VANDALS

The Vandals were a Germanic people who originated in the area of present-day Denmark. By the mid-100s B.C., they had migrated south and occupied a region near the Roman provinces* of Dacia and Pannonia. The Vandals had many contacts with the Romans, but they did not participate in the barbarian invasions of the A.D. 200s. Instead, they began a long migration that took them to North Africa, where they established a powerful kingdom.

By about A.D. 400, the Vandals had joined with two other Germanic tribes, the Alani and the Suebi. In A.D. 406 the three groups moved westward, crossed the Rhine River, and invaded the Roman province of Gaul. After three years of terrorizing the inhabitants there, the tribes moved into Spain and began to divide that region among themselves. The Romans, recognizing the power of the Vandals and their allies, made peace and allowed them to remain in Spain.

* province overseas area controlled by Rome

This peace ended around A.D. 416, when a combined force of Romans and Visigoths invaded Spain and crushed the Vandals and their allies. Faced with a continuing threat from the Visigoths, the Vandals moved to southern Spain. From there, they crossed the Mediterranean Sea to North Africa in A.D. 429. By A.D. 435 the Vandals controlled Rome’s African provinces of Mauretania and Numidia. They captured the city of Carthage in A.D. 439 and made it the capital of their kingdom. From their base in North Africa, the Vandals launched devastating attacks on the Mediterranean islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. They even invaded Italy, attacking and looting the city of Rome itself in A.D. 455.

The powerful Vandal kingdom in North Africa did not last long. In A.D. 533 the emperor Justinian sent an army—under the command of his great general, Belisarius—against the Vandals. The Romans quickly crushed them and destroyed their kingdom. (See also Barbarians; Germans; Migrations, Late Roman; Treaties.)

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