Genseric, meaning Spear King, leader of the much-maligned Vandals, was one of the last Unitarian Christian leaders in the ancient world. Why AUR would want to celebrate the life of a man who sacked Rome, persecuted other Christians, and whose people gave us the word “vandalize”?
The bad reputation of Genseric and his Vandals is a good example of history being written by the victors. This is not to say that they were saints, particularly by the moral standards of the 21st Century. However, compared to the “ecclesiastical mafia” of Trinitarian saint Athanasius* or the cultic totalitarianism of Theodosius “The Great” who declared Nicene Christianity the only allowable religion in the Empire, Genseric was a bleeding-heart liberal.
For example, when Genseric conquered Carthage, he exiled Catholic elites but allowed Catholics among the common people to practice their religion, and established a progressive revenue system that lightened the tax burden of the common people while taxing the conquered elites. Not exactly the profile of a cruel, rampaging barbarian.
And, despite the nasty slanders his Vandals suffer for their conquest of the Eternal City, accounts of Genseric’s brutal sacking of Rome are little more than ethnic and sectarian propaganda on the parts of Romans and Trinitarians. In fact, Genseric’s forces seized only material goods, leaving the city and its inhabitants largely unmolested to honor a deal made with Trinitarian Pope Leo I.
Truth be told, Genseric’s navies did engaged in piracy during his reign, a sad practice that survived among naval forces into the Early Modern era. Despite this blot on his character, however, Geiseric is remembered as one of the last great leaders of Unitarian Christianity, relatively tolerant of Trinitarian lay worshipers in an age when their highly organized leaders were scheming to eradicate taproot Christianity with the vicious force of Imperial power.
Genseric died on 25 January, 477, and the 7th Day of Action is set aside for his remembrance.
* In the words of scholar of the early church Timothy Barnes.