A vandal is a person who willfully or maliciously defaces or destroys public or private property.The name comes down to us from the Vandals, a Germanic people who overran Gaul, Spain, and northern Africa in the fourth and fifth centuries CE. In 455 they sacked Rome, bringing an end to the classical period in European history, and ushering in the long period known by many as the Dark or Middle Ages. There were actually many other causes for the decay of Roman civilization, but the Vandals have popularly borne the greatest blame. Among the "barbarian tribes," this bunch was particularly notorious for wantonly destroying monuments of art and literature. The Vandals' wild strength was short-lived, however. By the middle of the sixth century their leadership had evaporated, and their population absorbed into the various peoples among whom they lived.Ever since these ancient events, "vandalism" has been the preferred term for willful or malicious destruction of property. Similarly, "to vandalize" is to cause such destruction. Contemporary vandals are often perceived to be ignorant people, who maintain no interest in promoting or safeguarding civilization. Sadly, every community endures the effects of vandals on its citizens' art, architectural, and natural features.It has not been unusual for participants in various avant-garde art movements to be criticized as vandals. Especially easy targets have been painters producing graffiti.Related link: Art Crimes is an online journal examining attacks on art and the influence of iconoclasm. Also see creativity, iconomachy, iconophobia, iconophobiac, pornography, Roman art, and transgressive art.

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