views updated May 17 2018


A Germanic people, proceeding from the Baltic region, during the first century b.c. reached the plains of the Oder and the Vistula. The Gothic migrations of the second century a.d. divided the Vandals into two chief groups, the Silings and the Hasdings. They were reunited in the region north of the Rhine two centuries later, in company with the Alani and the Suevi. In 406 they forced their way across the Rhine near Mainz, pillaged Gaul, and in 409 entered Spain. The Hasdings and the Suevi accepted the northwest, or Galicia; the Silings conquered Baetica; and the Alani took the middle regions. In 416 the visigoths invaded Spain and wiped out the Silings. They inflicted such defeats upon the Alani that they united themselves to the Hasdings, and both peoples fled to the south of the peninsula, where in 425 their king, Guntharic, captured Carthagena and Seville from the Romans. Little is known about these years: Vandal skeletons cannot be distinguished from those of other Germanic peoples, and only three Vandalic words have been identified in local place names. The term al-Andalus, employed by the Arabs to designate Baetica after their conquest and later extended to the whole peninsula, seems to reflect the name of the Vandals, who made themselves masters of the Balearic Islands and looked longingly to the rich land of Africa a short distance across the strait.

The Invasion of Africa. In 428, on the death of Guntharic, his ruthless brother Geiseric became king and proved himself to be perhaps the outstanding Germanic ruler of his time. Civil war between Count Boniface (comes Africae ) and a series of generals sent by Valentinian III's regent Galla Placidia greatly weakened Roman forces in Africa. Constant uprisings of the native Berbers, hostility of the Roman landowners to imperial fiscal exactions, and unrest among the lower classes also favored the Vandal invasion. Geiseric seized the opportunity to transport his people from the devastating barbarian wars of Europe to the prosperity and shelter of North Africa.

Sailing from Tarifa, Geiseric disembarked in the region of Tangier or that of Ceuta. With the Alani, Suevi, and a hodgepodge of other barbarians, Geiseric's subjects numbered about 80,000. Perhaps 15,000 of them were soldiers. They slaughtered, raped, pillaged and burned their way across North Africa to the gates of Hippo, where Boniface had taken refuge with the remnants of his Gothic auxiliaries. After the Vandals invested and blockaded Hippo for 14 months (during which St. augustine died within its walls), Boniface quit the city and returned to Italy. In 431 Geiseric triumphantly entered Hippo, making it the seat of his power. Procopius reports that the Vandals defeated Roman forces in two battles, but it is doubtful than any major military confrontation ever took place. The Vandal conquest of Africa was singularly facilitated by the absence of any significant resistance. In 435 Geiseric signed a treaty with the western Roman government and received "permission" to occupy the three MauretaniasTingitana, Caesariensis, Sitifensisand also part of Numidia. Geiseric used this treaty to dispel the suspicions of the Romans. In 439 he took Carthage by surprise and established himself therein. He developed a strong fleet, captured Lilybaeum in Sicily, and in 442 obtained a new treaty that gave the Vandals the best regions in Africa: Proconsularis, Byzacena, and part of Numidia. With the grain supply of Italy now at their mercy, the Vandals settled mainly in Proconsularis, chose the best lands for themselves, and declared them exempt from taxes. Roman landholders suffered a variety of fates: some were murdered, some enslaved, some exiled, and those allowed to retain their property were burdened with heavy taxes.

Vandal Religion. By the time they left Spain the Vandals had converted to Arianism. Geiseric's successor King Huneric (477 to 484), a vigorous opponent of Catholic Trinitarianism, confessed the same faith as the Arian councils of Ariminum and Seleucia. The Vandals derisively labeled Catholics as "homousians " and insisted that Christ was less than the Father. They forbade the celebration of homousian sacraments within their realm, demanded rebaptism upon conversion to Arianism, and sought to completely replace Catholicism with Arianism. Most of their efforts concentrated upon the bishops and clergy; the Vandals exiled or killed many bishops, and forbade the ordination of new ones. Church property was confiscated, destroyed, or handed over to the Arian clergy, who celebrated services in their native tongue. While there were occasional periods of toleration, prolonged persecution of the Catholic Church characterizes the Vandal reign and distinguishes the Vandals from other barbarians invading the Empire at this time. The Vandals truly were "the most Arian of all the barbarians."

Vandal Law. No body of Vandal laws has been preserved. The few sources that explain their institutions are contained in the works of victor of vita and Procopius of Caesarea and in the so-called Tablettes Albertini, 45 wooden tablets, discovered near Tebessa (in northeast Algeria) in 1928, that cover 32 acts of property sales from 493 to 496.

Summit and Fall of Vandal Power. During the political disorders that followed the murder of Valentinian III in 455, Geiseric sailed for Italy. He entered Rome on June 2, and his armies pillaged the city for two weeks but refrained from slaughter and fire, as Pope Leo I had begged them to do. Geiseric's military and diplomatic skills made the Vandals temporarily the leading power in the West. Corsica and Sardinia were added to their empire, and their fleets ruled the Mediterranean. Under Geiseric (d. 477) they avoided or defeated several major imperial military expeditions sent against them, but their might gradually dwindled under his successors. Though King Gunthamund (484 to 496) gave more freedom to the Catholics, his successor, Thrasamund (496 to 523), exiled large numbers of bishops. Hilderic (523 to 530) was defeated decisively by the Berbers at Capsa. He was deposed posed in favor of Gelimer, who in turn was defeated and imprisoned by the Byzantine forces of justinian i under Belisarius in 534 and brought in triumph to Constantinople. This marked the end of Vandal rule in Africa. Most of their soldiers were enslaved, their property was restored to the Romans, and their churches were returned to the Catholics. As a people they quickly disappeared.

Bibliography: j. moorhead, Victor of Vita: History of the Vandal Persecution (Liverpool 1992). f. clover, The Late Roman West and the Vandals (Brookfield 1993). a. isola, I cristiani dell'Africa vandalica nei Sermones del tempo (429534) (Milan 1990). f. b. mapwar, in Cristianesimo e specificita regionali nel Mediterraneo latino (sec IVVI) ed. b. luiselli, et al., 189213 (Rome 1994). h. wolfram, The Roman Empire and Its Germanic Peoples, tr. t. dunlap. (Berkeley 1997). l. j. van der lof, Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde der älteren Kirche 64 (1973) 146151. l. schmidt, Geschichte der Wandalen (1942, repr. München 1970). c. courtois, Les Vandales et l'Afrique (Paris 1955), fundamental; e. f. gautier, Genséric, roi des Vandales (Paris 1951). c. courtois et al., eds., Tablettes Albertini: Actes privés de l'Époque vandale (Paris 1952).

[j. j. gavigan/

d. van slyke]


views updated May 23 2018


The intentional and malicious destruction of or damage to the property of another.

The intentional destruction of property is popularly referred to as vandalism. It includes behavior such as breaking windows, slashing tires, spray painting a wall with graffiti, and destroying a computer system through the use of a computer virus. Vandalism is a malicious act and may reflect personal ill will, although the perpetrators need not know their victim to commit vandalism. The recklessness of the act imputes both intent and malice.

Because the destruction of public and private property poses a threat to society, modern statutes make vandalism a crime. The penalties upon conviction may be a fine, a jail sentence, an order to pay for repairs or replacement, or all three. In addition, a person who commits vandalism may be sued in a civil tort action for damages so that the damaged property can be repaired or replaced.

Vandalism is a general term that may not actually appear in criminal statutes. Frequently, these statutes employ the terms criminal mischief, malicious mischief, or malicious trespass as opposed to vandalism. A group of individuals can be convicted of conspiring or acting concertedly to commit vandalism. Generally, the attempt to commit vandalism is an offense as well, but the penalties for attempted vandalism are not as severe as the penalties for a completed act. Penalties also depend on the value of the property destroyed or the cost of repairing it.

To obtain a conviction the prosecution must ordinarily prove that the accused damaged or destroyed some property, that the property did not belong to the accused, and that the accused acted willfully and with malice. In the absence of proof of damage, the defendant may be guilty of trespass, but not vandalism. If there is no proof that the defendant intentionally damaged the property, the defendant cannot be convicted of the crime but can be held liable for monetary damages in a civil action.

Some state statutes impose more stringent penalties for the destruction of certain types of property. Such statutes might cover the desecration of a church or synagogue, the destruction of

jail or prison property by inmates, and the intentional destruction of property belonging to a public utility.

Destructive acts will not be excused merely because the defendants acted out of what they thought was a noble purpose. Political demonstrators may exercise their first amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of association and assembly, but if they deface, for example, government property with spray-painted slogans, they can be convicted of vandalism.

The peak period for committing relatively minor property crimes is between the ages of fifteen and twenty-one. In the United States adolescent vandalism, including the wanton destruction of schools, causes millions of dollars of damage each year. Apprehending vandals is often difficult, and the costs of repairing the damage are passed on to taxpayers, private property owners, and insurance companies. Some states hold parents financially responsible for vandalism committed by their minor children, up to specified limits. These statutes are designed to encourage parental supervision and to shift part of the cost of vandalism from the public to the individuals who are best able to supervise the children who destroyed the property.


Juvenile Law.


views updated May 21 2018

van·dal / ˈvandl/ • n. 1. a person who deliberately destroys or damages public or private property: the rear window of the car was smashed by vandals. 2. (Vandal) a member of a Germanic people that ravaged Gaul, Spain, and North Africa in the 4th–5th centuries and sacked Rome in ad 455.


views updated May 11 2018

van·dal·ism / ˈvandlˌizəm/ • n. action involving deliberate destruction of or damage to public or private property.DERIVATIVES: van·dal·is·tic / ˌvandlˈistik/ adj.van·dal·is·ti·cal·ly / ˌvandlˈistik(ə)lē/ adv.


views updated Jun 08 2018

Vandals Germanic tribe who attacked the Roman Empire in the 5th century ad. In 409, they looted Roman Gaul and invaded Spain. Defeated by the Goths, they moved further south and invaded North Africa (429), establishing a kingdom from which they controlled the w Mediterranean. They sacked Rome in 455. In 533–534, Byzantine General Belisarius destroyed the Vandal kingdom.


views updated May 18 2018

Vandal a member of a Germanic people that ravaged Gaul, Spain, Rome (455), and North Africa in the 4th–5th centuries, destroying many books and works of art. They were eventually defeated by the Byzantine general Belisarius (c.505–65), after which their North African kingdom fell prey to Muslim invaders.

The name is recorded in English from the mid 16th century; from the mid 17th century, the word vandal is used for a person who deliberately destroys or damages public or private property.


views updated May 14 2018

Vandal member of a Gmc. tribe which invaded Western Europe in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D., and in 455 sacked Rome XVI; (v-) destroyer of beautiful or venerable things XVII. — L. Vandalus — Gmc. *Wandal-, il-, -ul- (repr. by OE. Wendlas pl., etc.).
Hence vandalism, vandalize XVIII.

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