The Vandals gave their name to a word still invoking fear: vandalism. But who were they and what role did they play in the history of Late Antiquity
Die Vandalen. Aufstieg und Fall eines Barbarenreichs
By Roland Steinacher
The Vandals, The Suebs and the Alans famously crossed the river Rhine on New Years eve in AD 406. Since then, their names have stood for destruction, terror and barbaric rule. In 409, the Vandals moved further South across the Pyrenees and into the Iberian Peninsula, where their main groups, the Hasdingi and the Silingi, settled in Gallicia (northwest) and Baetica (south central). However, in 429
After the Visigoths invaded Iberia, the Vandals entered North Africa in 429 under the leadership of under king Genseric. By 439 they had 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 plundered the city of Rome in 455. This brutal act created the word “vandalism”, still valid in our time. Their kingdom finally collapsed in the Vandalic War of 533–4, in which Justinian I managed to reconquer the province for the Eastern Roman Empire.
In this new history of the Vandals Roland Steinacher tells the story of this most famous group of Barbarians and offers a modern version – free of myths. Perhaps the Vandals were more than anything the victims of a bad press?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Roland Steinacher is a historian of Late Antiquity and a medievalist. He works at the “Institut für Mittelalterforschung der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften”. He defended his Phd on the history of the Vandals in 2002 and later worked as junior scholar on a project, exploring the Historical Anthropology of the Vandals.
Hunting Scene from Bord-Djedid near Carthage. 5thC(late)-6thC(early). Mosaic pavement shows a vandal ?) horseman in front of a villa © The Trustees of the British Museum