Who Were the Vandals and Where did They Come From?

A vandal is a person who destroys or damages the property of others for no reason. The word vandal actually comes from the name of a Germanic tribe that rose to power during the fifth century.

The Vandals, originally from northern Europe, invaded parts of the Roman Empire before settling in a region that is now part of Hungary and Yugoslavia. In 406, the tribe moved west and entered what is now France. After suffering a defeat there by the Franks, the Vandals began moving again, this time journeying south into Spain.

In 428, the entire tribe sailed from Spain to Africa and settled along the southern shore of the Mediterranean. The Vandals built a great fleet, and they soon became the leading sea power of the region. They set up colonies on Sicily, Sardinia, and other Mediterranean islands.

In 455, the Vandals attacked Rome itself, carrying away with them all the city’s wealth. But the Vandals didn’t “vandalize” Rome any more than a number of other tribes. Their bad reputation probably had something to do with their persecution of Christians.

In 533, an army of the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian reached Africa and defeated the Vandals, carrying some of them hack to Constantinople. After the sixth century, the Vandals disappeared from history, but not from the dictionary.