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Review: Vandal Heaven

Simon Elliott

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Vandal Heaven

The book “Vandal Heaven. Reinterpreting Post-Roman North Africa” ​​by Simon Elliott is a book about the history of the Vandals, a Germanic tribe whose expansion contributed to the weakening of the Roman Empire and its eventual fall. The English-language book was published by Casemate.

The author of the book is an outstanding British historian who is the author of numerous historical publications, especially those relating to the history of Rome. This time, the author focuses on the presentation of the Vandal people, who are best known for the sacking of the “Eternal City” in 455 CE. It was this event that created the image of the Vandals as destructive. In everyday speech, we even use the word “vandalism” to emphasize the complete and unauthorized destruction of something. As the author himself emphasizes, the aim of his book is an attempt to rehabilitate the described Germanic people, who, after a long march through Gaul, Spain and northern Africa, settled in the lands of ancient Carthage, creating a kind of maritime empire and operating effectively in the Mediterranean area.
By conquering the lands of present-day Tunisia, the Vandals de facto simply took the place of the Roman elites and started cooperation with the Romans and Berbers living here. In this way, political, economic and social connections were preserved and the region could continue to develop.

In the years 439-530, the Vandals ruled Carthage, Mauritania, Corsica, Sardinia and even part of Sicily, constituting a major force in the western Mediterranean Sea. Only the victorious campaign of Belisarius in 530 led to the fall of the Vandal kingdom.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first two focus on discussing Roman-barbarian relations. The next chapters of the book present the origin of the discussed people, and describe migrations, conquests and the fall of the state. The author, as always, does not leave the reader without an introduction, his conclusions and a useful bibliography for the curious.

To sum up, the book is a most valuable and enjoyable publication. The author adequately presents the Vandal tribe on over 150 pages and tries to improve the image of this people in history. We receive a professional book with reliable sources, quotations and literature references. Moreover, the pages also include illustrative maps that help better understand the events discussed. I would highly recommend it!

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