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Early Vandal (II/66)
(200-442 AD)

The early history of the Vandals is mostly a blank slate. The Vandals are believed to have orginated in southern Scandinavia along with the Gauti (Goths). Linguistically, they are closely related to the Goths and the Burgundi. At some point in the 1st Century (approximately 150 AD), they migrated along with the Goths and the Gepidae southward from the Baltic region into Europe. The Vandals migrated through East German and Poland, settling by 230 AD as two distinct tribal groupings in the areas corresponding to the Theiss plain and modern Slovakia (the Asding Vandals) and Silesia (the Siling Vandals).

The first real mention of the Vandals in the Roman histories come during the reign of the Emperor Probus (276-282 AD), who lead his legions in campaigns against the Franks, Burgundians and Vandals, which proved so successful at securing the frontier that he was killed by his own Praetorians when he proposed disbanding the army. Germanic pressures increased in the years of weak rule that followed. The emperor Diocletian and his fellow "Augustus" Maximianus restored Rome's military fortunes, in the process defeating a Vandal-Gepid alliance on the Danube frontier in 291 AD.

Thereafter, the Vandals are shielded by the Burgundi from view in the west until one of their number, Flavius Stilicho, rose to fame as a Roman general in the service of Theodosius. Theodosius made Stilicho Magister Militum of the western Roman army under his son, the western emperor Honorius. Although hard-pressed on many fronts, Stilicho proved a highly competent general, repelling an attack by the Seubi, Alans and Vandals in Rhaetia in 401 AD, defeating the Visigoths in 402 and 403, annihilating an invading force of Ostrogoths, Quadi and Asding Vandals in 405 AD, and destroying the rebellion of Radagasius in 405-406 AD. To protect the Italic homeland from the Visigothic threat, however, Stilicho was increasingly forced to strip troops from the frontier garrisons and to recruit allies from among the Vandals and Alans, resulting in further "Germanization" of the Roman army.

In the fateful winter of 406 AD, the Asding and Siling Vandals, along with the Alans, the Suebi, and other Germanic tribes, migrated in force across the frozen Rhine at Mainz, taking advantage of the weakened frontier. The Vandals pillaged their way into Gaul, sacking Trier and occupying Boulogne. During their passage, the Vandal King Godegisel was killed in battle with the Franks.

Unable to expel the barbarian invader, facing Constantine III's revolt in Britain, and anxious to preserve Italy and the Mediterranean provinces from barbarian incursion, Rome offered the Siling Vandals "hospitalitas" status as "guests" of the Gallo-Roman landowners in northwestern Gaul, who were forced to turn over 2/3s of their crops to the occupying Vandals. Similar arrangements were made with the Visigoths, the Suebi, and with the Burgundi in the upper Rhone valley. A wave of "anti-German" sentiment in Rome, however, lead to intrigues against Stilicho, resulting in his death in 408 AD, which in turn prompted the collapse of the largely "Germanic" Roman army and laid Italy open to Gothic invasion.

Whether compelled by the arrival of Constantine's British army, pressed by the Franks, or just anxious for new lands to pillage, the Vandals, Alans and Suebi regrouped and migrated south through Gaul, crossing the Pyrenees into Spain by 409 AD. At this time, Roman forces in Spain had declared for Constantine, and when he proved unable to assist them against the invaders, they raised the equally ineffectual Maximus to the purple. After ravaging the country for two years, the Suebi and the Asding Vandals under King Gunderic settled in the northwestern province of Galicia. The Siling Vandals under King Fredbal occupied Baetica in the south, and the Alans under King Goar (and later King Addac) settled in the central provinces of Lusitania and Carthaginiensis (the modern region of Catalonia derives its name from the Alan kingdom). Only the province of Tarraconensis remained entirely under Roman control.

In 415 AD, Rome sent their Visigoth foederati to Hispania, where they drove the Siling Vandals and Alans out of their lands in the south. The refugees regrouped in Galicia, joining the Asding Vandals whose King Gunderic was recognized as King of the Vandals and Alans in 416 AD. The Vandals fought back with little success against Vallia and his Visigoths until they withdrew in 418 AD, having been granted a Acquitanian kingdom at Toulouse by the anxious Romans. In 422 AD, the Vandals parted ways with their Suebi allies in northwestern Hispania to settle in Vandalusia (Arabic Al Andalus and modern Andalusia). Thereafter, they managed to seize the Balaearic Islands and to launch raids into Northern Africa.

After the death of King Gunderic in battle with the Franks in 428 AD, the Vandals elected Gunderic's bastard half-brother, Gaiseric (a.k.a. Genseric) as their king. Gaiseric convinced the merged Vandal-Alan tribe to abandon Hispania for the Roman province of Mauretania in North Africa, possibly at the invitation of the Roman Governor Boniface at Carthage, who was on the outs with the Empress Placida and needed allies as a hedge against the intrigues of the Patrician Aetius in Rome. Eighty thousand in number, including an estimated thirty thousand warriors, the Vandals crossed at the Straights of Gilbralter in 429 AD and seized lands from the local Berbers in Mauretania Tingitana.

Finding that Mauretania was not the land of milk and honey they had expected, the Vandals moved eastward along the coast of North Africa. After seizing Caesaria, in 430 AD, the Vandals besieged Hippo Regius, a fourteen month operation made famous by the death of the Christian Saint Augustine of Hippo. Thereafter, the Vandals defeated Bonaface and his Roman reinforcements under Aspar in 432 AD. Bonaface returned to Rome, leaving Aspar to confront the Vandals, who "trickled" across North Africa until Bonaface's return in 434 AD. In 435 AD, a treaty was struck recognizing Vandal rule over all lands west of Carthage. For three years, Gaiseric regrouped and consolidated his gains, before advancing on that city in 438 AD. Carthage fell on 19 October 439 AD (apparently due to treachery) and immediately became capital of Gaiseric's African Vandal kingdom. In the aftermath, Gaiseric and his Vandals made themselves rich off the largely intact Roman infrastructure of North Africa, and took to horse as military aristocrats, thus transitioning into the African Vandal list (II/84).

Army Composition

The Early Vandal army is comprised of the following element types:

3Kn (Gen) Hard-charging irregular noble cavalry. Through their long association with the Alans, the Vandals were accomplished horsemen.
4Wb Vandal tribesmen.
2Lh (optional) Remnant Alan allies/subjects. Could be fielded as Berber/Moorish (Mauretanian) Light Horse after 428 AD.
2Ps Vandal skirmishers (Bow, javelin, sling). The optional element could be fielded as Berber/Moorish (Mauretanian) skirmishers after 428 AD.

An all-options Early Vandal army can be fielded with 3 heavy Gothic-style cavalry ("knights"), including a CnC figure, 36 Gothic-style foot, 4 bow, javelin or sling-armed skirmishers, and 2 light horse skirmishers, for a total of 45 figures.


The enemies of the Early Vandals include the Early Germans (II/47g), Alans (II/58), Middle Imperial Romans (II/64ab), Early Visigoths (II/65b), Gepids (II/71), Early Franks, Quadi and Suevi (II/72abd), Later Imperial Romans (II/78a), Later Visigoths (II/82a), and Patrician Romans (II/83a).

Camps and BUAs

The Vandals are an arable army with high aggression, hence will require a camp more often than the compulsory BUA. A wagon laager is the typical camp. A BUA could be represented as an occupied Roman city in Gaul, Iberia or North Africa.


Donnington and Old Glory 15s offer specific ranges of Vandal figures in 15mm. Since so little is known that would distinguish the Vandals from other Germanic tribes, any Gothic (especially Visigothic), Later Germanic/Frankish, or even Lombard (sans the long beard) horse/foot figures, which are available from a wide range of manufacturers (including the above), can be used to represent Early Vandals with lots of pose variety. Typical foot would wear a simple tunic and trousers, with a cloak. Round shields were common, although long oval and coffin shields could still be found in the earlier periods. Spears, javelins, hand/throwing axes, long knives, and the "spatha" sword were typical weapons. Only nobles and well-to-do tribesman would have spagenhelms and even fewer could boast chain mail shirts.

Painting Tips

Consistent with their Scandinavian roots, mousy blonde or light brown hair would predominate. Clothes were drab, with only a few well-to-do nobles enjoying more colorful and/or patterned clothing. You can indulge yourself by painting colorful Gothic-style shield patterns (or use commercial shield transfers from Veni Vidi Vici or others).

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Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2001