Battle of Tricamarum

The Battle of Tricamarum (533 CE) was the second and last major battle of the Vandalic War (533 – 534 CE). The battle was fought between the forces of the Byzantine Empire under the leadership of the general Belisarius (500 – 565 CE) and the king of the Vandals Gelimer (480 – 550 CE). This conflict took place directly west, approximately 50 km, of the Byzantine-occupied Vandal capital of Carthage. The Battle of Tricamarum takes place several months after the Battle of Ad Decimum (533 CE), where Belisarius defeated Gelimer and routed a large portion of the Vandal army. The Battle of Tricamarum would further destabilize the rule of Gelimer within the Vandal Kingdom and within a year lead to the subjugation of the Vandals by the Byzantines. This subjugation would allow the Byzantines to fully reincorporate North Africa as a province within the Byzantine Empire and give Belisarius a staging ground to prepare for his reconquest of Sicily and Italy.


Having recently been defeated at Ad Decimum Gelimer was in a very difficult position. Gelimer knew that currently, he did not have the manpower to face Belisarius in the field. The Vandal king began growing his forces by dispatching messengers to his brother Tzazon (d. 533 CE), who had recently successfully subdued a Byzantine-funded revolt in Sardinia. Gelimer asked Trazon to return with his army to help face the Byzantine invasion. Meanwhile, Gelimer sought to replenish his forces by bribing many of the local farmers within the region to fight as mercenaries. Gradually many locals joined Gelimer's army and Tzazon returned with his own force so that Gelimer was now confident enough to again seek battle with Belisarius. Gelimer would advance on Belisarius, who still occupied well-fortified Carthage, and attempt to force a pitched battle. Belisarius, not wanting to face a siege and to capitalize on the momentum gained from his previous victory, sent out his cavalry first to skirmish with the Vandals. The Byzantine infantry would follow behind the advance force of cavalry as they made their way towards the site of the battle. This battle would take place west of Carthage, centered around a small stream at Tricamarum.

Gelimer forced an engagement before Belisarius arrived by deploying his army in battle formations.

The Battle

The Byzantine advance force of cavalry, under the command of Belisarius's trusted subordinate commander John the Armenian, arrived at the site far before any other Byzantine commander did. John and his cavalry set about making camp in preparation for Belisarius and the remainder of the Byzantine forces to arrive. Gelimer and his army had spent the previous night's fortifying their own camp. The following morning Gelimer forced an engagement before Belisarius arrived by deploying his army in battle formations. Gelimer chose his time of deployment strategically at just before noon. It was a well-known fact that the Byzantines typically ate their lunch at noon so perhaps Gelimer was attempting to force the Byzantines to fight on an empty stomach. Similar tactics were employed by the Persians extensively in their many engagements with the Byzantines.

The Byzantines, still under John's command, were deployed rapidly in response to the threat posed by Gelimer. Before any real combat took place Belisarius and his household cavalry, the bucellarii, arrived on the field to join with John. Belisarius decided to allow John to retain overall command of the Byzantine forces for this engagement. This was because John was the first commander there and thus had a far better understanding of the current situation.

After the Byzantines and Vandals formed their armies opposite each other they both waited to see which army would make the opening move. Unlike at Ad Decimum, the Vandal battle-plan was designed to force the Byzantines to open the attack. Seeing this, the Byzantines developed a plan to entice the Vandals into charging across the small stream to break up their cohesion and thus be easier to destroy. John, presumably under Belisarius's guidance, ordered skirmishing soldiers forward in order to lure the Vandals into a charge. The skirmishers crossed the stream and fired arrows at the Vandal center who were under the command of Tzazon. Tzazon and his soldiers charged at the skirmishers to force them back over the stream but they themselves maintained their discipline and did not take the bait laid by the Byzantines. Seeing that the first attack by the skirmishing soldiers nearly accomplished the Byzantine plan, John lead a second charge threatening the Vandal center. Much like the first charge, John and his soldiers were forced to withdraw due to a controlled charge by the Vandal center.

At this point however, John and/or Belisarius noticed that during each charge by the Vandal center the flanks of the Vandal army remained stationary. The flanks were not supporting the center at all during their counter-charge against the Byzantines. Seeing this, John lead a large charge that included the bucellarii, and much of the most experienced Byzantine cavalry into the center of the Vandal line. John and his men were able to kill Tzazon and rout the Vandal center completely under the weight of their cavalry charge.

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Seeing the center routed completely and Tzazon killed destroyed Gelimer's morale in a very similar manner to what had happened at Ad Decimum. Under this pressure Gelimer ordered a full retreat to the Vandal fortified camp. The Byzantines pursued the Vandals back towards their camp but could not launch an actual attack onto the camp itself. After this engagement, Procopius states that the Byzantines left no more than 50 men dead while over 800 of the Vandals were killed.

Later in the day, after the first engagement at the stream, the Byzantine infantry arrived on the field. Belisarius and John now had the means to assault the Vandal camp. Gelimer however, had no intention of fighting it out and had fled unnoticed by his army with only a few servants. When this knowledge came to light the remainder of the Vandal army fled rather than face the Byzantine attack. The Byzantine army advanced into the camp to discover these events and the now empty camp. The Battle of Tricamarum had ended with Belisarius and the Byzantine army having again thoroughly routed the Vandals and Gelimer.


With Gelimer now thoroughly defeated for a second time by the Byzantines the Vandal king knew he was in a very precarious position. Gelimer retreated into the desert towards the city of Hippo Regius. Soon, though, he was discovered by a Byzantine force under the command of a man named Pharas who laid siege to the city. After several weeks of besiegement Gelimer finally formally surrendered under the condition he and his men would be spared. The captured Gelimer would be displayed during a Roman Triumph, one of the last ever granted, for the people of Constantinople. The Byzantines had landed in September of 533 CE and with Gelimer's formal surrender in March of 534 CE the Vandalic War was over. Belisarius would go on to consolidate his forces and continue his campaigns of reconquest in Sicily and Italy, achieving great successes there.

Battle of Tricamarum

The Battle of Tricamarum took place on December 15, 533 between the armies of the Vandals, commanded by King Gelimer, and his brother Tzazon, and the eastern Roman Empire (referred to as the Byzantine Empire), under the command of General Belisarius. It followed Gelimer's defeat at the Battle of Ad Decimum, and eliminated the power of the Vandals for good, completing the "Reconquest" of North Africa under the Emperor Justinian I.

After being ejected from Carthage, Gelimer set up at Bulla Regia in Numidia, about 100 miles to the west of Carthage (at what is now the western border of modern Tunisia). He knew that in his current state he would not be able to face Belisarius's forces, so he sent messengers to his brother Tzazo who was currently campaigning in Sardinia. When he received the message, Tzazo set about returning to Africa to join Gelimer.

Meanwhile Gelimer also attempted to divide the forces helping Belisarius. He offered rewards to the local Punic and Berber tribes for every Byzantine head they could bring, and sent agents to Carthage to attempt to have Belisarius's Hun mercenaries — vital to his success at Ad Decimum — betray him.

Tzazon and his army joined Gelimer early in December, at which point Gelimer felt his forces were strong enough to take the offensive. With the two brothers at the head of the army, the Vandal force paused on the way to Carthage to destroy the great aqueduct which supplied the city with most of its water.

Belisarius had fortified the city in the twelve weeks since Ad Decimum, but knew about Gelimer's agents and could no longer trust the Huns in his forces. Instead of waiting for a possible treachery during a siege, he formed up his army and marched out with the cavalry at the front, and the Huns at the rear of the column.

The two forces met at Tricamarum, some 30 miles west of Carthage, and the Byzantine cavalry immediately charged the Vandal lines, reforming and attacking two more times. During the third charge Tzazo was killed within sight of Gelimer. As had happened at Ad Decimum, Gelimer lost heart. The Vandal lines began to retreat, and soon were in rout. Gelimer fled back into Numidia with what remained of his army, losing over 3,000 men killed or taken prisoner. Belisarius then marched on the city of Hippo Regius, which opened its gates to him.

Gelimer realized that his kingdom was lost, and attempted to flee to Spain where some Vandals still remained, not having followed the main forces when they crossed into North Africa years earlier. However, the Byzantines heard of his plans and intercepted him. He was forced to abandon his belongings and take refuge in the mountains of Tunis with the Berbers. The next year he was found and surrounded by Byzantine forces led by Pharas the Herulian. At first he refused to surrender, even after promises of being allowed to rule. After a particularly nasty winter, he eventually gave up and surrendered to Belisarius. The Vandal Kingdom ended, and their provinces in Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands came under the control of Justinian.

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After the great Byzantine victory at the Battle of Ad Decimum, Belisarius and his army captured Carthage. Vandal king Gelimer set up at Bulla Regia in Numidia, about 100 miles to the west of Carthage (at what is now the western border of modern Tunisia). He knew that in his current state he would not be able to face Belisarius's forces, so he sent messengers to his brother Tzazon who was currently campaigning in Sardinia. When he received the message, Tzazon set about returning to Africa to join Gelimer.

Meanwhile, Gelimer also attempted to divide the forces helping Belisarius. He offered rewards to the local Punic and Berber tribes for every Byzantine head they could bring, and sent agents to Carthage to attempt to have the Byzantine Hun mercenaries — vital to his success at Ad Decimum — betray him.

Tzazon and his army joined Gelimer early in December, at which point Gelimer felt his forces were strong enough to take the offensive. With the two brothers at the head of the army, the Vandal force paused on the way to Carthage to destroy the great aqueduct which supplied the city with most of its water.

Belisarius had fortified the city in the twelve weeks since Ad Decimum, but knew about Gelimer's agents and could no longer trust the Huns in his forces. Instead of waiting for a possible treachery during a siege, he formed up his army and marched out with the cavalry at the front, the Byzantines in the center, and the Huns at the rear of the column.

Battle of Ad Decimum- 533CE

The Battle of Ad Decimum near Carthage, North Africa took place in September 533 CE and was the first major battle of the Vandalic War (533–534 CE) between the forces of the Byzantine Empire and the Vandal Kingdom. Leading the Vandals was the newly crowned king Gelimer (480–550 CE) who had usurped Hilderic (r. 530–534 CE). Then on the side of the Romans was the rising star of the Byzantine military, Belisarius (c. 500–565 CE). This battle would be the definitive start of Justinian I’s (r. 527–565 CE) wars of reconquest. …

In Libya, Only the Latest War at an Embattled Crossroads

The southern coast of the Mediterranean, from Morocco to Egypt, where the United States and its allies pounded the forces of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya last week, has been fought over for millennia.

A meeting point of three continents, it is one of the world’s great trading crossroads and transit routes, where grains, gold and people have moved north from Africa’s hinterland to Europe. Civilizations have collided there, and battles have proved turning points in world history, extending or contracting the reach of nations and empires.

“It is a frontier zone,” said Molly Greene, professor of history at Princeton. Here are some of the great conflicts that have been fought over this ancient region.


1. The Romans Plunder
Carthage, 146 B.C.: The Punic Wars

The expansion of the Roman Empire brought conflict with the Carthaginians, who ruled over a network of commercial cities on the North African coast and southern Spain. Rome pushed the Carthaginians from Sicily. Hannibal, Carthage’s military leader, crossed the Alps into Italy to win an important victory at Cannae. But their wars ended in 146 B.C. with defeat for the Carthaginians and the sacking of Carthage, the capital, in modern Tunisia.

2. Carthage Falls Again
Tricamarum, 533 A.D.

The Vandals, a Germanic people, pillaged Rome in 455 and built a maritime empire around Carthage. Justinian I, the Eastern Roman emperor, recaptured territory in northern Africa lost to the Vandals’ invasion, defeating the Vandals in 533 A.D. at the Battle of Tricamarum, near Carthage, and eventually paving the way for Byzantium to win back lost western territories of the Roman Empire.

3. Norman Conquest
Mahdia, Tunisia, 1148 A.D.

According to David Abulafia, professor of Mediterranean history at Cambridge University and author of a book on the Mediterranean to be published this year, Mahdia was an important trading point for the riches that came up out of Africa.

“It was a terminus for the gold caravans crossing the Sahara,” he said. It was raided, but not conquered, by the Pisans and Genoans in the 11th century.

As Europe’s Christian rulers pushed back at Muslim control of the Mediterranean, the Norman king of Sicily, Roger II, captured Tripoli and, in 1148, Mahdia, establishing authority over the coast.

4. Defeat for Ottomans and Nazis
Malta, 1565 and 1940

As the Spanish and Ottomans battled for control of the Mediterranean in the 16th century, they clashed at Malta, the strategically important island between Libya and Sicily, where defeat for the Ottoman Empire during the Siege of Malta “stopped any hopes of the Turks’ breaking into the western Mediterranean,” Professor Abulafia said.

Nearly 400 years later, Malta played a pivotal role in World War II, when for two years British troops withstood a bombardment by German and Italian air and sea forces, protecting important Allied shipping and supply lines and setting the stage for the Allies’ attack on Axis-controlled North Africa.

5. Fed Up With Pirates
Barbary Corsairs, 1804

From the 16th to the 19th centuries, pirates in coastal cities like Tripoli, Tunis and Algiers raided Christian ships and extorted ransom and tributes.

The pirates were often encouraged by European powers to attack rival nations’ ships.

Finally, though, the Ottomans and Europeans — England, France and the Netherlands, which were trading with Eastern cities like Istanbul, Alexandria and Smyrna — cracked down. The United States also played a part in bringing an end to Barbary piracy. Thomas Jefferson refused to pay off the Barbary rulers so that American ships would not be attacked and sent a young American Navy to bombard Tripoli.

6. Egypt Eludes the Nazis
El Alamein, Egypt, 1942

The North African coast was an important scene of conflict between the Allied and Axis powers during World War II.

After British and other forces routed the Italians in Libya, capturing Tobruk and Benghazi, the Axis, with German reinforcements under the Nazi commander Erwin Rommel (right), struck back and then pushed deep into Egypt.

But the advance was stopped in the decisive desert battle at El Alamein, northwest of Cairo, ending German ambitions of occupying Egypt and controlling the Suez Canal. At the same time, British and American troops invaded Algeria and Morocco to clear the Axis powers from North Africa. 7. Long War for Independence Algeria, 1945-1962 Under French rule since the 19th century, Algeria was swept up in the Allied occupation of North Africa in 1942. That, and the fall of France, emboldened the nationalist push for self-determination but also touched off Algeria’s terrible war of independence during the 1950s and 1960s.

Byzantine Military

John Troglita was the general finally able to end the Moorish Wars.

Troglita was a 6th-century Byzantine general. He participated in the Vandalic War and served in North Africa as a regional military governor during the years 533�, before being sent east to the wars with the Sassanid Persians .

John Troglita is first mentioned as having participated in the Vandalic War (533�) under Belisarius . Troglita remained in the province of Africa after Belisarius's departure in 534, and participated in the expeditions of Solomon against the Moors in 534�. At the time, he was probably the local military governor ( dux ) in either Byzacena or, more probably, Tripolitania , for he is mentioned as leading successful expeditions against the Leuathae tribe.

Troglita also fought against the mutinous army under the renegade Stotzas , participating in the first victory under Belisarius at Membresa in 536, and then, under Solomon's successor Germanus , in the decisive battle at Scalas Veteres in spring 537. In this battle, he was one of the commanders of the cavalry on the Byzantine army's right wing, which according to the historian Procopius was defeated and driven off by Stotzas's men, losing its standards in the process. Nevertheless, the battle resulted in an imperial victory. In 538, Troglita distinguished himself in the Battle of Autenti, probably in the Byzacena.

At some point after 538, Troglita was sent to the Eastern frontier, where by 541 he was appointed dux Mesopotamiae , one of the most important military commands of the region.

High Command in Africa

During Troglita's absence from Africa, the situation had been turbulent. Germanus had remained in the province until 539, and succeeded in restoring discipline in the army and pacifying the core territories of Africa Proconsularis and Byzacena. He was succeeded by Solomon, who began his second tenure with great success, defeating the Moors of the Aurès Mountains and establishing control over Numidia and Mauretania Sitifensis .

However, the Moorish revolt flared up again in 543 and Solomon was killed in the Battle of Cillium in 544. His successor, his nephew Sergius , was incompetent. He was defeated by the Moors, recalled and replaced with the senator Areobindus, who was murdered in spring 546 in another military revolt led by the general Guntharic . The latter intended to declare himself independent of Constantinople, but was soon murdered by the Armenian Artabanes .

The need for a new and capable leader in Africa was apparent to Constantinople. After a truce was signed with Persia in 546, Emperor Justinian recalled Troglita from the East. After having him report on the situation there in Constantinople, the Emperor placed him at the head of a new army and sent him to Africa as the new magister militum per Africam in late summer 546.

6th Century Eastern Roman Cavalry

Battle of Marta

In late 546, when John Troglita reached Carthage , the situation was dire: the imperial troops, under Marcentius the dux of Byzacena and Gregory the Armenian in Carthage, were few in number and demoralized. They held out in the coastal cities, blockaded by the Moors of Byzacena under their chieftain Antalas, while the Leuathae and Austurae tribes from Tripolitania were raiding Byzacena with impunity. Diplomatic efforts, however, secured the allegiance of the Moorish leaders Cutzinas and Ifisdaias, who joined the imperial army with several thousands of their men. In addition, the tribesmen of the Aurès Mountains under Iaudas withdrew to Numidia on learning of Troglita's arrival and pursued a course of armed neutrality.

Troglita did not remain inactive: from Carthage, the praetorian prefect Athanasius and Troglita's young son organized reinforcements and supplies for the camp at Laribus, while Troglita himself succeeded not only in reconciling Cutzinas and Isfidaias, but also in gaining the allegiance of King Iaudas and his tribe.

In the spring of 548, Troglita, having regrouped his forces, met with his Moorish allies at the plain of Arsuris on the northern limits of Byzacena. Corippus gives extraordinary numbers for the native contingents provided by each chief: 30,000 for Cutzinas, 100,000 for Isfidaias, and 12,000 under Iaudas's brother. Whatever the real numbers, it seems clear that Troglita's regular troops formed the lesser portion of the imperial army.

The tribes, under the leadership of Carcasan and Antalas, had encamped in central Byzacena, in the plain of Mamma or Mammes. Carcasan, confident after his victory the previous year, wanted to confront the imperial army immediately, but as it happened he gave way to Antalas, who advocated the more cautious and well-tried Moorish tactic of withdrawing and drawing the Byzantines into the interior, forcing them to march far from their supply bases and through a devastated country, thus exhausting and demoralizing them. The rebels thus retreated south and east, reaching Iunci after ten days.

Troglita's army pursued them at some distance, only exchanging a few blows with the tribes' rearguard. Once the Byzantine army reached the plain before Iunci and laid camp, however, the Moors again withdrew into the mountainous interior. Having been informed by a spy of his enemy's strategy, Troglita refused to follow, and remained encamped near the port of Lariscus, from where he could be easily resupplied. Nevertheless, discontent grew among the soldiers, who did not understand their leader's reluctance to fight: the army mutinied and attacked the tent of Troglita, who was barely able to escape. Thanks to the allied Moorish contingents, who remained steadfast, Troglita was able to reimpose control over his men.

Troglita now moved his army to confront the enemy, who were encamped at a plain called the Fields of Cato. The Moorish camp had been heavily fortified, and Troglita was reluctant to launch a direct assault. He therefore blockaded it, hoping that hunger would force the Moors to fight him in open battle. To further encourage them, he restrained his men, feigning a reluctance to fight.

Troglita's plan worked: encouraged by sacrifices to their gods and hoping to catch the imperial army unprepared, the Moors attacked the Byzantine camp on a Sunday. The battle hung long in the balance, with many dead on both sides, but eventually the Byzantines gained the upper hand. At this point, Carcasan rallied his forces and launched a fierce counterattack, but was killed by Troglita himself. Seeing their leader fall, the Moors broke and fled.

The battle was a resounding success for the Byzantines : seventeen of the Moors' principal leaders were dead, the Tripolitanian tribes were decimated and withdrew to the desert, and Antalas and his followers submitted to Troglita. Byzacena, Numidia, and Tripolitania were finally secured, and a period of peace was inaugurated that lasted for the next fourteen years, until 562.

At about this time, Troglita seems to have been promoted to the honorific court rank of patricius , as attested by the 6th-century historian Jordanes . He remained in command in Africa for at least another four years, beginning the difficult work of reconstruction. Troglita re-established the civil administrative apparatus as originally envisaged by Emperor Justinian in 533, sharing his authority with the prefect Athanasius. The provincial fortifications built by Solomon were restored, and the subdued Moorish tribes carefully returned to a status of vassalage as imperial foederati .

Troglita's record in re-establishing order and tranquility in the troubled province make him, along with Belisarius and Solomon, "the third hero of the Imperial reoccupation of Africa".


In 406 the East Germanic Vandals and their tribal confederates, including Germanic Suebi and Iranian Alans, crossed the Rhine. After an initial defeat at the hands of the Franks, the Vandals enlisted Alan support and smashed their way into Gaul, plundering the countryside mercilessly as they advanced into the south. In the early 420s Roman pressure forced the Vandals into southern Spain where the newcomers faced a Roman-Gothic alliance this threat the Vandals managed to defeat, but there could be no peace. Under their fearless and brilliant war leader Geiseric (428–77), whose fall from a horse had made him lame, the Vandals sought shelter across the Mediterranean their long exodus led as many as 80,000 of them to Africa where, they believed, they could shelter themselves from Roman counterattack. They commandeered ships and ferried themselves across the straits to Tangiers, in the Roman province of Mauretania Tingitana.

There the local dux had few men to oppose Geiseric, who swept him aside and, after a year’s plundering march, in 410 reached the city of Hippo Regius (modern Annaba in Algeria). There one of the great luminaries of Christian history lay dying: Augustine of Hippo, bishop of the city and church father. The Vandals stormed the city and spread death and sorrow, but Augustine was spared the final horror he died on August 28, 430, about a year before the Vandals returned and finally overcame the city. By then Vandal aggression had prompted a large-scale imperial counteroffensive led by count Boniface. In 431 an imperial expedition from the east led by the generalissimo Aspar joined forces with Boniface but suffered defeat and had to withdraw in tatters. The future eastern emperor Marcian (d. 457) served in the expedition and fell into Vandal hands. He helped broker the resulting peace, which recognized Vandal possession of much of Roman Numidia, the lands of what is now eastern Algeria. The Romans licked their wounds but could in no way accept barbarians in possession of one of the most productive cornlands and who threatened the richest group of provinces of the whole of the Roman west. In 442 the emperor Theodosius II dispatched a powerful force from the east with the aim of dislodging the Vandals. It too was defeated and in 444 the Romans were forced to recognize Vandal control over the provinces of Byzacena, Proconsularis, and Numidia, the regions today comprising eastern Algeria and Tunisia—rich districts with vast farmland and numerous cities. In 455 the Vandals sacked Rome, the second time the great city had suffered sack in fifty years, having been plundered by Alaric in 410. The eastern emperor Marcian had his own problems to deal with, namely the Huns, and therefore sent no retaliatory expedition.

Instead, Constantinople finally responded in 461 in conjunction with the capable western emperor, Majorian (457–61), but Majorian’s crossing to Africa from Spain was frustrated by traitors in his midst who burned the expeditionary ships and undid the western efforts. By this time the Vandals had established a powerful fleet and turned to piracy they threatened the Mediterranean coastlands as far as Constantinople itself. In 468 the emperor Leo I launched another massive attack against Vandal North Africa under the command of his brother-in-law Basiliskos Prokopios records that the expedition cost the staggering sum of 130,000 lbs. of gold. The expedition began promisingly enough. Leo sent the commander Marcellinus to Sardinia, which was easily captured, while another army under Heraclius advanced to Tripolis (modern Tripoli) and captured it. Basiliskos, however, landed somewhere near modern Hammam Lif, about 27 miles from Carthage. There he received envoys from Geiseric who begged him to wait while the Vandals took counsel among themselves and determined the course of negotiations. While Basiliskos hesitated, the Vandals assembled their fleet and launched a surprise attack using fire ships and burned most of the anchored Roman fleet to cinders. As his ship was overwhelmed, Basiliskos leaped into the sea in full armor and committed suicide.

The stain on Roman honor from the Basiliskos affair was deep rumors abounded of his incompetence, corruption, or outright collusion with the enemy. The waste of treasure and the loss of life was so severe that the eastern empire made no more effort to dislodge the Vandals and to recover Africa. As the fifth century deepened and the Hunnic threat receded, the east settled into an uneasy relationship with the former imperial territories of North Africa, trading and exchanging diplomatic contacts, but never allowing the Vandals to think that Africa was rightly theirs. The emperor Zeno established an “endless peace” with the Vandal foe, binding them with oaths to cease aggression against Roman territory. Upon the death of Geiseric, his eldest son Huneric (477–84) ruled over the Vandals he is remembered as a cruel persecutor of Catholics in favor of the heretical form of Christianity, Arianism, practiced by the Vandals and Alans. Huneric’s son with his wife Eudoxia, the daughter of the former western emperor Valentinian III, was Hilderic, who claimed power in Africa in 523. Under Hilderic, relations with Constantinople warmed considerably. Hilderic himself had a personal bond with Justinian from the time the latter was a rising talent and force behind the throne of his uncle, the emperor Justin (518–27), and in a policy designed to appease local Africans and the empire, Catholics were left unmolested many Vandals converted to the orthodox form of Christianity. The Vandal nobility found their situation threatened, as one of the key components of their identity, Arianism, was under attack assimilation and disintegration, they reasoned, were sure to follow. When, in 530, Hilderic’s younger cousin Gelimer overthrew the aged Vandal king it was with the support of the majority of the elites. Hilderic died in prison as Justinian monitored events from Constantinople with dismay. Roman diplomatic attempts to restore Hilderic failed. But Justinian was unable to act because war with Persia had commenced and his forces were tied down in Syria. By 532, Justinian sealed peace with Persia, freeing his forces and their young general Belisarios, the victor in 530 over the Persian army at Dara, to move west.

On the heels of the signing of the peace with Persia in 532, Justinian announced to his inner circle his intentions to invade the Vandal kingdom. According to a contemporary witness and one in a position to know, the general Belisarios’s secretary Prokopios, the news was met with dread. Commanders feared being selected to lead the attack, lest they suffer the fate of prior expeditions, while the emperor’s tax collectors and administrators recalled the ruinous expense of Leo’s campaign that cost vast amounts of blood and treasure. Allegedly the most vocal opponent was the praetorian prefect John the Cappadocian, who warned the emperor of the great distances involved and the impossibility of attacking Africa while Sicily and Italy were in the hands of the Ostrogoths. Eventually, we are told, a priest from the east advised Justinian that in a dream he foresaw Justinian fulfilling his duty as protector of the Christians in Africa, and that God himself would join the Roman side in the war. Whatever the internal debates and the role of faith, there was certainly a religious element to Roman propaganda Catholic bishops stirred the pot by relating tales of Vandal atrocities against the faithful. Justinian overcame whatever logistical and military misgivings he possessed through belief in the righteousness of his cause.

It could not have been lost on the high command in Constantinople that Justinian’s plan of attack was identical to Leo’s, which was operationally sound. Imperial agents responded to (or more likely incited) a rebellion by the Vandal governor of Sardinia with an embassy that drew him to the Roman side. Justinian supported another revolt, this one by the governor of Tripolitania, Prudentius, whose Roman name suggests he was not the Vandal official in charge there. Prudentius used his own troops, probably domestic bodyguards, armed householders, and Moors, to seize Tripoli. He then sent word to Justinian requesting aid and the emperor obliged with the dispatch of a force of unknown size under the tribune Tattimuth. These forces secured Tripoli while the main expeditionary army mustered in Constantinople.

The forces gathered were impressive but not overwhelming. Belisarios was in overall command of 15,000 men and men attached to his household officered most of the 5,000 cavalry. John, a native of Dyrrachium in Illyria, commanded the 10,000 infantry. Foederati included 400 Heruls, Germanic warriors who had migrated to the Danubian region from Scandinavia by the third century. Six hundred “Massagetae” Huns served—these were all mounted archers and they were to play a critical role in the tactics of the campaign. Five hundred ships carried 30,000 sailors and crewmen and 15,000 soldiers and mounts. Ninety-two warships manned by 2,000 marines protected the flotilla, the largest seen in eastern waters in at least a century. The ability of the Romans to maintain secrecy was astonishing, for strategic surprise was difficult to achieve in antiquity merchants, spies, and travelers spread news quickly. Gelimer was clearly oblivious to the existence of the main Roman fleet apparently an attack in force was inconceivable to him and he saw the Roman ambitions confined to nibbles at the edge of his kingdom. The Vandal king sent his brother Tzazon with 5,000 Vandal horse and 120 fast ships to attack the rebels and their Roman allies in Sardinia.

It had been seven decades since the Romans had launched such a large-scale expedition into western waters, and the lack of logistical experience told. John the Cappadocian economized on the biscuit instead of being baked twice, the bread was placed near the furnaces of a bathhouse in the capital by the time the fleet reached Methone in the Peloponnese, the bread was rotten and 500 soldiers died from poisoning. The water was also contaminated toward the end of the voyage and sickened some. After these difficulties, the fleet landed in Sicily near Mount Aetna. In 533 the island was under the control of the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy, and through diplomatic exchanges the Ostrogoths had been made aware of the Roman intentions of landing there to procure supplies and use the island as a convenient springboard for the invasion. Prokopios reports the psychological effect of the unknown on the general and his men no one knew the strength or battle worthiness of their foe, which caused considerable fear among the men and affected morale. More terrifying, though, was the prospect of fighting at sea, of which the vast majority of the army had no experience. The Vandal reputation as a naval power weighed heavily on them. In Sicily, Belisarios therefore dispatched Prokopios and other spies to Syracuse in the southeast of the island to gather intelligence about the disposition of the Vandal navy and about favorable landing spots on the African coast. In Syracuse, Prokopios met a childhood acquaintance from Palestine, a merchant, whose servant had just returned from Carthage this man informed Prokopios that the Vandal navy had sailed for Sardinia and that Gelimer was not in Carthage, but staying four days’ distance. Upon receiving this news, Belisarios embarked his men at once and sailed, past Malta and Gozzo, and anchored unopposed at Caput Vada (today Ras Kaboudia in east-central Tunisia). There the high command debated the wisdom of landing four days’ march or more from Carthage in unfamiliar terrain where lack of provisions and water and exposure to enemy attack would make the advance on the Vandal perilous. Belisarios reminded his commanders that the soldiers had openly spoken of their fear of a naval engagement and that they were likely to flee if they were opposed at sea. His view carried the day and they disembarked. The journey had taken three months, rendering it all the more remarkable that news of the Roman expedition failed to reach Gelimer.

The cautious Belisarios followed Roman operational protocol the troops established a fortified, entrenched camp. The general ordered that the dromons, the light, fast war galleys that had provided the fleet escort, anchor in a circle around the troop carriers. He assigned archers to stand watch onboard the ships in case of enemy attack. When soldiers foraged in local farmers’ orchards the next day, they were severely punished and Belisarios admonished the army that they were not to antagonize the Romano-African population, whom he hoped would side with him against their Vandal overlords.

The army advanced up the coastal road from the east toward Carthage. Belisarios stationed one of his boukellarioi, John, ahead with a picked cavalry force. Ahead on the army’s left rode the 600 Hun horse archers. The army moved 80 stadia (about 8 miles) each day. About 35 miles from Carthage, the armies made contact in the evening when Belisarios and his men bivouacked within a pleasure park belonging to the Vandal king, Vandal and Roman scouts skirmished and each retired to their own camps. The Byzantines, crossing to the south of Cape Bon, lost sight of their fleet, which had to swing far to the north to round the cape. Belisarios ordered his admirals to wait about 20 miles distant from the army and not to proceed to Carthage where a Vandal naval response might be expected.

Gelimer had, in fact, been shadowing the Byzantine force for some time, tracking them on the way to Carthage where Vandal forces were mustering. The king sent his nephew Gibamund and 2,000 Vandal cavalry ahead on the left flank of the Roman army. Gelimer’s strategy was to hem the Romans between his forces to the rear, those of Gibamund on the left, and reinforcements from Carthage under Ammatas, Gelimer’s brother. The plan was therefore to envelop and destroy the Roman forces. Without the 5,000 Vandal troops sent to Sardinia, the Vandal and Roman armies were probably about equal in strength. Around noon, Ammatas arrived at Ad Decimum, named from its location at the tenth milestone from Carthage. In his haste, Ammatas left Carthage without his full complement of soldiers and arrived too early by the Vandals’ coordinated attack plan. His men encountered John’s boukellarioi elite cavalry. Outnumbered, the Vandals fought valiantly Prokopios states that Ammatas himself killed twelve men before he fell. When their commander perished, the Vandals fled to the northwest back toward Carthage. Along their route they encountered penny packets of their countrymen advancing toward Ad Decimum the retreating elements of Ammatas’s forces panicked these men who fled with them, pursued by John to the gates of the city. John’s men cut down the fleeing Vandals in great number, bloody work far out of proportion to his own numbers. About four miles to the southeast, the flanking attack of the 2,000 Vandal cavalry under Gibamund encountered the Hunnic flank guard of Belisarios. Though they were outnumbered nearly four to one, the 600 Huns had the advantage of tactical surprise, mobility, and firepower. The Vandals had never experienced steppe horse archers terrified by the reputation and the sight of them, Gibamund and his forces panicked and ran the Huns thus decimated the second prong of Gelimer’s attack.

Belisarios had still not been informed of his lieutenant’s success when at the end of the day his men constructed the normal entrenched and palisaded camp. Inside he left the baggage and 10,000 Roman infantry, taking with him his cavalry force and boukellarioi with the hopes of skirmishing with the enemy to determine their strength and capabilities. He sent the four hundred Herul foederati as a vanguard these men encountered Gelimer’s scouts and a violent clash ensued. The Heruls mounted a hill and saw the body of the Vandal army approaching. They sent riders to Belisarios, who pushed forward with the main army—Prokopios does not tell us, but it seems that this could only have been the cavalry wing, since only they were drawn up for action. The Vandals drove the Heruls from the hill and seized the high point of the battlefield. The Heruls fled to another portion of the vanguard, the boukellarioi of Belisarios, who, rather than hold fast, fled in panic.

Gelimer made the error of descending the hill at the bottom he found the corpses of the Vandals slain by John’s forces, including Ammatus. Upon seeing his dead brother, Gelimer lost his wits and the Vandal host began to disintegrate. Though Prokopios does not mention it, there was more in play the string of corpses on the road to Carthage informed the king that his encirclement plan had failed and he now faced a possible Roman encirclement. He could not be certain that a Roman force did not bar the way to Carthage. Thus, as Belisarios’s host approached, the Vandal decision to retreat to the southwest toward Numidia was not as senseless as Prokopios claimed. The fighting, which could not have amounted to much more than running skirmishing as the Vandals withdrew, ended at nightfall .

The next day Belisarios entered Carthage in order there was no resistance. The general billeted his soldiers without incident the discipline and good behavior of the soldiers was so exemplary that Prokopios remarked that they purchased their lunch in the marketplace the day of their entry to the city. Belisarios immediately started repairs on the dilapidated city walls and sent scouts to ascertain the whereabouts and disposition of Gelimer’s forces. Not much later his men intercepted messengers who arrived from Sardinia bearing news of the defeat of the rebel governor at the hands of the Vandal general Tzazon. Gelimer and the Vandal army, which remained intact, were encamped on the plain of Bulla Regia, four days’ march south of Carthage. The king sent messengers to Tzazon in Sardinia, and the Vandal army there returned and made an uncontested landing west of Carthage and marched overland to Bulla Regia where the two forces unified. Belisarios’s failure to intercept and destroy this element of the Vandal force when it landed was a major blunder that Prokopios passes over in silence.

Once Gelimer and Tzazon unified their forces, they moved on Carthage, cut the main aqueduct, and guarded the roads out of the city. They also opened negotiations with the Huns in Roman service, whom they enticed to desert, and they attempted to recruit fifth columnists in the city to help their cause.

The two armies encamped opposite one another at Tricamarum, about 14 1/2 miles south of Carthage. The Vandals opened the engagement, advancing at lunch time when the Romans were at their meal. The two forces drew up against one another, with a small brook running between the front lines. Four thousand five hundred Roman cavalry arrayed themselves in three divisions along the front the general John stationed himself in the center, and Belisarios came up behind him with 500 household guards. The Vandals and their Moorish allies formed around Tzazon’s 5,000 Vandal horsemen in the center of the host. The two armies stared one another down, but since the Vandals did not take the initiative, Belisarios ordered John forward with picked cavalry drawn from the Roman center. They crossed the stream and attacked the Vandal center, but Tzazon and his men repulsed them, and the Romans retreated. The Vandals showed good discipline in their pursuit, refusing to cross the stream where the Roman force awaited them. John returned to the Roman lines, selected more cavalry, and launched a second frontal assault. This, too, the Vandals repulsed. John retired and regrouped and Belisarios committed most of his elite units to a third attack on the center. John’s heroic final charge locked the center in a sharp fight. Tzazon fell in the fighting and the Vandal center broke and fled, joined by the wings of the army as the Romans began a general advance. The Romans surrounded the Vandal palisade, inside which they took shelter along with their baggage and families. In the clash that opened the battle of Tricamarum in mid- December 533, the Romans counted 50 dead, the Vandals about 800.

As Belisarios’s infantry arrived on the battlefield, Gelimer understood that the Vandals could not withstand an assault on the camp by 10,000 fresh Roman infantry. Instead of an ordered retreat, though, the Vandal king fled on horseback alone. When the rest of the encampment learned of his departure, panic swept the Vandals, who ran away in chaos. The Romans plundered the camp and pursued the broken force throughout the night, enslaving the women and children and killing the males. In the orgy of plunder and captive taking, the cohesion of the Roman army dissolved completely Belisarios watched helplessly as the men scattered and lost all discipline, enticed by the richest booty they had ever encountered. When morning came, Belisarios rallied his men, dispatched a small force of 200 to pursue Gelimer, and continued to round up the Vandal male captives. The disintegration of the Vandals was clearly complete, since the leader offered a general amnesty to the enemy and sent his men to Carthage to prepare for his arrival. The initial pursuit of Gelimer failed, and Belisarios himself led forces to intercept the king, whose existence still threatened a Vandal uprising and Moorish alliances against the Roman occupiers. The general reached Hippo Regius where he learned Gelimer had taken shelter on a nearby mountain among Moorish allies. Belisarios sent his Herul foederati under their commander Pharas to guard the mountain throughout the winter and starve out Gelimer and his followers.

Belisarios garrisoned the land and sent a force to Sardinia which submitted to Roman control and sent another unit to Caesarea in Mauretania (modern Cherchell in Algeria). In addition, the general ordered forces to the fortress of Septem on the straits of Gibraltar and seized it, along with the Balearic Islands. Finally he sent a detachment to Tripolitania to strengthen the army of Prudentius and Tattimuth to ward off Moorish and Vandal activity there. Late in the winter, facing deprivation and surrounded by the Heruls, Gelimer negotiated his surrender and was taken to Carthage where Belisarios received him and sent him to Constantinople.

Roman victory was total. The Vandal campaign ended with a spectacular recovery of the rich province of Byzacium and the riches of the African cities and countryside the Vandals had held for nearly a century. Prokopios is reserved in his praise for his general, Belisarios, and for the performance of the Roman army as a whole, laying the blame for Vandal defeat at the feet of Gelimer and the power of Fortune, rather than crediting the professionalism or skill of the army commanders and rank and file. The Romans clearly made several blunders—chief among these the failure to intercept Tzazon’s reinforcing column, and Belisarios’s inability to maintain discipline in the ranks upon the plundering of the Vandal encampment at Tricamarum. On balance, though, the army and the state had performed well enough. The work of imperial agents in outlying regions of Tripolitania and Sardinia distracted the Vandals and led them to disperse their forces. Experienced Roman soldiers who had just returned from years of hard fighting against the Persians proved superior to their Vandal enemy in hand-to-hand fighting. Indeed, they had proved capable of meeting and destroying much larger enemy contingents. Belisarios’s leadership, maintenance of morale, and (apart from the Tricarmarum incident) excellent discipline accompanied his cautious, measured operational decisions that conserved and protected his forces. Roman losses were minimal in a campaign that extended imperial boundaries by more than 50,000 square kilometers (19,300 square miles) and more than a quarter million subjects. The empire held its African possessions for more than a century until they were swept under the rising Arab Muslim tide in the mid-seventh century.

Three Uprooted Horns

As prophesied the little horn would uproot three horns as it came to power. Here is that story.

In 337 AD Constantine the Great died and his two sons rule separately. Constans, who favored Nicene Christianity in Rome, and Constantius II, sympathetic to Arius and Eusebius in Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey). Sibling rivalry began a series of church councils that changed the map of the empire.

341 Council of Antioch revised the Nicene creed by removing the ‘homousian clause’ which specified that the Father and Son were of the same substance or consubstantial.
343 Synod of Sardica (Sophia, Bulgaria) assigns the bishop of Rome jurisdiction over archbishops.
347 First council of Sirmium (residence of Constantius) opposed Photinus, the homousian bishop there.
350 Constantius becomes sole emperor of east and west.
351 Second council of Sirmium drafted the Sixth Arian Confession.
352 Liberius followed in 356 by a second rival pope Felix II
357 Council of Sirmium III endorsed belief in the Son of God begotten from the unbegotten Father.
359 Council of Rimini (Aruminum), 400 bishops affirmed belief “in one God the Father Almighty” and in “Christ our Lord and God” and added “We believe also in the Holy Spirit” (Socrates Scholasticus Book II, Chapter 41, pp. 221,222).
364 Council of Lampsacus recognized only two divine beings the Father and Son. Liberius in Rome agreed with all three councils which were held under the rule of emperor Constantius II a supporter of the begotten Son belief.

The battle lines were drawn and now it would be not only religious but political rulers who would lay down the law.

366 Damasus I and rival pope Ursinus compete for the papal throne. Damascus calls the Roman church “the apostolic see.”
370 Ulfilas flees persecution to convert the Gothic people in Bulgaria (Sardica) to the begotten Son Christianity.
380 Theodosius the Great, the last Roman Emperor to rule over both eastern and western divisions, issues the Edict of Thessalonica declaring Nicene Trinitarian Christianity to be the only legitimate Imperial religion and calling all other Christians “foolish madmen.”
381 Theodosius calls the first ecumenical council of Constantinople which establishes the “mysterious” Holy Spirit as a separate Third Person of the Trinity ‘proceeding’ from the Father but equal to Him and worthy of worship and adoration despite any scriptural indication to do so.
384 Siricius begins issuing decretals and rules that all married priests be defrocked.
386 Celebration of Christ Mass established to honor birth based on the supposed December 25 winter solstice an already long established festival of Saturnalia.
390 Theodosius the Great, decrees that the Nicene creed is the orthodox Christianity and official state religion of the Empire.
398 Anastasius I oversees the Council of Laodicea. Canon 29: “Christians shall not Judaize and be idle on Saturday, but shall work on that day but the Lord's day they shall especially honor.”

Teutonic tribes begin to invade from the north as the Huns, cut off from access to northern Chinese pasturelands by the erection of the Great Wall, move westward putting pressure on the Germans, the Alemanni, then the Arian Goths and Vandals. Visigoths invade Rome in 400 AD.

438 The Theodosian Code legalizes Christian beliefs and empowers the church with corporal punishment of heretics, those who disagree with the Church: confiscating their literature, burning their books, and executing those who conceal them.
440 Leo I the Great, “the real founder of the papacy” maintains that the Pope is Peter's successor, “that the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome over all other bishops was definitely declared.
445 Emperor Valentinian, at Leo’s suggestion, “commanded that all bishops throughout the West should accept as law all that the Bishop of Rome approved, and that any bishop refusing to obey a summons to Rome should be forced to do so by the imperial governor.” p. 266 An Outline History of the World, H.A. Davies, M.A., Fifth Edition, Oxford University Press 1928.

451 Atilla the Hun attacks the Western Empire with an army of 500,000 and nearly reaches Paris, but is defeated by the Romans under Aetius. Attila recuperates and then advances into Italy. Pope Leo saves Rome from plunder by warning Attila not to risk the vengeance of heaven (or the reinforcements coming from Constantinople). Impressed by the Bishop’s sincerity (and because a plague has broken out in his camp), he withdraws his troops and dies the following year. Many begin to look to the Bishop of Rome as their natural protector. But Rome’s troubles are not over.

455 Vandal Carthaginians, lead by Genseric, sail up the Tiber and plunder Rome despite Leo’s pleadings. He does persuade them at least to not burn the city.

476 Western Empire finally came to an end when Odoacer, the most powerful German Gothic general of the Heruli, banished the last Western emperor, Romulus Augustulus, and becomes the first king of Italy. Like the rest of the “barbarians,” he rejected the Trinity doctrine and believed in the only begotten Son of God the Father. Catholic silence regarding Odoacer testifies to his toleration of other faiths.

481 Clovis becomes king of the Franks at age 15. 483 German Gothic ruler Odoacer sends his first lieutenant, Basilius, from Ravenna to Rome to invest the pontiff with the additional titles of eminentissimus (His highest eminence) and sublimis (sublime). 486 Franks under Clovis defeat the Romans at Soissons and govern Gaul to the Pyrenees from Belgium (dark green area in the map above). 489 After a reign of 14 years, Odoacer is defeated by the superior genius of Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, who takes Milan as promised by Zeno the Eastern Emperor on Odoacer’s removal.

492 Pope Gelasius I declares that his acts are not to be controlled by the canons of synods, past or present. He maintained that the pope is Peter’s representative or vicar. 493 After five years of fighting, Theodoric invites Odoacer and his sons, to a peace treaty and feast at Ravenna. After agreeing to equal rule in Italy with Theodoric and the Ostrogoths, Odoacer is stabbed and assassinated during the banquet on March 15. The Heruli, First of the three horns was uprooted. Theodoric is proclaimed king of Italy. Theodoric’s reign of 33 years was devoted to civil government. Also a rejecter of the Trinity dogma, he was, however, well aware of the critical importance of the Roman pontiff in determining the stability of his dominion.

496 Clovis king of the Franks is baptized, Anastasius II becomes pope Clovis conquers the Black Forest Alemanni after promising to become a Christian if he could win the battle. After his victory he became a strong political ally for the pope, willing to fight the battles against the “Arian barbarians.” 508 Clovis fights his first battle for the Pope against the Arian Visogoths of Spain.

510 Ennodius, bishop of Pavia, declared that the Roman pontiff was to be judged by God alone, placing him immune to any earthly tribunal. This set the groundwork for the future doctrine of papal infallibility.
514 Hormisdas is pope during which Constantinople published a rigid law ordering the elimination of the Arians through punishment by the church. This created serious resentment within Theodoric and he demanded that his fellow Arians in the East be accorded the same toleration that he had afforded the Catholics within his domain in the West.

523 John I sent to Constantinople by Theordoric to obtain relief for the Arians there. But John is not entirely successful (how could he be? He was doomed either way: alienate Theodoric or Justin). Instead of receiving the recognition he should have as the first pope to visit Constantinople, Theodoric imprisons the bishop on his return in 525 and mandates the prohibition of Catholic worship in the west. Theodoric, after a life of virtue and glory, descended with shame, guilt and paranoia to murder the aged Symmachus but dies himself the following year.
526 Felix IV is pope

The Eastern Empire prospered under Justinian who began to rule the year after Theodoric died (527). He built the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople, founded a university, and codified Roman law.

“In 527 Justinian became emperor with the clear aim of reuniting East and West in both politics and religion.” P. 46 A Short History of the Catholic Church, J. Derek Holmes and Bernard W. Bickers, Burnes & Oates, Kent, England 1983.

“Justinian I (527-567)…this despotic emperor prohibited heathenism as a form of worship in the empire on pain of death.” P. 29, Vol 3 History of the Christian Church, Philip Schaff (1819-1893).

Monk Dionysius Exiguus introduces the use of “A.D.” (anno domini) notation.
530 Boniface II contested by rival pope Dioscorus.
531 Boniface tries to appoint Vigilius as his own successor a synod annuls it.
532 John II pope

533 Battle of Tricamarum-Carthage, December 15
“The Church and the papacy still suffered under the alien grip of the Arian Ostrogoths who had conquered Italy. A grand effort was made by Justinian, the ruler of the still independent Eastern Roman Empire, to reconquer the western territories. He began with Africa, where his general, Belisarius, quickly overthrew the Vandals and liberated the Catholics.” The Carthagenian Vandals, the Second horn, was now uprooted.

“It is reckoned that during the reign of Justinian, Africa lost five millions of inhabitants thus Arianism was extinguished in that region, not by any enforcement of conformity, but by the extermination of the race which had introduced and professed it.” History of the Christian Church, J.C. Robertson, Vol. 1, p. 521.

535 “Turning toward Italy, he [Belisarius] crossed over to Siciy and soon had Rome under his control.” p. 110 A Concise History of the Catholic Church, Thomas Bokenhotter, Doubleday, 1977.

533 Emperor Justinian in his Justinian Code (Codex Justinianus) declares the Bishop of Rome to have first rank of all pontiffs, head of all Christian churches, and that he (Justinian) would exert every effort to increase the honor and authority of the Apostolic See of Rome.

“The Justinian Codex of Laws shows great influence from orthodox christianity beginning by declaring for the Trinity, it establishes the emperor’s dominion over the Church.” p. 417 Chronology of the Ancient World 10,000 B.C. to A.D. 799, Simon & Schuster 1976.

This was the formal transfer of power from the Emperor of Pagan Rome to the Papacy. It should be noted however, the implement-ation of this decree did not actually occur until 538 A.D.

Meanwhile, in the West Theodoric had no male heir, so his daughter, Amalasuntha, made her son, prince Athalaric, king of Italy. But as he was only an adolescent, she held power as regent. We he died at age sixteen from the plague in 534, she became queen. To strengthen her position she decided to share the regal title with one of her Gothic cousins, Theodatus (Theodahad). Her pro-Roman cultural stance made her unpopular within the ranks of the Ostrogoths and sensing intrigue Amalasuntha appealed to Justinian for help. But before help could come Theodatus had her imprisoned and strangled in the Spring of 535 on the pretense that she was responsible for Athalaric’s premature death. This injustice inspired emperor Justinian back in Constantinople to dispatch an army once again to Italy with his general, Belisarius.

535 Agapetus I, the new pope is sent by Theodatus to Constantinople as an emissary on his behalf to appease Justinian. But he dies within a few months. With news of Belisarius’ victories in Sicily and Naples and his approaching Rome, the Ostrogothic army made Witges king and disposed of Theodatus. Witges installed a pro-Gothic pope, Silverius, and moved his troops to Ravenna.

536 When Belisarius arrived in Rome, 150,000 Goths descend and besiege the city for months, threatening to take it. During this time, a letter from Silverius was intercepted by the Roman imperial guards that was en route to the Gothic king stating that the gate adjoining the Lateran church would be secretly opened to allow his Gothic troops access to the city.

Pope Silverius was summoned before Belisarius. His wife, Antonina, conducts the inquiry. Accused by credible witnesses and the evidence of his own signature on the intercepted letter, the successor of St. Peter was disrobed of his pontifical ornaments, deposed, clad as a monk, and banished to an island in the East. Deacon Vigilius in Constantinople was sent to Rome as his replacement in 537 but is a mere puppet of Constantinople.

With Rome under siege, Witgis blocks the aqueducts feeding the Eternal City, but the plan turns the Ostrogothic encampment into a stinking marsh and breeding ground for malaria.

538 With additional reinforcements arriving from Constantinople in March the Ostragoths suddenly abandon their year-long seige of Rome and retreat to Ravenna. The Third and last horn is uprooted.

Released from Arian control, the church was finally free to exercise the prerogatives of Justinian’s 533 decree. “. and the city, after sixty years’ servitude, was delivered from the yoke of the barbarians.” p. 309 Historian’s History Vol 7C.

Tunisia - Byzantine Africa

In time, the Vandals lost much of their warlike spirit, and their kingdom fell to the armies of Belisarius, the Byzantine general who in 533 began the reconquest of North Africa for the Roman Empire. It is true that Salvius of Marseilles is prone to exaggeration in all that he says, but he gives a most deplorable, and not wholly inaccurate, account of the crimes of all kinds which made Africa one of the most wretched provinces in the world. Nor had the Vandals escaped the effects of this moral corruption, which slowly destroyed their power and eventually effected their ruin. During the last years of Vandal rule in Africa, St. Fulgentius, Bishop of Ruspe, exercised a fortunate influence over the princes of the dynasty, who were no longer ignorant barbarians, but whose culture, wholly Roman and Byzantine, equalled that of their native subjects. Yet the Vandal monarchy, which had lasted for nearly a century, seemed less firmly established than at its beginning.

Hilderich, who succeeded in 523, was too cultured and too mild a prince to impose his will on others. Giluner made an attempt to deprive him of power, and, proclaimed King of the Vandals in 531, marched on Carthage and dethroned Hilderich. His cause appeared to be completely successful, and his authority firmly established, when a Byzantine fleet appeared on the coast of Africa. The naval battle of Decimunt (13 September 533) destroyed, in a few hours, the seapower of the Vandals. The landing of the Byzantine army, the taking of Carthage, the flight of Gilimer, and the battle of Tricamarum, about the middle of December, completed their destruction and their disappearance.

The victor, Belisarius, had but to show himself in order to reconquer the greater part of the coast, and to place the cities under the authority of the Emperor Justinian. A council held at Carthage in 534 was attended by 220 bishops, representing all the churches. It issued a decree forbidding the public exercise of Arian worship. The establishment of Byzantine rule, however, was far from restoring unity to the African Church. The Councils of Carthage brought together the bishops of Proconsular Africa, Byzacena, and Numidia, but those of Tripolitana and Mauretania were absent, Mauretania had, in fact, regained its political autonomy, during the Vandal period. A native dynasty had been set up, and the Byzantine army of occupation never succeeded in conquering a part of the country so far from their base at Carthage.

Effective Byzantine control in the old Roman province was restricted to the coastal area, and even there the newly walled towns, strongholds, fortified farms, and watchtowers called attention to its tenuous nature. The region's prosperity had diminished under Vandal domination. Unpopular Byzantine governors imposed burdensome taxation, while towns and public services - including the water system-were left in decay.

The old Roman political and social order, disrupted by the Vandals, could not be restored, but Byzantine rule in Africa did prolong the Roman ideal of imperial unity there for another century and a half and prevented the ascendancy of the Berber nomads in the coastal region. In outlying areas neglected by the Vandals, the inhabitants had sought the protection of tribal chieftains and, having grown accustomed to their autonomy, resisted reassimilation into the imperial system, but no coherent form of political organization evolved there to take the place of Roman authority.

The reign of Justinian marks a sad period in the history of the African Church, due to the part taken by the clergy in the matter known as that of the Tria Capitula (Three Chapters). While one part of the episcopate wasted its time and energies in fruitless theological discussions, others failea of their duty. It was under these circumstances that Pope Gregory the Great sent men to Africa, whose lofty character contributed greatly to increase the prestige of the Roman Church. The notary Hilarus became in some sense a papal legate with authority over the African bishops. He left them in no doubt as to their duty, instructed or reprimanded them, and summoned councils in the Pope's name. With the help of the metropolitan of Carthage, he succeeded in restoring unity, peace, and ecclesiastical discipline in the African Church, which drew strength from so fortunate a change even so surely as the See of Rome gained in respect and authority.

This renewal of vigor, however, was not of long duration. The Arabs, who had conquered Egypt, made their way into Africa. In 642 they occupied Barca and Cyrenaica in 643 they conquered part of the Tripolitana. In 647 the Caliph Othman gave orders for a direct attack on Africa, and an army which had gained a victory at Sbeitla withdrew on payment of a large ransom. Some years of respite ensued. The African Church showed its firm attachment to orthodoxy by remaining loyal to Pope Martin I (649655) in his conflict with the Emperor of Byzantium.

The last forty years of the seventh century witnessed the gradual fall of the fragments of Byzantine Africa into the hands of the Arabs. The Berber, or native tribes, which before this had seemed on the way to conversion to the Gospel, passed in a short time, and without resistance, to Islam. Carthage was taken by the Arabs in 695. Two years later it was re-entered by the Patrician John, but only for a brief period in 698 Hassan once more took possession of the capital of Northern Africa. In this overwhelming disaster of ihe Arab invasion the Churches of Africa were blotted out. Not that all was destroyed, but that the remnant of Christian life was so small as to be matter for erudition rather than for history.


Saratoga is now the recipient of an outstanding full-length battle study by a former park historian named John Luzader entitled SARATOGA: A MILITARY HISTORY OF THE DECISIVE CAMPAIGN OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (Savas Beatie 2008). John threw out the fluff, fancy prose, and myths and legends and wrote the book almost entirely from original archival sources (and his extensive knowledge of the ground). It includes numerous original maps, a photographic tour of the field, and numerous appendices on a wide variety of topics.

John, ironically, was also at one of the most decisive battles of the world: He was an Army Ranger on June 6, 1944, fought he way across France–and lived to tell the tale.

You can see more at, and read an interview with Mr. Luzader there.

Tough to look at this list and stop shaking my head. Many of these “battles” were the highpoint of campaigns. These campaigns included many other significant battles. As a military trained observer, the battle that inflicts a sore wound on your enemies empire, depletes it of trained soldiers, and/or changes entire political or religious systems is what I call decisive. Pearl Harbor rid us of 1920 battleships but missed the true priority targets that day. Islandlwana killed 1500 european soldiers (and 1500 native ones) but within 6 months the British Empire crushed the Zulus. The Zulus didn’t inflict a mortal wound on the english nor dissuaded them from continuing to attack. It just gave them something to sing about.

exactly, when you water down the ancient /medieval/gunpowder/modern eras battles what are the most pivotal?

I thought that the selection of the modern battles was most interesting particularly since I believe that one of the most decisive battles of World War II was left out. With the destruction of a major percentage of German tanks at the Battle of Kirsk, the Russians finally turned the advantage towards themselves and their superior T-34 tanks.

If the Germans had won this battle, it is very possible that the fight for Russian would have lasted much longer and that Germany many have ultimately defeated Russia (not necessarily a bad thing).

No, I wouldn’t like to see Kursk on the list. While it was a real turning point, the battle in itself was far from decisive. More of a draw, showing that the Germans no longer had the resouces to conduct a major offensive at one part of the front while still keep the guard up at the rest of the front, while the Soviets now had those resources. Btw the Soviet T34 were becoming slightly obsolete by Kursk. It was outclassed by the new Panther.

Pearl Harbour should defenitely not be on the list. The only way it could have some noticeable impact on the final end of the war would be by not beeing a battle at all (i e if the Japanese had refrained from attacking USA)

I don’t know much about the American war of liberty, but do you really think the British could have held on to America for long even if they had won the battle of Saratoga. Wasn’t the USA in beeing just to big and self sufficient to just be a part of Great Britain in the long run?

I too agree with the comments about Saratoga. While significant at the time, it was merely the inevitable conclusion to a campaign that was already lost to the British, principally because of French Naval intervention. At the end of tenous supply lines, trying to deal with a guerilla campaign as well as a more conventional one, short of manpower, and with political debate about the utility of the war itself, Saratoga was itself a coda.

I am surprised to see that in the Modern Battles Waterloo is not mentioned. Don’t you think that battle had a major impact on Modern Europe and prevent a resurging dominance of France over Europe?

I am surprised to see that in the modern time area Waterloo is not mentioned. I think that the battle had a major impact in the shaping od Modern Europe and prevented a resurging dominance by France over Europe

How about the somme . The end of the British Empire. No more volunteers after that. Tore the heart out of Britain.

where will u place the israeli victories in 1948 ,1967 and 1973 yom kippur wars over combined arab nations

I would scratch Jutland from World War I and replace it with the Convoy ONS-5 of World War II. The topic here is “decisive” battles. A “decisive” usually means a single, short but pitched battle where both sides throw both their chips onto the table and one walks away the winner.

At Jutland, both sides threw their chips on the table and walked away. At ONS-5, the chips stayed. After ONS-5, the Allies and the Germans both knew that the U-Boat was beaten, and the Atlantic belonged to the US-UK alliance (and it still does to this day!)

Jutland was easily the most decisive battle of WW1 after 1914 – in that it was the only battle in which the Germans could have won the war in a day. Scheer is accounted a tactical genius for getting his fleet back without engaging the British – but strategically his only choice was to fight and win – a loss made no more difference to the war than a draw would have.
And if he had fought – well – the British Battlecruisers blew up because of an ammunition feed design flaw – not their thin upper decks as is commonly supposed – and their battleships shared the same flaw except for maybe the Queen Elizabeth and the Royal Oak classes – although I have a feeling they two were suspect.
As Beatty said – there was something wrong with their bloody ships that day…

What about Cold Harbor? This was a decisive battle in halting Grant’s advance on Richmond. It also changed the face of combat, introducing and proving the effectivness of trench warfare.

I’d say Jutland was definitely the decisive naval conflict of WW1! The German Prisoner assaulted its Royal navy jailor, but stayed in prison IE even though it wasn’t a crushing tactical victory for either it was strategically decisive victory for the Royal Navy in the surface war in WW1.
Convoy ONS-5 is a good point, but I’d say victory in the Battle of the Atlantic was more about long term trends and developments, integrating new technologies and weapons into the allied ASW system rather then a single decisive engagement.

Isn’t it the case that the further back in history a battle is, the more inherently decisive in world history it is? Saratoga has only affected the world for 232 years, Salamis for 2488! The very idea we have a differing conception of an ‘East’ and a ‘West’ comes from this campaign…

as a medeival encounter , I would like to mention ” grunwald ”
this was a major engagement involving the 2 largest and influential european forces at that time –the german knights and the litho-polish coalition.many natioanls were present and the otcome determined a major settlement of political geography-i.e. the control of eastern europe.

I am not saying it was THE most decisive battle of all time, but Manzikert 1071 certainly desrves more credit than it is ever given in Western history classes (forget history classes in the USA… it is never mentioned even in footnotes…). Manzikert was the trigger for the crusades, but more to the point it was the beginning of the inexorable end of the Byzantine Empire… Byzantium never recuperated from the loss of Anatolia and its human resources… Admittedly, the fourth “Crusade” in 1204 gave Constantinople a knock-out blow, but if Manzikert hadn’t crippled the Byzantine Army back in 1071, the history of the Eatsern Empire arguably would have been much different…

Manzikert was perhaps the most decisive defeat of an empire in history. This stupid defeat by someone who had inherited a rich empire which only needed to be administrated from his father Alexius Comnenus doomed the Byzantine empire. They had already been defeated by stupidity at Myrocephalion a century before.

I agree on the Manzikert observation. Also, do not underestimate the effect of Myrocephalion. This last battle sounded the death knell of the Byzantine Empire. The formidable Byzantine infantry was trapped in a gorge, under the command of their hero worship seeking emperor, and this, about 1280, led to the loss of all the Balkans.
This along with Manzikert led to the destruction of the Byzantine Empire. Only the battle of Lepanto prevented the whole of the Mediterranean become a Turkish sea.

When considering the single most decisive battle of all time, I would give serious consideration to the Battle of Britain. A German victory in the air campaign and a subsequent successful execution of Operation Sea Lion would have potentially provided Germany vast economic resources. Germany would have ultimately invaded the Soviet Union on much different, more favorable terms with the United States and its major Allies (Canada, Australia, and probably India) facing an even longer, more protracted war of technology and economic attrition against the Axis powers.

I would not call the Battle of Britain a “battle.” It was a campaign, despite the name.

A substantial number of these battles appear to have been included because they are famous, not because they were world-shaping except in their very immediate future. For instance, Cannae,? Crecy?

regarding American civil war, submit opinion the south could have survived the defeat at Gettysburg and still come out ahead. What gave the north the boost needed to win was the re-election of Lincoln in 64, helped immeasureably by suppressing casualty figures in the eastern theater and victories in the west. If Bragg was as aggressive as his junior generals advised him to be after his slight victory at Chickamauga, Rosecrans’ army would have been driven away from Chattanoga with rout and significant captives. Chichamauga : decisive.

This is an excellent observation. Had the three cigars not been found along with the Confederate battle plans before Antietam, we might be looking at a different history of those times.

Indo pak war of 1971 should also be give a mention…coz…this war led to formation of bangladesh a new country!

Battle at Yarmouk River 636 AD – one of the most important battles in history.
If it ended differently, islam would never became world religion and (Eastern) Roman Empire would be dominate power in the Mediteranium and probably Europe in following centuries, shaping the world in different way.

Pearl Harbour was THE decisive battle of WW2 – Japan sealed it’s fate by bringing the US into the war and Hitler lost his way 3 days later when he declared war on the US – should have just STFU

What about the Battle of the Thirteen Sides? This is the battle where Chingis Khaan established his power and went on to establish the Mongol Empire.

My top 3 are Stalingrad, Gettysburg, and Marathon.

Honestly, we can thank the Russians that we all don’t speak German today. (And, in turn, we can thank the US that we all don’t speak Russian today.)

Also, while an earlier poster submitted that the victory at Gettysburg was not as important to Northern morale as we might think, I submit that a loss at Gettysburg would have crushed Northern morale. Therefore, the victory is still extremely decisive – not because of what it created, but because of what it avoided.

Why would you pick Salamis over Marathon? Marathon inspired the Greeks to fight at Salamis. It is way more important. Plus, Salamis has to be paired with Plataea for full effect.

My favorite pivotal battle post-ancient world is Hastings. Had it gone the other way, and it very nearly did, I think the modern world would be a very different place. Britain would have become a relatively insular state akin to a Scandinavian country. There would have been no British Empire and no USA, and these last two outcomes alone would have led to a myriad of other political consequences that would have made the modern political scene unrecognisable from what we actually have today.

probably the most decisive battle in western history at least was when Hannibal failed to assault Rome in 218BC after Cannae – only the fall of Rome could beat Rome by tat stage.

Watch the video: The Battle of Tricamarum (January 2022).