Belisarius Reconquers North Africa At The Battle of Tricamarum

Today on December 15, 533, the legendary Byzantine General, Belisarius, decisively defeated the Vandals at the Battle of Tricamarum.

The Battle of Tricamarum was the last major battle between the Byzantine Empire and the Vandal Kingdom. The two enemy forces first clashed at the Battle of Ad Decimum several months before, resulting in a decisive victory for Belisarius. Under the command of King Gelimer, the Vandal Army proved no match for the experienced Byzantine soldiers. Belisarius’ army consisted of 8,000 infantry and heavy cavalry with the support of the Huns. The Byzantines marched north to occupy and solidify the fortifications around Carthage. After his defeat at Ad Decium, Gelimer was in a precarious position. He immediately recalled his brother Trazon and his army from Sardinia. Trazon had recently quashed a Byzantine funded rebellion and hastily returned to Carthage.

The two brothers established camp 50 kilometers west of the city. Rather than risk a siege, Belisarius opted to face them on the field. His most trusted commander, John the Armenian, accepted command of the Byzantine forces. The two armies spent the morning forming into battle lines with both sides waiting for the other to make the opening move. John ordered the first skirmishes to test the response of his enemy. After noticing that the Vandal flanks remained stationary, he led a full cavalry charge against their center. A fierce battle broke out but shifted quickly after the Byzantines killed Trazon. As the center began to rout, Gelimer’s morale broke and ordered a full-scale retreat.

King Gelimer abandoned his army after the Battle of Tricamarum and fled into the desert. He was eventually captured and displayed during a Roman Triumph for the people of Constantinople. The Vandals’ control over North Africa destabilized and were fully subjugated within a year. Belisarius effectively brought North Africa back under Roman rule for Emperor Justinian I. The territory provided a staging ground for launching an invasion into Sicily, and the ultimate prize, Rome. Much of our knowledge of this battle comes from the ancient scholar, Procopius of Caesarea and his book, De Bello Vandalico.

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