On 2 June 455, the Vandals led by their king Genseric began their sack of the city of Rome. Genseric had made a peace treaty with the previous emperor of the Western Roman Empire Valentinian III. However, when Valentinian was killed and replaced by Petronius Maximus, Genseric declared the peace treaty had been broken.
According to Prosper of Aquitaine, Pope Leo I managed to persuade the Vandals to only plunder the city of Rome and not burn any buildings or murder its inhabitants. Though writers in the 17th century who idealized Rome would blame the Vandals for its destruction. For example, the poet John Dryden wrote, “Till Goths, and Vandals, a rude Northern race, Did all the matchless Monuments deface.” In 1794, bishop Henri Grégoire would use the term vandalism to describe the destruction of art during the French Revolution based upon the presumed devastation which took place during the 455 sack of Rome.
The Vandals would plunder the city for fourteen days, whereas the previous Visigothic sack of 410 was only three days. Much gold and silver would be taken as well as several boats full of captives including the Eudoxia, the wife of Petronius Maximus who had been killed by a Roman mob as he tried to flee the attack of the Vandals. Among the treasures taken by the Vandals was the wealth of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem which had been captured by Emperor Titus in 70 AD.