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The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire, and created a state in North Africa, centered on the city of Carthage. The Vandals probably gave their name to the province of Andalusia (originally, Vandalusia), in Spain, where they temporarily settled before pushing on to Africa.
They were identified with Przeworsk culture in the 19th century. Controversy surrounds potential connections between the Vandals and another possibly Germanic tribe, the Lugii (Lygier, Lugier or Lygians). Some academics believe that either Lugii was an earlier name of the Vandals, or the Vandals were part of the Lugian federation. Some suggested homelands are regions in Norway (Hallingdal) Sweden (Vendel) or Denmark (Vendsyssel) (these theories are based usually on similarity of names). The Vandals are assumed to have crossed the Baltic into what is today Poland somewhere in the 2nd century BC, and have settled in Silesia from around 120 BC. Their presence was recorded between the Oder and Vistula rivers in Germania in AD 98 by Tacitus and by later historians.
In medieval times, there was some popular belief that Vandals were ancestors of Poles. That belief originated probably because of two facts: first, confusion of the Venedes with Vandals and secondly, because both Venedes and Vandals in ancient times lived in areas later settled by Poles. In 796, in the Annales Alamanici , one can find an excerpt saying, "Pipinus ... perrexit in regionem Wandalorum, et ipsi Wandali venerunt obvium" ("Pippen went to regions of Vandals and the Vandals came to meet him"). In Annales Sangallenses , the same raid (however, put in 795) is summarised in one short message, "Wandali conquisiti sunt" ("Vandals were destroyed"). This means that early medieval writers gave the name of Vandals to Avars.
The two subdivisions of the Vandals were the Silingi and the Hasdingi. The Silingi lived in an area recorded for centuries as Magna Germania , and later called Silesia. In the 2nd century, the Hasdingi, led by the kings Raus and Rapt (or Rhaus and Raptus) moved south, and first attacked the Romans in the lower Danube area, then made peace and settled in western Dacia (Romania) and Roman Hungary.
In 400 or 401, possibly because of attacks by the Huns, the Vandals along with their Germanic and Sarmatian allies (namely, Sarmatian Alans and Germanic Suebians), started to move westward under king Godigisel. Some of the Silingi joined them later. Around this time, the Hasdingi had already been Christianized. Much like the Goths earlier, the Vandals adopted Arianism, a branch of Christianity that believed that Jesus was not equal to God the Father, but a separate created being directly beneath God. This belief was in opposition to that of the main Christian group in the Roman Empire, which later grew into Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.
The Vandals travelled west along the Danube without much difficulty, but when they reached the Rhine, they met resistance from the Franks, who populated and controlled the Roman possessions in northern Gallia. 20,000 Vandals, including Godigisel himself, died in the resulting battle, but then with the help of the Alans they managed to defeat the Franks, and on December 31, 406 the Vandals crossed the Rhine to invade Gallia. Under Godigisel's son Gunderic, the Vandals plundered their way westward and southward through Gallia.
In October 409 they crossed the Pyrenees mountain range into Spain. There they received land from the Romans: Gallaecia (Northwest) and Baetica (South), while the Alans got Lusitania (West) and the region around Carthago Nova. Still, the Suebi, who also controlled part of Gallaecia, and the Visigoths, who invaded Spain before receiving lands in Septimania (Southern France), kept causing trouble for Vandals and Alans.
Gunderic's half brother Geiseric started building a Vandal fleet. In 429, after becoming king, Geiseric crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and moved east toward Carthage. In 435 the Romans granted them some territory in Northern Africa, yet in 439 Carthage fell to the Vandals. Geiseric then built the Kingdom of the Vandals and Alans into a powerful state, and conquered Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and the Balearic Islands.
Differences between Arianic Vandals and Catholics or Donatists was a constant source of tensions in their African state. Most Vandal kings, except Hilderic, more or less persecuted Catholics. Although Catholicism was rarely officially forbidden (the last months of Huneric's reign being an exception), they were forbidden from making converts among the Vandals, and life was generally difficult for the Catholic clergy.
Sack of Rome
In 455, the Vandals took Rome and plundered the city for two weeks starting June 2. They departed with countless valuables, spoils of the Temple in Jerusalem brought to Rome by Titus, and the Empress Eudoxia and her daughters Eudocia and Placidia . By 468 they destroyed an enormous Byzantine fleet sent against them.
At Geiseric's death in 477, his son Huneric became king. Huneric's reign was mostly notable for its religious persecutions of the Manichaeans and Catholics. Gunthamund (484-496) sought internal peace with the Catholics. Externally, the Vandal power had been declining since Geiseric's death, and Gunthamund lost large parts of Sicily to the Ostrogoths, and had to withstand increasing pressure from the Moors.
Hilderic (523–530) was the most Catholic-friendly of the Vandal kings. However, he had little interest in war, and left it to a family member, Hoamer . When Hoamer suffered a defeat against the Moors, the Arian faction within the royal family led a revolt, and Gelimer (530–533) became king. Hilderic, Hoamer and their relatives were thrown into prison.
The Byzantine emperor Justinian I declared war on the Vandals. The action was led by Belisarius. Having heard that the greatest part of the Vandal fleet was fighting an uprising in Sardinia, he decided to act quickly, and landed on Tunisian soil, then marched on to Carthage. In the late summer of 533, King Gelimer met Belisarius ten miles south of Carthage at Ad Decimium. The Vandals were winning the battle at first, but when Gelimer's nephew Gibamund fell in battle, the Vandals lost heart and fled. Belisarius quickly took Carthage while the surviving Vandals fought on.
On December 15, 533, Gelimer and Belisarius clashed again at Ticameron, some 20 miles from Carthage. Again, the Vandals fought well but broke, this time when Gelimer's brother Tzazo fell in battle. Belisarius quickly advanced to Hippo, second city of the Vandal Kingdom, and in 534 Gelimer surrendered to the Roman conqueror, ending the Kingdom of the Vandals.
List of Kings
- Godigisel (-407)
- Gunderic (407-428)
- Geiseric (428-477)
- Huneric (477-484)
- Gunthamund (484-496)
- Thrasamund (496-523)
- Hilderic (523-530)
- Gelimer (530-534)
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