All too often the pages of our popular press are filled with lurid headlines like ” BOGNOR BUS STOP BLITZED BY VANDALS” (Bognor Regis Clarion October 2022) “FELPHAM FLOWERBED DEVASTATED BY VANDAL GANGS” (ibid. May 2021) Hard reading. A sign of the decadent age in which we live, no doubt. But how can you be sure it was Vandals that did it? There were many tribes who invaded the Roman Empire. Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Gepids, Burgundians, Saxons, Jutes, Franks, Alemanni, Heruli, Sarmatians, Huns, to name but a few. (actually that’s quite a lot-ed) None of them were beyond a little rapine, pillage, devastation and other forms of historical activity. And yet every time a bit of grafitti is put on a wall, or a window is kicked in on a bus stop, everyone blames the Vandals. Are we just being a little guilty of, well, to use a strong word-discrimination?
Take the Visigoths. When they sacked Rome in 410 AD, do you imagine that was totally damage-free? Can you imagine a group of Visigoths saying “careful with that statue you’re pillaging, Wulf, we don’t want to break it!” Yet no one ever writes a headline like VISIGOTHS BREAK CAR PARK GATES IN NEW MALDEN” Or how about BURGUNDIANS DESTROY BIRD FOUNTAIN IN DROITWICH” No, it wouldn’t happen. Instead everyone blames the poor old Vandals, with no evidence whatsoever. And that’s an injustice, if ever we saw one.
Now we are are not saying Vandals have a totally spotless record. When they swept through Gaul, Hispania and into Africa in the fifth century AD, the whole process was not entirely without its destructive side. And certainly items got a bit knocked-over a tad when they sacked Rome in 455. But we believe that after they settled in what is now Tunisia they must have got a bit more careful, or things like the buses wouldn’t run. In fact to check this out, we sent a team of LSS reporters to that country to interview some real Vandals and find out what they thought. To be honest, it wasn’t a total success. Your average Vandal tended to the tall and beardy, with blonde hair and blue eyes. And they spoke German. We couldn’t find anyone like that at all, apart from certain tourist areas. And he said he was from Stockholm and worked in home sauna installation.
So the conclusion is obvious. To blame Vandals for every bit of damage is just plain prejudiced, discriminatory, and wrong. Next time you read a headline blaming Vandals , write to the editor of that journal and point out it could have been Ostrogoths or Heruli. Or even Huns. Don’t let Vandals off if they’re guilty. But treat them according to the same rules as everyone else.
#romans #vandals #barbarians