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On this day:
533 – A Byzantine expeditionary fleet under Belisarius sails from Constantinople to attack the Vandals in Africa, via Greece and Sicily.
Against the Vandals
Main article: Vandalic War
For his efforts, Belisarius was rewarded by Justinian with the command of a land and sea expedition against the Vandal Kingdom, mounted in 533–534. The Romans had political, religious and strategic reasons for such a campaign. The pro-Roman Vandal king Hilderic had been deposed and murdered by the usurper Gelimer, giving Justinian a legal pretext. The Arian Vandals had periodically persecuted the Nicene Christians within their kingdom, many of whom made their way to Constantinople seeking redress. The Vandals had launched many pirate raids on Roman trade interests, hurting commerce in the western areas of the Empire. Justinian also wanted control of the Vandal territory in north Africa, which was one of the wealthiest provinces and the breadbasket of the Western Roman Empire and was now vital for guaranteeing Roman access to the western Mediterranean.
In the late summer of 533, Belisarius sailed to Africa and landed near Caput Vada (near Chebba on the coast of Tunisia). He ordered his fleet not to lose sight of the army, then marched along the coastal highway toward the Vandal capital of Carthage. He did this to prevent supplies from being cut off and to avoid a great defeat such as occurred during the attempt by Basiliscus to retake northern Africa 65 years before, which had ended in the Roman disaster at the Battle of Cap Bon in 468.
Ten miles from Carthage, the forces of Gelimer (who had just executed Hilderic) and Belisarius met at the Battle of Ad Decimum on September 13, 533. It nearly turned into a defeat for the Romans; Gelimer had chosen his position well and had some success along the main road. The Romans seemed dominant on both sides of the main road to Carthage. At the height of the battle, Gelimer became distraught upon learning of the death of his brother in battle. This gave Belisarius a chance to regroup and he went on to win the battle and capture Carthage. A second victory at the Battle of Tricamarum on December 15, resulted in Gelimer’s surrender early in 534 at Mount Papua, restoring the lost Roman provinces of north Africa to the empire. For this achievement, Belisarius was granted a Roman triumph (the last ever given) when he returned to Constantinople. According to Procopius in the procession were paraded the spoils of the Temple of Jerusalem (the Vandal treasure, including many objects looted from Rome 80 years earlier, the imperial regalia and the menorah of the Second Temple among them) which had been recovered from the Vandal capital along with Gelimer himself before he was sent into peaceful exile. Medals were stamped in his honor with the inscription Gloria Romanorum, though none seem to have survived to modern times. Belisarius was also made sole Consul in 535, being one of the last persons to hold this office, which originated in the ancient Roman Republic. The recovery of Africa was incomplete; army mutinies and revolts by the native Berbers plagued the new praetorian prefecture of Africa for almost 15 years.
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe, or group of tribes, who were first heard of in southern Poland, but later moved around Europe establishing kingdoms in Spain and later North Africa in the 5th century.
The Vandals are believed to have migrated from southern Scandinavia to the area between the lower Oder and Vistula rivers during the 2nd century BC and to have settled in Silesia from around 120 BC. They are associated with the Przeworsk culture and were possibly the same people as the Lugii. Expanding into Dacia during the Marcomannic Wars and to Pannonia during the Crisis of the Third Century, the Vandals were confined to Pannonia by the Goths around 330 AD, where they received permission to settle by Constantine the Great. Around 400, raids by the Huns forced many of the Germanic tribes like the Goths to migrate to the Roman Empire, and fearing that they might be targeted next, the Vandals were pushed westwards crossing the Rhine into Gaul along with other tribes in 406. In 409, the Vandals crossed the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, where their main groups, the Hasdingi and the Silingi, settled in Gallaecia (northwest) and Baetica (south central) respectively.
After the Visigoths invaded Iberia, the Iranian Alans and Silingi Vandals voluntarily subjected to the rule of Hasdingian leader Gunderic, who was pushed from Gallaecia to Baetica by a Roman-Suebi coalition in 419. In 429, under king Genseric, the Vandals entered North Africa. By 439 they established a kingdom which included the Roman province of Africa as well as Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta and the Balearic Islands. They fended off several Roman attempts to recapture the African province, and sacked the city of Rome in 455. Their kingdom collapsed in the Vandalic War of 533–4, in which Justinian I managed to reconquer the province for the Eastern Roman Empire.
Renaissance and Early Modern writers characterized the Vandals as barbarians, “sacking and looting” Rome. This led to the use of the term “vandalism” to describe any senseless destruction, particularly the “barbarian” defacing of artwork. However, modern historians tend to regard the Vandals during the transitional period from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages as perpetuators, not destroyers, of Roman culture.
Born on this day:
1706 – John Dollond, English optician and astronomer (d. 1761)
John Dollond FRS (10 June O.S. (21 June N.S.) 1706 – 30 November 1761) was an English optician, known for his successful optics business and his patenting and commercialization of achromatic doublets.
Dollond was the son of a Huguenot refugee, a silk-weaver at Spitalfields, London, where he was born. He followed his father’s trade, but found time to acquire a knowledge of Latin, Greek, mathematics, physics, anatomy and other subjects. In 1752 he abandoned silk-weaving and joined his eldest son, Peter Dollond (1730–1820), who in 1750 had started in business as a maker of optical instruments; this business is now Dollond & Aitchison. His reputation grew rapidly, and in 1761 he was appointed optician to the king.
In 1758 he published an “Account of some experiments concerning the different refrangibility of light” (Phil. Trans., 1758), describing the experiments that led him to the achievement with which his name is specially associated, the discovery of a means of constructing achromatic lenses by the combination of crown and flint glasses, which reduces chromatic aberration (color defects). Leonhard Euler in 1747 had suggested that achromatism might be obtained by the combination of glass and water lenses. Relying on statements made by Sir Isaac Newton, Dollond disputed this possibility (Phil. Trans., 1753), but subsequently, after the Swedish physicist, Samuel Klingenstierna (1698–1765), had pointed out that Newton’s law of dispersion did not harmonize with certain observed facts, he began experiments to settle the question.
Early in 1757 he succeeded in producing refraction without colour by the aid of glass and water lenses, and a few months later he made a successful attempt to get the same result by a combination of glasses of different qualities (see History of telescopes). For this achievement the Royal Society awarded him the Copley Medal in 1758, and three years later elected him one of its fellows. Dollond also published two papers on apparatus for measuring small angles (Phil. Trans., 1753, 1754).
Priority of invention
See also: Achromatic lens: History
John Dollond was the first person to patent the achromatic doublet.[when?] However, it is well known that he was not the first to make achromatic lenses. Optician George Bass, following the instructions of Chester Moore Hall, made and sold such lenses as early as 1733. In the late 1750s, Bass told Dollond about Hall’s design; Dollond saw the potential and was able to reproduce them.
Dollond appears to have known of the prior work and refrained from enforcing his patent. After his death, his son, Peter, did take action to enforce the patent. A number of his competitors, including Bass, Benjamin Martin, Robert Rew and Jesse Ramsden, took action. Dollond’s patent was upheld, as the court found that the patent was valid due to Dollond’s exploitation of the invention while prior inventors did not. Several of the opticians were ruined by the expense of the legal proceedings and closed their shops as a result. The patent remained valid until it expired in 1772. Following the expiry of the patent, the price of achromatic doublets in England dropped by half. More details on this invention are in History of the telescope.
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