1,600 years ago today, on December 31, 406, the Vandals invaded France. Europe was going through a minor ice age. The Rhine had frozen over. Several Germanic tribes, the Vandals, Suebians, Alamannians, Alans and Burgundians, fleeing the Huns, crossed the river near Mainz and invaded Gaul.
Three years later, in 409, the Vandals, Suebians and Alans crossed the Pyrenees. The Suebians and a group of the Vandals (the Asdings) settled in Galicia. The Alans and the rest of the Vandals (the Silings) moved on and settled in the south of Spain – a region which came to be called after them: Vandalucia (later renamed al-Andalus by the Arabs).
The Vandals were Christians, though they belonged to the Arian sect which denies the divinity of Christ. In 429 an army of 80,000 Vandals crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and invaded North Africa. Ten years later they conquered Carthage. Another 16 years later, in 455, they crossed the Mediterranean and attacked Rome from the sea. They sacked Rome in an orgy of violence that lasted two weeks and earned their reputation as “vandals.”
By 462 the Vandals ruled North Africa, the Balearic Islands, Corsica, Sardinia and Sicily. In 468 they defeated a Byzantine (Eastern Roman) fleet, but from 477 onwards their power began to wane. In 534 they surrendered to the Byzantines and North Africa returned to the Roman Empire until 648, when it was overrun by the Arabs. Some historians say that Islam was easily accepted by the Vandals because their Christian Arianism was compatible with it.
1,600 years ago today the Vandals invaded France. Within a generation they had sacked Rome. Where will Europe be 1,600 years from the other dates in this story: 2009, 2029, 2055, 2062, 2068…?