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Updated on February 5, 2012

A Germanic people, the Vandals were one of the several barbarian tribes who invaded the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD.

The Vandals originated in the Baltic area but by the first century AD had settled in East Europe. After AD 400, through pressure from the Huns, they began to migrate westwards and lived for a time as federates of Rome on the borders of the empire. In 406 they crossed the Rhine River and, with the Alans, another barbarian tribe, for two years ravaged Gaul (France).

In 409 they crossed the Pyrenees into Spain, where they continued their destruction until Rome made a settlement with them in 410. In 428 Gaiseric became King of the Vandals and in the following year took his people to North Africa. They first became federates of Rome but in 439 Gaiseric seized Carthage and sent a fleet to ravage Sicily, the source of most of Rome's food. The Romans were forced to recognize an independent Vandal kingdom in North Africa but in 455 the Vandals landed in Italy and sacked Rome.

The Vandals were converted to Christianity, probably in Spain, but they were Arians, the Arian doctrine being a form of Christianity that was considered by the Orthodox to be heretical; in North Africa they frequently persecuted the Orthodox Christians. In 533 Emperor Justinian's General Belisarius invaded North Africa and destroyed the Vandal kingdom. Thereafter the Vandals disappear from the pages of history, although their name has come down to us as being synonymous with willful destruction and desecration.


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