Geiseric

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Genseric (c. 389 – January 25, 477), also spelled as Geiseric or Gaiseric, was King of the Vandals and Alans (428–477) and was one of the key players in the troubles of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century. During his nearly 50 years of rule, he raised a relatively insignificant Germanic tribe to the status of a major Mediterranean power — which, after he died, entered a swift decline and eventual collapse.

Contents

Early life and accession

Genseric, whose name means "spear-king", was an illegitimate son of King Godigisel; he is assumed to have been born near Lake Balaton (Hungary) around 389. After his father's death, Genseric was the second most powerful man among the Vandals, after the new king, his half-brother Gunderic.

After Gunderic's death in 428, Genseric was elected king. He immediately began to seek ways of increasing the power and wealth of his people, who then resided in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica in southern Spain. The Vandals had suffered greatly from attacks from the more numerous Visigoths, and not long after taking power, Genseric decided to leave Spain to this rival Germanic tribe. In fact, he seems to have started building a Vandal fleet even before he became king.

Africa

Taking advantage of a dispute between Boniface, Roman governor of North Africa, and the Roman government, Genseric ferried all 80,000 of his people across to Africa in 429. Once there, he won many battles over the weak and divided Roman defenders and quickly overran the territory now comprising modern Morocco and northern Algeria. His Vandal army laid siege to the city of Hippo Regius (where Augustine had recently been bishop — he died during the siege), taking it after 14 months of bitter fighting. The next year, Roman Emperor Valentinian III recognized Genseric as king of the lands he and his men had conquered.

In 439, after casting a covetous eye on the great city of Carthage for a decade, he took the city, apparently without any fighting. The Romans were caught unaware, and Genseric captured a large part of the western Roman navy docked in the port of Carthage. The Catholic bishop of the city, Quodvultdeus, was exiled to Naples, since Genseric demanded that all his close advisors follow the Arian form of Christianity. Nevertheless, Genseric gave freedom of religion to the Catholics, while insisting that the regime's elite follow Arianism. The common folk had low taxes under his reign, as most of the tax pressure was on the rich Roman families and the Catholic clergy.

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