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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).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a group of tribes of eastern Germans.

The Vandals originally lived in the Scandinavian Peninsula. At the turn of the first century B.C. they resettled on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, and by the third century A.D. they had moved to the Danube. In 335 they were settled in Pannonia as Roman foederati. At the beginning of the fifth century the Vandals (together with the Alani) moved westward; over several years they laid waste to Gaul, and in 409 they settled in Spain. Subsequently, after being pushed to the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, the Vandals, led by their king, Genseric (who ruled from 428 to 477), crossed the Straits of Gibraltar in 429. In the course of ten years (meeting support from slaves and colonists) they conquered the Roman province of Africa (in 439 they captured Carthage), where they established their own kingdom. From here the Vandals carried out devastating raids on the islands and coasts of the western Mediterranean Sea (in 455 they plundered Rome itself).

On part of the territory of North Africa the Vandals confiscated the landholdings of the Roman magnates and divided them up among themselves. This speeded up the disintegration of the clan-tribal system and furthered the coming of age of elements of the feudal system among the Vandals. During the years 533-534 the Vandal kingdom, weakened by differences between the aristocracy, which had enriched itself, and the rank-and-file soldiers, was conquered by Byzantium; the Vandals were absorbed into the local population.


Diligenskii, G. G. Severnaia Afrika v IV-V vv. Moscow, 1961.
Diesner, H.-J. Das Vandalenreich. Leipzig, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


East German people known for their wanton destruction (533). [Ger. Hist.: Payton, 705]
See: Evil


5th-century sackers of Rome and its art. [Ital. Hist.: Espy, 168]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Wandal, incidentally, had jumped off the Sanvordem bridge in a bid to commit suicide late on Thursday.
The recovery of Wandal's body could soon lead to the search operation being called off by multiple government agencies, including district administration, state police and fire services, the Indian Navy and National Disaster Relief Force teams, sources in the South Goa district administration said.