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The Vandals' traditional reputation: a coloured steel engraving of the Sack of Rome (455) by Heinrich Leutemann (1824–1904), c 1860–80

The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century, perhaps best known for their sack of Rome in 455. Although they were not notably more destructive than others, the high regard which later European cultures held for ancient Rome led to the association of the name of the tribe with vandalism: senseless destruction, particularly in diminution of aesthetic appeal or destruction of objects that were completed with great effort.

The Goth leader Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths and regent of the Visigoths, was allied by marriage with the Vandals as well as with the Burgundians and the Franks under Clovis I.


Origins and early history

The Germanic tribes of Northern Europe in the mid-1st century AD. The Vandals/Lugii are depicted in green, in the area of modern Poland.

Some archaeologists and historians identify the Vandals with the Przeworsk culture, and controversy surrounds potential connections between the Vandals and another, possibly a mixture of Slavic and Germanic tribes,[1] the Lugii (Lygier, Lugier or Lygians), which is referred to as inhabiting the area by Roman writers. Some academics believe that either Lugii was an earlier name of the Vandals, or the Vandals were part of the Lugian federation, which was composed of Germanic and Slavic tribes. Jordanes refers to Vandals as Gothic (East Germanic) speakers, and name etymologies support the notion of Vandalic being near related to Gothic. The bearers of the Przeworsk culture (possibly the Lugii) had the custom of cremation.[1] Cremation is characteristic to Baltic Prussian tribes. In Prussia both cremation and inhumation burials were found, which Germanic tribes practised. The remains of the Przeworsk culture is mainly traced in the areas which were marshes, when Romans mentioned the Lugii tribe.

Similarities of names have led to appointing homelands for the Vandals in Norway (Hallingdal), Sweden (Vendel), or Denmark (Vendsyssel). The Vandals are assumed to have crossed the Baltic into what is today Poland somewhere in the 2nd century BC, and to have settled in Silesia from around 120 BC. This tradition supports the identification of the Vandals with the Przeworsk culture, since the Gothic Wielbark culture seems to have replaced a branch of that culture.

Some Medieval authors used the ethnonym "Vandals" applying it to Slavic peoples: Wends, Lusatians or Poles.[2][3][4]


Introduction into the Roman Empire

Simplified map of the various incursions into the Roman Empire, showing the Vandals' migrations (in blue) from Germany through Dacia, Gaul, Iberia, and into North Africa, and their raids throughout the Mediterranean, including the eventual sack of Rome in 455.

The Vandals were divided in two tribal groups, the Silingi and the Hasdingi. At the time of the Marcomannic Wars (166–180) the Silingi lived in an area recorded by Tacitus as Magna Germania. In the 2nd century, the Hasdingi, led by the kings Raus and Rapt (or Rhaus and Raptus)[citation needed] moved south, and first attacked the Romans in the lower Danube area. In about 271 the Roman Emperor Aurelian was obliged to protect the middle course of the Danube against them. They made peace and settled in western Dacia and Pannonia.

According to Jordanes' Getica, the Hasdingi came into conflict with the Goths around the time of Constantine the Great. At the time, the Vandals were living in lands later inhabited by the Gepids, where they were surrounded "on the east [by] the Goths, on the west [by] the Marcomanni, on the north [by] the Hermanduri and on the south [by] the Hister (Danube)." The Vandals were attacked by the Gothic king Geberic, and their king Visimar was killed. The Vandals then migrated to Pannonia, where after Constantine the Great (about 330) granted them lands on the right bank of the Danube, they lived for the next sixty years.

In 400 or 401, possibly because of attacks by the Huns, the Vandals, under king Godigisel, along with their allies (the Sarmatian Alans and Germanic Suebians) moved westwards into Roman territory. Some of the Silingi joined them later. Around this time, the Hasdingi had already been christianized. During the Emperor Valens's reign (364–78) the Vandals accepted, much like the Goths earlier, Arianism, a belief that was in opposition to that of Nicene orthodoxy of the Roman Empire. Yet there were also some scattered orthodox Vandals, among whom was the famous magister militum Stilicho, the chief minister of the Emperor Honorius.

In Gaul

In 406 the Vandals advanced from Pannonia travelling west along the Danube without much difficulty, but when they reached the Rhine, they met resistance from the Franks, who populated and controlled Romanized regions in northern Gaul. Twenty thousand Vandals, including Godigisel himself, died in the resulting battle, but then with the help of the Alans they managed to defeat the Franks, and on December 31, 406 the Vandals crossed the Rhine to invade Gaul, which they devastated terribly. Under Godigisel's son Gunderic, the Vandals plundered their way westward and southward through Aquitaine.

In Hispania

On October 13, 409 they crossed the Pyrenees into the Iberian peninsula. There, the Hasdingi received land from the Romans, as foederati, in Gallaecia (Northwest) and the Silingi in Hispania Baetica (South), while the Alans got lands in Lusitania (West) and the region around Carthago Nova. The Suebi also controlled part of Gallaecia. The Visigoths, who invaded Iberia before receiving lands in Septimania (Southern France), crushed the Alans in 426, killing the western Alan king Attaces. The remainder of his people subsequently appealed to the Vandal king Gunderic to accept the Alan crown. Later Vandal kings in North Africa styled themselves Rex Wandalorum et Alanorum ("King of the Vandals and Alans").

The Vandals may have given their name to the region of Andalusia, which according to one of several theories of its etymology which would be the source of Al-Andalus — the Arabic name of Iberian Peninsula, in the south of present day Spain, where they settled before pushing on to North Africa - though this theory is disputed (see Al-Andalus: Older proposals).

The Vandal Kingdom in North Africa


The Roman empire under Hadrian (ruled 117-38), showing the location of the Vandilii East Germanic tribes, then inhabiting the upper Vistula region (Poland)
The Vandal kingdom, along with the other Germanic kingdoms in the West, ca. 526

The Vandal conquest of the North African coast is considered a strategic move. The Vandals took it as a base for raiding the Mediterranean Sea, much like the Vikings.[5] They settled mainly in the lands corresponding to modern Tunisia and northeastern Algeria.[6] It was under the reign of king Genseric, Gunderic's half brother, when Vandals started building a fleet to plunder the Mediterranean.

In 429, political maneuvering in Rome was to change the landscape forever. Rome was ruled by the boy emperor Valentinian III (who rose to power at the age of 8), and his mother Galla Placidia. However, the Roman General Flavius Aëtius, in vying for power, convinced Galla Placidia that her General Boniface was plotting to kill her and her son to claim the throne for himself. As proof, he implored her to write him a letter asking him to come to Rome so that she would see that Boniface would refuse. At the same time Aëtius sent Boniface a letter stating that he should disregard letters from Rome asking him to return for they were plotting to kill him. When Boniface saw the letter from Rome, and believed there was a plot to kill him, he enlisted the help of the Vandal King Genseric. He promised the Vandals land in North Africa in exchange for their help. However, when it was known that the whole thing was a plot on the part of Aëtius, and Boniface was once again in Rome's favour, it was too late to turn back the Vandal invasion.

Genseric crossed the Strait of Gibraltar with the entire tribe of 80,000 and moved east, pillaging and looting as they went and driving more and more refugees toward the walled city of Hippo Regius. Genseric realized that they wouldn't be able to take the city in a direct assault, so began a months long siege on the walls of Hippo Regius. Inside Saint Augustine and his priests prayed for relief from the invaders, knowing full well that the fall of the city would spell conversion or death for many Roman Christians. On 28 August 430, three months into the siege, St. Augustine (who was 75 years old) died,[7] perhaps from hunger or stress, as the wheat fields outside the city lay dormant and unharvested. After 14 months, hunger and the inevitable diseases were ravaging both the city inhabitants and the Vandals outside the city walls.

Peace was made between the Romans and the Vandals by means of a grant in 435 of territory in Northern Africa. In 439, the Vandals took and plundered Carthage without a fight, entering the city while most of the inhabitants were attending the races at the hippodrome. Genseric made it his capital, and styled himself the King of the Vandals and Alans, to denote the inclusion of the Alans of northern Africa into his alliance. Conquering Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands, he built his kingdom into a powerful state.

Sack of Rome

During the next thirty-five years, with a large fleet, Genseric looted the coasts of the Eastern and Western Empires. After Attila the Hun's death, however, the Romans could afford to turn their attention back to the Vandals, who were in control of some of the richest lands of their former empire.

In an effort to bring the Vandals into the fold of the Empire, Valentinian III offered his daughter's hand in marriage to Genseric's son. Before this "treaty" could be carried out, however, politics again played a crucial part in the blunders of Rome. Petronius Maximus, the usurper, killed Valentinian III in an effort to control the Empire. Diplomacy between the two factions broke down, and in 455 with a letter from the Empress Licinia Eudoxia, begging Genseric's son to rescue her, the Vandals took Rome, along with the Empress Licinia Eudoxia and her daughters Eudocia and Placidia.

The chronicler Prosper of Aquitaine[8] offers the only fifth-century report that on 2 June 455, Pope Leo the Great received Genseric and implored him to abstain from murder and destruction by fire, and to be satisfied with pillage. Whether the pope's influence saved Rome is, however, questioned. The Vandals departed with countless valuables, including the spoils of the Temple in Jerusalem booty brought to Rome by Titus.


In 468 the Vandals destroyed an enormous East Roman fleet sent against them. Following up the attack, the Vandals tried to invade the Peloponnese but were driven back by the Maniots at Kenipolis with heavy losses.[9] In retaliation, the Vandals took 500 hostages at Zakynthos, hacked them to pieces and threw the pieces overboard on the way to Carthage.[9] Nevertheless, after Genseric was able to conclude a "perpetual peace" with Constantinople in 476, relations between the two states assumed a veneer of normality.[10]

Domestic religious tensions

Differences between the Arian Vandals and their Trinitarian subjects (including both Catholics and Donatists) were a constant source of tension in their African state. Catholic bishops were exiled or killed by Genseric and laymen were excluded from office and frequently suffered confiscation of their property. He protected his Catholic subjects when his relations with Rome and Constantinople were friendly, as during the years 454–57, when the Catholic community at Carthage, being without a head, elected Deogratias bishop. The same was also the case during the years 476–477 when Bishop Victor of Cartenna sent him, during a period of peace, a sharp refutation of Arianism and suffered no punishment. Generally most Vandal kings, except Hilderic, persecuted Trinitarian Christians to a greater or lesser extent, banning conversion for Vandals, exiling bishops and generally making life difficult for Trinitarians.


Mediterranean in 475 AD, showing the Vandal Kingdom and its neighbours.

Genseric, one of the most powerful personalities of the "era of the Migrations," died on 25 January 477, at the great age of around 88 years. According to the law of succession which he had promulgated, the oldest male member of the royal house was to succeed. Thus he was succeeded by his son Huneric (477–484), who at first tolerated Catholics, owing to his fear of Constantinople, but after 482 began to persecute Manichaeans and Catholics in the most terrible manner.

Gunthamund (484 – 496), his cousin and successor, sought internal peace with the Catholics and ceased persecution once more. Externally, the Vandal power had been declining since Genseric's death, and Gunthamund lost large parts of Sicily to the Ostrogoths and had to withstand increasing pressure from the autochthonous Moors.

While Thrasamund (496–523), owing to his religious fanaticism, was hostile to Catholics, he contented himself with bloodless persecutions.

The turbulent end

Hilderic (523 – 530) was the Vandal king most tolerant towards the Catholic Church. He granted it religious freedom; consequently Catholic synods were once more held in North Africa. However, he had little interest in war, and left it to a family member, Hoamer. When Hoamer suffered a defeat against the Moors, the Arian faction within the royal family led a revolt, raising the banner of national Arianism, and his cousin Gelimer (530 – 533) became king. Hilderic, Hoamer and their relatives were thrown into prison. Hilderic was deposed and murdered in 533.[11]

Byzantine Emperor Justinian I reacted to this by declaring war on the Vandals. The armies of the Eastern Empire were commanded by Belisarius, who, having heard that the greatest part of the Vandal fleet was fighting an uprising in Sardinia, decided to act quickly, and landed on Tunisian soil, then marched on to Carthage. In the late summer of 533, King Gelimer met Belisarius ten miles (16 km) south of Carthage at the Battle of Ad Decimum; the Vandals were winning the battle until Gelimer's brother Ammatas and nephew Gibamund fell in battle. Gelimer then lost heart and fled. Belisarius quickly took Carthage while the surviving Vandals fought on.[12]

On December 15, 533, Gelimer and Belisarius clashed again at Tricamarum, some 20 miles (32 km) from Carthage. Again, the Vandals fought well but broke, this time when Gelimer's brother Tzazo fell in battle. Belisarius quickly advanced to Hippo, second city of the Vandal Kingdom, and in 534 Gelimer surrendered to the Roman conqueror, ending the Kingdom of the Vandals.

North Africa (which is north Tunisia and eastern Algeria at the period of the vandal) became a Roman province again, from which the Vandals were expelled. The most part of the Vandals went to Saldae (which is called today Bejaia in the kabyl land in north Algeria) where they integrated the berbers and there in kabylia you find today a lot of people with white skin, blond and red hair and blue eyes. Some other were put into imperial service or fled to the two Gothic kingdoms (Ostrogothic Kingdom and Visigothic kingdom), some vandal women married Byzantine soldiers settled in north Algeria and Tunisia. The choicest Vandal warriors were formed into five cavalry regiments, known as Vandali Iustiniani, and stationed on the Persian frontier. Some entered the private service of Belisarius.[13] Gelimer was honourably treated and received large estates in Galatia. He was also offered the rank of a patrician but had to refuse it because he was not willing to change his Arian faith.[14]


"Hands of God", symbol of the early ethnic religions of the Slavs and Germanic Vandals.
  1. Wisimar (d.335)
  2. Godigisel (359–406)
  3. Gunderic (407–428)
  4. Genseric (428–477)
  5. Huneric (477–484)
  6. Gunthamund (484–496)
  7. Thrasamund (496–523)
  8. Hilderic (523–530)
  9. Gelimer (530–534)

Vandalic language

Very little is known about the Vandalic language, which was of the East Germanic linguistic branch, closely related to Gothic (known from Ulfilas's Bible translation), both completely extinct.

Modern words associated with Vandals

Although "vandalism" has come to mean senseless destruction as a result of the Vandals' sack of Rome under King Genseric in 455, historians agree that the Vandals were no more destructive than other invaders of ancient times. John Dryden wrote: Till Goths, and Vandals, a rude Northern race, Did all the matchless Monuments deface (1694). The word "goth" has gained architectural and other associations since Dryden's time, but "vandal" has not. During the Enlightenment, Rome was idealized, and the Goths and Vandals were disparaged.

"Vandalism" is from the French vandalisme, which originated during the French revolution. On August 31, 1794, there was an explosion of the powder mill of Grenelle in Paris. The Abbot Grégoire denounced vandalism, the first time that this term was used.

The Arabic term for Muslim Spain Al Andalus, and its derivative Andalusia, may be derived from the Berber pronunciation of Vandal: "Wandal".

From c. 1540, the Swedish king had been styled, Suecorum, Gothorum et Vandalorum Rex: King of the Swedes, the Goths and the Vendes. The fact that the Latin word for the Vendes is similar to the English Vandal has caused some confusion regarding the word's meaning. The present king, Carl XVI Gustaf, dropped the title in 1973 and now styles himself simply as King of Sweden.

See also



  • Blume, Mary. "Vandals Exhibit Sacks Some Cultural Myths", International Herald Tribune, August 25, 2001.
  • Brian Adam: History of the Vandals[15]
  • Christian Courtois: Les Vandales et l'Afrique. Paris 1955
  • Die Vandalen: die Könige, die Eliten, die Krieger, die Handwerker. Publikation zur Ausstellung "Die Vandalen"; eine Ausstellung der Maria-Curie-Sklodowska-Universität Lublin und des Landesmuseums Zamość ...; Ausstellung im Weserrenaissance-Schloss Bevern... Nordstemmen 2003. ISBN 3-9805898-6-2
  • John Julius Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries
  • F. Papencordt’s Geschichte der vandalischen Herrschaft in Afrika
  • Frank M. Clover: The Late Roman West and the Vandals. Aldershot 1993 (Collected studies series 401), ISBN 0-86078-354-
  • Guido M. Berndt, Konflikt und Anpassung: Studien zu Migration und Ethnogenese der Vandalen (Historische Studien 489, Husum 2007), ISBN 978-3-7868-1489-4.
  • Hans-Joachim Diesner: Vandalen. In: Paulys Realencyclopädie der class. Altertumswissenschaft (RE Suppl. X, 1965), S. 957-992.
  • Hans-Joachim Diesner: Das Vandalenreich. Aufstieg und Untergang. Stuttgart 1966. 5.
  • Helmut Castritius: Die Vandalen. Etappen einer Spurensuche. Stuttgart u.a. 2007.
  • Ivor J. Davidson, A Public Faith, Chapter 11, Christians and Barbarians, Volume 2 of Baker History of the Church, 2005, ISBN 0-8010-1275-9
  • L’Afrique vandale et Byzantine. Teil 1. Turnhout 2002 (Antiquité Tardive 10), ISBN 2-503-51275-5.
  • L’Afrique vandale et Byzantine. Teil 2, Turnhout 2003 (Antiquité Tardive 11), ISBN 2-503-52262-9.* Lord Mahon Philip Henry Stanhope, 5th Earl Stanhope, The Life of Belisarius, 1848. Reprinted 2006 (unabridged with editorial comments) Evolution Publishing, ISBN 1-889758-67-1.[16]* Ludwig Schmidt: Geschichte der Wandalen. 2. Auflage, München 1942.
  • Online Etymology Dictionary: Vandal [17]
  • Pauly-Wissowa
  • Pierre Courcelle: Histoire littéraire des grandes invasions germaniques. 3rd edition Paris 1964 (Collection des études Augustiniennes: Série antiquité, 19).
  • Roland Steinacher: Vandalen - Rezeptions- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte. In: Hubert Cancik (Hrsg.): Der Neue Pauly, Stuttgart 2003, Band 15/3, S. 942-946, ISBN 3-476-01489-4.
  • Roland Steinacher: Wenden, Slawen, Vandalen. Eine frühmittelalterliche pseudologische Gleichsetzung und ihr Nachleben bis ins 18. Jahrhundert. In: W. Pohl (Hrsg.): Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen. Von der Bedeutung des frühen Mittelalters (Forschungen zur Geschichte des Mittelalters 8), Wien 2004, S. 329-353.[18]
  • Stefan Donecker; Roland Steinacher, Rex Vandalorum - The Debates on Wends and Vandals in Swedish Humanism as an Indicator for Early Modern Patterns of Ethnic Perception, in: ed. Robert Nedoma, Der Norden im Ausland - das Ausland im Norden. Formung und Transformation von Konzepten und Bildern des Anderen vom Mittelalter bis heute (Wiener Studien zur Skandinavistik 15, Wien 2006) 242-252.[19]* Victor of Vita, History of the Vandal Persecution ISBN 0-85323-127-3. Written 484, non-NPOV primary source.
  • Walter Pohl: Die Völkerwanderung. Eroberung und Integration. Stuttgart 2002, S. 70-86, ISBN 3-17-015566-0.
  • Westermann, Grosser Atlas zur Weltgeschichte (German)
  • Yves Modéran: Les Maures et l'Afrique romaine. 4e.-7e. siècle. Rom 2003 (Bibliothèque des Écoles françaises d'Athènes et de Rome, 314), ISBN 2-7283-0640-0.

This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.


  1. ^ a b Mallory & Adams "Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture
  2. ^ Annales Alamannici, 795 ad
  3. ^ Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum by Adam Bremensis 1075 ad
  4. ^ Roland Steinacher under Reiner Protsch"Studien zur vandalischen Geschichte. Die Gleichsetzung der Ethnonyme Wenden, Slawen und Vandalen vom Mittelalter bis ins 18. Jahrhundert", 2002
  5. ^ Merrills, A.H. (2004). Vandals, Romans and Berbers: new perspectives on late antique North Africa. Ashgate Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 0-7546-4145-7. 
  6. ^ "Vandals". Retrieved 2007-06-02. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Prosper's account of the event was followed by his continuator in the sixth century, Victor of Tunnuna, a great admirer of Leo quite willing to adjust a date or bend a point (Steven Muhlberger, "Prosper's Epitoma Chronicon: was there an edition of 443?" Classical Philology 81.3 (July 1986), pp 240-244).
  9. ^ a b Greenhalgh and Eliopoulos, Deep into Mani: Journey into the Southern Tip of Greece", 21
  10. ^ J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (1923), Vol. II, p.125
  11. ^ J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (1923), Vol. II, p.131
  12. ^ J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (1923), Vol. II, pp.133-135
  13. ^ J. B. Bury: History of the Later Roman Empire • Vol. II Chap. XVII
  14. ^ J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire (1923), Vol. II, pp.138
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^

External links

Wikisource-logo.svg "Vandals" in the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

VANDALS (Lat. Vandili or Vandilii), a term used by early writers only as a collective designation for a group of Teutonic tribes including, according to Pliny, the Burgundians and the Goths. As a tribal name Vandali occurs first in connexion with the Marcomannic War. The people to whom the name is there applied seem to be identical with those formerly known as Lugii. Another tribe called Silingae by Ptolemy likewise appears among the Vandals at a later time. Both these tribes appear to have inhabited the upper part of the basin of the Oder, and the name of the Silingae is preserved in Silesia. The Vandals figure in the earliest legends both of the Goths and the Lombards, both of whom they are said to have encountered unsuccessfully. They first came into contact with the Romans during the Marcomannic War. In the time of Aurelian they invaded Pannonia, and during the reign of Probus we find them fighting in Dacia. In the time of Constantine I., according to Jordanes, they suffered a great defeat at the hands of Geberich, king of the Goths, their own king Visimar being killed, and the survivors were allowed by the Romans to settle in Pannonia. Here they seem to have remained in subjection to the Romans for about sixty years. In the year 406 they moved westward, according to some writers at the instigation of Stilicho, who is himself said to have been of Vandal origin, and crossing the Rhine at Mainz proceeded towards Gaul. A portion of the nation is, however, said to have remained behind, and Procopius tells a story that these remnants sent an embassy to Gaiseric, asking that their kinsfolk in Africa should renounce their claims to the lands which their forefathers had held in the old homes of the race. (F. G. M. B.) In Gaul the Vandals fought a great battle with the Franks, in which they were defeated with the loss of 2000 men, and their king Godegisel was slain. In 409 his son Gunderic led them across the Pyrenees. They appear to have settled in Spain in two detachments. One, the Asdingian Vandals, occupied Galicia, the other, the Silingian, Andalusia. Twenty years of bloody and purposeless warfare with the armies of the empire and with their fellow-barbarians, the Goths and the Suevi, followed. The Silingian Vandals were well-nigh exterminated, but their Asdingian brethren (with whom were now associated the remains of a Turanian people, the Alani, who had been utterly defeated by the Goths) marched across Spain and took possession of Andalusia.

In 428 or 429 the whole nation set sail for Africa, upon an invitation received by their king from Bonifacius, count of Africa, who had fallen into disgrace with the court of Ravenna Gunderic was now dead, and supreme power was in the hands of his bastard brother, who is generally known in history as Genseric, though the more correct form of his name is Gaiseric. This man, short of stature and with limping gait, but with a great natural capacity for war and dominion, reckless of human life and unrestrained by conscience or pity, was for fifty years the hero of the Vandal race and the terror of Constantinople and Rome. Probably in the month of May 428 he assembled all his people on the shore of Andalusia, and numbering the males among them from the greybeard down to the newborn infant found them to amount to 80,000 souls. The passage was effected in the ships of Bonifacius, who, however, soon returning to his old loyalty, besought his new allies to depart from Africa. They, of course, refused, and Bonifacius turned against them, too late, however, to repair the mischief which he had caused. Notwithstanding his opposition, the progress of the Vandals was rapid, and by May 430 only three cities of Roman Africa - Carthage, Hippo and Cirta - remained untaken. The long siege of Hippo (May 430 to July 430, memorable for the last illness and death of St Augustine, which occurred during its progress, ended unsuccessfully for the Vandals. At length (30th January 435) peace was made between the emperor Valentinian III. and Gaiseric. The emperor was to retain Carthage and the small but rich proconsular province in which it was situated, while Hippo and the other six provinces of Africa were abandoned to the Vandal. Gaiseric observed this treaty no longer than suited his purpose. On the rgth of October 439, without any declaration of war, he suddenly attacked Carthage and took it. The Vandal occupation of this great city, the third among the cities of the Roman empire, lasted for ninety-four years. Gaiseric seems to have counted the years of his sovereignty from the date of its capture. Though most of the remaining years of Gaiseric's life were passed in war, plunder rather than territorial conquest seems to have been the object of his expeditions. He made, in fact, of Carthage a pirate's stronghold, whence he issued forth, like the Barbary pirates of a later day, to attack, as he himself said, "the dwellings of the men with whom God is angry," leaving the question who those men might be to the decision of the elements. Almost alone among the Teutonic invaders of the empire he set himself to form a powerful fleet, and was probably for thirty years the leading maritime power in the Mediterranean. Gaiseric's celebrated expedition against Rome (455), undertaken in response to the call of Eudoxia, widow of Valentinian, was only the greatest of his marauding exploits. He took the city without difficulty, and for fourteen days, in a calm and business-like manner, emptied it of all its movable wealth. The sacred vessels of the Jewish temple, brought to Rome by Titus, are said to have been among the spoils carried to Carthage by the conqueror. Eudoxia and her two daughters were also carried into captivity. One of the princesses, Eudocia, was married to Hunneric, eldest son of Gaiseric; her mother and sister, after long and tedious negotiations, were sent to Constantinople.

There does not seem to be in the story of the capture of Rome by the Vandals any justification for the charge of wilful and objectless destruction of public buildings which is implied in the word "vandalism." It is probable that this charge grew out of the fierce persecution which was carried on by Gaiseric and his son against the Catholic Christians, and which is the darkest stain on their characters. This persecution is described with great vividness, and no doubt with some exaggeration, by the nearly contemporary Victor Vitensis. Churches were burned; bishops and priests were forced by cruel and revolting tortures to reveal the hiding-places of the sacred vessels; the rich provincials who were employed about the court, and who still adhered to the Catholic faith, were racked and beaten, and put to death. The bishops were almost universally banished, and the congregations were forbidden to elect their successors, so that the greater part of the churches of Africa remained "widowed" for a whole generation. In 476, at the very close of Gaiseric's life, by a treaty concluded with the Eastern emperor, the bishops were permitted to return. There was then a short lull in the persecution; but on the death of Gaiseric (477) and the accession of Hunneric it broke out again with greater violence than ever, the ferocity of Hunneric being more thoroughly stupid and brutal than the calculating cruelty of his father.

On the death of Hunneric (484) he was succeeded by his cousin Gunthamund, Gaiseric having established seniority among his own descendants as the law of succession to his throne. Gunthamund (484-96) and his brother Thrasamund (496-523), though Arians, abated some of the rigour of the persecution, and maintained the external credit of the monarchy. Internally, however, it was rapidly declining, the once chaste and hardy Vandals being demoralized by the fervid climate of Africa and the sinful delights of their new capital, and falling ever lower into sloth, effeminacy and vice. On the death of Thrasamund, Hilderic (523-31), the son of Hunneric and Eudocia, at length succeeded to the throne. He adhered to the creed of his mother rather than to that of his father; and, in spite of a solemn oath sworn to his predecessor that he would not restore the Catholic churches to their owners, he at once proceeded to do so and to recall the bishops. Hilderic, elderly, Catholic and timid, was very unpopular with his subjects, and after a reign of eight years he was thrust into prison by his warlike cousin Gelimer (531-34).

The wrongs of Hilderic, a Catholic, and with the blood of Theodosius in his veins, afforded to Justinian a long-coveted pretext for overthrowing the Vandal dominion, the latent weakness of which was probably known to the statesmen of Constantinople. A great expedition under the command of Belisarius (in whose train was the historian Procopius) sailed from the Bosporus in June 533, and after touching at Catana in Sicily finally reached Africa in the beginning of September. Gelimer, who was strangely ignorant of the plans of Justinian, had sent his brother Tzazo with some of his best troops to quell a rebellion in Sardinia (that island as well as the Balearic Isles forming part of the Vandal dominions), and the landing of Belisarius was entirely unopposed. He marched rapidly towards Carthage and on the 13th of September was confronted by Gelimer at Ad Decimum, 10 m. from Carthage. The battle did not reflect any great credit either on Byzantine or Vandal generalship. It was in fact a series of blunders on both sides, but Belisarius made the fewest and victory remained with him. On the 14th of September 533 the imperial general entered Carthage and ate the feast prepared in Gelimer's palace for its lord. Belisarius, however, was too late to save the life of Hilderic, who had been slain by his rival's orders as soon as the news came of the landing of the imperial army. Still Gelimer with many of the Vandal warriors was at liberty. On the return of Tzazo from Sardinia a force was collected considerably larger than the imperial army, and Gelimer met Belisarius in battle at a place about 20 m. from Carthage, called Tricamarum (December 533). This battle was far more stubbornly contested than that of Ad Decimum, but it ended in the utter rout of the Vandals and the flight of Gelimer. He took refuge in a mountain fortress called Pappua on the Numidian frontier, and there, after enduring great hardships in the squalid dwellings of the Moors, surrendered to his pursuers in March 534. The well-known stories of his laughter when he was introduced to Belisarius, and his chant, "Vanitas vanitatum," when he walked before the triumphal car of his conqueror through the streets of Constantinople, probably point to an intellect disordered by his reverses and hardships. The Vandals who were carried captive to Constantinople were enlisted in five squadrons of cavalry and sent to serve against the Parthians under the title "Justiniani Vandali." Four hundred escaped to Africa and took part in a mutiny of the imperial troops, which was with difficulty quelled by Belisarius (536). After this the Vandals disappear from history. The overthrow of their kingdom undoubtedly rendered easier the spread of Saracen conquest along the northern shore of Africa in the following century. this as in many other fields Justinian sowed that Mahomet might reap. (T. H.) See Pliny, Natural History, iv. 99; Tacitus, Germania, cc. 2, 43 Ptolemy, ii. c. i 1, §§ 18 ff.; Julius Capitolinus, De Bello Marcomannico, 17; Vopiscus, Probus, 18; Dexippus, Excerpta, pp. 19 ff. (Bonn); and Jordanes, 4, 16, 22; Procopius, De Bello Vandalico, a first-rate authority for contemporary events, must be used with caution for the history of the two or three generations before his time. The chroniclers Idatius, Prosper and Victor Tunnunensis supply some facts, and for the persecution of the Catholics Victor Vitensis and the Vita Augustini of Posidius may be consulted. See also E. Gibbon, Decline and Fall, chaps. xxxiii. and xli.; Papencordt, Geschichte der vandalischen Herrschaft in Afrika (Berlin, 1837); T. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders (1880-99); L. Schmidt, Geschichte der Wandalen (Leipzig, 1901); and F. Martroye, L'Occident a l'epoque byzantine (1904).

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See also vandal



Proper noun

the Vandals

  1. An east Germanic tribe that once lived in north Africa and sacked Rome.




  1. Plural form of Vandal.; members of the Vandals tribe.

Simple English

[[File:|thumb|250px|The Vandals were usually thought of as a horde of people pillaging and burning things. This is a colored steel engraving of the Sack of Rome (455) by Heinrich Leutemann (1824–1904), c 1860–80]] The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe. They entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals may have given their name to the region of Andalusia, which according to one of several theories of its etymology was originally called Vandalusia or land of the Vandals. This would be the source of Al-Andalus — the Arabic name of Iberian Peninsula,[needs proof] in the south of present day Spain, where they settled before pushing on to North Africa.

The Goth Theodoric the Great, king of the Ostrogoths and regent of the Visigoths, was allied by marriage with the Vandals, as well as with the Burgundians and the Franks under Clovis I.


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