On the 11th Day of Christmas we celebrate St. Aquilinus, Martyr.
There are several St. Aquilinuses, but the one whose feast day is today was martyred in 484 and remembered along with Sts. Geminus, Eugene, Marcian, Quintus, Theodotus, and Tryphon who were also tortured and martyred during the reign of the Arian Vandal king Huneric. (That’s your TL;DR for today)
History lesson for the day:
The Vandal kingdom (435-534) was in North Africa, in the northern portion of modern day Algeria and Tunisia and also included Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, and the Balearic Islands.
They were pretty much constantly at war with the Roman Empire since their founding.
In the 440s, Huneric was betrothed to Eudocia, by their fathers, King Genseric and Roman Emperor Valentinian III to strengthen a peace treaty reached in 442. She was only 5 and they decided she was too young to marry.
Valentinian was assassinated in 455 (Eudocia would have been around 18). The new emperor, Petronius Maximus, married Eudocia’s mom, and forced her to marry his son, Palladius. This broke the treaty (surprise, surprise) in the Vandal king’s eyes, and off they went to sack Rome in June. Petronius Maximus fled Rome as the Vandals approached and was murdered by a Roman mob.
Pope Leo I asked Genseric not to burn the city or murder its people. They didn’t, but looted it for 2 weeks, damaging many culturally important items and places. And although there was very little blood shed, they did capture some as slaves. They also took Eudocia, her mom, Empress Licinia Eudoxia, and her sister, Placidia with them back to Carthage.
After 3 years of being prisoners, Licinia Edoxia and Placidia were ransomed by E. Roman Emperor Leo I and went to Constantinople. Eudocia stayed and married Huneric. They had a son, Hilderic, who was king of the Vandals from 523 to 530. When Genseric died in 477, Huneric assumed the Vandal throne. And yes, the terms “vandal” and “vandalism” come from the them and their sackings.
Huneric was a Arian, which means that while he followed Christ, he didn’t profess the faith in the Trinity- what we profess when we say the Nicene Creed, one God 3 persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always and eternal, the mystery of the Trinity being revealed over time. Huneric and the other followers of Arius (the guy St. Nicholas slapped) believe that in a nutshell Christ was divine (from God) but not God (the reason why Nicholas slapped him). The Council of Nicaea and the nature of Christ was one of the first divisions of the Christian Faith.
Anyways, Huneric lifted the persecution of Catholics at the beginning of his reign around 477. He went so far as to allow Catholics to hold a synod and elect a new bishop of Carthage, Eugenius, after not having one in 24 yrs. But then he changed his mind, as rulers of old often seem to have, and started to cut down Catholics once again, banishing many of them to a Vandal ruled land far away from him, more than likely one of the islands (“Out of my sight!”). He called for a meeting between the the Catholic and Arian bishops between 481 and 484. This meeting ended because the principal Arian bishop got angry because the Catholic Bishops only spoke in Latin and he didn’t (maybe he did, or maybe it was one of the 6 others languages including Vandalic, which itself is a branch of Germanic language, pointing to their ancestry in the Gothic nations). This ticked off Huneric and he exiled some to Corsica, Sardinia, and to the African desert, the total being around 500. Then there were those that were executed for refusing to convert to Arianism.
St. Aquilinus along with the other Martyrs of Africa, their tortures and deaths were written about by St. Bede, a historian and Doctor of the Church from England, sometime between ≈701-735. (Venerable Bede also helped with the dating method of AD, Anno Domini – in the year of our Lord).
Whew. I know that was a lot. But thanks for reading.
Oh! It’s also the 8th day after the Feast of Holy Innocents
Here’s a great link with more info on Octaves, especially of the Christmas Season from CatholicCulture.org