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The Vandals were an Eastern Germanic tribe. They were prominent in the 5th century AD, including sacking Rome in 455 AD. They probably originated in Scandinavia, and crossed the Baltic to mainland Europe. They crossed the frozen River Rhine at the end of AD 407, along with other barbarian peoples. Allied to a Sarmatian tribe called the Alans, they swept through Gaul (modern France) and then Spain. They seized Roman ships and in AD 427 crossed to North Africa under their formidable leader, Gaiseric. North African grain was the lifeblood of the (Western) Roman Empire, and the Vandal seizure of this best agricultural land, and their piracy/raiding in the Mediterranean, had a devastating effect. The Eastern Roman Empire fought a terrible war to regain North Africa, which succeeded, but at great cost.

Andalusia in Spain is named after them, as from a Moorish/Arabic perspective it was ‘Al Andalus’: the Land of the Vandals (the invaders having crossed from there to Africa).

The English word vandal is derived from Latin Vandalī. The association between vandals and monument destruction originated in a poem written by John Dryden in 1694: Till Goths, and Vandals, a rude Northern race, Did all the matchless Monuments deface.[1] Merriam-Webster defines a vandal as, "one who willfully or ignorantly destroys, damages, or defaces property belonging to another or to the public."[2]


  1. Dryden, John, "To Sir Godfrey Kneller" (1694)
  2. "Vandal, Merriam-Webster.