitania.

56 Victor ofVita, 1.4.

57 Valentinian II demanded this election: Victor ofVita, 1.25-6.

58 Forty-five Catholic bishops were from Zeugitania, but with a disproportionate number of 120 from Mauretania Caesariensis, also under Vandal dominion. The persecutions were extreme in Zeugitania, while rulers in other regions were more tolerant.

59 Victor ofVita, 3.2; later, Guthamund forced Catholics to convert: ibid., 3.14.

60 Modéran, 'L'Afrique et la persécution vandale', 254 suggests that persecutions under Guthamund and Thrasamund continued but were less violent.

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