Vandals and Byzantines
Led by their king, Gaiseric, some 80,000 Vandals, a Germanic
tribe, crossed into Africa from Spain in 429. In the following
year, the invaders advanced without much opposition to Hippo Regius,
which they took after a siege in which Augustine died. After further
advances, the Vandals in 435 made an agreement with Rome to limit
their control to Numidia and Mauretania. But in 439 Gaiseric conquered
and pillaged Carthage and the rest of the province of Africa.
The resulting decline in trade weakened Roman control. Independent
kingdoms emerged in mountainous and desert areas, towns were overrun,
and Berbers, who had previously been pushed to the edges of the
Roman Empire, returned.
Belisarius, general of the Byzantine emperor Justinian based
in Constantinople, landed in North Africa in 533 with 16,000 men
and within a year destroyed the Vandal kingdom. Local opposition
delayed full Byzantine control of the region for twelve years,
however, and imperial control, when it came, was but a shadow
of the control exercised by Rome. Although an impressive series
of fortifications were built, Byzantine rule was compromised by
official corruption, incompetence, military weakness, and lack
of concern in Constantinople for African affairs. As a result,
many rural areas reverted to Berber rule.
Data as of December 1993