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An article from the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, now in the public domain.
Any color photos are mine, © William P. Thayer.

Vol. XI

Gaiseric, or Genseric (c. 390‑477), king of the Vandals, was a son of King Godegisel (d. 406), and was born about 390. Though lame and only of moderate stature, he won renown as a warrior, and became king on the death of his brother Gonderic in 428. In 428 or 429 he led a great host of Vandals from Spain into Roman Africa, and took possession of Mauretania. This step is said to have been taken at the instigation of Boniface, the Roman general in Africa; if true, Boniface soon repented of his action, and was found resisting the Vandals and defending Hippo Regius against them. At the end of fourteen months Gaiseric raised the siege of Hippo; but Boniface was forced to fly to Italy, and the city afterwards fell into the hands of the Vandals. Having pillaged and conquered almost the whole of Roman Africa, the Vandal king concluded a treaty with the emperor Valentinian III in 435, by which he was allowed to retain his conquests; this peace, however, did not last long, and on October 4‑9 he captured Carthage, which he made the capital of his kingdom. According to some authorities Gaiseric at this time first actually assumed the title of king. In religious matters he was an Arian, and persecuted the members of the orthodox church in Africa, although his religious policy varied with his relations to the Roman empire. Turning his attention in another direction he built a fleet, and the ravages of the Vandals soon made them known and feared along the shores of the Mediterranean. "Let us make," said Gaiseric, "for the dwellings of the men with whom God is angry," and he left the conduct of his marauding ships to wind and wave. In 455, however, he led an expedition to Rome, stormed the city, which for fourteen days his troops were permitted to plunder, and then returned to Africa laden with spoil. He also carried with him many captives, including the empress Eudoxia, who is said to have invited the Vandals into Italy. The Romans made two attempts to avenge themselves, one by the Western emperor, Majorianus, in 460, and the other by the Eastern emperor, Leo I, eight years later; but both enterprises failed, owing principally to the genius of Gaiseric. Continuing his course on the sea the king brought Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands under his rule, and even extended his conquests into Thrace, Egypt and Asia Minor. Having made peace with the eastern emperor Zeno in 476, he died on the 25th of January 477. Gaiseric was a cruel and cunning man, possessing great military talents and superior mental gifts. Though the effect of his victories was afterwards neutralized by the successes of Belisarius, his name long remained the glory of the Vandals. The name Gaiseric is said to be derived from gais, a javelin, and reiks, a king.

See Vandals; also T. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vol. II (London, 1892); E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (ed. J. B. Bury, 1896‑1900); L. Schmidt, Geschichte der Vandalen (Leipzig, 1901); and F. Martroye, Genséric; La Conquête vandale en Afrique (Paris, 1907).

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Page updated: 8 Mar 20