Refugees and Vandals

Today I write about Vandals.

Not the ones who break windows and tag walls.

The original Vandals. The Germanic tribe who left Scandinavia around 200BC. Their name has been connected to Vendel, a province in Uppland, Sweden [1]

There is no agreed historical reason for them to have left although the adventurer/archaeologist Thor Heyerdhal had an interesting theory on the origins of today’s Scandanavians. Norwegian mythology tells that the Scandinavian god-king Odin moved with his people to Norway from a land called Aser, in order to avoid Roman occupation. A 13th-century historian’s description of Aser’s origination matches that of Azerbaijan: east of the Caucasus mountains and the Black Sea. [2] Other than a 300 year time difference, it is an interesting and ironic possibility. The Vandals moved on by a tribal army from Eastern Europe which was fleeing the Romans.

Click on this map to make it readable.

Click on this map to make it readable.

What is more certain is that those Vandals created much more of a stir across Europe than can be imagined.

Firstly they moved to the South and East, across the Danube into what had been the Roman Province of Dacia. [3] We now know much of that area as Romania with its wonderful Transylvanian mountains, forests and legends.

Here they found a settled group of tribes recovering from Roman rule but also being pressured in the North East by another famous group of travellers, the Goths, both Ostro and Visi. This conflict between the two groups occurred around the time of the Emperor Constantine. He granted the Vandals land in Pannonia, an ancient province of the Roman Empire bounded north and east by the Danube over the territory of the present-day western Hungary, eastern Austria, northern Croatia, north-western Serbia, northern Slovenia, western Slovakia and northern Bosnia and Herzegovina. [4]

Somewhat like the present-day Kurds who live in an area divided between southeastern Turkey, western Iran, northern Iraq, and northern Syria. [5]gallacia

Around 400CE the Vandals were pushed westwards again, this time by the Huns. Crossing the Rhine into Gaul along with other tribes in 406 and on December 31st, 409, the Vandals crossed the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, where their main groups, the Hasdingi and the Silingi, settled in Gallaecia (from Baeticawhere the dispossessed Gaels sailed north to conquer Ireland) and Baetica (now mostly Andelusia) respectively. [1]

The Silingi branch of the Vandals had been accompanied by the Alans, Iranians who had fled the Goths who had invaded their homeland east of the Caspian Sea.

It is worth remembering that in all of these migrations, people were left behind. Invading refugee women married into local families and stayed. Invading refugee men married local women and became new rulers, farmers or artisans.

The migrations of the Alans during the 4th–5th centuries AD, from their homeland in the North Caucasus. Major settlement areas are shown in yellow, Alan civilian emigration in red, and military campaigns in yellow.

The migrations of the Alans during the 4th–5th centuries AD, from their homeland in the North Caucasus. Major settlement areas are shown in yellow, Alan civilian emigration in red, and military campaigns in yellow.

The Alans, together with the Silingi Vandals, chose to move further south across the Straits of Gibraltar into Northern Africa. From where they invaded what was to become known millenia later, as “The Soft Underbelly of Europe”. Their travels and destinations are shown here as well. [6]

Italicised Paranthetical Note

Something I have just noticed is that so many of these invaders cum refugees originated in Scandinavia. The Vandals, the Goths, the Huns, the Vikings. All around 2000 – 1500 years ago. I wonder if there was some sort of climate change which forced so many groups from their homes.




WHERE NOW YOU ASK, “So what has all that got to do with the price of eggs in China?”


Except that those Vandals and the Alans and even the Goths were all refugees. Fleeing for their lives from the threat of death, the threat of invasion. The threat of dispossession. The Domino Theory of the 1960’s in a different part of the world not only happened in Europe but it continues today! The “Eurozone” is simply a way of sweeping history under the carpet to avoid yet another Eurowar.

So what has all this to do with today’s mass refugee movements from the Middle East and Africa?

Not a lot.

Unless you have some Irish ancestry in which case those ancestors were refugees from the Vandals.

Unless your ancestor were from Southern or Northern Spain, in which case they originated in Scandinavia or Iran and were refugees from the Romans and the Goths.

Unless you are of Italian or Greek descent. The mixture is unbelievable there but includes both the Vandals and the Alans. In fact the Vandals and the Alans arrived twice. Once from Northern Italy into the Po valley and secondly from Africa into Sicily, Sardinia, Malta and central Italy. Probably into Corsica as well. *hat tip to the ‘little Corporal‘*

Unless you are proud of your Viking forebears. Those Azerbaijani who fled Rome and moved to Scandinavia, in the process creating the refugee Vandals from their own refugeeship.

Unless you are a simple Anglo-Saxon whose ancestral tribe fled those pesky Franks who were on their way to Paris. Or a Norman who was merely a land-going Viking who had moved to France.

The lesson is that we are all descendants of refugees. We are proud of a host of different refugees we only know of as victors in their assorted battles. We conveniently ignore just why those battles were fought.

Just how poor would our civilisation be without the admixture of all those refugees?

Now we have another refugee crisis.

Our future depends on all the small and smaller nations* finding a way to humanely treat the current groups of fleeing humanity. For most of them are from the places our ancestors originated.

If we treat them humanely we will be enriched and en-nobled. If not, we will be reduced to the barbaric habits and attitudes which motivated our ancestors.

Our choice is to accommodate or to exterminate these people.

  • yes, I include Great Britain, Germany and France here.

5 responses to “Refugees and Vandals

  1. Wow! I love reading about history and this is a fine piece. Very informative. My German ancestors fled the Franco-Prussian war on mum’s side and settled in Ipswich QLD, where they were first placed into a refugee camp. My ancestors on Dad’s side were a convict from England (male – stole item unknown) and one from Wales (female – stole a shawl) who met and fell in love in a convict camp in Australia. I think being a leftie is in my blood lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You just did a lot of roaming through Europe and not once mentioned the Frisians. Those Franks on their way to Paris were Frisian tribes. Those Anglo-Saxons on their way to England were accompanied by Frisians who left their legacy as the English language and the population of SE England. The Romans gave up on the Frisians. The Norse tried to invade Friesland and managed to stay a while until – as the Frisians put it – the last Norseman was dead. What drove the Frisians out of Friesland – at least for a while – was water. A huge enveloping flood from the sea that even their terps (man made hills) could not withstand so I think you are right about the climate change. Today the Frisians are found in southern Denmark, north western Germany and northern Netherlands. And of course Kent and surrounds.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Trish. One of the convicts in my past was convicted of stealing “A purse and six sovereigns” In other words, he was a Dickensian cut-purse just as Fagin employed. During my cricket coaching time, I coached an under 12 – through to under 16’s named “William Sykes”. How is THAT for coincidence?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very true, “Ozbray”. Some time ago I decided to limit myself to 1000 words per post (Biog excepted) because I’m such a verbose old bnastard. It took me a couple of hours to cut my first version down to those 1000 words (it is, surprisingly, exactly 1000 in this case.). I had to barely mention the Huns and Franks and, yes, I missed the Frisians. I also had to leave out the movements of the Scythians and the other tribes from the Steppes. There was so much and I didn’t even go over the Silk Road. There is enough for an entire book in this subject (no, I am not about to write it 🙂 )

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Archie, sometimes rules must be broken. When you’re on a roll, especially one as interesting and apt as this, no one would complain if it went to 1100 or even 1200 words. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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