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European Kingdoms

Germanic Tribes


MapVandali (Vandals) (Germanic)
Incorporating the Asdingas & Silingi

The Germanic tribes seem to have originated in a homeland in southern Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway, with the Jutland area of northern Denmark, along with a very narrow strip of Baltic coastline). They had been settled here for over two thousand years following the Indo-European migrations. The Germanic ethnic group began as a division of the western edge of late proto-Indo-European dialects around 3300 BC, splitting away from a general westwards migration to head towards the southern coastline of the Baltic Sea. By the time the Germanic tribes were becoming key players in the politics of Western Europe in the last two centuries BC, the previously dominant Celts were on the verge of being conquered and dominated by Rome. They had already been pushed out of northern and Central Europe by a mass of Germanic tribes which were steadily carving out a new homeland.

The East Germanic Vandali (or Vandale or even Wandals) are much better known to posterity as the Vandals. Their name is synonymous with mindless destruction. During a two year spell in Gaul they left the countryside ravaged, and later in North Africa they swept away Roman control and, as Arians, were probably hated by the Catholics there. Perhaps the supreme moment of their vandalism was the sack of Rome in 455. The event was not especially serious at the time in terms of its levels of violence, but it was greatly inflated by later authors, with them blaming the Vandali for the fall of the empire.

The tribe may have originated in southern Sweden or the Jutland peninsula (more probably the latter). There is a Vendel parish today in the Swedish province of Uppland, and it contains a series of graves just outside the modern churchyard which seem to be boat burials of the type associated with King Raedwald of the East Angles in the seventh century. The burials at Vendel have been dated between the sixth to eighth centuries AD (pretty late for a Vandali association). Nearby, at Husby, is a burial mound that is associated with King Ohthere of Upsal in the early sixth century AD. However, these apparent associations with the Vandali are not generally considered concrete enough. They are more usually dismissed as a coincidence of names in a shared language that is being over-analysed, and the timings help to support this dismissal. The Jutland peninsula has a better claim, and Vendsyssel in Jutland may be a leftover of their time there.

Whether the Vandali originated in southern Sweden or the more likely location of the Jutland peninsula, it seems that all or part of their number migrated across the Baltic Sea in the second or first century BC. They could be found in Silesia in modern Poland in the first century AD, between the Oder and the Vistula, where they may have formed part of the Przeworsk culture. In the second century they migrated southwards into the Danube valley to settle in Dacia and Pannonia. By the start of the fifth century they were being forced westwards by the arrival of the Huns and, in 406, they crossed the Rhine in association with the Alani and the Suevi, causing chaos within the Roman empire before they migrated into Iberia to create kingdoms there.

FeatureIf the Vandali did originate in Jutland or Sweden then they may have had a mixed heritage. Tribes there in the first centuries BC and AD have Gaulish (Celtic) names, suggesting that the Jutland peninsula was dominated by Gauls, and southern Sweden may have been a satellite subject province. The indicators for this are the very evident influence on the Germanics by Gauls in borrowed words, borrowed names, borrowed gods and shared customs. However, controversy exists as to whether particular tribes were German or Gaulish, and the subject is discussed in greater detail in the accompanying feature.

The Vandali were one of the many tribes or groups of Indo-European speakers in Europe whose name appears to derive from a common root for 'white' (ie. blond) found in Celtic or Italic tongues and related branches. The English word 'white' is a cognate, the 'n' having been dropped at some point from the 'wenet' or 'vined' or similar root. It is not known for certain if 'white' in Germanic languages was retained from proto-Indo-European, or imported from common Celtic. Most 'experts' seem to lean towards the former but the latter is preferable. As light-haired Europeans often have offspring with blonde hair regardless of the hair colour of their parents, the many tribes using variants of this could have gained their names from leaders who were born blonde and named as such. It is only after the first few years that the blonde hair of many of those offspring turns brown.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by Edward Dawson and Jes Martens, from The Barbarians: Warriors & Wars of the Dark Ages, Tim Newark (Blandford Press, 1985), from Geography, Ptolemy, from Complete Works of Tacitus, Alfred John Church, William Jackson Brodribb, & Lisa Cerrato (1942), from Roman History by Cassius Dio, translation by Earnest Cary (1914-1927), from Germania, Tacitus, from Agricola, from Roman Soldier versus Germanic Warrior: 1st Century AD, Lindsay Powell, from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, and from Geography, Ptolemy.)

c.120 BC

Although there is no documentary evidence available to prove anything, it is generally accepted that the Vandali originate in southern Sweden or the Jutland peninsula (probably the former, judging by the existence of a modern Vendel parish in Uppland in Sweden). Around this time they migrate across the Baltic Sea, arriving on the Pomeranian shores of what later becomes Poland and possibly creating the Przeworsk culture there when they settle in Silesia.

Given later events in relation to the Bastarnae tribe, it seems they and the Venedi initially control the mouth of the Vistula, forcing back the previously dominant Baltic tribes here. Germanic encroachment by the Vandali, Scirii and others eventually brings this to a halt, forcing the Bastarnae further to the south and eventually even imposing a Germanic warrior elite on them.

c.AD 50 - 150

The arrival of the Gothic people in the Pomeranian region of Willenberg Poland in the first and second centuries AD from their homeland in southern Sweden has a great impact on the Baltic population there, resulting in them moving towards eastern Lithuania. According to the sixth century Eastern Roman historian, Jordanes, the Goths defeat and drive off the Rugii and subdue the Vandali.

The Vandal home would seem to be in Silesia in Poland, according to Ptolemy, with the region's name perhaps being linked to the later Siling branch of the tribe. Tacitus does not mention the Siling Vandals, but he does place the Celtic Naharvali in essentially the very same location. Modern scholars seem to link the two tribes together, considering that they might be one and the same tribe. Much more likely is that the Celts are dominated by the Siling Vandals in this period and are subsequently integrated into the tribe. The Silingae are also bordered by the minor Calucones to the south, another probable Celtic tribe that is usually labelled Germanic.

1st century BC?


Joint ruler (or ruler of a specific section of the tribe).



Scoringa is part of the territory of the Vandali. Their chieftains, Ambri and Assi, demand tribute from the newly arrived Langobard tribe, with the threat of war against this small upstart tribe if it is not paid. The Langobards refuse to be cowed and chose war, although the outcome of the battle is unrecorded.

Vandal officer Stilicho
Stilicho is probably one of the most famous Vandal soldiers, serving as magister militum from the 380s until he was executed by his masters in 408

98 - 125

In his work on Greater Germania, the Roman writer Tacitus locates the Germanic Vandali in eastern Central Europe, immediately south of the Burgundiones and the Venedi, and with the Lugii on their south-eastern flank to whom they may be affiliated in some way, either as part of the same people or as part of a confederation. They have probably been forced southwards by the arrival of the Goths on the Baltic coast. The status quo is retained for perhaps a century, until the Goths renew their wanderings.

fl c.171

Rapt / Raptus

In Silesia.

fl c.180

Rag / Raus?


Still apparently part of the Przeworsk culture, the Vandali emerge from the northern Carpathians and enter into Pannonia and Dacia, passing the Quadi to the immediate west. It is now that they divide into two tribes, the Asding and Siling Vandali (or to use older terms, the Hasdingians and the Silingians respectively). The Asding prove to be the more successful branch in that they establish a stable kingdom in the fifth century while the Siling are dissipated through warfare and eventually merge with their more numerous cousins.

fl c.235


First of the Asding Vandali.

fl 248


fl c.260s



Vandali and Burgundians who had crossed the Rhine to invade the Roman empire are defeated by Emperor Probus and are resettled in Britain.

fl c.340

Visimar / Wisimar

King of Asding Vandali. Killed by Visigoths.

c.340 - c.400

The ruler of the western Goths, Geberic of the Visigoths, conquers Dacia, killing Visimar, and ejecting his people. They seek permission from Rome to enter and settle in Pannonia as foederati. Permission is granted, and they are tasked with maintaining a buffer zone between the empire and the barbarian tribes of the Sarmatian plain. The Vandali remain here for approximately sixty years, accepting Arian Christianity along the way.

c.380 - 406

Gondegusulus / Godigisel

King of Asding Vandali. Led the migration to the Rhine.

395 - 408

For the first part of his reign, Emperor Honorius depends on the military leadership of his chief ministers, the Romano-Vandal general, Stilicho. Stilicho had been appointed as Honorius' guardian by the boy's father, shortly before his death. His people are now under extreme pressure from the Huns to the east, and after raiding the province of Raetia in the winter of 401-402, they begin to migrate westwards, arriving at the east bank of the Rhine in 406.


The Asding and Siling Vandali cross the Rhine at Mainz in 406 in association with the Suevi and Alani. Refused permission to settle by the Franks, they are attacked by them instead and face defeat until the Alani come to their aid. Approximately twenty thousand Vandali, including their king, Gondegusulus, are said to be killed during the fierce fighting. On 31 December they secure the crossing, and flood into Gaul.

406 - 409

Gonderic / Gunderic

Son. King of Asding Vandali. Founded Galician kingdom with Suevi.

406 - 409

Now led by Gonderic, the three tribes, Vandali, Alani and Suevi, cause widespread devastation in Gaul. They head westwards and then southwards into Aquitaine. They are quickly ejected by the Visigoths, moving across the Pyrenees into Iberia by 409 where they disrupt the Gallic empire of Constantine III and create their own kingdoms.

Crossing the Rhine
The main bodies of the Vandali, Alani, and Suevi tribes crossed the Rhine at the end of 406, resulting in panic and chaos within the Roman empire

Vandali Kingdom of Iberia

After an initial attempt to settle in southern Gaul between 407-409, during which the Vandali, Alani and Suevi ravaged the countryside, all three tribes moved to Iberia by 409, disrupting the Gallic empire of Constantine III. According to Roman reports, the Vandali lead the devastation of large areas of both Gaul and Iberia, earning themselves a reputation which has survived to this day. Once in Iberia, and after they were pushed into the south, the core region they occupied came to be known as Vandalusia, which survived them as the Islamic al-Andalus and the Spanish Andalusia (although such a simplistic explanation is disputed).

Quickly conquering opposition from the Romano-Iberians in Iberia, the three tribes divided the country between themselves, ostensibly as Roman foederati. The Asding Vandali and Suevi took Galicia in the north-west, the Alani gained Lusitania in the south-west, and the Siling Vandali took Baetica in the south. Out of the three, only the Suevi kingdom prospered, surviving independently until 585.

(Additional information from The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, John Robert Martindale.)

409 - 428

Gonderic / Gunderic

Supreme Vandali king in Iberia.

? - 415


King of the Siling Vandali in Baetica.

415 - 417

There is a succeeding Siling Vandal ruler, whose name is unknown. He is the last independent ruler of the Silings before they are forced to seek refuge with their Asding cousins.

415 - 417


King of the Siling Vandali. Last of the Siling rulers.

416 - 418

The Siling Vandali are dissipated by warfare against the Visigoths, who are acting as Roman allies, and merge under Asding control. They control the former Roman provinces of Lusitania and Baetica (the latter of which includes the city of Gades). The Alani are also defeated alongside their comrades-in-arms and, with both of these powerful groups now weakened, the Asding Vandali are able to extend the territory under their control as far as the southern Iberian province of Hispania Baetica, with a capital at Hispalis (modern Seville), and the south-western province of Lusitania, with a capital at Emerita Augusta (now Mérida in Spain, although most of Lusitania now falls within Portugal's borders).

Vandali coin
Shown here are both sides of a coin that was issued by Genseric of the Vandali in the name of Emperor Honorius, at some time between 428-477


The Alani have also been greatly weakened by fighting the allies of Rome (the Visigoths again), and now merge with the Vandali, offering Gonderic the Alan crown. The Vandali host now contains not only the Asding Vandali, but also the remnants of the Siling Vandali and the Alani. Gonderic assumes the title 'King of the Vandali and Alans', and leads his people towards southern Iberia, into the subsequently named 'Vandalusia', in an attempt to put some distance between his people and the Visigoths. Only the Suevi remain in the north.

428 - 439

Genseric / Gaiseric

Brother of Gonderic. Became king of the Vandali & Alani.


Under pressure from the newly settled Visigoths, and from Roman attacks, the Vandali see an opportunity presented by the unsettled conditions in Africa. They and the Alani migrate to the south of Iberia from where they invade Roman North Africa. Once there, they carve out a kingdom over the course of a decade, taking the cities of Carthage and Utica in 439.

It seems that not all Vandali cross to Africa. In 438, the Suevi under Rechila attack the former province of Hispania Baetica and defeat the Romanae militiae dux, Andevotus, near the Singillio. Andevotus is possibly a barbarian 'prince' rather than a Roman officer, with his name being a Latinised version of 'Anduit'. Perhaps he is a Vandali chief who commands those Vandali who have remained in the southern province.

North African Kingdom of the Vandali & Alans

The Vandali, or Vandals, invaded a section of the rich North African coast in AD 429, and proceeded to conquer much of the rest of it piecemeal, with Morocco being attacked in the process. In 435, the Vandali (and their associates, the Alani) become a federate kingdom of Rome, but they didn't stop there. Carthage itself, the capital of the province of Africa Proconsularis, was conquered along with Utica in 439 (the Vandali simply walking into the city while the populace were occupied with a day of games), and Roman control was thrown off. This was a massive blow for Rome, as it was exporting vast amounts of grain from the region in order to feed the populace of Italy, and that of Rome itself. It was probably also a blow for the desert-dwelling Garamantes of southern Libya, whose trade suffered after this event. However, Rome's assembled invasion force was swiftly redirected to try and deal with the much greater threat posed by the Huns in Europe, and Genseric was recognised as the ruler of much of North Africa, and one of the most powerful men of his time.

An independent autocracy was formed by Genseric which governed in what is now Tunisia and north-eastern Algeria, and extended into areas of modern western Libya. Eventually, the Vandali also annexed Sardinia, Corsica and Sicily, and controlled the western Mediterranean. As ardent Arian Christians, they persecuted Roman Catholic Christians in North Africa, especially during the later years of the reign of Huneric, but overall, their rule of the region seems to have been fairly civilised.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from La Storia di Sardegna, Francesco Cesare Casula (Sassari, 1994, in Italian), from The Vandals, Andrew Merrills & Richard Miles (John Wiley & Sons, 2010), from Vandal Africa, 429-533, Roger Collins (The Cambridge Ancient History. Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, AD 425-600, Cambridge University Press), and from External Link: History of the Later Roman Empire, John Bagnall Bury.)

439 - 477

Genseric / Gaiseric

Conquered Africa Proconsularis in 439. Sacked Rome in 455.

455 - 456

The murder of Roman Emperor Valentinian III by Maximus while the former had been negotiating to bring the Vandali more securely within the empire causes a breakdown in relations between the two powers. Maximus rules for only 77 days before being stoned to death by a mob while fleeing Genseric's Vandali on 24 May, after which the Vandali spend fourteen days sacking Rome. Returning to North Africa afterwards, Genseric's troops occupy Sardinia.


As a result of the sack of Rome and piracy in the Mediterranean, both Western Roman and Eastern Roman empires send a fleet against the Vandali. The Western fleet is captured, and the Eastern one is destroyed through the use of fire ships. The Vandali invade the Peloponnese in retaliation but are driven back with heavy losses by the Maniots at Kenipolis. Rome soon abandons its policy of warfare against the Vandali.


The city of Aleria on Corsica is sacked by the Vandali, although they do not immediately capture the island to add to their growing empire. It takes another four years before its subjugation can be completed.


The island of Sardinia is liberated by Marcellin, newly arrived from Constantinople. He frees Sardinia and then Sicily before joining up with the forces of Flavius Basilisk, later Eastern Roman emperor. Thanks to the latter's ineptitude the expedition ultimately fails and Marcellin is assassinated by one of his captains. Upon his death, Sardinia is retaken by the Vandali.


By the time of Genseric's death at about the age of eighty, the Roman empire has disappeared, financially crippled by the loss of North Africa and beset by barbarians grabbing imperial territory all around it. However, without Genseric, the Vandali are also weakened, and never again match the heights of the power that he had achieved.

Genseric's sack of Rome
This oil on canvas is an interpretation of Genseric's sack of Rome in AD 455, painted by Karl Briullov in the nineteenth century

477 - 484




Huneric drops the imperial politics played by his father and concentrates on internal affairs. He persecutes Catholics in the kingdom, martyring some of them, but also manages to clear away a good few Asding rivals. His reign is one of cruelty, thanks to which few of his subjects mourn his death. His successor is far more popular, and maintains the kingdom and its Mediterranean possessions, but dies relatively young, in his mid-forties.

484 - 496


Cousin. Son of Gento and grandson of Genseric.

496 - 523




The Ostrogothic king of Italy, Theodoric, arranges a dynastic marriage between his sister, Amalafrida, and the weak Thrasamund. It is part of the process by which the Ostrogothic king is extending his influence through the various Germanic kingdoms of Western Europe and Africa. The arrangement ends Thrasamund's attempts to raid Ostrogothic territories, and the might of the ruler of Italy is underlined when a guard of 5,000 men arrive with Amalafrida.


The important port city of Leptis Magna is sacked by the Berbers, showing just how weak the Vandali have become outside the heartland of their kingdom. This follows the loss of almost all of Algeria to the Berbers.

523 - 530


Son of Huneric. Overthrown following defeat against the Berbers.


One of Hilderic's first acts as king is to imprison Amalafrida and execute her Ostrogothic guard. Theodoric dies before he can organise a military expedition to put matters right.


The Roman Catholic Hilderic is removed from the throne by a coup organised by Gelimer, a practitioner of Arianism. A new praeses is sent to govern Sardinia in the form of Goddas. Almost immediately he declares the island's independence from Carthage and begins negotiating with the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian, who has expressed his support of the deposed Hilderic.

530 - 534


Cousin and usurper. Abdicated and granted estates in Galatia.

533 - 534

Hilderic had been a close friend of Emperor Justinian. In response to Gelimer's usurpation, General Belisarius is sent to North Africa with an army. Gelimer has already sent the bulk of his forces to Sardinia to recapture the island, so the invasion by Belisarius begins with an immediate victory at the Battle of Ad Decimum. In one campaigning season the Vandali are conquered, and Sardinia becomes an Eastern Roman possession. Some of the Vandal leaders are allowed to retire on their estates in different parts of Italy. The rest of the Vandali (and the Alani who followed them) seem to disappear into the local population and their language dies out. North Africa remains firmly in Roman hands as the exarchate of Africa, until it is conquered by the Islamic empire.

Interestingly in Africa, a Nubian splinter state called Alodia is founded at some point around the start of the seventh century. The name could be Visigothic or Vandali, deriving from the Germanic elements ala, meaning 'other' or 'foreign', and od, meaning 'riches' or 'wealth'. Could the creation of the state be influenced by refugees or captives from either state? Certainly, given the dates and geography, the Vandals would be favourites for this.

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