peror Constantius, only widened the breach, and led to armed repression, an ever-growing disquiet, and an enmity that became more and more embittered. Yet, in the very midst of these troubles, the Primate of Carthage, Gratus, declared (in the year 349): "God has restored Africa to religious unity." Julian's accession (361) and his permission to all religious exiles to return to their homes added to the troubles of the African Church. A Donatist bishop sat in the heretical see of Carthage, in opposition to the orthodox bishop. One act of violence followed another and begot new conflicts. About this period, Optatus, Bishop of Milevi, began to combat the sect by his writings. A few years later, St. Augustine, converted at Milan, returned to his native land, and entered the lists against every kind of error. Paganism had by that time ceased to be a menace; in 399 the temples were closed at Carthage. Nevertheless the energy and genius of Augustine were abundantly occupied in training the clergy and instructing the faithful, as well as in theological controversy with the heretics. For forty years, from 390 to 430, the Councils of Carthage (see African Synods), which reunited a great part of the African Episcopate, public discussions with the Donatists, sermons, homilies, scriptural commentaries, followed almost without interval; an unparalleled activity which had commensurate results. The Pelagian heresy, which had made great strides in Africa, was condemned at the Council of Carthage in 412. Donatism, also, and Semi-Pelagianism (see Donatism, Pelagianism) were stricken to death at an hour when political events of the utmost gravity changed the history and the destiny of the African Church. Boniface, Count of Africa, had summoned the Vandals to Africa in 426, and by 429 the invasion was completed. The barbarians advanced rapidly and made themselves masters of cities and provinces. In 430 St. Augustine died, during the siege of Hippo; nine years later Geiserich, King of the Vandals, took possession of Carthage. Then began for the African Church an era of persecution of a kind hitherto unknown. The Vandals were Arians and sectaries. Not only did they wish to establish their own Arian sect, but they were bent on the destruction of Catholicism. The churches which the invasion had left standing were either transferred to the Arians or withdrawn from the Catholics and closed to public worship. The intervention of the Emperor Zeno (474–491) and the conclusion of a treaty of peace with Geiserich, were followed by a transient calm. The churches were opened, and the Catholics were allowed to choose a bishop (476), but the death of Geiserich, and the edict of Hunnerich, in 484, made matters worse than before. A contemporary writer, Victor of Vita, has told us what we know of this long history of the Vandal persecution. Even in such a condition of peril, the Christians of Africa were far from showing those virtues which might be looked for in a time of persecution. It is true that Salvius of Marseilles is prone to exaggeration in all that he says, but he gives us 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 Thrasamond in 523, was too cultured and too mild a prince to impose his will on others. Gilimer 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 off the coast of Africa. The naval battle of Decimum (13 September, 533) destroyed, in a few hours, the sea power 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.
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 (See Three Chapters). While one part of the episcopate wasted its time and energies in fruitless theological discussions, others failed 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 regained in respect and authority. This renewal of vigour, 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 (649–655) 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 the Arab invasion the Churches of Africa were blotted out. Not that all was destroyed, but that remnant of Christian life was so small as to be matter for erudition rather than for history.
Christian Literature of Africa.—The eccle-