Vandalic goldfoil jewellery from the 3rd or 4th century
The Vandals were a large East Germanic tribe or group of tribes that first appear in history inhabiting present-day southern Poland. Some later moved in large numbers, including most notably the group which successively established Vandal kingdoms in the Iberian Peninsula, on western Mediterranean islands and in North Africa in the 5th century.
The traditional view has been that the Vandals migrated from southern Scandinavia to the area between the lower Oder and Vistula rivers during the 2nd century BC and settled in Silesia from around 120 BC. They are associated with the Przeworsk culture and were possibly the same people as the Lugii. Expanding into Dacia during the Marcomannic Wars and to Pannonia during the Crisis of the Third Century, the Vandals were confined to Pannonia by the Goths around 330 AD, where they received permission to settle from Constantine the Great. Around 400, raids by the Huns forced many Germanic tribes to migrate into the territory of the Roman Empire, and fearing that they might be targeted next the Vandals were pushed westwards, crossing the Rhine into Gaul along with other tribes in 406. In 409 the Vandals crossed the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, where their main groups, the Hasdingi and the Silingi, settled in Gallaecia (northwest Iberia) and Baetica (south-central Iberia) respectively.
On the orders of the Romans the Visigoths invaded Iberia in 418. They almost wiped out the Iranian Alans and Silingi Vandals who voluntarily subjected themselves to the rule of Hasdingian leader Gunderic, who was pushed from Gallaecia to Baetica by a Roman-Suebi coalition in 419. In 429, under king Genseric (reigned 428–477), the Vandals entered North Africa. By 439 they established a kingdom which included the Roman province of Africa as well as Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, Malta and the Balearic Islands. They fended off several Roman attempts to recapture the African province, and sacked the city of Rome in 455. Their kingdom collapsed in the Vandalic War of 533–4, in which Emperor Justinian I's forces reconquered the province for the Eastern Roman 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 pointless destruction, particularly the "barbarian" defacing of artwork. However, some modern historians regard the Vandals during the transitional period from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages as perpetuators, not destroyers, of Roman culture.
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 an origin myth that the Vandalic kings were descended from Aurvandil (comparable to the case of many other Germanic tribal names).
Some medieval authors applied the ethnonym "Vandals" to Slavs: Veneti, Wends, Lusatians or Poles. It was once thought that the Slovenes were the descendants of the Vandals, but this is not the view of modern scholars.
The name of the Vandals has 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. Further possible homelands of the Vandals in Scandinavia are Vendsyssel in Denmark and Hallingdal in Norway.