Vandals  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe who in 429 under king Genseric entered Africa and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta and the Balearics. In 455, they sacked the city of Rome. Their kingdom collapsed in the Vandalic War of 533–4, in which Justinian I managed to reconquer the Africa province for the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire. Renaissance and Early Modern writers characterized the Vandals as barbarians, "sacking and looting" Rome. This led to the use of the term vandalism, to describe any senseless destruction, particularly the barbarian defacing of artworks.

However, modern historians tend to regard the Vandals during the transitional period (from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages) as perpetuators, not destroyers, of Roman culture.

Name

The name of the Vandals has often been connected to that of Vendel, the name of a province in Uppland, Sweden, which is also eponymous of the Vendel period of Swedish prehistory, corresponding to the late Germanic Iron Age leading up to the Viking Age. The connection would be that Vendel is the original homeland of the Vandals prior to the Migration Period, and retains their tribal name as a toponym.

The etymology of the name may be related to a Germanic verb *wand- "to wander" (English wend, German wandeln).

The Germanic mythological figure of Aurvandil "shining wanderer; dawn wanderer, evening star", or "Shining Vandal" is reported as one of the "Germanic Dioscuri". R. Much has forwarded the theory that the tribal name Vandal reflects worship of Aurvandil or "the Dioscuri", probably involving a tradition that the Vandalic kings were descended from Aurvandil (comparable to the case of many other Germanic tribal names).

Legacy

Vandalism

Since the Middle Ages, kings of Denmark were styled "King of Denmark, the Goths and the Wends", the Wends being a group of West Slavs formerly living in Mecklenburg and eastern Holstein in modern Germany. The title "King of the Wends" is translated as vandalorum rex in Latin. The title was shortened to "King of Denmark" in 1972. Starting in 1540, Swedish kings (following Denmark) were styled Suecorum, Gothorum et Vandalorum Rex ("King of the Swedes, Geats, and Wends"). Carl XVI Gustaf dropped the title in 1973 and now styles himself simply as "King of Sweden".

The modern term vandalism stems from the Vandals' reputation as the barbarian people which sacked and looted of Rome in AD 455. The Vandals were probably not any more destructive than other invaders of ancient times, but writers who idealized Rome often blamed them for its destruction. For example, English Enlightenment poet John Dryden wrote, Till Goths, and Vandals, a rude Northern race, / Did all the matchless Monuments deface.

The term Vandalisme was coined in 1794 by Henri Grégoire, bishop of Blois, to describe the destruction of artwork following the French Revolution. The term was quickly adopted across Europe. This new use of the term was important in colouring the perception of the Vandals from later Late Antiquity, popularising the pre-existing idea that they were a barbaric group with a taste for destruction. Vandals and other "barbarian" groups had long been blamed for the fall of the Roman Empire by writers and historians.

See also




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Vandals" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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