Vandals (Vandali, Wandali, Vindili) were a Germanic tribe which ranks with the Goths, Herulians, Rugians, etc., among the migratory hordes that swarmed over the boundaries of the devoted Roman empire and founded new states upon its ruins. This people possesses great importance, not only for general history, but by reason of its passionate opposition to the Catholic faith. for the history of the Church as well. Their original seat was in the northern sections of the Riesengebirge and the modern Lusatia, whence they burst forth in the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius as the allies of the Marcomanni. Some years later they appeared on the borders of Dacia by the side of the Goths and Gepidse, but were induced by the emperor Probus to settle peaceably in that province. They were at a later day badly defeated by the Goths, and given a residence in Pannonia by the emperor Constantine, where they sustained friendly relations to their neighbors, and received Christianity from the Visigoths in its Arian form.
In the year 406 the Vandals laid aside their peaceful habits, and, in conjunction with the Alani and the Suevi, swept in savage irruption over the countries of Western Europe. They defeated the Gauls, crossed the Pyrenees, and entered Spain, ultimately settling in the southwestern part of the peninsula (Vandalitia, Andalusia) and making it the base from which they carried barbarous devastations into all the regions accessible to their armies, the fanatical suppression of the Catholic party being everywhere a noticeable feature in their operations. The accession of Genseric (Gaiseric, Geiseric) to the sovereignty in 428 began a new epoch in their history. Count Boniface, the Roman governor of Africa, having been goaded on to rebellion through the machinations of Aetius, the conqueror of Attila, invited Genseric to come to his assistance, and the latter responded by crossing over into Africa with more than fifty thousand men in May, 429. Boniface was soon afterwards reconciled to the emperor, through the efforts of Augustine, bishop of Hippo, and thereupon endeavored to turn back his Vandal allies, first by persuasion and afterwards by force of arms, but without success. In 435 they concluded a treaty with Rome, which gave them the provinces of Mauritania and Numidia; four years afterwards Carthage fell into their hands and was made the capital of their possessions. Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica, Majorca, and Minorca were included in their empire. In 455 Rome itself was taken, the emperor Maximus killed, and the city given over to pillage during fourteen days June 15-29. Many prisoners, among them empress Eudoxia and her two daughters, and many treasures and works of art were taken away to their African dominions. The empire twice endeavored to punish the insolence and cruelties of these barbarian invaders-first in 457, when a fleet sent against the Vandals was destroyed by Genseric in the bay of Carthagena; and again in 468, when an expedition sent from the East, and commanded by Heraclius, encountered a similar fate off the city of Bona. Genseric died Jan. 15, 477. Under his rule the Vandals extended their dominions in every direction; but, in the process, conducted themselves with such barbarity in the securing of spoil and the destruction of works of art that the world fixed on them its stigma of opprobrium, and perpetuated it for all time by the coining of the term Vandalism. Especially cruel was their treatment of orthodox Christians as it is described by the contemporary bishop Victor of Vita in. the province of Byzacium. Not only were churches and other buildings destroyed, but also cities; fields and plantations were devastated; clergymen, wealthy laymen, and women of every age and rank were made to endure every form of suffering. The torture was in constant use. Masses of people were driven together in the vicinity of fortresses impregnable to the Vandal arms, and there massacred in order that the stench of the putrefying bodies might compel a surrender. After the capture of Carthage, Genseric announced his determination to thoroughly supersede the Catholic with the Arian doctrine; and to accomplish this result he either banished or enslaved the orthodox clergy and laity and gave the churches to his friends. Hunneric, the son and successor of Genseric, followed his father's example. The Catholics of Carthage were at first permitted to choose a bishop, and selected Eugenius; but the persecutions soon began afresh. Only Arianas were allowed to hold office in the State; and such Catholics as had been in official stations were deposed, deprived of their property, and banished. Devoted virgins were tortured to compel the confession that they had been guilty of illicit relations with clergymen of their faith. About five thousand Catholics, chiefly clergymen, were banished to the desert, where many starved to death and others died of the maltreatment they experienced. In 484 the African bishops were summoned to meet the Arians at Carthage, and endeavor to prove the Homoousian creed from the Scriptures. No bishops from beyond the sea were allowed to be present. Previous to the meeting of the synod several orthodox bishops were scourged, and the respected and learned bishop Letus of Nepte was burned at the stake. In the synod Cyrilla, Arian patriarch of the Vandals, presided, seated with his coreligionists upon an elevated throne, while the orthodox bishops stood before it in the attitude of criminals. When they ventured to protest against this indignity, as also against the assumption of patriarchal functions by Cyrilla, they were each beaten with one hundred blows with rods. To still further intimidate them, the king caused seven monks who refused to become Arians to be tortured at Carthage and then taken on shipboard to be burned to death on the high seas-a plan which failed because the vessel would not burn, so that the executioners were obliged to beat out the brains of their victims with their oars. The Catholics, however, presented the synod with a clear and concise statement of their doctrines, which was publicly read; but no further discussion was allowed. The king issued an edict which closed all orthodox churches in Africa on the same day, and confiscated all the property of the orthodox, for the use of the Arian, bishops. Soon afterwards a second edict commanded the execution upon Catholics who should not have accepted Arianism by June 1, 484, of all the punishments decreed by Roman emperors against Doinatists, Manicheans, and other heretics. After Hunneric's death, in 486, a; temporary lull took place in the fever of persecutions, which continued as long as his successor, Gundamund, occupied the throne; but when Thrasimund became king, Sept. 24, 496, the troubles of the Catholics began afresh. Among the sufferers at this time was Fulgentius of Ruspe (q.v.). Upon Thrasimund followed the more tolerant Hilderic, May 26, 523; and upon him, in 531, the usurper Gelimer, uncle to Genseric. The wealth of the Vandals and the enervating climate of their home had in the meantime destroyed their robust character; they had also been defeated in several: conflicts with the Mauritanians; and were disunited among themselves. Under these circumstances, the ambitious emperor Justinian dispatched an army under Belisaritls to the support of the Catholic Church in Africa, which defeated the Vandal forces in, 534, made a prisoner of Gelimer, and so completely destroyed the nation that its very name was lost. The Synod of Carthage followed, in which measures were taken with reference to the Arian bishops and persons whom they had baptized; and which petitioned the emperor for the return of ecclesiastical property alienated from the Church during the persecutions.
See Procopius, De Bello Vandalico; Prosper, Chronicon; Idatius, Chronicon Victor. Episc. Vitensis., Hist. Persecut. Afric. in Ruinart, Hist. Persecut. Vandatl. (Par. 1694; Venet. 1732, 4to); Salvian, De Gubern. Dei. ib. VII; Poseidon, Vita S. Augustini; Vita S Fulgentii; Krantz, Wandalia Lib. I (Frankf. 1580, fo.); Gibbon, Decline and Fall; Mannert, Gesch. d. Vandacen (Leips. 1785); Papencordt, Gesch. d. vandal.
Herrschaft in Afrika (Berlin. 1837.); Zeuss, Die Deutschen uin d. Nachbarstamme (Munich, 1837); Schröckh, Kirchengesch. 18:89-121; Gieseler, Kirchengesch.; Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Geog. s.v.; Herzog, Real-Encyclop. s. 10.