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Vandals 1: Who Were the Vandals?

By Yona Williams    1/9/11

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It was during the 5th century that the East Germanic tribe called the Vandals entered the late Roman Empire. In history, the cultural group is best known for their sack of Rome that took place in 455. In this article, you will learn more about the Vandals, as well as information about leaders and their origin.

In ancient times, it was not uncommon for lands to become conquered or invaded by others. Chaos and destruction often followed as new forces attempted to dominant their new surroundings. The Vandals were not as destructive as some of the other invaders of their time, yet Renaissance and Early Modern writers had a habit of blaming the tribe for the decline of Rome.

Interestingly, this term is attributed with the term, 'vandalism,' which means the senseless destruction of property. The Vandals earned a reputation for destruction when they sacked Rome in 455. However, many see the Vandals as upholding some of the aspects of Roman culture in Late Antiquity rather than destroying it. This is present in the their kingdom in North Africa, which was able to last a long time.

Origin of the Vandals

There is a debate as to the early cultures that the Vandals are connected to. Some experts, such as archeologists and historians believe the Vandals are linked with the Przeworsk culture, which is associated with the Iron Age dated from 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. In the past, the region was situated in what is now known as central and southern Poland. Other theories concerning the origin of the Vandals include a connection to the Lygians, which was a mixture of Slavic and Germanic tribes.

The Roman Empire Meets the Vandals

There were two tribal groups associated with the Vandals, the Silingi and the Hasdingi. During the days of the Marcomannic Wars (166–180), the Silingi dwelled in a region referred to as Magna Germania. During the 2nd century, a pair of kings from the Hasdingi traveled south and was the first to attack the Romans in the lower Danube setting. Their presence became a threat, as the Roman Emperor Aurelian felt compelled to protect the middle course of the Danube against this group of Vandals around 271. In the end, they establishment a peace agreement and settled in western Dacia and Pannonia.  

Historic records suggest that the Hasdingi and the Goths were at odds with one another – around the same time that Constantine the Great was in power. The Vandals also suffered an attack around this time period. The Gothic king Geberic, who spent the majority of his life fighting, was successful in killing their king, Visimar. As a response, the Vandals migrated to Pannonia after seeking permission from Constantine the Great to settle on land located on the right bank of the Danube. This site would become their home for the next 60 years.

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