Conquerors of the Roman Empire - The Vandals, Simon MacDowall

Conquerors of the Roman Empire - The Vandals, Simon MacDowall

The Vandals are best known for their sack of Rome and for giving their name to acts of pointless destruction, but as this history makes clear, they were actually one of the more successful invaders during the last days of the Western Roman Empire, and played a major part in the fall of Rome. It was perfectly possible for a single Vandal to have taken part in the crossing of the Rhine in 406, the campaigns in Gaul, the successful settlement in Spain and the invasion of Africa in 429. The Vandals then managed to maintain a powerful kingdom in Africa for a century, defeating one of the Western Empires last major military expeditions, and even sacking Rome in 455, but eventually they were conquered by the Eastern Empire's great general Belisarius, and rapidly disappeared.

We start with a look at the obscure origins of the Vandals, including an examination of who they actually were, who they allied with before crossing the Rhine, and how they originally fought. The crossing of the Rhine of 406 is put more firmly into context than is often the case, taking place during one of the many Roman civil wars, and taking advantage of a temporary weakness of the Rhine defences. After that Spain was an easy target, but crossing into North Africa was a major gamble, and one that fatally weakened the Western Empire, first by stripping away some of its richest provinces, and then by defeating one of the last major military efforts of the West in a great naval battle off the African coast.

MacDowall has done a good job of producing a coherent account from some often rather difficult sources. The Vandals didn't produce a historian of their own, so their story can only be told using sources written by their enemies - Roman or Barbarian - and of course these don't always agree on events. The result is a useful study of one of the more obscure but important conquerors of the Western Empire.

1 - Germania
2 - In the Bleak Midwinter
3 - A Spanish Interlude
4 - Into Africa
5 - Mare Nostrum
6 - The Next Generation
7 - The Empire Strikes Back
8 - Moors and Mutineers

Author: Simon MacDowall
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 208
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2016

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