The Vandal King Genseric and the 2nd Temple Menorah: Unraveling the Historical Mystery

Did the Vandal King Genseric obtain the 2nd Temple Menorah from Vatican in the 455 CE sack of Rome?

Following the Vandal sack of Rome Carried off by the Vandals during the Sack of Rome in 455 CE, the Menorah and other assorted treasures of the Temple in Jerusalem were taken to Carthage, the capital of the Vandal Kingdom.

The Vandal King Genseric and the 2nd Temple Menorah

The Vandal King Genseric and the fate of the 2nd Temple Menorah have long been the subject of fascination and speculation among historians and enthusiasts alike. According to popular legend, Genseric and his Vandals seized the sacred menorah from the Vatican during the Sack of Rome in 455 AD, adding it to their vast booty. However, as we delve into the historical record and examine the available evidence, a more nuanced and complex picture emerges.

The Vandal Invasion

Before we examine the alleged acquisition of the Menorah, it is crucial to understand the historical context of the Vandal invasion of Rome. In 455 AD, Genseric and his fierce warriors descended upon the Eternal City, wreaking havoc and plundering its treasures. Rome, weakened by political turmoil and internal strife, fell to the military might of the Vandals.

The Menorah

The Menorah, a seven-branched candelabrum, held deep significance in the Jewish tradition. It symbolized the divine presence and was an emblem of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Its capture would have been a significant blow to the Jewish communities and a powerful symbol of victory for Genseric’s Vandals.

Examining the Historical Accounts

To determine the veracity of the claim that Genseric obtained the Menorah, historians turn to the available historical accounts. Surprisingly, there is a lack of direct evidence to support the notion that the Vandals seized the Menorah during the Sack of Rome. The primary sources of the time do not mention this specific event, casting doubt on its authenticity.

The Silence of Procopius

One notable source is Procopius, a Byzantine historian who chronicled the Vandal invasion in his work, The Vandalic War. Despite his meticulous account of the sacking of Rome, he makes no mention of the Menorah being among the spoils. This silence raises questions about the validity of the claim.

The Vandal Wars: Another Perspective

Another interesting perspective comes from Victor of Vita, a contemporary historian who chronicled the Vandal Wars. While he mentions the Vandals’ sacking of Rome, he does not specifically mention the Menorah. He does, however, describe the Vandals’ looting of precious metals and treasures from various churches, leaving open the possibility that the Menorah was taken.

The mystery remains

The lack of definitive evidence leaves us with a mystery. Did Genseric really acquire the 2nd Temple Menorah during the Sack of Rome, or is it a fascinating myth born of historical imagination?

The search for answers continues

Historians and researchers continue to explore this historical mystery. The complexity of ancient records, the passage of time, and the paucity of explicit accounts make it difficult to reach a definitive conclusion. The search for primary sources or archaeological evidence that will shed light on the fate of the menorah continues.

Alternative Theories: The Visigothic and Belisarius Perspectives

The Visigothic Theory

An alternative theory is that the Menorah may have been taken during the sack of Rome by the Visigoths in 410 AD, rather than by the Vandals in 455 AD. The Visigoths, led by King Alaric, captured Rome and looted the city, causing considerable devastation.

Proponents of this theory argue that the Menorah may have been among the treasures seized by the Visigoths as they sacked Rome. It is important to note, however, that historical accounts of the time provide no explicit evidence to support this claim.

The Belisarius Theory

Another theory suggests that the Menorah may have been looted by the Byzantine general Belisarius during the Byzantine reconquest of North Africa from the Vandals in the 6th century. Belisarius, under the orders of Emperor Justinian I, launched a military campaign to reclaim the Vandal kingdom.

During this campaign, Belisarius successfully defeated the Vandals and recaptured regions of North Africa, including Carthage. Some historians speculate that if the menorah was indeed taken by the Vandals, it may have been among the treasures that Belisarius recovered and brought back to Constantinople, the Byzantine capital.

However, similar to the Visigoth theory, there is a lack of direct evidence to support this claim. Historical records from the period do not specifically mention the menorah or its transfer to Constantinople.

Evaluation and Limitations

It is important to approach these alternative theories with caution, as they rely on speculation and circumstantial evidence. The lack of explicit historical accounts that mention the Menorah being taken by either the Visigoths or Belisarius makes it difficult to reach a definitive conclusion.

The challenges in evaluating these theories lie in the limitations of historical documentation, which can be incomplete, biased, or subject to interpretation. As historians and researchers continue to explore and analyze the available sources, new evidence or insights may emerge to shed light on the fate of the Menorah.

The search for answers continues

The search for the truth behind the fate of the 2nd Temple Menorah remains an ongoing scholarly endeavor. Historians, archaeologists, and researchers continue to examine various historical theories, explore archaeological sites, and analyze primary sources to uncover any hidden clues that may provide a clearer understanding of what happened to the menorah.


The story of the Vandal king Genseric and the 2nd Temple Menorah captivates the imagination, but separating fact from fiction is no easy task. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, the legend endures, fueling speculation and inspiring further research.

As historians, we must approach such historical mysteries with caution, relying on rigorous examination of available sources and critical analysis. Only through meticulous research and the discovery of new evidence can we hope to unravel the truth behind the myth and shed light on the fate of the holy menorah.

In the meantime, the story of Genseric and the alleged acquisition of the Menorah serves as a testament to the enduring power of historical narrative, reminding us of the rich tapestry of human history that continues to captivate and intrigue us today.


What happened to the menorah in Rome?

According to some scholars, the menorah remained in Rome until the Vandals looted the city in 455. After that, its whereabouts become even murkier. Some accounts assert that the menorah was destroyed in a fire; others say that it was taken to Carthage and then on to Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul.

What happened to the original menorah?

The menorah disappeared after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 ce; according to Josephus, the menorah was displayed during the Roman triumphal march, but the menorah displayed on the Arch of Titus is no longer thought to be the Temple candelabra.

Who sacked Rome in 455 AD?

Over the centuries, their name became so interchangeable with destruction that it became its synonym. But it turns out the Vandals, a Germanic tribe that managed to take over Rome in 455, may not deserve that connotation.

Who has the menorah?

The more familiar seven-branched menorah has symbolized Judaism since biblical times. The menorah—“lamp stand” in Hebrew—has been the pre-eminent symbol of Jews and Judaism for millennia. It is the oldest continuously used religious symbol in Western civilization.

When did the menorah originate?

The original Hanukkah menorah dates to 164 B.C.E., when a band of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated its Syrian oppressors in a hard-fought battle. As the Jews reclaimed their temple and lit its golden candelabrum, their only supply of oil, which should have run out after one day, miraculously lasted for eight.

What happened to the treasure from the Temple in Jerusalem?

The treasure was abandoned, and its owners could never return to collect it.” The Ophel cache is only the third collection of gold coins to be found in archaeological excavations in Jerusalem, said Lior Sandberg, a numismatics specialist at the Institute of Archaeology.

Who sacked Rome the second time?

The Visigoths

Rome recovered from the Gallic debacle and went on to flourish for nearly 800 years, but its second sacking in A.D. 410 marked the beginning of a long and excruciating fall. At the time, the Roman Empire was divided and on the decline.

Did the Vandals sack Rome?

While the Vandals did sack Rome in A.D. 455, they spared most of the city’s inhabitant
s and did not burn down its buildings.

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