Vandals, ancient Germanic tribe. They originated in N Jutland and, along with other Germanic peoples, settled in the valley of the Oder about the 5th cent. b.c. They appeared in Pannonia and Dacia in the 3d cent. a.d., apparently under imperial aegis. In the early 5th cent., the Vandals began a migration that was to take them farther than any other Germanic people. They invaded (406) Gaul, where the Franks, as allies of Rome, refused them permission to settle. In 409 they crossed the Pyrenees to Spain. After meeting opposition there, they concluded a peace with Roman Emperor Honorius, who recognized their right to the land, subject to imperial authority. While in Spain, however, they continued to fight the Romans and Visigoths and were able to develop their maritime power. In 428, Gunderic, the Vandal king, died and was succeeded by his brother, Gaiseric, whose leadership carried the tribe to its greatest heights. Pressed by the Goths, and taking advantage of unsettled conditions in Africa, the Vandals crossed (429) to that continent and defeated the Roman general Boniface. The tradition that they came at Boniface's invitation is probably false. By 435 the Vandals controlled most of the Roman province of Africa, and in 439 they took Carthage. Their vessels made pirate attacks on ships in the Mediterranean, and they went on plundering expeditions to Sicily and S Italy. In 442, Valentinian III recognized Gaiseric as an independent ruler, and Vandal migration ceased. The next years were spent in building a powerful kingdom. Their fleet controlled the Mediterranean, and even the Eastern Empire felt their power. In 455, Rome was sacked by Gaiseric's troops, and Empress Eudoxia and her two daughters were taken as hostages. The Vandals were Arian Christians, and, especially under Gaiseric and his son, Hunneric, they harshly persecuted Orthodox Christianity. The Roman emperors Marjorian and Leo I made attempts to destroy Vandal power, but Zeno was forced to make peace (476) with Gaiseric. After the death (477) of Gaiseric, however, the Vandals declined quickly as a dominant power. In 533, Justinian I sent against them an army under Belisarius, which after meeting weak resistance, captured Carthage. With this overwhelming defeat the Vandals ceased to exist as a nation. The Vandals were not an artistic people, and they left no monuments of their reign. The modern use of their name is probably derived from the fear and hatred felt toward them by African Catholics and a reminiscence of the sack of Rome.
See J. B. Bury, The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians (1928, repr. 1967); J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, The Barbarian West, 400–1000 (3d ed. 1967).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Ancient History, Europe