439: The Origin of the Word “Vandalism”

439: The Origin of the Word “Vandalism”
Photo Credit To https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Genseric_sacking_Rome_455.jpg

Story Highlights

  • historical event:
  • The Germanic Vandal people were incredibly mobile. They migrated from the territory of what is now Poland to southern Spain, and then broke into northern Africa. They later launched a naval invasion from Tunisia and plundered Rome.

On this day the Germanic Vandal people conquered the city of Carthage in North Africa. The event took place on the 641st anniversary of the Roman victory over the Carthaginian army led by Hannibal.

How did a Germanic people end up in North Africa? The Vandals originally lived on the territory of what is now Poland. In the time of the late Roman Empire, there was a great migration of various peoples in Europe, mostly due to the invasion of Asian people (primarily the Huns) from the east. The Vandals were among those forced to migrate westwards, across the border of the ailing Roman Empire. It seems that the Vandals were the most mobile of all the Germanic peoples. After entering Gaul (today France), they continued towards Hispania (now Spain), and reached its southern coast.

The powerful Vandal king Geiseric then led the Vandals across the Strait of Gibraltar and into Africa. They conducted horrific pillaging and looting along the way. The famous St. Augustine, one of the most influential Christian theologists in history, died during the Vandal siege of Hippone (Hippo Regius) in what is now Algeria.

Geiseric also conquered Carthage – the capital of the Roman province of Africa. It is interesting that Carthage was once the largest city of the Western Roman Empire after Rome. It is even more interesting that North Africa was considered the granary of the Roman Empire in the period of Classical Antiquity.

The Vandals consolidated their power in North Africa, while King Geiseric ruled from Carthage. In 455 the Vandals plundered Rome itself, taking many valuables from it. Since Rome later became a symbol of civilization, culture, and Catholicism, the term “vandalism” was later adopted to denote any “barbaric” attack on these values.


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