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The Kingdom of Vandals in North Africa: why there are no traces of women in surviving documents

Perhaps Vandals were most fortunate people in Western Eurasia in fifth century. At turn of century, Vandals were one of least important of several war bands that began to destabilize northern provinces of Western Roman Empire.

After crossing Rhine with Alans and Suvi on New Year's Day 406 AD. Vandals spent three years in Gaul and twenty years in Spain,until their leader Gaiseric, who resettled them in wealthy Roman province of North Africa in 429 and conquered Carthage in 439, set Gaiseric's followers on entirely new ground.

By 442, they had become new military elite of kingdom that would eventually form Roman Diocese of Africa, parts of Sicily, and various Mediterranean islands when an agreement with western imperial powers resulted in Vandals gaining African consuls in provincial lands.

The resources of these Vandalorum "many vandals" enabled unlikely conquerors to acquire lifestyle of an ancient late Mediterranean aristocracy,their descendants lived secular lives until Justinian's army conquered Africa in 533-534. Even in an era of political, military and social upheaval, few people have experienced such a profound change in fate.

Of course, when we talk about vandals, we are talking about men, and women are not called vandals, with one notable exception, and in surviving texts this racial designation is only applied to men. This exception occurs in Vandal War of Eastern Roman historian Procopius against Caesarea, which is crucial to our understanding of later Vandal politics and transition from Constantinople to rule.

The Kingdom of Vandals in North Africa: why there are no traces of women in surviving documents

Procopius describes a military mutiny on Easter 536 after Reconquista, one of immediate causes of which was denial that some Eastern Roman soldiers were trying to take over land by marrying female captives, these prisoners were in Van Wives and daughters of men who served in Dahl's army. Procopius implausibly presents this statement as result of these women persuading their new husbands to seek land. Thus, women have legal rights to "land of vandals".

However, the historian does not explicitly refer to them as vandal women, but rather as "daughters and wives of vandals" in a later passage where he discusses "the remaining vandals, and all their women, or perhaps "wives ”, again, in both cases, women themselves were not vandals, but were dependent on adult male vandals.

Our other important historiographic account of Vandal rule, Victor of Veta's History of Persecution in an African Province, also dismisses many opportunities to present elite women in overtly racial terms.

The author argues that The History of Victor is a polemical account of reigns of Gaiseric and Huneric, intended to depict king as a tyrant and Vandals as heretic barbarians. latter, in order to impose his favored form of Homoian ("Arian") Christianity as orthodoxy on kingdom in last year of his reign and found Homoian Church, led to "Catholic" bishops and their churches being classified as heretics. .

The story begins with Vandals crossing Straits of Gibraltar, when Gaiseric ordered a count of his followers: to increase number to reach 80,000 Vandals, Gaiseric and his agents included "Old Man, Young Men, Children, Slaves and Master".

The missing category is particularly noteworthy, as Victor has just written that in his famous rhetoric Gaiseric decreed that "until that day all multitude of men whose wombs were brought to light shall be numbered."

The Kingdom of Vandals in North Africa: why there are no traces of women in surviving documents

Victor apparently imagined women traveling in Heterik's bands, but at this crucial moment in formation of Vandal group, women were not considered vandals: either our author, Geiserik Serik and his agents, or both. Like Procopius, Victor deliberately avoids referring to these women as such.

An obvious explanation for lack of female vandals is that only men are considered vandals, as Andy Merrills and Richard Myers argue in perhaps most sophisticated study of ethnic identity of vandals. authors of our textual sources in current description are overwhelmingly male.

"Vandals" are primarily soldiers, administrators, or landowners who owned land through male line, fought and ruled on behalf of their Hastings kings, and bore hallmarks of late Roman military nobility. The Vandals were not a "nation" in truest sense, but a group whose cohesion was understood in terms of ethnicity: a group shaped by a common experience of military activity on Roman soil.

They embody consensus of scholars that collective identity of "barbarian" group changed repeatedly over decades they spent on Roman soil, and that common ethnicity that bound them together, like all collective identities, is accidental, subjective and situational.

The author argues that Vandal identity seems to be more pronounced than most: "Vandals" who gratefully purchased land in Africa may have included Hastings and Sirin Vandals, Alans, Suvas, Goths, and Spanish Romans. They formed a new elite in North African society, whose status was based on service to king. This does not mean that plebeian aristocracy was replaced: many members of traditional Roman and African elite flourished in post-Roman Africa, partly reason was to serve Hastings dynasty.

The Kingdom of Vandals in North Africa: why there are no traces of women in surviving documents

Modern classical poetry shows that both Vandals and Roman Africans participated in classic aspects of Mediterranean elite's lifestyle, such as villa building, bathing, and hunting, but as Merrills and Miles note, it is notable that newfound pressure on elite male military valor.

The Vandal group identity was often limited to adult males, reflecting broader cultural notions of race in 5th and 6th century West. It is not uncommon for late antique writers to mainly discuss male members of "barbarian" group who militarized, settled, and established new kingdoms in western provinces.

Julia Smith and Guy Halsall emphasize that belonging to these ethnic groups was mostly considered prerogative of adult military men and that modern writers rarely refer to women as Goths, Franks or Burgers. similarly, code excludes women and children from membership.

As Halsall put it, "races, especially non-Romans, are inherently masculine". Partly as a result of establishment of Vandals among North African nobility, as well as parallel settlements in other provinces west of Rome in fifth and sixth centuries, there was a militarization of elite masculinity, best of which is reduction in visibility of elite women. illustrated.

We don't want to question this picture of Vandal identity primarily because of military masculinity or careful study of gender and race in post-Roman West. But this is only a partial answer to question of missing female Vandals, and one of most curious aspects of traces of texts and materials from North Africa of fifth and sixth centuries in North Africa is that we rarely come across specific people called Vandals, whereas Not an ordinary team.

The Kingdom of Vandals in North Africa: why there are no traces of women in surviving documents

There are several unknowns in Victor of Veta's History of Persecution: a warlord tries to force two of his slaves to become gay Christians, and two vandals join exiled Bishop of Nicaea. Victor and Procopius also commonly refer to Vandals as a group, latter usually referring to army of last Vandal king, Gelimer, and The History of War respectively refers to several generals as Vandals.

Otherwise, modern writers tend to use derogatory term "savages" or, in some cases, to call them "Goths". Other texts that attempt to glorify specific people do not specify their ethnicity, and modern scholars often read these texts as identity of Vandals, interpreting their designation as "Germans" or because of their value, such as military prowess.

The absence of female Vandals is thus due to rarity of a certain group of people known as Vandals and fact that those referred to in extant texts as Vandals were exclusively members of Hastings dynasty. The vandals we should expect are royal women, they are never mentioned as spoilers, in fact they are rarely mentioned, these missing female vandals draw attention to gender, not just race Perceptions of identity and power, dynasties and governance in post-imperial Africa.

The author argues that: this absence is not only due to partial, fragmentary texts from early Middle Ages, but rather reflects or at least a lack of contemporary visibility, which does not mean that women of Hastings were never discussed or used by regime , but this does not mean that they did not influence politics of court or administration of kingdom.

Various surviving references to spouses and maidens of King of Hastings and princes show that there are very few such royal women. We only know of two queens (only two have been named) and slightly more children and prince consorts.

The limited preservation of basic information about these women primarily reflects their diminished importance in Hastings' view of himself as rightful rulers of Africa. Among other things, this shows that their access to political representation in court of Vandals was limited.

The Kingdom of Vandals in North Africa: why there are no traces of women in surviving documents

The authors suggest that this lack of visibility and freedom of action can be structurally understood as result of dynastic succession arrangements that made eldest adult male descendant of Gaiseric heir, arrangements that caused Prince Hastings. His first wife is unlikely to live to see his death. accession, and mother of king was even less inclined to this, which significantly reduced her political capital as a dynastic propagandist.

Theoretically, these arrangements also prevented royal minorities, a situation that activated latent powers of imperial and royal women in late antiquity and early Middle Ages, but in practice they led to a transition through family of adult prince of Hastings. A wider spread of power and a series of succession crises led to removal of powerful female members of dynasty.

In general, decline in prominence of Hastings women has affected way we view government in vandalized Africa. We can only identify two Vandal queens, and only one has a name, and we don't even know if Carthage had a queen for most of Vandal age in North Africa.

Gezeric's wife is never mentioned, although he had at least three or four sons and possibly a daughter, all of whom were probably born before capture of Carthage in 439. Of course, eldest, Huneric, was old enough to marry an unnamed Visigothic princess in late 420s or 430s, and this diplomatic game and Hungarian seniority certainly predates context of this mention: Gaius Serik forcibly dissolved marriage in 442 year, so that his heir could be engaged to royal family.

Chuneric was widowed when he succeeded Gaiseric in 477, and Gonthamunde, Childeric, or Gelimer do not mention any wife: although Childeric must have been a spouse at some point in his adult life, because Procopius reports that unnamed children and grandchildren king were rewarded by Justinian.

The two royal consorts discussed in surviving texts were consorts of Terrasamund, only wife of reigning Vandal king, Amara Frida, sister of Diodoric, Ostrogothic king of Italy. Dioderic married Amara Frida to Sera Salmond in 500 in a series of marriage alliances with other barbarian kings.

The Kingdom of Vandals in North Africa: why there are no traces of women in surviving documents

In discussing union, Procopius reveals that this was Terrasamund's second marriage, that his previous wife had recently died, and that they had no children. Procopius' diplomatic calculations were clear: Amarafreda brought with him most of Sicily (a disputed area between two kingdoms) and 5,000 Gothic soldiers.

What we know about Amara Frida's experience in Carthage is based on two episodes: a diplomatic dispute and her brutal murder after her husband's death. Sometime in late 500s or early 510s, Thrasamund received Gesalek, a Visigothic king who had been exiled after defeat of Diodoric, and gave him financial assistance for his return to Gaul.

This incident is described in two letters in The Variations of Kasiodorus, a collection of twelve books of administrative letters written by Italian senators and officials on behalf of Ostrogothic king, Kasiodorus writes on behalf of Diodoric, rebuking Sera Salmond for this decision. , who he expected to marry Amara Frida, and his wife's advice would encourage him to take other actions against his son-in-law's enemies.

Thrasamund retreated, friendly relations were barely restored, and second break with her participation between Ravenna and Carthage did not even receive this temporary permission. After death of Trasalmond, Childeric ascended throne, Amara Frida fled from Carthage and took refuge with "barbarian" (presumably Moorish) allies, was captured by vandals in Caps (mod.) The army was captured after a military defeat.

Hilderic had Amara Frieda imprisoned and killed her gothic guards, claiming that she had plotted against him, which Conrad Fössing conclusively argues one of charges involved trying to avoid Hildrick's rise in favor of another Hastings and possibly his eventual usurper, Gelimer. Amala Frida died in prison, probably because Hildric ordered her to be killed, Cassiodoros again acted as royal mouthpiece of Childeric on behalf of Diodoric's successor, Atalaric wrote a burning letter.


Andy Merrills and Richard Myers, The Vandals

Gaius Halsall, Barbarian Migration and Roman West, 376-568

Jonathan Conant, The Preservation of Rome: Conquest and Identity in Africa and Mediterranean

Conant, saving Rome

Robin Whelan, Christians of Vandal Africa: Orthodoxy in Post-Imperial West

Victor of Wet, A History of Persecution in an African Province

Victor from Vet, a history of persecution

Merills and Miles, Vandals

Halsall, Barbarian Migration

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