Genseric The Vandal

Genseric or Gaiseric was the King of Vandals. He reigned during the fifth century and was a major tormentor of Western and Eastern Roman Empire. Genseric ruled for almost fifty years and transformed a small Germanic tribe into a powerful kingdom along the Mediterranean Sea.

He secured stunning victories against Roman legions and annexed territories of Sicily, Corsica, Carthage, Malta and Numidia. His greatest feat was perhaps invasion and plunder of Rome in 455. Unfortunately, Vandals could not survive long after Genseric’s death in 477 AD.

Genseric The Vandal

Early Life: Genseric was born in 389 AD. He was an illegitimate son of Godigisel, King of Hasdingi Vandals. Hasdingi Vandals were the southern tribes of Vandals. He was born near Lake Balaton (Hungary). In 406, his father died during Battle of Mainz against Franks. After Godigisel’s death, Genseric’s elder half-brother Gunderic assumed the mantle.

Under his reign, Genseric became the second most influential man in the Kingdom after his brother. At that time his tribe lived in the Roman province of Hispania Baetica. During Gunderic’s rule, Vandals supported Alans in their struggle against Visigoths. In 428, Gunderic died and Vandals elected Genseric as their new King.

Genseric’s Reign: Soon after taking over Genseric started thinking of strengthening his tribe and asserting his control. Vandals had fought several battles against Visigoths and the attrition of men and resources had taken its toll on the tribe’s wealth and population. Genseric decided to leave Baetica and move to the Roman North Africa. According to historians, he had started building a fleet for this purpose even before he was crowned.

During their journey, Vandals were attacked from the rear by a strong force of Suebi, another Germanic tribe and sworn enemies of Vandals. However, Genseric’s army defeated Suebi near Merida and their leader, Heremigarius drowned in Guadiana River while trying to escape. Genseric managed to transport 80,000 of his people across the Mediterranean into Northern Africa in 429. It is contended by some historians that Genseric was invited by Roman governor of Africa, Bonifacius to help him in his struggle against imperial government.

However, in 430 Genseric turned against Bonifacius and earned several victories against combined forces of Western and Eastern Roman Empires. He took control of Mauretania and portion of Numidia. After a treaty in 435 with Romans, he was recognized as the ruler of his invaded land but was made to pay tribute to Romans and promise that he would not attack Carthage. In 439, he executed a surprising move and attacked and annexed Carthage. In 442, a treaty was signed with Romans which accepted Vandals as the masters of Pro-consular Africa.

Genseric’s fleet controlled much of western Mediterranean and soon he took over Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sicily and Sardinia. His most audacious move was to invade and plunder Rome in 455 AD. Genseric managed to defeat two Roman attempts to remove him from power. The first such attempt was in 460 by Emperor Majorian and the other in 468 by Basiliscus.

The second attempt was particularly very serious as a huge fleet from eastern Mediterranean was assembled against Vandals. Genseric managed to make available a force of 500 ships and in a ruthless Battle of Cape Bon defeated Romans. After this attempt Romans surrendered the idea of removing Genseric and Vandals continued to control western Mediterranean till Genseric’s death. Their area of control was stretched from Strait of Gibraltar to Tripolitania.

Later Life and Death: Later in his life, Genseric made peace with Eastern Roman Empire. His forces tried to invade Peloponnese but were defeated by Maniots and faced heavy losses. Genseric died in 477 AD in Carthage. His son Huneric succeeded him but the dynastic rule did not last long after Genseric’s death and eventually collapsed.