In 409 they reached Hispania, where whole provinces were handed over to the Vandal leaders. Here they tried to settle down, ruling over people who probably hated and despised them, claiming some land as their own. Some of the migrants merged with the population and became farmers. But in 420 the Visigoths came to Spain to claim the land for their own, and they defeated the Vandals and their allies in a major battle. Those people who still identified with the Vandal kingdom packed up and moved on again -- 80,000 of them, according to the Byzantine historian Procopius. They crossed to North Africa and marched along the coast, shut out of cities until they took some by siege. By 422 they had founded a new Vandal kingdom centered on ancient Carthage. Imagine how strange this land seemed to people born in the German forests. And then, seeing an opportunity, they became pirates and raided by ship around the Mediterranean Sea. Perhaps our young Vandal, by this point grown to manhood, finished his military career as captain of a pirate ship, or perhaps he was killed in an attack on Sicily or Corsica. His children, born in Spain or Africa, knew the land where their father was raised only in stories. They grew up Vandals amidst Roman Africans, sojourners among people who hated them and longed for a Roman emperor to come and drive them out. They kept their Vandal identity for a century -- their language, their Arian church, their sense of themselves as vigorous outsiders destined to rule over corrupt Romans.
Those lines are the trajectories of people's lives, and they trace out the extraordinary destinies lived out by many thousands of people in that disordered age.