Vandals, a Germanic people who lived in ancient times on the south shore of the Baltic Sea between the Oder and Vistula rivers. About 170 A.D., they moved to what is now Hungary. By 406 they had moved westward and crossed the Rhine River into Gaul (France), within the borders of the Roman Empire.
There were also a large number of Vandals who worked as mercenaries for the Romans. One of them, Flavius Stilicho, rose to become commander of the Roman army in the West, and did much to stem the barbarian invasions before his death in 408.
With other barbarian tribes the Vandals invaded Spain in 409 and defeated the Romans. The Vandals, the only Germanic invaders to build a fleet, were soon overrunning islands in the Mediterranean. About this time, they adopted a form of Christianity known as Arianism and began persecuting other Christians.
The Vandals were driven from Spain by the Visigoths, but under Genseric, their most noted leader, crossed into North Africa in 429. They took possession of the Roman provinces along the southern coast of the Mediterranean Sea and conquered Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica. They also planned to restore the commercial supremacy of Carthage.
In 455 the Vandals invaded Italy and plundered Rome. Early historians wrote that they wantonly destroyed temples and art treasures. It is now believed that the Vandals showed more consideration than their enemies claimed, but vandalism persists as a term for ruthless and senseless destruction.
The Vandals were defeated in 533 by the Byzantine general Belisarius under Emperor Justinian I. They have disappeared as a people.