Where does the word “vandal” come from and What does vandalize mean?

In the fifth century A.D., a remarkable group of Teutonic tribes crossed the Rhine, descended southward through lands occupied by the Franks, fighting their way as they went, crossed the Pyrenees, lived for twenty years in Spain, and then, upon invitation from the Roman count of Africa, Boniface, crossed the Mediterranean into Africa.

Eighty thousand persons were said to have made that crossing. The group, although including various tribes, was called Vandals.

Their leader, at the time of the crossing, was Genseric, a man naturally endowed for war and dominion.

In October, 439, he led his forces against Carthage, third largest of the cities of the Roman Empire and the last in Africa to fall before him, and made it thenceforth his own stronghold.

In the year 455 he sailed across to Italy and took, without much difficulty, the city of Rome. This city he sacked completely, his ships loaded with plunder when he returned to Carthage.

The son of Genseric, Hunneric, who succeeded him in 477, was noted for even greater rapacity- than the father, but spent it chiefly in persecution of Christians, extorting from them by cruel torture and death all the treasures and sacred vessels of their Church.

The remnants of the Teutonic tribes were finally subdued, captured, or scattered in A.D. 536, and the Vandals disappeared from history.

Their name lives as a reminder of willful or ignorant destruction or mutilation of things beautiful, sacred, or historical.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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