Vandals – A Slavic Tribe or not?
A number of German historians already claimed that Vandals had to be Slavic, the most famous one being Helmut Schrocke in his most known book Germanen Slawen. The phonetic similarity and geographic proximity of the ethnicons Veneti (or Wends – West Slavs) and Vandals inspired a similar erroneous belief that the Germanic people of Vandals were Slavs as well (Steinacher 2004; see also Origins of Vandals). Such conceptions persisted well into the 16th century and resurfaced in the 19th century when they provided the basis for interpretations of the history and origins of Slavs (Steinacher 2002: 31-35).
On the other hand, most of the modern German historians disagreed with them. One of the counter-arguments was that his book and research does not prove that Vandals used to be related to Slavic people, but rather that Slavs used to be an Eastern Germanic tribe that later mixed with Sarmatians – a proposition which is ridiculous if you ask me.
It is an interesting fact that from the Middle Ages, kings of Denmark were styled “King of Denmark, the Goths and the Wends,” the Wends being a group of West Slavs formerly living in Mecklenburg and Eastern Holstein in modern-day Germany. The title “King of the Wends” translates as vandalorumrex in Latin. So according to the Danes, Vandals were just a part of Wends – ancestors of the West Slavs.
The title was shortened to “King of Denmark” only in 1972. Starting in 1540, Swedish kings (following Denmark) were styled Suecorum, Gothorum et Vandalorum Rex (“King of the Swedes, Goths, and Vandals/Wends”). Carl XVI Gustaf dropped the title in 1973 and now styles himself simply as “King of Sweden.”
Although the Vandals did not survive as an ethnic group, in the 16th, 18th, and 19th centuries the Prekmurje Slovenes of Prekmurje, Somogy, and Vas were believed to be the descendants of the Vandals, and their language the Vandallic language. This caused documents in Hungarian, Latin, and other languages to call the Prekmurje Slovene (a dialect of the Prekmurje and Hungarian Slovenes) “the Vandalic language.” However, the Prekmurje dialect is primarily a variety of Slovene, and therefore a Slavic language. Most archaeologists and historians identify the Vandals with the Przeworsk culture. Modern historians also agree that Vandals were possibly the same people as the Lugii.
Lugii might also have been Slavs. In Ancient Slavic language, the word “lug” means a meadow or field, and so the tribe name Lugii could mean ‘people that live in fields (lugs)’. We know of other names of Slavic tribes that were constructed the same way: the name of the Slavic tribe Polyane, derived from word pole ( pronounced “po-lye,” in Eng. a field) meaning people living in the fields; Drevlyane, derived from the word drevo (eng. tree), which means people living in forests. By the way, there’s also a Slavic spirit of fields or lugs – its name is Lugovoy.
Expanding into Dacia during the Marcomannic Wars and to Pannonia during the Crisis of the Third Century, the Vandals were confined to Pannonia by the Goths around 330 AD, where they received permission to settle by Constantine the Great. Around 400 the Vandals were pushed westward again, this time by the Huns, crossing the Rhine into Gaul along with other tribes in 406. In 409, the Vandals crossed the Pyrenees into the Iberian Peninsula, where their main groups, the Hasdingi and the Silingi, and settled in Gallaecia (in the northwest) and Baetica (south-central), respectively.
Now, let’s assume the Vandals to be Slavic (R1a and I2a). If we look at Maciamo’s maps for I2a and R1a, we can find the presence of I2a and R1a both in South Spain and in North Africa. So we can make a conclusion that the Vandals were most likely an I2a and R1a people, which is more of a match to the idea that Vandals were related to the Slavic people.
This made me curious to see if there was some research about Vandal genetics. Luckily, there was a research by Italian geneticists and archaeologists from 2013, which will be referenced as Francalacci 2013.
Sardinia is the best place to look for traces of their DNA because not only is it the best studied region of Italy, but also no other Germanic people settled there (apart from a very brief Gothic reign), which means that the presence of lineages on the island would incontestably be of Vandalic origin. The same goes for the archaeological graveyards from that time. Based on the detailed Y-chromosomal study of 1,200 Sardinians by Francalacci et al. (2013), the Vandals appear to have carried:
35% of R1a, North Slavic
34% of I2a2a, Sclavinian (South Slavic)
24% of R1b, Celto-Germanic
6% of I1 Teutonic, Viking
According to these results, the Vandals appear to be mostly a mix of Slavs (69%) and Vikings (30%).
The subclades identified were I1a3a2 (L1237+), I2a2a (L699+ and CTS616+), I2a1b (M423+), R1ayy-Z282 (incl. some Z280+), R1a-M458 (L1029+) – all very common for Slavic people; and R1b-U106 (Z381+), R1b-L21 (DF13>L513+), R1b-DF27 (Z196>Z209+) – common for Germanic people, including Vikings.
Italian experts came to the conclusion that the probable reason for the presence of R1a and I2a2a is that the Vandals stayed in present-day Poland before migrating to the Roman Empire. Another reason might be because of their alliance with Sarmatian tribes such as the Alani. R1a and I2a2a can also be found in other places where the Vandals formed their kingdoms: the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco and Tunisia. Germanic haplogroups R1b and I1 cannot be found there, which clearly shows that the population of Vandals was clearly connected with Slavic people.
Similarity of Vandals with other nations:
As we can see, Vandals share the biggest similarity with Slovenians which would mean that Prekmurje Slovenes could really be the descendants of Vandals and their language could be the language Vandals used to speak. On the other hand, research has shown one Germanic tribe to not have any similarity with Slavic people. The tribe that was different was the Lombards. They have always lived on the traditionally Germanic territories. In contrast to the Goths and the Vandals, the Lombards left Scandinavia and descended south through Germany, Austria and Slovenia, only leaving Germanic territory a few decades before reaching modern-day Italy.
Consequently, the Lombards must have remained a predominantly Germanic tribe by the time they invaded Italy. The DNA samples from Campobasso in Molise and Benevento in Campania can give a good idea of what proportion of each Germanic haplogroup the Lombards carried. Campobasso was founded by the Lombards but lost its importance after the Lombard rule. Benevento was the seat of a powerful Lombard duchy. Among the Germanic haplogroups identified in Campobasso by Boattini et al. (2013) they were way different.
If we combine the results from Benevento and Campobasso and calculate an average, the Lombards seem to have had roughly:
40% of I1, Old Teutonic/Viking
30% of R1b, Celtic/German
25% of R1a and 5% of I2a2a, Slavic
According to these results, the Goths were mostly Germanic (70%) and Slavic (30%).
Comparing the Lombards to modern nations, we get:
As we can see, the Vandals show a bigger similarity with Slavic nations while Lombards show a bigger similarity with Germanic/Nordic nations.
We know that Greek and Roman historians couldn’t really make the difference between Germanic or Viking tribes. Their logic was that if the people were living in the area they called Germania, they were Germans, if they lived in Sarmatia, they were Sarmatians; they couldn’t exactly tell the difference among the tribes, nor did they care.
Slavic historians are similar in this regard, all the people in the central Europe that couldn’t speak a Slavic language were called Niemtsy, meaning those who don’t speak our language (we still call Germans that way). There is an interesting theory that the Visigoths were actually a Germanic people while the Ostrogoths were a Slavic people. Vandals were the strongest among all Ostrogoths.
As concerns the Ostrogoth or Vandal culture, we find very little concrete information. Available only are the various guesses, made mostly by Germanic scientists who assume, because of the Roman name Ostrogoths, that they were in some ways related to “Goths and Visigoths”. The problem lies in the Roman way of naming, since to the Romans all the tribes who did not speak Latin were “Goths,” and then they subdivided them into various subgroups such as the Ostrogoths (East Goths, i.e. Slavs), Visigoths (West Goths), etc.
To find the proof that most of Ostrogoths, including Vandals were Slavs, we just have to look at the typically Slavic names of their leaders. While the language of the Ostrogoths is still shrouded in mystery, and while their writing too is shrouded in a similar “mystery”, one thing that is not so obscure and which has remained to this day are the names of their leaders, which are Slavic or Germanized-Slavic.
Here are just a few names of the Ostrogoth/Vandal leaders and dynasties: Valamir, Theodemir, Athalaric, Eraric, Geiseric, Gunderic, Gelimir, etc. Furthermore, the name Vandals is in no doubt related to the Wends (Wenden, Veneti) which are the original population of modern central Germany and Poland. To Slavic researchers, the Venden (Wenden) are known as Sorbs, a Slavic minority in Germany.
As I mentioned before, a part of the Ostrogoths (or eastern Gothic people) couldn’t have been Slavic – such as the Lombards. Thus the conclusion is that the Vandal population had to be related to Slavic people, while its royalty might have been Germanic or more probably Germano-Slavic.
Modern day Hungarians are Ugro-Finnic when it comes to the culture and the language while their genetics show how they are mostly Slavo-Germanic people, it could be the same with Vandals.