Explore the Vandal Empire

They pushed aside the Romans to have their time in the sun.

Simon Elliot

Dr Simon Elliott is an historian, archaeologist, broadcaster and Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Kent where he studied for his PhD in Classics and Archaeology on the subject of the Roman military in Britain. He also has an MA in War Studies from KCL and an MA in Archaeology from UCL. For a day job he runs his own PR company, and is a former defence and aerospace journalist at titles including Jane’s Defence Weekly and Flight International. He frequently appears on broadcast media as a presenter and expert, gives talks on Roman themes, Guide Lectures for Andante Travels and is co-Director at a Roman villa excavation. He recently completed two terms as a Trustee of the Council for British Archaelogy, and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries’. His website can be viewed at: http://simonelliott20.com/ (where you can also view his professional broadcast show reel).

Editor’s Note:  Excerpt from a podcast interview with Dr. Elliiot at his office on June 29, 2024.  Get your copy of his latest book on Amazon.com. 

Rob Cain:  Why the title VANDAL HEAVEN? 

Simon Elliot: It was the Eureka moment. So in 2022, I did two long trips to Algeria with a holiday company for whom I lead sort of top-end archeological tours for.  It was absolutely phenomenal. So, I thought I’d got everything I needed to know about Roman North Africa, and I knew nothing.So, I assumed that the Vandals, when they were in North Africa… I just couldn’t understand why you’d got these Eurasian steppe warriors. You know, Germanic horsemen, the Rohirrim, effectively from Lord of the Rings, riding around in the desert. And of course, it’s not the desert.

So, when I arrived in March, I had just taken short-sleeve shirts. When I got off the plane, it was snowing. It transpires that everything I thought I knew about Roman North Africa is wrong. It’s very fertile 400 kilometers from the coast all the way down to the Sahara, and you’ve got these various geographical and geological regions.They’ve got the Atlas Mountains, the Aures Mountains, the high plains, and everywhere was green.I thought it would be desert, but it wasn’t. It was rolling hills and it was all verdant smack-you-in-the-face green.

I can remember literally thinking, driving through this it almost felt like a paradise based on what I was expecting, thinking that for the Vandals who were these Germanic steppe warriors, they’d have thought it was heaven because they’ve got rolling Green hills to ride the horses over everything like that. That’s what gave me the idea for the title of the book, Vandal Heaven, and it really stuck in my mind.

Then when I went back to the UK after the last trip and pitched the idea to the publisher, they thought it was a great idea as well. It’s a very good entry point because people often say, “why did you call it Vandal Heaven?” So I can tell the story of the Germanic Rohirrim riding around Lord of the Rings-style over these verdant green hills in North Africa.”

Footnote on Germanic Rohirrim:  From J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings who live in the land of Rohan.  

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