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The Lost Romans

History and Politics on the Origins of the Romanians


Mircea R. Davidescu



Romanias current and former territories. Modern national borders are superimposed in black.

Table of Contents
PART 1: THE HISTORY ............................................................................................................... 5
1. THE ROMANIANS IN TEN PAGES OR LESS ................................................................... 6
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ................................................................................................. 14
2. IN THE DAYS OF THE DACIANS .................................................................................... 17
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ................................................................................................. 29
3. I CAME, I SAW, I STAYED: DACIA AND THE ROMANS ............................................ 32
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ................................................................................................. 45
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ................................................................................................. 60
5. I SURVIVED 1,000 YEARS AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS FUNNY HT ...................... 63
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ................................................................................................. 79
6. LIGHT AT THE END OF THE DARK AGE TUNNEL..................................................... 84
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ............................................................................................... 107
PART 2: THE POLITICS .......................................................................................................... 115
1. HISTORY AND POLITICS: A TOXIC ROMANCE ....................................................... 116
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ............................................................................................... 126
2. THE GESTA HUNGARORUM AND ITS DISCONTENTS............................................ 130
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ............................................................................................... 142
3. A MISTAKE REPEATED BY EVERYONE ................................................................ 149
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ............................................................................................... 160
4. THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK ....................................................................................... 164
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ............................................................................................... 186
5. ROESLERS CURTAIN CALL ......................................................................................... 193
CHAPTER REFERENCES: ............................................................................................... 209

Table of Figures
ROMANIAS CURRENT AND FORMER TERRITORIES. ..................................................................................................... 2
THE TERRITORIAL EXPANSION OF ROMANIA. ............................................................................................................. 8
THE ETHNOGRAPHIC ROMANIAN SPACE ACCORDING TO THE HISTORIAN XENOPOL.. .................................................... 11
THE FEARED FALX BLADE IN ACTION. ..................................................................................................................... 21
A COLLAGE OF DACIAN CIVILIZATION IN ................................................................................................................ 23
ROMANS AND DACIANS IN THE THICK OF BATTLE. ................................................................................................... 37
THE FRONTIERS OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE IN 150AD ................................................................................................ 39
THE BIERTAN DONARIUM. .................................................................................................................................. 67
A (RATHER INCORRECT) MODERN REPRESENTATION OF THE HUNS .............................................................................. 69
THE EXTENT OF BULGARIAN CONTROL BEYOND THE DANUBE. .................................................................................... 76
THE MAGYAR MIGRATION .................................................................................................................................. 87
THE BATTLE OF POSADA IN THE CHRONICON PICTUM ............................................................................................. 103
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TWO ROMANIAN PRINCIPALITIES ................................................................................. 107
STOICA LUDESCUS ORIGINAL ZONE OF ROMANIAN SETTLEMENT .............................................................................. 119
THE POLITICAL MAP OF TRANSYLVANIA ON THE EVEN OF THE MAGYAR CONQUEST ....................................................... 131
THE TOPOGRAPHICAL MAP OF MEDIEVAL HUNGARY AND TRANSYLVANIA ................................................................... 138
INNOCENTIU MICU-KLEIN, ONE OF THE LEADERS OF THE TRANSYLVANIAN SCHOOL ...................................................... 168
AN ETHNIC MAP OF AUSTRO-HUNGARY DATING FROM 1892. ................................................................................. 195
ROMANIAN AND DACIAN FOLK COSTUMES CONTRASTED ......................................................................................... 208




Romania has always been on the fringes of Europe, whether we consider
Europe the Roman Empire in antiquity, the Christian Europe of the Middle Ages, or
even the modern quasi-super-state of the European Union. Entire books could be written
and indeed have been written, on the special position Romania has held in European

Romania has somehow both been part of Europe and apart from Europe for
almost two thousand years.
It is this fact that has made the Romanians perhaps the most misunderstood
people in Eastern Europe. How has it happened that around 20 million people are all but
invisible to the modern world? For the West, Romania is (wrongly) thought of as one of
those Slavic-speaking countries, its province of Transylvania is believed to exist only
in fiction, while Bucharest (capital of Romania) and Budapest (capital of Hungary) are
considered essentially synonymous. It is perhaps very fitting that Vlad Dracula has
become the posterboy for Romania. He is likewise misunderstood, most Western
audiences only knowing of him from a 19
century novel by Bram Stoker about the
fictional vampire. Much in the same way, Romanians and Romania are, in the minds of
Western observers, a product of 19
century Orientalism and mystification.

In order to gain a better understanding of what the Romanians are, and the
equally important question of what they are not, we must look at what it took to make
the Romanian ethnicity and the beginnings of Romanian history. What the Romanians
are (and whether they might be edible) is best clarified by knowing the ingredients that
went into making them. The early history of the Romanians, the narrative of how this
people formed, is the key to understanding what it means to be Romanian. This fact did
not evade renowned Romanian historians such as Mihai Koglniceanu, who wrote that
the history of the Romanian nation contributed to the preservation of our nationality.
For what can better preserve it than its history, which shows us what we were, from
whence we came, what we are, and as the rule of threes go, it finds our unknown
number: what we have left to be.

If the history of the Romanians were a simple and clear-cut affair then perhaps
this question could be solved by one Wikipedia article; unfortunately, this is not the case.
Notions on the origin of the Romanians have been shrowded in controversy for at least
150 years. To this day arguments continue on not only what ethnicities contributed to
the formation of the Romanians, but also on where the Romanians formed and even
what they are today! Some of these arguments were started out of a genuine curiosity for
clarifying this issue that has perhaps never been clear at all. Romanian history itself is
mysterious enough, and prominent historians regard it as the most obscure corner of
European history.
Consider that almost a century after Richard the Lionhearted had
died, Romanian history was confined only to legends of a stil-unknown hero called the
Black Warlord (Negru Vod),
a name more evocative of Mordor in Tolkeins famous
Lord of the Rings series than of any real place on Earth.

For instance, Romania: Borderland of Europe by Lucian Boia

While some were genuinely interested in resolving who the Romanians were,
others had propagated the mystery and for political purposes. Indeed, rather than hoping
to clarify the issue, many who have raised the topic of the origin of the Romanians have
only contributed to its mystification, manipulating various facts and figures to fit certain
pre-concieved and politically-expedient theories. The motives reasons for this are not so
hard to understand: Romania has more than doubled in size at the end of World War
(based on the principles of self-determination)

and this did not sit well with some
of Romanias neighbors (especially Hungary and Russia) who had lost territories by the
same treaties. Most of these politically-motivated controversies were actually begun
before Romanias territorial acquisitation were a fait accompli, at a moment when
millions of Romanians lived in Austro-Hungary and Czarist Russia, and when the
governors and historians of these countries could see the inevitable end was in sight. The
historical controversy between Romanians and Hungarians over Transylvania, in which
Hungarians argue that they predate the Romanians in the region and therefore it is
rightfully theirs, dates to the nineteenth century. To the Hungarians, the Romanians
only came to Transylvania centuries after the Magyars were already there, and they grew
in number only through constant immigration. As such (from the Hungarian point-of-
view) they effectively usurped Transylvania from its rightful owner. While the
theories invented at that time have since become politically useless (it is hard to imagine
a war between Hungary and Romania at least not one the Hungarians would win), the
debate around them still remains. In order to clarify the issue of Romanian history, one
must become familiar with the defining features of the Romanian people and nation;
after all, it is always better to know what to explain before one starts explaining.
The story of the Romanians (or to your great grandfather: Rumanians) begins
with their name. The term Romanian as well as Romania is derived from Roman,
or as it was in Latin, Romanus. This makes the Romanians, along with the Romansch of
Switzerland, the sole preservers of the ancient Roman name.
In Romanian itself this
name takes the form of romn or more archaically rumn. There is substantial evidence
that the Romanians called themselves by such a name in the Middle Ages, provided not
only in the accounts of numerous travelers to the region, but also in Romanian
documents themselves. Francesco della Valle for instance noted in 1534 that the
Romanians spoke a language very similar to Italian, and that they referred to themselves
by a name derived from Roman.
The very first document in the Romanian language in
1521, a letter by a Romanian merchant, records the name of the authors country as
eara Rumneasc (Land of the Romanians).
The name itself is the most evident
reminder of a Roman origin of the Romanians. The Romanians evidently must descend
from Roman colonists in southeastern Europe, and it seems likely the ancestors of the
Romanians took up the Roman name when they were still in the empire. Though the
empire collapsed, the Romanians must have, like the Romansch of Switzerland,

That is to say, the profound idea that people could live in the state and under the government of their
choosing, usually choosing to be ruled by their own people rather than under the occupation of a great
empire. The territories Romania gained at the end of World War One were all majority-inhabited by
Romanians and were gained from the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Russian Empire.
preserved the name to distinguish themselves from the surrounding non-Latin

The territorial expansion of Romania. Its borders up until 1913 are shown in red. The green, upper
yellow, and lower yellow sections were taken from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Russian
Empire, and Bulgaria (not an empire).

The term Romania has an extensive history. It first appeared in the fourth century,
during the reign of Constantine the Great, as the name of the entire Roman Empire.
appearance came as a result of two developments. Firstly, for much of the Roman
Empires history the term Romans (Romani in Latin) was reserved only for the ruling
upper class of Roman society; most of the inhabitants of the empire were called
perigrini instead. However, in 212 the emperor Caracalla had bestowed Roman
citizenship on all free inhabitants of the Roman Empire, thereby granting them the right
to use the name Roman rather than merely subjects of Rome.
Secondly, the third and
fourth century saw the creation of a more defined Roman frontier, and a more important
need to separate the Barbari from the Romani. Thus, the Roman Empire came to be
known as Romania, while the Barbaricum came to denote anything beyond Roman
authority. Given that we cannot believe that every Romanian descends from a Roman
patrician families hailing directly from the eternal city, it seems evident that the
Romanians must have been within the Roman Empire at least until Caracallas
proclamation in order for them to adopt the Roman name as a general ethnonym for their

Romania was for a long time only loosely, if at all, associated with the
Romanians. In Eastern Europe it continued to be associated with the Eastern Roman
(Byzantine) Empire. Romania and Roman were monopolized by the Byzantines, many
Greeks referring to themselves as Romans (Rhomaioi) up until the nineteenth
Even after the Byzantine Empire had ceased to exist, the term Romania had
continued to be used for Ottoman possessions in the Balkans, often bastardized as
Rumelia. In fact, the first reference to Romania as being the lands populated by the
Romanians did not happen until 1816, when it appeared in the works of the Greek
scholar Daniil Philippides at Leipzig, Germany.
So while the Romanians may have
continued to refer to themselves by Roman name, and continued to call their country
land of Romans ara Romneasc no one else followed suit for some time.

Most foreign authors writing on the Romanians did not refer to them by
Romanian, nor even Rumanian, but rather by the term Vlach or Wallachian. Though the
medieval and renaissance authors were aware of the Latin character of the Romanians,
they had no ready explanation for the name Vlachs so they invented one. Among the
first theories made on the Romanians was one which suggested that their name from
their original leader, a mythical man Roman general named Flaccus. This was in tune
with theories on mythical founders of other nations, such as Francus and Britannicus,
but while the founders of most nations in the Occident were considered to have been
Trojans (how they arrived at this conclusion is another can of worms), the leader of the
Vlachs was explicitly stated to be a Roman general. This was a tacit acknowledgement
of the Roman origin of the Romanians, for there could not have been any other reason
for this change.
Aside from this one fact it reveals, today we know that the entire
Flaccus legend was garbage.

In fact, the word Vlach does mean Roman, but only in another form. The term
Vlach can be traced back to a Celtic tribe called Volcae that inhabited Central Europe.
How it got from that to being the name of the Romanians takes a bit of explanation. The
Volcae had become associated with Roman culture, and acted as an intermediary of
Roman civilization to their Germanic neighbors. The name Volcae was transferred (and
mangled) in the Germanic languages as walh (pronounced valh), where it gained the
meaning of foreigner or Romance (Latin) speaker, being introduced into the
Balkans by the Goths of the fourth century.
The Germans used the term walh as a
synonym for stranger, Celt, Roman and had over time morphed from walha, to walh,
and finally to walah.
The Slavs then, upon learning of the Celts and Romans through a
Germanic intermediary, borrowed the word walh in their own language, where it became
Vlach or Vloch, the word remaining in use even in the modern era.
Thus, we
essentially have a Germanic word used by Slavs to refer to Latins and this is just the
tip of the iceberg.

The term Vlach was and still is one not used exclusively for the Romanians but
rather has been used, in various forms, for Latinate and Celtic people all over Europe.
Some of them are familiar to English speakers, for instance the Welsch of Britain or the
Walloons of the Low Countries. Others are more specific to non-English languages.
Germans refer to the French Swiss as Welschschweizer (Welsch Swiss). Polish people
similarly use the word Wosi for the Italians and had up until recently used the term
Woosi for the Romanians. A similar phenomenon is also seen in Hungarian, where
Romanians go by the term Olah (believe it or not, also derived from Vlach) and
Italians go by Olasz.
The name Vlach is thus not a divider between the Romanians and
the rest of the Latin world, but rather a unifier. It evidences that the Germans, Slavs, and
even Hungarians had, since the earliest days, always associated the Romanians with the
other Latin people of Europe.


Of course, the Romanians did not just become Roman in name alone. Their
second defining feature is their language which, much to the surprise of Westerners, is
not Russian, nor any Slavic language at all. The Romanians are first and foremost a
Latin people, this being evident to anyone who has not only seen how they drive but also
has heard their language. This makes Romanian related to Italian, French, Spanish,
Portuguese, and all the other smaller Romance languages inbetween. The language of
the Romanians has been described by some as a dialect of Latin.
This is because
Romance languages were to some extent not separate languages, but rather a dialect
continuum stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Black Sea.
The past-tense is used
because unfortunately, while all of the other Romance languages are adjoining each
other (Spain being next to France, France being next to Italy), Romanian is today
separated from most of its linguistic kin. There used to be a Romance language spoken
in the region of Croatia Dalmatian that bridged the gap between Romania and Italy,
but unfortunately that language dropped out of major use since the sixteenth century and
is today considered extinct.
The Romanians have therefore often been described as an
island of Latinity in a largely Slavic sea.
There are a few smaller relatives of
Romanian in the Balkans, composed of the Aromanian and Meglenoromanian in the
southern Balkans as well as the Istroromanian in Croatia. As their names imply, all of
these languages are strongly related to Romanian. These dialects of Romanian must
have separated in the sixth and seventh centuries due to Slavic settlement in the Balkans
(i.e. the coming of that Slavic Sea of people).
This has prompted questions on how
these languages developd in relation to each other: did the Aromanians and Balkan
Latins branch off from the Romanians, did Romanian branch of from its Balkan relatives,
or did both languages arise separately from Latin?

The Latin identity of Romanian does come with a few caveats. Though Latin
forms the core of the Romanian language, this core does not encompass the majority of
the Romanian vocabulary. Latin words in Romanian comprise about 30-35% percent of
the lexicon,
though by adding internal formations (i.e. words originating in
Romanian rather than imported words from other languages) the total percentage of
Latin words is roughly 60%.
While the words of Latin origin are the single largest
group, this still leaves 40% of the words as being non-Latin in nature. These words are
mostly of Slavic or Turkish origin, with a smaller number derived from Hungarian and
Greek. Many of these often dominate categories Romanian vocabulary. Words of Slavic
origin abound in the religious vocabulary as well as terms for (mostly medieval)
political institutions. Meanwhile words of Hungarian origin are found for many articles
of clothing as well as to describe abodes, including the word for city (ora). This
suggests that the Romanians were (re)introduced to urban centres as we know them
today mostly through Hungarian culture, rather than Greek or Slavic. The most
mysterious group is one of roughly 100 words believed to derive from the pre-Roman
populations of the region, namely the Dacians and Thracians. Unfortunately, this theory
cannot be verified as almost nothing has survived of the Dacian and Thracian languages,
and so the words are officially considered as being of unkwnown origin. In addition,
many of these words are strikingly similar to those found in Albanian. This has pressed
the question of whether such words were preserved in Romanian from the ancient
populations, which were Romanized/Latinized by the conquering Romans, or whether
they are borrowed directly from Albanian as loanwords at a later date.

This leads us to the third aspect of the Romanians: where did they form as a
people? Given that the Roman Empire could mean anything from Britain to Egypt,
this can be a daunting question. Where the Romanians are today provides some hints.
Historian A.D. Xenopol gave a simplified but accurate picture of Romanian habitation:
the Romanians are situated around a triangle formed by the Carpathian Mountains that
surround Transylvania like a crown a very angular and uncomfortable crown, but a
crown nonetheless. From this center, the native Romanian population stretches out for
some distance and is bound by a triangle of three rivers: the Tisa to the west, the Dniestr
in the east, and the Danube to the South.
Triangulating the position of the
Romanians like this is not entirely accurate the Romanians in fact barely reach the
Tisa and extend well beyond the Dniestr
but the geographical simplification is
basically true. Any attempt at explaining the origin of the Romanians must explain how
the Romanians wound up in such a place.

The Romanian Space according to the historian Xenopol. A small inner triangle formed by the
Transylvanian Carpathians is the center of Romanian people, from which their spread is bounded
by the Tisza to the west, the Dniestr to the east, and the Danube to the south.

As mentioned earlier, Balkan Latinity is not restricted only to the Romanians.
Today the Balkan Penninsula contains several populations that speak languages related
closely to Romanian. These languages are Aromanian, Megleno-Romanian, and Istro-
Romanian. The verdict is still out on whether these languages are all dialects of each
other or if they are in fact distinct languages,
but the distinction between dialect and
language has sometimes been more political than substantial;
the debate around this
has been more of an exercise in futility. With so many different flavors of Romanian
to go around linguists have decided to refer to Romanian itself as Daco-Romanian, the
name deriving from the Roman province of Dacia that was located in modern Romania.
The Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians inhabit Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece,
and Albania. Depending on whom you ask they number anywhere between 200,000 and
300,000 speakers.
The Istro-Romanians are located in the Istrian Penninsula in Croatia
but their language is critically endangered; less than a thousand speakers remain. The
Balkan Latins thus occupy each of the corners of the triangular-ish Balkan Penninsula,
separated from each other by a large body of Slavs in the center.

These people pose two very obvious questions: first, where did they all come
from? Secondly, how do these different types of Romanians relate to each other in terms
of origin? J udging by the linguistic evidence, Balkan Latinity can be divided into two
groups: the northern group of Istro-Romanian and Daco-Romanian, and the southern
group of Aromanian and Meglenoromanian.
Generally it is believed that
Meglenoromanian broke off from Aromanian and Istro-Romanian broke off from Daco-
but how do Aromanians and (Daco-)Romanians relate to each other?

One possibility is that there had originally been one massive body of Latin
Romans stretching from one part of the Balkans to the other, which was only broken up
into separate populations by the Slavic settlement in the Balkan center during the
seventh century.
Greek scholars are keen to support this view as it distances the
Aromanians from the Romanians and turns the Aromanians into Romanized
Another possibility is that not all of these Romanian populations are
indigenous to their current zones of habitation. Some scholars, notably Romanians and
Aromanians, have proposed that the smaller Latin populations broke off from the much
larger core formed by the Daco-Romanians and mirated south with the Slavic invasion
of the Balkans.
The opposite scenario has also been proposed, notably by Hungarian
scholars who claim that the home of all Balkan Latinity (and therefore the Romanians)
was somewhere in the southern Balkans, possibly even in Istria or possibly even further
in Italy itself (the latter location has significantly fallen out of favor since the nineteenth
century). At the very least we can say these populations have lived apart for more than
one thousand years.
This leaves their point of separation somewhere in the Dark Ages,
and like many events in that era, there is still a great deal of speculation as to how it

The last (but not least) defining aspect of the Romanians is their religion. The
Romanians belong to what is known as the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christianity.
The Romanian Orthodox Church is today an autocephalous entity with its own patriarch
but for much of the Middle Ages it was subject to the Byzantine Church. Some might be
surprised that a Latin people belong to the Orthodox Church, long associated with
Slavic-Byzantine culture, rather than the Roman Catholic Church associated with
Latinity. Even Romanian authors, especially converts to Greek or Roman Cathoicism,
have considered that Orthodoxy had something non-Latin and therefore un-
Romanian about it.
It is a fact that all the other Romance people of Europe are
Catholics, so this peculiar religious divergence needs some explanation.

Why the Romanians became Orthodox Christians has a lot to do with when they
were Christianized which is a conundrum in its own right. In fact, there is no concrete
date for when the Romanians became Christians, and any explanation on how and when
it occurred has plenty of mysteries to resolve. Once this is resolved, we can move on to
why the Romanians became Orthodox Christians; surely it was not just because
leavened bread tasted better. A variety of facts need to be taken into account. For
instance, why is it that terms fundamental to Christianity in Romanian come directly
from Latin (e.g. dumnezeu (God), biserica (church), cruce (cross) etc.) while those
relating to church hierarchy ahd structure come mostly from Slavonic and New Greek
(e.g. pop (priest), blagoslovire (blessing), clugr (monk), and tetravanghel (four
Where and when the Romanians originated will have a huge impact on the
discussion of their Christianization, and vice versa.

The last aspect of the Romanians that requires some explanation is how the
Romanians, among oldest inhabitants of the European continent, were also among the
last people of Europe to form their own independent states. The Principality of
Wallachia in southern Romania gained independence in 1330, while that of Moldavia in
the east gained independence in 1359, close to three hundred years after England. The
late foundation of the Romanian states can be explained by a combination of factors. Of
course, the period of barbarian migrations lasted much longer in Eastern Europe than in
the West. While Frances dominant demographic groups would remain largely
unchanged after Frankish settlement, or at worst after the Viking incursions, Romania
would remain a trampling ground for nomadic invaders up until the Mongol invasion of
the thirteenth century.

However, the Romanians were delayed in establishing their own countries even
relative to their neighbors, and this requires a particular explanation. The delay may be
explained by the fact that in Romania it was the natives who founded the states which
survived until today, not the barbarians. In comparison, barbarians were the chief state-
founders in almost every part of Europe that been controlled by the Roman Empire. The
Franks were responsible for the creation of France, the Visigoths set the foundations in
Spain, the Anglo-Saxons and later the Normans filled this position in Britain; even in
Italy it was the Lombards in the north and the Normans and Saracens in the south that
formed the post-Roman kingdoms; the locals were often subjects of these foreign
aristocracies, and slowly assimilated their overlords. On the other hand, in Romania, the
locals did not choose to live under a foreign aristocracy. Certainly one had been imposed
on them by the many barbarian tribes that passed through Romania, but none of these
barbarian regimes survived the test of time. The founders of Wallachia and Moldavia
instead belonged to the Romanian aristocracy, and this may be the key to explaining
why it had taken so long to form the Romanian state. The barbarians needed to be driven
out before such a thing was possible.

An aside must also be made on a special topic, not normally delved into by
professional historians, but which modern developments with immigration in the
European Union have necessitated, namely the Roma (Gypsy) people and their relation
to the Romanians. I originally considered to omit this topic, deeming it out of the scope
of the book, but the confusion I repeatedly witnessed by not only English-speakers but
also Italians, Spaniards, and Frenchmen on this subject, even among the educated who
really should have known better. This has convinced me of the urgency to clarify this
issue. The problem stems from a confusion caused by a deceptive word association
between Roma, Romania, and Romanians. The impending question was obvious:
are the Roma Gypsies and the Romanians related? The confusion has been excacerbated
by the fact that Romania arguably holds the largest Roma Gypsy population in Europe.
Demistifying the origin of the Romanians involves dispelling all of the myths and
misconceptions on them, no matter how recent or poorly formulated they are.

The blunt answer is no, the Romanians and Roma Gypsies are not ethnically
related. The Romanians are a Latin people related to the Italians, Spanish, and French.
The terms Romania and Romanian are derived from the name Roman and their
capital, Rome (called Roma in Latin, Italian, and Romanian). The origin of the ethnic
term Roma for the Gypsies is questionable, but it is in all scenarios unrelated to the
word Romanian. The Roma Gypsies are believed by most anthropologists to have
originated in the Punjab region of India
and their name, Rom, is believed to derive
from the Dom (slave) caste in Indian society.
They appear to have spread to Europe,
and Romania, only in the late fourteenth century. In Romania they are known as igani,
derived from the Greek atinganoi, untouchable, which may be a reference to their
paganism/heresy in the past. Though the names may be deceptive, believing Roma and
Romanians are related is no better than suggesting the same thing about Austrians and

The Romanians are thus in many ways a walking contradiction. Though
Romanians are among the most ancient people of Europe, they were among the last to
achieve independence. Though they are more numerous than most of their individual
neighbors, they still remain stranded behind an impregnable Slavic Sea. Though they
are a Latin people by language, by faith they belong to the Slavonic Orthodox world.
Though the Romanians have always referred to themselves as romn, with its obvious
historical connotiations, the rest of the world had called them vlachs until very recently.

Yet perhaps the greatest contraditiction of all is that even though they bear the
ethnonym romn, even though their language is Latin-based, and even though it is well
known that the Roman Empire had heavily colonized the region of modern-day
Romania there are still some who often in bad faith deny and mistify the origin of
the Romanian people. Before we begin to tackle this topic, we will take a moment in the
next few chapters to establish the facts of the early history of the Romanians.


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Studies. Helsinki, Findland : University of Helsinki, 2001. p. 26.

[14] Kunstmann, Heinrich. Die Slaven : ihr Name, ihre Wanderung nach Europa und die Anfange
der russischen Geschichte in historisch-onomastischer Sicht. Stuttgart, Germany : Steiner, 1996.
pp. 177-178.

[15] Rankin, David. Celts and the Classical World. New York, NY, USA : Routledge, 1996, p. 19.

[16] Armbruster, 1972. p. 227.

[17] Arvinte, Vasile. Romn, Romnesc, Romnia. Bucharest, Romania : Editura tiinific i
Enciclopedic, 1983. p. 184.

[18] Drummond, Stephen K. and Nelson, Lynn H. The Western Frontiers of Imperial Rome.
Armonk, NY, USA; London, UK : M.E. Sharpe, 1994. p.30.

[19] Wright, R. Romance Languages. in Brown, Keith and Ogilvie, Sarah. Concise
Encyclopedia of Languages of the World. Oxford : Elsevier Science, 2008. p. 896.

[20] Posner, 1996. p. 195.

[21] Boia, 2001. p. 28; Gallagher, Tom. Outcast Europe: the Balkans, 1789-1989, from the
Ottomans to Miloevi. London, UK; New York, NY, USA : Routledge, 2001. p. 41.

[22] Gnczl-Davies, Ramona and Deletant, Dennis. Colloquial Romanian: the complete course
for beginners. London, UK; New York, NY, USA : Routledge, 2002. p. ix.

[23] Chioran, Ioana. The Phonology of Romanian: a constraint-based approach. Hawthorne,
N.Y. : Mouton de Gruyter, 2001. p. 27.

[24] Bulei, Ion. A Short History of Romania. Bucharest : Meronia Publishers, 2005. p. 25.

[25] Schulte, Kim. Loanwords in Romanian. ed. Haspelmath, Martin and Tadmor, Uri.
Loanwords in the World's Languages: A Comparative Handbook. Berlin, Germany : De Gruyter
Mouton, 2009. pp. 234-239.

[26] Xenopol, Alexandru D. Istoria Romnilor din Dacia Traian. Istoria Romnilor Vol. I.
Bucharest, Romania : Editura Librariei coalelor C. Sfetea, 1913. p. 18.

[27] Boia, Lucian. Romania: Borderland of Europe. London, UK : Reaktion, 2001. p. 224.

[28] Price, Glanville. Encyclopedia of the Languages of Europe. Malden, MA, USA : Blackwell,
2000. p. 383.

[29] Roca, Iggy M. Stress in the Romance Languages. ed. van der Hulst, Harry. Word Prosodic
Systems in the Languages of Europe. Berlin, Germany : Mouton de Gruyter, 1999. p. 661.

[30] Kahl, Thede. The Ethnicity of the Aromanians after 1990: the Identity of a Minority that
Behaves like a Majority. ed Roth, Klaus. Ethnologia Balkanica, Vol. 6 (2002). Munich,
Germany; Sofia, Bulgaria. p. 53.

[31] Ruhlen, Merritt. A Guide to the Worlds Languages: Classification. Stanford, CA, USA :
Stanford University Press, 1991. p. 59.

[32] Price, 2000. p. 383; Friedman, 2001. p. 27.

[33] Nandri, Grigore. The Earliest Contacts between Slavs and Roumanians. The Slavonic and
East European Review, Vol. 18, No. 52 (J ul., 1939). London, UK : Manley, 1939. p. 152.

[34] Schwandner-Sievers, Stephanie. Times Past: References for the Construction of Local Order
in Present-Day Albania. ed. Todorova, Marija N. Balkan identities : nation and memory. New
York, NY, USA : New York University Press, 2004. p. 123-124.

[35] Ibidem. p. 122.

[36] Bryant, David et al. Untangling Our Past: Languages, Trees, Splits and Networks. ed. Mace,
Ruth et al. The Evolution of Cultura Diversity: A Phylogenetic Approach. London, UK : UCL
Press (Routledge-Cavendish), 2005. p. 81.

[37] Hitchins, Keith. The Idea of Nation among the Romanians of Transylvania, 1700-1849.
Nation and National Ideology. Past, Present and Prospects. New Europe College, Bucharest.
2001. pp. 89-91.

[38] Georgescu, Vlad. The Romanians: a history. Columbus : Ohio State University Press, 1991.
pp. 10-11.

[39] ed Mayall, David. Gypsy identities, 1500-2000: from Egipcyans and moon-men to the ethnic
Romany. Abingon, UK; New York, NY, USA : Routledge, 2004. pp. 121-123.

[40] Bakker, Peter and Kiuchkov, Khristo. What is the Romani Language? Paris : Centre de
recherches tsiganes ; Hatfield : University of Hertfordshire Press, 2000. p. 57.


The problem with discussing the origin of the Romanians is where to begin our
narrative. Romania has arguably the oldest evidence of human habitation in Europe,
with Homo sapiens fossils discovered at Petera cu Oase (Romanian: Cave with
Bones) dating from well over 32,000 years ago.
It is however grossly inappropriate to
consider these cavemen as cultural ancestors of modern Romanians. While many
Romanians bear genetic markers from immediately after the Ice Age, the same is true
for the rest of the Balkans, pointing to the fact that genetic landscape of this corner of
the world was formed long before any cultures began to take shape in the region.

Though national pride and conceptions of pure blood may wish to deny it, the people
of the Balkans really are genetically the same.

Romanian cavemen aside, the first evidence of what we could call culture in
Romania appeared around 8,000 years ago. Named after prominent regions where they
were discovered, and the cultures of Hamangia, Cucuteni, Gumelnita and many others,
had refined the arts of metal-working, agriculture, animal domestication, as well as
pottery and weaving. Some artwork produced by these cultures, such as the Thinker of
Hamangia, clearly deal with higher expressions of human thought. Much of it the
artwork was also centered on the female figure. Though perhaps more animalistic
tendencies could explain such artwork, some have taken these works as evidence of a
matriarchal society.
Who really wore the pants pants that had yet to be invented in
such societies is up for discussion,
but what is clear, by comparison of Cucuteni
settlements to those found in the Middle East, is that these people had succeeded in
creating a considerable civilization.

Unfortunately, this early civilization was not an ancestor of the Romanians since
it ended in around 2000BCE. There were two fundamental reasons for this. Firstly, the
Cucuteni people had an odd and wasteful practice of cremating their dead with all of
their belongings, including houses, causing a shortage of lumber.
Unsurprisingly as
well, several villages perishing by fire.
The second problem came with the arrival of the
Indo-Europeans, the ancestors of almost all modern European people (sorry Basques!).
These Europeans, at this point pretty much wandering barbarians, had begun moving
into Europe around the beginning of the second millennium BC. Though some have
argued that the homeland of these people was in Anatolia or the Balkans, most scholars
believe they originated in Ukraine.

The arrival of the Indo-Europeans in Romania kicked off the Bronze Age and
creating the first relevant ancestors of the Romanians: the Thracians. Originally the
Indo-European settlers of the Balkans were linguistically indistinguishable, though they
began to split into two families ub 1800BCE: the Illyrians and the Thracians. This split
became more defined with the development of Iron Age civilization, and a definitive
Thracian identity had formed by the sixth century BCE, when they were first
mentioned in ancient Greek writings.
The Romanian lands fell under their control,
though Thrace to classical authors was mostly in Bulgaria.

Herodotus, the father of history (synonymous with boredom for some),
described the population of Thrace as being the largest in the world, after the Indians,
of course. Whether this was actually true is anyones guess, as the claim was also used
by other authors for other people. It is clear however that to the city-dwelling Greeks the
Thracians were a large and menacing people. However, they were fractured into
numerous small tribes. Herodotus himself added that if they were ruled by a single
person, or had a common purpose, they would be invincible and would be by far the
most powerful nation in the world but unfortunately to classical thinks these were
dumb barbarians, and there is no way that this will ever happen and that is why they
are weak.

By the fifth century the Thracians had divided themselves into two camps, the
border between them situated roughly on the Danube. While to the south most of the
tribes were known generically as Thracians, a whole new civilization was developing in
the north: the Geto-Dacians. As the name implies, there were two major tribal groupings
within Geto-Dacian civilization: the Dacians, situated mostly in Transylvania and along
the Carpathians, and the Getae, found south and east of the Carpathians. The separation
between the Thracians and Geto-Dacians is best noted in the different endings of town
names north and south of the Danube. While the Thracians of Bulgaria generally ended
their city names with para, the Geto-Dacians typically used dava, much in the same
way that Germans end city names in stadt (e.g. Darmstadt, Eisenstadt). Some find it
compelling evidence that the Dacians had begun to speak a different language from the
rest of their Thracian kin.

What was the relation between the Dacians and Getai? Authors from antiquity
unanimously suggested the two people were essentially the same. The Roman
geographer Strabo noted that The language of the Daci is the same as that of the
and claimed the only difference was one of names: some of the people are
called Daci, whereas others are called Getae.
Similarly Cassius Dio asserted that the
only difference between Dacian and Getae was that the former name was used by
the Romans and the latter by the Greeks, with the former being closer to what the
Dacians actually called themselves.
A third source is the Roman historian J ustin who
claimed that The Dacians are descendants of the Getae
, though whether he meant
this in an ethnic or a political sense is debatable. The ancients in general had a pretty
clear idea that the Getai and Dacians were the same people.

Romanian historians during the Communist era were quick to support the
infallibility of Roman authors in this regard, perhaps out of a political desire to promote
national unity. More recently this conclusion has come under fire,
the chief complaints
being that it makes no sense for the Romans and Greeks use different names for the
same people and that the primary sources are unreliable; Strabo for instance, was not a
linguist and it is hard to tell how familiar he was with either Getic or Dacian.
arguments are nevertheless not well founded. For one, there is a very small chance that
all of the primary sources we have discussed were wrong. Even if Strabo was
incompetent, what should one say of Cassius Dio? Furthermore, the archaeological
evidence in ancient Romania presents a homogenous cultural landscape. If these people
were different they sure decided to keep it a secret. Put it simply: there is no compelling
reason to believe that the Getae and Dacii were different people.

To use an analogy, the relation between the Dacians and the Thracians can best
be compared to that of the Germans and the English, both of whom are Germanic
people but clearly speak different languages. Meanwhile, the comparison between the
Dacians and Getae would be like comparing Athenians to Spartans: these were regional
identities rather than ethnic ones. As the two people are largely the same, we will use
Dacian for all of the Geto-Dacian tribes in order to avoid the cumbersome

The Dacians separated from the Thracians due a variety of external influences on
their culture. Even ancient Romania was a frontier of cultures and the Dacians appear to
have been very utilitarian in adopting good ideas from their neighbors. The civilized
and barbarian influences around them made Dacia arguably the most dynamic
barbarian culture of antiquity, a hybrid between classical civilization and north European
barbarians. Strabo hints that the Dacians had gradually separated from the Thracians.
due to these influences. While Herodotus clearly threw the Getae in with the Thracians,
Strabo wrote four centuries later that the Greeks used to suppose that the Getae were
, indicating perhaps that Greek opinion had changed in recent times.
The Dacians had become their own people largely due to the many influences they

The first of these influences came from the Scythians, Iranian horsemen from the
Caucausus and Ukraine, who attacked and temporarily subdued the Dacian tribes in
eastern Romania. Many Dacians were driven away from the plains near the Danube and
into the fastness of the Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania. Other Dacians, lacking
the fortress of the Carpathians, opted to make their own, leaving behind many fortresses
in Romania, more than twenty of which have been discovered.
The Dacians and
Scythians coexisted on the Dniester river frontier and in modern Dobrogea, but little
cultural mixing occurred. Scythian culture with its cannibals, transvestite shamans,
and head-hunters who drank from skulls
was likely as barbaric to the Dacians as
Dacian culture appeared to the Greeks.

Even though their cultural patronage was undoubtedly lacking, the Scythians
certainly left their mark on warfare in the region. The composite bow, a staple weapon
of steppe nomadic societies, became revered among the Dacians. The Greek historian
Thucydides remarked that the Thracian tribes north of the Haemus Mountains
and near
the Black Sea border on the Scythians and are armed in the same manner, being all
mounted archers.
Some have even pondered whether cataphracts

portrayed on
Trajans Column belong to the Scythian/Sarmatian allies of the Dacians, who were
known for employing such heavy cavalry, or if they are actually Dacians themselves.
This style of warfare continued among north of the Danube for centuries, as the in the
first century BC Ovid wrote of them every one of them carrying bow and quiver and
poisoned arrows, yellow with vipers gall.
This tradition is even attested in medieval
chronicles from the 14
century, suggesting the Romanians had continued to use
poisoned arrows (intoxicatis venenoque infectis sagittis)
well into the Middle Ages.
As the Scythians were encroaching on Dacian territory from the East, an equal
but different barbarian influence was coming from the West: the Celts. Traditionally
associated with Gaul, Britain, and the rest of Western Europe, the Celts had expanded
into Dacia in the third century BCE. Their arrival set new trends in ancient Dacia, as
fashion, jewelry, and metalworking all began to imitate Celtic designs. Anyone familiar
with Romanias imitation of France in the nineteenth century, when Bucharest became
to many observers a Little Paris, will find the subtle irony of the (proto-)Romanians
trying to imitate the (proto-)French in antiquity. This Celtic-influenced culture in Dacia
is known as La Tne culture, a name evocative of Western Europe. It can be argued
with relatively certainty that Dacian metal-working techniques find their origins in
Celtic methods, adopted in the third century BCE.
Such borrowings could only result
from very close contact between the two people, as evidenced by the use of Dacian
goods in Celtic villages and vice versa. Even strong centers of Celtic culture in Dacia,
like the Apahida settlement, shows extensive amounts of Dacian goods, especially
Even if we deny cohabitation in villages, the Dacians and Celts undoubtedly
traded extensively with each other.

Soon the Dacians began to best the Celts at their own game. The Dacians took
metal-working to an industrial scale of production. Being able to organize themselves
into a kingdom, the Dacian workforce allowed the arming of most Dacian warriors with
swords rather than spears. The clear military advantage over the spear-armed Celts
became evident when the Celts were, who were both literally and figuratively, cut down
to size.
One deadly Dacian weapon, the falx, was a long two-handed scythe-like blade
attached to a sword hilt, which made a habit out of opening up Roman suits of armor
like tin cans. The Romans had to reinforce their helmets and armors, even adopting what
they considered as dishonorable segmented arm guards often associated with gladiators,
to deal with the new deadly weapon. The Roman writer Fronto described the shock
Roman soldiers received from encountering the weapon: when Trajan marched his

A mountain range dividing Bulgaria into northern and southern halves. Today they are called the Balkan
Mountains. Thucydides is clearly referring to the Thracian tribes north of these mountains and near the
Heavily armored horsemen, particularly known for protecting not only themselves with armor, but also
their mounts. Armed typically with long lances and relying on their devastating charge, cataphracts have
been referred to as the knights of antiquity.
armies against the Parthians after the Dacian wars, he noted that the soldiers were
making light of the impact of their [Parthian] arrows compared with the gaping wounds
inflicted by the scythes of the Dacians.
Many Dacian soldiers were even recruited into
the Roman army with their native weapons.
Much like Germanys relation to Britain in
the Industrial Revolution, the Dacians began the Iron Age playing catch-up with the
Celts only to surpass their mentors. The Celts came to a Dacia of bows and arrows,
and their influence created a Dacia armed with the most frightening blades of the
barbarian world.

A depiction of the feared falx blade in action. The Roman soldier engaging the Dacian warriors has
clearly had an upgrade done on his armor, as his a thick neck-guard and a segmented arm-guard to
try to keep all of his extremities in place. The original carver may have intended to show one Dacian
warrior already fallen, but the barbarian ended up looking more bored than dead.

The barbarian nature of Dacian society is only half of the story. The Dacians
were also a peripheral part of the Mediterranean world, being influenced by the ancient
Greeks. These were not influences from Greek mainland, but rather from Greek Black
Sea colonies. The ancient Greeks, like many modern tourists, had a tendency of
monopolizing all of the beachfront property wherever they went, and the Black Sea was
no exception. Greek colonies along the Black Sea stretchws from Trebizond, in modern
Turkey, all the way to Chersonesos in modern Ukraine. Greek colonies on the Dacian
coastline included Tomis (modern-day Constana), Histria, Tyras, Callatis, and
Dionysopolis. The lands of Romania thus became a part, if only a fringe part, of
Mediterranean culture.

The story of why the Greeks would settle in a land so is certainly an interesting
one. The Greeks appear to originally have called the Black Sea Pontus Axinus, the
Inhospitable Sea. Recent studies have concluded that this was just an unfortunate
transliteration of the original Scythian name for the sea, Akhshaina (meaning Dark
Sea), but the name stuck for some time. This was due to a combination of factors.
Firstly, news of the violent Scythians that menaced the Greek colonies must have
dissuanded any would-be Greek colonist. Secondly, the Black Seas noted absence of
islands which could serve as rest-stops for merchants navigating across the sea meant
crossing the Black Sea was a perilous journey. Thirdly, Greek myths identified the
Black Sea with various calamities. Nevertheless, one cannot leave out the possibility of
some deliberate manipulation. Much in the same way Erik the Red in the Middle Ages
tried to attract settlers to a desolate frozen wasteland by calling it Greenland (the same
country that is still called Greenland to this day), the Greeks already living on the seas
coast may have been unwilling to share the wealth they discovered with potential
competitors from the mainland and deliberately used false advertising to keep them
away. The secret could not be kept up for long however, as news of the wealth of the
Black Sea colonies reached mainland Greece, and by the sixth century BC Pontus
Axinus had become Pontus Euxinus, the Hospitable Sea.

Greek influence on the Dacians was extensive, and discussing it alone could fill
entire books.
The most noticeable of interaction was trade, whereby the Greeks would
provide luxury goods to the Dacians, who would be more than happy to provide certain
commodities considered by the Greeks to be essential for civilization, especially slaves.
In particular, the tombs of wealthy Thracian and Dacian kings show many fine Greek
Greek trade brought something else to the Dacians: coinage. The Dacians
began to imitate Mediterranean coins, the most famous of which are a series of coins
that bear the inscription Koson, likely the name of a local tribal leader, in Greek letters.
Indeed it seems that the Dacians had an appreciation for coins beyond the love-for-
shiny-objects approach and understood the value of having a convenient currency when
undertaking trade. The imitation of currencies belonging to civilized people continued
even with Roman coins in the first century BC.

But perhaps where the Greeks contributed most to Dacian culture was in
designing the impressive Dacian fortresses in Transylvania, which are today considered
a UNESCO site. The design of the walls earned them the particular title of the Dacian
wall (murus Dacicus) to classical authors, and they deserved the distinction. The
exterior was made of large, uniformly sized ashar blocks, sometimes brought from
quarries many kilometers away. The two faces of the walls were then connected laterally
by dove-tailed wooden beams that, fitting snuggly into openings on the blocks,
prevented this whole exoskeleton from falling appart. With all of the beams in place,
the Dacians then proceeded to fill the hollow, often two to three meters wide, with dirt
and rubble.
The result: a durable wall with a hard exterior capable of resisting fire and
a soft core capable of absorbing the shock of catapults and battering rams. The Dacians
appear to have had foreign help in building these walls: Greek letters incised on some of
the blocks indicate the pride its architects placed in their work.
The large towers,
capable of mounting siege engines, also show Greek influence. When such fortresses
were situated on top of a ravine (and they often were) they would be a daunting obstacle
for any invader.

The Dacians thus appear to be at odds with their classification as barbarians.
The term barbarian implies an absence of culture or education. It is hard to imagine
how such a term could fit the Dacians. True, they were not a full part of the
Mediterranean world, which has so tinted our definition of what civilization is, but
they clearly possessed their own version of civilization. They were definitely beyond
comparison to their barbarian neighbors, be they the egalitarian societies of the Germans,
the tribal confederations of the Celts, or the Scythian steppe nomads. The Dacians
enjoyed a standard of living which far surpassed any of these people,
regardless of
how ironic it may seem to consider it today. The Dacians had made a very vibrant
culture that took the best influences from all of their neighbors (save for Greek
alcoholism) and forged a vibrant society out of them. Philistine and Dacian are clearly
not synonymous terms.

Certainly expert archers armed with finely crafted swords and occupying a
sophisticated network of forts would be amazing enough, but the most interesting
aspects of Dacian civilization were home-grown. The Dacians were able to do more than
copy their neighbors, and the native developments in Dacian society included their
social stratification, their religion, and their government. The nobility, the church, and
the state were thus essential to the emergence of the later Dacian powerhouse in eastern

A nation of road-builders, city-planners, metal-workers, and fanatical warriors, the Dacians of
Burebistas time were hardly civilizational slouches.

In spite of communist historiographys insistence on egalitarianism in Dacian
society, it is clear that the Dacians did not live in a classless utopia. Roman sources
attest the existence of at least two social classes: the tarabostes (or pileati) who were the
nobility of Dacian society, easily identified by the Phrygian caps (liberty caps) that
they wore and the comati warrior-class, meaning long-haired ones, noted for the
absence of the aforementioned caps. Like any people skilled in war the Dacians did
enslave their neighbors but it is interesting that the Dacians rarely kept slaves for
In fact, the practice of slavery seems primarily to have been driven by
trade with Rome and Romes thirst for slaves. To the Dacians, and indeed much of
barbarian Europe, slaves were only worth as much as Rome was willing to pay for
them. For the Romans a slave was seen as an essential element, indeed a necessity, of
any self-respecting household. From a modern perspective, this is a rather ironic contrast
between barbarism and civilization in antiquity.

The Dacian religion was also something in a world of its own. Unlike their
neighbors, the Dacians worshipped only one god: Zalmoxis. A man of outstanding
philosophical teachings, Zalmoxis would be deified by the Dacians and became
renowned even in classical civilizations. The Roman author Diodorus Siculus listed
Zalmoxis among the three great lawgivers and philosophers that were not Greek (the
other two being Moses and Zoraster).
While the other two might be common names
today, most people undoubtedly have never heard of Zalmoxis. Nevertheless, in
antiquity Zalmoxis was considered a true revolutionary in his teachings.

But who exactly was Zalmoxis? So little is known of the man that there is still
discussion on the correct spelling of his name (Zalmoxis, Zamolxis, and Zamolxes are
all in use among modern historians). In spite of his unclear name, what does seem clear
about this rather wise barbarian was his striking similarity to J esus. Like J esus, Zalmoxis
spoke of the immortality of the soul, and claimed that those who believed in him would
never truly die but only join their prophet in the afterlife.
In practical matters, this gave
the Dacians a certain fanaticism in battle unmatched by their enemies. J ulian the
Apostate provided a quote by the Emperor Trajan, one which was likely made up (it was
part of a satirical play), but it is nevertheless a truthful reflection on how the civilized
world perceived the effect of Zalmoxis teachings on the Dacians:

I subdued the Getae, the most warlike race that ever existed, which is due
partly to their physical courage, partly to the doctrines that they have
adopted from their admired Zamolxis. For they believe that they do not die
but only change their place of abode, and they meet death more readily
than other men undertake a journey.

The similarites do not stop there. Zalmoxis also insisted that neither he nor
those who drank with him nor any of their descendants would die, in a manner
somewhat similar to the Christian communion. Zalmoxis also decided to prove this
immortality, like J esus, through a first-hand example. Zalmoxis however, was not just
going to die for three days apperantly that was not enough to convince his Dacian
skeptics but rather died for three years! He sealed himself in a cave with no food and
water, and only emerged three years later, to the amazement of his Dacian subjects that
began to rever him as a God.

Zalmoxis also provided other lessons to his followers, ranging from astronomy and
the movement of celestial bodies
to curative knowledge on healing the soul and the
body; the famed Plato quoted Zalmoxis as saying if the head and the body are to be
well, you must begin by curing the soul.
There are of course several rather overt
differences between Zalmoxis and J esus, not the least of which being that the Dacians
decided to send messengers to Zalmoxis a la human sacrifice. Furthermore, to the best
of anyones knowledge there is no indication J esus ever told his followers to threaten
their god by shooting arrows up into the sky at thunder and lightning. Zalmoxis
however, still remains an interesting case of parallelism to Christianity, especially given
that Zalmoxis lived centuries before J esus.

Unfortunately Zalmoxis shared another trait with J esus: he didnt bother writing
any of his teachings down. Zalmoxis, unlike J esus, also had no literate followers either.
Everything written on the man, and indeed on the Dacians in general, comes from
Roman and Greek sources. This presents a problem since we have no way of confirming
if the information we have is correctly interpreted or even factually accurate. The few
sacred sanctuaries at Dacian archaeological sites reveal little in terms of ritual or

But learning of a religious man from only foreign sources presents a more serious
problem since to non-believers, those who believe are irrevocably foolish. Learning of
Zalmoxis from the Greeks is about the same as learning of J esus from Richard Dawkins.
Herodotus himself presents an account which may be the first case of nationalism in
historiography on the (proto-)Romanians. Herodotus stated that Greeks on the shores of
the Hellaspont believed Zalmoxis to have been a slave of Pythagoras, and that the
Thracians, a poor ignorant race, were duped by Zalmoxis who by his commerce with
the Greeks was acquainted with the Ionic [Greek] mode of life and with manners
more refined than those current among his countrymen. Zalmoxis thus duped the
Thracians into believing he had died, when in fact he had only stowed himself away
safely in a secret underground apartment and only later came forth from his
To the eyes of an ancient Greek, the barbarians could only receive
profound wisdom from other Greeks. The Greeks could thus pat themselves on the back
for all of Zalmoxis teachings while also insulting their neighbors.

Herodotus however
disregarded these stories with fitting behavior as the worlds first historian. In regard to
such propaganda he stated I believe Zalmoxis to have lived long before the time of
which was the most tactful way of saying that the Greek theories were
idiotically impossible.

With all the pieces in place, the Dacians still lacked one aspect needed to take
their civilization to the next leve: Dacia lacked a good government. As Herodotus
remarked, the Dacians remained divisive and weak, and thus spent their early history
mostly on the losing end of various engagements. We have already mentioned how the
Celts overran Transylvania and the Scythians Moldova. Next the Persians under Darius I
invaded the Getic lands in 514BC. It is in this context that Greek writers remarked of the
Dacians as being the noblest as well as the most just of all the Thracian tribes
though this might have been simple propaganda produced as a result of the Dacians
fighting on the right [i.e. Greek] side of the war. One mans barbarian is another mans
noble savage. Then again, given the Greek attitude towards the Thracians, this might
even have been damning with false praise. In any case Darius was unable to establish his
rule over the Getai and later withdrew to the south; a Dacian victory, if the opponent
giving up counts as such.

The Dacians bravely but unsuccessfully attempted to resist another great general,
Alexander the Great, in 335BCE. Alexander made short work of the army the locals had
gathered, but his victory is attributed more to Alexanders own brilliance rather than any
superiority of the Greek army. This much was proven when one of Alexanders
governors, Zopyrion, attempted invasion of Getia in 331 in order to prevent being
considered indolent by his superiors. He crossed the Danube with a massive force of
30,000 men, but he was unable to take the coastal cities and his retreat across the
Danube was blocked by a great storm. The Getae, by now experimenting with ways of
crushing the Greek phalanx,
took this opportunity to pay back their defeat at the hands
of Alexander with interest: Zopyrion and his army was encircled and annihilated,

Zopyrion himself no longer being thought of as being indolent but incompetent as well.

Whether they had not learned their lesson or they simply decided to go for the
best two out of three, the Macedonians invaded Getia once more in 294BCE under the
leadership of the governor of Thrace, Lysimachus. Even if the figure of 100,000 men
given by Polyaenus was an exaggeration, it is clear Lysimachus was not just going for
an evening stroll; this must have been a substantial force.
He soon discovered the error
of his decision as he found himself completely outmatched by the Dacians, men not
unversed in warfare and far his superiors in number.
Pressed by the Dacian leader
Dromichaetes, Lysimachus did the only honorable thing he could think of and ran for his
life, leaving his son and army to be captured by the Dacians (though some accounts note
the father and son in reversed roles). The punishment received by the Macedonian
captives was something quite unlike what we think of as barbarian: the Dacian king
wined and dined his guests on fine silver platters, held them in the highest manner of
hospitality, and even crowned Lysimachus with a diadem before sending him home of
course, not before convincing him that he had nothing to gain from warfare against the
The subtle irony of a barbarian king teaching civilized Greeks on how to
live in peace with their neighbors was clearly lost on the classical authors.

The Dacians had no sooner relieved their southern frontier with the Greeks that
they suddenly found themselves pressed with a Celtic invasion from the West after
300BCE. True, the Celts made great additions to Dacian culture, but with this cultural
borrowing came a substantial decline in political importance as well. Put it simply: one
cannot be both the student and the master at the same time. Chieftain burials overtly
Celtic in nature, with ample weaponry to boot, leaves little doubt as to who constituted
the new political elite in Dacia.

But the Celts found some trouble establishing any firm footing across the
Carpathians, and as the Scythians had almost simultaneously withdrawn from eastern
Romania, it left the field wide open for a Dacian takeover. Inscriptions from the Greek
colonies on the coast attest of the need to pay tribute (i.e. protection money) to a
variety of Dacian kings such as Zalmogedikos
or Rhemaxos.
Complete control over
the Danubian plains is one overt fact the inscriptions indicate, but that these small-time
chiefs were indicated by name shows a certain level of centralization was already
underway. The Dacian chiefs were no longer simply the men with the biggest houses
and the most jewelry, but became true rulers in their societies. One ruler, Oroles, being
disappointed in the bravery of his men, even managed to force them to take up womanly
tasks until they had wiped away they shame of their defeats.
Though we have no
information on whether Oroles continued to rule or whether he conveniently
disappeared from the Dacian political scene, the fact that he could dictate such an
order clearly shows that Dacian power had become formalized and organized and
there was no bigger worry for civilized people than an organized barbarian.

The increasingly organized nature of the Dacians was felt across the Carpathians
in Transylvania, and by the second century the shoe was on the other foot in the Celtic-
Dacian struggle. The reign of King Rubobostes around 150BC saw the growth of
Dacian power.
There have been some who claimed Rubobostes was just a misspelling
of another Dacian king, Burebista,
but this interpretation is physically impossible given
than Burebista died in in 44BC would mean that Rubobostes would have reigned for an
impressive 106 years of his life, putting even Queen Victoria to shame. Unless Zalmoxis
really did teach the Dacians the secrets of physical immortality, this is hardly a
believable reign. The other possibility, that the dating by the Roman authors of
Rubobostes reign is incorrect and needs to be pushed forward to the time of Burebista,
does not stand up to archaeological scrutiny. The retreat of the Celtic La Tne culture
around 150BC, eerily close to the dating given by the Roman authors for Rubobostes
reign, would be very mysterious without a Dacian resurgence in the region. Today it is
widely acknowledged that Rubobostes was a distinct person from Burebista, reigning
significantly earlier than the latter, and who was responsible for the ascendancy of
Dacian power in Transylvania.

Rubobostes may have softened the ground, but it was only under the leadership
of Burebista, in the second and first centuries BCE, that the Dacians begin to muscle
their way to the top of the barbarian food chain. Burebista did this by breaking the curse
of disunity among the Thracians that Herodotus had noted. Whether by force or by
diplomacy, his reign transformed the Dacian state beyond mere tribal allegiances and
into a vast barbarian kingdom as Europe had not seen before. Of course, like any good
monarch, he was sure to let his followers know that his right to rule was divinely
ordained, this much being indicated by a passage from Strabo:

the king cooperated with him [Zalmoxis], because he saw that the people
paid much more attention to himself than before, in the belief that the
decrees which he promulgated were in accordance with the counsel of the
gods. This custom persisted even down to our own time, because some man
of that character was always to be found, who, though in fact only a
counselor to the king, was called god among the Getae.

Burebistas chief priest, the interlocutor between Zalmoxis and the common man,
was called Deceneus, and it is with his help that the last few barbarian stereotypes on
the Dacians break down. Strabo mentions how discipline, through training, sobriety,
and obedience to his [Burebistas] commands, had managed to turn the Dacians from
second-rate players into the regional powerhouse. This fanaticism went to lengths the
civilized man could hardly comprehend, even going so far as to cut down their vines
and live without wine (unthinkable!).
Drunkenness and ill discipline were certainly
not Dacian traits.

The contrast in organization between the Celts and Dacians is perhaps best
shown in the layout of their defenses. Dacian fortresses, unlike Celtic fortresses, were
only large enough to house a military garrison, keeping civilians strictly outside the
walls. Rather than just being walled settlements, the fortresses were intended to be
stumbling blocks for any invading army and part of a large network designed to provide
early warning of an invasion, giving time to gather an army and repel the invaders. The
very existence of such a network implies a highly coordinated military apparatus and
organization around a centralized authority. Put it simply, there was to be no Dacian
repeat of the Roman-Celtic Battle of Alesia, where starving besieged Celtic civilians
proved to be a liability.

Burebista used his fanatical followers as a formidable weapon, and this Dacian
force wasted little time in crushing all of its neighbors. If the Celts were not in a world
of hurt before, they certainly were after Burebista was through with them. His empire
rapidly expanded against them, going so far as the modern Czech Republic. It is no
coincidence that in this same time we see the appearance of a slave trade between Dacia
and the Roman Empire. The Romans needed slaves and the Dacians could provide them
with Celtic and German prisoners in great numbers, averaging 30,000 a year from the
60s BCE onward.
To the East the Dacian state expanded up to the Black Sea,
subduing all of the Greek colonies nearby and conquering northern Thrace up to the
Balkan Mountains. The fall of the Greek colonies came as a surprise to the Greeks who
believed a strong wall was all that was needed to keep out the barbarians, who the
Greeks assumed did not know siege warfare. The fate of the port-city of Olbia, assumed
to have resisted the siege by Zopyrion mentioned earlier, fell to a Dacian force that was
clearly no stranger to siege warfare. The Dacians have evidently exceeded Greek
expectations of barbarian knowledge. Resistance did not go unpunished, as confirmed
by the sudden and violent collapse of two thirds of Olbia in the mid-first century BCE.

Burebista thus made one thing clear: with his army of 200,000 men, he was now the
most powerful barbarian in all of Europe.

Dacias meteoric rise did not go unnoticed by the other important power in the
region: the Roman Empire. Dacia had previously been little more than a source for
slaves and a topic for the musings of geographers, but in Burebistas time it became a
very serious threat to Roman control in the Balkans. Roman authors already noted how
the Dacians raided into nearby Roman provinces without any fear of the seemingly-
impotent Roman forces. The Dacians who had for most of their history been divided into
small tribes prone to infighting, now became a forboding unified threat. Clearly no
peace could last between a Rome that saw itself as the mother of the world and a
barbarian kingdom that had just gained its place in the imperial sun. Another war was
brewing for the Balkans.


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[14] Strabo, Geography. VII, 3, 12.

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[21] Georgescu, 1991. p. 3.

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The Oxford Illustrated History of Prehistoric Europe. Oxford, UK ; New York, NY, USA :
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[23] Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War. II, 96. ed. Strassler, Robert B. The
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[24] Oividius. Tristia. V, 7, 15. ed. Green, Peter. The Poems of Exile: Tristia and the Black Sea
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[27] MacKendrick, 1975. pp. 50-51.

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[29] Schmitz, 2005. p. 30.

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[34] MacKendrick, 1975. p. 25-29.

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[40] Oltean, 2007. p. 114.

[41] Diodorus. Library of History. I, 94.

[42] Herodotus. Histories. V, 94.

[43] J ulian the Apostate. The Caesars. 327.

[44] Herodotus. Histories. V, 95.

[45] J ordanes. Getica. XI, 69.

[46] Plato. Charmides. 157.

[47] Herodotus. Histories. V, 95.

[48] Ibidem. V, 96.

[49] Ibidem. IV, 93.

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Romania : Editura tiinific i Enciclopedic, 1985. p. 23.

[51] J ustinus. XII. 2.

[52] Polyaenus. Stratagems. VII, 25.

[53] Pausanias. Description of Greece. I, 9, 5.

[54] Diodorus. XXI, 11-12.

[55] Koch, John T. Celtic Culture: a Historical Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara, CA, USA; Oxford,
UK : ABC-CLIO, 2006. p. 549.

[56] Inscription from Histria, 3
century BC, from Murgescu, Bogdan. Istoria Romniei n Texte.
Bucharest, Romania : Corint, 2001. pp. 36-37.

[57] Ibidem. p. 36.

[58] J ustin. XXXI, 4.

[59] J ustinus. Prologue of XXXII.

[60] Vekony, Gabor. Dacians, Romans, Romanians. Corvinus Library. Budapest, Hungary. 2000. p.

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[62] Strabo. Geography. VII, 3, 5.

[63] Strabo. Geography. VII, 3, 11

[64] Krapivina, Valentina V. Problems of the Chronology of the Late Hellenistic Strata of Olbia.
Ed. Stolba, Vladimir F. and Hannestad, Lise. Black Sea Studies: Chronologies of the Black Sea
Area in the Period C. 400-100 BC. Aarhus, Denmark : Aarhus University Press, 2005. p. 256.


The story of the Romanians is inseparable from Roman history. As a Latin
people who also appear to have kept the imperial brandname, the Romanians are
undoubtedly the product of Romanization, a gradual adoption of Roman culture and
identity. The question of where and how this Romanization occurred is a very important
one, and as can be imagined it is linked to Dacia, otherwise the previous chapter might
as well have never existed. There is a not-so-small hiccup however in Dacias
Romanization, namely the fact that Romes stay in Dacia was relatively short. Annexed
in 106 AD and held only until 271, Dacia was the last province Rome conquered and the
first it abandoned.

Whether Romanization could occur in such a short time, especially
when some provinces held for a much longer time (like Britain) were not lastingly
Romanized, is a fundamental question of Romanian origins.
The Romans were never a humble people. They believed that their culture was
not just different from other cultures but better. Roman authors referred to Rome as the
mother of the world, destined to give mankind civilization.
Other people were just
barbarians who needed Romes guiding hand, which they were more often forced to
take at swordpoint. This is not to say that Rome pursued a policy of making everyone
Roman or civilizing others; it was more or less an unintended consequence of Roman
occupation wherever the Romans went. Dacia was to be to some extent the same as
other provinces, and to another extent drastically different.

The Romans, by grace of their remarkable army, had no problem forcing their
will upon their neighbors. Cicero, writing from around the time of Burebista,
acknowledged that Rome was not greater than Spain in population, nor Gaul in force,
nor Carthage in cleverness, nor Greece in technology.
With Roman egomania out of
the way, Cicero then proceeded to explain that Romes success was in fact due to the

This is not counting some small territorial spats Rome had in the east but whose abandonment was so
hasty that it hardly bears consideration.
favour of the gods, an explanation which made sense provided someone truly believed
Romes dominance was due to divine intervention. A more realistic explanation came
from the historian Vegetius several centuries later: Rome won because it had the best
organization and army.
The Romans were well aware of the individual strength of
barbarian warriors, but they knew that individuals or entire tribes could be overcome by
the old motto divide et impera: divide and conquer. The Romans could slowly but
surely eat away into barbarian Europe, provided they did not bite off more than they
could chew.

But the Romans were faced with a different kind of problem in Dacia. Burebista
has forged the only viable barbarian empire in Europe and the only force on the
continent capable of rivaling Rome itself,
and the old maxims of Roman strategy could
not be applied to the fanatically dedicated Dacians. Dacia was not going to be another
Gaul, where one barbarian tribe could be used as allies against another. On the eve of the
Dacian-Roman confrontation, it ironically appeared as though the Dacians were trying to
divide the Romans! Burebista was no Machiavelli, but he knew that the Roman civil war
from 49-44BC presented an unequaled opportunity to intervene. Upon hearing of the
start of the war, he quickly sent his ambassador a Greek of course,
what better way to
seem civilized to ally with Pompey, but Pompey was dead by 48BC and Caesar
proved victorious in Rome soon after.

Caesar was not quick to forget his enemies, and it was not long until Burebista
appeared on his hit-list. Caesar appears to have planned an invasion of Dacia as early as
but he had been distracted by other barbarians, the Gauls, before he could carry
it out. Now he had every reason to go after Burebista, not only because had Burebista
been an ally of Pompey, but because a war against barbarians (like in the good old
days before the civil war) would also be a good chance to unite the Romans under his
banner. Caesars ambitions were however cut short by Roman swords in 44BC when he
was assassinated and, ironically, Burebista was also assassinated less than a year later.

Unfortunately Burebistas empire did not survive him. According to Strabo the
kingdom soon broke up into four, and later five, pieces.
Burebistas head priest
Deceneus tried to salvage whatever he could in a central Tranyslvanian kingdom
but for
the most part was unable to hold any of the other chiefs in line. Unlike Burebistas
famed army of 200,000 men, each kingdoms army was reduced to only 40,000.
even these minor kingdoms remained sufficiently important. It was rumored in Rome
that Octavian (the later Caesar Augustus) had nearly married his daughter to one of
these kings, Cotiso, in turn expecting the hand of Cotisos daughter for himself (an
awkward family tree to say the least)!
There is the chance that this marriage was anti-
Augustan propaganda,
but even propaganda needs to be somewhat believable and such
a story indicates that such a marriage was not truly absurd.

The breakup of the Dacian kingdom presented a golden opportunity for the
Romans to employ their usual strategy of pitting one chief against another and collecting
the remains of both.their usual tricks. Romes interference became especially noted
between 31 and 27BCE.
The man left in charge of dealing with the Dacians by
Octavian was the unimaginatively-named consul Marcus Licinius Crassus, son of
Marcus Licinius Crassus, grandson of (you guessed it) Marcus Licinius Crassus. After
first driving Cotiso from his southern lands due to alleged betrayal, he allied with the
Dacian chief Rholes who became a friend of Rome against Rholes rival Dapyx,
another chief that negotiated with the Romans in Greek! Crassus could not leave well
enough alone and decided to march on a completely unrelated Dacian chief, Zyraxes,
while he was at it.
Roman diplomacy it seems, was fickle as always. This is however,
all we hear of Dacian-Roman warfare for some time. Divide et impera was once again
working, sadly due more to the divisive nature of the Dacians rather than anything else.

The Dacians and Romans soon realized they had better things to do than kill each
other. The Dacian chief Scorilo, probably aware that his kingdoms chances of victory
against the Romans was slim, convinced his subjects to no longer intervene in Roman
civil wars through allegory: he pitted two dogs against one another and when they
became engaged in a desperate encounter, exhibited a wolf to them. The dogs straight
away abandoned their fury against each other and attacked the wolf.
The message was
clear: let the Roman dogs scrap among themselves. But a barbarian has to make a living,
and the Dacians raided into Roman territory in 10BC and again in 6AD. The Romans for
their part dealt with the trans-Danubians by diplomacy. Of course, Roman hubris had
to paint this acknowledgement of equality as subjugation. Augustus claimed that the
Dacians had been subjected to Roman rule
and an inscription in dedication to Nero
from the around 60AD stated that the emperor kings hitherto unknown or hostile to the
Roman people he brought to honour the Roman standards. This was not entirely an
exaggeration. The Roman emperor did indeed have Dacian subjects but these subjects
were Dacians that had moved (or been moved) inside of the empire! About 50,000
Dacian refugees were transferred south of the Danube during Augustus reign,
and an
additional 100,000 transdanubians were settled in Moesia

by Nero.
A Dacian
society was starting to form south of the Danube as indicated by a Roman military
diploma in 71AD referring to a certain legionnaires origin as Dacian.
The Dacians
south of the Danube were thus already experiencing a form of Romanization by the late
first century AD.
Peace could be maintained on the frontier provided the barbarians remained
divided and the Romans remained satisfied with their territorial possessions, but we all
know how often that happened. Diodorus of Sicily had noted around a century prior that
the Romans rule practically the entire inhabited world
but practically was hardly
enough for the emperor. The new emperor Domitian, a man renowned for his greed and
megalomania, was keen on adding to his prestige with a military triumph. To this effect
he launched an attack on one of the weaker Germanic tribes of the lower Rhine. It was
Romes first expansion beyond the natural river frontiers of the empire and it must have
left many barbarians wondering whether the Romans would ever leave them alone.

The Dacians were quick to portray themselves as the defenders of barbarian
freedom against Roman aggression, gaining the admiration even of people already
within the empire.
Though small when compared to the Roman or even Burebistas

The northern half of modern Bulgaria.
empire, the manpower of Dacia exceeded 250,000 men if one included her allies.
course, 250,000 armed men do not remain idle for long and in 85AD the Dacians not
only raided and plundered the province of Moesia to their immediate south, but also
killed its governor and annihilated its army. Though it may be tempting mark the
Dacians as typical bellicose barbarians, at least one source presented the actions as being
defensive in nature.
The Dacians could see where the game was going given the recent
actions of Domitian against the Germans and opted for a pre-emptive strike.

Whatever the case may be, the Romans decided to bring out the heavy weapons.
Domitian quickly arrived on scene to take advantage of the situation for yet another
triumph, but what followed was a debacle that would stain Roman honor for nearly
twenty years. The initially successful counter-attack by Domitian in Moesia prompted
Dacias king to resign his throne to Decebal, a man shrewd in his understanding of
warfare and shrewd also in the waging of war who showed himself a worthy
antagonist of the Romans for a long time.
Decebal sued for peace, but this may have
been just to convince his own allies that he was trying to avoid war, as the terms he
offered to Domitian involved every citizen of the Roman Empire paying taxes to
Decebal, something the emperor was sure to refuse. On the other hand, Domitian desired
to please his over-taxed aristocracy with a military victory
a way to show that the
money he had confiscated had been well-spent so he would have refused the peace
even if it had been on fair terms. Instead, he sent the Praetorian prefect Cornelius
Fuscus (who even according to other Romans was not the sharpest gladius in the Roman
) off to press the advantage. Confident in victory, Domitian left for Rome.

The news of Fuscus defeat hit the Roman Emperor like a slap in the face. Not
only was Fuscus force annihilated by Decebal in a cunning ambush at Tapae, near the
modern Iron Gates on the Danube in southwestern Romania, but Fuscus himself was
killed and his baggage train looted.
Domitian organized a second expedition against
the Dacians, led by Tettius J ulianus, resulting in a second confrontation at Tapae that left
the Romans victorious, though indecisively so. The reversals of military fortunes
elsewhere on the Roman frontier prompted Domitian to send peace envoys to Decebal,
where it is said the emperor had given large sums of money to Decebal on the spot as
well as artisans of every trade pertaining to both peace and war, and had promised to
keep on giving large sums in the future.
Decebal in turn did his best to show who had
won the war: not only did he refuse to meet the emperor, sending instead his brother
Diegis, but Roman sources also seem to agree that Decebal did not fully honor the return
of captured equipment and prisoners. The emperor did his best to make a show of
victory, even going so far as to forge a letter of submission from Decebal and parading
his own furniture as captured booty, but most Romans could see quite well through
the pitiable charade.

More importantly, Domitians war against the Dacians did not resolve any of the
frontier issues. It had in fact made the situation even worse, as the Dacians became the
saviours of the barbarian free world against the evil empire.
Decebals army had
gained considerable strength due to his treaty with Domitian, adding valuable siege
engines to their formidable arsenal. The Dacians thus became a force unmatched in the
barbarian world.
Rome was humiliated, the barbarians were strengthened, and
Decebals satisfaction made him more complacent, giving Rome no justifiable opening
to rectify Domitians diplomatic disaster.

Following the reign of Emperor Nerva which lasted an impressive fifteen
months the Roman throne was passed on to possibly the best emperor it ever had:
Marcus Ulpius Traianus, better known to us as Trajan. Ambitious, charismatic, and
militarily brilliant or according to some: an alcoholic homosexual megalomaniac with
a desire for glory
Trajan was just the man to deal with the Dacians. Before even
returning to Rome to honor his election, Trajan headed off to the Moesian Danube to get
a grasp of the situation. His motives must have been to secure the Roman frontier,
one Greek traveler puts the means by which he intended to do this in no uncertain terms:

one could see swords everywhere, and cuirasses, and spears, and there
were so many horses, so many weapons, so many armed men [] all about
to contend for power against opponents who fought for freedom and their
native land

Securing the frontier, in Roman terms, usually meant extending it. Trajan
knew however, that one does not simply walk into Dacia. Three years passed in which
Trajan organized his forces and his logistical network for what was to become the
biggest military operation in Roman history.

The motives for invading Trajans Dacia have been repeatedly considered by
historians. Some have viewed Trajan as a military man who was naturally bellicose.
Others have argued that it was Dacias goldmines which motivated the war. Indeed, it is
likely that a political current was travelling through Rome that essentially posed the
question what is our gold doing under their mountains. Nevertheless, it seems that the
strategic threat which Dacia posed was the primary motive for the offensive. The
Dacians were the most important threat along the Danube frontier, threatening six
provinces. Their centralization, very rare for people in the area, made them a far greater
danger than any Germanic or Celtic tribal confederation of comparable size.
again, maybe a singular motive is just too simplistic. Certainly the Romans were dealing
with a threat but if they could help themselves to Dacias gold reserves in the process,
who would be the wiser?

Trajan was well aware that this act would immortalize him as a great emperor,
and he tried to make sure that his campaign would be the best recorded in history. Not
only did Trajan write a journal of the war, Dacica, but his doctor Crito also wrote a first-
hand account called Getica (perhaps more proof that the Dacians and Getae were the
same people), and accounts were also written by Dio Chrysostom and Appian; there was
even a poem on the campaign! Unfortunately, none of these have survived.
which has survived however, is an incredibly-detailed bas-relief column in Rome:
Trajans Column. It effectively narrates the Dacian war in an almost comic book fashion,
with a continous film of scenes spiraling their way to the top of the column. Without
the historical works to verify what is happening the column however, the scenes look
more like the Bayeux Tapestry without the writing: historians have to make guess-work
of where and when everything takes place based on later authors like Cassius Dio or

Trajan finally launched his major campaign against the Dacians in 101CE. The
army he had assembled over three years, numbering well over 100,000 soldiers, was
easily the largest single Roman army to that date.
He was well aware that the war
against the Dacians would be hard to execute, given that the enemy was not only
familiar with Roman tactics but also well-equipped. The Dacians were not stereotypical
dumb barbarians, even though their depiction on Trajans column, where they are not
seen wearing armor or even so much as a helmet, might lead to such a conclusion.While
some have taken the columns portrayal at face-value and concluded that the Dacians
truly lacked armor, it is far more realistic to believe that the Dacians were carved on the
column as such out of convention. After all, had the column depicted the Dacians in
their full battle kit, the Roman onlooker might have had a hard time distinguishing just
who on the column was civilized and who wasn not, especially given the frequent
portrayal of headhunting by Roman auxiliaries. The Roman sculptors just decided to
make things simple for their viewers: armor for the civilized and shirts for the barbarians.
We know the column does not give a truthful representation because there are numerous
barbarian armors and coifs depicted on the base of the column in a large heap, sans
warriors, of course.
Thus, Trajans Column in fact argues for the opposite
interpretation on Dacian warfare: the Dacians were so well-equipped that in a pitched
battle it would have been difficult to tell friend from foe! The Romanization that had
taken place in the Dacian army, possibility to the point of creating a Dacian professional
force, leads to the conclusion that the Dacians were not going to be primitive push-

Though the Dacians are always depicted on Trajans Column as fighting in nothing but shirts, the
numerous suits of armor heaped up in a victory pile at the base of the column suggests the reality
was far from what the artists wished to convey. It is doubtul the Dacians had left all of their armors
at home when engaging the Romans.

The war only lasted two years, but did Romes juggernaught army squash the
barbarians? Trajans Column seems to present the campaign as one long string of
effortless victories, but the column is really just propaganda. The reality on the ground
was very different. The Romans had to arduously take Dacias fortresses one at a time,
at such great cost that the Romans even upgraded and changed their armors to try and
prevent casualties.
At the battle of Tapae (again), the only significant field battle of the
entire war, the Romans were victorious but received such a bruising that Trajan had to
stop his campaign and even sacrifice his own clothes to make bandages!
The governor
of Britannia had even sent some of his personal bodyguard to fill the gaps in Trajans
Decebal for his part tried to wage the war on Roman soil in the winter, fighting a
pitched battle which he lost but which left nearly 4,000 Roman dead; a huge figure for a
victorious army. It was however not enough and with the renewed Roman onslaught in
the summer of 102 coming near the Dacian capital of Sarmizegetusa, Decebal sued for

Trajans terms were so suitably humiliating that it made a second Dacian war,
one to put an end to the Dacians, inevitable. Decebal was forced to surrender all of his
Roman helpers, demolish his fortresses, leave a Roman garrison in Sarmizegetusa and
let Rome dictate Dacias foreign policy. Decebal however, was not the kind of man to sit
quietly in his Roman cage. According to the Romans, Decebal broke the terms of this
treaty by refusing to demolish his defenses and revitalizing his army,
and in 105 AD
the second Dacian War erupted. Trajan was surprised by Decebals hostility,
which is
in itself surprising given that he did not give Decebal any other option than to lay down
and die. Trajan decided to use an even bigger army to finally crush the Dacians and turn
Dacia into a Roman province. He built the worlds largest bridge over a kilometer in
length to connect his future province across the Danube with the rest of the empire.
While resistance was fierce, soon the Dacian capital fell into Roman hands. Decebal fled
but, being surrounded by Roman pursuers, chose suicide over decorating Trajans
victory parade in Rome. Dacia was finally subdued, and to top it all off, a Dacian traitor
had shown the Romans where Decebal had hidden his treasury of nearly 165 tons of
gold and 330 tons of silver. The conquest had returned Rome to the good old days of
expansionism and imperialism, but it was to be the last acquisition the empire would
make in Europe.

Why the Romans decided to keep Dacia, a province whose borders appear as
though they were drawn by a slightly inebriated man, has been considered and
reconsidered repeatedly. The simple motive is that most of Dacias gold was still stuck
in the ground, and the Romans werent the type to just leave it alone there. Of course,
there was a matter of the dangers such an oblong protrusion into the barbarian world
presented, but in actuality Dacias existence greatly increased the security of the empire.
This jagged, irregular Roman intrusion into the barbaricum made sense in light of
Roman priorities: eliminate the Daican threat and separate the other barbarians. Not only
did it separate the barbarians diplomatically but it acted as a physical divide between the
nomads in Sarmatia and the barbarians near Pannonia, and thus kept the southern Balkan
provinces safe. Dacia would require an extensive military presence in order to survive,
but manning Dacia as a military colony would be less expensive than having to defend
the entire Roman Danube. In isolation Dacia would not have been worth having, but in
the grand scheme of things Dacia was a complete payoff.
Rome had rammed its fist
right into the gut of the barbarian world.

The frontiers of the Roman Empire in 150AD, with Roman Dacia highlighted in yellow. Surrounded
on three sides by barbarians, the province seems like a dumb idea in hindsight, but at the time it
proved to be a great asset to Roman strategy.

Before we turn the page on Dacias history it is important that we consider the
fate of the locals. What happened to the Dacians has been an element of intense debate
since the Italian Renaissance. Trajans column, full of portrayals of Romans head-
hunting Dacians, burning Dacian villages, and torturing Dacian prisoners,

presents a gruesome picture of their fate. This image is reinforced by three primary
sources which claim the Dacians were wiped out; Trajans doctor Crito even claimed
that the Dacians had been reduced to only 40 men!
Dacian names are almost
completely absent from Roman inscriptions in the province. The Zalmoxis cult likewise
entirely disappeared after 106 and Dacian temples were demolished all across the land.
No Dacian collaborators are noted as aiding Rome in governing the region and almost
all of the Roman cities in Dacia were not built on former native foundations. The native
fortresses were mostly dismantled.
A few historians have used this to conclude that
Trajans Dacian Wars were wars of extermination, a position particularly popular among
Hungarian scholars.

In spite of this bleak picture, claiming extermination is jumping the gun a little.
The primary sources on the war were good for stroking the emperors ego but not much

One scene in particular, showing a dishevelled man being tortured by torch-wielding women, was
originally thought to represent a Roman being tortured by Dacians (because only barbarians could
torture, or so it was thought).. This original conclusion has been turned on its head by the fact that the
scene seems to take place south of the Danube! In all likelihood, it represents Roman women having a
little fun with Dacian prisoners.

else. Numerous other cases abound where the Romans exterminate certain tribes only
to have to fight them again a few years later. Rome did not control all the territories of
Burebistas or even Decebals Dacia, and free Dacians existed outside of the province
(the Costoboci or Carpi are but a notable few); their existence would have been largely
unaffected by the wars. Many Dacians were recruited in new military units in the Roman
army (e.g. ala I Ulpia Dacorum, cohors I Aelia Dacorum, Cohors III Dacorum etc.),
which to the chagrin of Crito must have numbered more than 40 individuals. It is true
that these military units were stationed in distant corners of the empire (some as far as
Britain) but their mere existence confirms a Dacian recruiting pool. Archaeological
evidence also confirms the continuation of Dacian settlements, funerary rituals and
pottery. At least some settlements in Eastern Dacia have been attributed to the natives
and Ptomelys Geography, written in the mid-second century, lists 12 Dacian tribes in

When all of the evidence above is considered we are left with the conclusion that
it was not the Dacian populace as a whole which was exterminated, but rather the
Dacian elite.
The elite would have been the most likely to record themselves officially,
epigraphically or otherwise, and the elite was also the nucleus of the Zalmoxis cult. The
fortresses of Dacia were similarly designed to house the fighting forces of the nobles and
were not meant for civilians. It is therefore not surprising that the disappearance of the
elite would result in the disappearance of their religion, their fortresses, and also their
names, while the rest of Dacian life could still be noted archaeologically.

As for why the Dacian lower class is not noticeably present: this is in part due to
their diminished numbers and in part due to their adoption of Roman culture. The
absence of local names in epigraphy is indicative not of the absence of a Dacian
population, but rather of an absence of resistance to Romanization.
Trajan had made it
clear to the locals that it was the Roman way or the highway and therefore the Dacians
which remained had a diminished cultural presence, while those who resisted left to join
their free brothers across the Carpathians. Among the free Dacians themselves one sees
evidence of trade with Rome and adoption of Roman customs,
so it is unsurprising if
the Dacians within the province became, in effect, Romans.

Dacia witnessed a substantial Roman colonization, one that completely changed
the landscape of the province. Trajan knew the mountains would not mine themselves,
so he brought in workers and colonists from all over the Roman world.
Many authors
have compared Dacias colonization to the California Gold Rush,
but this is not doing
justice to the event. It was not a matter of people coming into Dacia searching for wealth
by themselves, but rather state-sponsored colonization, making Dacia unique in Roman
Trajan was probably colonized the province out of necessity: his wars simply
killed off too much of the local workforce and undoubtedly alienated the survivors. The
colonization effort is thus evidence that the wars had created a substantial loss of life in
you cannot fill something if it is already full.

Though some Romanian nationalists of the 19
century might have hoped that
the colonists were all from Rome or Italy (of course, they had to be Patrician nobles as
well), the true nature of the colonization made Dacia an ethnic melting pot of the entire
empire. Names recorded on inscriptions attest large communities of Greeks (from all of
the empires eastern provinces, especially Syria), Illyrians, Celts, Germans, and even
Northern Africans; less than five percent of the names belonged to Italians. A large
garrison of 27,000 soldiers was stationed as surety for the provincials, eventually
consisting of two legions (XIII Gemina and V Macedonica) as well as a substantial
number of auxiliaries; the names of the units imply an ethnically-mixed garrison as
Of particular note is the large representation of Thracian and Moesian units
stationed in the province, since these soldiers would have been ethnically related to their
northern kin. Combined with the substantially diminished number of natives, the
colonization program made Dacia the most cosmopolitan province of the empire. Dacia
became a place where residents could choose not only their food but even their gods in a
buffet-like fashion,
giving even modern notions of multiculturalism a run for its money.

Hungarian writers were quick to use the multiethnic character of the province to
argue that no Roman culture could exist in the region, and therefore Romanization could
not occur.
In actuality, the polyglot nature of the province is what allowed for Latin
culture to predominate. The new settlers only had Latin as a common language of
commerce and, being taken away from their homelands, only had Roman imperial
culture to fall back on. This is attested in the inscriptions themselves: around 75% of the
names recorded within the province are Imperial Roman names, and over 3,000
inscriptions discovered in Dacia are written in Latin; Greek is a very distant runner-up
with only 40 inscriptions.
It must be admitted, even reluctantly by the opponents of
continuity, that Dacia was the only province outside of Italy where Latin was spoken by
almost the entire population.

The initial number of settlers must have been very large. Hadrian, Trajans
successor, believed that Trajan had overextended the empire and abandoned all of
Trajans former conquests but when it came to Dacia he was convinced not to do so
lest many Roman citizens should be left in the hands of the barbarians.
The number
of Roman colonial cities in Dacia grew over time from one to eleven, with each city
gradually advancing in legal status (8 reaching the highest rank of coloniae). Needless to
say, if the Romans were only interested in exploiting the region of resources, this was
not the way to go about doing it. Romes substantial investment in the region resulted in
its gradually increasing prosperity. What is interesting is that all but one of these cities
were founded by retiring Roman soldiers veterans who set up their homes where
they had formerly set up camp.

Some explanation needs to be made on how the Roman retirement package
worked as it was vital for Romanization; it was not a simple matter of free bus passes.
The Roman Empire was big, and soldiers taken from one corner of the empire were
often stationed in another. This was simply a matter of security, since training and
arming the people you had just conquered and then leaving them in their original
homeland was not the best idea. Service abroad could get a little boring and though the
Roman army officially forbade Roman soldiers from marrying while on service, many
of them frequently took local, unofficial wives. This is not an assumption but a proven
fact by the admission of Roman authors like Tacitus (Histories, IV, 64) and also by the
soldiers own accounts on funerary stelae.

For the wife the attraction was easy to
understand, and it was not just the uniform: veterans of the Roman army who retired
after their service would have been relatively wealthy, were granted land where they
would settle, and would be granted Roman citizenship for their families as well. The
children of such marriages were not considered illegitimate.

Though the image of Roman veterans taking Dacian wives was beaten to death
in some Communist-era Romanian films, it is proven that such unions did occur. The
evidence is literally carved in stone, as is one funerary portrait of a Roman veteran with
his Dacian wife.
The current evidence suggests that around 82,500 veterans settled in
Dacia during the roughly century and a half of Roman occupation, and the vast majority
of these veterans came from the garrison units of the province. At a modest family size
of four individuals, this easily entails over 300,000 Roman inhabitants added by this
means alone.
It is no coincidence that the word in Romanian for an old man, btrn,
derives from the Latin veteranus.

Whether a city was created by army veterans or by the natives of the land had a
drastic impact on the regions Romanization. The neighboring province of Scythia
Minor (today Romanias Dobrogea) provides an ideal comparison to Dacia, and allows
us to fill in the gaps of Dacias urban history. Scythia Minors Greek cities were
crammed along the Black Sea coast while the Roman armys garrisons were all stationed
along the Danube,
allowing for a clear comparison between the two. Whats more, the
armys garrison forts appear to have Geto-Dacian names (Capidava, Sacidava etc.)
suggesting that the locals of the region were of Getic-Dacian origin. Like in Dacia, very
few of the original native sites survived in Scythia Minor as well, most no longer in
existence by the second century AD. The results of Roman conquest in Scythia Minor
can therefore elucidate what happened in Dacia as well. In Scythia Minor, the towns
(canabae) that formed around the Roman army forts were the most Romanized parts of
the province, while the Greek cities maintained their Greek identity throughout the
empires existence. The contrast is striking: all of the inscriptions along the Danube are
in Latin while all but one of the inscriptions from the Greek cities are in Greek!
more, the entire countryside appears to have been Romanized due to the forts, or more
specifically due to the veterans of the garrison who settled there after their retirement.
The Romanization of the region happened regardless of whether the garrison was
composed of Roman legions or provincial auxiliaries; even the least Romanized soldier
at the outset of his career became a Roman by the end of it.
This is especially relevant
since Dacia had a large auxiliary garrison.Thus, the fact that cities in Dacia formed
around Roman military camps, similar to those cities on the Scythian Danube coast,
strengthened the Romanization of the province.

The length of time the Romans spent in a region had an obvious impact on
Romanization, though it could vary tremendously from region to region. The duration of
Roman rule in Dacia was admittedly short, lasting only 165 years, and Hungarian
historians who deny the Romanization of the province state that this was too short a

A fancy word for tombstone.
time for cultural assimilation.
This is usually followed by citing Roman Britain as a
counter to Dacia, where Romanization did not occur in spite of over four centuries of
Roman rule. However, the relation between length of stay and Romanization is not so
cut-and-dry. Scythia Minor, a region with many similarities to Dacia, was thoroughly
Romanized by the mid-second century AD even though the region with the exception
of the unromanized Greek cities that were annexed earlier had only been annexed in
46 AD (i.e. Romanization was complete within 100 years). A comparison to the more
pertinent Scythia Minor (a province with which Dacia had many similarities, not the
least of which being their Dacian population) shows that Romanization could happen
rapidly under the right conditions, even in only one century. It should be remembered
that the Romanization of Scythia Minor also occurred in spite of the extra
inconvenience of not having violently removed some of the locals.

The spread of Roman citizenship is also important, though for a reason which
may seem trivial: the granting of citizenship allowed a resident of the empire to refer to
oneself as Roman (as opposed to peregrinus). In Dacia, as elsewhere, citizenship spread
in several ways. One way was out of marriages with Roman soldiers.

Another way for
citizenship to spread was when a town was promoted to the rank of municipium which
resulted in the universal granting of citizenship to all of its inhabitants. This occurred in
all 11 cities in Roman Dacia.
Clearly not all of the inhabitants could get Roman
citizenship through these means; not everyone could find a convenient Roman soldier to
marry. This all changed in 212AD when the Emperor Caracalla granted citizenship to all
free males in the empire, an event which occurred during Roman control of Dacia. All of
the men in Dacia thus became citizens, and with it they were allowed to use more
prestigious name Romanus. This in itself explains how the Romanians managed to
receive such a name as an ethnic term.
To what extent was Romanization a matter affecting the natives and not just the
new colonists? Some have argued that the Dacians were aloof and rural and therefore
could not have been Romanized,
adding that for the locals Roman rule was a
landscape of disenfranchisement.
It is shown from the lack of Dacian names in
inscriptions that the Dacians were not inside cities, which acted as nuclei for
Romanization. Similarly, Rome made no official attempt to reach out to the Dacians
other than through enlisting Dacians in some military units. In Britain the Romans built
palaces like that at Fishbourne which were designed to please a local elite; in Dacia on
other hand, there was hardly an elite left after the Dacian wars! There is no evidence that
the locals took part in the Roman administration of the province. Since the Dacians did
not care so much to learn a language for fun and because the Romans did not actively
pursue such a policy it is easy to see how the Dacians could have remained unaffected
by Roman culture even if they were surrounded by it.

However, political disenfranchisement does not always mean lack of assimilation.
Romes policies were not equally harsh to the locals, noteworthy being the Dacian
women and young children. Even on Trajans Column, a monument to Roman brutality,

the only exception to this (after 140AD) were the children born from auxiliary soldiers during their

one sees the emperor frequently extending his mercy (clementia) to the locals, especially
After the wars, needless to say, Dacia would have been lacking in men in a
very literal sense. Many of the women were likely taken up by Roman males as wives or
concubines that later became wives. This is shown to some extent by the existence of
Dacian hand-made goods in Roman settlements, especially at military bases. Dacian
pottery is present even in places of official business, showing that they were not just
used by the Dacians that made them. Though women were largely invisible in the
official record because, as is typical, history often is a matter of his-story, they
nevertheless left their mark in archaeology. The hard evidence for Dacian-Roman mixed
marriages and the existence of a Romanized Daco-Roman community is hard to deny.

A brief mention must be made on what we mean by Romanization when we
refer to Dacia. Romanization is typically defined as an adoption of Roman culture and
the use of the term for Dacias cultural development or that of any frontier province
for that matter has recently come under fire. Some argue that the concept of
romanization is not a good method of interpretation for the development either of
imperial provinces at large or for Dacia in particular.
This is however, only if one
defines Romanization as adopting the full gamut of Roman culture, including belief in
the Roman pantheon of gods and observation of public festivities like gladiator games or
chariot races. In this sense it is correct to criticize Romanization in Dacia, since no city
in the province had a circus for chariot racing and public baths only existed around
military camps. Similarly, classical deities fared much worse in Dacia when compared to
new cults and exotic gods like the Persian Mithras.
In this sense Romanization in
Dacia did not follow traditional models.

We should not use this however to argue against a Daco-Roman origin of the
Romanian people. For the Romanians to emerge in Dacian would only require a
fundamental Romanization, namely the adoption of Latin as a native language and some
aspects of Roman identity (e.g. the Roman name). The rest of the bells and whistles
were superfluous, and nitpicking on whether the average resident of Dacia went to
gladiatorial games or not is irrelevant to the subject of Romanian origins. Modern
Romanians do not watch gladiatorial games or chariot races, nor do they worship J upiter
or the other Roman gods (though bathing is thankfully still on the agenda). What relates
the Romanians to Rome is their language and their name. It is only important to prove
the adoption of these aspects in Dacia in order to make a Daco-Roman origin tenable,
and this has been proven beyond doubt. While in Britain the lower classes still spoke
Celtic, Latin remained an aloof and formal language, in Dacia the Latin tongue quickly
replaced Geto-Dacian and developed vigorously.
The very names of Dacias
inhabitants attest a willingness to adopt Roman culture and identity.
It is for this reason
that today Romania is Romania and not Dacia.

Today it can safely be concluded that Dacia was fundamentally Romanized, at
least in language and legal status. Trajan started the process both north and south of
the Danube and therefore Rome was able to exert its influence at the peak of the
empires power. Rome could thus use heavy-handed policies towards the natives that
they could not afford implementing in other provinces such as Asia Minor or Britain.
The Dacians were given a choice: become Roman or else. Dacian culture was mostly
wiped out as a result (though not the Dacian people) and the greatest colonization effort
in ancient history was undertaken to replace it. The results speak for themselves: by the
end of the second century and within two generations of the conquest, a recognizably
Roman provincial culture had developed in a long arc across what is now modern
The rapid Romanization of Dacia is a testament to Roman power in second
and third centuries.

If Roman history, especially its later parts, were all sunshine and lollipops then
the discussion of Romanian origins could end at the Romanization of Dacia: the Romans
arrived, the Dacian survivors assimilated their new culture, and a new people were born.
Unfortunately things are not that simple. The Roman Empire did eventually collapse,
and what followed was centuries of barbarism that are colloquially known as the Dark
Ages. It was the end of the world, and yet, it was this breakdown of the Roman Empire
that allowed all of the new Latin people of Europe like the French, the Italians, and of
course the Romanians, to emerge. You cant make an omlette without breaking a few
eggs, and it was time for the barbarians to get cooking.


[1] Pliny. Natural History. III, 5, 38-40.

[2] Cicero. De haruspicum responsis. IX, 19 (translation by Loeb).

[3] Vegetius. Epitome rei militaris. I, 1.

[4] Bennett, J ulian. Trajan Optimus Princeps: A Life and Times. London, UK; New York, NY,
USA : Routledge, 1997. p. 87.

[5] Akornion inscription from Dyonisopolis. from Murgescu, Bogdan. Istoria Romniei n Texte.
Bucharest, Romania : Corint, 2001. p. 38.

[6] Goldsworthy, Adrian. Caesar: Life of a Colossus. New Haven, USA : Yale University Press,
2006. p. 197.

[7] Crian, Ioan H. Burebista and His Time. Bucharest, Romania : Editura Academiei Republicii
Socialiste Romnia, 1978. p. 243.

[8] Strabo. Geography. VII, 11.

[9] J ordanes. Getica. 71, 73.

[10] Strabo. VII, 12.

[11] Suetonius. The Life of the Caesars. The Life of Augustus, 63.

[12] Goodman, Martin and Sherwood, J ane. The Roman World: 44BC AD180. London, UK :
Routledge, 2007. p. 277.

[13] J ones, Terry and Ereira, Alan. Barbarians: an Alternative Roman History. London, UK : BBC
Books, 2007. p. 117.

[14] Lica, Vasile. The Coming of Rome in the Dacian World. Konstanz : UVK, Univ.-Verl.
Konstanz, 2000. pp. 93-120.

[15] Dio, Cassius. LI, 26, 1-6.

[16] Frontinus, Sextus Julius. Stratagems. X, 4.

[17] Augustus. Res Gestae. 30.

[18] Strabo. VII, 3, 10.

[19] David Braund. Augustus to Nero: a sourcebook on Roman history, 31 BC-AD 68. London :
Croom Helm, 1984. 401, pp. 136-137.

[20] Corpus Inscriptorum Latinarum. XVI, 13.

[21] Siculus, Diodorus. Historical Library. V, xl, 2.

[22] Dio. LXVIII, 9.

[23] Schmitz, Michael. The Dacian Threat: 101-106AD. Armidale, N.S.W., Australia : Caeros
Publishing, 2005. pp. 7, 13.

[24] J ordanes. XIII, 76.

[25] Vekony, Gabor. Dacians, Romans, Romanians. Corvinus Library. Budapest, Hungary. 2000.
p. 58.

[26] Dio. XLVII, 6.

[27] Bennett, 1997. pp. 29-30.

[28] J uvenal. The Satires. IV, 111-112. Translation in Everitt, 2009. p. 55.

[29] J ordanes. XIII, 78.

[30] Dio. XLVII, 7.

[31] Bennett, 1997. p. 88.

[32] Rossi, Lino. Trajans Column and the Dacian Wars. Ithaca, N.Y, USA : Cornell University
Press, 1971. p. 22.

[33] McLynn, Frank. Marcus Aurelius: A Life, Volume 2009, pt. 2. Boston, MA, USA : Da Capo
Press, 2009. p. 319.

[34] Bennett, 1997. p. 53.

[35] Dio Chrysostom. oratores. 12.1620.

[36] Luttwak, Edward N. The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire from the First Century A.D. to
the Third. Baltimore, MD, USA : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979 p. 97.

[37] Bennett, 1997. p. 92.

[38] Ibidem. p. 91.

[39] Rossi, 1971. p. 122.

[40] Schmitz, 2005. p. 33.

[41] Ibidem. p. 36.

[42] Bennett, 1997. p. 95.

[43] Everitt, 2009. p. 114.

[44] Dio, Cassius. XLVIII, 10, 3.

[45] Bennett, 1997. p. 99.

[46] Luttwak, 1979. p. 101; Husar, Adrian. Din istoria Daciei Romane. Cluj-Napoca : Presa
Universitar Clujean, 2002. p. 18.

[47] Dillon, Sheila. Women on the Column of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. ed. Dillon, Sheila
and Welch, Katherine E. Representations of War in Ancient Rome. New York, NY : Cambridge
University Press, 2006. p. 267.

[48] A discussion on the Roman sources is presented in Ruscu, Dan. The Supposed
Extermination of the Dacians: the literary tradition. ed. Hanson, W.S. and Haynes, I.P. Roman
Dacia: the making of a provincial society. Portsmouth, Rim USA : Journal for Roman
Archaeology, 2004. pp. 75-77. The sources include Eutropius. Breviary. VIII, 6, 2; J ulian.
Caesares. XXVIII, 372C-D; Lucian quoting Crito, Getica.

[49] Chappell, Lee S. Romanization in Dacia. Los Angeles, USA : University of California Los
Angeles, 2005. pp. 221; Wanner, Robert. Forts, fields and towns: Communities in Northwest
Transylvania from the first century BC to the fifth century AD. Leicaster, UK : University of
Leicaster, 2010. pp. 23-25; Oltean, Ioana A. Dacia: landscape, colonisation and romanisation.
New York, USA; Oxon, Canada : Routledge, 2007 p. 226; Bennett, 1997. p. 173.

[50] McLynn, 2009. p. 320; Jones and Ereira, 2007. p. 112-113.

[51] Ellis, Linda. Dacia Terra Deserta: Populations, Politics, and the [de]colonization of Dacia.
World Archaeology, Vol. 30, No. 2, Population and Demography (Oct., 1998). Taylor & Francis
Ltd. p. 229; Wanner, 2010. p. 25;

[52] Bennett, 1997. p. 174; Chappell, 2005. p. 222-223; Wanner, 2010. p. 25; Ruscu, 2004. p. 82.

[53] Oltean, 2007. p. 225.

[54] Ellis, 1998. p. 229.

[55] Eutropius. Breviary. VIII, 6.

[56] MacKendrick, 1975. p. 132.

[57] Burns, Thomas S. A History of the Ostrogoths. Bloomington, USA : Indiana University Press,
1991 p. 3.

[58] Ruscu, 2004. pp. 83-84.

[59] Bejan, Adrian. Dacia Felix: Istoria Daciei Romane. Timisoara, Romania : Editura Eurobit,
1998. pp. 90-91.

[60] Chappell, 2007. p. 335.

[61] Sozan, Michael. Ethnocide in Romania p. 102; Lazar, Istvan. Transylvania: a short history.
Safety Harbor, FL, USA : Simon Publications, 1997. p. 18.

[62] Bejan, 1998. pp. 91-92.

[63] Vekony, 2000. pp. 124-125.

[64] Eutropius. VIII, 6.

[65] Bennett, 1997. p. 173.

[66] Phang, Sara E. The marriage of Roman soldiers (13 B.C. - A.D. 235) : law and family in the
imperial army. Leiden, Netherlands : Brill, 2001. pp. 60-66, 198-199.

[67] MacKenzie, Andrew. Archaeology in Romania: the mystery of the Roman occupation.
London, UK : Hale, 1986. p. 106.

[68] Bejan, 1998. p. 93.

[69] Petculescu, Liviu. The Roman Army as a Factor of Romanisation in the North-Eastern Part
of Moesia Inferior. ed. Bekker-Nielsen, Tonnes. Rome and the Black Sea Region: Domination,
Romanisation, Resistance. Aarhus, Denmark : Aarhus University Press, 2006. pp. 32-33.

[70] Ibidem. p. 36.

[71] Ibidem. p. 34.

[72] Tth, Endre. The Roman Province of Dacia. ed. Kpeczi, Bela, Makkai, Laszlo and Mocsy,
Andras. History of Transylvania, vol I:From the Beginnings to 1606. p. 115.

[73] Grubbs, Judith E. Women and the Law in the Roman Empire. Abingon, Canada; New York,
USA : Routledge, 2002. pp. 158-159.

[74] Husar, 2002. p. 161.

[75] Chappell, 2007. pp. 332-333.

[76] Wanner, 2010. p. 310.

[77] Bennett, 1997. p. 95.

[78] Wanner, 2010. p. 333.

[79] Chappell, 2007. p. 327.

[80] Ibidem. pp. 328-330.

[81] Bennett, 1997. p. 175.

[82] Varga, Rada. The Peregrine Names From Dacia. Acta Musei Napocensis, 4344/I, 2006
2007 (2008). pp. 244-245.

[83] Kulikowski, Michael. Romes Gothic Wars. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press,
2007. p. 40.


Roman Dacia is fundamentally important to Romanian origins as it created a
Daco-Roman culture, solving the problem of Romanization. In effect: it explains how
the Romanians got their language and their name. This solved the question of
Romanization, but the story does not end there; rather, Romanian history becomes more
controversial! Nothing lasts forever and Dacia was no exception. Rome learned the hard
way that a province surrounded by enemies on three sides is an expensive investment.
Dacia was not only the last province to be added to the Roman Empire: it was also the
first to be abandoned. But did the Romans leave anything behind?

Problems with holding Dacia were already noticed from the start, as it came
immediately under threat from the nomadic barbarian horsemen to the east and west.

An attack in 107 and again in 117 nearly convinced Hadrian to surrender the province,
but he reconsidered when he realized just how many Roman citizens would be left to the
mercy of the barbarians;
Rome had gone in too deep to pull back now. He instead
swapped around Romes forces, leaving Dacia minus one legion (IV Flavia) but
strangely with more troops! It is interesting that when Hadrian considered abandoning
the province, he clearly saw evacuating the large number of civilians as physically
impossible (hence: he could not let them fall into barbarian hands).
Dacia continued to
experience raids and attacks for most of its history up until its fall. It had to be
reorganized repeatedly in order to deal with its problematic borders.

We should not take this to mean that Dacia did not prosper. The Carpathians
protected much of the province from attack and the cities were encircled by walls from
the start, such that only exterior buildings were affected whenever barbarians paid an
unannounced visit.
The regions increasing prosperity is noted during the reign of
Septimus Severus (193-211) which saw the promotion of several of Dacias cities to
municipium status, with one even becoming a top-tier colonia.
Sarmizegetusa was also
promoted to metropolis status in the early third century. Roman authorities likewise saw
the security of its western provinces as being much more dire.
It was clear even to its
contemporaries that Roman Dacia was a prosperous province.

Dacias abandonment was spurned on by the arrival of the Goths. Romanticist
fantasy history of the nineteenth century envisaged these barbarians as blond-haired
Germans that migrated to the Balkans from Scandinavia, but this might not have been
the case. Scholars have argued that this migration for which there is little hard proof
never happened;
it was a German nationalist invention based on the sixth century
Gothic writer J ordanes! J ordanes incidentally identified the Dacians as the ancestors of
the Goths!
His famous work, The Origins and the Deeds of the Getae (or Getica, for
the lazy) has the last word (mis)translated to Goths by modern authors who still
support the migration theory. True, the Getica is as historically valuable as Dan Browns
The DaVinci Code, given that it was written centuries after the events it discusses. Yet,
the same authors who deny a Dacian identity indicated by J ordanes also readily accept
his account of the much earlier Scandinavian migration!
Archeologically at least, the
Goths appear as a cocktail of Dacian, Carpic, Germanic and Sarmatian culture, shaken
and stirred up by the Roman frontier. Like the western Franks, the Goths were not the
result of migration, but rather one of having the Romans as neighbours: two or three
generations after Roman provincial culture began to develop inside the frontier, new and
more sophisticated barbarian polities appeared along the [Roman] periphery;
gentrifications more violent cousin.

Of course, it might be hard to completely deny a migration given that the Goths
spoke a Germanic language, as opposed to Dacian. The translation of the bible into
Gothic in the fourth century clearly shows its Germanic character. Furthermore, a people
called the Gothones were noted in the Baltic in the first century, and it is possible that
they had moved southward two centuries later, losing a few syllables of their name
along the way. Yet, that the Goths were Germanic does not prove they were newcomers.
There were indeed many Germanic people near Dacia before the Goths (the Bastarnae
and Gepids being notable examples). It is entirely possible that the language could just
represent a shift in the balance of power among local tribes. Even if this new Germanic
rule was catalyzed by a migration from the north, the archaeological evidence suggests
the newcomers were only a small ruling nucleus in a large confederation.

Dacias abandonment was not considered just because of this change of hats:
Dacia had also failed in its purpose for the empire. It was designed to protect the Balkan
provinces but things were just not going according to plan. After the mid-third century
the hot vacation spots for barbarian interlopers were Moesia and Pannonia.
All roads
lead to Rome, but the barbarians realized the fastest path was not through Dacia. The
province therefore fared better than Pannonia during the Marcomannic Wars, and better
than the south-Danubian provinces during the Gothic-Carpic invasion of 248-251.

Dacia was also no longer profitable. The famous war that was supposed to pay
for itself had in its occupation proven more expensive than could be imagined. The
salaries of the garrisoned soldiers was greater than any taxes that could be extracted
from the residents and the land had been so thoroughly Romanized that the best
farmlands were legally exempt from taxation. As for all of that Dacian gold that was
supposed to pour out of the province: it mostly enriched the colonists and their
One has to wonder if the Bush Administration would have reconsidered
their Iraq policy had they known about Dacia.

The Romans finally did the smart thing and pulled out but when it happened
and what mess was left behind is unclear.
There are six sources covering Dacias
Five claim that Dacia was lost under Emperor Gallienus
while four
claim it was lost under Aurelian.

Aurelius Victor, Eutropius, Rufius Festus, the Historia Augusta, Orosius and Jordanes.
As a result, three sources end up with the absurd
all of them except the Historia Augusta.
All of them except Aurelius Victor and Orosius.
testimony that Dacia was lost twice!

What the withdrawal meant is also questionable.
No sources mention any evacuation under Gallienus, one source states Aurelian
withdrew only the legions, while the remaining three claim Aurelian evacuated the
civilians as well.
The Roman sources, when contrasted, are clear as mud. We may think it safe to
believe the general evacuation account told by the three authors but all three appear to
have copied more or less verbatim from a single (propaganda) source that repeated an
official story. The source in question, Vopiscus,
is both confused and confusing.
Vopiscus claims that Dacias colonists were moved to Moesia literally in the same
sentence in which he informs the reader that Moesia was lost from the empire! Maybe it
was only hyperbole, but there are other problems: the South-Danubian provinces were
by then bearing the brunt of barbarian raids. Moving the settlers from Dacia to Moesia
would have put them in harms way.
Even if we assumed Aurelian was so uncaring, it
is doubtful Dacias inhabitants, safe behind the Carpathians, would have been dying
(pretty much literally) to move to a warzone. In short: a lie repeated a thousand times
becomes the truth, but three times is rarely convincing. We will need to look at other
evidence to solve the Carpathian conundrum.

On the surface Dacia during Gallienus reign appears to have stopped working
altogether. This is hardly surprising however, since its residents were no longer getting
paid! The provinces mint closed down in 256 and few coins were imported thereafter.

The number of inscriptions commissioned for production declined rapidly as a result.
Dacias strategic value, or lack thereof, had forced Gallienus to relocate part of its two
legions to Pannonia in 260.
Some historians argued often not in good faith that the
entire legions were removed from the province.
From this it was concluded, ipso facto,
that nothing was left behind in Dacia to be defended, and therefore the province was
completely evacuated as well. According to this interpretation, Aurelians later
withdrawal was just a formality, tying up the loose ends of a province that was already
Aurelian just removed everybody from Dacia still under Roman rule.

The argument looks convincing but quickly loses its strength once we note what
was happening throughout the empire. Firstly, we should note that no source mentions
any evacuation by Gallienus which would in itself be surprising if he did cause an
evacuation given that Gallienus was quite disliked by the Roman authors; if Gallienus
had caused hundreds of thousands of Romans to lose their homes you can bet someone
would have written about it. Secondly, the time in which Gallienus and Aurelian ruled
was part of the Crisis of the Third Century, an era that stretched from 235 to 284. The
Roman Empire in this time suffered invasion after invasion and the average emperor
was lucky to reign for two years. Only three out of twenty-two emperors (not including
usurpers) died of natural causes (two of plague and one in Persian captivity) averaging
between themselves an above-par reign of three years. To say the least, there were a lot
of widows and funerals.

While you could figure out who they were by the info provided, I will spare you the headache. They are
Eutropius, Rufius Festus and J ordanes.
Dacia fared well relative to the rest of the empire. Rather than going into decline,
the province actually appears to have prospered. It received very favourable attention
and development in the 250s in terms or roads, cities, and monuments. In 253 the city
of Apulum was even called Chrysopolis, the city of gold (move aside El Dorado).
Rather than going into terminal decline, Dacias economy flourished; the maximum
amount of coin circulation in Dacia took place during the reigns of Decius to Gallus
<GIVE THE TIME SPAN>, just prior to the joint reign of Valerian and Gallienus.
There was no sign at all in this time that the empire intended to abandon its salient

The joint emperorships of Valerians and Gallienus that followed were
disastrous for the empire, but Dacia was only slightly affected. Rome was attacked on all
fronts: the Goths headed for Greece, the Marcomanni broke through Pannonia and
Illyria, the Borani overran Asia Minor, and the Alans threatened Rome itself yet
Dacia was sidestepped completely. Gallienus did take the title of Dacicus Maximus,

implying that some fighting occurred in the province,
but that is all the evidence we
have. There are no signs of destruction, a far cry from the claim that Dacia bore the
brunt of this new attack.
Gallienus title itself is questionable. It is strange that his co-
regent Valerian did not receive it as well, nevermind that the title is only attested in
some unreliable documents. To historians these are red flags indicating the title was just
pulled out of Roman creativity (to put it politely). The people who wrote those
documents knew of the fighting on the Danube and just assumed that a Dacicus was
going to be thrown in among the emperors other titles;
the emperor of course did not
mind. Archaeologically Dacia was at peace until 259. Altars and temples were
completed at Tibiscum and Potaissa, honorary inscriptions were made at Mehadia, and
one inscription was dedicated to Valerian at Sarmizegetusa.

In 260 the empire went from crisis to nosedive. Valerian had gone east to fight
the Sassanids, leaving the mess in Europe to his coregent, but his defeat and capture in
260 almost ruined the empire. Valerians blunder caused two large swathes of the
empire to break off and form independent states: the Gallic Empire in the West, and
Palmyra in the East. Both would last until Aurelian dealt with them over ten years down
the road. The Danubian provinces had comparatively mild usurpers that were
immediately crushed. The most interesting of these was Regalianus who was claimed to
have been a kinsman of Decebal himself.
Whether this was true remains as speculation,
but it is clear the claim did not help him much as Dacias legions remained faithful to
Gallienus, unlike other legions in Gaul and Palmyra. The emperor granted Dacias
legions the title always faithful (pia fidelis) in return.

The straw that broke the camels back was a barbarian invasion through
Pannonia that began heading for Italy itself, convincing the emperor to redraw the

Whenever Roman Emperors scored a victory abroad they often took an appropriate title to commemorate
it. If a Roman emperor won against the Goths he was called Gothicus, if he defeated the Parthians he
would be called Parthicus. Unfortunately these names can also be ambiguous. A name like Germanicus
could mean victor over the Germans or it could mean victor in Germania. The latter seems to be the
case for all of the Dacicus titles we see after the mid-third century.
empires defense. The changes we see in Dacia take part in this context, and Dacia was
hardly the only province negatively affected by the reorganization. More importantly,
Dacias reorganization was hardly a sign that it was being evacuated. The provinces
monetary decline in the 250s was also seen in neighboring provinces,
none of which
are ever claimed to have been evacuated. Some of Dacias garrison was moved to
Pannonia, but we know for certain that some of it remained behind. An inscription dated
after 260 indicated that the Legion XIIIs commander was still at the Dacian Herculane
and it is doubtful that the legion would have left without him! Dacia was also
not the only province to have its garrison downsized, as units from Britain and Germania
were also moved into Pannonia.
It was part of a rethinking of Roman strategy:
previously the Romans had only been stationed on the border, but the problem was
barbarians kept finding holes in the armor-clad meat-fence. The Roman armys response
was thus limited to intercepting booty-laden barbarians on the return-trip. Gallienus
instead opted to place the troops at important crossroads behind the frontier, allowing an
interception of barbarians as they moved in. The rearrangement strengthened the core
regions at the expense of the frontier, and since Dacia was the furthest out it also lost the

This also solves the question of where all the money went. Dacia was left with a
minimal garrison. Fewer soldiers equals into fewer people getting paid, which means
less money was going into the province. It is for this reason that Dacia appears strapped
for cash after Gallienus military withdrawal.
The province still looks alive
archaeologically, even if the standard of living had somewhat diminished. Houses built
after 260 (obviously implying someone was left behind to do the building) are smaller as
people were poorer, but the cities themselves do not diminish in size. The central
fortresses also display continuous life and refurbishment.
The diminishing number of
inscriptions is partially caused by inscriptions falling out of fashion in the entire
partially caused by the aforementioned economic factors, and certainly cannot
be taken as evidence of abandonment. More important is the fact that inscriptions
continued to be made, and their quality in art and language is upheld throughout this
time. Rather than pointing to evacuation, they attest the permanence of provincial
culture even in trying times.
In short: no archaeological evidence exists for Dacias
population becoming smaller or for an evacuation.

The loss (amissa) of Dacia spoken of by Roman authors was not an evacuation
nor even a territorial loss, but rather a loss of military
and (consequently) financial

control. Later on this event was exaggerated by authors who were quite spiteful to
Gallienus and quite in bed with Aurelian. It would have been too much to suggest
Aurelian, the claimed global restorer (restituto orbo), lost Roman land without
Clearly according to them Gallienus must have lost it earlier, even if the
propaganda ended up contradicting itself only a few passages later. As with modern
politicians, the Romans were quite good at blaming the previous administration.

Dacia actual loss under Aurelian did not come about in a major barbarian victor ,
nor in some major invasion, but ironically due to a Roman victory! The Goths were
happy to provide the occasion. Aurelians ascension to the throne in 270 was interpreted
by them as an open invitation to plunder the empire. Aurelian had other things in mind
for his uninvited guests. When he arrived in Moesia in 271 he not only forced the Goths
over the Danube but even chased them beyond it and killed their king in the resulting
battle. It was the most decisive victory the Roman army had witnessed in the entire third
Aurelian finally had the opportunity to retool the empires defences without
any pestering invaders getting in the way.

Aurelians first step was to finally abandon the dysfunctional Dacia, all but
useless in Roman strategy by now, but when he did it is not terribly clear. Most believe
it happened shortly after his victory over the Goths. Aurelian was about to embark on a
hard campaign against Palmyra and would later turn to fight in the West. He needed
troops and a stable frontier; evacuating Dacia gave him both. The year 271 is therefore
the most commonly given date for the withdrawal.
In spite of the sound logic, all the
evidence on the ground suggests an abandonment around 274/275.
A later date is not so
unbelievable either; it would not have been the first poorly-timed decision by a Roman
emperor. Whatever the case, we can say that another four years of occupation would not
have mattered much for the already-Romanized province.

Aurelian abandoned Dacia Traiana and carved a chunk of land from Moesia to
form a new province, creatively named Dacia Aureliana. It was a strange step for
someone who wanted to restore the empire, but it was a military solution from a military
Politically, the move was long overdue: it not only freed up military units to go
fight in the East, but it also drastically shortened Romes borders. It has also been
argued that the power vacuum left north of the Danube would have, at least temporarily,
divided the barbarians squabbling over it.

Some argue that it was not only the provinces name that moved south, but also
its residents. By far the strongest evidence comes from the written sources but there are
other hints. That a new Dacia was made at all gives reason for concern. Dacias two
legions, after being sent east to crush Palmyra, were also garrisoned in the new Dacia
south of the Danube, and some extrapolated from this that the colonists had followed
suit (obviously not all the way out to Palmyra!) and gone south as well. Relocating the
civilians also made good sense as it would have repopulated a region ravaged by wars
and plagues and kept the empires valued tax-payers.
More importantly, crushing the
barbarians granted Aurelian the respite needed for such an operation. At the very least
he could have evacuated the cities, had he intended it.

There are so many arguments against total evacuation that even recounting
them is arduous; there is a big devil in the details. While the legions were indeed moved
south, Dacias more numerous auxiliaries just vanished into the province after its
Forget civilians, Aurelian left much of the army behind as well! No
evidence exists for Dacian refugees in Aurelians new province; no new cities or
coloniae were founded suggesting that any population transfer could not have been
It is noteworthy that J ordanes account of Aurelians withdrawal
J ordanes himself being the only relevant author actually born near Dacia
only relocated legions and no civilians. Barbarian settlement in the former province was
also suspiciously slow, maybe because Aurelian set terms forbidding them from moving
into former imperial lands, or even hired them as the old Dacias protectors.
Dacia was
not just handed over to barbarians, and Aurelians protective policies were likely not
directed at Transylvanias wildlife, but the people he left behind.
An indirect hint at the
lack of an evacuation is that Aurelian settled the Carpi south of the Danube in 272, and
many settlements followed.
However many Romans followed the army southward, it
evidently was not nearly enough to repopulate the new province.

It is doubtful Aurelian intended to lose Dacia at all, let alone evacuate it. Coins
were struck across the empire featuring Happy Dacia (Dacia Felix) in the first year of
Aurelians reign,
and Aurelian could hardly have meant it as a sarcastic joke. It is clear
that Dacias abandonment was brought on by a moment of duress: Palmyra had
occupied Egypt and thus threatened Romes grain supply directly, and Aurelian needed
troops fast. Dacias abandonment in this case would not have been intended as a
permanent arrangement.
Returning to Dacia once the crises were settled seemed
reasonable, but Aurelians assassination in 275 obviously changed plans.
Even if he
did not intend to return to Dacia, it is known that Aurelian was a military man to whom
a complete evacuation would have looked like a logistical nightmare.
A total
evacuation of any land that large is completely unheard of. As an example, there are still
people living in the much smaller exclusion zone around Chernobyl, even though the
Soviets were armed with tools the Romans could only dream of, like an accurate census.
The creation of a new Dacia represents Aurelians need for cheap propaganda:
he was
not about to go down in history as the first emperor to lose Roman land, so he just
created another to to make it appear on paper as if nothing had changed.

The only way to bury the debate over Aurelians evacuation is ironically by
digging it up. Archaeological evidence can confirm whether Aurelian left behind
anything more than a terra deserta.
One hundred and fifty years ago it would have
been difficult to make any conclusive arguments on the issue, as archaeology in
Romania consisted of little more than random discoveries by peasants ploughing their

Many of the previous debates were thus reduced to useless speculation:
questions like what would Aurelian have wanted to do? or would the Roman
inhabitants really have abandoned their homes? could never resolve what actually
happened. Today however, there is ample evidence to determine of life and civilization
continued in post-Roman Dacia.
The fate of the provinces settlers is best solved by looking at that of its city-
dwellers, not the least because they are the best studied archaeological group in Dacia.
Unfortunately, much of Dacias countryside was not well-known until the fall of
communism. As one can imagine, Romanian archaeologists were (and still are) not
exactly opulently wealthy, and projects to discover rural sites received little funding;
you cannot get funded to study something that might exist somewhere. The big money
(if one can talk of such things) went to central projects like Dacian fortresses, resulting
unfortunately in a rural terra incognita.
Those arguing for complete evacuation find

See the Treasure of Nagyszentmikls (Snnicolau Mare), a beautiful golden hoard dating from Late
Antiquity, as an example.
this absence of evidence convenient, but assuming inhabitation is logically fallacious.

Findings on the countryside are rare because nobody has gone to town (well, out of town
in a more literal sense) looking for them, rather than because it is not there. Recent
archaeological surveys in Romania have indeed revealed numerous ruins.

There is another reason why looking at the urban population is critical: the
urbanites would have been the most prone to leaving the province with the army. Cities
housed imperial officials and administrative personnel, people whose jobs depended on
continued Roman government. They were undoubtedly the wealthiest segment of the
population, and therefore could afford to start anew south of the river. Unlike veterans of
the army garrison, who had served for 20 years for their own small plot of Dacian land,
the city dwellers had far less attachments to the province. Cities were also centers for
Romanization: whatever feeling Roman meant, it is certain that it was felt more in the
city than outside of it. The urban population would therefore have been the most
concerned with finding itself outside of the empires borders.

Lastly, we should note that cities would have been the simplest to evacuate, if it
was truly intended. Many of Dacias cities had substantial garrisons, so it would have
been simple to round up the citizens when it was time to order the withdrawal. It
certainly was easier than combing 200,000 square kilometres of rugged countryside for
every Roman inhabitant. Whats more, we know all the cities were abandoned
eventually as their names have not continued into modern times. This at least removes
one uncertainty when investigating. However, when and how the cities former residents
moved out is an entirely different matter. Did they leave abruptly with the Roman
administration, or did they (well, their descendants anyway) live on nearby?

The fate of urban population is thus decisive as it is a worst case scenario for
Daco-Roman Continuity. If Aurelian intended the provinces evacuation then the cities
would have been the first to go. The Romans would not have evacuated the country and
left the cities as they were; the cities would have been emptied first. In what regards
survival, the cities were magnets for barbarians and therefore their inhabitants would
also have been annihilated long before the barbarians found each and every peasant on
the countryside. If city life had ended then it would weaken the odds of Daco-Roman
continuity, but it would not entirely rule it out. However, if urban life continued, then
the entire provincial population must have continued as well. Understanding Dacias fate
therefore, rests on the fate of her cities.

Porolissum, situated on the northern fringe of Dacia (and civilization) was as
bad a spot as any during this tumultuous period, yet it survived well into the post-Roman
period. The army predictably abandoned its post as the nearby fort was deserted after the
third century, but the citizens decided to dig in. Excavations reveal a plethora of
the forum and colonnades were fortified, and multiple new structures were

The fallacy is known as argument from silence (argumentum ex silentio). In essence it means absence
of evidence is not evidence of absence. This is particularly true in the case of Dacias inhabitants, where
accepting the fallacy would result in everyone disappearing, since there is also no evidence that they went
anywhere else.
built, including water basins. A few stragglers would have been hard-pressed to build all
of this, Roman industriousness aside. This construction seems to indicate a thriving
Daco-Roman community was left behind. The city bristled with life for at least a century
after the armys withdrawal. Its defense may have been organized by the recently
discharged (abandoned is such a strong word) auxiliary garrison, given that they are
never seen again within the empire. Trade continued in the region, though the Romans
seemed to have at least evacuated the city of its pocket change; very few coins are found

Napoca, the next city south, is a bit harder to analyze. Very little activity is noted
past the 280s. There are no coins, no Christian relics... almost nothing at all. There are a
few constructions, even one with a Latin inscription, but nothing even close to
Porolissums activity. Aside from some graveyards, there is little of note in the fourth
century. Life was noticeable in the same way a New Yorker would notice life in
Kansas, but clearly very few of the inhabitants remained in the city.
Yet, if we look
just a little around the city, we see something rather amazing (or not). Villages were
founded all around the former urban center, especially to its west. Roman graves coins
and pottery leaves little doubt as to who the inhabitants of these new rural settlements
It is clear that even though the city was abandoned, its former residents did not
go very far. Napocas abandonment might easily be explained by the fact that it had no
garrison; it was an entirely civilian city.
In the post-Roman world this was about the
equivalent of having a loot me sign posted on the city walls. Its residents realized how
easy of a target it was and dispersed into the countryside for safety. In general they were
right in doing so, as pots and fabrics dated from the fifth to seventh centuries all attest a
strong Daco-Roman presence in the villages nearby. A Gothic prince in the fifth century
even took up the title patricius Romanorum in honour of his new-found

Potaissas, Northwestern Transylvanias largest city, is interesting as it also
housed the legion V Macedonica.
The strongest evidence for post-Roman life comes
(ironically) from nearby cemeteries. One discovered a dozen miles to the northeast
proved conclusively that civilians lived on in the surrounding area.
More recent
confirmed that burial sites continued to be used in the south and west well into
the fourth century, when they curiously stop. This is not because (as some might hope)
everyone had finished dying, but rather due to another phenomenon: Christianity.

Finds from the city confirm the religions spread after the withdrawal, and the new
faithful were hesitant to give their dead a pagan burial. The new spot chosen for the
cemetery, inside the old Roman fort, appears hardly more appropriate.

Apulum, according to recent studies,
fared similarly to Potaissa, which is
unsurprising since it housed Dacias other legion (XIII Gemina). Continued habitation is
proven by fourth century cemeteries though, as in Potaissa, they stopped being used due
to Christianization. Apulums most interesting change is the militarization of the locals,
similar to that which occurred in Britain after its own abandonment. Garments, belt
buckles, and brooches indicate a continuity of Roman military tradition and ranks. It is
doubtful that they mattered much anymore, but posterity sometimes has its own value.
Similar items were found at other military sites like Potaissa but rarely in civilian
settlements like Napoca, which would in itself be too much of a coincidence if these
were barbarians adopting Roman uniforms. Not only had the settlers of Apulum lived on
in the region, but their traditions continued long after the province had been forsaken.

Sarmizegetusa, Dacias first city, evidences a slow decline rather than a sudden
The city center was looted and destroyed but it was not barbarians
doing the looting, it was the Roman Christians! This much is proven by the Christian
symbols found on the looted goods scattered about. One well-known change in the city
was the fortification of its amphitheatre in 375,
on the eve of the Hun Invasion, a
structure which could easily have defended thousands of inhabitants. And yet, no
evidence exists for a barbarian raid or any violent destruction in this time. Rather than
barbarians, the structures purpose was to defend the citys inhabitants from Roman
brigands and outlaws who saw the retreat of authority as a chance to steal from the rich
and give to themselves. Clearly an organized Roman community survived in the city
after Aurelians withdrawal, and the Roman-style pots, lamps, and other goods have
been found that dateup to the sixth century.

Sarmizegetusas population slowly radiated to the city outskirts. The center was
abandoned (and looted) early on, with the Romans moving to new suburban
communities. One house even had a swimming pool, because being ostentatious was too
Roman a trait to lose. By the sixth century however the houses had moved even further
out and became multi-generational complexes. The reason for the move is easy to
understand, and it was not the rush-hour traffic: the diminished economic reality of the
province (nevermind the near-complete absence of coins) obviously made it hard for
cities to import grains from the countryside. In a battle between fountains and food, food
took precedence, and the citizens slowly moved outward and became self-sufficient. The
name of the city was slowly lost to its inhabitants as they drifted into the rural unknown.

The former city-dwellers may have abandoned their homes, but their vocabulary
seems to have survived and been terribly misused! The Latin word for pavement
(pavimentum) came to be used for dirt, something which may bring a chuckle to
someone familiar with Romanias rural roads. The word has survived in modern
Romanian as pmnt. The same is true of the word monumentum which replaced the
word tumba (tomb) when being used for graves; it has survived in Romanian as
mormnt. The bizarre adoption of urban terms to rural life could only have happened if
the urban settlers moved out to the country at an early date.
This process did not
happen anywhere else in the Roman Empire. Similarly, the loss of the word civitas for
city (the current word in Romanian, ora, is derived from Hungarian) could only be
explained if the Romanians ancestors lived in an area where city-life had essentially
disappeared. Indeed, in modern Romanian the word for city (civitas) became cetate,
meaning fortress, which is explained nicely by the fact that Dacias former cities gained
a new role as ad-hoc fortresses.
Simiarly, when the proto-Romanians abandoned the
cities and moved into smaller villages, these were often fortified (for obvious reasons). It
is little wonder then that the Romanian word for village, sat, is derived from the Latin
fossatum meaning a fortification ditch. In other words: the linguistic evidence lines up
with Dacias post-Roman history.

South of the Carpathians things remained mostly the same. The region remained
densely populated, with hundreds of settlements dotting the landscape.
Roman forts
(Sucidava and Drobeta) on the northern bank of the Danube continued to be used well
into late antiquity.
Perhaps this was because the army believed it was to return shortly,
as happened in 332 when Constantine the Great subdued the Goths and reclaimed part of
the former province. Constantines campaigns may have something to do with the
revival of coinage in the region shortly after.
A monument erected in Romula in 376
attested a sense of Roman permanence felt by its inhabitants.
Unfortunately the Huns
overran the entire territory later that year.

In civilian life Aurelians withdrawal was a non-event. Dacias cities remained
inhabited until the seventh century, though an even late is not out of the question.
rules out a complete evacuation. The only thing Aurelian withdrew, and even then
partially, was the army and administration. The resulting power vacuum was not filled
by barbarian kings, but rather by the local strongmen, who liked to emphasize their
Roman origin with conspicuous bling. The discoveries of fibulae with Latin inscriptions
as well as Roman military gear and rank insignia indicate an aristocracy with Roman
These leaders were usually former aristocrats who now competed with each
other, but whose power came from the idea that Roman administration would one day
Roman culture survived, even if the finer aspects of Roman life (like slavery)
were lost. All things considered, Aurelians withdrawal must only have been an
administrative in character: everyone else stayed on and made use of what they could
remember of Roman traditions.

It should be noted that those arguing for a complete withdrawal often have a
political stake in the matter. Many Hungarian historians attempted to prove at all costs
that Dacia was not Romanized and that no proto-Romanians ever survived in the lands
of modern Romania during the Dark Ages. In some cases, the factual errors caused by
such ulterior motives are easy to spot: one author for instance claimed that there was a
strong Greek influence in the Province [of Dacia],
something hard to believe given
that Greek inscriptions in Dacia amount to only 1% of all inscriptions discovered, while
Latin inscriptions dominated the Dacian landscape. If we consider the evidence in an
unbiased manner, we can only conclude that Dacia was Romanized and that the
colonists of the province remained there after Aurelians withdrawal.

Of course, the story does not end there; we live in the year 2011, not 271. Roman
Dacias history solved the questions of Romanization and abandonment. Now we have
one last hurdle: survival. For the next thousand years Dacia served as the generous (if
unwilling) host of many barbarian tribes. The list looks like something Roman mothers
would use to scare their children: Goths, Vandals, Huns, Slavs (well, maybe not the last
one), and many more. The question is what happened to the proto-Romanians in this
time. Did they die off? Did they get evicted from Dacia? Did they become the lower
class of this new barbarian order? Or, is it possible that they still played a role in this


[1] Bennett, 1997. p. 167.

[2] Everitt, 2009. p. 173.

[3] Bejan, 1998. p. 161.

[4] Goldsworthy, Adrian. How Rome Fell : Death of a Superpower. New Haven, CT, USA: Yale
University Press, 2009. p 121.

[5] Ibidem. p. 165. Other developments included a rise in trade goods, reconstruction of fortresses,
expansion eastward, and the rebuilding of roads.

[6] Kulikowski, Michael. Romes Gothic Wars. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press,
2007. p. 40.

[7] Kulikowski, 2007. p. 67-70.

[8] J ordanes. Getica. XI, 67.

[9] Ibidem. IV, 25.

[10] Kulikowski, 2007. p. 41.

[11] Husar, 2002. p. 597.

[12] Bejan, 1998. p. 170.

[13] Diaconescu, A. The towns of Roman Dacia: an overview of recent research. ed. Hanson, W.
S. and Haynes, I. P. Roman Dacia: the Making of a Provincial Society. Portsmouth, RI, USA :
J ournal of Roman Archaeology, 2004. p. 120.

[14] Aurelius Victor. De Caesaribus. 33, 3; Eutropius, Brevarium. IX, 8, 2 and 15,1; Rufius Festus.
Brevarium on the Accomplishments of the Roman People. VIII; Historia Augusta, Aurelian. 39,
7; Orosius. Historiarum adversum paganos. VII, 22, 7 and 23, 4; Jordanes. Romana. 217. All
sources translated in Murgescu, Bogdan. Istoria Romniei n Texte. Bucharest, Romania : Corint,
2001. pp. 55-56.

[15] Vopiscus. Aurelian. 39, 7.

[16] Bejan, 1998. p. 173.

[17] Goldsworthy, 2009. p. 122; Diaconescu, A. 2004. p. 130.

[18] Watson, Alaric. Aurelian and the Third Century. London, GBR: Routledge, 1999. p. 155.

[19] Mcsy, Andrs. Pannonia and Upper Moesia : a history of the middle Danube provinces of
the Roman Empire. London ; Boston : Routledge & K. Paul, 1974. p. 209.

[20] Ibidem. p. 211.

[21] Vekony, 2000. p. 141.

[22] Husar, 2002. pp. 600-604.

[23] Ibidem. p. 609.

[24] Mcsy, 1974. p. 206.

[25] Peachin, Michael. Roman imperial titulature and chronology, A.D. 235-284, Parts 235-284.
Leiden, NL : Brill, 1989. p. 81.

[26] Bejan, 1998. p. 176.

[27] Historia Augusta, Tyranni Triginta, 10:8.

[28] Husar, 2002. p. 614.

[29] Ibidem. p. 609.

[30] Ibidem. p. 608.

[31] Ibidem. p. 614.

[32] Ibidem. p. 615.

[33] Ibidem. pp. 617-619.

[34] Diaconescu, 2004. p. 132.

[35] Ardevan, Radu. On the Latest Inscriptions of Roman Dacia. Poster at the 13
Congress of Greek and Latin Epigraphy. Oxford, UK : University of Oxford, 2-7 September,
2007. p. 9. Accessed online:, J anuary
17 2011.

[36] Hgel, Peter. Ultimele decenii ale stapnirii romane n Dacia (Traianus Decius Aurelian).
Cluj-Napoca, Romania : Nereamia Napocae, 2003. p. 287.

[37] Husar, 2002. p. 616.

[38] Gzdac, Cristian. Coins and the abandonment of Dacia. Acta Musei Napocensis. 35/I. Cluj-
Napoca, Romania : Ministrul Culturii, 1998. p. 234.

[39] Southern, Pat. The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. London, UK; New York,
USA : Routledge, 2001. p. 120.

[40] Watson, 1999. pp 54-55.

[41] Ibidem. p. 155.

[42] Husar, 2002. p. 626.

[43] Bejan, 1998. p. 179.

[44] Watson, 1999. p. 156.

[45] Mcsy, 1974. p. 211.

[46] Tth, Endre. The Roman Province of Dacia. ed. Kpeczi, Bla et al. History of
Transylvania, I. Boulder, Colorado, USA : Social Science Monographs [u.a.], 2002. p. 340. p.

[47] Goldsworthy, 2009. p. 122.

[48] Husar, 2002. p. 632.

[49] J ordanes. Romana. 217. Bejan, 1998. p. 174.

[50] Burns, Thomas S. A History of the Ostrogoths. Bloomington, USA : Indiana University Press,
1991. p. 31; Watson, 1999. p. 155.

[51] Husar, 2002. p. 633.

[52] Watson, 1999. p. 157.

[53] Husar, 2002. p. 624.

[54] Southern, 2001. p. 121.

[55] Ibidem. p. 225.

[56] Watson, 1999. p. 156.

[57] Lewis, John. Nothing Less than Victory. Decisive wars and the Lessons of History. Princeton :
Princeton University Press, 2010. p. 119.

[58] The phrasing was used by Linda Ellis to describe the theory against continuity in Ellis, L.
Terra Deserta: Population, Politics, and the [de]colonization of Dacia. World Archaeology, Vol.
30, No. 2, Population and Demography (Oct., 1998). Taylor & Francis Ltd.

[59] Haynes, I. P. and Hanson, W.S. An Introduction to Roman Dacia. Roman Dacia: the
Making of a Provincial Society. Portsmouth, RI, USA : Journal of Roman Archaeology, 2004. p.

[60] The work of Ioana A. Oltean is a good example of this explosion in rural archaeology. A
synthesis is given in Oltean, Ioana A. Dacia. Landscape, colonisation, Romanisation, Routledge,
London, New York, Routledge, 2007.

[61] Wanner, 2010. p. 117.

[62] Ibidem. p. 115.

[63] Wanner, 2010. pp. 118-119.

[64] Diaconescu, 2004. p. 133.

[65] Ibidem. p. 121.

[66] Ibidem. p. 134.

[67] Wanner, 2010. p. 107, 114.

[68] MacKendrick, 1975. p. 126.

[69] Wanner, 2010. p. 118.

[70] Among the evidence presented by Wanner was an inscribed depiction of Christ.

[71] Diaconescu, 2004. pp. 135-136.

[72] Ibidem. pp. 131-133.

[73] Goldsworthy, 2009. p. 122.

[74] Madgearu, Alexandru. Rolul Crestinismului in Formarea Poporului Roman [The Role of
Christianity in the Formation of the Romanian People]. Bucharest, Romania : Editura BIC ALL,
2001. p. 37.

[75] Madgearu, Alexandru. Istoria Militar a Daciei Post-Romane, 275-376. Trgoviste,
Romania : Cetatea de Scaun, 2008. pp. 90.

[76] A thorough analysis is given in Micle, Dorel. Digital Cartography and spatial analysis
elements of the Dacian-Roman rural habitat in South-Western Dacia between the 2
and the 5

century A.D.. Sibiu : Lucian Blaga University, 2008 and Bejan, Adrian. Banatul in secolele IV-
XII [Banat in the 4
to 12
centuries]. Timisoara: Editura de Vest, 1995.

[77] Ellis, 1998. pp. 231-232.

[78] Gzdac, 1998. p. 273.

[79] Madgearu, 2001. p. 34.

[80] Diaconescu, 2004. p. 129. We are restricted to this era since in the seventh century the
Bulgarians separate modern Romania from the Byzantine Empire, causing trade to grind to a halt.
This prevents accurate dating of the citys habitation afterwards, but it is entirely possible that the
cities continued to be inhabited after this time.

[81] Madgearu, 2001. p. 35; Madgearu, 2008. p.88.

[82] Wanner, 2010. pp. 311-312; 316-317.

[83] MacKendrick, 1975. p. 143.

[84] Vekony, 2000. p. 154.


The withdrawal of Roman administration from Dacia signifies the start of a new
(and unfortunately worse) era in Romanian history. It is best illustrated by the old
Romanian proverb the water passes, but the stones remain. Far from medical advice
about kidney stones, it describes a thousand years of history in a nutshell. A barbarian
torrent poured over Romania: Goths, Huns, Gepids, Slavs, Avars, Bulgars, Magyars,
Pechenegs, Cumans and Mongols all paid a visit. A thousand years would pass from the
abandonment of Dacia to the creation of the first Romanian countries. In one sense, this
could be viewed as the most tragic disastrous time in Romanian history and yet, in
another sense, it would be hard to see the development of a separate Romanian identity
without it. There would be no Romanians today if the barbarians did not cut the imperial
umbilical cord. So what happened to the Daco-Romans in this time? What is it that
caused the Romanus to become a Romn?

Firstly we should note that there was no sudden breakdown in communication
between the empire and its former Dacian province. Dacias situation was nothing like
in post-Roman Britain; the Danube may be big but it is not the English Channel. There
was never anything like a Roman Iron Curtain on the Danube. Roman forts remained
on its northern bank, and with them came Roman influence. Trade with the empire
continued throughout late antiquity. Though Hungarians argue that Roman goods do not
prove the survival there of a Daco-Roman population, because such objects have been
unearthed over almost the whole of Europe,
the fact is that the case of Dacia is
unmatched in the whole non-Roman world.
We are not talking a few coins here and
there, but many hundreds at a time!

A second problem is believing that culture is static, which leads one to the wrong
conclusion that any change in culture is evidence for a change in populations. One
glaring example where this is shown to not be the case is in the changing burial practices
in Dacia.
It is known that the Romans cremated their dead while the Goths buried their
own; you say potato, I say inhumation. It is also well known that burials in post-
Roman Dacia changed from cremation to inhumation. Taken in isolation, the evidence
suggests that the Goths had completely replaced the Romans, and that Roman culture
came to an end. The argument sounds logical... until one realizes that the same change
from cremation to inhumation occured in Gaul and Italy at the same time. In other words,
one does not have to view inhumation as a non-Roman practice, unless one believes
Italy itself stopped being Roman! The change of customs could just further evidence
cultural exchange between Dacia and the Roman world.

The first barbarians to enter Dacia were, incidentally, more Dacians. Known as
the Carpi, they are perhaps the most fearsome tribe to share their name with a type of
fish. They invaded Dacia immediately after the Roman abandonment, but this was not
some glorious Dacian reconquista. Rather, it resulted from the Goths taking over their
former Moldavian homeland. Gothic expansion came directly at the expense of the
Carpi, and the Carpi moved into Dacia as a result.

The saga of the Carps seems to be a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire.
Having escaped their barbarian pursuers, they entered the crosshairs of the Roman army
by trespassing into the former province. In 272, possibly in retaliation for entering Dacia,
Aurelian attacked them and claimed to have moved them south of the Danube. It is
telling that even here Romes resettling policy was half-baked at best, as the Carpi
remained a constant factor north of the Danube for nearly 50 years. Diocletian certainly
had plenty of Carpi which he claimed to have settled in Pannonia in 296. Even then,
Galerius had ample supply for his own resettlement in 307, consisting of a great
number of captives.
Roman exaggerations aside, the Carpi were more than willing to
be moved due to their pressing Gothic neighbors.
Aurelius Victor even claimed that all
of the Carpi were moved, many of their own will rather than as prisoners.

Constantine hammered the final nail in the coffin of the Carpi during his
campaigns in 317, when he took the title of Carpicus Maximus. From then on the Carpi
disappear as a major tribe. The last we hear of them is in the fifth century, when
mentions the Carpodaci,
but Zosimus (to the chagrin of many Romanian
historians from Communist times

) was also the most incompetent Greek historian the
empire had ever seen (an honor for which he had stiff competition!).
His reference is
completely unreliable, and it is certain that a major Carpic presence had ended in Dacia
by the early fourth century (i.e. after only 40 years).
The Carpi were replaced by the Goths: vicious, bloodthirsty primitives who
sacked Rome and nearly ended civilization or were they something else? It is hard to
describe the Goths around Dacia as genocidal barbarians, mostly because it is not true. If
anything, the Goths were quite cosmopolitan: Roman provincials, Dacians, Germans,
and other tribes all provided visible influences on Gothic culture.
Though there was
undoubtedly a Gothic elite, and Gothic political dominance, the settlements north of
the Danube were predominantly non-Gothic.
There was no barbarization; rather, the
Goths attempted to imitate the Romans! Linguistic evidence shows it was not
uncommon to see Roman goods and even Roman manners at a Gothic dinner table.

Some aspects were undoubtedly lost but it seems Roman culture continued to spread in
the region even after Rome formally abandoned it.

The Gothic takeover of Dacia was hardly a blitzkrieg either. the first Gothic finds
in Dacia appear around 300 AD, but a major expansion into the intracarpathian region
occurred only fifty years later.
Early on this may have been due to the (hypothetical)
terms Aurelian had set on them. The Romans civilians left behind may also have played
a role, as the Goths were not looking to give the Romans casus belli to rescue their
To another extent, this was just barbarian organization (or lack-there-of) at
work: intertribal warfare left little time for exploration.

The Goths slow advance after they became more unified is more difficult to
explain. Transylvania remained out of Gothic control even when the Goths had the
strength to take it. For instance, the Origo Gothica tells us that in 334 the Goths sent an
army into Central Transylvania, where after defeating and plundering the Vandals,

The name is itself a conjugation of Carpi and Dacians. It is believed that this conjugation is used to
distinguish the Carpi still in Dacia from those in settled in the empire. At the very least this shows that it
making hideously impractical conjugations is not exclusive to modern historians.
It was common during the communist era for Romanian historians to emphasize the Dacian aspect of
Romanian ethnicity at the expense of everything else. This had a lot to do with Ceauescus independent
policy towards Moscow. The idea was simple: the Romanians were clearly mostly Dacian, Romania is a
2050 year old state, and (as a natural consequence) Ceauescu is the legitimate heir of Burebista as
absolute ruler of the Dacians/Romanians. The quote by Zosimos was used to strengthen the Dacian
presence in Romanian history at the expense of the barbarians. It was one of the worst bastardizations of
Romanian history, and unfortunately it maligned the reputation of Romanian historiography as a whole for
some time.
[they] returned home again. Evidently, their homes were still much further east.
in 370, at the twilight of Gothic power north of the Danube, their central region was still
Needless imperialism seems to not have been on the Gothic agenda.

Transylvania remained out of Gothic hands ultimately for one reason: it was
seemingly pointless to conquer. There had been some barbarian squabbling over
but by the fourth century everyone knew the real action was on the Roman
frontier. A Roman general would pay good money for a chance at becoming emperor,
and a little barbarian help could go a long way in that regard. The Goths knew this: they
were a part of both Constantines army, and that of his rival Licinius.
If work failed to
pay, raids were always an acceptable alternative. Barbarians were thus drawn towards
the Danube and away from Dacia. The Roman Empire still had plenty of coins, while
Dacia had hardly any.

When considering Roman attitudes towards Dacia, Aurelians abandonment
seems to have been considered a strategic withdrawal, one that was hoped to be
reversed. Constantines stone bridge across the Danube, built in 328, was an ominous
portent. Ending the subsidies paid to barbarians made things even more obvious:
Constantine was clearly preparing to retake Dacia.
In 332 he launched a thorough
campaign in the region to show the barbarians who was boss. To some extent he
succeeded: Roman forts on the northern bank of the Danube were repaired, and a new
milestone at Romula suggest the advance at least reached central Oltenia.
circulation also increased tremendously south of the Carpathians, both in towns and
Roman confidence was shown in their propaganda: Constantine took the
title Dacicus Maximus and issued coins claiming Gothia was subdued and that Dacia
was restored,
a fair bit before either had occurred. It was a Roman Mission
Accomplished, sadly sans aircraft carrier. Constantines death and a barbarian backlash
in 337 brought things to a grinding halt. The Romans did at least retake Oltenia, but
Transylvania never saw another Roman governor. Coin circulation north of the
Carpathians never increased enough to indicate a return to pre-Aurelian days. Still, the
Danubian toehold was enough for Rome to influence developments in the region for
over a century.

By far the biggest cultural change in Dacia was the spread of Christianity. Even
as far north as Porolissum one sees pagan temples converted into churches in the early
fourth century.
Similarly, a donarium
discovered at Biertan (southern Transylvania)
with a Latin inscription

A fancy term for gift.
confirms a Latin speaking Christian community in the region.

Those arguing against Romanian continuity have tried minimizing the discoverys
significance, for instance suggesting the artefact was Greek since its donor bore a Greek
but this ignores the very language the donation is written in! The Roman
Empire was multiethnic, and Greek names should not surprise us, but names have hardly
any bearing on a persons culture in such an environment.
The donarium is yet another
piece of evidence to confirm that the major language of correspondence was Latin. The
The inscription reads EGO ZENOVIUS VOTUM POSVI, or I, Zenovius, offer this gift.
spread of Christianity in this language in post-Roman Dacia is confirmed by the Latin-
based fundamental Christian terms in modern Romanian.

The Biertan Donarium represents solid evidence (both literally and figuratively) for a Daco-Roman
Christian population in Dacia. Its unlikely any barbarian would have brought such a large bronze
object as loot to Dacia; most barbarians preferred to golden rewards for raiding rather than bronze.

This does not mean, of course, that Dacia became some Christian haven, as
some have desperately tried to claim.
The Christians north of the Danube received
their fair share of persecution, just as anywhere else. They were undoubtedly not very
numerous in the third century, and it did not suddenly explode in popularity after
Aurelians withdrawal either. The spread of Christianity in Dacia occurred very similar
that in the rest of the empire: slowly, facing persecution, but ultimately prevailing.

In this manner, we can say the Goths actually assisted in spreading Christianity
in Dacia. Gothic raids south of the Danube had been bringing Roman prisoners to the
north since the mid-third century, many coming from as far as Asia Minor.
Many of
these prisoners were Christians, and they assisted in converting the Goths (and anyone
else in the region) by unofficial proselytism or bottom-up influence.
Christianization of the Goths of course makes it difficult to identify the owner of

This might seem like an odd argument, since it relies on the Romanians being Christianized in Dacia.
However, as Greek was the predominant language in the Balkans, the Romanians would certainly have
had a few Greek words in their Christian vocabulary had they been Christianized there. The dominance of
Latin in Romanian Christian terminology is an indication that the Romanians converted to Christianity in
the region as well.
discovered religious artifacts, though most scholars agree that Arian

Christian artifacts
are predominantly Gothic while those of the Trinitarian variety were predominantly
Roman settlers and prisoners.
Still, the battle between the different type of
Christianities was ultimately a secondary aspect of the spread of the new faith in general.
It may be a difficult pill for some to swallow, but were it not for the Goths (and their
prisoners) the Romanians would likely have been Christianized centuries later, and not
have gained the Latin Christian vocabulary they possess today. Ironically, the barbarians
had further Romanized the Daco-Romans!
There is one well-recorded individual whose life sheds much light on the ethnic
situation north of the Danube. His name was Ulfila, and he would become the bishop of
the Goths and translate the bible into Gothic a good half-century before it was even
translated into Latin. Not only is his Bible itself important, as it reveals Latin loanwords
in Gothic, but Ulfilas life is important in its own right. His ancestors were prisoners
taken by the Goths out of Asia minor, but he was a third generation Goth, born outside
of the empire.
Nevertheless, Ulfila knew both Latin and Greek, languages he
presumably learned from Roman prisoners in Dacia.
Furthermore, his title of bishop
of the Goths is a misnomer. He was actually bishop of the Christians in the Getic
[Gothic] Lands. This is not an arbitrary distinction: it evidences that Ulfila was
presiding over a multiethnic Christian community north of the Danube, composed of
Romans, Goths, and other barbarians.

Gothic power north of the Danube ended in 376 when the Huns thundered in
from the east. Ambrose covered the event with ludicrous brevity: the Huns threw
themselves upon the Alans, the Alans upon the Goths, and the Goths upon the Taifali
and Sarmatae
and so another round of barbarian billiards ended. Some Goths fled to
Transylvania, in a place called Caucaland, but most went to the Danube to ask Emperor
Valens to let them cross into the empire. The emperor decided to let them in, with
disastrous results: Thrace, Pannonia, and the whole country as far as Macedon and
Thessaly were filled with Barbarians, who pillaged all in their way.
It was another
not-so-brilliant decision in Roman history: only two years later the Goths would crush
the Romans at Adrianople and they eventually sacked Rome itself. This is however,
where we will leave the Goths: they ironically completely fall off the radar of Romanian
history just as they become hugely important for the Romans. Gothic rule had come to
an end in Dacia. Their domination of 75 years was not even half as long as the Roman
one, and it was certainly far less thorough.

With all of this talk of expulsions, migrations, and conquest, it is important we
consider who was moving where, and to differentiate between truth and exaggeration.
For the longest time historians promoted an idea that various tribes completely displaced
one another.
Ancient historians claimed as much the Romans loved mentioning the

One of the theological schools of thought that found popularity in the fourth century. Its fundamental
difference from traditional Christian thought was that it believed the Son was begotten and therefore
inferior and subordinate to the Father. The position was to some extent logical, as even the New
Testament claimed J esus stated I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I (John 14:28),
but it nevertheless was declared heretical and eventually ousted by the Nicene/Trinitarian Christian school.
mighty hand of the emperor moving or exterminating entire tribes and it was assumed
they were telling the truth. At the same time, the world was artificially divided into
completely distinct tribes and peoples: the sixth century writer Procopius for instance,
portrayed the Danube a rigid frontier between the barbarians and Romans.
Some have
tried using Procopius to suggest that Roman civilization in Dacia had indeed ended, such
an interpretation is riddeled with bias that dates back to 19
century European
colonialism, when the great powers tried to carve up the world with crisply-defined
borders. In the same way, maps of antiquity made by historians from that time tried to
create regions with clear borders which one could label Huns or Goths or
Romans. Unfortunately, this was a profoundly stupid idea; one need only look at
modern Africa to see the results. In the ancient world, one where we cannot even speak
of nation-states or nations, this idea is even more absurd. Any sort of frontier region
such as Dacia was bound to be polyglot and multiethnic in nature.

Historians in the nineteenth century (and even in more recent times!) viewed the Huns and other
barbarians as brutes that destroyed and exterminated everything they met, as shown in this
illustration from 1873. Such ideas however, were completely alien to the ancient mind. It was not
uncommon to see a variety of people coexisting in any barbarian confederation.

To set the record straight: no migration into Dacia ever wiped the slate clean the
previous inhabitants. When some Goths fled to Transylvania to escape the Huns, they
called their new-found home Caucaland after the Dacian tribe of the Caucones. The
name proves that Dacians lived among the Goths, and undoubtedly there were plenty of
Romans and Sarmatians as well.
The Huns were also not genocidal oafs. Priscus, a
Greek historian from the fifth century, was surprised to find Gothic, Hunnic and Latin
spoken in Hunnic lands.
Even the Gothic settlements now supposedly abandoned
did not change in culture for forty years after their supposed abandonment!
Given all
of these facts, it would be pretty hard to argue any barbarian tribe was waging a war of
extermination in Dacia.

Similarly, Roman influence north of the Danube did not end with the arrival of
the barbarians. Trade across the river was almost a historical constant, as is attested both
by numerous bronze coins on the one hand, and the absence of gold coins on the other.

Gold coins must have existed north of the Danube at one point, because it is hard to
imagine Roman tribute being paid in bronze. Yet, the absence of such coins shows that
most of them were paid back to the empire to purchase of luxury goods;
vanity was not
something exclusively Roman. Peaceful trade between the barbarians and Romans was
actually more common than war.
Ulfila himself is a testament of this cultural
exchange: he may have been born a Goth but he was given a Roman burial.

With the survival of Roman influence one notes also the survival of the Latin
language. Latins development in Dacia was certainly far different than it was in
Britain had witnessed a more superficial Romanization than Dacia which
explains why it disappeared when the Romans withdrew from the island province. Even
so, Latin might also have disappeared in Romania, had it fallen out of use among the
new rulers (as occurred in Britain). Latin survived as Dacias lingua franca however,
long after the Roman withdrawal. Priscus evidenced its vigorous use during the Hunnic
era, claiming jesters at Attilas court even made jokes using a confused jumble of Latin,
Hunnic, and Gothic! For all intents and purposes Latin had remained the international
retaining the same function it had when it was under Roman rule. This is one
of the fundamental differences between post-Roman Britain and Dacia.

The whole gamut of evidence makes it clear that the Danube was only a political
frontier and not an ethnic or cultural one. The region was assigned to the dominant
political force, so in a real sense the barbarians held the left bank of the Danube (as
Priscus noted), but this does not mean that no Romans lived there among them. The
unfortunate aspect is that primary authors cared more for politics than ethnography;
most of their writings deal only with ruling (barbarian) elites.
Conquered people like
the Goths, or the Daco-Romans before them, simply fall off the radar screen. Even the
Goths were in a sense passed over by history one would doubt their existence were it
not for the well-documented archaeological sites.
It is doubtless that the Daco-
Romans were in a similar position. Modern historians (those who do not believe in
magically disappearing tribes anyway) have to piece together the truth from archaeology,
and the archaeology confirms an ethnically mixed landscape.

The new Hunnic masters were certainly a mysterious group. Almost nothing is
known about their language, though there are theories that they originated from well
inside of Asia. Romes major problem with them in the late fourth century was only in
its eastern provinces of Armenia,
and our first mention of any Danubian Huns is only
in 400!
A powerful Hun state on the Danube only emerged in the 420s when the
Romans end up paying tribute to Hunnic chiefs.
Even then the true culture of the Huns
remains elusive: from what we can tell most of their army was Germanic,
and even the
name Attila is believed to be Germanic in character.

Whoever the Huns were, they certainly made their presence felt. Their arrival
had resulted whether by proxy of the Goths or not in Roman territories south of the
Danube being laid to waste.
Being unable to tame the barbarian threat with
overwhelming force, the Romans switched to their other tried-and-true method of
dealing with barbarians, namely throwing money at them. This might have been more
effective had they been physically used as projectiles, as the tribute only encouraged
further attacks, resulting in even higher tribute! The Huns were able to consolidate their
dominance north of the Danube with Romes generous if unwilling financial backing.
Attila used his wealth to do a little redecorating of the Roman frontier, namely by
smashing everything on it. Most settlements south of the Danube received a generous
twenty-inch thick ash layer in the archaeological record due to his actions.

For all the bloodshed they caused to their enemies, the Huns were not
particularly cruel to their subjects. This is not to say they became docile creatures laden
with Roman loot when in their own lands, but in general the Huns, not being overly
needed subjects on their farms and in their armies. The Huns of Priscus
day were certainly not the nomads of the fourth century. Influences from their Roman
and barbarian subjects had made Hunnic society a bit more civilized.
described villages ruled over by Hunnic chiefs, and was surprised to find a Greek man
living handsomely among the barbarians, who described the barbarian way of life as
consisting of enjoying what they have got, and [being] not at all, or very little,
harassed. Whether this noble savage idea was entirely valid is another issue, but we
should note Priscus surprise at finding Grecophones in the north as indicating that the
majority of their Roman prisoners were Latins.

Transylvania appears to have been mostly ignored by the Huns. The center of
Hunnic power in the late fourth century was in Moldova or Muntenia, where the old
Gothic ones had been, and in the fifth century they it moved to the Pannonian plain.

What may at first seem surprising is that Transylvania situated between these two
centers does not show any trace of Hunnic settlement.
It is easy to understand why
the Huns never spread to Transylvania however. Though Transylvania was rich in
natural resources such as salt and gold, these could easily be received as tribute from
Gothic or Daco-Roman subjects. Even if the Huns would have wanted to invade
Transylvania, chances are they would not have been able to do it; the terrain was simply
not suitable to the Hunnic way of war. In general, firing a bow from a galloping horse in
the middle of a forest is a health hazard to all involved, and the Huns may have just
decided to leave well enough alone.

The Huns vanished almost without a trace after Attilas reign. Attilas death was
arguably ancient historys greatest anticlimax: a combination of drunkenness and a
nosebleed was an unexpected way to go for a man who had cowed both Roman
emperors. With no direct successor, it was Hun against Hun, with everyone else taking
the chance to reassert their independence.
Some tribes tried to pick up the pieces while
others decided to find a new home south of the Danube.

The regions north of the Danube became a political mess for the next 100 years.
A Gepid resurgence followed in Attilas wake, centered around the Tisza river in
The Romans thought the best way to deal with them was to subsidize the
Lombards to their west as a counterweight... but then the Lombards became a headache
in and of themselves. The Eastern Roman Empire did its best to stabilize the region,
typically by choosing client kings. One royal (probably Gepidic) burial discovered at
Apahida in Transylvania belonging to a king named Omahar (who was kind enough to
put his name on his rings for future archaeologists) is littered with symbols of Roman
power, including fibulae, rings with Christian imagery, and the Roman title vir
In short, those in power in Transylvania made sure to let everyone know
they had friends in high places. Transylvania in this time experienced a sort of pax
Gepidica (Gepid Peace) where at least archaeologically the local Romanic culture
appears to have bounced back from the shock of the Hunnic invasion.

The fragmented kingdoms north of the Danube were only unified by force in 567
by a new barbarian group: the Avars. Like the Huns, they came from the unknown
plains of Central Asia. Centered on the Hungarian plain, they would remain the most
powerful barbarian force in the region for nearly two hundred years. Once again, the
change of hats does not mean everyone else simply disappeared. Archaeology confirms
the presence of not only the former Germanic masters, but more importantly, a Roman
population in southern Hungary that appears to have survived since antiquity!
like the Huns, the Avars certainly had a lot to learn from their new subjects: it is possible
that even within 30 years the Avars looked completely different from those that had
burst into Hungary from across the Ukranian Carpathians.

A familiar people also make an entrance on historys stage in this time: the Slavs.
Nobody is quite sure where they came from. According to the (lack of) information in
the Roman sources, the Slavs just appeared on the Danube in 545. There is no record of
how they got there, but this might be typical Roman myopia; anything happening further
out beyond the frontier was usually not recorded. Some argued that they came from
northeastern Europe, but the evidence for this is tenuous. Others have found another
explanation: the Slavs were simply made up by Byzantine/Roman

That is
not to say that the Slavs are a myth (given that there are hundreds of millions of Slavs
alive today), but rather it indicates that Slav was, much like Goth, an umbrella term
for many different people that gathered around an aristocracy which had risen to power
by waging wars against the Romans. They only emerged from the shadows when the
Romans recognized them as a unique threat.
The Byzantine response to their changing neighbours was to lock the door and
throw away the key, attempting to make the Danubian border impregnable. The idea was
not exactly new even J ulius Caesar had thought of fortifying the Danube five centuries
earlier but the new emperor J ustinian intended to actually carry it out. The project
ended up being wildly over budget (not exactly atypical for government projects),
resulting in over 600 fortresses needed to be built (or rebuilt) but leaving the empire

The term Byzantine Empire came to designate the Eastern Roman Empire during the Middle Ages.
The term is entirely a fabrication of modern historians, as every source that existed until the empires fall
in 1453 ever called it Byzantine. In spite of its completely fabricated nature and its derogatory
connotation (or perhaps because of it) the name has stuck in modern historiography. To prevent confusion,
the term Byzantine Empire will be applied throughout the rest of this book.
economically exhausted. Byzantine coins became so rare that their circulation
effectively stopped north of the Danube for two decades. The defences were somewhat
of a mixed success: the Danube remained the dividing line between the Romans to the
south and the barbarians to the north, but by stifling trade the new defences actually
aggravated barbarian aggression against the empire. The defences were considered a
success, even though hardly a year went by when the Balkans were not attacked.
the barbarians could not buy the Roman goods they wanted, they attempted to take them
by force.

North of the Danube, Romanian culture began to spread all over the modern
territory of the Romanians. The emerging proto-Romanian culture was homogeneous in
nature, in spite of the fact that archaeologists gave it three names.

The cause of this
spread was likely a migration from Transylvania to the eastern and southern plains,
where they were reinforced by newly-settled captives from the empire.
culture maintained strong ties with the empire; the cemeteries at Bratei in Transylvania
showed remarkable similarity to Roman traditions south of the Danube.
The migration
was, of course, not like some great trek of the Israelites through the Sinai desert. Rather,
it appears to have been a gradual diffusion over the period of one hundred years.
By this time the terms Roman and Christian had become synonymous, both in
the Balkans and in Romania. The number of artefacts, including moulds of cross-shaped
jewelry, indicates the religions rapid spread among the Daco-Romans, who thankfully
did not mind being ostentatious about it.
We should not assume that it was exclusively
Roman, regardless of the claims of ancient authors. Nevertheless, the vast majority of
the artefacts were discovered in Daco-Roman settlements, and it may even be that
bronze pectoral crosses acted as both religious and ethnic identifiers in the north,
differentiating Christian Romans from pagan barbarians.

The conversion of the Romanians might seem slightly anticlimactic. Most
history books portray conversion as an event: in some year some leader decided that
everyone he ruled should be a Christian. Constantine and Theodosius IIs conversion of
the Roman Empire, or Clovis conversion of the Franks in 496 all come to mind. By
contrast, there is no concrete date, no Year X, in which we can say the Romanians
converted to Christianity, nor can the work be credited to any one man. They are not
alone in this regard: the Lombards, Ostrogoths, and Gepids also do not have a precise
date of conversion but they nevertheless converted. It is in some sense unrealistic to
portray conversion as an official order rather than a cultural movement.
Even in the
Roman Empire, when Theodosius declared Christianity the official religion he was
mostly acknowledging a fait accompli; much of the empire converted long before that
date. Therefore, there is nothing surprising or unique about the fact that the conversion
of the Romanians just happened. It was expected, if not downright predictable, given the
close ties between the Romanians and Byzantium.

In Muntenia it is called Ipoteti-Cndeti-Ciurel, in Transylvania it is called Bratei, and in Moldova it is
called Costia-Botoana.
The seventh century saw the Byzantine defenses rupture like a water balloon,
with the Slavs spilling all over the Balkans. The Avars breached the border in 602, and
the Slavs quickly followed in their wake. The new emperor Heraclius may not have been
aware of what was happening (he sometimes did not even know his cities were
), but it soon became clear the Slavs were not going to go home: whole
communities were resettling in the Balkans.
It was a move that would redefine this
corner of Europe: the Slavs would dominate and assimilate the lands south of the
Danube, while the Romanians would dominate the north (at least in Romania,
Secondly, the Slavic invasion effectively separated the Latins of
Southeastern Europe: the Aromanians of the Balkans and the modern Romanians would
from this point on develop as separate people.

The role of the Slavs in Romanian history is complicated, often being minimized
or exaggerated depending on which political wind was blowing through Bucharest.

Archaeologists in Communist Romania fluctuated between making the Slavs docile
creatures and warlike brutes; the only constant was that they were considered primitives,
lacking the potters wheel, migrating everywhere, and cremating their dead as heathens
as well (by now, the good Christian Daco-Romans were burying their dead). After the
Prague Spring of 1968, Romanian scholars tried to make the early Slavs analogous to
the Soviets, turning them into aggressors who destroyed a budding Romanian
civilization. In turn every effect they had was considered bad: material culture declined,
church organization collapsed, and there was resurgence in pagan rituals (though not
pagan beliefs).
The Slavs were minimized in the archaeological record as well: their
presence in Romania was reduced to a simple layover on their journey from Ukraine to
the Balkans.

To some extent this was correct: it is hard to deny the Slavs cremating their dead
or not possessing the potters wheel. Minimizing a Slavic presence in Romania was
wrong they were there since the mid-sixth century at least but the Slavic influence
upon the Romanians was not great at the time. Whether this is because their culture was
too primitive or because they lived in separate villages is up for debate. True, Romanian
borrowings from Slavic for state organization (voievod warlord, boier noble,
rzboinic warrior, etc.) or religious structure (preot priest, botez baptism,
clugr monk) pepper the language, but at this time the Slavs hardly had any
organization themselves, let alone enough to inspire those around them. Most of these
words were only borrowed in the ninth century, and they have a particular Bulgarian tint.
The Bulgars, at this time hundreds of miles away near the Caucausus, still needed to
come in and shake things up.

Bulgar raids on the Danube were first noted in 480AD, but they only established
a permanent presence in the region in the region after 650. Their story was not similar to
that of most invaders: they were refugees escaping a foreign attacker. They appear to
have settled in Dobrogea,
though hardly any archaeological evidence exists to show
for it until the eighth century.
The Bulgars quickly realized the Balkans were not a land
of tranquility, and established their own rule over the neighbouring Slavs as a buffer
against Byzantium and the Avars, creating the first Bulgarian state between the Balkan
Mountains and the Danube. The Bulgars developed a love-hate relationship with the
Byzantines, making for a confusing jumble of wars and peace treaties. To provide one
example: when the Bulgar leader Sabinos made a peace offering to the Byzantines in
762, he was quickly ousted by his boyars (nobles) who claimed the terms would enslave
Bulgaria to the Romans. When his successor made peace with the Romans barely a year
later, the same boyars agreed to it, claiming the terms to be good;
what caused them
to reconsider will remain a mystery. The endless wars also did not stop the Bulgarian
rulers from taking inspiration from the Byzantines when making their palaces.
It was,
put it simply, a difficult relationship.

Unfortunately, piecing together the relations between the Romanians and their
neighbours during this time is difficult. The eighth century is one of the worst-recorded
centuries in Eastern European history. To give but one example, the Avars disappear
completely from the written record between 700 and 790 and not a single Avar ruler is
named, even though they were one of the great powers of Europe.
Relying on written
sources to prove a Romanian presence (or a lack-there-of, for that matter) is therefore
illogical. Trying to attribute graves to ethnic groups is also becomes notably more tricky
as the whole of eastern Europe was an ethnic mess, to put it bluntly. Generally,
cremation graves are said to be Slavic, inhumation graves with the axis going North-
South are Bulgar, and inhumation graves going East-West go to the Romanians.
area was provably multilingual: in one recorded case, a Slavic man from north of the
Danube was able to pass himself off as a Roman general because he could speak Latin
Needless to say, he did not learn it by conversing with the trees, but rather
with the Latin proto-Romanians nearby. Perhaps the linguistic diversity of the region is
best shown by the word Vlach, a word of Germanic origin that came to be used by the
Slavs to denote the Romanians. That a word of Germanic origin was imported into
Slavic for referring to Latins suggests Romanias inhabitants were bilingual if not
trilingual, something which certainly is unexpected of a Dark Age culture.
however, did not deter the Greek Byzantines from pejoratively calling all northern
people barbarians.

Whatever one can say of Bulgar-Byzantine relations, it is clear the Bulgars were
not turning a blind-eye to the north. At the start of the ninth century the Avar qaganate (a
steppe version of kingdom) was wiped out by a combined Frankish-Bulgarian effort,
causing Bulgaria to occupy much of its eastern lands, which was named Bulgaria
beyond the Danube in Byzantine texts. Although Bulgarians have often expanded the
term to mean all of modern Romania and then some, in reality this may only have
stretched a little into southern Transylvania. In some instances this land acted as a
repository for Byzantine prisoners of war, as happened when the Bulgar khan deported
the inhabitants of Adrianople there in 813. Bulgar rule was however hardly iron-clad; in
general the locals were left to their own devices so long as the Bulgars could control the
salt trade from Transylvania.
This trade in turn made the local Romanian and Slavic
nobility wealthy enough to consolidate power over their nearby rivals and finally make
their own states.


Though Bulgarians often expand Bulgaria beyond the Danube to encompass all of Romania, the
actual extent of Bulgarian control north of the Danube remains a contested subject, as the striped
territory on the right map indicates. Bulgarian ruler likely ended at Alba Iulia in central
Transylvania, and never extended much beyond it, essentially covering half of Romania.

Though there is evidence for Romanians and Slavs coexisting since the sixth
the truth is that the majority of the Slavic influence upon the Romanians came
during this time of Bulgar supervision.
This came about, in particular, with the
introduction of Slavonic language and the Cyrillic alphabet in the Romanian space.
When Bulgaria converted to Christianity in the late ninth century, it produced profound
reverberations north of the Danube, where Bulgar culture permeated the local nobility.
Of course, this was not a one-way street: the changes in Bulgarian grammar dated from
the 800s indicates a Romanian influence on the language.

The pertinent question, given the rapid succession of barbarian tribes in Romania,
is if a Roman identity could have survived the tumultuous Dark Ages. Would the
Daco-Romans not have mingled with the newer settlers, and would they not have
disappeared as a result? Perhaps the best answer to this is given in the Deeds of St.
Demetrius, which discussed (among other things) that the Avars took a great number of
Roman prisoners in the late seventh century and settled them in Pannonia. Once there, it
seems the prisoners made themselves at home, mixed with the Bulgars, Avars, and
other nations and, in other words, were fruitful and multiplied. But did they become
barbarians? Much to anyones surprise, the chronicle goes on stating that these
Romans retained their identity and traditions with the small caveat that they began
calling themselves Sermesianoi (since they lived near Sirmium, a city in modern-day
northern Serbia), and the somewhat larger caveat that their ruler who was a Bulgar!

Still, for a people who might arguably have disappeared, they did surprisingly well for

It seems clear then, that a Roman-like identity could have survived north of the
Danube but not unchanged. The proto-Romanians gained their own local identities
and adopted the customs of their neighbours. This cosmopolitanism did not go unnoticed
by the Roman writers. The emperor Maurice noticed in his book Strategikon, written in
the late sixth century, that any refugees from north of the Danube were to be treated
with suspicion, for even though they were Romans, they forget their own people, and
prefer to gain the good will of the enemy.
If such tendencies were noted even in the
sixth century, then by the late eighth and ninth centuries the link between Romanians
and the Eastern Roman Empire, at least in a political sense, was broken. Of course, the
other side of the coin was never admitted by Byzantines, namely that they used the
Transdanubian Latins pragmatically as a source of manpower and supplies, as opposed
to acting out of brotherly affection for their fellow (ex-)Romans.
The barbarian
influence thus, while never being strong enough to erase the Roman heritage of the
Romanians, was strong enough to produce a local identity distinct from the empire: it is
in this time that we can finally speak of Romanians.

Though the link had been weakened ever since the Hunnic domination, the
Byzantine-Romans continued to think of the lands north of the Danube as Roman,
even when they had no way to enforce such a claim politically. One Byzantine
wrote of an expedition by the Byzantine general Priscus north of the Danube
in the late sixth century. When the Avar qagan heard that the Byzantines were
trespassing into his domains, he sent delegates to question Priscus on what he was doing
there with his army. Priscus claimed he was simply on a hunting trip undoubtedly a
poor explanation for wandering in enemy territory with several thousand armed men;
Priscus expedition was clearly intended as a show of force for the northern barbarians.
At this point, the Qagans diplomats stated that the general was walking on a foreign
land and tactfully warned that the general threatens the peace [between the qagan and
the Emperor], which is possibly the most diplomatic way someone was ever told to get
lost. At that point Priscus indignantly replied that the land is Roman, with its obvious
implications that a Roman general may trample about in it as he wished. It was an odd
retort to say the least, given that there had not been a Roman garrison north of the
Danube for centuries. While one could wonder as to why Priscus was so bad at making
excuses, his words were not disingenuous: they evidence that the Byzantines continued
to see the old territory of Dacia as Roman soil. Of course, Priscus could separate wishful
thinking from reality, since even he admitted that the Barbarian [pretends] that the
Romans lost it [the land] through the agency of the armies and of the law of war, but at
the very least it shows that Dacia was not lost and forgotten to the Roman world.

The eighth and ninth centuries can be considered a period of recovery for the
Romanians, and also the time at which the Romanians finished forming as a distinct
people. The entire Romanian space witnessed substantial demographic growth. The
plains of Muntenia began to be repopulated by the eighth century, likely an expansion
from the foothills into the plains.
A similar expansion of Roman-style pottery
(suggesting a movement of people, rather than mobile ceramics) is found in eighth
century northwestern Transylvania, suggesting a migration from the mountainous
Transylvanian heartland into the northwestern plains.
Relations with the Slavs
increased substantially, as is indicated by material remains at Nufalu-Someeni in
Transylvania, where it is hard to tell if we are dealing only with trade or with entirely
mixed Slavic-Romanian communities.

The relative peace in the region was due mostly to a particular nomadic group
living hundreds of kilometres away: the Khazars. A peculiar group that both Byzantium
and the Arabs attempted to convert to Christianity and Islam respectively, the Khazars
eventually snubbed both and chose J udaism. Allying with the Byzantines against the
Arabs and Persians, the Khazars established a large empire north of the Caucausus and
over Ukraine, acting as a roadblock for any other nomads hoping to reach Europe, and
thus shielding the Romanians.
The ensuing peace a Pax Chazarica played a
central role in the emergence of Romania from the Dark Ages.

Unfortunately, the circumstances meant that any cultural resurgence was going
to be Slavic and not Latin in nature. The Bulgarians had, in essence, cut the Roman
umbilical cord, and any society that emerged was going to be inspired by Bulgarian (and
indirectly, Byzantine) models. The burials in Alba Iulia (central Transylvania) for
instance, show a great preponderance of Bulgarian goods.
The strongest Bulgarian
influence was felt, unsurprisingly, in the territories the Bulgarians controlled directly. It
is in this time that Slavic terms like boier (noble), cneaz (prince), jupan/zhupan
(adminstrator), and rzboinic (warrior) enter the Romanian vocabulary, and that the
Slavonic form of Orthodox Christianity began to pervade the country.
Religious terms
of Slavonic origin entered Romanian in this time, including blagoslovire (blessing),
utrenie (morning service), and liturghie (liturgy).
It is in this time that we can speak
of the Dridu Culture,

which stretched from the southern Carpathians to the Balkan
In spite of efforts by Romanians to label the culture as only proto-Romanian
on the one hand, or Hungarian and Bulgarian efforts to make it exclusively Bulgarian
on the other, in reality it was both. Some have taken to calling it Balkan-Danube
Culture for lack of a better word. Undoubtedly the goods, pots, or even burials that
someone would use does not correlate exactly with the language that they spoke. Given
that southern Romania and Moldova were enveloped by the Bulgarian Empire, it is not
surprising at all that the Romanians took up aspects of Bulgarian culture. Unlike in the
previous centuries, this time there was no longer a religious divide between the
Romanians and Slavs, and a common faith greatly accelerated mingling (to put it
The culture was provably not exclusively Bulgarian, as it persisted
in the Romanian lands even after the Bulgarian Empire had lost control of the region.

The Dridu culture was thus the bedrock on which Romanian medieval culture developed.

Thus, by the start of the tenth century, things were looking up for the Romanians.
The Slavo-Bulgarian influences upon Romanian had finalized the process of
ethnogenesis. Able to now get rid of weird hyphenated names and proto suffixes, the
Romanians finally became an ethnic reality. The largely autonomous nature of Bulgaria
beyond the Danube allowed for the formation of small Slavo-Romanian states in the
region, especially around the trade routes of salt export, and ditch-and-dike fortresses
appeared throughout Transylvania.
The Romanians (along with their Slavic
cohabitants), if left alone, might have been well on their way towards entering the
Middle Ages.

Like all other cultures with names that seem impossible to pronounce, the Dridu culture was named after
the settlement in which it was first discovered by archaeologists.
Unfortunately, being left alone is often too much to ask for in Eastern Europe.
The invasion of the Hungarians in the late ninth century, coupled with those of the
Pechenegs, Cumans, and Mongols in the following centuries, effectively delayed the
entry of the Romanians on the world stage for another three centuries. Nevertheless,
these new groups would not play a fundamental role in the formation of the Romanian


[1] Kazar, Lajos and Makai, J nos. Transylvania, in search of facts. Lindfield, Australia :
Trianon Forum, 2001. p. 22.

[2] Ellis, 1998. p. 232.

[3] Ibidem. p. 231.

[4] Eutropius. IX, 25.

[5] Kulikowski, 2007. p. 78.

[6] Aurelius Victor. 39, 43.

[7] Zosimus. New History. IV, 114.

[8] Thompson, E.A. Zosimus 6. 10. 2 And The Letters Of Honorius. The Classical Quarterly
(Cambridge, 1982), 32: 445-462.

[9] Halsall, Guy. Barbarian migrations and the Roman West, 376-568. Cambridge, UK :
Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007. p. 134.

[10] Burns, 1999. pp. 32.

[11] Green, D.H. Language and History in the Early Germanic World. Cambridge [u.a.] :
Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. p. 208.

[12] Burns, 1999. p. 111; Wanner, 2010. pp. 27-28.

[13] Ibidem. p. 31.

[14] Wolfram, Herwig and Dunlap, Thomas J . History of the Goths. Berkeley : Univ. of California
Press, 1988. p. 63.

[15] Ibidem. p. 71.

[16] Ibidem. p. 56.

[17] Ibidem. p. 59.

[18] Burns, 1999. p. 35.

[19] MacKendrick, 1975. p. 163.

[20] Gzdac, 1998. pp. 273-274.

[21] Wolfram, 1988. p. 22.

[22] Wanner, 2010. p. 116.

[23] Pop, Ioan-Aurel. Istoria Transilvaniei medievale: De la etnogeneza romnilor pn la Mihai
Viteazul. Cluj, Romania : Cluj University Press, 1997. pp. 26-27.

[24] Vekony, 2000. p. 160.

[25] Varga, Rada. The Peregrine Names of Roman Dacia. Acta Musei Napocensis, 4344/I,
20062007 (2008). pp. 244-245.

[26] Stefanescu-Draganesti, Virgiliu. Romanian Continuity in Roman Dacia: linguistic evidence.
Miami Beach, FL : Romanian Historical Studies, 1986.

[27] Vasiliev, Alexander. History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, Volume 2. Wisconsin :
University of Wisconsin Press, 1958. p. 85.

[28] Cusack, Carole M. Conversion among the Germanic Peoples. London, UK : Cassell, 1998. pp.

[29] Vasiliev, 1958. p. 86.

[30] Wolfram, 1988. p. 76.

[31] Heather, Peter. The Goths. Cambridge, Mass., USA : Blackwell, 1996. p. 91.

[32] Wolfram, 1988. p. 77.

[33] Ambrose. Expositio evangelii secundum Lucam. X, 10.

[34] Zosimus. IV.

[35] Kulikowski, 2007. pp. 64-65.

[36] Procopius. Buildings. 5, 9.

[37] Wolfram, 1988. p. 93.

[38] Priscus Panites. in Murgescu, 2001. pp. 65-66.

[39] Kulukowski, 2007. p. 155; Wanner, 2010. p. 47.

[40] Curta, Florin. Frontier Ethnogenesis in Late Antiquity: The Danube, the Tervingi, and the
Slavs. ed. Curta, Florin Borders, barriers, and ethnogenesis : frontiers in late Antiquity and the
Middle Ages. Turnhout : Brepols, 2005. p. 179; Gndil, Andrei. Face value or Bullion Value?
Early Byzantine coins beyond the lower Danube border. ed. Woloszyn, M. Moravia magna,
Seria Polona, vol. III. Krakow, 2009. pp. 449-471.

[41] Brezeanu, Stelian. The Lower Danube Frontier during the 4
Centuries. An ambiguous
Notion. Annuario. Istituto Romeno di cultura e ricerca umanistica 5 (2003). p. 36.

[42] Goldsworthy, 2009. p. 273.

[43] Ibidem. p. 181.

[44] Wollman, Alfred. Early Latin loan-words in Old English. ed. Lapidge, Michael. Anglo-
Saxon England. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press, 1993. pp. 8-11.

[45] Brezeanu, 2003. p. 40.

[46] Spinei, Victor. The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta from the
Tenth to the Mid-Thirteenth Century. Brill Academic Publishers. Leiden, NL. 2009. p. 188.

[47] Wolfram, 1988. p. 73.

[48] Goldsworthy, 2009. p. 295.

[49] Kulikowski, 2007. p. 154.

[50] Goldsworthy, 2009. p. 320.

[51] Ibidem. p. 315.

[52] Kulikowski, 2007. p. 138.

[53] MacKendrick, 1975. p. 165.

[54] Goldsworthy, 2009. p. 319.

[55] Brezeanu, 2003. p. 38.

[56] Ibidem. p. 40.

[57] Madgearu, 2001. p. 34.

[58] Wanner, 2010. pp. 46-47.

[59] Williams, Stephen. Rome That Did Not Fall : The Survival of the East in the Fifth Century.
Florence, KY, USA: Routledge, 1999. p 88.

[60] Ibidem. p. 89.

[61] Curta, Florin. Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages: 500-1250. Cambridge University
Press. Cambridge, UK. 2006. p. 54.

[62] Madgearu, Alexandru. Istoria Militar a Daciei Post-Romane, 376-614. T rgoviste,
Romania : Cetatea de Scaun, 2010. p. 69.

[63] Dumitracu, Sever and Sfrengeu, Florin. Relaiile interetnice n Dacia Occidental in
secolele IV-VI. ed. iplic, Ioan M. and Purece, Silviu I. Bibliotheca Septamcastrensis XXI:
Relaii interetnice n Spatiul Romnesc (secolele VI-XIII). Bucharest : Departamentul pentru
Relaii Interetnice; Altip, 2006. p. 213.

[64] Vida, Tivadar. Conflict and Coexistence: the local population of the Carpathian Basin under
Avar rule (sixth to seventh century). ed. Curta, Florin and Kovalev, Roman. The Other Europe
in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, and Cumans. Leiden, NL; Boston, USA : Brill,
2008. pp. 31-39.

[65] Curta, 2006. p. 62.

[66] Ibidem. pp. 59-61.

[67] Ibidem. p. 53.

[68] Madgearu, 2010. p. 81.

[69] Madgearu, 2001. pp. 76-77.

[70] MacKenzie, Andrew. Archaeology in Romania: the mystery of the Roman occupation.
London, UK : Hale, 1986. p. 116.

[71] Madgearu, 2001. pp. 81-83.

[72] Ibidem. pp. 85-87. Madgearu, 2010. p. 94.

[73] Curta, Florin. Before Cyril and Methodius: Christianity and the Seventh-Century Danube
Frontier ed. Curta, Florin. East Central & Eastern Europe in the Early Middle Ages. Ann Arbor,
USA : University of Michigan Press, 2005. pp. 181-182.

[74] Curta, 2006. p. 73.

[75] Curta, Florin. The Making of the Slavs. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2001. p. 107.

[76] Georgescu, 1991. p. 12.

[77] Ibidem. p. 13.

[78] Curta, Florin. Pots, Slavs, and Imagined Communities. European Journal of Archaeology.
vol. 4 (3). p. 374.

[79] Madgearu, 2001. pp. 92-106.

[80] Fiedler, Uwe. Bulgars in the Lower Danube Region: a survey of the archaeological evidence
and of the state of current research. ed. Curta, Florin. The Other Europe in the Middle Ages:
Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, and Cumans. Leiden, NL; Boston, USA : Brill, 2008. p. 152.

[81] Curta, 2006. p. 82.

[82] Theophanes the Confessor, transl. Turtledove, Harry. The Chronicle of Theophanes: an
English translation of anni mundi 6095-6305. Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press,
1982. pp. 122-125.

[83] Fiedler, 2008. p. 196.

[84] Curta, 2006. pp. 90-92.

[85] Fiedler, 2008. p. 157.

[86] Procopius. History of Wars. VII, 14.

[87] Curta, Florin. The Slavic Lingua Franca: (linguistic notes of an Archaeologist Turned
Historian) East Central Europe/ECE, vol. 31, no. 1, 2004. p. 140.

[88] Madgearu, Alexandru. Salt Trade and Warfare: The Rise of the Romanian-Slavic Military.
Organization in Early Medieval Transylvania. ed. Curta, Florin. East Central & Eastern Europe
in the Early Middle Ages. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 2005. pp. 106-107.

[89] Ibidem. p. 109.

[90] Nandri, Grigore. The Earliest Contacts between Slavs and Roumanians. The Slavonic and
East European Review, Vol. 18, No. 52 (J ul., 1939). p. 150.

[91] Nandri, Grigore. The Beginnings of Slavonic Culture in the Roumanian Countries. The
Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 24, No. 63 (J an., 1946). p. 165.

[92] Curta, 2004. p. 136.

[93] Miracles of St. Demetrius. II, 5, 292. See Curta, 2006. p. 106.

[94] Maurice. Strategicon. XI, 30-31. In Fontes Historiae Dacoromanae. II, pp. 560-561. For the
fact that these were refugees from north of the Danube see Brezean, 2003. pp. 40-41.

[95] Gndil, 2009. pp. 457-458.

[96] Simocatta, Thephylactus. History. VII, 7. in In Fontes Historiae Dacoromanae. II, p. 545.
trans. Brezeanu, 2003. p. 32.

[97] Madgearu, Alexandru. Continuitate si discontinuitate la Dunarea de Jos in secolele VII-VIII.
Bucharest : University of Bucharest, 1997. p. 194.

[98] Bcue-Crian, Dan. Depresiunea Silvaniei n secolele VII -XI ed. Pinter, Zeno K., iplic,
Ioan M. and iplic, Maria E. Relatii interetnice in Transilvania (secolele VI-XIII). Part of
Bibliotheca Septemcastrensis, vol. 12. Bucharest : Departamentul pentru Relaii Interetnice, 2005.
p. 93.

[99] Pinter, Z.K., Tiplic, I.M. and Dragota, A. Scurta istorie a Transilvaniei perspective
arheologice. ed. Dragota, Aurel and Tiplic, Ioan M. Piese de Podoaba si Vestimentatie la
Grupurile Ethnice din Transylvania (sec. 7-12). Alba Iulia : Departamentul pentru Relatii
Interetnice, 2006. p. 38

[100] Spinei, 2009. pp. 49-50.

[101] Curta, 2006. p. 161.

[102] Pacurariu, Mircea. Romanian Christianity. ed. Parry, Ken. The Blackwell Companion to
Eastern Christianity. Maiden, MA : Blackwell, 2007. p. 190.

[103] Firic, Camelia. Slav influence upon the Romanian language direct references to
Croatian. Rustvena Istrazivanja, vol. 19, no. 3. p. 520.

[104] Nandri, 1946. p. 161.

[105] Fiedler, 2008. p. 216.

[106] One example is the fortress discovered at Biharea, which can be dated to the ninth and tenth
centuries. See Madgearu, Alexandru. Voievodatul lui Menumorout n lumina cercetrilor
recente (The Duchy of Menumorout in the light of the recent researches). Analele Universitii
din Oradea. Istorie-arheologie, 11, 2001 (2004). p. 44; Spinei, 2009. p. 60.


By the ninth century we can finally speak of a Romanian people, though they
still lacked their own country. The Romanians were thus a little up in the air. Emerging
from the Dark Ages was, for many people in Europe, the result of creating a state. One
could hardly imagine the English in the Middle Ages without the England created by
William the Bastard Conqueror, nor can one imagine the French without Clovis setting
the foundations of the Frankish kingdom. The creation of a state in essence meant
entering the Middle Ages as it represented a return of proper administration, law, and
literacy in the form of court and religious records. Romania, unfortunately, was sorely
deficient in all three aspects in the ninth century.

True, there were small states and some religious structure was in place, as is
indicated by such sites as the Basarabi-Murfatlar cave churches, a collection of five
churches which were literally carved into a chalk hill. The ancient graffiti on the
churches walls written in three alphabets gives clear indication that people were
literate (even if somewhat inconsiderate for others property). Many of the artists also
gave themselves titles like zhupan, indicating some political organization was in place.
However, the power of such rulers was undoubtedly dependent on Bulgarian patronage.
Without a proper state of their own, literacy and order could deteriorate north of the
Danube as soon as the old power left the region. Indeed, that seems to have happened,
judging by the nature of the Cyrillic alphabet that was used in medieval Romania, which
has strong similarities with thirteenth and fourteenth century Bulgarian rather than that
of the ninth century. It seems that literacy ceased at one point north of the Danube and
was only reintroduced in that time.

The Bulgarians decided to abandon their outposts north of the Danube in the late
ninth century due to the arrival of a new invader: the Magyars, also known as the
Hungarians. Like almost everything else in the post-Roman period, the Magyars came
from the East. Linguistically the Magyars were quite different from anyone else in the
region. Being a part of the Finno-Ugric language family, their closest European relatives
are the Finns. Unlike the Finns however, the Magyars spent much of their early history
surrounded by the nomadic Turkic tribes of the Caucausus and as a result adopted
nomadism as well. Indeed, even the name Hungarian derives from the Turkic word
By the time the Magyars became known to Muslim and European authors
in the ninth century, they were practically indistinguishable from their neighbours: many
authors labelled them as Turks and their lands as Turkey.

By the ninth century the Magyars had taken control of the Steppe lands north of
the Black Sea. The first we hear of them in Europe is in 837, when a revolt by Roman
prisoners the same ones brought north by Bulgarian Tsar Krum less than 20 years
earlier broke out north of the Danube. The rebels were largely unopposed as the
Bulgarian army was stationed south of the Danube, causing the Bulgars to request help
from the Magyars. Thankfully, the Byzantine fleet on the Danube was able to evacuate
the prisoners before they could become the object of Magyar target practice.
For the
Magyars first mention, it was a bit of a non-event. They are next encountered by the
missionaries Cyril and Methodius, famous for their role in converting the Slavs to
Christianity, on their way to the Khazar Khaganate in 860. Their missions intent was to
make those people cast off heathen abominations and lawless marriages;

unfortunately, not the most diplomatic description of J udaism. On this trip, Cyril
encountered the Magyars in the Crimea, where they came howling like wolves (again,
not a very diplomatic description of the Hungarians) and wishing to kill him, but he
managed to leave after pacifying them. Whatever one could say of Magyar hospitality,
the account at least indicates that these new nomadic warriors had gained possession of
the Black Sea steppe.
Methodius encountered the Magyars again in 880, when he met
with their king near the Danube, showing that the Magyars were drifting further and
further west.

The Hungarian homeland at the time was called Etelkuzu, but its exact location
is a matter of dispute. Some specialists believe the name comes from a Hungarian
expression for between rivers a nomadic Mesopotamia, minus the ziggurats while
others believe it simply means the Don Country. Indeed, the Magyar word for the Don
was Etul. Many believe that the Magyars controlled the lands from the Romanian
Danube to the Don, excluding the territory of Transylvania.
This is to some extent
backed by the written sources; it is indeed hard to imagine Methodius would have
encountered the Magyar king outside of his own country! The one not-so-small problem
however, is that no archaeological evidence exists for this claim! There is no Magyar
grave in Moldova or Wallachia that would date from this time.
The local settlements in
Moldova, in any case, prospered and showed no signs of having been raided by any
eastern horsemen. Magyar domination west of the Dniestr cannot be backed by any hard
Whether this is caused by the Magyars nomadism (obviously permanent
remains are hard to come by for a people whose way of life had little permanence at all),
or whether this is because they truly were not in the region is anyones guess. However,
that the Magyars crossed over the region on their way to their favourite raiding targets
and back is indisputable.

The Magyars did not stay in their new homeland (wheverer it was) for long. In
fact, their westward migration was forced by the attacks of the Turkic Pechenegs to their
east, who were themselves pushed west by another Turkic tribe, the Uzes. Their
movement into the region signalled the end of the Khazar peace and the collapse of
the Khazar empire in the 880s. All sorts of chaos ensued shortly after: devastating
Magyar raids are recorded in Frankish holdings and in Moravia (in the modern Czech
Republic) in 862, 881, 892, and 894. One Frankish monk recounted how the Magyars
carried off the young women alone with them like cattle to satisfy their lusts, and
reduced the whole of Pannonia to a desert,
reflecting the impotency of Frankish
armies experienced when trying to stop them. The Magyars were, however, not the
remorseless demons they were made them out to be.

They were forced to raid by their
need to attract allies, which in steppe diplomacy could only be achieved by flexing ones
muscle and accumulating wealth.
Of course this was little consolation to the farming
settlements affected by this nomadic popularity contest.

The Byzantines, who at the time were in a Bulgarian-caused world of hurt, were
more than happy for the Magyars arrival however. The Magyars had attacked the
Bulgarians in 892, and Emperor Leo VI saw the opportunity presented by having an ally
which was conveniently placed behind enemy lines. At the behest of the emperor, the
Magyars inflicted a devastating attack on Bulgaria in 894, forcing Symeon to offer peace
to the Byzantines. Leo, apparently forgetful that he had just forced the Magyars to start a
war with the powerful Bulgarian Empire, was quick to accept Symeons offer. the
Magyars were unfortunately left practically surrounded by enemies as a result. Deciding
to give the Magyars a taste of their own medicine, Symeon convinced the eastward
Pechenegs to attack the Magyars from the east while Symeon pressed from the south.

As the best Hungarian troops were fighting in Moravia hundreds of kilometres away
at the time, it is easy to see who was going to win this engagement. The devastation
inflicted upon the Magyars in 895 was so great that it scarred Hungarian folklore for
some time.
The results however, are not entirely due to Symeons strategic brilliance,
as the Pechenegs were already being forced into Magyar territory by the aggressive Uzes
and Khazars in the east. The invasion was largely inevitable; its satisfaction of Bulgarian
strategic aims was a happy (or not, from the Magyar perspective) coincidence.

The bonus of being nomadic is that you can move when the going gets tough,
and at this point the Magyars started moving as fast as they could. The Magyars in
Etelkuzu elected a chief named Arpad and fled to the Pannonian plains, placing as great
a distance between themselves and the Pechenegs as possible. Where they settled and
what path they took to get there is a bit of a controversy. Hungarian historians claim that
the Magyars occupied both the Danube Plain and Transylvania symultaneously, some
claiming even that this occured even before they were forced to leave Atelkuzu.

Romanian historians, on the other hand, suggest the Magyars did not enter Transylvania
until a fair bit later. The oldest preserved Hungarian account, the Gesta Hungarorum,
claims the Magyars travelled through Galicia (Halych, Ukraine; not the Spanish Galicia)
and entered the Pannonian plain through the Verecke Pass in Ukraine,
and all the
Magyar graves belonging to people born outside of Pannonia are only found around this
pass; all other graves date from the tenth century or later. Of course, this does not
exclude the possibility of a chance discovery of older Magyar graves outside of that
region sometime in the future, but for now the evidence points to a migration through
the Verecke Pass and into Pannonia, side-stepping Transylvania. On the other hand, later
Hungarian chronicles like the Chronicon Pictum (Illuminated Chronicle, since
Picture Book is too dismissive) claim that the Hungarians travelled to Pannonia
through a region called Erdelw, which Hungarian historians identified with Transylvania
(called Erdely in Hungarian).

While the Chronicon indeed hints that Erdelw is Transylvania, this seems to be a
mistake made by later copyists of the text. Up until the invention of the printing press,
the only way to preserve texts was to copy them by hand. As one can imagine, a mix of
poor lighting (no electricity), bad eyesight, and somewhat illegible handwriting
(including frequent use of shorthand) made this an error-prone operation. Erdelw might
originally have been forest (erd), meaning the Ung Forest near Verecke, and it was
likely distorted by later copyists into Transylvania. This interpretation would actually
make the Chronicon Pictum consistent with the older Gesta Hungarorum and other
chronicles, all of which have the Hungarians travelling through the Ung forest near the
Verecke Pass.
It is likely then that none of the medieval Hungarian chronicles ever
mentioned the Magyars as passing through Transylvania.

A deciding factor in how and from where the Magyars entered Transylvania
comes from the way the Magyars chose to mark off the boundaries of their realm. As a
defensive measure, the Magyars tended to deliminate the borders of their chiefdom with
strips of deserted land, called indagines in Latin. More than just a nomadic version of a
white picket fence, indagines were a powerful defensive measure that could act as an
early-warning system for invasions. When we consider the indagines in Transylvania,
there is a clear west-to-east expansion of these lines from the Some river in c. 900AD
all the way to 1200 when they finally reach the eastern Carpathians.
In any case, the
exact date and time at which the Magyars entered Transylvania, and who was there
when they entered it, would require a whole chapter (see Part 2, Chapter 2) to clarify.
For now, the corpus of evidence suggests the Magyars advanced into Transylvania from
the west, and barring some Houdini-like disappearance act, they encountered the
Romanians as a result.

Pressed by attacks from the Bulgarians to the south ahd the Pechenegs to the east, the Magyars did
the only sensible thing and fled to the northwest, curling around the Carpathian Mountains and
eventually crossing through the Verecke Pass in modern Ukraine. Though some have tried arguing
for alternate routes of migration (particularly through Transylvania) it is unlikely that the Magyars
would have tried escaping the Bulgarians by fleeing into Bulgarian territory.

Some Romanian nationalists considered the arrival of the Magyars and the
conquest of Transylvania to have been a disaster for the Romanians: the Romanian
states were erased before they could fully develop, and the Romanians became the
servant-slaves of these barbarian overlords. This is however, not how it happened at all.
The Gesta Hungarorum describes the events as a conquest, but one solidified by the
locals choosing Magyar chiefs as their rulers.
Events likely did not happen exactly as
specified in the Gesta which, it must be admitted, was written two centuries after the
fact. One reason to doubt a literal interpretation is that the Gesta, by its very nature as a
gesta, is propaganda designed to attribute everything important in the foundation of the
kingdom to Arpad, the founder of the first Magyar dynasty.
For example, the German
crushing defeat of the Magyars at Lechfeld, which took place in 955, was also claimed
by the author to have taken place in the fifth year of King Conrad [915AD] (of course,
after Arpad died, since it would have been near-sacrilege to for the author to imply that
Arpad ever lost a battle).
Given that Conrad died in 918, and barring the amusing idea
of zombie German kings, it must be concluded that the author of the Gesta had a
tendency of pushing events slightly back in time. As such, the conquest of Transylvania
did not happen, as the author claims, during Arpads reign, but likely later.

The Gesta however, had to be consistent with its contemporary political realities:
its author needed to historically justify the special, autonomous rights the Romanians
possessed, and it also needed to justify Hungarian sovereignty over Transylvania.

Portraying the Romanians as willingly submitting to the new Hungarian rulers thus
solved both issues. The Gesta was not going way out to left field with such an
supposition however. A similar agreement had occurred between the Croatians and
Hungarians in 1102 (the Pacta Conventa), whereby the Croatians retained an
autonomous status within the kingdom. Whether events really did pan out as the Gesta
states is anyones guess, but in all likelihood it is more than coincidence that both
Croatia and Transylvania were the only autonomous regions in the Hungarian Kingdom.

Archaeologically, different parts of Transylvania seem to have entered the
Hungarian dominion in different ways. Western sections of the region resemble a typical
conquest; Magyar settlements saturated the landscape and displaced whatever natives
happened to be in their way. Still, other areas remained roughly unchanged, and only
had a minority of Hungarian settlements.
That the rulers of Transylvania bore the title
of voievod (vajda in Hungarian), the same title as the rulers of the two future Romanian
states of Moldavia and Wallachia, indicates that some of the old Romanian-Slavic
system was kept in place. Furthermore, noble families from the Romanian regions
described in the Gesta also bore such a title as a personal name.
The Romanians were
therefore not under some ruthless subjugation during the early days of Magyar rule in
Transylvania. Only later, with the Westernization of the Hungarian kingdom, would
the Romanians face a significant loss of rights.

East of the Carpathians the Pechenegs had helped themselves to the former lands
of the Magyars. As nomads that apparently scared even other nomads, one might expect
a level of brutality from the Pechenegs but once again, the facts on the ground
contradict our expectations. It is true that the Pechenegs were quite troublesome in
Ukraine, where most sedentary sites were abandoned in the early 900s as a result of
Pecheneg attacks, but in Romania most settlements continued with little change.
Romanians were of course not entirely sparedThe Gesta Hungarorum itself even attests
that the Romanians in Transylvania could not resist the Magyar invaders from the west
because they were already significantly weakened by Pecheneg raids from the east,

raids which must have occurred in the early tenth century.

Though the Pechenegs may have weakened the Romanian states in Transylvania,
they might also have been responsible for keeping Transylvania outside of Magyar
control for some time. The eleventh century Arab geographer Abu Ubayd al-Bakri,
using sources that dated from the mid-tenth century, mentioned that the Magyars and the
Pechenegs were separated by a deserted land. Of course this region was not truly
deserted; even the Arab author admits as much. Instead, it just represented a region
that had no firm political control, like a Medieval version of a demilitarized zone.
for where this region was situated: some Hungarian authors have tried to place it in
which would rather conveniently mean the Magyars controlled Transylvania.
Written sources never mention the area exactly, but the Byzantine De Administrando
Impero (On the Governance of the Empire) claimed that the Pechenegs were separated
from the Magyars by four days of travel.
Travelling across Moldova by horseback in
as long as four days would require some rather slow horses. The time however, seems
much more reasonable for crossing the rugged mountain passes of Transylvania. In the
end, we must conclude that eastern Transylvania was this buffer region between the two

Even though the Pechenegs did not control Transylvania, some of them did settle
among the locals. In general, the Pechenegs of Transylvania are remembered by two
types of placenames: those derived from Pecheneg (obviously) and those derived from
beseny, the latter term being the Hungarian word for Pecheneg. The latter term in
particular relates to the Hungarians using the Pechenegs as border guards in
Transylvania and further West, and these borderguards came to be known by the word
bisseni in medieval documents. Hence, in the Gesta Hungarorum, when the free
Pechenegs attack the lands of the Romanian prince Gelu in Transylvania, they are called
picenati, while when they are settled on the border with the Holy Roman Empire in the
tenth century they are referred to as bisseni.

In Transylvania however, the use of the bisseni border guards by the Hungarians
was delayed for some time, and for two good reasons: firstly, the Hungarians did not yet
control all of Transylvania, and secondly, because their main adversaries on the other
side of the Carpathians were still the Pechenegs. Needless to say, the Hungarian kings
grasped the illogical nature of inviting the Pechenegs into the kingdom in order to keep
the Pechenegs out. Therefore, any terms in Transylvania relating to bisseni must date
from the early twelfth century onward, when Pecheneg power in Wallachia and
Moldavia collapsed.

Thus, the two forms of the placenames (those derived from Peceneg and those
derived from Bisseni) relate to two different periods of Pecheneg settlements: one where
the Pechenegs moved in due to their own interest, and the other where they were
imported by the Hungarian kingdom. In Wallachia and Moldavia, most of the
placenames remembering the Pechenegs are of the form Peceneg (Pecineaga,
Peceneagul etc.), while in Transylvania and Banat the majority are of the form Bisseni
(e.g. Beeneu, Beinou etc.). However, there are still a few names in Transylvania that
carry the form Peceneg, such as the mountain Peceneaga (Fgra, southern
Transylvania). These names could only have been passed down to the Romanians if they
lived among the Pechenegs in Transylvania before the settlement of the Bisseni in this
region, and therefore before the arrival of Hungarian rule.
Another, less peaceful
possibility, is that names such as Peceneaga might have been given by the Romanians to
indicate the passes used by Pecheneg raiders when they decided to pay the
Transylvanian Romanians an unexpected visit in the tenth century. In any case, the
Romanians must have taken this name at a time before the collapse of Pecheneg power
in Wallachia and before the Hungarian takeover of Transylvania.

Finally, in the tenth century, the Romanians peek their heads above the torrents
of history and are mentioned explicitly by their ethnic name in written sources.
Ironically, the first people to write of the Romanians were not any people near them, but
rather an Arab author living thousands of kilometers away: Mutahhar al-Maqdisi. His
account briefly lists off the neighbors of the Pechenegs as Khazars, Russians, Slavs,
Waladj, Alans, Greeks and many other peoples that look like them [i.e. other nomads].
While some have tried largely without any logical basis to argue that the Waladj are
some mystery people from the Caucausus, the similarity between Waladj and Wallach
(i.e. Romanians) cannot be overlooked: the author could only have been referring to the

Incidentally, the tenth century is also the time of the first mention of the Balkan
Vlachs in chronicles. J ohn Skylitzes, a Byzantine chronicler from the eleventh century,
recounts how David, the brother of the future Bulgarian tsar Samuel, was killed
between Kastoria and Prespa [i.e. modern Macedonia] by some vagabond Vlachs.

Arguably, not the most flattering portrayal of the Vlachs, but sometimes you have to
take what you can get. From this moment on, the Balkan Vlachs would be progressively
mentioned more frequently in the coming centuries.

The near-simultaneous mention of the Wallachs and the Vlachs brings up a
critical question: could the Byzantine author and the Arab author have been referring to
the same Vlachs south of the Danube (and therefore not to the Romanians)? Though
some Hungarian historians desiring to erase the Romanians from north of the Danube
before the thirteenth century desire such a conclusion, it must be admitted that the two
authors are referring to different populations. It is noteworth that the Arab historian is
referring to the neighbours of the Pechenegs: a small population living inside of the
Byzantine Empire could hardly qualify for such a title, nevermind the fact that the
Pechenegs were separated from Macedonia by several hundred kilometers. When al-
Maqdisi was referring to neighbors, he could only have been referring to politically
independent people, and therefore his Wallachs must have been living outside of
Bulgaria, the Byzantine Empire, and Russia. This leaves only Romania as their
geographical location. He may even have been referring to the same Transylvanian
Romanians mentioned in the Gesta Hungarorum that was written several centuries later,
which certainly would be more than mere coincidence. Whatever the exact location, it is
clear that the tenth century written sources confirmed the presence of both Romanians
north of the Danube river and Latin Vlachs in the southern Balkans.

There is a second Arab writer from the tenth century, called Ibn al-Nadim,

in a similarly succinct listing of the people of Eastern Europe, mentions a people known
as the Blagh, which may be yet another reference to the Romanians.
The similarity to
the word Vlach is easy to see when we realize that the letters B and V were often
interchanged in Medieval documents on Southeastern Europe due to the fact that Greek
authors were often used as intermediaries by other sources. The Greek word for Vlach
was (Blachoi) and even Bulgaria was sometimes referred to by the less-
flattering name of Vulgaria. Indeed, when later crusader chronicles mentioned the
Vlachs, they often called them blaci or blachi,
again due to the Greek influence.
Blagh thus could very easily be a distortion of Vlach, given that the author was playing
telephone with his Greek sources thousands of kilometres away.
The Blagh were
supposedly politically independent and therefore must have been situated north of the
Danube in Romania and probably in Transylvania, the last place in that corner of Europe
that remained a political no mans land.
The Arabs are however, not the only unusual source we have for news on the
Romanians: we also find them in several interesting Viking accounts, some of them
being first-hand sources. Although the average reader might be more familiar with the
Vikings in Western Europe, there was another branch of Vikings in Eastern Europe,
known as the Rus people or Varangians, who played a fundamental role in founding the
first Russian states. While the (incredibly) inaccurate stereotype of Vikings as horn-
helmed raiders pillaging everything in their path might make one doubt the Vikings ever
founded anything, the historical truth on these much-maligned people is that the Vikings
were among the more industrious state-makers in Europe. Normandy, England, Russia
and Sicily all have the Vikings (be they Normans or Varangians) to thank for dragging
them out of Late Antiquity and into the Early Middle Ages. According to the Russian
Chronicle of Bygone Times (Povest Vremennykh Let) written by a monk named
Nestor in the early twelfth century, the Slavs supposedly invited the Vikings into Russia,
saying our land is great and rich, but there is no order in it. Come to rule and reign over
Whether things really played out as such or if Nestor was just trying to cover the
embarrassment of being conquered with a we were not trying to stop you argument is
anyones guess, as even in more modern times the idea of a foreign foundation was seen
as dishonourable to Russian historians.
What is clear is that by the late ninth century
the Varangians had established several states within Russia, stretching from the Baltic to
the Black Sea, all ruled by the Rurikid Dynasty.

Many Vikings however, did not stop in Russia but rather continued further south,
where they found lucrative trade with Byzantium; contact with the Romanians followed
shortly afterward. When the Vikings saw the wealth to be had in Constantinople both
through trade and through employment as mercenaries they quickly spread the news
back home and this resulted in one of the most active trade routes in all of Europe,
known as the Route of the Varangians to the Greeks. The exact path taken by the
Viking traders is not entirely clear once it reaches the Black Sea. The major path appears
to have left by boat from the Crimea and sailed all the way to Constantinople. However,

Since his actual name of Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad bin Is'hq al-Nadim is rightfully considered as more
than a little unwieldy.
some evidence suggests there were a pit-stops along the way north of the Danube. The
discoveries of Arab coins in southern Moldova and Wallachia, as well as the carvings of
Viking longboats and Rurikid heraldry at the Basarabi-Murfatlar church complex
indicates that Viking travellers did visit the Romanian lands as well.

The tales of one Viking merchants encounter with the Romanians is recorded on
a runestone at the Sjonhem cemetery, on the isle of Gotland in Sweden, which dates
from the early eleventh century. The runestone speaks of a man called Rodfos, stating
Rodvisl and Rodlv had these stones erected in memory of their three sons. This stone
in memory of Rodfos. He was betrayed by Blakumen [Vlach men/Wallachians
] on
an expedition abroad. God help Rodfos soul. God betray those who betrayed him.

Arguably not the most flattering publicity the Romanians ever received, but a valuable
source nonetheless. As the Vlachs betrayed Rodfos, we can conclude Rodfos must have
been a Norse merchant who had entered into some agreement with the Romanians
before being done in. This means Rodfos must have encountered the Romanian Vlachs
somewhere around the Varangian path, possibly on the Dniestr if not further east.

There are however, some who believe that Blakumen were not Vlachs (Blaku-
Men) but rather Black Cumans (Bla-Kumen). Thankfully, there are two other Norse
sources that also mention Blakumen which we can use to clarify who these people were:
they are the Eymund Saga and the Ring of the World. The Eymund Saga records the
dynastic disputes between Yaroslav the Wise and Sviatopolk over the throne of the
Kievan Rus. In it, Sviatopolk is mentioned as hiring Turks and Wallachians (Tyrkir ok
Blokumenn) as mercenaries from the land of the Turks (Tyrkland) in 1019.

This passage
is more than a little problematic for those arguing that the Blokumenn are Cumans.
Firstly, the Cumans would not arrive in the region until several decades later so
teleportation aside, identifying them as Cumans is physically impossible. Secondly, as
stated earlier, Turks was a generic term for the variety of nomadic horsemen north of
the Danube. A statement like Turks and Cumans is redundant. Thirdly, the
substitution of o for a in the world Blokumenn is reminiscent of the Russian word for
Vlach (Volohi), a language that undoubtedly influenced the Varangian writers. Lastly,
and possibly more importantly, the Germanic word for Cuman was not Kumen but
rather Valwen! As such, the current word which would be a strange mix of German
and Latin makes no sense at all; it would have to be Blavalwen if it were written in
Norse. All of this leaves no doubt that the Blakumen/Blokumenn could only be

As Sviatopolk was able to recruit these mercenaries together, we can only
conclude that the Wallachians in question came from Moldavia or Wallachia. This
location is confirmed in the Ring of the World, written by Snorri Sturluson in the early
thirteenth century. In it, he states that the emperor Alexios I Komnenos (Kirjalax) of
Byzantium waged a war in the land of the Vlachs (Blokumannaland

It should be noted that some have tried to interpret the term Blakumen not as Wallachians, but
rather as Black Men and therefore moving the entire event somewhere in Ethiopia. This interpretation
however, is both morphologically not sound (as there is that extra u in there that no one has bothered to
explain) but also geographically out of the question given that Emperor Alexios never set foot in Africa.
), reaching the
Pecheneg (Pezina) Plains.
It is interesting that the author uses the term
Blokumannaland at such an early date (a century before Wallachia even existed as a
country), which (barring some hidden fortune-telling talent of Snorri Sturluson)
signified the growing importance of the Vlachs in the region. The three Norse sources
mentioned thus provide compelling evidence that the Romanians north of the Danube
were becoming increasingly important in trade, warfare, and politics (and the occasional

The Pechenegs were pushed out of the region by the arrival of the Uzes, a Turkic
people, in the mid-eleventh century. Byzantine sources reported on the event by saying
that the Mysians had been driven out by the Getae,
but we should not take this to mean
that ancient tribes had emerged from a millennial hibernation. Rather, ancient names
were given to these two Turkic nomads (with the Pechenegs being Mysians and Uzes
being Getae) due to geography, a common occurrence in Byzantine texts. Many
Pechenegs (but not all, to the chagrin of Byzantine exaggerations) thus moved into
northern Bulgaria, where they first were a headache for the Byzantines, but later became
a buffer against other potentially troublesome people. The Uzes thus achieved
domination of the plains north of the Danube. As for the sedentary Romanians: living
under one nomadic overlord or another did not matter too much. There is evidence for
the continuation of settlements in the region, and an account of the Uzes using wooden
boats (undoubtedly borrowed from the locals) hints to the survival of the Slavic and
Romanian people in the region.
In any case, the relationship between the Uzes and the
Romanians was short-lived, as in little more than a decade they were pushed out by the
invading Cumans.

The Cumans came crashing over into the Danube area in around the 1060s and
1070s, bowling over the Uzes, Romanians and whoever else might have been in the
region. This new invader showed no intent of coming in peace. By their own account
preserved in the eleventh century Oghuz-name chronicle the Cumans defeated a variety
of people in the area, including the Vlachs (Ulq).
These were undoubtedly the same
ones that had allied with the Pechenegs in their raids on the Rus lands a few decades
earlier. Though the account is told in a mythical style, its events nevertheless line up
with the facts on the ground: many settlements on the steppe corridor north of the
Danube either disappeared or moved further north into densely forested areas,
phenomenon noted well into the 1100s.
The Byzantines and Hungarians likewise had
a fair share of Cuman-associated headaches, as raids persisted in both realms throughout
this time. The Cumans were keen on letting everyone know just what was theirs, and the
lands south and east of the Carpathians came to be known as Cumania up until the mid-
fourteenth century.

The unrest along the Danube frontier caused the Balkan Vlachs to play an
increasingly important role in the Byzantine Empire... unfortunately, usually to its
detriment. Known largely as a resilient people inhabiting the mountains the Slavs had
helped themselves to the fertile valleys the Vlachs were a relatively autonomous
people of the empire, enjoying tax privileges while being entrusted with defending the
mountain passes of the Balkans.
Known for their transhumance pastoralism,

proved difficult to rule. Their way of life caused many within the empire to consider
them barbarians and this alienation often lead to rebellion. In 1066 they took part in a
serious revolt alongside the Bulgarians and Greeks against the harsh taxation policies in
the region. The Vlachs were lead by the provincial governor Niculitsa a strongman
with a private army at his disposal who was opposed to the revolt but found himself
being both the hostage and leader of the rebels;
undoubtedly a difficult situation to
explain to the emperor. Similar events unfolded along the Danube delta in 1078. There,
the appointment of a local governor named Nestor was hoped to prevent rebellion, but
the governor, likely a Vlach,
became one of the rebellions leaders instead. The Vlachs
became increasingly resentful of the empire, even if some nobles were still loyal to the
emperor. During a Cuman invasion in 1091, though a Vlach nobleman tried to warn the
emperor of Cumans crossing the Danube, the actual Vlach sentries guarding the
mountain passes were happy enough to show the way through to the nomadic invaders.

Vlach-Byzantine relations continued to deteriorate in the next century. When the
J ewish traveller Benjamin of Tudela passed through the Balkans in the mid-eleventh
century, he wrote of the Vlachs living in Wallachia (in Macedonia), who were fond of
descending from the mountains and raiding the hapless Greeks in the plains, were
impossible to be subdued by any king, and were even considered as not being Christians
(the last part might is dubious

)! Benjamin curiously argued that the Vlachs and J ews
were brothers because whenever they meet an Israelite, they rob, but never kill him, as
they do the Greeks.
When it came to the treatment the J ews received in Europe, the
bar obviously was not set very high. Still, some Vlachs remained loyal to the emeperor.
In 1164 some Vlach trackers had captured Andronicus Comnenos, a pretender to the
Byzantine throne, on the border of Galicia,
undoubtedly in northern Moldavia.

All of these events foreshadowed a massive Vlach-Bulgarian rebellion in 1185
that permanently changed the Balkan political landscape. It was undoubtedly the most
important event of twelfth-century Balkan history, and the Vlachs took center stage.
Bulgaria had been destroyed in 1018 by the Byzantine Emperor Basil II, who gained the
title the Bulgar-slayer for quite obvious reasons. His actions put an end to the three
hundred year-old Bulgarian state and re-established Byzantine authority on the Danube.
The revolt of 1185 however, would result in the permanent loss of the area for

According to Nicetas Choniates, a Byzantine historian contemporary to the
events, the revolt was started in the Haemus [Balkan] Mountains by the Vlachs who
were dissatisfied that their taxes had gone to fund the lavish wedding of the emperors

Transhumance pastoralism implies a seasonal movement of herders with their herds, while still
maintaining a permanent settlement to which they return to in the off-season. In this sense the Vlachs were
not really nomadic. This alone makes the idea of a Vlach migration to the north of the Danube
unlikely, as their permanent settlements barring some disaster never changed. The terms resemblance
to transhumanism is only coincidental; it does not mean herding sheep in hopes of pushing the
boundaries of human capabilities.
The allegation might have been made because a proper Christian within the empire had to be loyal to
the emperor, which the Vlachs were not.
Their leaders were two brothers, Peter and Asen, also Vlachs. The uprising
took the Byzantines by surprise,
which is in itself a surprise given the warning signs
mounting throughout the past century. According to Choniates, the two brothers built a
church and brought into it demon-possessed (or perhaps only inebriated) people with
crossed and bloodshot eyes who proclaimed that God had consented to their
Thus roused, the Vlachs began their attacks... and were completely routed
by the emperors forces. The two brothers fled across the Danube, from where they
returned with Cuman assistance. Vlachs from north of the Danube also likely
participated in the revolt, as they did in 1198 when they crossed the Danube with the
Cumans to assist the incipient Bulgarian state.
The reinforcements ultimately put an
end to Byzantine aspirations of stopping the revolt.

The Vlach-Bulgarian rebellion essentially recreated Bulgaria, a Bulgaria which
lasted until the Ottoman conquest in the fourteenth century and which was not revived
until the ninteenth century. It is an extremely important event to Bulgarians in general,
and unsurprisingly there have been controversies, namely as to who the Vlachs were.
Romanian historians tend to believe the Vlachs were, well, Vlachs. Bulgarian historians
have tried, on the other hand, to prove by a variety of means that the Vlachs were
actually other Bulgarians.
Similar to Russian insecurities about Varangian founders,
Bulgarian historians likewise do not wish to believe they were ruled by a Vlach dynasty,
nor even that the supposedly independent-minded Bulgarians would need the Vlachs to
regain their freedom. Some believe (in all seriousness) that there was a conspiracy
among Byzantine historians to avoid writing Bulgarian, and therefore they used
Vlach instead... even though (as critics have pointed out) Byzantine writers use the
word Bulgar quite freely when they are talking about Bulgars, and use Vlach only to
refer to Vlachs.

Bulgarians often cite a passage from the Byzantine historian Nicetas Choniates,
who stated that the barbarians who lived in the vicinity of Mount Haimos [the Balkan
Mountains], [had] formerly been called Mysians and [are] now named Vlachs.
Mysian was term often used for Bulgarian, the Vlachs were therefore (supposedly)
Bulgarians by another name. This explanation however, has a huge hole in it: the term
Mysian is itself not ethnic, and it does not mean Bulgarian. It is only a geographical
term that means inhabitants of Moesia, pointing to the name of the ancient Roman
province. As Bulgaria roughly overlapped with Moesia, it is not surprising that the name
was often used by the Byzantines when writing of the Bulgarians. However, as we saw
earlier, when the Pechenegs moved south of the Danube due to the attacking Uzes, they
too gained the name Mysians. Thus the fact that the Vlachs were formerly called
Mysians does not have any relevance on their ethnicity: it just means that they lived in
the lands of the former province.

The Vlachs in question must have been a separate ethnic group, rather than a
social category, as proven by numerous written sources on the event. Nicetas story of a
Greek priest captured by the rebels clarifies this issue, as the priest pleaded with Asen in
the language of the Vlachsto spare his life.
Unless someone can prove that Bulgarian
shepherds spoke in their own secret language, one must conclude that the priest was
speaking a Vlach dialect, probably Aromanian. The contemporary crusader chronicler
Ansbert, who accompanied Frederick Barbarossa through Bulgaria in 1189, also wrote
of the Vlach Kalopetrus and his brother Assanius.
Geoffrey de Villehardouin, a
contemporary of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, also referred to J ohn [i.e. Kaloyan], who
was King of Wallachia and Bulgaria. This J ohn was a Wallachian.
Pope Innocent III,
in his correspondence with the rebels successor Kaloyan, addressed him as king of
Bulgarians and Vlachs (Bulgarorum et Blacorum rex) and references Kaloyans
Roman ancestry and also that his people assert that they are descended of Roman
blood. (qui de sanguine Romanorum se asserit descendisse).
Meanwhile, Kaloyan
gave himself the title emperor of all Bulgarians and Vlachs (imperator omnium
Bulgarorum et Blacorum) and mentions the Roman ancestry of his people, something
also found in a letter from the archbishop of Tarnovo, who claims the Vlachs were true
descendants of Roman blood. This not only proves the Vlachs were a real ethnicity, but
also that they were aware of their distinct ancestry.
No stretch of the imagination could
justify Kaloyan claiming (as Bulgarian scholars suppose) that Bulgarians were
descended of Romans, nor could he have intended to give himself a title as ridiculous as
emperor of Bulgarians and Bulgarian shepherds.

This should not however be taken to the other extreme, and assume that this was
some sort of Romanian national awakening. The first major problem is that the Vlachs
were not Romanians but Aromanians, and the resultant country never stretched into
Romania proper, though some earlier Romanian historians tried arguing for it.
That out
of the way, the motive for the revolt was economic in nature, not ethnic. Thirdly, ideas
about nationalism were not as important as other considerations in the Middle Ages. To
the rebels, it was more important to create a permanent and legitimate kingdom rather
than to ensure that it remained Vlach in character. The rulers of the new kingdom
decided that the easiest way to justify their rule was to draw on parallels between the
new Bulgaria and the old one.
Kaloyan himself claimed he was a descendant of the old
Bulgarian emperors, which remains an unproven fantasy to modern historians but one
that doubtlessly helped him solidify his rule. That is why within a few decades the state
became Bulgarian in nature and its Vlach origin was forgotten. It does not prove
however that the Vlachs were stealth Bulgarians all along, but rather that ethnicity was
not considered important.
Obviously, the Romanians basing their political history on a
country that became Bulgarian would be impossible. That is why, in spite of this one
gasp of air, the Romnaians would only emerge on the political map of Europe over a
century later.

North of the Danube things were starting to heat up. As the Kingdom of Hungary
reached the Carpathian frontier, their contacts with the Romanians became increasingly
noted and unfortunately troublesome. Hungary was at the time attempting to prove itself
to be a fine Western kingdom, and the best way to do this in the thirteenth century was
with unbridled religious intolerance. King Andrew II had joined the Fifth Crusade in
1217, but his success (or lack thereof) in the Holy Land meant he still had to prove
himself. Thankfully by virtue of the Fourth Crusade in 1204 the very same one that
sacked Constantinople and saw Christian holy warriors looting churches Orthodox
Christians were now on the menu. This was the break Andrew II was waiting for. Indeed,
while the Muslims proved to be prohibitively far away from Hungary, the Orthodox
Romanians were conveniently nearby. Andrew could practically crusade from the
comfort of his own kingdom; no perilous voyage, no hot weather, no problem. One thing
was certain: it was going to be a rough period for the Romanians.

Andrews decision to do some religious landscaping in Transylvania was a
change in the way Hungary handled its minorities. It was a far cry from the teachings of
Saint Stephen, Hungarys first king, who stated that a kingdom of one language is weak
and fragile.
Indeed, up until the early thirteenth century Hungary was a remarkable
example of ethnic and religious tolerance,
allowing for Romanians to coexist in their
own Orthodox cneazates and voievodates.
Of course, the Roman Catholic Church was
not amused, and under their guidance Hungarys new rulers made some changes to Saint
Stephens lesson: Catholic immigrants were welcome, but Orthodox people need not

The wake of the Fourth Crusade did not take too long to reach the Romanian
lands. In 1205 the Pope sent a letter to the Archepiscope of Calocea in Transylvania,
wherein he mentions the lands of the sons of cneaz Bela [possibly Blea] ( Bele knese)
where there was an episcopacy that was not subjected to the Catholic church, and agreed
with the archepiscopes suggestion of rectifying this oversight. That this episcopacy
was under the jurisdiction of the Patriarch in Constantinople (Constantinopolitana
Ecclesia subjectus)
confirms its Orthodox Christian character, and Belas title of cneaz
indicates that he was ethnically Romanian. Elsewhere, Hungarian nobles had managed
to conquer the fortress of Media (NW Transylvania) with royal assistance, taking it
from the hands of the Vlach [Romanian] schismatics sometime between 1204 and

Many Vlach lands went to new Catholic colonists from Western Europe.
Mention is made in 1223 of how Andrew II donated lands taken from the Vlachs
(exempta de Blaccis) in southern Transylvania to the nearby Cistercian monastery of
Cra, the donation taking place around 1206.
Along with knights and monks came a
new group of German settlers: the Saxons. It was an interesting naming choice, given
that most of them came from Flanders or Bavaria rather than Saxony. Hungarian kings
granted these German settlers a wider array of privileges in order to attract them and
have them put in the effort of developing the Transylvanian countryside. The Hungarian
crown of course gave the Saxons free reign in former Romanian lands, as a document
from 1222 entitled the Saxons to use the forest of Vlach and Pechenegs (silvam
Blacorum et Bissenorum) in southern Transylvania.
Such privileges seemed to
naturally cause a level of hubris and isolationism in the Saxons, and the discrimination
faced by the Romanians at the hands of these new immigrants was far in excess of
whatever treatment they received from the Hungarians. In the Saxon city of Braov
(Kronnstadt) for instance, the Romanians were only permitted entry one day a year, a
day that is today curiously considered a holiday. The small Romanian community that
developed in the city was mostly ghettoized in a small neighborhood called Schei.

Romanian appeals mostly fell on deaf ears. One case brought before the
Transylvanian court in 1291confirmed the Hungarian nobleman Ugrinus ownership of
(former) Romanian lands in southern Transylvania, much to the behest of the Vlachs in
The new spirit of the times was clearly evoked by King Bela IV in a letter
sent to the Pope in 1234 where he declared he would drive out the heretics and false
Christians from our land.

Many Romanians fled across the Carpathians in response, but Andrew II was one
step ahead of them. He had invited the Teutonic Knights into his kingdom, expert
crusaders fresh from the Holy Land, where they gained much knowledge on religious
tolerance and how to get rid of it. Their settlement in Burzenland (modern ara Brsei)
was designed to protect against the Cumans, but the almost stereotypically industrious
Teutons chose to not sit around for the enemy to come to them. Rather, they took the
offensive and claimed some successes in converting the Cumans to Christianity. The
conversion of the Cumans however, had less to do with the actions of the Knights as it
did with those of the Mongols to the east.
In 1223 a Mongol raiding party fought
against the combined forces of the Rus states and the Cumans at the battle of Kalka
River, where the Mongols inflicted a crushing defeat on their enemies. Fearing an
invasion, the Cumans figured they would fare better to have Catholic Hungary (and, of
course, God) as an ally when it came. Andrew II however, could tell the Knights were
getting a little big for their boots, and decided to get rid of them while he still could,
ousting them in 1225. Zealous as Andrew II was, he knew enough about politics that
having harbouring an elite army loyal only to the Holy See was not particularly wise.

Further east, between the Olt and Siret river in Wallachia and southern Moldavia,
the Hungarians established the Bishopric of Cumania, hoping more Cumans would join
the faith. It was not the first mission outside of the Carpathians, as earlier one had been
sent to the lands of Severin (modern Oltenia), which was targeted against the
schismatics and heretics (abitatores scismatici pariter et publici heretici). While the
Schismatics proved largely unreceptive, the Cuman diocese actually met with some
success once again, mostly due to the Mongols. In 1227 the Mongols conquered the
lands of the Kievan Rus, and not by coincidence, later that year the Cuman chief Bortz
decided to convert to Catholicism along with the rest of his followers, and were thus
allowed to seek refuge in the kingdom. It was not exactly the first politically-motivated
conversion to Catholicism. Indeed, though in Rome it was believed that the Cumans
would settle, make towns and villages, and become good (taxable) farmers, the Cumans
had no intention of abandoning their nomadic ways,
nor even many of their pagan
rituals! More Cumans converted in 1239, as the Mongols came practically within
spitting distance of the Bishopric of Cumania. The Hungarian kings were keen to accept
them, viewing such missionary activity as part of their efforts to expand outside of the
Carpathian Mountains. Hungarian kings had already adopted the title of King of
Cumania in anticipation, though it should be noted that Hungarian kings often
exaggerated their own reach. When Bela IV listed his titles as King of Hungary,
Dalmatia, Croatia, Ramae, Serbia, Halych, Lodomeria, Bulgaria, and Cumania
around half were true even by the most optimistic accounts.

For a place named the Bishopric of Cumania, there was a peculiar absence of
Cumans within its domains. For the most part the priests presided over Romanians,

which may have been as much as surprise for them as it is for us. Pope Gregory IXs
more-than-slight-annoyance at this oversight is evident from a letter he sent to King
Bela IV in 1234:

As I was informed, there are certain people within the Cuman
bishopric named Wallachians, who although calling themselves Christians,
gather various rites and customs in one religion and do things that are alien
to this name. For disregarding the Roman Church, they receive all the
sacraments not from our venerable brother, the Cuman bishop [not actually a
Cuman] but from some pseudo-bishops of the Greek rite.

The title of pseudo-bishops was more than just a jab at the schismatics: it
also meant the Orthodox priests in the area were not canonically ordained, and therefore
must have been local priests belonging to some now-defunct Romanian episcopacy
rather than being Bulgarian missionaries.
The letter also mentions that Hungarians,
Teutons (Saxons probably), and others Schismatics were leaving the Hungarian
kingdom to join the Wallachians and become Orthodox Christians. This must have
looked like one step forward and two steps back: while Christianity was spreading in the
region, its Orthodox flavour was hardly what the Pope had in mind. Gregory quickly
recommended giving the Romanians a Catholic bishop, as is fit for that people to goad
them towards the Apostolic See, but undoubtedly Romanian Catholic bishops were in
short supply. The Romanians had somehow scored a small Orthodox victory against
Catholic proselytism, but it was not enough to turn the tide. Rather, the Romanians were
were about to receive their salvation from the most unlikely of people.

In 1241 the Mongols burst in from the Ukrainian steppe, steamrolling their way
across Europe, reaching as far as the Adriatic Sea. Though they gave the Poles a good
thrashing, the main target of the invasion was Hungary. The major force of the Mongol
army broke through the Carpathians at the Verecke Pass, where the Hungarians and
pretty much every other nomad had crossed earlier. King Bela decided to fight the
Mongols in a winner-take-all battle at Mohi in 1241. Unfortunately, the Hungarians had
by this time lost much of their former nomadic prowess, and their army was mostly
composed of armor-clad knights, or as the Mongols might have called them: arrow-
fodder. It was a catastrophic defeat that left the Mongols free to pillage the land at their

At the same time, other branches of the Mongol invasion proceeded through the
Romanian lands. According to Roger of Maggiore, who actually visited the region after
the Mongols were gone, the Mongol chief Bochetor proceeded through Moldavia and
into the episcopacy of Cumania, where they people trying to resist them were easily
Unfortunately, Bochetors real identity will remain a mystery as his name
does not match that of any known Mongol general, but certainly the Cuman bishopric
did not destroy itself, and the handiwork of the Mongols was left for all to see.
Persian writer Rashed-od-Din gave a more detailed account of the Mongol invasion, but
his spelling also left much to be desired, and most names and places are left to mere
speculation. According to him one branch of the Mongols traversed the country of Ilaut
[probably Oltenia] and vanquished Bezerenbam [likely the Ban (ruler) of Severin].
Meanwhile, a second branch moved against the Sassans [Saxon Germans] and defeated
them in three battles. Lastly, a third army entered Kara-Ulag, being Transylvania or
Wallachia], vanquished the people of the Ulag [Vlachs], crossed the mountains and
invaded the country of Miscelav, where he defeated the enemy, who was awaiting
Kara-Ulag has been translated as Black Wallachia and the Ulag are evidently
Romanians. The identity of Mielav remains speculatory at best, though some believe he
was a Romanian voievod in Wallachia. Western chronicles likewise mention that the
Romanians and Szecklers tried together to seal the mountain passes,
actions that
resulted in yet another glorious defeat for the overmatched defenders. That Romanians
would work in the defense of the kingdom is not unreasonable as the fortress of Btca
Doamnei that guarded the mountain passes between Transylvania and Moldavia had an
Orthodox Christian garrison;
it seems the schismatics still had a use within the
kingdom. While it was not a shining moment in Romanian military history, the records
of the Mongol invasion prove that the Romanians were actively involved in the defense
of their lands as well as Hungary. In retrospect however, sitting this one out might have
been a better idea.

The Mongols left just as quickly as they had come (of course, not before giving
Transylvania another good thrashing on the return trip). They had never been intent on
annexing Hungary, which may explain why they trashed the place. Instead, they
retreated beyond the Carpathians when news came that their great Khan had died in a
night of drunkenness. It was a dj vu experience to the disappearance of the Huns after
Attilas similar death. Some Mongols presence was maintained in Wallachia and
Moldavia, but for the most part they cared little of what happened west of the Dniepr
river, including in the Romanian lands.
For the Romanians things could not have been
better (well, except for the whole getting annihilated aspect). The resultant power
vacuum in the region caused by a Hungary too weak to act and a Mongol Empire to
distant to care was just the environment necessary for the Romanians to assert their
independence. They had finally received their lucky break, even if it came at a heavy

The Mongol Invasion essentially swept off the Cuman and Hungarian yoke,
replacing it with a less involved Mongol one that allowed the Romanians to finally
emerge on the political landscape. In 1247 the Hungarian king Bela IV invited the
Knights of Saint J ohn (Knights Hospitallers), another famous crusader order, into the
kingdom and gave them many lands in Severin. Thankfully, due to the Hungarian kings
habit of parcelling out lands which were not entirely his, the charter of the Hospitallers
is a valuable source on the Romanian states in the region. It mentions that the lands of
the princes (cneaz) J ohn and Farkas which reached to the Olt river, were given to the
knights. However, the land of voievod Litovoi was to be left to the Romanians.
(excepta terra Kenazaus Lynioy [not the greatest spelling attempt at his name] Woiavode,
quam Olatis relinquimus).
However, the king decided make himself equally disliked
by all three rulers, as he chose to take away Litovois possessions in southern
Transylvania and give them to the Transylvanian (Hungarian) voievod. The knights
were given permission to expand to the east in Cumania (by now an outdated name),
except for the lands of Seneslav, voievod of the Romanians (excepta terra Szeneslai
Woiauode Olatorum), which remained in Romanian hands. The knights probably never
took up the kings offer however, as there is little (or no) evidence of their presence.
Perhaps they did not find being annihilated in a future Mongol attack to be an enticing

Even though the Knights of Saint J ohn likely never accepted the invitation, the
document elucidates the political realities outside of the Carpathians. A small yet
critically important detail is the introduction of the term voievod in Hungarian
parlance for lands south of the Carpathians. It was not just another strange Orthodox
title: rather, the voievods had considerably larger holdings and considerably more power
than a mere cneaz.
It shows that Romanian power was consolidating as smaller
holdings were being unified (often by Romanian-on-Romanian action) into larger states.
The document also mentions a Romanian nobility (maiores terrae big men of the
land). Furthermore, the document signifies that people were still emigrating from
Transylvania to Wallachia, as the document calls upon the knights to not accept any
peasants from the kingdom as colonists (et quod rusticos de regno nostro... non
recipient). Perhaps most significant was the new spirit of the document: the Hungarian
king no longer seemed able or willing to have direct control beyond the Carpathians,
something which became even more evident after the 1260s.
Of course, he tried to
keep the people in the region as vassals, tasking them with protecting the kingdom
(defensionem terre). Yet, there is evidence that Romanian rulers were also vassals to the
Mongols, as in the example of a duke Olaha at the Mongol court in 1247.

Romanian rulers doubtlessly knew the Hungarian king had lost his long arm in the
Mongol invasion (not literally, of course).

Around the year 1272 Litovoi, the same voievod mentioned in 1247, struck out
to make an independent Romanian state in Wallachia together with his brother Brbat
(literally meaning man). Undoubtedly still bearing a grudge against the Hungarians
who had taken away his lands in Transylvania a grudge that was by now 25 years old
he decided to finally throw off the Hungarian yoke, occupying the land of Severin as an
act of defiance. It was a classic case of David versus Goliath, except this time David lost
in spectacular fashion. Litovoi was killed in battle against the Hungarian army. His
brother, in spite of his name, chose to surrender and was taken to the Hungarian court,
where he paid his own massive ransom and swore fealty to the king.
It was the first
test-flight of an independent Romanian state, and it came crashing down rather quickly.
Nevertheless, it was just the tip of a rather large and growing Romanian political iceberg.
Sooner or later something was going to give.

By the fourteenth century the Romanians were ready to try again, and this time
they succeeded. Though the first revolt had been a failure, it still had some successes.
Litovois successors likely kept the lands he had occupied during his revolt.
From the
late thirteenth to the early fourteenth centuries the states south of the Danube continued
to be unified largely with voievods from Muntenia being accepted as rulers by the
Oltenian nobles. One such ruler was Basarab. His very title of great voievod would
imply that he (or possibly his predecessor) had united all of the smaller voievodships
around him.
He was at the time a vassal of Hungary, as Hungarian documents from
1324 charmingly refer to the man as Basarab our transalpine voievod.
honeymoon did not last long as less than a year later Basarab considered unfaithful to
the holy crown (Bazarab sancte regie corone infidelem),
once again likely due to a
dispute over Severin.
The Hungarian king Charles-Robert of Anjou decided to nip his
little Wallachian problem in the bud, launching a campaign against him in 1330. Anjou
considered that the former kings had erred when they allowed Litovois state to remain
(though without Litovoi): he was not going in just to get rid of Basarab, but to erase
Wallachia completely as well.

Charles Robert large army of knights and nobles set off in September 1330, and
his invasion was carefully recorded in the Hungarian Chronicon Pictum.
After forcing
Basarabs overwhelmed forces out of Severin, Basarab offered 7,000 pieces of silver and
an oath of fealty if the king would stop, but Charles was feeling rather confident. He told
Basarabs emissary that Basarab is the shepherd of my sheep and I will take him from
the mountains by his beard. Charles proceeded to Basarabs capital of Curtea de Arge,
which he found completely deserted of defenders. Much like Napoleon when he was
confronted with an abandoned Moscow during his Russian campaign, Charles found
himself unable to decisively end his campaign and burned the city to the ground, likely
out of frustration. And, much like Napoleon again, with winter approaching and
pillaging helpless villagers becoming less productive, the Hungarian king realized he
had forgotten something at home: his armys food. The Wallachian voievod, though in a
tight spot, had managed to fortify his position in the mountains. Faced with a stalemate,
the Hungarian chronicle claimed Charles-Robert achieved an armistice with Basarab in
which Wallachian guides were to lead Charles army through the Carpathians back to
Hungary. Basarab however, was not about to let Charle-Roberts army return to try
again in the coming summer. The Wallachian guides lead the Hungarian army straight
into an ambush
(though some have supposed the armistice and the guides were just
historical reediting by Hungarian chroniclers and Basarab had just ambushed a
Hungarian army retreating of its own accord

Charles knights encountered Basarabs army head-on... and roughly fifty feet
below. The ensuing ambush and battle is today called the battle of Posada... though
chances are it did not take place at Posada. The Romanian voievod had cleverly placed
his army on the sides of the ravine overlooking the path that the Hungarians took, from
which they shot down arrows and threw stones upon the now-impotent knights. What
followed was like shooting fish in a barrel; even the chronicler likened the Hungarian
army to fish trapped in nets. Hungarian young and old warriors, princes and
noblemen fell without distinction of rank given that boulders fall indiscriminately.
Charles-Robert barely escaped with his life by exchanging clothes with one of his
soldiers (among the most awkward scenes to have graced any battlefield). With the
utterly crushing victory Basarab ensured the independence of his principality and
became the first independent ruler the Romanians had seen in four centuries.


The battle of Posada as depicted in medieval chronicles. The Romanian peasant army, positioned on
top of the cliffs, is shooting arrows and hurling boulders on the armor-clad Hungarian knights
below, who do not appear to be enjoying their crash-course on gravity.

For Basarabs great importance in Romanian history, his identity and where he
came from is still unclear, as medieval Romanian chronicles paint the picture of an
entirely different man, making no mention of Basarab but rather of a certain Radu Negru
(Radu the Black), sometimes called Negru Vod (The Black Warlord). In a
seventeenth century chronicle, Istoria rii Romneti (History of Wallachia), Radu is
said to have been a prince from southern Transylvania who came to Wallachia in 1290
with numerous colonists, including German Saxons and Catholics.
The chronicle then
continues to say that the boyars of the Basarab family in Oltenia pledged fealty to Radu
Negru, and thus the country was unified.

For the longest time modern historians considered this only a myth made by the
old authors who didnt know any better... it turns out that they may have known the
truth better than their critics! Certain events and facts of Romanian history continue to
line up with the so-called legend. For instance, it must be more than coincidence that
Radu Negru left southern Transylvania in 1290, the same year that the Hungarian noble
Ugrinus took over that land from the Vlachs, who were then denied their appeal at the
Hungarian court;
some of the Romanian chronicles even make reference to it!

There are many Hungarian documents from the late thirteenth century that make
mention of driving out the schismatics
and undoubtedly some of those Orthodox
Romanians were driven south into Wallachia. Similarly, later Romanian medieval
documents make reference to land grants given to boyars by Radu Negru in 1292, the
dates being so close to those in the legend that it must be more than coincidence.
fact that Wallachias initial capital of Cmpulung w as right beside the Carpathians and
later capitals continued to move further south is understandable if Wallachias first
founder was originally a Transylvanian. The very name Muntenia implies the state was
created by people who had crossed the mountains, and also the term in popular folklore
for the Romanian foundation desclecare (dismounting) implies Radu came from
somewhere else;
had this Negru Vod always lived in Wallachia, he would not have
needed to dismount from anything. Furthermore, Cmpulungs first ruler was a
Transylvanian Saxon named Laurencius, perhaps a man who had come with Radu Negru
to the south.

All of this has prompted historians to seriously reconsider this supposed myth.
Some have taken to considering that Basarab was Negru Vod, and thus one ruler
unified the entire country.
However, as Negru Vod began his exodus in 1290 and
Basarab died in 1352, it would make Basarab a rather venerable man by medieval
standards. An alternative proposed has been that Negru Vod was Basarabs father
Thocomerius, and therefore Basarab inherited Negru Vods unification.
Still more
believe the two people were unrelated, with Radu Negru unifying the country and
Basarab being a usurper who took over someone elses work.
Whatever the case may
be, it is evident that the foundation of Wallachia was not a self-contained event:
Wallachia was created as an independent and unified state as a direct consequence of the
collapse of Romanian political autonomy in southern Transylvania.

That is not the only question that has been raised about the Romanian voievod
Basarab: many wonder how Romanian he was at all. Basarabs name is of Turkic
origin, being a conjugate of basar-aba (father-king). Similarly, Basarabs fathers
name, recorded as Thocomerius in Latin documents, sounds closer to the Turkic
Togomer rather than the Romanian-Slavic alternative Tihomir proposed by many
Romanian historians (who are themselves reluctant to accept a Turkic origin).
Radu Negrus capital had the Romanian name of Cmpulung (meaning long field)
Basarabs capital at Arge had a (debatably

) Turkic name,
perhaps more proof that
the initiative of a Romanian ruler had been usurped by a Turkic dynast. A document in
1325 also mentions that a Cuman lord from Hungary boasted that the Hungarian king
could barely reach up to Basarabs ankles.
Whatever could possess a Cuman noble to
boast about a Romanian voievod will remain a mystery unless we consider Basarab a
Cuman himself.
However, a Cuman name does not a Cuman voievod make. Basarab was referred
to unanimously as a Romanian (Olacus) in contemporary documents.
The Mongol
invasion of 1241 also resulted in the expulsion of many Cumans from Wallachia,

which at least makes a Cuman origin less probable in a by-the-numbers game. There are
also more logical arguments against the Cuman hypothesis. Only a number of Romanian
boieri (nobles) were of Cuman extraction, suggesting that Cumans played a small part in

The precise etymology is unclear. Some Romanians do not accept the Turkic etymology, but believe the
name is from the Dacian word Ordessos, or possibly the fortress Argedava. This is itself doubted by
Romanian medievalists.
the foundation of Wallachia. Turkic names were likely adopted by some Romanian elite
like the Basarabs because it was seen as fashionable to associate oneself with the
nomadic rulers. The case of the early Magyars reflects such tendencies, as even Arpad
bore a Turkic name, yet no one (at least no one credible) has considered making the
Magyars actual Turks.
Archaeological evidence for peaceful Romanian-Nomad
contacts remains very small, and a Cuman-Romanian symbiosis tempting as it may be
for multiculturalists cannot be supported. The nomadic Cumans and the sedentary
Romanian simply lived in two different worlds. Any Cumans that settled among the
Romanians were isolated families and were rapidly assimilated.
When we look at
Basarab, even if he was of Cuman extraction, by the time of his rule he was considered
just as Romanian as his subjects.

Further east a second Romanian state was about to emerge: Moldova. Thankfully,
the origin of Moldova is considerably less controversial. Romanian states had been
noted in the region for some time. In 1300 Otto of Bavaria, a competitor for the
Hungarian throne, was imprisoned and sent by the Hungarian king across the
mountains to a Romanian ruler in Moldova.
That is unfortunately the most
informative account of a Moldavian state until 1345 when the Hungarian king Louis the
Great began an offensive against the eastward Mongols. Louis had no trouble pushing
the Mongols out of Moldova, but he was unsure of what to do with the land he had just
conquered. Thankfully, many Romanians from Maramure participated in the offensive
and Louis was more than happy to leave the mess he had made to one of them, a cneaz
name Drago. The small Romanian principality at the time barely covering
northwestern Moldova in Romania was evidently to be little more than a tool to be
used by the Hungarian king to protect his actual kingdom.
Hungarian documents also
readily acknowledged that Drago ruled our land Moldova. Moldova had changed
ownership from the Mongols to the Hungarians, even if a Romanian ruler sat on her

It was not long until Moldova saw a new leader, Bogdan of Cuhea, who finally
decided to set things right. Some have tried to identify this Bogdan with another
mentioned in 1335, Bogdan voievod, son of Mikula who immigrated into the
Hungarian kingdom with his followers in that year.
This is identification is very
unlikely, given Bogdans vast holdings in Maramure that he would have had trouble
building up in only twenty years.
The document makes no reference as to where the
son of Mikula had moved to, and there is no reason to believe that one Bogdan is as
good as another. In all likelihood, Bogdan had always lived in Maramure.

Louis I soon grew displeased with Bogdan as a document from 1343 called
Bogdan the former voievod of Maramure, who is faithless to us.
Evidently, the
king decided to give Bogdans lands to someone else. Bogdan however, decided to one-
up the king and took Moldavia instead! He crossed the Carpathians to conquer the new
principality in 1363 or 1364.
Hungarian chronicles described how Bogdan, the
voievod of the Vlachs of Maramure lead his Vlachs in his districts into the land of
Moldavia... such that the number of Vlachs in that land grew.
Since immigration is a
zero-sum game, the demographic growth of the Vlachs in Moldavia meant fewer Vlachs
in Transylvania. The foundation of an independent Moldavia was yet another failure of
the Hungarian policy towards the Romanians: dissolving Romanians lands within
Transylvania usually resulted in a bigger state for the Romanians (and a bigger headache
for the Hungarian kings) outside of the Carpathians. Bogdan drove out Sas, the son of
Drago, from Moldavia. Dragos grandson reportedly fled Moldavia apparently,
unlike Bogdan, he left his lands, acquaintances, and even his parents behind! and
moved back into Transylvania, where the king rewarded him for his loyalty with
Bogdans former possessions.
Bogdan, the former voievod of Maramure, became the
prince of Moldavia, while Balk, the former prince of Moldavia, became the new voievod
of Maramure! Though Hungarian historians cite Balk as an example of Vlach
immigration into Transylvania,
this is only true if one forgets that Balk and his family
were originally Transylvanians themselves! In any case, Bogdan was the clear winner of
this game of Moldovan musical chairs, and came to be viewed as the rightful founder of
an independent Moldova; some later documents would even refer to the country as
Bogdania as a result.

Contentions between the Hungarian kingdom and the Romanian states
strengthened the pull of the Orthodox Byzantine world on the Romanians. Though
writers on Romania from the early twentieth century noted that a Latin country which
is not Catholic is an anomaly,
Romanias religious nature was a natural consequence
of medieval politics. A state in the Middle Ages had to have its own religious heirarchy
to be considered legitimate. Hungary for example, only became a proper medieval
kingdom after the conversion of Saint Stephen to Catholicism in 1000AD. Before then,
Hungary was seen as being no more than some land temporarily (as temporary as more
than a century can seem) seized by Magyar warriors. Practically speaking, conversion
did not change this, but in a legal sense it made Hungary an actual state. The Vlachs
were aware of this truism of politics: Kaloyans letters to Innocent III bore the maxim
an empire without a patriarchy cannot stand,
pleading for Innocent III to send an
episcopacy to Bulgaria to legitimize the new state. Kaloyans appeals also indicate that
the Vlachs may have had an ethnic affinity for Catholicism;
if left alone or if
favorable terms had been offered, they might have realized they could understand Latin
a lot better than they could understand Slavonic. Indeed, there are several documents in
which the Pope in Rome sings praises both to Basarab
and his successor Nicolae-
Alexandru for being faithful to Catholicism; Pope Clement VI even made ethnic-based
appeals to the Romanians in 1345, referring to them as Olachi Romani (Vlach
Likewise, in 1370 the Moldavian prince Lacu addressed the Pope in a
letter, asking for the Pope to establish a diocese in his lands; the fact that he sent it
directly to the Pope and not through a Hungarian proxy suggests Lacu was trying to use
this move to pre-empt a Hungarian invasion.
Though Hungarian documents do refer
to the Basarabs as schismatics,
this might not have been true given that their wives
were reportedly Catholic
and such inter-faith marriages were more than a little
awkward in the Middle Ages. In the same way Bulgaria had cut off the Romanians from
Constantinople by making anything Byzantine which reached Romania have a Bulgarian
tint, the Hungarians distanced the Romanians from Rome by making Catholicism a
religion of an alien elite.

To Basarab and his Wallachians, accepting Catholicism would have meant
accepting Hungarian domination. Indeed, Basarab only possessed de facto independence
after his victory at Posada. As far as Catholic Europe was concerned, he was still a
vassal of the Hungarian king and his successes could be lost entirely in another battle. It
was this political threat which prompted the Romanian princes to place themselves
under Constantinoples patronage.
When the Orthodox metropolitanate of Wallachia
(Ungro-Vlachia) was established in 1359 by Nicolae Alexandru, it effectively
legitimized Wallachia as a real country and not just some warlords temporary holdings.
Similar events played out in Moldavia, where the establishment of the Byzantine
Metropolitan in 1402 effectively ended Hungarian designs on the region. Wallachia and
Moldavia chose Constantinople as a guarantor for independence.

With the Romanians finally independent even if inconstantly so, they were at
least ruling themselves now

we can finally change our context from an ethnic
history to a political history. A new nation that had taken over a millennium to complete,
the Romanians had become a reality. The road was certainly bumpy and often dark and
unknown, but at its end emerged a Latin people that had adopted the Eastern Orthodox
rite of Christianity. Their countries established a sense of demographic and cultural
permanence on the European landscape. As such, this is where the discussion of
Romanian origins ends. True, many people would add to the Romanians over the
coming centuries, be they Turks, Russians, Frenchmen, or even the English, but these
would all be minor touches on an already completed work. The Romanians had firmly
established their place in Europe.

The establishment of the two Romanian principalities gave the Romanians a sense of permanence in
Europe. True, they often neighbored large, menacing states such as Hungary, Poland, or the
Ottoman Empire, but being neighbors certainly was an improvement from being subjects.


Well, even that is not entirely true in the later eras of Romanian history. During the Phanariot period
(eighteenth century) for instance, the Romanians were ruled by Greek princes appointed by the Ottomans
from Constantinople.
[1] Deletant, Dennis. Slavonic Letters in Moldavia, Wallachia and Transylvania from the Tenth
to the Seventeenth Centuries. The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 58, No. 1 (J an.,
1980). pp. 3-5.

[2] Engel, Pal. Realm of St. Stephen : A History of Medieval Hungary, 895-1526. London, , GBR:
I.B. Tauris, 2001. p 9.

[3] Constantine Porphyrgenitus. De Administrando Imperio. trans. Moravcsik, Gyula.
Washington : Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, 1967. pp. 168-169. For more
examples see Rna-Tas, Andrs. Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages : an
ntroduction to early Hungarian history. Budapest : Central European Unv. Press, 1999. pp. 277-

[4] Curta, 2006. p. 166.

[5] Life of Constantine, 10. trans. Kantor, M. Medieval Slavic Studies of Saints and Princes.
Ann Arbor : University of Michigan, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, 1983. p.

[6] Life of Constantine. 8.

[7] Engel, 2001. p. 10.

[8] Curta, 2006. p. 124.

[9] Spinei, 2009. pp. 67-69.

[10] Annales Fuldenses. trans. Reuter, Timothy. The Annals of Fulda. Manchester, UK :
Manchester University Press, 1992. p. 129.

[11] Todorov, Boris. The value of empire: tenth-century Bulgaria between the Magyars,
Pechenegs and Byzantium. Journal of Medieval History, vol. 36 (2010). p. 317.

[12] Spinei, 2009. p. 66.

[13] Engel, 2001. p. 12.

[14] Constantine Porphyrgenitus, trans. Moravcsik, 1967. pp. 166-167.

[15] Engel, 2001. p. 11.

[16] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum, XII. Trans. Rady, Martyn. The Gesta Hungarorum of
Anonymous, the Anonymous Notary of King Bela. [Draft] : 2008. p. 8.

[17] Madgearu, Alexandru. The Romanians in the Anonymous Gesta Hungarorum. Centrul de
Studii Transilvane, Bibliotheca Rerum Transsylvaniae, XXVII. Cluj-Napoca, 2005. p. 91.

[18] Spinei, 2009. p. 72.

[19] Ngler, 2005. p. 211.

[20] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum XXVII. trans. Rady, 2008. In particular, the locals giving
the right hand of their own free will chose to themselves as lord Tuhutum.

[21] Madgearu, 2005. p. 26.

[22] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum. LV.

[23] Madgearu, 2005. p. 92.

[24] Slgean, Tudor. Dextram Dantes, Notes on the Specificity of the Relations Between the
Hungarian Conquerors and the Local Population in Northern Transylvania in the 10th-14th
Centuries ed. Pinter, Zeno K., iplic, Ioan M. and iplic, Maria E. Relatii interetnice in
Transilvania (secolele VI-XIII). Part of Bibliotheca Septemcastrensis, vol. 12. Bucharest :
Departamentul pentru Relaii Interetnice, 2005. p. 124.

[25] Ibidem. p. 125.

[26] Curta, 2006. p. 185.

[27] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum. XXV. Trans. Rady, 2008. p. 15.

[28] Madgearu. Alexandru. Romni i pecenegi n sudul Transilvaniei. ed. Pinter, Zeno K.,
iplic, Ioan M. and iplic, Maria E. Relatii interetnice in Transilvania (secolele VI-XIII). Part of
Bibliotheca Septemcastrensis, vol. 12. Bucharest : Departamentul pentru Relaii Interetnice, 2005.
p. 113.

[29] Kristo, Gyula. Early Transylvania (895-1324). Budapest, Hungary : Lucidus, 2003. p. 59.

[30] Constantine Porphyrgenitus. De Administrando Impero. 37, 34-49. in FHDR, II. pp. 664-667.

[31] Motahhar ben Thir el-Maqdis, Le Livre de la Cration et de lHistoire, attribu a Abou-Zd
Ahmed ben Sahl el-Balkh, IV, ed. Cl. Huart (Paris, 1907), p. 62.

[32] Anonymous, XXV and LVII. trans. Rady, 2008. p. 15 and 30. For the interpretation see
Madgearu, 2005. p. 114.

[33] Madgearu, 2005. p. 115.

[34] Ibidem. pp. 116-117.

[35] Spinei, 2009. p. 82.

[36] J ohn Skylitzes. Synopsis of Histories. XVI. trans. Wortley, John. John Skylitzes: A Synopsis of
Byzantine History, 811-1056: Translation and Notes. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University
Press, p. 2010. p. 312.

[37] Al-Nadim, The Fihrist. A Tenth-Century Survey of Muslim Culture, ed. Dodge, B. New York,
NY : Columbia University Press, 1970. pp. 3637.

[38] Numerous examples are given in the crusader accounts cited in Wolff, Robert L. The Second
Bulgarian Empire: its origin and history to 1204. Speculum. XXIV, 2. April, 1949. p. 185.

[39] Spinei, 2009. p. 83.

[40] Nestor. Russian Primary Chronicle. trans. Hazzard-Cross, Samuel and Sherbowitz-Wetzor,
Olgerd P. The Russian Primary Chronicle, Laurentian Text. Cambridge, MA : The Medieval
Academy of America, 1953. p. 7.

[41] Honig, Bonnie. Democracy and the Foreigner. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press,
2001. p. 5.

[42] Spinei, 2009. pp. 53-54.

[43] J esch, Judith. Ships and Men in the Late Viking Age: the Vocabulary of Runic Inscriptions.
Woodridge : Boydell & Brewer. 2001. p. 257.

[44] J ansson, Sven B.F. and Foote, Peter. Runes in Sweden. Stockholm, Sweden; Gidlund,
Sweden : Royal Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities; Central Board of National
Antiquities, 1987. p. 63.

[45] Curta, 2006. p. 303.

[46] Cross, Samuel Hazzard. Yaroslav the Wise in Norse Tradition. Speculum, Vol. 4, No. 2
(Apr., 1929), pp. 177-197; Spinei, 2009. p. 106.

[47] Snorri Sturluson. Heimskringla. XXI. ed. Hollander, Lee M. Austin, TX : University of Texas
Press, 1964 [1995]. p. 787.

[48] Psellus, Michael. Chrono Graphia.VII, 67. ed. Sewter, E.R. London, UK : Routledge, 1953. p.

[49] Spinei, 2009. pp. 115-116.

[50] Curta, 2006. p. 306.

[51] Ibidem. p. 307.

[52] Ibidem. p. 318.

[53] Tanaoca, Nicolae-erban. Aperus of the History of Balkan Romanity. ed. Theodorescu,
Razvan and Barrows, Leland C. Politics and Culture in Southeastern Europe. Part of the Studies
on Science and Culture series. Bucharest, Romanian : UNESCO, 2001. p. 120.

[54] van Antwerp Fine, John. The Early Medieval Balkans: a critical survey from the sixth to the
late twelfth century. Ann Arbor : Univ. of Michigan Press, 2000. p. 216.

[55] Angold,Michael. The Byzantine Empire, 1025-1204: a political history. p. 121.

[56] Anna Komnena. Alexiad. II, 194.

[57] Benjamin of Tudela. Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela. ed. Wright, Thomas. Early travels in
Palestine. London, UK : Henry G Bohn, 1888. p. 72.

[58] Nicetas Choniates. V, 368. ed. Magoulias, Harry J . O City of Byzantium: annals of Nicetas
Choniates. Detroit : Wayne State University Press, 1984. p. 74.

[59] Curta, 2006. p. 316.

[60] Choniates ed. Magoulias, 1984. pp. 203-204.

[61] Spinei, 2009. p. 138.

[62] Choniates ed. Magoulias, 1984. p. 205.

[63] Ibidem. p. 74.

[64] For a review of the arguments see Wolff, 1949. pp. 176-178; Tanaoca, 2001. p. 117.

[65] Wolff, 1949. p. 181.

[66] Choniates ed. Magoulias, 1984. p. 204.

[67] Ibidem. p. 257.

[68] Ansbert. Historia de expedition Frederici Imperatoris. 33. Kalopetrus Flachus ac frater eius
Assanius. ed. Loud, Graham A. The Crusade of Frederick Barbarossa:the history of the
expedition of the Emperor Frederick and related texts. Farnham, England ; Burlington, VT :
Ashgate, 2010. p. 64.

[69] Geoffrey de Villehardouin. Memoirs of the Fourth Crusade and the Conquest of
Constantinople. trans. Marzials, Frank T. London, UK : J .M. Dent, 1908. p. 51. [Online]. Accessed May 10, 2011.

CHRISTI 1202, Litterae CXVI; Migne, Patrologia Latina, tomus CCXIV, coll. 1114 A 1115 D.

[71] All the sources can be found in Murgescu, 2001. p. 77. For the original Latin see de
Hurmuzaki, Eudoxiu. Documente privitoare la istoria romnilor . vol. I. Bucuresti, Romania :
Academia Romna, 1887. II, III, XXI, XXIII, V. pp. 3-33.

[72] Tanaoca, 2001. p. 119.

[73] Ibidem. p. 131;

[74] Vasary, Istvan. Cumans and Tatars: Oriental military in the pre-Ottoman Balkans, 1185-1365.
Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2005. p. 25. Though Vasary claims the disappearance of the
Vlachs from Bulgaria was because the all emigrated north of the Danube, this a hypothesis that
has found absolutely no evidence. There is not one document in the thirteenth century that
mentions a Romanian migration to the north.

[75] Scriptores Rerum Hungarorum. II, pp. 611-627. Berend, Nra. At the Gate of Christendom:
Jews, Muslims, and pagans in medieval Hungary. p. 40.

[76] Papacostea, Serban. Romnii in Secolul al XIII-lea: ntre Cruciat i Imperiul Mongol [The
Romanians in the 13th Century: between the Crusade and the Mongol Empire]. Bucharest,
Romania: Editura Enciclopedic, 1993. pp. 70-71.

[77] Ibidem. pp. 58-60.

[78] Migne, J acques Paul. Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Patrologiae Latina. vol. CCXV. XLVI,
pp. 610-611.

[79] Papacostea, 1993. pp. 59-60.

[80] Ibidem. p. 73

[81] de Hurmuzaki, 1887. LVII, p. 97. erram quam prius eidem monasterio contuleramus
exemptam de Blaccis.

[82] Tuetsch, G.D. and Firnhaber, Fr. Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte Siebenbrgens. Wien : 1857.
I, xxviii, pp. 28-30.

[83] Fejer, Gyorgy. Codex Diplomaticus. Budae : 1830. VI, 1. p. 118.

[84] Ibidem. C, p. 128. Universos hereticos et falsos Christianos de terris nostris bona fide
studebimus pro viribus extirpare.

[85] Spinei, Victor. The Cuman Bishopric: genesis and evolution. ed. Curta, Florin and Kovalev,
Roman. The Other Europe in the Middle Ages: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars, and Cumans. Leiden,
NL; Boston, USA : Brill, 2008. pp. 418-419.

[86] Hurmuzaki, 1887. lxxxviii, p. 111.

[87] Ibidem, p. 127.

[88] Spinei, 2008. p. 445.

[89] Original Latin in Hurmuzaki, 1887. CV, p. 132. English translation cited in Curta, 2006. p.

[90] Spinei, 2008. pp. 433-434.

[91] Rogerius. Carmen miserabile. ed. Szentpetery, Emericus. Scriptores Rerum Hungarorum, vol.
II. Budapest : Academia Litter. Hungarica atque Societate Histor. Hungarica, 1938. p. 564.

[92] Epure, Violeta-Anca. Invazia Mongol n Ungaria i in spaiul romnesc. ROCSIR Revista
Romna de Studii Culturale (pe Internet). Accessed May 26
, 2011. p. 18.

[93] dOhsson, Constantin. Histoire des Mongols, depuis Tchinguiz-Khan jusqua Timour Be you
Tamerlan, vol. II. Amsterdam : Frederik Muller, 1852. p. 628.

[94] Spinei, 2009. p. 143.

[95] Ibidem. pp. 142-143.

[96] Curta, 2006. p. 413.

[97] Hurmuzaki, 1887. cxciii, pp. 249-250.

[98] Rdvan, Laureniu. At Europes Borders: Medieval Towns in the Romanian Principalites.
Leiden, NL; Boston : Brill, 2010. p. 123.

[99] Vasary, 2005. p. 147.

[100] Curta, 2006. p. 408.

[101] Spinei, 2009. p. 163.

[102] Hurmuzaki, 1887. ccclxvi, pp. 454-456.

[103] Rvan, 2010. p. 129.

[104] Papacostea, 1993. p. 169.

[105] Hurmuzaki, 1887. CCCCLXVII p. 592. Bazarab woyuodam nostrum Transalpi1zum

[106] Berza, Mihai and Pascu, Stefan. Documenta Romaniae Historica, vol. I. Bucharest :
Academia de tiine Sociale i Politice a Republicii Socialiste Romnia, 1977. 16, p. 37.

[107] Rdvan, 2010. p. 130.

[108] Brezeanu, Stelian. A Byzantine Model for Political and State Structure in Southeastern
Europe between the Thirteenth and the Fifteenth Centuries. ed. Theodorescu, Rzvan and
Barrows, Leland C. Politics and Culture in Southeastern Europe. Bucharest, Romania :
UNESCO, 2001. p. 83.

[109] Chronicon Pictum Vindobonense. CIII. ed. Florianus, M. Chronica Hungarorum. Lipsiae :
1883. pp. 242-245.

[110] Vasary, 2005. p. 154.

[111] Florescu, Radu R. Essays on Romanian History. Iasi, Romania; Oxford, UK; Portland, OR:
The Center for Romanian Studies, 1999. p. 65.

[112] Ludescu, Stoica. Letopiseul Cantacuzinesc. Ch. 1, par 2-4. Found in Constantin Cantacuzino.
ed. Isai Crmu. Istoria rii Romneti. Chiinu, Moldova : Litera, 1998. p. 104.

[113] Rdvan, 2010. pp. 130-131.

[114] Radu Popescu Vornicul ed. Stncescu, Eugen and Simonescu, Dan. Istoriile domnilor rii
Romneti. Bucharest, Romania : Editura Academiei Republicii Populare Romne, 1963. p. 5.

[115] Gusztav, Wenzel. Monumenta Hungariae Historica. Pest : Magyar Tudomanyos Akademia,
1862. 115, p. 197, sed vobis assistentibus dieto legato fides ipsa fugatis scismaticis gloriosum
dilatetur. Other examples include Fejer, Gyory. Codex Diplomaticus, vol. V. 3, p. 409 and
Wenzel, 1862. 233, p. 372, contra scismaticos et ereticos.

[116] Rdvan, 2010. p. 266.

[117] Florescu, 1999. p. 64.

[118] Ibidem. pp. 57-67.

[119] Djuvara, Neagu. Thocomerius-Negru Vod. Un voivod de origine cuman la nceputurile
rii Romneti. Bucharest, Romania : Humanitas, 2007.

[120] Rdvan, 2010. pp. 131-132.

[121] Papacostea, 1993. pp. 171-173.

[122] Vasary, 2005. pp. 151-152.

[123] Madgearu ed. Pinter, 2005. p.117.

[124] Berza and Pascu, 1997. p. 37.

[125] Hurmuzaki, 1887. ccccxcviii, p. 625; ccccxcix, p. 627; dvii, p. 633.

[126] Vasary, 2005. p. 138.

[127] Spinei, 2009. p. 353.

[128] Ibidem. pp. 356-359

[129] Radvan, 2010. p. 315.

[130] Vasary, 2005. p. 158.

[131] Ibidem. p. 159. For the original Latin see Hurmuzaki, 1887. dix, p. 637.

[132] Spinei, Victor. Moldavia in the 11
Centuries. Bucuresti : Editura Academiei Republicii
Socialiste Romnia, 1986. p. 204.

[133] Ibidem. p. 205. Quondam woyvoda de Maramarosio, noster infidelis.

[134] Vasary, 2005. pp. 159-160; Deletant, Dennis. Moldavia between Hungary and Poland, 1347-
1412. The Slavonic and East European Review, vol. 64, no. 2(Apr., 1986). pp. 190-191.

[135] Thuroczy. Chronica Hungarorum. c. 49. ed. Schwandtneri, Joannis Georgii. Scriptores
Rerum Hungarorum. Vienna : 1766. p. 245. Huius Ludovici tempore Bogdan woiwoda
Olachorum de Marmarosio, condunatis sibi Olachis eiusdem districtus in terram Moldaviae
tamen crescente magna numerositate Olachorum inhabitantium illiam terram, in regnum est

[136] Berza and Pascu, 1977. pp. 80-81.

[137] Makkai, Laszlo. Transylvania in the medieval Hungarian kingdom (896-1526). Kpeczi,
Bela, Makkai, Laszlo and Mocsy, Andras. History of Transylvania, vol I:From the Beginnings to
1606. p. 488.

[138] Christitch, E. Dacians of To-day. New Blackfriars, vol. 4, no. 42, p. 1070.

[139] Hurmuzaki, 1887. x, pp. 10-11. imperium sine patriarchia non staret.

[140] Tanaoca, 2001. pp. 129-130.

[141] Hurmizaki, 1887. cccclxxvi, pp. 600-601.

[142] Ibidem. dli, p. 697. This document also sings praises to Alexandru Basarab for converting the

[143] Deletant, 1986. pp. 193-194.

[144] Ibidem. ccccxcviii, p. 625.

[145] Florescu, 1999. p. 63.

[146] Seton-Watson, 1934. p. 29; Brezeanu, 2001. pp. 85-86.


J udging from the brief survey of Romanian early history, it is clear that some
aspects are still a little hazy. Undoubtedly, the obscure nature of the subject makes more
many statements quantified with words such as likely, probably, and possibly, but
sometimes that is the most certitude historians can afford. The relative obscurity of the
Romanians throughout the Dark Ages and their unique position in Eastern Europe might
have, in another world, created an environment of high-quality scholarship and
academic cooperation, all dedicated towards solving this problem. Unfortunately, this is
Earth, and on Earth, history is often corrupted by politics. The origin of the Romanians
has become in the best of cases a heated argument and in the worst of cases, a polemic
composed of diatribes and propaganda. The argument has been primarily between
Romanians and Hungarians over the rather childish game of I was here first, the stakes
supposedly being ownership of Transylvania.

This type of argument is not exactly exclusive to the Romanians. Other examples
of such is the Albanian-Serbian dispute over Kosovo, where Albanian use their ancient
origins to buttress their claims to the region
while Serbians largely deny the Albanian
presence in the Early Middle Ages and suggest their own cultural superiority, often
pointing to the old Orthodox Christian churches in the region.
In the earlier twentieth
century Greeks sought the creation of a Greater Greece with many territories of the
former Byzantine Empire, including Istanbul
and the Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia has border and history disputes with almost all of its neighbors (though the
Macedonian government has formally denied any territorial irredenta).
The argument is
almost an ad-lib: we were here since the year X and you only arrived here in the year Y.
Therefore the land of Z belongs to us.

The mix of history and politics forms a rather deadly cocktail, but is the question
of first ownership even relevant in the modern world? What exactly is at stake? The
short answer is: nothing at all. The modern world is not run by the rules of first
settlement, nor by kingly and imperial inheritances. It is almost laughable to imagine the
UK today demanding the return of Normandy from France, or Germany asking Russia to
surrender Kaliningrad on the grounds of it used to be ours. The borders of todays
states are legally justified by internationally-recognized treaties, and morally justified by
the ethic composition of regions. When Kosovo was recently granted independence from
Serbia, it was not on the grounds that Albanians were there first. It was not even entirely
due to the numerical superiority of the Albanians in Kosovo; territorial separatism is
only justified if a peoples existence is threatened.
Kosovos independence was
achieved due to the bitter ethnic conflicts that enveloped the region. Therefore, the
debate of who was first in Transylvania? has long-since become useless in what
concerns modern politics. The Romanian historian A.D. Xenopol concluded almost a
century ago that ethnic self-determination was the only justifier for a nations borders
since (in his own words) the borders of state will lie together with those of its
respective nation.
Even if it were proven tomorrow that the Romanians all came from
Greenland, it would not have the slightest effect on ownership of Transylvania.

Unfortunately, some politically-oriented historians have refused to take Xenopols
advice. In a way it was only natural for Hungarian writers to refuse it, as acceptance
would mean admitting defeat. Instead, every shred of evidence has thus been put
forward to argue in favor of one opinion or another. Unfortunately the methodology
employed, here is our conclusion, now where can we find evidence to support it?, is
prone to downright falsification. Listed below are but a few of the countless examples of
historical manipulation that have occurred during this debate, which now is more than a
century old. The results were not pretty.

Many manipulations are often devoid of logic. In a book (ironically) entitled
Documented Facts and Figures on Transylvania, published by the Danubian Research

the argument was made that in 1097 Emperor Alexios Komnenos of
Byzantium ordered the relocation of the Vlachs from the Chalkidike peninsula to
Pelopponesos. With this, the northward migration of the Vlachs, ancestors of the
Rumanians, began.
The fact that the Vlachs migrating from Chalkidike to the
Peloponnese were actually moving from North to South (i.e. away from Transylvania)
did not matter. Other Hungarian historians claimed that the Vlachs came to Transylvania
fleeing from Turkish advance on the Balkans
but this ignores the actual Ottoman
policies to their Balkan subjects. The Vlachs enjoyed privileges and immunities in the
Ottoman Empire, and were treated as reliable soldiers.
In addition, they paid a lowered
tax rate, allowing many of them to form large households.
It is doubtful that an entire
people would flee from such a privileged position.
There are less obvious manipulations however, particularly in the treatment of
written sources. While misquoting someone is usually a mistake, for some it became a
matter of sport. In one example, Hungarian historians interpreted the Cantacuzino
Chronicle, written in the late 17
century, as documented evidence for the Vlach
migration into Transylvania.
The introductory passage is used in particular:

But first writing of the Romanians which separated from the Romans and
ventured to the North. So crossing the Danube, they settled at Turnu
Severin; others, in Transylvania [the Hungarian country] along the
waters of the Olt, the Mure, and the Tisa and reaching as far as

and thats where those historians get tired and stop reading.
The reader is left with a
very small fragment, in fact only the first paragraph, of an otherwise substantial
chronicle. What year this unfolded in is left as a mystery, as is what happened to the

There are a variety of Hungarian lobbies and publishing houses situated throughout the United States
and the European continent, bearing very innocent names such as Danubian Research Center,
Transylvanian World Federation, American-Hungarian Federation and the Hungarian Human Rights
Watch. By publishing works with such provocative titles as Genocide in Transylvania these groups hope
to achieve something similar to what happened in Kosovo by eliciting the sympathy of a foreign power (of
course, often unaware of the regions history). This not only involves falsifying the past but also the
present situation. Publications of this nature have not ceased even though Hungarians in Transylvania
enjoy political representation from not one but two political parties and have access to post-secondary
education in their native language.
Romanians afterwards. They likely would have wanted the passage to continue and
then they reproduced. However, the next passage of the chronicle helps clarify when,
where, and what exactly happened.

And those that settled at Turnu Severin extended themselves South of the
mountains up until the Olt, others towards the Danube in the South. And
thus, the whole land was filled with them up until the edge of Nicopolis.

Then they chose from among the boieri [Wallachian nobles] who were of
great descendance. And they put as Bans [rulers] a family called Basarab
and they set the capital first at Turnul Severin, the second capital at
Strehaia, and the third at Craiova. And as such much time passed as they
ruled that land.

And in the Year of Adam 6798 [A.D. 1290], a great voievod from
Transylvania called Radu the Black, great Herzog of Alma and Fgra,
left those lands with his entire house and a great multitude of people,
Romanians, Papists, Saxons, and all sorts of people and went down the
Dambovita to make a new country.

While the original chronicler was unfortunately sparse with important dates, there
is still a lot one can do with a bit of inference. Firstly, Ludescu stated much time
passed between the first settling of the Romanians in this region and the foundation of
Wallachia as a state, in 1290. While much time leaves much to the imagination, we
can safely bet that 70 years is out of the question. If that is the case, then Ludescu could
not possibly have been referring to any migration in the early 13
century. Furthermore,
Ludescu very clearly defined the Romanians area of settlement as happening only in the
western half of the country (Transylvania, Oltenia, and Banat), which runs contradictory
to the letter from Pope Gregory IX dated to 1234, that claimed Wallachians [Walati]
could be found in eastern Wallachia the Bishopric of Cumania.
Whenever Ludescus
Romanians settled down in Romania, it certainly was not in the Middle Ages.

But if this did not happen in the 13
century, then when? We first need to consider
what Ludescu refers to when he claims the Romanians separated from the Romans.
Hungarian historians who wish for a medieval interpretation would suggest these
Romans were in fact Greek Byzantines (as medieval texts refer to the Byzantine
Empire as the Roman Empire). To generalize this to Ludescus late Renaissance text
however, is a gross manipulation. Ludescu himself specifically refers to Greeks as
, not Romans. Constantinople is referred to as Tsarigrad and never as
Rome, so Ludescus Romans could not have been the medieval Roman Empire of
the Byzantines. Instead Ludescu, consistent with other Romanian chroniclers of the time,
refers specifically to the Latin ancient Romans when discussing the origins of his

There is some rather cryptic evidence as well, that many historians have not
considered: where were these Romanians being settled? According to Ludescu the
Romanians settled at Turnu Severin, then went Northward into Transylvania, their
homeland being bounded by the Mure, Tisza, and Olt rivers, all the way up to
Maramure. He sets the Eastern boundary as being the Olt river from the Carpathians to
Nicopolis, on the Danube. In other words, the region settled by the Romanians included
Banat, Oltenia, and Transylvania. While it is possible Ludescu came up with this
eclectic list of regions at the roll of a die, in actuality the area does not appear to be
randomly chosen. It just so happens that, rather coincidentally, the Roman province of
Dacia overlapped perfectly with the lands defined in Ludescus chronicle!

The original regions of Romanian habitation according to Stoica Ludescu, described as bein bound
by the Olt, Mures, Danube, and Tisza rivers. The correspondence between Ludescus borders and
those of Dacia could not have been mere coincidence.

Were Ludescu referring to some medieval migration, all of the facts listed above
would make for one outstanding coincidence. Logically however, it must be concluded
that Ludescu referring to when the Romans colonized the ancient province of Dacia, and
thus linked the existence of the Romanians in the area to Emperor Trajans conquest of
the region. While the document does prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that the
Romanians migrated from the Balkans to Transylvania the one caveat for Hungarian
historians is that it occured approximately 2,000 years ago.

But this is not the only Romanian chronicle that has been mangled by modern
historiography. Another classic example is found in the way some authors have chosen
to represent a Romanian document from 1791: the Supplex Libellus Valachorum. The
Supplex was a petition sent by the Romanians of Transylvania towards the Habsburg
monarchy, asking for what Hungarian nobles at the time believed and if we read some
Hungarian authors, still believe to be an absurd demand: the Romanians asked for
equal rights and representation.

In this case however, the mangling does not come in the presentation of the
document but rather in ignoring literary history prior to it. The Supplex argument for
equal rights contained, among other things, the statement that Romanians were the
descendants of the Roman colonists of Dacia. Hungarian historian Andr Du Nay

Not actually his real name but a pen-name, for those wondering how a Hungarian historian ended up
with a French name.

claimed that this petition was the first time the Romanians were linked to the Roman
colonization of Dacia
and stated that The study of Rumanian history and language
was developed, in the first place, to be used in the struggle of Rumanian intellectuals for
more political rights for their own people.
The one problem with Du Nays argument
is that nothing could be further from the truth. Without exception, the major Romanian
chroniclers of the 17
century, over 100 years prior to the Supplex, linked the origin of
the Romanians in the Roman colonization of Dacia by Trajan.
Miron Costin, in his
forward to the chronicle Letopiseul ri Moldovei published in 1675, asserted that:

It has always been my thought, beloved reader, to write a history of our
beloved country Moldova [Moldavia] from its first foundation, which was
made by Emperor Trajan who founded the beginnings of [our] history.

Redudant writing aside, Miron Costins position was clearly that Romanian
history began with Trajans colonization. Similar sentiments were expressed by the
Moldavian prince Dimitrie Cantemir, who doubled in his spare time as a philosopher,
ethnographer, historian, composer of music, linguist, and geographer; needless to say, he
knew his stuff. In his work The Description of Moldavia (Descriptio Moldaviae) written
from 1714 to 1716 he made it very clear that:

After this people [the Dacians] lost their king Decebal, defeated by the
brave Nerva Trajan, and were in part massacred, part dispersed here and
there, the whole country which they occupied was made into a Roman
province, the land being distributed to the Roman citizens.
This much is known: that the inhabitants of Moldova, who draw their
origin from Italy saved their lives by fleeing into the mountains [of
Transylvania] in the face of the barbarian invaders, having their own kings
and voievods.

Like many historians of his time (including the famed Edward Gibbon) Cantemir
had a very caricaturish understanding of history as expressed in the idea that all of
Dacias natives were done away with and that Dacias Roman colonists could only have
come from Italy (the more realistic Balkan or Anatolian origin was seen as much too
boorish to eighteenth century sensibilities). Nevertheless, Cantemir firmly
acknowledged that the Romanians descended from Roman colonists in the region, a
clear reflection of standard academic opinion at the time. Among Wallachian scholars,
Constantine Cantacuzinos wrote in the mid-17

And then Trajan, due to his victory brought here many colonists and
guards in this country from all over the world, from which even today the
Romanians draw their origin.

That the Vlachs, as in the Romanians, as they are the remnants of the
Romans brought here by Ulpius Trajan and as they draw their origins from
them even today, is validated and proven by all the truthful and believable


But what about Transylvanian intellectual thought? The chronicles cited above all
came from Moldavia or Wallachia, lands where Romanians ruled themselves and had
their own nobles. It is also true that these are aristocratic chronicles, written by educated
men and humanists, and therefore might not represent the ideas circulated around by
your average Romanian seventeenth century peasant. Might it be possible that the
Romanians of Transylvania, who had neither a noble class to represent them, nor much
in the way of schooling, did not know these theories about their origin?

Thankfully, there is one shining example of a Transylvanian Romanian
intellectual from before the eighteenth century Enlightenment: his name was Nicolaus
Olahus, or Nicholas the Romanian. Olahus was a Transylvanian Romanian humanist of
the early 16
century who became the royal chancellor of the Bishop of Zagreb, later
became the Archbishop of Esztergom in Hungary, wrote several works on the nations
inhabiting Hungary, and exchanged letters frequently with the famed humanist
In other words: he did his homework. His writings thus are among the most
advanced Romanian intellectual works of the sixteenth century. On the origin of the
Romanians, Olahus wrote that:

According to the tradition, Romanians are colonists of the Romans. This
is proven by the fact that they have much in common with the Romans
language, people whose coins are abundant in these places [Transylvania];
undoubtedly, these are significant testimonies of the oldness of Roman rule

Ignoring Olahuss simple arguments (though at the verye least noting he based
them in linguistics and archaeology) we find something of interest. Olahus informs the
reader that it is according to tradition that the Romanians are the descendants of the
Romans. Whether this tradition was held by the peasants of Transylvania and not just
the aristocracy is, like all matters of public opinion at a time when most were illiterate, a
question which can only be answered with a time machine. What can be taken away
however, is that Olahus was a Transylvanian who asserted the Roman origin of the
Romanians over 200 years prior to the Supplex, and his phrasing makes it clear that his
writing represented the accepted opinion among scholars and possibly the populace as
well. Mind you Olahus makes no political argument, not even a comment, on the rights
held by the Romanians of Transylvania. As such his statement did not and still does not
gain much attention from Hungarians; the Romanians could have their history so long as
they did not get any bright ideas about equal rights as a result.

More obvious manipulations are cases when historians leave out parts of texts,
presumably because they were deemed irrelevant, though in reality because they were

The observant reader may notice that Cantacuzino is actually citing other historians who have
demonstrated the origins of the Romanians. This is a far cry from Du Nays claim that the Roman ancestry
of the Romanians was a myth invented by Romanians to gain a Renaissance equivalent of bragging rights.
contradictory to the argument being made. Dont like a particular page? J ust rip it out;
(hopefully) nobody will ever notice! One sees this type of manipulation being used to
full effect whenever historians cite the works of Anton Verantius (Antun Vrani, Antal
Verancsics). Verantius was a Croatian-born humanist (at a time when Croatia was part
of Hungary) who also became the bishop of Esztergom and was a famous diplomat for
the Habsburg monarchy, travelling as far as Constantinople. In what regards the
Romanians, Hungarian scholars often quite the passage:

[Transylvania] is inhabited by three nations: the Szecklers, the Hungarians,
and the Saxons; I would nevertheless add the Romanians, who easily equal
their number... they are all commoners, bondsmen to the Hungarians and
having no place of their own, spread everywhere, throughout the country,
often in the mountains and forests with their sheep and lead a miserable

Using this exact fragment Hungarian scholars concluded that the Romanians in
the 16
century constituted barely 25% of Transylvanias population and that they
arrived as shepherds into the region.
The basic idea is that since there are four major
nations in Transylvania, and since the Romanians equal their number, dividing 100%
into four equal parts results in 25% for the Romanians. There is one obvious problem
with this interpretation: it requires that all four populations of Transylvania be roughly
equal to each other. Yet Hungarian authors predictably make themselves the largest
segment of Transylvanias Renaissance population, giving an overwhelming 47% share,
while the Szecklers and Saxons supposedly form 13 and 16% of the population

Such an interpretation would mean that the Romanians somehow easily
equaled 13, 16, and 47% of the population in Transylvania. In actuality what Verantius
was saying was that the Romanians formed the majority of Transylvanias population.
Verantius was evidently stating the Romanians formed the absolute majority of
Transylvanias population, or at worst, a relative majority; in either case the Romanians
its most numerous inhabitants.

More importantly, a section of the text was also thrown out unwittingly. The full
paragraph is shown below:

[Transylvania] is inhabited by three nations, Szecklers, Hungarians,
Saxons; I would nevertheless add the Romanians, who, though they easily
equal their number, have no freedom, no aristocracy, no right of their own,
besides a small number living in the Haeg district, where they say
Decebals capital was, and who, during the time of Ioan of Hunedoara,
born there, were granted aristocratic status because they had always taken
part in the struggle against the Turks. The other [Romanians] are all
commoners, bondsmen to the Hungarians and having no place of their own,
spread everywhere, throughout the country, often in the mountains and
forests with their sheep and lead a miserable life.


Verantius highlights the lack of political rights of the Romanians, something
often glossed over by Hungarians who wish to portray Romanians as settling in
Transylvania for a better life.
With regards to their origins: Verantius makes the
argument in a different section of his work that the Romanians originate from the
Romans colonized by Trajan in the region,
another assertion that is inconvenient for
some historians.

Yet sometimes, hopefully more often than not, modern historians present a full
quote in its correct context. Unfortunately, they also sometimes provide the most
convoluted interpretation of the texts meaning and significance. We are thus drawn to
the first Byzantine writer to make reference to the origins of Vlachs:

the Byzantine
general Kekaumenos. In his Strategikon, written around the year 1078, Kekaumenos
gave a rather undiplomatic account of the Vlachs:
the race of the Vlachs is an altogether unreliable and corrupt group ... they
fell into captivity after Emperor Trajan defeated and vanquished them;
even their emperor was slaughtered. His name was Decebal and the
Romans exhibited his head on a spear in the center of the town. These
people are the so-called Dacians and Bessi. Earlier, they had been living
near the Danube and Saos [Sava] rivers, where the Serbs live, in a fortified
and inaccessible location. Relying on this haven, they pretended friendship
for the Romans and submissiveness toward their late emperors, but they
went off from their fortifications to plunder Roman provinces. Therefore,
the Romans took umbrage and, as I said before, set out to destroy them.
Thus, they left the area they inhabited and spread all over Epeiros and
Macedonia, but the majority settled in Hellas.

While the link Kekaumenos makes between the Vlachs and the Dacians is
indisputable, and while Kekaumenos also points out that the Vlachs are not indigenous
to Greece but rather migrated there from the north, this has not stopped some historians
from making very strange interpretations of the text. One Hungarian ohistorian, Michael
Sozan, confusingly argued that Kekaumenos was referring to Aurelians Dacia and not
Trajans Dacia and sees this as evidence that Trajans Dacia was a distant memory by
late antiquity.
How he reconciled such a conclusion with Kekaumenos ability to recall
not only the correct Roman emperor who subdued the Dacians (Trajan) but also the
obscure barbarian king he faced will remain a mystery. In any case, it is hard to believe
the assertion to be true given that the writer Theophylactus had mentioned that
Byzantine generals regarded the former Dacia as Roman land.
Some emperors even
tried to restore Dacia to the empire;
it was not a forgotten province.

In this case it should be noted we are speaking of Aromanians, a Romance-speaking people who still
inhabiting the Southern Balkans. As the name indicates, these people are ethnically related to the
Romanians but the precise date at which they separated as their own people remains uncertain.
Contradictory to Sozans assertion, Gabor Vekony stated that Kekaumenos could
not have been describing Aurelians Dacia as the two regions in question do not
correspond geographically. In fact, he believes that the Vlachs were only linked to the
Dacians due to a Byzantine custom of giving names used in antiquity to contemporary
That Kekaumenos made explicit references to Dacian history did not seem to
bother Vekony in his interpretation. Vekony concluded that Kekaumenos text, which
explicitly mentions the Vlachs migrating to the south, indicates a Vlach migration to the
north and that the Vlachs had barely reached northern Bulgaria (the homeland of the
ancient Bessi) at this time.
He thus turns the entire source (pardon the pun) upside-

This explanation however, does not seem entirely sound. Kekaumenos was not
the most learned man in the Eastern Roman Empire, though his education was certainly
impressive for a general.
It is doubtful a man in charge of sendings armies to a fro
would not know the basic geography of the empire. Kekaumenos does indeed link the
Vlachs with the Dacians in an attempt to show their disloyalty to the Roman Emperors
as a historical constant (and thus excusing his distant relatives incompetence in
pacifying their earlier revolts),
it would be an extraordinary coincidence if this alone
resulted in the identification of Vlachs with the Dacians.
Kekaumenos attributed that
specific geographical space to the Vlachs because he was familiar with their revolts in
the Northern Balkans at that time.
It is too coincidental that he would choose the
Dacians over say, Illyrians and Mysians, tribes which actually lived in the regions
Kekaumenos describes the Vlachs as inhabiting, especially if we believe the archaic
names are based on geography alone. Kekaumenos must have known something about
the Vlachs, whether from a folktale or an ancient author, that would make him pick the
Dacians as their ancestors in spite of the geographical bias for other tribes.

More importantly: how does one reconcile Vekonys conclusion that this is
evidence of a Vlach migration northward with the many sources that affirm the Vlachs
were always in the North? How should we explain the work of Kinnamos (Cinnamus)
less than a century later, who stated that the Vlachs near the Danube Delta were
colonists brought long ago from Italy
if we believe, like Vekony, that the Vlachs
only arrived at that region in the late 11
century? Like in the case of Ludescu, we
would be forced to believe long ago meant about 100 years, give or take to the
medieval writers.

Some pick and choose passages from chronicles; others pick and choose entire
chronicles, or at least which ones they regard as credible. At the very least, historians are
expected to avoid double-standards when it comes to interpreting medieval texts. This
has not stopped people from treating two essentially equivalent chronicles in completely
different manners. One example is the contrast of treatment Hungarian historians give to
the Anonymous Chronicle of Moldavia,
written in the early 16
century, and the Gesta
Hungarorum, written most likely in the twelfth century.

Like many medieval works covering very early history, the first sections of the
Chronicle of Moldavia is historically worthless, based more in myth than fact. Among
other things, the chronicle states that:
1) Moldavia was founded by two brothers, Roman and Vlahata, who came
from a fortess of Venice. The brothers names were obviously derived
from the ethnic names of the Romanians.
2) There was some split between the Old Romans and New Romans as well as
the Romanians.
3) The Romanians were sent from Italy to Hungary to fight off the Mongol Invasion,
which happened in the 13
4) The Romanians were settled in Maramure by the Hungarian king and saint
Vladislav, who lived in the 11

The last statement has received noted attention from Hungarian historians. The
chronicle states that the Romanians were settled in Maramure by Saint Vladislav of
Hungary, due to the valiant efforts of the Romanians in the wars against the Tatars. The
glaring anachronism of having an 11
century king defeat a 13
century invasion is
ignored by most of these authors, eager to find any evidence of a Vlach migration into
Transylvania. Some have tried in vain to identify the King Vladislav of the chronicle
with king Vladislav the Cuman, who lived in the late thirteenth century, but that presents
its own set of problems, not the least of which being that the Romanians are mentioned
in Transylvania long before Vladislav the Cuman was even born.

It is not so much that the stories in the chronicle are given literal value, but rather
what they would reflect on the general knowledge the Romanians had on their own
origins. Historians universally admit the historically inaccurate and confusing nature of
the chronicle,
but some still believe that the chronicle can be used to deduce that
Moldavian Rumanians had an awareness that they were newcomers, late settlers along in
the territory framed by the Rivers Maros [Mure]

Unfortunately, Hungarian historians have a tendency to write the names of all of the regions formerly
belonging to the much larger Hungarian Kingdom in Hungarian. Whether this is done unwittingly or as a
deliberate act of defiance against Trianon is anyones guess, but it needlessly burdens the reader when
trying to locate these regions on a modern map.
, Tisza and Krs-es [Cri].
It is
certainly an interesting position to take in light of the treatment given by the same
Hungarian historians to the the Gesta Hungarorum. Like the Chronicle of Moldavia, the
Gesta also had an anonymous author (aptly entitled Anonymous) and it was also
written centuries after the events it described. Most Hungarian historians dismiss the
chronicle as a work of fiction, especially the inconvenient sections pertaining to how the
Magyars conquered Transylvania from the Romanian Vlachs. The reason behind this
dismissal is always that there are some known factual inaccuracies in the Gesta and that
the author lived at least two centuries after the events he describes. Yet when we
consider the Anonymous Chronicle of Moldavia, a chronicle that is almost entirely
fantasy, with two brothers founding Moldavia la Romulus and Remus, Hungarians
fighting Mongols two centuries before they were even in Europe, and the Romanians
settling in Transylvania at a time which everyone agrees is wrong (the 11
during the reign of Saint Vladislav), it seems an even more dubious source from which
to draw any conclusions.

Both the Gesta Hungarorum and the Chronicle of Moldavia were written
centuries after the events they choose to describe, both have sections which are factually
inaccurate, and both have anonymous authors. In spite of this, Hungarian historians
dismiss the former as unreliable while at the same time attributing a reflective value on
the latter. If the Moldavian chronicle can be considered to provide reflections on the
awareness of the Romanians as being latecomers, should we not be able to deduce
from the Gesta Hungarorum that the Hungarians had an awareness (to use their own
wording) that they had fought the Romanians and taken Transylvania from them?

The Gesta Hungarorum is indeed a critical source in the history of the
Romanians. It is the earliest preserved chronicle written by the Hungarians and also the
first to describe the Hungarian conquest of Transylvania. As such, the fact that it
mentions the Romanians as the indigenous inhabitants of the region is a critical piece of
news, and one hotly contested by Hungarian historians who have tried by any means
necessary to dismiss the chronicle, while Romanian historians have been desperate to
retain its validity, providing counter-arguments to each Hungarian accusation against the
chronicles validity. As the veracity of this chronicle could essentially resolve the who
was here first issue once and for all, it is important to dedicate some time to its
analysis and that is what we will do in the next few pages.What we can take away
from this chronicle (if anything at all) on the Romanians and their origins?


[1] Clark, Howard. Civil Resistance in Kosovo. London, UK ; Sterling, Va. : Pluto Press, 2000. p.

[2] Kostovicova, Denisa. Kosovo: the Politics of Identity. Abingdon, UK; New York, NY, USA :
Routledge, 2005. p. 156-161.

[3] Athanasopulos, Haralambos. Greece, Turkey, and the Aegean Sea: a case study in
international law. J efferson, NC, USA : McFarland 2001 p. 5.

[4] Shea, John. Macedonia and Greece: the Struggle to Define a new Balkan Nation. J efferson,
NC, USA. : McFarland, 2008. pp. 11-13.

[5] Wolff, Stefan. Disputed Territories: the Transnational Dynamics of Ethnic Conflict Settlement.
New York, NY, USA ; Oxford, UK : Berghahn, 2004. p. 23.

[6] Xenopol, Alexandru D. Istoria Romnilor din Dacia Traian. IstoriaRomnilor Vol. I.
Bucharest, Romania : Editura Librariei coalelor C. Sfetea, 1913. p. 23.

[7] de Wass, Albert. Documented facts and figures on Transylvania. Astor, FL, USA : Danubian
Press, 1977. p. 14.

[8] Bodolai, Zoltan. The Unmaking of Peace: the fragmentation and subsequent destruction of
Central Europe after World War One by the Peace Treaty of Trianon. Melbourne, Australia :
Committee for Human Rights in Central Europe, 1980. 1984. p. 28.

[9] Malcolm, Noel. Bosnia: a Short History. Washington Square, N.Y. : New York University
Press, 1996. p. 78.

[10] Stoianovich, Traian. The Balkans: the first and last Europe. Armonk, NY [u.a.] : Sharpe, 1994.
p. 152.


[12] Ludescu, Stoica. Letopiseul Cantacuzinesc. Ch. 1. Par. 1 Ins dinti izvodindu-se de rumnii
carii s-au desprit de la romani i au pribegit spre miiaznoapte. Deci trecnd apa Dunrii, au
desclecat la Turnul Severinului; alii n ara Ungureasc, pre apa Oltului, i pre apa Morului,
i pre apa Tisei ajungnd i pn la Maramur.


Illys, Elemr. Ethnic Continuity in the Carpatho-Danubian Area. Boulder, Colorado, USA :
East European Monographs, 1988.
[14] Ludescu, Ch. 1 Par. 2-4.

Atunce s-au ales dintr-nii boiarii carii au fost de neam mare. i
puser banovei un neam ce le zicea Basarabi, s le fie lor cap (adec mari bani) i-i azar nti
s le fie scaunul la Turnul Severinului, al doilea scaun s-au pogort la Strehaia, al treilea scaun s-
au pogort la Craiova. i aa fiind, mult vrme au trecut tot ei oblduind acea parte de loc. Iar
cnd au fost la cursul anilor de la Adam 6798, fiind n ara Ungureasc un voievod ce l-au
chiemat Radul Negrulvoievod, mare hereg pre Alma i pre Fgra, rdicatu-s-au de acolo cu
toat casa lui i cu mulime de noroade: rumni, papistai, sai, de tot fliul de oameni,
pogorndu-se pre apa Dmboviii, nceput-au a face ar noao.
[15] Spinei, Victor. The Cuman Bishopric - Genesis and Evolution. ed. Curta, Florin and
Kovalev, Roman. The Other Europe: Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cumans. Leiden, NL : Brill,
2008. p. 433.

[16] Examples include: C fcur sfat n tain ca s omoare pre Radu-vod i s rdice domn pre
Mihai cmarul, pentru cci i mpresurase cu mulime de greci de la arigrad [Constantinople]
i de la Rumele [Rumelia].

[17] Denize, Eugen. Roma i imperiul ei n cultura romn (sec. XVII - nceputul sec. XIX)
[Rome and the Roman Empire in the Romanian culture (XVII th - beginning of the XIX th
century)]. Studies and Materials of Medium History (XX/2002). 2002.

[18] Oltean, Ioana A. Dacia: Landscape, Colonisation and Romanisation. New York, NY :
Routledge, 2007. p. 55: The Roman territory remained confined within the limits of modern
Transylvania, Banat and Oltenia.

[19] Hitchins, Keith.

The Idea of Nation among the Romanians of Transylvania, 1700-1849.
Nation and National Ideology. Past, Present and Prospects: Prospects. Bucharest, Romania :
New Europe College, 2001. p. 98. Of particular interest here are the demands that Romanian
nobles, peasants, and clergy, both Orthodox and Greek Catholic, enjoy the same rights and
privileges as the nobles, peasants, and clergy, respectively, of the other nations.
[20] Du Nay, Andre. The Daco-Rumanian Continuity Theory: Origins of the Rumanian Nation
and Language. Transylvania and the theory of Daco-Roman-Rumanian Continuity. Committee
of Transylvania. Rochester, NY. 1980. This is the first formulation of the theory of Roman
continuity in Dacia Traiana. This of course does not stop Du Nay from contradicting himself
only two paragraphs later where he states The 'Libellus' claimed, as did earlier demands of this
kind, that the Rumanians were first in Transylvania

[21] Idem. Du Nay repeats this erroneous claim several times, e.g. It was to support a distinctly
Rumanian political struggle in the first half of the 18th century, above all, the political struggle
for the rights of the Rumanians, inspired a new movement in Transylvania in the second half of
the 18th century

[22] Verdery, Katherine. National Ideology Under Socialism: Identity and Cultural Politics in
Ceausescu's Romania. University of California Press. 1995. p. 31-32 note 8: Grigore Ureche (ca.
1590-1647), Miron Costin (1633-1691), and Dimitrie Cantemir(1673-1723). All three claimed a
Romanian origin in Trajans Roman colonists, with only the most superficial reference

[23] Costin, Miron. Letopiseul rii Moldovei. Ch. 1. Iai, 1675. In Rotaru, Ion. Valori expresive
n literatura romn veche, I. p. 303. 1976. Fost-au gndul mieu, iubite cititoriule, s fac
letopiseul rii noastre Moldovei din descalecatul ei cel dinti, carele au fostu de Traian-
mparatul i urdzisam i nceptura letopiseului.

[24] Cantemir, Dimitrie. Descrierea Moldovei. Translation by Pandrea, Petre. Bucharest,
Romania : Litera International. 1997. pp 12, 58. Dup ace acest popor pierdu pe regale Decebal,
biruit de viteazul Nerva Traian, si a fost parte nimicit, parte risipit incoace si incolo, intreaga tar
ape care o locuia a fost prefacuta in provincie romana Atita se stie bine insa ca locuitorii
Moldovei, care se trag din Italia si care au cautat sa-si scape viata tragindu-se in munti din fata
navalirii scitilor si barbarilor, au avut regii si voievozii lor.

[25] Cantacuzino, Constantin. Istoria Tarii Romanesti. Litera International. Chiinu. 1997. pp. 56,
62. i cum c apoi Traian mulime de romani du pretutindenea den biruinele lui au adus aicea de
au aezat lcuitori i paznici acestor r, den carii i pn astzi s trag aceti rumni... ns dar,
valahii, adecte rumnii, cum sunt rmiele romanilor celor ce i-au adus aici Ulpie Traian, i
cum c dintr-aceia s trag i pn astzi, adevrat i dovedit iaste de toi mai adevraii i de
crezut istorici

[26] Louthan, Howard. The quest for compromise: peacemakers in counter-Reformation Vienna.
Cambridge University Press. Crambridge, UK. 1997. p. 56

[27] Olahus, Nicolaus. Hungaria sive de originibus gentis, regionis, situ, divisione, habitu atque
opportunitatibus, in M. Bel, Adparatus ad Historiam Hungariae, Posonii 1735, p. 25-26. English
translation by Pop, Ioan-Aurel. Nations and Denominations in Transylvania (13th - 16th
Century). ed. Levai, Csaba and Vese, Vasile. Tolerance and intolerance in historical perspective
Clioh's Workshop II. Pisa. 2003.

[28] Kroly, Nyrdy R. Erdly npessgnek etnikai s vallsi tagoldsa
a magyar llamalaptstl a dualizmus korig. A Kzponti Statisztikai Hivatal
Npessgtudomnyi Kutat Intzetnek trtneti demogrfiai fzetei. 3. sz. Budapest, 1987. 7-55.
NOTE: These are the only Latin quotes from Verantius provided in the authors work. Natio eam
triplex incolit: Siculi, Hungari, Saxones, adiungam tamen et Valacchos, qui quamlibet harum
facile magnitudine aequant Caeteri plebei omnes Hungarorum coloni et sine propriis sedibus,
sed sparsi hinc inde per totum regnum, rari in apertis locis incolae, montibus ac sylvis plaerumque
cum suo pecore pariter abditi sordide vitam docunt

[29] Idem; Kpeczi, Bla. History of Transylvania: From 1606 to 1830. Boulder, Colo. : Social
Science Monographs [u.a.], 2002. p. 159.

[30] Pop, Ioan-Aurel. Nations and Denominations in Transylvania (13th - 16th Century).
Tolerance and Intolerance in Historical Perspective. ed. Levai, Csaba and Vese, Vasile. Clioh's
Workshop II. Pisa. 2003.

[31] Sozan, Michael. Genocide in Transylvania. Transylvania and the Daco-Roman-Rumanian
Continuity Theory. Committee of Transylvania. Rochester, NY. 1980.

[32] Verancsics, Antal. ed. Szalay, Laszlo. Osszes Munkai. Eggenberger Ferdinand Akademiai.
Pest, 1857. Valacchi sunt, eaque a Romanis ducit originem si ea gens a victore quopiam
nomen hoc ortiri debuisset, optimo sane et legitimo jure a Trajano debuerat.

[33] Vekony, Gabor. Dacians, Romans, Romanians. Budapest, Hungary : Corvinus Library, 2000.
p. 213.

[34] Sozan, 1980.

[35] Simocattes, Thephylactus. Historiae. VII, 7, p. 28 ed. Bonn. Cf. and Anastasii,
Chronographia Tripertita, p. 170.

[36] Lenski, Noel E. Failure of empire: Valens and the Roman state in the fourth century A.D. Los
Angeles, CA, USA : University of California Press, 2002. p. 122.

[37] Vekony, p. 213.

[38] Vekony, p. 214.

[39] Neville, Leonara A. Authority in Byzantine Provincial Society, 950-1100. Cambridge, UK :
Cambridge University Press, 2004. p. 175.

[40] Curta, Florin. Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages: 500-1250. Cambridge, UK :
Cambridge University Press, 2006. p. 281.

[41] Wolff, Robert L. The Second Bulgarian Empire: It is Origins and History to 1204.
Speculum, XXIV, 2. Cambridge, MA, USA. 1949.

[42] Spinei, Victor. The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta from the
Tenth to the Mid-Thirteenth Century. Leiden, NL : Brill Academic Publishers, 2009. p. 76

[43] loannes Cinnamus, Epitome rerum ab Ioanne et Alexio Comnenis gestarum, VI, ed. Bonn. p.
260. [Valachi] qui Italorum coloni quondam fuisse perhibentur.

[44] Bogdan, I. Vechile cronici moldoveneti pn la Ureche. Bucharest : 1891. p. 185-187. The
entire passage of the chronicle is quoted in English by Vekony and can be found in the

[45] Vekony, p. 13

[46] Idem, p. 14.

For better or for worse, no book on the history of the Romanians would be
complete without covering the Gesta Hungaorum. It is certainly one of the most hotly
debated books in Hungarian and Romanian historiography. It is the first work to cover
the Magyar conquest of Hungary and Transylvania in detail, making explicit mention of
the battles the Magyars had with the Romanians, or Vlachs [Blaci]. The Vlachs were
mentioned as inhabiting Pannonia
as well as Transylvania
alongside Slavs, Khazars,
and other ethnicities. The chronicler specifies three rulers in and around Transylvania:
Gelu, Glad, and Menumorut. Of these three, the one ruling in Transylvania proper is
Gelu, who is explicitly noted as being a Vlach (and the only ruler whose ethnicity is
explicitly mentioned).
Menumorut meanwhile was said to rule in Biharea to the north-
west, and Glad was said to rule in Banat. Hungarian historians have at least for a century
considered the book to be nothing more than a work of fiction similar to a cheap fantasy
Romanian historians on the other hand have had a tendency to swear by the book
on Romanian early history, often reaching dogmatic levels of belief. In spite of its
controversial nature (or perhaps causing it), critical analyses of the text are few and far
between. Now is perhaps as good a time as any to decide which side, if any, is right.

So what exactly is the Gesta Hungarorum? Simply put, it is the oldest Hungarian
chronicle in existence sort of. There was supposedly an older chronicle, the Gesta
(also called the Old Gesta), but no copy of that book exists, and its
contents are mostly vague and mythical.
The books existence was never proven but
only deduced from the fact that the Gesta Hungarorum and later chronicles contain very
similar passages, pointing to a common source.
There are contradictory arguments
revolving around this issue, with some wishing to discredit its author by suggesting he
did not use the Old Gesta,
while others try to prove the older chronicles existence by
stating that Anonymous did use it!
Proving the Old Gesta existed involves an entirely
new level of mental acrobatics that it is just simpler to stick to what can be verified. This
leaves the Gesta Hungarorum as the oldest text on Hungarian history.

The author of the work is still uknown, known to readers only by the rather
unimaginative name of Anonymous. This is the unfortunate consequence of the poor
preservation of his work, as the only copy that was discovered whad the first page
missing. Before we analyze the veracity of Anonymouss statements we need to know
who Anonymous was. At the entrance of the Vajdahunyad castle in the city park of
Budapest stands the statue of a mysterious hooded figure. The first thought that strikes
an unwitting viewer usually is what Emperor Palpatine is doing in Hungary. The base of
the statue however, speaks of a different man: ANONYMUS: chancellor of the most
honorable king Bela [of Hungary] (ANONYMVS: gloriosissimi Belae regis notarius).
Within the Gesta he only entitled himself as P. Magister
(magister meaning chancellor)
of the late [deceased] King Bela. Thus, we arrive at our first big question about the
man: if we know who he was, why do we call him Anonymous? Isnt it obvious? Hes
the chancellor of King Bela!

Theres just a small problem with this: there were four kings of Hungary called
Bela, and three of them reigned within almost 100 years of each other. The kings were
Bela I (1060 1063), Bela II (1131 1141), Bela III (1172 1196), and finally Bela IV
(1214 1270). So which Bela was it? The fourth Bela is out of the question as
Anonymous makes no mention of the Mongol invasion in 1240, which completely
ravaged Hungary. As Bela IV reigned in this time and Anonymous clearly mentions that
his Bela was dead, so we can probably eliminate him from this list. It certainly would
not fit well with Anonymous description of his homeland as happy Hungary, to which
many gifts are given.

The political map of Transylvania on the even of the Magyar conquest, as drawn by James Berry in
1919. The names of states is coupled with the rough date of their supposed existence, though Berrys
attempt to cover three centuries in one image makes the map slightly confusing. Menumoruts,
Glads, and Gelus holdings are shown in Transylvania.

Much ink has been spilt on trying to determine which of the remaining three
could be the Bela of Anonymous.
Arguments that he was the notary of Bela I include
the fact that the Gesta Hungarorum does not describe any historical event after 1046,
making it difficult to believe a century of history would be erased from his book for no
reason had he lived in the time frame of 1150-1200.
Others consider the mention of the
Duke of the Bulgarians in the source as subservient to the Byzantine Emperor to show
that the source was written before the foundation of the independent Second Bulgarian
Empire in 1185. This would make Anonymous the notary of King Bela II, meaning he
wrote his work around 1150.
Still others have tried to identify the man with numerous
personas of the late 12
century, and attribute the chronicles date to c. 1200, which is
also the date of the earliest preserved manuscript.

But what is more interesting is that none of these three possibilities fit with the
Hungarian idea that Anonymous placed the Vlachs in ninth century Transylvania by
projecting them from the thirteenth century. According to the Hungarians the Romanians
only arrived in Transylvania in 1210
(some put the date later, in 1222
). Were
Anonymous the notary of King Bela I or Bela II would mean the text predated a
Romanian presence in Transylvania by at least sixty years. How then, could Anonymous
have projected a situation into the past which did not exist in his present? How could he
say Transylvanias original inhabitants were people who werent even there?

Making Anonymous the notary of Bela III presents other problems. The Gesta
Hungarorum was most likely written at the end of the twelfth century,
around a decade
before the supposed earliest documents mentioning the Romanians. This has caused
the begrudging admittance that the earliest documents from 1210 do not exclude the
possibility that the Vlachs inhabited Transylvania somewhat, or even much earlier than
when that document was written,
and there is a strong likelihood that the Romanians
had been present in Transylvania for some time.
This still does not make Anonymous
assigning Transylvania to the Vlachs any more likely. We would expect Anonymous to
be well-informed of any Vlach migration, which supposedly continued throughout his
lifetime, even if it had started decades before he wrote the Gesta. This is especially true
given his position in the royal court where he had access to contemporary documents.

Yet Anonymous makes an inexcusable mistake by assigning the region to the
Romanians at the time of the Magyar arrival. It would be as if a British historian today
would write that the Battle of Hastings was fought between William the Conqueror and
recent Polish immigrants. There is not one Hungarian medieval document covering this
supposed migration,
something hard to excuse were it to have occurred in the late
twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, a time when the Vlachs had acquired a great level
of political importance due to Vlach-Bulgarian rebellion of 1185.
No matter which
Bela is assigned to Anonymous, the overall picture remains logically inconsistent.

The easiest way to analyze whether Anonymous had indeed projected
Romanians three centuries into the past is by seeing what he had done with the other
ethnicities of Transylvania. The most obvious example is the Transylvanian Saxons.
Their first invitation into Transylvania dates from the reign of King Geza II in the mid-
which approximates the dating of the hypothetical Vlach migration.
Similarly, both the Vlach migration and the Saxon colonization continued roughly to
the end of the 13
century. Anonymous however, does not describe Transylvania as
being conquered from the Saxons, even though this might be expected had he been
making uneducated projections into the past.

The second group to consider is the Szecklers, an ethnic group related to the
Magyars. Anonymous erroneously attributes the origin of the Szeckler people to Attilas
Huns, stating that they had always remained in Pannonia and joined the Magyars in their
conquest of the region. The relation between Huns and Hungarians (including Szecklers)
is purely fictitious, but we can hardly dismiss Anonymous as foolish for believing this
when the theory was only scientifically refuted in the 19
and to this day their
origin is hotly contested and uncertain.
It would be unfair to criticize Anonymous over
something which is not settled even today. Anonymous does get certain elements right
however, ones which would be hard to guess. For instance he places particular emphasis
on the Hungarians using the Szecklers to conquer the district of Biharea from
which is incidentally the area where the Szecklers were first settled in
The Szecklers had moved further into Transylvania in what later
became Saxon lands in the 12
century, and by the first half of the 13
century they
had finished their advance towards the Eastern Carpathians where they are situated
That Anonymous does not blindly fling the Szecklers in Eastern Transylvania
seems to show he was not basing his entire account on projections of his time, and his
emphasis on the region where the Szecklers were first settled hints that Anonymous was
familiar with the history of the region.

The one group that has been used most damningly against Anonymous other
than the Romanians of course, Lord forbid anyone mention them are the Cumans, who
were nowhere near Transylvania when the Magyars settled in Pannonia,
their first
contact with the Hungarians likely happening in the late eleventh century.
Cumans are
mentioned repeatedly in the Gesta, often under the same name, but likely describing
many different people. They are first described as fighting alongside the Russians
[Ruthenians] against the Magyars near Kiev. Next they are noted as joining the Magyars
during their conquest of Hungary. Finally Glads army was said to be composed of
Cumans, Bulgarians and Vlachs.
The last mention was taken as particularly damning
evidence as these three ethnicities were part the principal trouble-makers during the
Vlach revolt in Bulgaria in 1185.
Thus (Hungarians argue) Anonymous took three
ethnicities which cooperated militarily in the 12
century, and supposedly just assumed
they were doing so in the 9
case closed or is it?

In actuality however, Anonymous has several very logical reasons for
mentioning Cumans in his chronicle, none of which throw a wrench into the timeline
of Transylvanias history. This becomes clearer once one accepts (as many historians
have demonstrated) that the word Cumani in the Gesta Hungarorum does not actually
mean Cumans! This is because the Hungarian word for Cumans, kun, translated by
Anonymous into Cumani, designated not just the Cumans but Turkic nomads in general,
like the Pechenegs and Khabars.
It is already widely admitted by historians, Hungarian
and Romanian alike, that the Cumans who joined the Magyars were in fact Khabars,

a tribe of the Khazars.
Anonymous called them Cumans in spite of the fact the
Khazars are mentioned by the distinct name of Cozari.
Some authors, even when fully
accepting this, still hold fast to the belief that the Cumans in Glads army are still an
inexplicable anachronism, and that Anoymous really meant Cumans in the latter case,
even though he clearly intended Khabars in the former; thus (Hungarians argue) the
Cumans in the first passage are just Khabars in disguise, while the Cumans in Glads
army are an anachronism.
Of course, this does not make a lot of sense. As Cuman
could denote a variety of Turkic people, it is impossible to state with any certainty that
Glads Cumans are an anachronism. Far from this, Glads comans were likely the
Pechenegs (ethnically related to the Cumans), who were definitely in Wallachia by the
tenth century.
Whats more, we know the Pechenegs were assimilated by the Cumans
in the 12
century, such that there was confusion between the two in many thirteenth
century documents.
This has prompted many historians to conclude that Anonymous
was not wrong on the Cumans; just a little unclear; to his medieval mind, one Turkic
nomad looked the same as another, and his statement reflected the ethnic realities of the
early 10
Anonymous portrayal of the duke of the Bulgarians and the
Emperor of the Greeks (the Byzantine Emperor) as being allies
certainly casts doubt
on him using a Vlach-Bulgarian revolt against the Byzantines as inspiration.

As mentioned earlier, Anonymous does refer to the Khazars (Cozari), but he
interestingly does not place them in Khazaria in the Caucausus, but rather, in
Menumoruts lands in Transylvania! We should not be taken too aback by this, as a
Khazar presence in Pannonia has been attested archaeologically at graves in northern
as well as in Biharea, right insideMenumoruts domain.
It has been argued
that the Khazars may have acted as catalysts for the formation of states in that area,

and therefore Anonymouss emphasis on them in the region, perhaps as a ruling elite, is
legitimate. Thus, Anonymous was able to get the ethnic realities of Transylvania and its
near-abroad relatively correct (even if he confused a few names here and there).

While this may be fine and dandy for the Khazars and the Cumans and various
other people that no longer exist in Transylvania, the pertinent question still remains
unanswered: what of the Romanians? Anonymous statements on the Romanians have
several facts that back them up, these being: the geographical correspondence between
Dacia and the regions inhabited by the Romanians, the fact that Romanians occur in the
earliest documents dealing with Transylvanias (including first one to explicitly mention
ethnicities), the exponential growth in the mention of Romanians in the 14
(something hard to believe possible had the Romanians been recent immigrants and few
in number), and the fact that the Romanians were the majority of Transylvanias
inhabitants in all reliable census data from its later history.
It is a little unbelievable
that all of these factors would line up by coincidence.

The regions inhabited by the Romanians have to be considered as well.
Romanians are typically recorded in Transylvanian documents as inhabiting the foothills
where they practiced sheepherding. Some see this as evidence of secondary habitation,
as if the Romanians arrived after everyone else had already taken all of the good
property and were relegated to infertile foothills as a result.
There is however another,
more believable interpretation of this peculiar fact: the Romanians must primarily
inhabit the mountains and forests because they were a population fleeing from invaders
who took the more fertile lands from them by force.
The situation of the Aromanians
of the Balkans can work to elucidate which interpretation is correct. If we were to use
the same argumentation of secondary habitation on the Aromanians (assuming they
were originally from there and not from Transylvania) then we should find the
Aromanians in possession of at least one fertile valley in the Balkans which would be
their homeland. This is however not the case: the Aromanians are always crowded into
the foothills while the Slavs occupy the fertile valleys, even though the Romans (the
ancestors of the Aromanians) lived in the Balkans long before the Slavs. Furthermore, a
Romanian entry into Transylvania from the Balkans to the South does little to explain
why the mountainous northern-most part of Transylvania, Maramure, was ethnically
dominated by Romanians It however would be very easily explained if the Romanians
from central Transylvanias valleys had been pushed north and south by the barbarians
that helped themselves to those former Roman(ian) lands.

Archaeology has been a frequent weapon used by both Hungarian and Romanian
historianas. Romanian archaeologists tend to attribute pottery made with the fast potters
wheel as being Romanian,
while Hungarian archaeologists invariably attribute it to
someone else. This has resulted in a sort of intellectual stalemate, as Romanian and
Slavic remains dating from the ninth century are especially difficult to differentiate.
is perhaps a matter of logic: how someone made their house or what sort of pots they
used had very little impact on what language someone spoke. One could imagine
historians 1000 years from now concluding that Romania was populated by the Levis
501 Culture, organized around a monarchy under Burger King and Dairy Queen, and
that Romanians were, in fact, Americans. Much in the same way, Bulgarian influences
upon the Romanians and vice-versa (as well as the constant Byzantine influence) can
make it difficult to determine whose remains one is looking it.

The argument has therefore shifted to the linguistic arena and, predictably, there
is debate on this front as well. Numerous toponyms were mustered to support Romanian
continuity in the region. Several names for rivers are known to be preserved since
antiquity, as they are documented in classical sources. Such names include Cri, Glpia,
Mure (Grisia, Gilpil, Marisia in in J ordanes' Getica),
Olt (Altinum in the Notitia
Dignitatum) and almost every other major river in the area including the Some, Barzava,
Brsa, and numerous other examples.
Names of Slavic origin shared exclusively
between Romanians and Slavs but not shared with Germans or Hungarians may also act
as evidence. The Trnava river name is but one example, where the Romanian version is
clearly derived from Slavic, while the Germans and Hungarians use Kokel or Kkll.
Had the Romanians only arrived in Transylvania in the thirteenth century, a time when
the Slavs were practically gone, one would expect the Romanians to have derived their
name from the Hungarian version, as the Saxons evidently had done. There is indeed no
reason to believe that a Slavic name is necessarily of Slavic origin, as Slavic words
permeate the Romanian language. Sometimes the Slavic river name is a translation of an
earlier Romanian name, as in the case of the river Bistria which roughly translates to
swift river. The Slavic Bistria is used in the valleys supposedly occupied by the Slavs,
while in the hills it goes by the Romanian name Repedea (the fast one). It would be
had chosen a name that, only by coincidence, translated perfectly into its Slavic
cognomen. The meaning of the word was indeed lost in the Hungarian and German
versions, which were in essence poor pronounciations of the original Slavic. The
Romanians must evidently have lived alongside the Slavs before the Hungarians arrived
in the region in order for this to occur.

Perhaps the greatest friend of the Romanians in this debate is simple logic. Put it
simply: Anonymous being wrong on such a crucial factor does not make a whole lot of
sense. Those wishing to discredit the man often provide their own alternative history of
the Romanians, whereby the Romanians wandered into Transylvania as a handful of
shepherds in the 13
century and were demographically insignificant.
Anonymous whole purpose in writing the Gesta was not idle ethnography, but rather in
portraying the Magyars as valiant heroes whose rule over their whole kindom was
If Anonymous really had no idea what he was writing about, the
Romanians would probably have been the last people he would have chosen as enemies
of the 9
century Magyars. There was certainly nothing valiant or heroic about fighting
a bunch of shepherds, nor could defeating such a small segment of Transylvanias
population have justified their rule over the region. Anonymous easily could have
chosen more worthy opponents of the Magyar king. One has to accept the Gesta
Hungarorum on this issue or it becomes logically impossible to justify Anonymous
bizarre choice of enemies.

Since the Gesta was meant to justify the political control over Transylvania, it is
just as important that we discuss the political events in the work. The first issue is that of
the Magyars route of invasion, and it is here that the Gesta gets a surprising detail right.
The Old Gesta supposedly propagated a myth about hunting a golden stag (a
favorite legend among steppe nomads) which lead the Magyars first into Transylvania,
Anonymous evidently did not buy into it. Instead, the Gesta had the Magyars cross
through the Verecke Pass, settling in the district of Mukaceve (Munkcs)
Transcarpathian Ukraine. Modern Hungarian historians are of course irked by this
conclusion as it shortens the period of Hungarian rule in Transylvania, and use it as an
argument against the Gestas validity. They believe Anonymous got it all wrong and that
the Old Gesta was right (of course, minus the golden stag idea). As one Hungarian
historian put it: Anonymus turned history on its head; his Hungarians, instead of
moving westward from Transylvania, are depicted as entering that region from the
The only small problem is that, well, every piece of evidence suggests
Anonymous was right!

Only the areas just below the Verecke Pass are rich in graves of the early
Magyars and of those only those at in that area have graves belonging to people from
outside of the Carpathian arch.
If the Magyars had passed through Transylvania, they
certainly did not stick around at first. The resettling of the Szecklers eastward is yet
more evidence to onsider. Assuming the Hungarian border was on the eastern
Carpathians from the start, it is difficult to justify why the Szecklers were originally
settled in westward Criana; one has to wonder just what border they could have
guarded from there. Their location however becomes more logical if we accept that the
Magyars gradually moved into Transylvania from the west, and that the Szecklers
slowly followed the advancing Hungarian border. Thankfully the Hungarians made it
rather clear just where the border was. As a throwback to their nomadic past, the
Magyars were fond of using strips of deserted lands called indagines to delineate their
lands. The indagines of the Magyars to the East were not first set on the Carpathians, nor
even in Central Transylvania, but rather only on the Small Some in 900, and gradually
expanded eastward until reaching the Eastern Carpathians in 1200.

In general the silence of written sources on the Hungarian expansion into the
region has prompted historians to use subtle (or not) archaeological changes for the
purposes of chronology. In the 1100s, several key fortresses dating from the early 11

century were repaired by the Hungarians (of course, after being destroyed by the
Hungarians), including Biharea and Cluj-Mntur,
indicating a consolidation of
Hungarian power in the region that had been there for some time. The culture of the
graves in the region changes from the so-called Citflu phase to the Bjelo-Brdo culture,
signaling the introduction of Western European traditions and the relocating of
Szecklers. Coin-dating, the art of looking at coins from archaeological sites and dating
them according to the depicted monarchs, shows that these settlements ranged from the
reign of Geza II (1130-1162) to about 1200. What all of this suggests is that the
Hungarian push into eastern Transylvania occurred in this time frame. This is in fact
confirmed by several outlying cemeteries that reach the eastern Carpathians, which as
archaeologist Florin Curta stated: bears testimony to the fact, otherwise not clearly
attested in written sources, that by 1200 the Hungarian kingdom had established its
frontiers firmly on the Carpathians.
All of this evidence still has not stopped those
who wanted the Magyars in Transylvania as early as possible.

Yet it is difficult to see just what the nomadic Magyars could have seen in
Transylvania. Even the flat, boring great plains of Hungary could not provide sufficient
fodder for the many horses of the early Magyar armies, and any nomadic settlers in
Transylvania would have had to quickly abandon their lifestyle or risk riding some
rather emaciated mounts. This makes the claim in later chronicles that the Magyars
stopped in Transylvania to regain their strength
unless of course the aspect
holding back the Magyars was weight issues. It would almost makes one believe the
outlandish Medieval claim that Hungarian was derived from Hunger due the
famines they withstood.
True, Transylvanias salt mines could have attracted nomads,
but one must first take care of necessities before setting sights on Medieval luxuries such
as salt. More importantly, it is difficult to imagine how the Magyars could have
conquered over 300,000 square kilometers, fighting out against several kingdoms, in less
than five years.

The Magyars migrated into Pannonia not as an act of planned military conquest,
but rather, as refugees! The world of nomadic tribes was akin to a game of billiards,
where one tribe smashed into another, causing the victim to likewise drive out a third
tribe. Such was the case of the Pechenegs, who were driven out from Northern Ukraine
and sought new lands from the Magyars.
The Pechenegs invasion of the Magyar lands
caught them completely unprepared, as many of their warriors were scattered about,
causing the defenseless Magyars left behind to flee in panic.
The Bulgarian attack
from the south reassured the frightened nomads that they had no shortage of enemies,
creating a convoy of beleaguered refugees that fled in panic around the Carpathians and
through the Verecke Pass, settling as far from their attackers as possible.


The topographical map of medieval Hungary highlights the contrast between the great plains of
Hungary and the rugged foothills of Transylvania. Though the Magyars lacked anything
approaching a map of Europe, their service as mercenaries granted them some understanding of
which places were suitable for their nomadic way of life and which places were not.

From a political perspective the Hungarians first settling in Pannonia makes
sense. Southern Transylvania was at that time controlled by the Bulgarian empire,
certainly would not have tried to escape the Bulgarians by fleeing into Bulgarian lands.
Byzantine coins and crosses dated to the tenth century, associated with Hierotheos
mission to convert the Magyars in 953, are found only between the Mures, Tisza, and
Cris rivers, while no such things are found in central Transylvania because there were no
Magyars there to convert.
It was only the collapse of the Bulgarian Empire in the late
and early 11
century that resulted in a power vacuum in Transylvania, filled first
by the Magyar tribes and later by the Kingdom of Hungary.

As for the rulers of the Romanians: they are an entirely different kind of problem.
Both Menumorut and Gelu are not mentioned in any other documents, which is more
than a little troublesome. Anonymous does mention Glads having a descendant, Ohtum
(Ahtum, Ajtony), who is mentioned in the Legenda Sancti Gerhardi,
but even this
hardly makes Glad a more believable character. In fact Glads entire life in the Gesta is
co-opted from Ohtums story in the Legenda in a rather evident display of unoriginality
and plagiarism.
In other words: Ahtum cannot serve as evidence for Glads existence.

Most Hungarian historians believe the three leaders, and other personages of the
Gesta, were inventions by the chronicler based on place-names or a play-on-words.

One leaders name, Zobor the duke of Nitra,
is believed to derive from the word sobor,
meaning church in Slavonic, and there is a hill near Nitra where a Benedictine
monastery was founded. Hungarian historians likewise claim Gelu is derived from the
placename Gilu in central Transylvania Many possible origins of the name Menumorut
have been proposed, including that it derives from the Hungarian word for Moravian
or from the Hungarian word for stallion because (as the Gesta claims) he had
though this did not really separate him from many of his contemporaries.
Anonymous inventing the names is to some extent believable, as it is hard to imagine
him remembering the names of obscure princes that lived more than two centuries prior
to his writing. Still, some care should be taken in accepting this: just because a name
was invented does not mean the person behind that name was an invention as well.

There are some facts that indicate Anonymous did not invent the characters
behind the names. In spite of Menumoruts promiscuous nature (or perhaps because of
it), his name was taken up by the following rulers of the region. Hungarian royal
registers mention the family Marouth in the 13
century and onward as controlling vast
estates in the Criana region,
said to have been ruled by Menumorut. A document from
1261 mentions Chyrilla, a Romano-Slavic name, the son of Almus (Almos), a
Hungarian name, coming from the family Marouth.
The personal names indicate a
noble family of mixed Romanian-Hungarian ethnicity, which perfectly correlates with
the Gesta Hungarorums account that Menumorut married one his daughter to a Magyar
chieftain, thereby continuing his familys ownership of the region.

As for Menumoruts political circumstances, when the Magyars demanded his
lands he supposedly responded:

Neither from affection nor from fear will we grant him [Arpad, leader of
the Magyars] land, even as little as he may hold in his fist, even though he
says it is his right. And his words do not disquiet our thoughts when he
tells us that he is descended from the line of King Attila, who is called the
scourge of God, who seized this land with violent grasp from my forbear,
for by the grace of my lord the emperor of Constantinople no one can
snatch it from my hands.

Can Menumoruts vassality to the Byzantine Emperor be verified? The Magyars
were used by the Byzantines as a counter-weight to the Bulgarians, so at a surface
glance Menumorut threatening the Magyars with the authority of the Byzantine Emperor
makes no sense. Politics was however, just as fickle of a matter back then as it is today.
The Emperor Leo VI (886-912) had signed a peace treaty with the Bulgarians in 897,

removing the need for a Magyar counterweight. With their initial purpose gone, Leo
VIs wasted no time in listing the Magyars in his book Taktika as potential enemies of
the empire
and by the early 10
century the Magyars were fond of making the
Byzantines host their invasions, while the Byzantines held their Bulgarian vassals
wholly responsible for not stopping them.
Luitprand of Cremona, writing in the late
century, claimed that the Magyars had subdued both the Bulgarians and the Greeks...
something not true at all, but a statement which nevertheless showed the open hostility
between these people.
We can therefore conclude that Anonymous Gesta provides an
accurate reflection of the political realities of 10
century between the Magyars and the
Byzantines, and Menumoruts political circumstances thus become believable and

As for Gelu the Romanian: some believed the name of the Vlach ruler derives
from the place name Gilu/Gyalu, but more recent work has been used to show that the
opposite is true: Gilu actually preserves the memory of where Gelu died!
There are
many examples in Romania where a certain location bears the name of a ruler. The
locality of Cenad for instance, was named after the Magyar chief Csand.
theory, that Gelu could derive from the word gyula, which meant chief but is also a
given name in Hungarian, is hard to believe given that Anonymous mentions both
personal names explicitly in chapter 24 of his work.
The Gesta described Gelus
dukedom as being ravaged by the Pechenegs,
which is possible given that the
Pechenegs were right beside Transylvania at the time.
The rich salt trade in
Transylvania offered an opportunity for the rise small Romanian and Slavic states,
reflecting the statements in the Gesta Hungarorum that Gelu ruled over the Romanians
and Slavs. It is clear from the Gesta that the conquering Magyar chief who confronted
Gelu had centered his attacks on the salt mines as well.
Many of the fortresses
attributed to Gelu, including Dbca, Cluj-Mntur, irioara, and Moreti, show signs
of destruction and ravages dating from the beginning of the tenth century,
presents compelling physical evidence for the events described in the Gesta. As for
Gelus claimed independence (dominus tenebat), his realm was outside the reach of the
Bulgarian Empire so he likely had no direct overlord.
Whether by coincidence or not,
the historic facts we know are accurately reflected in the Gesta.

The last ruler left to talk about is Glad. His story appears to have been heavily
influenced by that of his supposed descendant Ahtum from the Long Life of St. Gerard.
It may sound unusual, but Glad was essentially following in his descendants footsteps:
the stories match up so closely that some concluded the author of the Gesta knew
nothing about Glad except that he was Ahtum's ancestor.
Like in the case of the other
rulers, some have argued that Glads name was derived from a village in the area called
According to Anonymous the conquest of Glads realm was ordered by Arpad
While the earliest Magyar artifacts from Transylvania date from the first
decades of the tenth century (a bit after Arpads death),
we should not believe Arpad
was giving out orders from beyond the grave.

The author of the Gesta is known for short
anachronistic projections of a few ranging in a few decades, for instance the dating of
the Battle of Lechfeld (actual date 955) to the fifth year of the reign of Emperor
Conrad (i.e. 916), because Anonymous wished to ascribe as much as possible to Arpad,
the main hero of the story.
His dating of the Magyar incursions of Banat, while still
wrong, is not so far off as to believe he simply invented the event. Furthermore,
Anonymous stated that the Magyar invasion of Banat would eventually lead to raids into
the Byzantine Empire,
which again matches the historical record showing the Magyars
first raids into Byzantine territory occurred in 934.
Some historians thus proposed an
alternative theory: the two villages in the area named Gald, far from acting as the
source of his name, were likely named in his honor.
Not bad for a person who
supposedly knew nothing of the man he was describing!

At the very least we can conclude from the archaeological record that there was
someone running the show in Transylvania. Twenty settlements were discovered in
Menumoruts domain, another sixty in Glads, and more than forty in Gelus, some of
which appeared well fortified and evidence a large population that engaged in
agriculture, animal husbandry, and trade.
The fortress of Biharea, Menumoruts
capital, has been discovered, being an earthen mound fortress which can be dated to the
or even 8
The site incidentally also shows continuous habitation from the
Dacian times to Middle Ages.
Excavations of fortress of Dbca, often identified as
the capital of Gelu, have unearthed evidence for a ninth century habitation
but it is
still to early to determine the fortresses actual function or even its owner. We can
probably exclude uninhabited place from the list of possibilities, but as historian
Florin Curta stated merely assigning Dbca to Gelou does not explain anything.

Indeed, identifying (dare one say manipulating?) archaeological sites in such a way as to
deliberately match the written sources, sanitized as text-driven archaeology by
academics, has been heavily criticized.
We cannot pick up every horseshoe from the
ground dating from the 10
century and say it must have been from Gelus horse simply
because the Gesta states Gelu lived in the region, nor can we do the same to fortresses.

The archaeological record does not entirely confirm the existence of those three
specific leaders, but it does confirm the presence of some central authority, whatever it
may have been. Fortified ports, such as that at Vladimirescu-Arad in Banat, indicates
that there was some centralized administration of commerce in the region.
We can
either believe that the Magyars found someone in charge of clusters of settlements in the
area, or we can believe they lived in a fantastic, leaderless communist utopia the
choice is not so hard to make.

While historians may disagree on which details Anonymous got right, the
fundamentals of his book need to be considered in an entirely different manner. The
main goal of his account of the Magyar conquest of Transylvania from Gelu was to
legitimize Arpadian rule in the area.
The invention of the Vlachs by Anonymous
would not have served his purposes at all, since they would not have been numerous nor
politically significant while he was writing his work if they were recent immigrants.
Moreover, given the complete absence of documents suggesting any formal colonization
of Romanians in Transylvania prior to 1200, we must believe that any Romanian
immigrants would be only serfs and laborers, and possessing no political rights at all.

Yet the earliest documents clearly attest a Romanian nobility, possessing equal political
rights to the other people inhabiting Transylvania.
One document from 1291 listed the
Romanians among the nations with noble representatives. Another from 1399 spoke of
the nobility of Hunedoara, be they Hungarians or Romanians.
Anonymous simply
would have had no reason to invent the Romanians, and had plenty of reasons why he
would not have done so; he must have been referring to the real inhabitants of

The Gesta Hungarorum served a secondary purpose for the author, as he used it
justify and explain the rights preserved by the successors of the conquered population of
To this effect, Anonymous portrayed the Romanians and Slavs as
swearing an oath of loyalty to Tuhutum, their Magyar conqueror,
a direct parallel to
the Pacta Conventa between the Croatian nobility and the Hungarian king Coloman,
designed to preserve the rights and autonomy of the Croatians.
This episode would
not have made much sense had the Romanians been recent, unofficial migrants into
Transylvania, and therefore not possessing any rights. Anonymous would have been
justifying the supposedly non-existent rights of the Romanians!

In what regards Transylvania and the Romanians: it would be very hard to
imagine Anonymous making such a critical error as giving such a wealthy land to a
handful of shepherds (as some of the more polemically-inclined historians have taken
to labeling them). If we are to believe the Hungarian theory is correct and that the
Romanians were not in Transylvania and were statistically insignificant in the 13

century, then what Anonymous was writing of would have matched neither his present
nor the past. The idea that a handful of shepherds would have their own prince who
would fight the Magyars would have gotten Anonymous laughed out of the royal court
at best! It is hard to imagine an army of elite horsearchers fighting a pitched battle
against a bunch of nuzzling sheep. It would not have been truthful nor politically
beneficial for the king.

Anonymouss work was highly ambitious in its nature. No other person before or
afterwards would attempt to cover the Hungarian conquest of their new country in such
detail. The legacy of his work however, lay not in the details, but in the big picture. The
reality is that Anonymouss statue graces a prominent landmark in Hungarys capital
city for a reason. A critical analysis of his work confirms that Anonymous was not a
spinner of fairytales; he was not some Hungarian J .R.R. Tolkein who substituted
Hungarians for elves and Romanians for orcs. Rather, the majority of his narrative is
corroborated by archaeology and other sources.

The writers following Anonymous would certainly have noticed if he had
screwed up a fundamental part of his chronicle, especially since Hungarian historians
argue that the Romanian migration into Transylvania was continuous and even
accelerated in later centuries.
If this truly were the case, then his mistake involving
the Romanians would have become all-the-more evident. It is therefore critical to
understand what Hungarian chronicles written after the Gesta Hungarorum say in regard
to the Romanians.


[1] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum. Translated by Rady, Martin. Prospect for the UCL School
of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies. 2008. Chapter 9. For they said that there flowed the
most noble spring waters, the Danube and Tisza [Tyscia] and other most noble springs, abounding
in good fish, in which land there lived the Slavs [Sclavi], Bulgarians [Bulgarii] and Vlachs
[Blachii], and the shepherds of the Romans [pastores Romanorum].17 For after the death of King
Attila, the Romans said the land of Pannonia was pastureland because their flocks grazed in the
land of Pannonia

[2] Idem. Chapter 25. the inhabitants of that land were the basest of the whole world, because
they were Vlachs [Blasii] and Slavs, because they had nothing else for arms than bows and
arrows and their duke, Geleou [sic] was inconstant and did not have around him good warriors
who would dare stand against the courage of the Hungarians, because they suffered many injuries
from the Cumans and Pechenegs [Picenatis]

[3] Idem. Chapter 24. And while they tarried there some while, Tuhutum father of Horca, as he
was ashrewd man, when he learned from the inhabitants of the goodness of the land of
Transylvania, where Gelou, a certain Vlach (Blachus), held sway, strove through the grace of
Duke rpd, his lord, to acquire the land of Transylvania for himself and his posterity.

[4] Makkai, Laszlo. Transylvania in the Medieval Hungarian Kingdom (8961526). The
History of Transylvania. Vol. I.. Budapest, Hungary : Akademiai Kiado, 2001. p. 343.

[5] Ibidem, p. 333. The earliest Hungarian chronicle, the 'Old Gesta', was repeatedly expanded
and reworked into several versions between the 11th and the 14th centuries. Unfortunately, it
offers only a brief account of how the Hungarians first occupied Transylvania, killed their leader
lmos (probably in a ritual sacrifice), and then moved on to 'Pannonia'. The source fails to make
clear where Gyula was coming from when, while hunting, he chanced upon a 'white castle' (i.e.
the ruins of Apulum), or what people he might have encountered there.

[6] Grzesik, Ryszard. Sources of a Story About the Murdered Croatian King in the Hungarian-
Polish Chronicle. Izlaganje sa znanstvenog skupa. vol. 30. 2003. pp. 98-99.

[7] This argument was given by Laszlo Makkai in the aforementioned citations.

[8] Homan, B. A Szt. Laszlo-kori Gesta Ungoarorum es XII-XIII szazadi leszarmazoi., Budapest,
Hungary : MTA, 1925. 15-32.

[9] Spinei, Victor. The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta from the
Tenth to the Mid-Thirteenth Century. Leiden, NL : Brill, 2009. p. 73.

[10] Curta, Florin. Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250. Cambridge, UK :
Cambridge University Press, 2006 p. 15.

[11] Slgean, Tudor. Beitrge zur Datierungsfrage der Gesta des Anonymen Notars von Knig
Bela I. Forschungen zur volks- und Landeskunde. Editura Academiei Romne. 2007. p. 6

[12] Madgearu, Alexandru. Romnii n opera Notarului Anonim. Cluj-Napoca : Bibliotheca Rerum
Transsylvaniae. XXVII, 2001. Book abstract.

[13] Sugar, Peter F. et al. A history of Hungary. Bloomington, USA : Indiana University Press,
1994. p. 53.

[14] Kosztin, Arpad. The Daco-Roman Legend. Hamilton-Buffalo: Matthias Corvinus Publishing.

[15] Makacz, Laszlo K. Hungarian Revival: Political Reflections on Central Europe. Nieuwegein :
Aspekt. 1996. p. 88.

[16] Illys, Elemr. Ethnic Continuity in the Carpatho-Danubian Area. Hamilton, Ontario:
Struktura Press. 1992. p. 21.

[17] Idem. p. 291. This does not, however, exclude the possibility that Romanians (Vlachs

) lived
in these areas somewhat, or even much, earlier
[18] Makkai, p. 439.

[19] Spinei, 2009. p. 76.

[20] See Moga, Ioan. Les Roumains de Transylvanie au Moyen ge. Centrul de Studii i Cercetri
Privitoare la Transilvania, 1944.

[21] Rady, Martyn C. Nobilty, Land and Service in Medieval Hungary. Basingstoke ; New York :
Palgrave, 2000. p. 91.

[22] Hupchick, Dennis P. Conflict and chaos in Eastern Europe. New York : Palgrave, 1995. p. 56.

[23] Kristo, Gyula. Hungarian History in the Ninth Century. Szeged, Hungary : Szegedi
Kozpkorsz Muhely, 1996. p. 73.

[24] Engel, Pl et al. The Real of St. Stephen:

a history of medieval Hungary, 895-1526. London
[u.a.] : Tauris, 2001. p. 116.
[25] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum. See Ch. 50: When Menumorout heard that Usubuu and
Velec, most noble warriors of Duke rpd, had come against them with a strong force, with
Szekels in the vanguard, he feared more than was fitting and dared not go against them

[26] N

gler, Thomas. Transylvania Between 900 and 1300. in Pop, Ioan-Aurel et al. The
History of Transylvania, I (up to 1541). Cluj-Napoca : CTS, Romanian Cultural Institute, 2005.
pp. 212-215.
[27] Wieczorek, Alfried, and Hans-Martin Hinz, ed. Europes Center Around 1000: Contributions
to History, Art and Archaeology. Stuttgart: Konrad Theiss Verlag, 2000. p. 135

[28] Vasary, 2005. p. 4.

[29] Berend, Nora. At the gate of Christendom : Jews, Muslims, and "pagans" in medieval
Hungary, c. 1000-c. 1300. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. p. 69.

[30] Anonymous, ch. 44.

[31] For more information on this see: van Antwerp Fine, John.

The late medieval Balkans a
critical survey from the late twelfth century to the Ottoman conquest. Ann Arbor: Univ. of
Michigan Press, 1994. Also Stephenson, Paul. Byzantium's Balkan frontier: a political study of
the Northern Balkans, 900 1204. Cambridge [u.a.]: Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000. pp. 288-300.
[32] This exact article is stated in MacArtney, Carlile A. The medieval Hungarian historians : a
critical and analytical guide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009. p. 79.

[33] Spinei, 2009. p. 75. Cited works for this conclusion include Gyorffy, A Kun es koman
nepnev erdetenek kerdesehez, Antiquitas Hungarica, 2 (1948), pp. 173-176. This conclusion is
also reached by C. A. MacArtney in The Lives of St. Gerard in Studies on Early Hungarian and
Pontic History (Variorum Collected Studies Series), eds. L. Czigany and L. Peter (Aldershot-
Brookfield-Singapore-Sidney, 1999), p. 93.

[34] Du Nay, Andre. The Origins of the Romanians. Toronto : Corvinus Library, 1996. p. 218.
Specifically: These Cumans were probably the Kabars, a Turk people, who are known from
other sources to have joined the Hungarians in that period.

[35] Scheiber, Sndor.

Jewish inscriptions in Hungary, from the 3rd century to 1686. Budapest :
Akadmiai Kiad ; Leiden : Brill, 1983. p. 75. The Khabars are a group of Khazars that revolted
against the Khazar Confederacy and joined the Magyars.
[36] Tonciulescu, Paul L. Cronica Notarului Anonymus. Bucharest, Romania : Miracol, 1996. p. 14

[37] See reference 34. Du Nay in particular states Anonymus writes about two different kinds of
Cumans: (a) Cumans who associated themselves with the Hungarians before the end of the 9th
century and were with them when they took possession of Hungary in 896 AD. These ACumans
were probably the Kabars, a Turk people, who are known from other sources to have joined the
Hungarians in that period. (b) According to Anonymus, Cumans helped the Slavic chief Glad in
the Banat in his fight against the Hungarians This is a projection of the situation at the end of
the 12th century back to the 9th. In the time of Anonymus, Cumans were living on the plains
south of the Carpathian mountains and made also incursions into Transylvania.

[38] Brtianu, Gheorghe I. Marea Neagr. I. Bucharest, Romania : Meridiane, 1988. pp. 279-288.

[39] N

gler, 2005. p. 211.
[40] Spinei, 2009. p. 75. Tonciulescu, 1996. p. 11.

[41] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum. See ch. 12: the great Kean, forbear of Duke Salan and duke
of Bulgaria, setting forth with the aid and counsel of the emperor of the Greeks, had occupied that
land. Ch 38: Then, having taken counsel of his men, he sent his envoys to the emperor of the
Greeks and the duke of the Bulgarians to give him help in fighting rpd, duke of the Hungarians.
The emperor of the Greeks and the duke of the Bulgarians sent a great army to Duke Salan.

[42] Bunardzic, R. Gradza za proucavanje spomenika culture Vojvodine. Report on the
protective archaeological excavation of the medieval necropolis

. at the Ciglana locality near
Celarevo, , Novi Sad, 8-9. 1978, p. 33-67.
[43] Dumitrascu, S and Crisan, I. Un Pandantiv cu Steaua lui David Descoperit la Cefa-La
Padue, Crisia, 26-27, 1996, p. 37-49.

[44] Madgearu, Alexandru. Voievodatul lui Menumorout n lumina cercetrilor recente (The
Duchy of Menumorout in the light of the recent researches). Analele Universitii din Oradea.
Istorie-arheologie, 11, 2001 (2004), p. 38-51.

[45] Engel, 2001. p. 117.

[46] Idem. p. 118.

[47] Berry, J ames. Transylvania and Its Relations to Ancient Dacia and Modern Rumania. The
Geographical Journal, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Mar., 1919). Royal Geographical Society. p. 138.

[48] Madgearu, 2001. p. 39.

[49] Madgearu, Alexandru. Salt Trade and Warfare: The Rise of the Romanian-Slavic Military.
Organization in Early Medieval Transylvania. ed. Curta, Florin. East Central & Eastern Europe
in the Early Middle Ages. Ann Arbor : University of Michigan Press, 2005.

[50] J ordanes. Getica. XXII. 113. Quo tempore erant in eo loco manentes, ubi nunc Gepidae
sedent, juxta flumina Marisia, Miliare et Gilpil et Grisia, qui omnes supra dictos excedit.

[51] For more information on these names see Paliga, Sorin. Etymological Lexicon of Indigenous
(Thracian) Elements in Romanian. Bucharest, Romania : Centrul Mass Media Evenimentul, 2006.

[52] Kosztin, p. 28. According to Kosztin The absence of cultic places, as well as the testimony
of the geographical names and the place-names indicates that before the end of the 13th century,
Transylvania had no significant Rumanian population.

[53] See Madgearu, 2001. Also Grzesik, 2003. p. 102: The researcher of the Hungarian medieval
chronicles who recognize the first years of the existence of the Hungarians in the Carpathian
Basin know that several stories from the Hungarian oral tradition were used in their narration.
They glorified the heroism of the conquerors and legitimized the rule of the Magyars over the
whole territory.

[54] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum. Ch. 11-12.

[55] Lazar, Istvan. Transylvania: A Short History. Safety Harbor, FL : Simon Publications. 1997. p.

[56] Makkai, p. 337.

[57] Lazar, 1997. p. 28

[58] N

gler, 2005. p. 211.
[59] Curta, Florin. Transylvania around A.D. 1000. ed. Urbanczyk, P. Europe Around the Year
1000. Warsaw, Poland : Wydawnictwo DIG, 2001. p. 141-165.

[60] Curta, Florin. Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages: 500-1250. Cambridge University
Press. Cambridge, UK. 2006. p. 351-352.

[61] Lazar, 1997. p. 28

[62] Porphyrgenitus, Constantine. De Administrando Impero. Ch. 13. Of the nation of the
Pechenegs. The text covering the whole ordeal states: The Pechenegs fled and wandered round,
casting about for a place for their settlement; and when they reached the land which they now
possess and found the Turks [Magyars] living in it, they defeated them in battle and expelled and
cast them out, and settled in it, and have been masters of this country, as has been said, for fifty-
five years to this day.


Chronicon Pictum Vindobonense, XI, ed. Florianus, 1883. p. 123: Exinde montes descendunt
per tres menses, et deuniunt in continuum regni Hungarie, scilicet in Erdelw, inuitis gentibus
[64] Rna-Tas, Andrs. Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages : an ntroduction to early
Hungarian history. Budapest : Central European Univ. Press, 1999

1999. p. 283.
[65] Rna-Tas

, 1999. p. 332.
[66] Davies, Norman. Europe: A History. Oxford : Oxford University Press, cop. 1996. p. 296.

[67] Madgearu, Alexandru. Salt Trade and Warfare: The Rise of the Romanian-Slavic Military
Organization in Early Medieval Transylvania. ed. Curta, Florin. East Central & Eastern Europe
in the early middle Ages. Ann Arbor : Univ. of Michigan Press, 2005. p. 107.


Rna-Tas, 1999. p. 335.
[69] Madgearu, 2005. p. 107.

[70] Dobson, Barrie et al. Encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. Vol 2. Chicago, US : Routledge, 2000.
p. 1457.

[71] Vita Sancti Gerardi. Legenda Maior, ln' Scnptores Reruni Hungati.caruar, tol: II; Budapest,
1938, p. 480-560.

[72] MacCartney, Carlile A. The medieval Hungarian historians: a critical and analytical guide.
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press., 1953. p. 71.

[73] Engel, 2001. p. 11.

[74] Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum. Ch. 37.

[75] Note 21 in Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum, translated by Rady, Martyn.

[76] Spinei, Victor. The great migrations in the east and south east of Europe from the ninth to the
thirteenth century. Amsterdam : Hakkert, 2006. p. 87.

[77] References to this family are found throughout Borcea, Liviu and Tepelea, Ioan. Menumorut,
part of Domnitori i Voievozi series. Bucuresti : Editura Militar, 1988.

[78] Madgearu, 2001 (2004). p. 42.

[79] Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum. LI.

[80] Idem. XX

[81] Stephenson, 2000. p. 21

[82] Madgearu, 2001 (2004). p. 42

[83] Stokes, A.D. The Background and Chronology of the Balkan Campaigns of Svyatoslav
Igorevich. The Slavonic and East European Review, Vol. 40, No. 94 (Dec., 1961), pp. 44-57.

[84] Liudprand, Antapodosis, II. 7 in A. F. Gombos, Catalogus fontium historiae Hungariae.
Budapest, 1938, vol. l. II, p.1470.

[85] Madgearu, Alexandru. The Romanians in the Anonymous Gesta Hungarorum. Centrul de
Studii Transilvane, Bibliotheca Rerum Transsylvaniae, XXVII. Cluj-Napoca, 2001. p. 259.

[86] Curta, 2001. p. 144.

[87] Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum. XXIV.

[88] Idem. XXV.

[89] Spinei, 2009. p. 90.

[90] Madgearu, 2005. p. 111.

[91] Idem, p. 110. Quoting Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum. XXV. Quod terra illa irrigaretur
optimis fluviis [... ] et quod in arenis eorum aurum colligerent, et aurum terre illius optimum esset, et ut
ibi foderetur sal et salgenia ...

[92] Rusu, Mircea. Continuitatea Daco-Romana in Perioada 275-568. in ISTORIA ROMANIEI.
TRANSILVANIA. Vol. I. Cluj-Napoca : Edit. George Baritiu, 1997. p. 436.

[93] Madgearu, 2005. p. 140.

[94] Curta, 2001. p. 145.

[95] Illys, Elemr, 1992. p. 20

[96] Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum. XLIV.

[97] Spinei, 2006. p. 94.

[98] Madgearu, 2001. p. 23-26.

[99] Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum. XLIV. Translation by Martyn Rady: The duke
congratulated their work and gave Zuard and Cadusa free leave to go to Greece and occupy land
for themselves

[100] Spinei, 2006. p. 94.

[101] Idem. p. 92.

[102] Georgescu, Vlad. ed. Calinescu, Matei. Transl. Bley-Vroman, Alexandra. The Romanians: A
History. Columbus, Ohio : Ohio State University Press, 1991. p. 15.

[103] Sfrengeu, Florin. Settlements from the 8

centuries discovered within the Soil Fortress at
Biharea. Oradea University History-Archaeology Annals vol. XVIII. Oradea, Romania :Oradea
University Press, 2008. pp. 7-13.
[104] Madgearu, 2001 (2004). p. 44.

[105] Curta, 2001. p. 148.

[106] Idem. p. 152.

[107] Timothy Champion, Medieval Archaeology and the Tyranny of the Historical Record in
From the Baltic to the Black Sea: Studies in Medieval Archaeology, ed. David Austin and Leslie
London, UK : Alcock, 1990. p. 91

[108] Rusu, Mircea. 1997. p. 435.

[109] Madgearu, 2005. p. 110.

[110] Williams, Roland E.L.V. Transylvania. in Transactions of the Grotius Society, Vol.
9. Cambridge, UK : Cambridge University Press, 1923. pp. 61-70. Accrding to
Williams: They came, not as enemies or conquerors, but as labourers and herdsmen,
shepherds, woodmen, and the like The Vlachs, no doubt, filled an economic need, and
became more or less serfs on the land owned by the Magyars, Szekels, and Saxons.

[111] Seton-Watson, R.W. Transylvania (I). The Slavonic Review, Vol. 1, No. 2 (Dec., 1922). p.

[112] Idem. Seton-Watson quotes two documents, the one from 1291 stating cum universis
nobilibus Saxonibus Siculis et Olachis in partibus Transilvaniae while the one from 1399 states
Universis nobilibus tam Ungaris quam Olachis. Texts can be found in de Hurmuzaki, Eudoxiu.
Documente Privitoare la Istoria Romnilor: volume I (1199-1345). Bucharest, Romania :
Academia Romna, 1887. CCCCXII, p. 510.

[113] Slgean, Tudor. Dextram Dantes, Notes on the Specificity of the Relations Between the
Hungarian Conquerors and the Local Population in Northern Transylvania in the 10

Centuries ed. Pinter, Zeno K., iplic, Ioan M. and iplic, Maria E. Relatii interetnice in
Transilvania (secolele VI-XIII). Part of Bibliotheca Septemcastrensis, vol. 12. Bucharest :
Departamentul pentru Relaii Interetnice, 2005. p. 127.
[114] Anonymous, Gesta Hungarorum. XXVII. Tunc habitatores terre uidentes mortem domini sui,
sua propria uoluntate dextram dantes, dominum sibi elegerunt tuhutum pa-trem horca. Et in loco
illo, qui dicitur esculeu fidem cum iuramentu firmauerunt.

[115] Slgean, 2005. p. 127

[116] Lipcsey, Idilko. Romania and Transylvania in the 20th Century. Corvinus Library : Budapest,
2006. p. 4. It would take an entire book to criticize all of Lipcseys bizarre ideas, including that
the Romanian population grew by a factor of seven in less than 25 years! To top it all off Idilko
states that Emperor Marcus Aurelius (who died in 180AD) evacuated Dacia in 271AD.


Cross-referencing is standard practice in any scholarly endeavor. One person
arriving at the wrong conclusion even if the person was as educated and well-
positioned as Anonymous is statistically possible. It is harder to imagine the same
mistake being repeated by numerous authors, let alone all of them. It casts serious doubt
on whether the wrong conclusion is wrong at all! It is only fair that Anonymous be
judged by the works his peers, those being the other great Hungarian historians. Many
did not go into the same level of detail as Anonymous, omitting the names of local rulers
who fought against the Magyars, but what concerns us is the essential question: was
Anonymous alone in stating that the Romanians were in Transylvania at the arrival of
the Magyars?

In terms of famous chroniclers, the next in line was Simon de Keza. His most
famous work was entitled Gesta Hungarorum et Hunnorum, written in the early 1280s.
While Simons uninspired title may lead us to believe that he based his work off
Anonymous, further research has proven Simon did not use Anonymouss work nor
Anonymouss sources when writing his own chronicle,
but rather a later work by a
certain Master Akos dated to 1270, which has not survived to the present day.
dedication in the chronicle clearly states that Simon was the loyal chronicler of King
Ladislaus IV the Cuman (12721290).
The first half of Simons work takes us through a
rollercoaster ride of early, often factually incorrect, Hunnish history. Simon links the
Huns to the Hungarians in order to justify the Hungarian occupation of Pannonia,
believing that the Magyars had only taken back what had belonged to them.

At least
this shows that territorial irredentism based on faulty we were there first history is not
just a modern phenomenon.
Even though the Gesta of Simon is drastically different from that of Anonymous,
Simons chronicle echoes Anonymous perfectly when it comes to the Romanians. Like
Anonymous, Simon asserts that the Romanians were among the ancient inhabitants of

The citizens of Pannonia, Pamphylia, Macedonia, Dalmatia, and Phrygia,
who had been exhausted by repeated raids and sieges from the Huns, had
received permission from Attila to quit their native soil and crossed the
Adriatic Sea to Apulia; the Vlachs, however, who had been their shepherds
and husbandmen, elected to remain behind in Pannonia.


The citizens Simon is describing are the Romans, and are the forebears of part of
the Italians. Simon very subtly affirms an ethnic link between the Romanians and
Italians by making the Vlachs the shepherds of the Romans, perhaps showing the author
was aware of the common root of both languages. This perfectly correlates with
Anonymouss statement that Pannonia was populated by, among others, the shepherds
of the Romans.
Later on Simon lists all of the major populations of Eastern Europe as
serving the Huns, among which we see the Romanians again.


As for the Romanians in Transylvania, Simon specifies in chapter 21 of his

The Szecklers are in fact remnants of the Huns [not really], and when they
found out that the Hungarians were returning to Pannonia, they came to
meet them on the borders of Ruthenia, and then joined with them in the
conquest of Pannonia and acquired part of the country. However, this was
not in the plains of Pannonia but in the mountains, which they shared with
the Vlachs, mingling with them, it is said, and adopting their alphabet.


This passage has several interesting things to note. Firstly, Keza obviously places
the Vlachs in Transylvania since the Szecklers do not have some hidden colony in the
Tatra Mountains of Slovakia. Simon also unwittingly proved himself ignorant of Cyrillic
and the Szeckler runic script when he claimed they were the same. The last sentence
however, has a much deeper implication: the Szecklers (according to him) adopted their
alphabet from the Romanians, which needless to say does not happen over night. Kezas
statements thus show that not only were the Romanians in Transylvania when the
Szecklers were settled there, but that the Szecklers and Romanians had been living
among each other for a considerable amount of time.

This obviously poses a problem to those trying to prove Anonymouss reference to
the Romanians was an example of exceptional incompetence. Simon de Keza places the
Romanians in Pannonia at least since the times of the Huns, and he clearly states the
Romanians were settled in Transylvania when the Magyars arrived. Historical
revisionists who have tried to malign Anonymous have thus been faced with the difficult
dilemma of having to slander Keza as well.

Revisionists however, are rather inventive people: their solution was to claim
Keza never mentioned the Romanians at all! This argument was also levied against
Anonymous, and is mostly based on a (very poor) translation of the Latin word for
Romanians. Hungarian authors tried identifying the Blaci and Blacki of Anonymous and
Keza with a Turkic tribe, the Bulaqs, who supposedly migrated to Europe with the
Bulgarians in the seventh century.
The one small problem is that the Bulaqs needed to
be moved from Central Asia to Transylvania, and this migration was so clandestine that
it went completely unrecorded in history and has no archaeological evidence to back it
How such a small population would not have been assimilated by the larger tribes
in the area is also a mystery, and the identification of a Turkic tribe with the shepherds
of the Romans is a hurdle they have not even considered surmounting. Even the
Hungarian historian Istvan Vasary, who practiced his own bizarre form of
stated that the theory cannot be corroborated by any sound evidence,
and every historical argument speaks against it in the case of the term Blaci, we
cannot but conclude that it was used to designate the Vlakhs.

With the Bulaq theory utterly rejected, the revisionists finally admitted that the
Blaci were native Europeans though unfortunately, they opted for Franks rather than
Romanians. That the Franks were never in or even near Transylvania might pose a rather
obvious problem to this theory, but most of its proponents have largely side-stepped the
issue. Instead they opted to use some passages from a completely unrelated chronicle to
bolster their argument: the Russian Chronicle of Bygone Times written in Russia in
the mid-11
The version we are most familiar with was compiled by a monk
named Nestor in the cave-monastery of Kiev (sadly, not the only book we know of
written by people living in caves).
As with any document of political significance, the
chronicle was manipulated and mangled repeatedly until its final revision in 1118.

As a religious man, Nestor decided the most accurate place to start his book was
after Noahs flood and the division of the world among Noahs sons. It is also here that
we see his first mention of Vlachs, in chapter 1:

After the flood, the sons of Noah (Shem, Ham, and J apheth) divided the
earth among them.

In the share of J apheth lies Rus', Chud, and all the gentiles: Merya,
Muroma, Ves', Mordva, Chud beyond the portages, Perm', Pechera, Yam',
Ugra, Litva, Zimegola, Kors', Let'gola, and Liv'. The Lyakhs, the Prussians,
and Chud border on the Varangian Sea. At the same sea Varangians are
living as far to the east as Sems lot, and in the west their area reaches to
the Anglians and Vlachs [] land. Other descendants of J afet
are the Varangians, the Svear [Swedes], the Normans, the Gtar
[Gotlanders], the Rus, the Anglians, the Galicians, the Vlachs [], the
Romans, the Germans, the Carolingians, the Venetians, the Franks and
other peoples who live in areas from the west to the east, and are neighbors
to the descendants of Ham.

A brief interlude about the Tower of Babel follows, with an (incorrect)
description of how the Slavs settled in Europe. In Nestors perception, the Slavs were
the original inhabitants of the Pannonia as, unfortunately, there were no living Illyrians
or Celts around to contradict him. The Poles (frequently called Lechs or Lei) were,
according to Nestor, driven out of Pannonia by the Vlachs.

There have been a variety of translation issues with this excerpt, and the nationalities seem to change
from source to source. Therefore, I have provided below the nations translated from the original Cyrillic
text published by Im Werden Verlag in Moscow and Augsburg, 2003: Varangians [], the Svear
[], the Normans [], the Gtar [], the Rus [], the Anglians [], the
Galicians [], the Vlachs [], the Romans [], the Germans [], the
Carolingians [], the Venetians [], the Franks [].
For when the Vlakhs attacked the Danubian Slavs, settled among them,
and did them violence, the latter came and made their homes by the Vistula,
and were then called Lyakhs [Poles]. Of these same Lyakhs some were
called Polyanians, some Lutichians, some Mazovians, and still others

Nestor then claimed that the Magyars invaders found the Vlachs in Pannonia and
drove them out from there:

The Magyars passed by Kyiv [Kiev] over the hill now called
Hungarian, and on arriving at the Dnipro, they pitched camp. They
were nomads like the Polovcians [Cumans]. Coming out of the east,
they struggled across the great mountains, and began to fight against
the neighboring Vlakhs and Slavs. For the Slavs had settled there first,
but the Vlakhs had seized the territory of the Slavs. The Magyars
subsequently expelled the Vlakhs, took their land, and settled among
the Slavs, whom they reduced to submission.

So how is it that these passages could be used to prove Simon was not referring
to the Romanians? The argument provided, a truly elaborate conspiracy theory involving
all but the Illuminati. In general everyone must agree that the first reference to the
Vlachs (Voloshski) could not be referring to the Romanians as Nestor was trying to
establish a western boundary of the Viking lands and, needless to say, England and
southeastern Europe are quite far apart. They must evidently be referring to the French.
Nestor then recounts how the Vlachs had attacked the Slavs and subdued them in
Pannonia, which means the Vlachs must have come to the land after the Slavs and
loosely matches the expansion of the Carolingian [Frankish] Empire in Pannonia. The
Frankish Empire was later called the Holy Roman Empire (which as Voltaire aptly
indicated: was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire). The third mention recounts
how the Hungarians drove out the Vlachs, which roughly corresponds to the collapse
of Frankish power in Pannonia at the arrival of the Magyars. The Vlachs mentioned
by Nestor are therefore not Romanians, but Franks.

While this might seem believable (for now, keep reading), the truly outlandish
part of the story is yet to come. The theory goes on that Anonymous, living a good deal
after Nestor, had somehow gained access to Nestors chronicle. He then made a mistake
in interpreting the word Volohs and, through his supposedly characteristic
incompetence, he had placed the Romanians in Pannonia.
Simon de Keza was then
duped by Anonymous chronicle, took it completely verbatim without even thinking of
contradicting the obvious mistake (sic), and also placed the Vlachs in Pannonia. Thus,
one small ambiguity by Nestor was propagated as a mistake in every single Hungarian
chronicle that followed. If any chronicle thereafter mentioned the Romanians, they were
just propagating Anonymous error. Apparently, nobody bothered to check the facts.

This theory however is based on many impossible assumptions. The one thing it
gets right is that Voloh has been used by the Slavs used the word Vlachy to describe a
variety of Latin people.
The first part of the chronicle refers to the western migration
of the Norman Vikings, which originally settled in France in 911,
and proceeded to
conquer England in 1066.
This leads us to conclude Vlachs land first mentioned by
Nestor was France.
There could be an argument that Nestor was referring the Italy, and
the Siculo-Norman Kingdom, also founded by the Normans in the eleventh century,

but Sicily, much like Romania, is prohibitively far away from England; France is by far
the most likely choice.

Nestors vagueness when describing the people of Europe in the same passage
was much-noted by historians
but then again, the work was written in a cave in
Ukraine. Due to this, the meaning of Voloch in chapters three and eight are open to
interpretation. It is impossible to state for certain who the Volochs were that drove out
the Danubian Slavs.
To believe they were the Latin French is geographically
impossible. The belief that these Volochs could have been Franks rests on Nestors
statement that the Volochs attacked the Slavs and were driven out by the Magyars. The
problem with this however, is that Nestor had already mentioned the Franks and the
Carolingians (i.e. the people of Charlemagne, Holy Roman Emperor) explicitly by name,
and that name was not anything like Voloch. Nestor list of the people of J afet included
the Vlachs, the Romans, the Germans, the Carolingians, the Venetians and the
For Nestor to use a completely different name for the same people in the
same sentence is nigh-unbelievable. Nestor may have been old, but it is doubtful that he
had become senile mid-sentence.

But there is also a significant logical argument against the Frank theory. In
general, Slavs never used the term Vlach or Voloch to designate Germanic people
like the Franks. Russians often used the word Nemtsy (in Cyrillic: ) to designate
Germanic and (later) Catholic people. The name, meaningmutes, was given to them
because of their use of unintelligible Latin as the church language, meaning that they
did not talk to God in their own vernacular, andforbade other peoples to do so as
It was a bit of an in-joke in the Orthodox world at the Catholics expense, one
that persisted (though without its derogative meaning) to this day. Nestor did use the
term Nemtsy his earlier listing of the sons of J afet, as well as Vlach.
One then has to
wonder why Nestor, as an Orthodox Christian monk, would use such an unorthodox
naming convention for the Franks later in the chronicle. For the Slavs the only Romans
in existence were the Byzantines inheritors of the Eastern Roman Empire and the
Russians were certainly aware of what Voltaire later flatly stated: the Franks were not

It is certain that Nestor was referring to a Romanic people, but which one still
needs some clarification. Pannonia itself was a Roman province, and its Roman
population had survived into the Dark Ages though it was nowhere near as inaccessible
as Dacia. Burial sites at Keszthely (derived from the Latin castellum) and Pecs in
Hungary show tell-tale signs of the Late Eastern Roman or Early Byzantine style.
considerable opulence of the burials signifies that these were hardly poor and oppressed
prisoners brought in later by the barbariansu.
These people however, almost entirely
disappeared by the eleventh century, being assimilated by the Magyars. Nestors unclear
chronology on when the Romans took over the lands of the Slavs leaves room to
believe that he was referring to the ancient Romans taking over Pannonia,
concluding that the Romans encountered the Slavs when they came to Pannonia as
opposed to the Celts and Illyrians. This is supported by Nestors claim that the Slavs
expelled by the Romans then settled in Poland, as no such migration took place during
the Frankish expansion. Roman life in the region is still evidenced in the 9
Keszthely Culture cemetery at Fenekpuszta, which continued to be used into the 10

century, and we perhaps the Magyars encountered some remnants of the ancient Roman
populace, just prior to its complete assimilation into the Slavic and Magyar mass.

Others argue that Nestor was referring to the Italians, particularly Italian
missionaries operating in Pannonia. The Life of Methodius for instance, speaks of the
dissatisfaction the Slavs had with their priests, who had come from the Vlakhs, the
Greeks and the Nemtsy.
Historian J ohn Lind had identified the aforementioned
Vlakhs with the Italians of Aquelia,
an explanation more reasonable than having to
invent a Vlach mission out of thin air. However, that text was not written by Nestor, and
there is no reason why one text using Vlakhs to specify the missionary activity of the
Italians would justify the leap of faith required to believe Nestors Volochs are the same
Italians. The description of the Vlakhs in Nestors work as imperialistic, militant people,
is hardly fitting. Missionary work may often have been heavy-handed in the Middle
Ages, but it is hard to believe a few geriatric Italians doing violence and seizing
land as the Volochs do in Nestors chronicle.

As for the possibility that these Volochs were Romanians: their presence is
remembered by numerous place-names in Pannonia. A document from 1019 mentions
the lake Alba (Romanian: white) near Zalavar. Another document from 1055 records
of a region near Balaton which is called Petra (qui vocatur Petra) (Romanian: rock).
The above-mentioned names could have come from the Pannonian Romans, but there
are many which could only have come from the Romanians: Silva Murul (1075, the
suffix -ul is common in Romanian), the river Zec (1157, likely Sec, Romanian: dry,
also recorded in 860), Boul (1235, Romanian: ox), Terra Samaria (Land of St.
Maria, showing morphology typical of old Romanian), Chobanka (1267, Romanian:
shepherd) and Villa Vlach in 1275 (quite an obvious meaning).
While it is true that
many chronicles did not explicitly mention the Romanians in Pannonia prior to Nestor,
the same could also be said of the Keszthely Romans, whose existence is hard to deny
given the preponderance of archaeological evidence. No documents point to a migration
of the Romanians to this region from the tenth to the fourteenth centuries, so it is likely
the Romanians were present in the region before the Hungarian conquest.

But the most overwhelming evidence that these were Romanians rests in the fact
that Nestors words are echoed by numerous later chronicles on the subject. It is easy to
see that both Anonymous and Simon place the Romanians in Pannonia at the arrival of
the Magyars. Of course, this wouldnt be much evidence if Anonymous had used
Nestors chronicle and Simon used Anonymouss chronicle but we damn-well know
the chronicles were written independently!

Anonymous used many sources but Nestor was not among them. He was
educated in Paris or Orleans,
where he evidently familiarized himself with De excidio
Troiae historia, the Gesta Alexandri Magni, the annals of abbot Regino, the Exordia
Scythica, written in the 2nd century, the Bible (well, this one is kind of obvious),
Etymologiarum libri by Isidorus of Spain, Rationes dictanti prosaice by Hugo
and more recent analysis has found Historia destructionis Troiae written
by the Sicilian Guido de Columna, as well as works by the Abbot of Prm.
All of these
works were Latin-based, which is not surprising for a man educated in Catholic Europe.
His Paris-based education however, would have made it very unlikely that he knew
Cyrillic (the alphabet Nestor used), let alone texts written in that script. To date there is
no evidence that Anonymous had knowledge of Cyrillic, nor for the circulation of
Nestors chronicle in Hungary during his lifetime.

This dearth of evidence has not stopped revisionists from desperately trying to
prove Nestor was used by Anonymous. Laszlo Makkai for instance claimed that the
word Blach in the Gesta and its spelling could only have come from the Russian
chronicle by Nestor,
claiming that a Western source would have resulted in Blac
instead. Yet there are numerous cases where Western writers used the spelling Blach:
Pope Gregory IX in 1237 called J ohn Asen II of Bulgaria as dominus Blachorum et
The cleric Ansbert, who accompanied Emperor Frederick Barbarossa
(and passed through Hungary!) during the third crusade called Emperor Peter of
Bulgaria as Kalopetrus Blachorum dominus.
It is very hard to imagine Nestor had
somehow influenced the whole corpus of Western writing when it came to the
Romanians; it is not as though he and the Pope had any correspondance. Even if we
were to admit a direct Slavo-Byzantine influence in Anonymouss use of Blachorum
(and there is no reason why we should, given the abundance of contemporary Latin
chronicles which used the same word), the term could just as easily have come from
Nicetas Choniates, a Byzantine author living in the late 12
century and who used the
spelling Blachi (exactly matching Anonymouss spelling) repeatedly in his works.

Makkai drew another ace from his sleeve in the wholly unconvincing argument
that Anonymous must have used Nestor since both chronicles (shockingly) mention
Slavs and Vlachs,
the equivalent of saying any chronicle mentioning both the Turks
and Crusaders could not have been written independently. It is a textbook case of
circular logic: Anonymous mentioned Vlachs because he used Nestor, and Anonymous
used Nestor because he mentioned Vlachs! In the end we must remember that the
chronicles arose in two different cultural milieus, written in two different languages,
with two different alphabets, and whose authors lived almost a century apart. All in all,
there is no evidence that Anonymous had even heard of Nestor, and claims of Nestor
influencing Anonymous remain unsubstantiated.

Simon de Keza blindly copying what Anonymous had written is an even more
tenuous idea. Simon built off of a new literary tradition established by Master Akos,
ignoring the earlier Gesta Hungarorum. If Anonymous could be labeled as ignorant of
the truth about the Romanians due to his geographic distance from Transylvania (as a
writer from central Hungary) the same could not be stated of Simon. He lived in Bihor,
Transylvania when he compiled his work.
This in essence put him in the midst of the
Were the Romanians recent immigrants he would have been the first to
know, yet he clearly repeated Anonymouss mistake. Simons self-evidenced
ignorance of the Cyrillic alphabet also would have prevented him from taking any ideas
about the Vlachs from Nestor. Clearly then we are dealing with three independent
authors whose narratives all overlap at one crucial point: the Romanians were in
Transylvania (and in Pannonia) in 896.

If some are uncertain whether Anonymouss work was used by later chronicles,
the same cannot be said for Simon. His words were repeated in the Chronicon Pictum
written in 1358 in an almost word-for-word fashion.
The only difference was the
substitution of the term Blackis with Vlachis, which proved that Simons Blacki were
Romanians after all. The Vlachs are mentioned in chapter six as remaining in Pannonia
after Attilas death, and in chapter ten when the Szecklers settle among them in
Three other sources also repeat Kezas assertion: the Chronicon
Posoniense, the Chronicon Dubnicense, and the Chronicon Budense.
All three
chronicles quote Simon almost verbatim, and all make the same substitution Vlachis for

Yet there is another source that describes the Magyar encounter with the Vlachs:
the aptly titled Description of Eastern Europe (Descriptio Europae Orientalis). It was
composed in 1308 by an(other) anonymous author, this one hailing from France. Some
of the details in the Descriptio are credible; the author for instance gives good account
of the pastoral way of life of the Balkan Vlachs.
On the topic of the Balkan Vlachs (i.e.
the Aromanians), the author stated that they were formerly the shepherds of the Romans,
settled in Pannonia, the pasture of the Romans, but were driven out by the Hungarians
and sought refuge in Macedonia, Achaia, and Thessalonika.
Even if we were to assume
he had knowledge of Simon or Anonymous, neither of those two authors mentioned the
expulsion of the Vlachs from Pannonia as was mentioned by Nestor. Only Nestor and
the author of this letter mentioned the expulsion, and there is no evidence to show that
Nestors work was used by the author. The author does not, for instance, mention that
the Vlachs had subdued the Slavs in Pannonia, as Nestor did, and it is likely the
anonymous author had taken the fact of a Vlach expulsion from a local tradition, either
by the Vlachs themselves or by other inhabitants of the Balkans. The anonymous author
thus confirms that Nestor was referring to the Vlachs, and also that the events in
Nestors work are veritable.

To what extent are these later chronicles relevant to the presence of the
Romanians in the region? The fourteenth century saw an explosion of documentation in
Hungary regarding the Romanians.
It therefore stands to reason that the chroniclers
and copyists of the fourteenth century would have been more knowledgeable of the
Kingdoms Romanian population, and of any possible immigration, than any before
them. If the truth were that the scale of Romanian settlements in the 14
century was
far greater than in earlier times, and it cannot be attributed to natural increase in the
Romanian community of Southern Transylvania
then it seems all the more bizarre
that the Hungarian chroniclers would persist in their mistake of placing the Romanians
in Transylvania before the Hungarians.

The conclusion that can be made is as follows: the mention of the Romanians in
the Gesta Hungarorum cannot be considered as being caused by a chronological
projection by Anonymous, nor can we ascribe it to his incompetence. The statements
made by Anonymous are echoed in several chronicles throughout the Middle Ages,
which are distributed among four schools: Nestors chronicle, Anonymous, Simon de
Keza (including the Chronicon Pictum and others that copied him), and the Descriptio
Europae Orientalis. There is neither a logical reason, nor an underlying motive which
would cause later chronicles to repeat Anonymouss mistake of placing the
Romanians in Transylvania and Pannonia. If the Romanian migration into Transylvania
were true, if they were really numerically insignificant in the early thirteenth century,
and if their numbers did increase exponentially due to immigration throughout the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, then it stands to figure that at least one chronicler
would have noticed it. Certainly the chronicles written later, like the Chronicon Pictum
might have had a harder time reconstructing the past, but the growth in documentation
and the strengthening of a central government throughout the fourteenth century would
have produced a clerical class more knowledgeable of their present situation.
It would
take a veritable conspiracy of ignorance to produce a situation in which Romanians
were continuously settling into Transylvania but every chronicler continued to ignore
what would have been readily apparent, instead opting to repeat the notion that the
Romanians were in Transylvania at the time of the Magyar arrival.

Of course, it was the Middle Ages. It was a time when people had strange ideas
of how the world worked, with accounts of dog-headed people and the like. The
Descriptio Europae Orientalis even stated that tigers and unicorns could be found in
Bulgaria! This fantasy portrayal of the world had largely disappeared with the
Renaissance and the emergence of a scientific historiography as well as humanism. In
general humanist historians differed from their medieval predecessors especially in
their newly won conviction that, if evidence was adequate, it could settle decisively even
highly contentious matters.
It is therefore important to determine if this new way of
thinking resulted in the dismissal of Romanian continuity in Dacia, or if it strengthened
the conviction of writers in such an idea.

The person who got the ball rolling in this regard was Poggio Bracciolini, who
wrote in 1451 that the Romanians are the descendants of the Romans colonized by
Trajan, likely receiving this information from hearsay.
Although some have argued
Bracciolini does not count as the first to link the Romanians with the Roman colonists of
Dacia since he did not mention Dacia explicitly,
it is not so hard to imagine what
region Bracciolini was referring to since the only other regions Trajan conquered were
in the Middle Eas and Bracciolini could hardly have meant that the ancestors of the
Romanians were Trajans colonists in Mesopotamia. In any case, it would be only a
short while later that Pope Pius II (1458 -1464) would explicitly state that the genesis of
the Romanians was the result of Roman colonization in Dacia.

Those texts, while in principle correct, did not draw upon the diverse array of
evidence one associates with humanist histories. It would take the historian Anotonio
Bonfini (1427-1502), a humanist who lived much of his later life under King Matthias
Corvinus at the royal court in Hungary, to develop Romanian continuity in Dacia into a
scientific theory.
Bonfinis main argument was the Latinity of the Romanian language.
He argued that:

Because the Romanians are descendants of the Romans, a fact that even
today is attested by their language, a language that, even though they are
surrounded by diverse barbarian peoples, could not be destroyed.... even if
all kinds of barbarian attacks flooded over the province of Dacia and the
Roman people, we can see that the Roman colonies and legions that had
been established there could not be annihilated.

Bonfini also used other arguments to demonstrate the continuity of the
Romanians, including: the inscriptions and Roman ruins found in Transylvania, the
Roman toponyms in the region, as well as the name of the Romanians.
affirmed that the Romanians, or Valachi, sprang from a fusion of Romans and Dacians
inhabiting the Dacia of antiquity.
The idea, with minor variations, was used by almost
every other writer of the time. Of particular note is Francesco della Valle, who travelled
at least twice through the Romanian principalities.
He was undoubtedly surprised to
discover the similarities between Romanian and Italian. He claims to have learned of the
origin of the Romanians from Orthodox monks in Wallachia, who told him that:

the emperor Trajan, after conquering this country, divided it among his
soldiers and made it into a Roman colony, so that these Romanians are
descendants, as it is said, of these ancient colonists, and they preserve the
name of the Romans.

Some have tried to argue that Francesco was not retelling a local tradition, basing
the argument on an unfounded assumption that such statements suggest a learned
source, because a popular tradition would be about Oriental people, Greeks, etc. - not
exclusively about Rome, from which only a very small part of the population of Dacia
Traiana came.
This idea is completely counter-intuitive, since it implies that local
traditions held by peasants would be scientifically more accurate than academic sources.
It is hard to imagine Romanian peasants walking around with copies of Eutropius under
their arms and being aware of the fact that he had stated the Roman colonists came from
the whole Roman world (ex toto orbe Romano), not just Rome. The most obvious
assumption would have been that the Romanian ancestors only came from Italy, due to
the similarity of Italian to Romanian. Francescos feelings towards the Romanians were
not the most emphatic, often describing them as corrupted
Romans, and therefore he
had no reason to make his own theory, glorifying the ancestors of the Romanians, had he
discovered a contradictory local tradition. To date, there is no evidence that such a
tradition, of Romanians hailing from Greeks and the like, even existed, and all other
texts (like that of Nicolaus Olachus) speak only of the tradition of Roman-Romanian
continuity in Dacia. The metropolitan of Wallachia, Neofit of Crete, a Greek Orthodox
monk not too dissimilar from those spoken of by Francesco della Valle, confirmed the
existence of a wide-spread folk tradition of Roman antiquity among the Romanians.

The Roman origin of the Romanians was supported almost unanimously
throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Valentin Franck von Franckenstein
(1643-1697), a Saxon writer from Transylvania, had written in his work Breviculus
originum nationum et praecipuc Saxonicae in Transylvania (1696) that the Romanians
were the oldest inhabitants of Transylvania, descended from the Romans colonized by
Trajan in Dacia.
Franckenstein used the full spectrum of evidence available to support
his argument, including the Romanian language, the Roman ruins and coins of
Transylvania, as well as Trajans Column.
From the writings of Hungarian historian
Adras Huszti in 1791
to the famous Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by the
British historian Edward Gibbon, historians had acknowledged Romanian continuity in
Dacia as an indisputable fact. Gibbon was well aware of Emperor Aurelians withdrawal
from Dacia but concluded that the old country of that name [Dacia] detained, however,
a considerable number of its inhabitants [i.e. Romans] who dreaded exile more than a
Gothic master.
Though Gibbon was infatuated with the Romans, he certainly had
little love for the Romanians, referring to the as degenerate Romans, but even this did
not stop Gibbon from saying that they were surrounded by, but not mixed with, the
barbarians. The consensus among Europes intellectuals was summarized by Emperor
J oseph II of Austria when he stated that the Romanians were without doubt the oldest
and most numerous inhabitants of Transylvania.

This is not to say that the humanists were always right. Some aspects were
undoubtedly too difficult to resolve in the incipient phases of the Renaissance, resulting
in mythical explanations. Pope Pius II for instance, not finding a convenient explanation
for the term Vlach, invented a Roman general Flaccus from which the Romanians
would supposedly draw their name.
In other cases history was manipulated and
falsified in order to accommodate political realities. The Transylvanian Saxons were
keen to justify their political rights by pretending they descended from the Dacians,
thereby making themselves ancient inhabitants whose rights were inalienable.
It is
impossible however, to suggest that such a thing happened in the case of the Romanians.
From the sixteenth century onward the very name Romanian became synonymous
with Orthodox and non-noble in Transylvania.
It would make little sense for
foreign historians to ascribe such glorious and noble ancestry to people lacking their
own nobility, and it would almost have been inconceivable to admit that people who
were not Roman Catholics could possibly be Roman! Politics was clearly not a
motivating factor in making the Romanians descended of the Romans. Rather, the theory
was based on the most solid sciences of the time. The fact that the theory of Dacian
origin of the Saxons was universally rejected by non-German humanists, while the
Roman origin of the Romanians was supported by all humanists, even Hungarian ones,
certainly indicates that there was no vested interest in the case of the latter.

We cannot dismiss the fact that a more scientific approach was taken when
theorizing the origin of the Romanians. Linguistics, at least in comparing Romanian to
Latin or Italian, was used. Archaeology, in the form of ruins, coins, and inscriptions, was
likewise mustered as evidence for Romanian continuity in Trajans Dacia. Texts from
the Roman imperial era were used to demonstrate that colonization had occurred in
antiquity, and in general the application of a scientific method to history had only
strengthened the position that the Romanians were the descendants of Roman colonists
in Dacia. Even though authors had knowledge of the Latin populations in the Southern
Balkans, the idea that the Romanians would have migrated northward during the Middle
Ages, without anyone recording it, was rightfully seen as laughable even back then.

So when did Hungarian historiography diverge from the norm? What had caused
this divergence? Why did some historians begin to cast doubt on the continuity of the
Romans in Dacia? Some Hungarian political publications (by lobbies like the
Committee for Transylvania) attempted to assert that the shift in theories was caused
by the emergence of linguistics as a science and the fact that Rumanian origins were
not studied too in-tensely [sic] in the previous centuries, while the Hungarian theory
was a fresh look upon a problem hitherto not studied by modern scientific methods.

Is such an explanation truthful, or was the attempt to refute Daco-Roman Continuity
caused by the emergence of nationalism and Austro-Hungarys attempts to save its
empire in the face of emerging nation-states?


[1] Armbruster, Adolf. Romanitatea Romnilor: Istoria Unei Idei. Bucharest : Editura Academiei
Republicii Socialiste Romania, 1972. p. 32. Pop, Ioan-Aurel. Istoria Transilvaniei medievale: de
la etnogeneza romnilor pn la Mihai Viteazul. Cluj-Napoca : Editura Presa Universitar
Clujean, 1997.

[2] Engel, Pl et al. The Real of St. Stephen: a history of medieval Hungary, 895-1526. London
[u.a.] : Tauris, 2001. p. 121.

[3] Keza, Simon de. Gesta Hungarorum et Hunnorum. in Scriptorum Rerum Hungarorum, vol. I.
Budapest: Kirlyi Magyar Egyetemi Nyomda, 1937. p. 141. Inuictissimo et potentissimo
domino Ladislao tertio gloriosissimo regi Hungarorum magister Simon de Keza, fidelis clericus
eius, ad illum aspirare (sic), cuius pulchritudinem mirantur sol et luna.

[4] Kersken, Norbert. High and Late Medieval National Historiography. in Historiography in
the Middle Ages. ed. Deliyannis, Deobrah Mauskopf. Leiden, Netherlands : Brill, 2003. pp.194-
195. It should be noted however that Anonymous did link Arpad with King Attila of the Huns,
but he does not delve into fantasy stories about the Huns similar to those of Simon.

[5] Simoni, Simon. Gesta Hungarorum. XIV. ed. Veszprmy, Lszl and Szucs, J eno. Budapest :
CEU Press, 1999 p. 55. Pannoniae, Panfiliae, Macedoniae, Dalmatiae et Frigiae civitates, quae
crebris spoliis et obsidionibus per Hunos erant fatigatae, natali solo derelicto in Apuliam per
mare Adriaticum, de Ethela licentia impetrata transierunt, Blackis, qui ipsorum fuere pastores et
coloni, remanentibus sponte in Pannonia.

[6] Anonymous. Gesta Hungarorum. IX: Blachi ac pastores Romanorum.

[7] Simoni ed Veszprmy. p. 163. Postquam autem filii Ethele in prelio Crumhelt cum gente
scithica fere quasi deperissent, Pannonia, extitit X annis sine rege, Sclavis tantummodo, Grecis,
Teutonicis, Messianis et Ulahis advenis remanentibus, in eadem qui vivente Ethela populari
servicio sibi serviebant.

[8] Idem. XXI. p. 71. Isti enim Zaculi Hunorum sunt residui, qui dum Hungaros in Pannoniam
iterate cognoverant remeasse, redeuntibus in Ruthenie finibus occurrerunt, insimulque Pannonia
conquestrata, partem in ea sunt adepti, non tamen in plano Pannonie, sed cum Blackis in
montibus confinii sortem habuerunt. Unde Blackis commixti litteris ipsorum uti perhibentur.

[9] Rsonyi, Lszl: Bulaqs and Oguzs in Medie-val Transylvania. Acta Orientalia Academiae
Scientiarum Hungaricae, 33. (1979) 129151.

[10] Spinei, Victor. The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta from the
Tenth to the Mid-Thirteenth Century. Brill Academic Publishers. Leiden, NL. 2009. p. 79.

[11] Curta, Florin. Review of Cumans and Tatars: Oriental Military in the Pre-Ottoman Balkans,
1185-1365, by Istvn Vsry (Cambridge, 2005). Canadian Journal of History. December,
2005: 40, p. 493 - 494.

[12] Vasary, 2005. p. 29.

[13] Magocsi, Paul Robert. A History of Ukraine. Toronto, ON, Canada: University of Toronto
Press, 1996. p 52.

[14] Kersken, 2003. pp. 187-188.

[15] Rna-Tas, Andrs. Hungarians and Europe in the Early Middle Ages: an introduction to
early Hungarian history. Budapest : Central European Univ. Press, 1999. p. 62.

[16] Nestor. Povest Vremennykh Let. I. Translations are from Svane, Gunnar O. Nestors krnike:
beretningen om de svundne r. Hjbjerg, Denmark : Wormianum, 2003. p. 237f

[17] Idem. III.

[18] Idem. VIII.

[19] Kosztin, Arpad. The Daco-Roman Legend. in Du Nay, Alain, Du Nay, Andre and Kosztin
Arpad. Transylvania and the Rumanians. Buffalo-Hamilton, USA : Corvinus Library, 1997. p. 27.

[20] Kpeczi, Bla et al. The History of Transylvania Vol I. From the Beginnings to 1606. Boulder,
Colorado, USA : Social Science Monographs [u.a.], 2002.

[21] Davies, Norman. Europe: A History. Oxford : Oxford University Press, cop. 1996. p. 87.

[22] Brown, Allen. The Normans. Woodbridge, Suffolk UK ; Rochester, NY : Boydell Press, 1994.
p. 16.

[23] Thomas, Hugh M. The Norman conquest: England after William the Conqueror. Lanham :
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2008. pp. 31-44.

[24] The Vlachs land is identified with Gaul (France) in Svane, Gunnar O. Nestors krnike:
beretningen om de svundne r. Hjbjerg, Denmark : Wormianum, 2003. p. 237f

[25] Matthew, Donald. The Norman kingdom of Sicily. Cambridge : Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992.
p. 9.

[26] Macartney, Carlile A. The Magyars in the Ninth Century. Cambridge, Cambridge Univ. Press.
1968. p. 73; Blomkvist, Nils. THE DISCOVERY OF THE BALTIC: The Reception of a Catholic
World-System in the European North (AD 1075-1225). Leibden, Netherlands : Brill, 2005. p. 6.

[27] Illys, Elemr. Ethnic Continuity in the Carpatho-Danubian Area. Boulder, Colorado, USA.
East European Monographs. 1988. p. 22.

[28] According to the translation by Leger, Louis. Chronique de Nestor. Paris, France : LEcole
des Langues Orientales Vivantes, 1884. p. 2-3. The Normans become the Norwegians in (Svear,

[29] Blomkvist, 2005. pp. 445-446; Murray, Alan V. Crusades and Conversion on the Baltic
Frontier. Aldershot : Ashgate, 2001. p. 140.

[30] Lind, John H. Scandinavian Nemtsy and Repaganized Russians. The Expansion of the Latin
West During the Baltic Crusades and its Confessional Repercussions ed. Hunyadi, Zsolt and
Laszlovszky, J ozsef. The Crusades and the Military Orders: Expanding the Frontiers of
Medieval Latin Christianity. Budapest : CEU Press, 2001. pp. 481500

[31] Vida, Tivadar. Conflict and Coexistence: the local population of the Carpathian Basin under
Avar rule (sixth to seventh century.ed. Curta, Florin and Kovalev, Roman. The Other
Europe:Avars, Bulgars, Khazars and Cum ans. Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2008. pp. 31-32.

[32] Idem. p. 37.

[33] Simocatta, Theophylactus. Istoria. VII. 10.

[34] Madgearu, Alexandru. The Romanians in the Anonymous Gesta Hungarorum. Centrul de
Studii Transilvane, Bibliotheca Rerum Transsylvaniae, XXVII. Cluj-Napoca, 2001. p. 76.

[35] Givec, Fanciscus and Tomii, Franciscus. Constantinus et Methodius Thessalionicenses.
Fontes, Zagreb 1960.

[36] Lind, 2001. p. 490.

[37] Madgearu, 2001. p. 77-80.

[38] Pop, Ioan-Aurel. Romnii i maghiarii n secolele IX-XIV: Geneza statului medieval n
Transilvania. Cluj-Napoca, Romania : CENTRUL DE STUDII TRANSILVANE, 1996. p. 78

NOTARY OF KING BLA: a Translation.; Nmeth, Gyrgy. The Origins of the Tale of the
Blood-drinking Hungarians. Tolerance and intolerance in historical perspective ed. Levai, Csaba
and Vese, Vasile. Clioh's Workshop II. Pisa. 2003. p. 98; Simon, Andrew L. Made in Hungary:
Hungarian Contributions to Universal Culture. Safety Harbor, FL, USA : Simon Publishing,
1999. p. 125.

[40] Du Nay, Andre. The origins of the Rumanians : the Early History of the Rumanian Language.
Toronto [u.a.] : Corvinus Library, 1996. p. 215.

[41] Nmeth, 2003. p. 103.

[42] Pop, 1996. p. 78.

[43] Kpeczi Bela et al. History of Transylvania, I. Boulder, Colorado, USA : Social Science
Monographs [u.a.], 2002. p. 340.

[44] Ahrweiler, Hlne. Byzantine Concepts of the Foreigner: The Case of the Nomads. in
Studies on the internal diaspora of the Byzantine Empire. ed. Ahrweiler, Hlne and Laiou,
Angeliki E. Washington, D.C. : Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection ; Cambridge,
MA : Distributed by Harvard University Press, 1998. p. 9.

[45] Vasiliev, Alexander. History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, Volume 2. Wisconsin :
University of Wisconsin Press, 1958. p. 442.

[46] Choniates, Nicetas ed. Dolce, Lodovico. Istoria:Volgarizzamento dal greco. II. pp. 43, 46, 88,
154, 336, 429.

[47] Kpeczi, 2002. p. 240-241.

[48] Brezeanu, Stelian. Romanitatea Oriental n Evul Mediu : de la cetenii romani la natiunea
medieval. Bucuresti : All Educational, 1999. p. 234.

[49] Armbruster, 1972. p. 32.

[50] Pter, Lszl. Historians and the history of Transylvania. Boulder, Colorado, USA : East
European Monographs, 1992. p. 77.

[51] Chronicon Pictum Vindobonense. VI and X. ed. Florianus, 1883. pp. 114, 120.

[52] Armbruster, 1972. p. 33.

[53] Anonymous. Descriptio Europae Orientalis. IV. ed. Grka, Olgierd Cracow : Gebethner,
1916. p. 13.

[54] Hammond, N. G. L. The Ethne in Epirus and Upper Macedonia. The Annual of the
British School at Athens, Vol. 95 (2000), p. 347.

[55] Engel, 2005. p. 117.

[56] Kpeczi, 2002. p. 488.

[57] Molnr, Mikls. A concise history of Hungary. Cambridge [u.a.] : Cambridge Univ. Press,
2001. pp. 47-49.

[58] Fryde, Edmond B. Humanism and Renaissance Historiography. London, UK : Hambledon
Press, 1983. p. 5.

[59] Armbruster, 1972. p. 58.

[60] Vekony, Gabor. Dacians, Romans, Romanians. Corvinus Library. Budapest, Hungary. 2000.
p. 4.

[61] Idem. p. 5.

[62] Pascu, tefan. A History of Transylvania. New York : Dorset Press, 1982. xxii.

[63] Antonius Bonfinius, Rerum Ungaricarum decades qvatvor cvm dimidia, Basileae, 1568,
decad. III, lib. 9, ed. cit., p. 542. Translation in Treptow, Kurt W and Bolovan, Ioan. A History of
Romania. Iasi, Romania : The Romanian Cultural Foundation, The Center for Romanian Studies,
1995. p. 75.

[64] Armbruster, 1972. p. 60.

[65] Kellogg, Frederick. A History of Romanian Historical Writing. Bakersfield, Calif., USA: C.
Schlacks, 1990. p. 15.

[66] Armbruster, 1972. p. 80.

[67] Quote translated in A History of Romania ed. Kurt W. Treptow. Iai, Romania : Center for
Romanian Studies, 1997. p. 135.

[68] Du Nay, Alain et al. Transylvania and the Rumanians. Hamilton [u.a.] : Corvinus Library,
1997. p. 4.

[69] ma, per il corso de tempi, hanno corrotto si il nome, et li costume. as quoted in Isopescu,
Claudio. Saggi romeno-italo-ispanici. Roma, Italy : A. Signorelli, 1943. p. 15.

[70] For a complete translation of Neofit is travels see Nasturel, Petre S. Le journal des visites
canoniques de mtropolite de Hongrovalachie Nophyte le Crtois. Athens, Greece : Pepragmena
Philologikos Syllogos, 1969.

[71] Valentin Franck von Franckenstein, Breviculus origines nationum et praecipue Saxonicae in
Transylvania. Sibiu, Cibinii Transylvanorum, 1696, p. 26.

[72] Armbruster, 1972. p. 216.

[73] Huszti Andrs, s jj Dcia az az Erdlynek regi s mostani llapotjrl val Historia,
Betsban, 1791. p. 135-137.

[74] Gibbon, Edward ed Bury, J . B. The history of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. vol. I.
Holicong, PA, USA : Wildside Press, 2004. ch. 11, p. 317.

[75] Sassu, Constantin. Rumanians and Hungarians: historical premises. Bucureti, Romania : P.
Georgescu-Delafras, 1973. p. 131.

[76] Kellog, 1990. p. 14.

[77] Plmdeal, Antonie. Romanitate, Continuitate, Unitate. Sibiu, Romania : [s.n.], 1988. p. 14;
Vekony, 2000. p. 15.

[78] Hitchins, Keith. The Idea of Nation among the Romanians of Transylvania, 1700-1849.
Europe College, 2001. pp. 85-86.

[79] Lte, Louis L. Transylvania and the theory of Daco-Roman-Rumanian continuity. Rochester,
NY, USA : Committeee of Transylvania, 1980. p. 14.


The principle never build on a bad foundation is as applicable to history as it is
to architecture. The writers and historians from the eleventh to the eighteenth century
had created a substantial foundation, if not a complete edifice, for the theory of Daco-
Roman-Romanian continuity. From Britain to the Ottoman Empire, historians were in
agreement that the ancestors of the Romanians were the Romans of Dacia. They were
aware of Aurelians abandonment of Dacia, but they concluded that moving all of the
Latins out of Dacia was impossible, given that a Latin population still inhabited
Transylvania, one which was assumed to not possess teleportation devices. Why then,
did Hungarian historians almost unanimously abandon this theory in the late nineteenth

To be fair, the idea that Roman Dacia was completely evacuated by the Romans
was expressed prior to that time, predictably by a Hungarian humanist: Istvan
Szamoskzy (1570-1612). Studying in Italy, he is considered by some to be Hungarys
first archaeologist.
He had published a work on the Roman ruins of Dacia in 1593
entitled Analecta lapidum vetustorum et nonnullarum in Dacia antiquitatum.
Szamoskzy linked not only Transylvania with Dacia, but also Moldavia and Wallachia.
Szamoskzys work dealt mainly with the vestiges of the Romans, to which he offers a
poetic insight the Romans had left not only lifeless, but also living remnants. In his
opinion, their colonists had become the Romanians, this being evident from the fact that
Romanian was related to the other Latin languages.

Szamoskzy had however performed a complete about-face in what regarded the
origin of the Romanians in a later publication, On Hungarian Origins (De Originibus
Hungarorum), written around 1600. Far from the glorious past ascribed to the
Romanians in his previous work, Szamoskzy claimed in his new publication that the
Romans were not the ancestors of the Romanians, for the Emperor Gallienus had settled
all of Dacias Romans South of the Danube.
Szamoskzy had thus become the first
historian to question the continuity of the Romans in Dacia.
Instead of the Romans,
Szamoskzy had decided to make the Dacians be the ancestor of the Romanians. He
concluded that the Dacians had learned Latin from the Romans, such that those
Romanized Dacians would become the Romanians.

What could possibly have happened from the time frame 1593 to 1600 that could
so have shaken Szamoskzys faith in his own words? One is almost led to believe he
had unearthed a Roman inscription saying I came, I saw, I left. Unfortunately
Szamoskzys motives behind making this new theory become evident from the way his
entire work is composed, and the circumstances under which it was made. The time
period from 1593 to 1601 witnessed the reign of a man who was to become Romanias
national hero: Michael the Brave. Michaels contemporaries, both in Transylvania and in
Austria, were more than happy to sing praises to him and his people so long as he was
busy fighting the Ottomans,
of course, in the name of the Transylvanian prince
Sigismund Bathory or the Habsburg Emperor Rudolf II.

Both of these leaders considered Michael the Brave as their vassal at one point or another, though the
position was nominal in both cases. When Sigismunds successor, Andrew Bathory, had tried to exercise
his rights as suzerain over Mihai, Mihai did what he felt was appropriate: he invaded Transylvania and
had Andrew dethroned!
Mihai however, had bigger
plans. He invaded Transylvania in 1599 on the pretext of restoring it to Emperor Rudolf
but rather had himself crowned its ruler. Mihai tumultuous reign would end in an
uprising by the Hungarian nobility, backed by a veritable Habsburg conspiracy. Mihai
Viteazul was even assassinated by the Habsburg soldiers sent to help him retake

Szamoskzy appears to have suffered much under Mihais brief reign, for his
work spares no expense in the insults hurled at Mihai, often referring to him as a
and portraying him as a loathed and hateful tyrant.
Szamoskzys hatred
for the Romanians was however, placed at odds with his education: how could he
reconcile the supposed barbarian nature of the Romanians with their noble Roman
pedigree? The solution was simple: change the Romanians ancestors into barbarians!
The Romans could not have been the ancestors of the Romanians since the Romans had
all packed up and gone home.

Szamoskzy was repeating the methodology of Kekaumenos from the eleventh
century. Both authors had a bone to pick with the Vlachs, and both satisfied their
vendettas by attributing ignoble, barbarian ancestry to them. The only problem was that
while Kekaumenos did not need any hard science to make his claims (since the only
true Romans of his time were Greek Byzantines), Szamoskzy had to explain the
language of the Romanians, whose Latin character was well-known by the seventeenth
century. He tried to make the theory plausible by Romanizing the Dacians. It was
certainly a strange idea to throw into the mix during the height of the Renaissance, and it
won Szamoskzy few admirers. The German historian Toppeltinus referred to the theory
in his own work Origines et occasus Transsylvanorum, published in 1667, calling it
and the idea that Dacia was evacuated was not adopted by any historian
until the late eighteenth century.

Some have tried to argue that Szamoskzy was one of the forefathers to the
Hungarian school of thought

on the origin of the Romanians,
but the only thing the two
have in common is idea that the Romans had completely withdrawn their colonists from
Dacia. Szamoskzy however, did not believe the Romanians withdrew with them! He
certainly didnt believe the Romanians had come to Transylvania at a later date. Even
though he was going against the grain, one can only go so far before being called a

He could try to separate the Romans from the Romanians (sort of), but the idea
of separating the Romanians from Dacia was ridiculous even to a man as spiteful as
Szamoskzy. The irony is that Szamoskzys idea of Romanizing the locals was more
accurate and matched the idea of Daco-Roman Continuity more than the theories of
those who argued for pure Roman blood (an oxymoron, given not even the Romans
claimed such a thing!). It is impossible therefore, to claim Szamoskzy was a forebear
for the modern Hungarian theories. Szamoskzys theory was soon forgotten; we only
know of his change of mind by Toppeltinuss publication, which ridiculed it. The idea of
Roman continuity in Dacia was a natural conclusion by the historians of the time.

It was only in the late eighteenth century when the Roman continuity would
again be contested, this time by a Swiss-born Austrian: Franz J osef Sulzer.
career was primarily in the military and in law and he is remembered mostly as an
amateur historian.
His three volume work Geschichte des Transalpinischen Daciens
(The History of Transalpine Dacia), written in 1781, took a completely novel approach
on the history of the Romanians. In his opinion the Romanians were not descended of
the Roman colonists of Dacia, for the Romans had evacuated the province in 271 AD.
The Romanians had thus formed South of the Danube, in Moesia and Thrace, and only
moved North of the Danube in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries after Byzantine and
Mongol attacks.

The reason for this change of opinion was political rather than scientific.
Romanians in eighteenth century Transylvania did not have any nobility, nor any
political rights. To the 18
century mind, serf and Roman origin were concepts that
did not mix. Scholars of the time were aware of this contradiction, and they wondering
how it had come about. Andras Huszti postulated that the Romanians were serfs
precisely because they were Romans! Unlike the colonized populations of Transylvania,
with their respective rights, Huszti saw the Romanians, long-time residents of
Transylvania, as subjects since the Hungarians had conquered them by force. To
substantiate this claim he (erroneously) postulated that the Hungarian word for
Romanian olh derived from the Turkic word for slave (olan or ulan).

This historical problem became a political problem when the Romanians began
to ask themselves the same question. The Romanian national awakening came about
largely as a result of the Union with Rome in 1698, which created the Greek-Catholic
religion in Transylvania. This religious union had almost nothing religious about it. The
Romanians could continue to practice all of their tangible Orthodox Christian rites and
traditions. The only demand was to accept a few theoretical dare one say invisible
Catholic additions, including the Filioque clause, the concept of purgatory, and the
supremacy of the Pope.
In exchange, the Romanians would be allowed to attend
schools, including J esuit academies, and would no longer be considered second-class
citizens in Transylvania.

In typical Italian fashion, the Vatican had made the Romanians an offer they
could not refuse. The right to go to school was very important for Transylvanias
Romanians, who even in the mid-ninteenth century would be 90 percent peasants, most
of them illiterate. The Transylvanian Romanians who accepted the union, and as a
consequence received education, would almost by default assume political leadership of
their people.
The graduates of Greek-Catholic schools formed a highly cohesive
Romanian intellectual circle, the first to raise certain fundamental questions regarding
Romanian nationhood, and in particular, to the status of Romanians in Transylvania.

The first of such graduates was Inoceniu Micu-Klein.

Micu-Kleins studies
had led him to question the position of the Romanians in Transylvanias social fabric
and had begun a long (though fruitless) campaign of achieving equal rights for the
Romanians. He had submitted numerous petitions to the Imperial court in Vienna asking
for the fulfillment of equal rights for the Romanians, repeating his words in 1744 before
the Transylvanian Diet as the sole representative of the Romanians; one representative
for the majority of Transylvanias population.
Kleins arguments for equal rights were
astonishing in their fundamental nature:
The Romanian nation is inferior to no other nation, neither in its character,
nor in its culture. For we since the time of Trajan, even before the entry
of the Saxon nation in Transylvania, were the owners of this regal land and
up to today we own entire towns, even though we are oppressed by
thousands of miseries and tasks from the stronger [nations] Not only are
the Romanians by far the oldest inhabitants of the hills and valleys of
Transylvania, but they are also the most numerous.

Innocentiu Micu-Klein, one of the leaders of the Transylvanian School and the Romanian
enlightenment. His active, if unsuccessful, political overtures to the emperor to gain the Romanians
equal rights within Transylvania were buttressed by established historical knowledge of the time,
and thus they made the topic of Daco-Roman Continuity a political football for the first time.

The Transylvanian Diet was taken aback by such statements; they were unwilling
to accept a Romanian nation even existed, let alone grant them rights! The Romanians

Micu-Klein (literally: Small-Small) had gained such a strangely redundant name by appending the
German translation onto it. It may reflect his desire to show his loyalty to the Austrian crown. His family
name was originally just Micu (Romanian: Little).
were only ever referred to as Vlach plebians.
In a world defined largely by medieval
principles, the idea of nation was inherently linked to possessing a nobility, which the
Romanians, due to their persecuted status, lacked.
It was a typical catch twenty-two:
the Romanians could not be granted rights and nation status since they had no nobility,
and the Romanians could not gain a nobility since they had not rights. Micu-Kleins
demands were seen as absurd and disturbing to the peace of Transylvania. He was soon
forced into exile in Rome, where he died. Problem solved

The problem was, of course, not solved. Micu-Klein had succeeded in granting
the Romanians a noble class (the Uniate clergy) with equal rights, but Romanians were
still not viewed as equals. The Romanian problem persisted in a whole new generation
of Romanian scholars spearheaded by Samuil Micu (1745-1806), Gheorghe incai
(1754-1816), and Petru Maior (1760-1821). They would lead what would become
known as the Transylvanian School, a group of Romanian intellectuals who lobbied
for the recognition of the Romanians as a nation in Transylvania, often using history to
buttress their demands.
Seeing that half-measures were not going to work, the
Austrians and Hungarians turned to attacking the root of the problem, namely the origin
of the Romanians. By erasing the past of the Romanians the Hungarians and Germans
would secure political and territorial hegemony over Transylvania indefinitely.
It is
precisely here where Sulzer, a man married to a Transylvanian Saxon noble, entered the

The arguments Sulzer used to deny Romanian continuity were at best semi-
scientific and at worst absurd. They included:

1) The lack of words of Hungarian origin as well as from other
languages, which Romanian should have contained had they been
continuously present in Transylvania.
2) The similarity of the languages used by the Romanians and the
Macedonian Vlachs.
3) The Romanians could only have become Orthodox Christians south
of the Danube. Had they been in Transylvania the Magyars would
surely have made them Catholics.
4) The lack rights and liberties among the Romanians, and also lack
their own nobility. This would be unnatural if they were the
descendants of Romans.
5) The absence of documents referring to the Romanians in
Transylvania throughout the Dark Ages.

Sulzer concluded that the Romanians had formed South of the Danube, in
Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia, as a result of mixture between the Thraco-Moesians,
the Romans, and the Slavs.
In his mind, the Romanians had only migrated onto their
present territory in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Since these exact same
arguments were used by later partisans of this theory, and even persist to modern day, it
is important that we spend at least a short amount of time on each before accepting or
rejecting them.

In short: most of Sulzers considerations could not be seen as supporting his
conclusion. The fifth argument, while still universally maintained by Hungarian
is a logical fallacy. The absence of documents cannot be turned into
documentation of absence! Sulzer made several mistakes in his analysis of documents as
well, when he tried to create the impression of a Romanian migration in the thirteenth
century. For instance, he had chosen to use the Diploma of the J oanite [Hospitaller]
Knights written in 1247 in which the Hungarian king granted several territories south of
the Transylvanian Carpathians to the knightly order. The noted territories which were
excluded from the knightly orders possessions were the regions controlled by Litovoi
and Seneslav, stated as being rulers of the Romanians.
The document referred to the
regions as hitherto (hactenus) controlled by the Romanians, and Sulzer has strangely
assumed that hitherto meant since about two or three years ago rather than the much
longer timeframe implied.
Given Sulzers inexperience in history, it is to this date not
sure if Sulzer had done this on purpose or unwittingly.

Interestingly, both Sulzer and the later historians who accepted his theory
(including modern partisans of the Immigrationist Theory) did not bother to explain why
it was the Romanians were similarly absent from all documents in the Balkans up until
the tenth century. For these historians so long as the Romanians were erased from
Transylvania it was problem solved; whatever logical anomalies formed as a result of
their solution did not bother them. Here it must be pointed out that an absence of
Romanians from documents north of the Danube could at least seem plausible since for
much of the Dark Ages the region was inhabited by illiterate barbarian tribes. It is by far
harder to reconcile the absence of Romanians from documents while in the very heart of
the Eastern Roman Empire. As the renowned British historian Robert Seton-Watson
pointed out the very theorists who have banished the Roumanians from Transylvania
for lack of records, are driven to admit an even more complete and far more perplexing
lack of records regarding the Roumanians in their alleged Balkan home.
ethnographer T.J . Winnifrith, in his study on the Balkan Vlachs, concluded that above
all we can place little reliance on any argument from silence to prove that no Vlachs
were present,
an argument equally applicable north and south of the Danube. Sadly
this form of argumentation is, as already mentioned, universally maintained by modern
Hungarian historians.

The fourth argument betrays Sulzers motivation more than anything. In his mind,
the Romanians did not have rights because they were not the first there, and therefore
they could not be granted rights either! Sulzer, unsurprisingly, got this wrong as well.
The Romanians chronic lack of rights in Transylvania had developed throughout the
Middle Ages. A Romanian landowning nobility (called knezi) had existed well into the
thirteenth century in Transylvania, one which was gradually displaced by a Magyar
nobility backed by the royal court. The position of the Romanian knezi, and of all
Orthodox Christian nobility, diminished with the draconian edicts issued by King Louis
and King Sigismund against any Orthodox Christian nobility in the late fourteenth
centuries. The systemic exclusion of the Romanians from the nobility of Transylvania
was formalized in 1437, with the establishment of the Unio Trium Nationum (Union of
Three Nations), an alliance by the Hungarian, Szeckler, and Saxon nobilities; the
exclusion of the Romanians is not a coincidence. From this point on the remaining
Romanian nobles gradually fused with the Hungarian nobility and the Romanians were
left without any political representation.

Two types of Romanian knezi began to exist as a result of these policies: one
which was ennobled due to their valorous deeds in the Ottoman wars, retaining feudal
control of their lands, and the other which was to become a subordinate middleman
between the Romanian serfs and the Hungarian nobility that had confiscated those
The former converted to Catholicism and were assimilated into the Hungarian
nobility, noted names including the Hunyadi and Dragffy families. The knezi which
were middlemen and remained Orthodox Christians gradually lost even their residual
meager powers. Sulzers argument could not possibly be used against a Romanian
continuity, since the only way the Romanians could have prevented this situation is if
they were not Orthodox, not if they were there earlier.

The third argument is not believable since we know of Byzantine missions north
of the Danube throughout the early Middle Ages. The ruler of Transylvania in the early
eleventh century, going by the name of Gyula, is known to have been an Orthodox
Christian and the existence of several Greek and Bulgarian monasteries are confirmed in
Hungary throughout the early Middle Ages.
Therefore, the conversion of the
Romanians could just as easily have happened north of the Danube. Assuming that all
Orthodox Christians of Hungary had migrated there from the Byzantine Empire is
certainly an interesting theory, but it fails to account for the Orthodox Christian
Ruthenian population, which did not come from the Balkans.

What we do know is that Catholic proselytism in Transylvania intensified
primarily under the Angevin dynasty of the fourteenth century,
chronologically after
the Romanians would have supposedly settled in Transylvania. Antonius Bonfini wrote
that by 1380 only one third of the Hungarian kingdom was Catholic, even after a
substantial effort of Catholic proselytism in what essentially amounted to forced
conversion supported by the Hungarian kings.
Sulzers settlement of the Romanians in
Transylvania is still prior to this point and therefore would not have spared them of these
efforts. It may even be argued that Romanian resistance to conversion could only have
occurred had they been in Transylvania for a considerable time. Small, migratory
populations that arrived in Transylvania at an earlier date, such as the Cumans, are
known to have converted to Catholicism.

By far Sulzers strongest arguments were (1) and (2), both based on linguistics.
The study of Balkan linguistics was a relatively recent field, and its pioneer was the
Swedish philologist J ohann Thunmann, who was a professor at the University of Halle,
Germany. In his work, Investigations into the Histories of eastern European peoples
(Untersuchungen ber die Geschichte der stlicheneuropischen Vlker), published in
1774, Thunmann was the first to link the Albanian and Romanian languages via a
common linguistic substratum; a base language that has changed over time into its
modern forms.
Another scholar, Bartholomeus Kopitar, concluded that the common
elements between the two languages could be derived from a Thraco-Dacian-Illyrian
substratum, transmitted to the Albanians and inherited by the Romanians.
was familiar with an Aromianian scholar from the Balkans, Teodor Cavallioti, a
forerunner in comparative linguistics, and had even reproduced Cavalliotis trilingual
dictionary (in Greek, Albanian, and Aromanian; think of it as The Balkan Rosetta
In addition to this, Thunmann had gained intimate acquaintance with the
Balkan Latins from one of his own students, who was a Macedo-Romanian.
was the first person to make a serious academic investigation on the origin of the
and his conclusion was evident: the Romanians had formed North of the
Danube while the Macedo-Romanians had formed separately South of the Danube. We
should note additionally that Thunmann was so detached from the politics of the region
that could not have had ulterior motives for his investigation.

Sulzer certainly had other motives, since in 1781 Emperor J oseph II of Austria
proclaimed equality between the Romanians and the other three nations of
The good old days of cheap labor and medieval feudalism were drawing
to a close, but the magnates of Transylvania were not going to go quietly. It would be
hard to justify keeping the sons of Rome in shackles but it could have seemed more
palatable to the Imperial court in Vienna if the Romanians were rebranded as latecomers
or illegal immigrants. Sulzer had taken some of Thunmanns data to make the
completely opposite conclusion. Thunmann however, was a historian, philologist and
linguist, unlike Sulzer.

Given the political nature of Sulzers work, some Hungarian historians have tried
to find an antecedent for the theory; to find a conception of the theory untainted by
politics. An attempt was made to credit J ohn Lucius with the theorys inception in his
work Of the Kingdom of Dalmatia and Croatia (De Regno Dalmatiae et Croatieae),
published in 1666.
There is however, only a surface similarity between Luciuss
writings and the modern Immigrationist Theory. While Lucius was indeed the first
author to note the silence of sources on the Romanians north of the Danube, he did not
conclude that the Romans had completely evacuated Dacia. Rather, the Romanians
traced their origin, according to him, from the Romans left behind by Aurelian in Dacia
and Romanized people brought north of the Danube by the Bulgarians in the seventh to
ninth centuries.
Lucius was only stating that the number of Romanians increased due
to immigration to the north caused by the Bulgarians,
not that the Romanians were not
there to begin with. This cannot be regarded in any way as a precedent to the modern
Immigrationist Theory.

Sulzer may have been the first to completely deny Roman continuity in Dacia,
but he was not the founder of the modern Immigrationist Theory either. His theory did
not find acceptance among Europes historians who either ignored it or disproved it.
Though the Hungarian historian Gabor Vekony stated that following the publication of
Sulzer's work, rejection of the concept of Dacian continuity became the rule
this is a
claim that is impossible to defend. Only two writers who supported Sulzers theory:
Carol Eder and J ohan Christian Engel. Aside from these two the theory convinced no
one and was forgotten for almost a century.


Eders work was a polemical response to the Supplex Libellus Valachorum, a
substantial petition to the imperial court in Vienna asking that the Romanians be granted
rights equal to the other nations of Transylvania, to the same place it held in the year
(before the Unio Trium Nationum). In general it called for the end of anti-
Romanian discriminatory practices in Transylvania.
The authors of the Supplex are
unkown but likely included several of the leading figures of the Transylvanian School.
The Supplex uses history as one of its key justifications, the second paragraph reading:

The Romanian nation is by far the oldest of all nations in todays
Transylvania, because it is a certain and proven thing based on historical
evidence of a tradition that was never discontinued, of the similarity of
languages, traditions and customs that spring from the Roman colonies
brought here to Dacia, at the beginning of the second century by the
Emperor Trajan, in numerous waves, with a very large number of veteran
soldiers to defend the province.

The Supplex was diplomatically phrased and stressed the military and strategic
value the Romanians had to the Court in Vienna, but the opposition of the Transylvanian
Diet was unrelenting.
Eder was a Transylvanian Saxon and joined the uproar against
these demands. His response was a direct reproduction of the Supplex with an
addendum of 59 points all in all longer than the Supplex itself criticizing the
historical argumentation for the demands. Eder largely reiterated Sulzers thesis, but also
attempted to discredit the Gesta Hungarorum of Anonymous, of which Sulzer was not
aware. Eder spared no expense when it came to insults, and his work had started a
whirlwind polemic between the Hungarians and Saxons on the one side, and the
Romanian intellectuals on the other.

The other man who accepted the withdrawal of the Roman population from
Dacia in 271, J .C. Engel, did not fully believe Sulzers argumentation in light of the
Gesta Hungarorum. Recognizing the weak scientific chararacter of Sulzers work, he
even referred to Sulzers arguments as abuses perpetrated by writers prompted by the
desire to disparage the Romanians.
Engels instead expoused his own theory in the
work Dissertation on the Expedition of Trajan on the Danube, and the Origin of the
Valachians (Commentatio de Expeditionibus Trajani ad Danibium, et origine
Valachorum), published in 1794 in Vienna. Engel needed to reconcile Sulzers theory
with the newly discovered Gesta, so he took the work of J ohn Lucius in 1666, erased the
inconvenient parts regarding the remnants of Roman colonists in Dacia, and
concluded that Romanians descended from the Roman-Byzantine and Slavic prisoners
of the Bulgarian Khan Krum, whom were settled North of the Danube in 818.
evidence included the Greek words in the Romanian language as well as the name Vlach,
which he erroneously believed derived from the Volga river in central Asia, the
homeland of the Bulgars. In this way Engel erased the Roman-Romanian link while also
placing the Romanians in Transylvania early enough to fight the Magyars, as was
recorded in the Gesta. His theory however, still gave the Romanians chronological
precedence in Transylvania.

Aside from these two authors there is no one else who adopted Sulzers theory
for almost a century. Some Hungarian authors had tried to reach Sulzers conclusions so
that they too could reap the political rewards of nullifying Romanian chronological
primacy in Transylvania, but they rejected Sulzers hypothesis. The furious attempt to
erase the Roman-Romanian connection resulted in arguments teetering on the edge of
absurdity. Marton Bolla proposed that the Romanians arrived in Transylvania from the
Volga after the Hungarians,
using very specious arguments on the nomadic nature of
the Vlachs, comparable to stating the Romanians migrated from Spain due to the
similarity between olah (Romanian in Hungarian) and ola. One might jokingly refer
to an African origin of the Romanians but sadly a Croatian historian had actually
proposed that the Vlachs were descended from Trajans African cavalrymen!
For the
opponents of continuity, it didnt really matter where the Romanians hailed from, so
long as it was somewhere else and chronologically after everyone else.

Sulzers theory was convenient, but it was unbelievable even to those who
wished it were true. It was thus relinquished to the dustbins of history. Several
prominent Hungarian historians dismissed the idea: Stephen Katona, J oszef Benko,
Mathias Peter Katancsich, Count J oszef Kemeny, and the aforementioned Andras Huszti.
At a continental level Sulzers theory did not even produce a ripple. This is not because
Sulzer was a hermit; far from it. Sulzer was a member of the St. Andrew Masonic
lodge, an organization renowned for spreading ideas in the Age of Enlightenment, and
was thus a member of an active Transylvanian intellectual circle.
The reason why the
theory was rejected was because historians were simply not swayed by Sulzers theory;
it didnt make any sense. In the battle between Sulzer and Thunmann, the major
historians like Theodor Mommsen, Leopold von Ranke, and Heinrich Kiepert, all sided
with Thunmann. Charles Upson Clark succinctly put it that Mommsen, Ranke and
Kiepert came to Thumanns rescue and Romanian continuity in Dacia is to-day
generally agreed (outside of Hungary!)

It was only in 1871 that a new writer, Robert Roesler would revive the theory of
Romanian migration, in his work Romanian Studies (Romnische Studien). Roeslers
was certainly a highly educated individual, being a philologist trained in Vienna, Graz,
and Lvov. His work however, blatantly vilified the Romanians and dismissed their
demands for equal rights; his writings thereby crossed a subtle border from the writing
of academic history to the writing of history for political purposes.
It was after
Roeslers publication that international academia became divided on the issue of
Romanian continuity.

What had caused Roesler to resurrect the argument? His motives become
understandable if still not acceptable when we consider the political circumstances
of his time. In 1867 the Austrian government conceded to Hungarian demands for equal
representation, resulting in the creation of an Austro-Hungarian Empire; a state where
not one, but two nations domineered over the national minorities of Slavs and
Romanians. Austrias strategy with the Hungarians was simply summarized by Austrias
prime minister: you manage your hordes and well manage ours.
The Hungarians
were on top (sort of) and they were going to try to make the most of it. Robert Seton-
Watson gave the most apt description of what followed:

The settlement of 1867, which left the Magyars in complete political
control of their half of the Dual Monarchy (subject only to Croatia's
autonomous position, which lies outside my present scope) went to their
head like strong wine. With almost complete unanimity their statesmen and
politicians set before themselves the Magyarisation of Hungary as the
supreme aim of the state, and to this fatal end, equally undesirable and
impossible of attainment, they devoted a very large part of their energies
during the fifty years that followed.

The Hungarians feared that if they could not somehow denationalize and
Magyarize all of the kingdoms inhabitants in a very short time, then the whole kingdom
was going to collapse in the face of the emergent system of nation-states. Some could
argue that they were right, since Magyarization largely failed even though it was
pursued using very harsh policies
and the Kingdom of Hungary collapsed in 1920 as
a result. It may however, also be the case that the alienation of national minorities
caused by the brutal policies of cultural suppression employed by the Hungarians is
exactly what caused their states collapse. In any case, one thing was clear: the
Romanians, by their very culture, were the enemy of this new state. To top it all off, the
Romanians had not ceased their demands for equal rights. This was followed by
demands of equal representation in the Hungarian parliament. Romanian petitions had
moved on to a more practical level of emphasizing the demographic majority of the
Romanians in Transylvania, as well as the fact that they paid the most taxes, but historic
arguments were not abandoned either.

The Magyars saw themselves as the great civilizing light for all of their lowly
subjects who were but little people and Roesler was to be the advocate for such a
policy. The political nature of Roeslers book is evidenced in almost every paragraph.
Roesler even went so far as to state that Romanian desires for equal rights were
hilarious stemming from the hybrid and heated mentality of small people.
compromise of 1867 had a significant consequence for the Romanians because it
removed Transylvanias autonomous status, making it directly subordinate to Budapest.
It nullified Transylvanias existence as a separate entity and turned the Romanians from
a regional demographic majority into a minority of a much larger state. It should not
come as a surprise that Roeslers publication came about at a time when the Romanians
were very vocal in their displeasure at the loss of Transylvanias distinct territorial

Roelsers arguments were much the same as Sulzers, but more developed, given
his high level of education and the backing of the academic institutions he worked for.
Roesler believed the Romanians came from somewhere South of the Danube but the
region was, like in Sulzers case, not specified.
The same argument ex silentio that a
lack of documents mentioning the Romanians could be evidence for the absence of
Romanians in Transylvania played a central role in Roeslers work, as was
acknowledged even by positive reviewers of his time.
Roesler had also changed one
argument of Sulzer: instead of focusing on the lack of all barbarian words in
Romanian he only specified the lack of old Germanic words, which (supposedly) would
be unexpected if the Romanians had lived under Gothic occupation north of the Danube.
In addition, due to the advances made in philology and linguistics, Roesler was able to
use the relation between the Albanian and Romanian languages to suggest that could
only have developed if the Albanians and Romanians lived in a common homeland
throughout the Dark Ages, a homeland which in Roeslers mind had to be as close to
Albania and as far away from Transylvania as possible. Roesler also made the necessary
addition of dismissing the Gesta Hungarorum as false, throwing a plethora of ad-
hominems in Anonymouss direction; the theory could not make if Anonymous was
anything but a liar.

Seeing as Roeslers ghost has survived to the present day, it is important that we
give his arguments further consideration. The argument ex silentio has already been
covered, and it must be regarded as a logical fallacy, though a rather persistent one in
Hungarian history books. The linguistic arguments however, pose a different problem.
The lack of Old Germanic words in Romanian is a perplexing argument which has
received much attention. It continues to be a staple of advocates of the Immigrationist
Theory even today
though several linguists and philologists (most notable among them
being Ernst Gamillscheg) were able to identify some 30 Romanian base words of Old
Germanic origin.
The number may be small, but then again, so is the number of words
relating Romanian to Albanian, which is at most 150. There is still some debate among
linguists as to whether the Germanic etymology of those words is correct,
but it is
certainly something to consider before one buys into Roeslers theory.

A more important problem for Roeslers theory is not so much the debated
presence of Germanic words but rather the impossibility of preventing Romanian-
German interaction no matter where one places the Romanians. Placing the Romanians
South of the Danube certainly would not spare them from Germanic influence, and in
fact it is easier to explain the absence of Gothic terms in Romanian by keeping their
ancestors north of the Danube. The Goths from Moldavia (outside of Dacia) did not
immediately cross the Carpathians into the former Roman province, which they
undoubtedly no longer saw as rich or attractive, but rather they preferred to plunder
south of the Danube. Gothic penetration into Trajans Dacia was not major until after
375 AD.

By comparson, Gothic raids in the Balkans date from the middle of the third
century, even and they even killed the Roman Emperor Decius in 251 near Odessus
(modern day Varna, Bulgaria).
Raids into the Balkans continued throughout the third
century but the fourth century saw the establishment of a definited Gothic ethnic
presence in the Balkans. A great number of Goths were resettled south of the Danube by
the Roman authorities in the fourth century, as a result of the Hunnic invasion of their
North-Danubian homeland. The Gothic refugees in the Balkans were so numerous that
Roman officials even remarked who wishes to know this [their number] would wish to
know how many grains of sand are on the Lybian plain.
The move would prove to be
a strategic disaster, culminating in the Goths defeating the Roman army at the battle of
Adrianople in 378. The Goths would be granted lands in the Balkans in 382 as a result of
Roman ineptitude in stopping the uprisings, though Roman spin-doctors tried to hail this
as a great victory. They believed that it was better to conquer the Goths by friendship
and fill Thrace with many peasants than to conquer them through violence.

The Goths would soon spread all over the Balkans, reaching the Southern tip of
Greece in 396 and would remain a strong ethnic presence for more than a century.
Gothic influence in the Balkans only came to an end in the year 496, when the Ostrogoth
leader Theodoric would defeat Odovacar, the Germanic king of Italy (the same one who
deposed the last Western Roman Emperor in 476). Theodoric had thereby established a
Gothic kingdom in Italy, and most of the Goths would leave the Balkan Peninsula after
this date, preferring life in their own kingdom.
Gothic presence in the Balkans
therefore lasted well over a century or over two centuries if we consider the first
contacts through raiding and trade.

It stands to reason that if the Romanians would have adopted any words from the
Goths, they could just as easily have done so south of the Danube frontier. Roeslers
proposal to move the Romanians south changed nothing in what regarded the important
factor of his argument (i.e. Gothic interaction with the Romanians) but Roesler for
whatever reason expected drastically different results out of it. It is at times like these
that we are reminded of Albert Einsteins famous definition of insanity: doing the same
thing over and over again and expecting different results. Sadly, this (dare one say,
insane?) argument is still echoed by Hungarian authors like Gabor Vekony or Elemr

Roeslers argument involving words shared between Romanian and Albanian is
not definitive for several reasons, the most important of which being the questionable
origin of the Albanians. The Illyrian origin of the Albanians had been an assumption of
modern historiography, but it came under serious fire from linguists in the twentieth
century, especially the eminent scholar Vladimir Georgiev. Georgiev stated that the
Albanians have often been regarded as the heirs of the ancient Illyrians, although there
are no other data supporting such a claim. In the same way, the Bulgarians might be
considered as Thracians [the ancient inhabitants of Bulgaria] if other Slavonic peoples
and languages were not known.
Georgievs theory was that the Albanians were of
Daco-Mysian origin, their homeland being in northern Bulgaria or possibly Dacia
Aureliana, in modern day Serbia. He presented several arguments which cast serious
doubt on the Illyrian origin of the Albanians, including:

1) The ancient geographical terms of Illyrian origin in Albania which were
preserved in Albanian show a Slavic intermediary.
2) The Albanian words which were borrowed from Latin show
characteristics typical of Eastern Balkan Latin as opposed to Western
Balkan Latin, namely the lack of Italian influence one noted in Western
Balkan Romance languages like Dalmatian (which is extinct today).
These borrowings therefore did not happen in Illyria/Albania.
3) All Albanian maritime terminology is borrowed from their neighbors,
indicating the Adriatic coast was not a part of their original homeland.
4) The lack of ancient Greek loan words in Albanian which indicates they
originated in the northern Balkans, away from Greek influence.
5) The Albanians are not mentioned in written documents until the ninth
century [and even that is debatable] even though placenames for the
region are mentioned since the fourth century. Georgiev adds that this is
different from the case of the Romanians in Dacia since after Aurelians
withdrawal Dacia became a proverbial terra incognita, the first
placenames in Romania being mentioned only in the tenth century.
6) The Latin words in Albanian are determined to be of proto-Romanian
origin upon further scrutiny.
7) The words shared between the Albanians and the Romanians are inherited
from a Dacian substratum also found in Romanian.

J ean W. Sedlar added to the arguments against Illyrian-Albanian continuity,
stating: first off, the the place names in Albania bear witness to a Slavic presence in the
early Middle Ages, but placenames of Albanian origin are missing altogether from that
period; secondly, the earliest unconstested document referring to the Albanians dates
from the eleventh century, adding once again that the absence of documentation is not
comparable to that of the north-Danubian Romanians since Albania (unlike Dacia) lay
well within the Roman Byzantine sphere. He assessed that these facts strongly suggest
that the ancestors of the Albanians could not have been present in their present country
since the days of the Roman Empire.

Further research in the field of linguistics has only strengthened his argument, as
it revealed Albanian and Illyrian are not even part of the same linguistic branches of
Indo-European. There are two language groups of Indo-European, centum and satem,
named after the way members of both groups state the number one hundred but which
are also defined by more than just this feature. Latin, for instance, is a centum language
since the Latin term for one hundred is, well, centum! However, German and other
languages which are not so evidently linked to the centum family are nevertheless a part
of it. The problem with this division is that Illyrian was a centum language while
Albanian is a satem language.
The satem nature of the Albanian language could
however easily be explained by making it a descendant of Thracian or Dacian, both of
which exhibited satem characteristics.
While modern Romanian has preserved the
word sut for one hundred from the Dacians,
the language became a member of the
centum family
by grace of the cultural genocide the Romans inflicted on the Dacians.
This provides a logical explanation for how, in the case of Romanian, a centum language
was able to develop out of a satem substratum. There is however, no logical explanation
by which we Albanian could have crossed the divide in the opposite direction; nothing
can adequately explain the satem nature of Albanian except making it a descendant of
Daco-Mysian or Thracian.

An Albanian migration from the northern Balkans into the southern Balkans is
far more believable than a migration of the Romanians in the opposite direction when
we consider that the barbarian invaders of the Roman Empire all came from the north.
The Morava valley in particular served as the primary invasion route for the barbarians,
and was thus a region from which an indigenous population would have fled.
gives the Albanian migration something completely lacking in a hypothetical Romanian
movement in the opposite direction: a motive. The Albanians ancestors were (in such a
scenario) forced south by the Goths and Slavs who took over their homeland in the
northern Balkans. On the other hand, a migration of the Romanians towards lands
already occupied by other people does not make a lot of sense. In any case, we must
admit that Georgievs arguments are serious (nonchauvinistic) arguments and they
cannot simply be dismissed.

Even if we were to ignore all of these arguments and accept an Illyrian origin of
the Albanians, this still would not be a reason to throw the Romanians in Albania. For
starters, the Illyrians were quite widespread and inhabited the entire Western Balkan
peninsula, not just Albania, stretching all the way north to Dalmatia and Pannonia.

Though there has been a tendency by historians and linguists to refer to anything non-
Celtic in the Western Balkans as Illyrian
it still cannot be denied that the borders of
ancient Illyria far exceeded those of modern Albania, and likely stretched from Vardar
(modern Macedonia) and the Morava valley (right beside Romania) all the way to the
Adriatic coast in Dalmatia (modern Croatia).

In any case, Roman administration had only forced the Illyrians further east, in
typical Roman gratitude for all the military assistance they offered the Romans since the
Punic Wars. The relocation started during the reign of Emperor Augustus who moved
Illyrian tribes near the Danube in the first century AD.
Trajan had decided even this
was not far away enough, opting to settle entire communities of Illyrian miners in
Roman Dacia.
Even if the Romanian-Albanian words were of Illyrian origin a
hypothesis that goes against all evidence found so far the Romanians wouldnt need to
go on an elaborate millennium-long vacation in the Balkans to learn such words; they
could just as easily have learned them from the Illyrians in and around Dacia!

But the most important consideration is the underlying similarity between Dacian,
Thracian, and Illyrian, which has made it very difficult to determine what specifically
was Illyrian and what was Thracian or even Dacian. Distinguishing one barbarian
from another was a confusing ordeal to most of the ancient authors
and is not clear
even to this day. The entire eastern border of the Illyrian space was a zone of constant
intermingling between the Thracians and the Illyrians.
Archaeologists have not been
able to arrive at a consensus on the identity of even the major tribes in this region, such
as whether the Dardanians were Illyrian or Thracian
and whether the Scordisci were
or Thracians.
Furthermore, the records of Thracian, Dacian, and Illyrian are
scant in comparison to what we possess for other people. Not one verifiable inscription
has survived in the Illyrian language.
Only five inscriptions in Daco-Thracian exist, no
lengthly texts in Dacian or Thracian are known, and it is unlikely any will discovered in
the near future.
The inability to distinguish between the three groups ethnically and the
scant linguistic evidence has resulted in a whole slew of oft-confusing conjugations by
modern linguists and historians, including Thraco-Illyrian,
and even the almost offensive Thraco-
The languages are too similar and too little has survived from either of
them to allow for a clear distinction even to this day, let alone in Roeslers time when
Balkan linguistics was in its infancy.

This means that the origin of the Albanians has very little consequence
Romanian history. It is unlikely that the Romanians picked up the terms they share with
the Albanians through contact with them in the Balkans;
the linguistic relation is too
weak to support the claim that the Romanians and Albanians were sharing a homeland in
the ninth century. Recent linguistic evidence

seems to indicate Albanian and
Romanian have been split apart for some time, probably before the Roman era.
It is in
fact entirely possible that the Albanian language originated from Illyrian and that
Romanian originated from the Romanization of the similar Dacian language. This
conclusion is not only possible but it is even very likely given the fact that the
substratum words shared between Romanian and Albanian do not show complete
concordance; their differences from the Romanian to the Albanian form make it hard to
believe these words were borrowed directly from Albanian in the early Middle Ages.
Some pre-Latin substratum words preserved in Romanian are not even present in

Roeslers Albanian argument therefore requires several assumptions. Firstly, one
must accept the Illyrian origin of the Albanians as proven, something it is not. Secondly,
one has to believe the Albanians formed in or very near to modern Albania, which goes
against the linguistic evidence discovered so far. Thirdly, one has to believe that such
words are present in Romanian due to a direct borrowing from Albanian as a result of
cohabitation rather than simply being carryovers from a substratum Dacian or Illyrian
language. None of these assumptions have any uncontestable evidence and some go
against what evidence we do have. While pie-in-the-sky linguistics may have been in
vogue in the nineteenth century, todays scholars will be hard-pressed to utter Roeslers
conclusions with the zealous certainty he displayed. In the case of the Romanians, the
linguistic evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of a north-eastern origin of the Romanian
and most linguists believe these substratum words are of Dacian origin.

Roeslers argumentation, in spite of its political nature, proved convincing for a
significant number of his contemporaries. His writing made a big impact both in Austro-
Hungary and abroad, for the first time dividing intellectuals on the origin of the
Romanians. To be certain, the overwhelming majority of European scholars still
supported Daco-Roman Continuity
but there was a significant school of intellectuals,
particularly linguists, which supported Roesler. The case of the linguist Wilhelm
Tomaschek has been noted by Hungarians
and Romanians
since he was a scholar

For instance, Albanian words directly inherited from early proto-Indo-European often end in o while
Latin loan words in Albanian end in a. Similarily, the ancient words in Albanian shared with Romanian
that end in o often end with an a in the Romanian version. This is compelling evidence that the split
between proto-Albanian and pre-Romanian Dacian happened before the o and a diverged from a common
vowel (the alien-looking , which only linguists know how to pronounce) and therefore before the Roman
arrival in the Balkans.
that originally supported Romanian continuity in Dacia but changed his opinion in light
of Roeslers work. Gabor Vekony in particular suggested that Tomaschek and his
conversion could have brought to an end the recurring controversy pertaining to this
issue but, alas, the Romanians continued to use emotionally charged political
What political considerations these were is not specified, but it may
be for the best that Tomaschek did not bring the argument to an end. Tomascheks
conclusions rested on his knowledge of the ancient languages of the Balkans, and today
we know Tomaschek had a very poor understanding of the relation between Thracian
and Illyrian.
He may have been a pioneer, but pioneers (by definition) have only
scratched the surface of a problem, and today Tomascheks considerations cannot be
taken as final.

There were a few Romanian linguists who also questioned Romanian continuity
in Dacia, the most prominent of these being Ovidiu Densuianu. He was the disciple of
Gaston Paris, one of Roeslers advocates, and had studied the Romanian language
extensively. In his work Histoire de la Langue Roumaine (1902) he placed the origin of
the Romanians not in Dacia but rather in Illyria, south and west of the lower Danube.

Hungarian authors like Andr Du Nay

have never missed an opportunity to refer to
Densuianu in their arguments in order to suggest that Daco-Roman continuity was
denied by any Romanian with a sincere, almost passionate desire for finding the
Du Nay performs a sin of omission in his presentation of Densuianus work,
since he does not mention when Densuianu believed the Romanian migration back into
Transylvania took place, and one is left with the impression that Densuianus research
supported Roesler and the Hungarian version of the Immigrationist Theory.
This conclusion would not have been reached by someone familiar with
Densuianus work, for his own theory on the origin of the Romanians diverged
significantly from the one currently accepted by Hungarian historians. He did indeed
believe that the Romanians formed in Illyria, but as indicated earlier this was on very
tenuous research at a time when little was understood on the relation between Thracian,
Dacian, and Illyrian. Furthermore, though Densuianu moved the center of Romanian
ethnogenesis in Illyria he never denied a continuity of the Romans in Dacia and was
vocal against such ideas. He flatly stated that though we affirm the center of the
formation of Romanian was in Illyria, we are in no way excluding the conservation of a
Latin element, probably quite important, in Dacia and in Moesia.
Densuianu also
reached a different conclusion regarding when the Romanian migration occurred by
using the far better understood linguistic evidence involving Slavic borrowings in
Romanian. From such borrowings and how they differed in Albanian, Romanian and
Aromanian, he was able to conclude that that by the sixth or seventh century the
Romanians had already migrated back into Dacia due to pressure from the Slavs and
Densuianu stated that Roeslers version of the Immigrationist Theory,
which held that the Romanians had arrived in Transylvania only in the thirteenth century,
could not be reconciled with the linguistic facts that pointed to a much earlier
Therefore it is intellectually dishonest to portray him as a supporter of the
Immigrationist Theory as is currently held by Hungarian historians.

for anyone wondering how a Hungarian somehow ended up with a French name: it is only a pen-name.

It was not long before Roeslers work garnished a significant backlash. The
Romanian historian A.D. Xenopol dedicated an entire book to systematically refuting all
of Roeslers arguments, entitling it Roeslers Theory: Studies Upon the Perseverance of
the Romanians in Dacia Traiana (Teoria lui Roesler. Studii asupra struinei romnilor
n Dacia Traiana). Xenopol used plenty of scientific evidence, but he did not hesitate in
pointing out the illogical nature of Roeslers thesis. The key weaknesses included the
impossibility that the Romans exterminated an entire people (including women and
and the unlikeliness that a settled population would just flee its homeland
due to an invasion
as Roesler suggested the Romans would have done in the third
century. More importantly, Xenopol pointed out the impossibility of a Romanian
migration north of the Danube in the thirteenth century. This would have happened at a
time when the Romanians would have controlled their own empire the Empire of the
Bulgars and Vlachs or Second Bulgarian Empire south of the Danube. Xenopol flatly
asked how can we imagine that the Vlachs would have abandoned their country [i.e.
Bulgaria/Moesia] exactly at a time when, having established their own independent state,
would have enjoyed every right, and for what purpose would they have done so?

Although these are very fundamental considerations, to this date they have no adequate
response, the last one being completely ingnored.

Foreign specialists also voiced their concerns with Roeslers theory, the first and
possibly most able of these being the historian J ulius J ung (1851-1910). If Xenopol
could be accused of personal bias, the same could not be said of J ungs defense of Daco-
Roman continuity. He had produced several works throughout his lifetime, combining
most his discoveries in the redundantly titled Romans and Romans in the Danubian
Lands (Rmer und Romanen in der Donaulandern), published in 1881. It appeared J ung
was not fooled by Roeslers academic faade, since he pointed out the political
undertones of Roeslers work on several occasions.
J ung argumentation for continuity
north and south of the Danube relied on archaeological and linguistic evidence. There
are two things which should be noted about J ung: firstly, that he was an Austrian writer,
eliminating any chance that he had some hidden political motive for his work, and
secondly, that J ung was far more knowledgable than Roesler in the matter of Roman
J ungs counter-attack was quickly joined by many other eminent academics,
including the slavicist J osef L. P, the historian Leopold von Ranke, and one of the
greatest Romance linguists of all time, Wilhelm Meyer-Lbke.

A special note must be placed on a man who had no interest in Roeslers theory
but came up with a significant counter-argument to it nonetheless: Konstantin Jireek.
While undertaking his studies of the region of Dalmatia, Jireek discovered a distinct
cultural divide in the ancient Balkans. Inscriptions, coinage, and ancient milestones all
indicated a strong division of the region into Latin-speaking and Greek-speaking
This line that divides the two regions has come to be known as the Jireek line,
first proposed in 1902, and runs from the Adriatic, through northern Albania, Kosovo,
and across the middle of Bulgaria all the way to the Black Sea. The people north and
west of this line became Romanized and learned to speak Latin, while those south and
east of the divide became Hellenized and spoke Greek.


The conclusion was that the Romanians could only have formed north of this line
and east of Dalmatia, leaving the only possible locations for their origin in northern
Bulgaria (Moesia) and Romania.
While it may be possible that the Romanians formed
only in Moesia, it is highly unlikely. The Danube represented an administrative limit for
the Roman Empire, but it was never an ethnic barrier. Population transfers from the
north to the south and vice-versa were common, some of which have already been
mentioned. Economic and political interactions across the Danube were likewise close
and not always hostile.
Romanization was known to have been most intense north of
the Danube rather than south of it, even before Jireeks publication. The British
historian and diplomat Sir Ignatius Valentine Chirol, who had travelled extensively
throughout the Balkans, provides a summary of such a point:

It must be recollected that the number of Roman colonies established in
the Balkan Peninsula was not considerable; and though through them Latin
obtained as the official language a footing in the country, it may well be
doubted whether their influence was sufficient to Romanize the whole
population of Thrace. There are, in fact, many proofs to the contrary: the
Greek colonies along the shores of the Aegean preserved their nationality
throughout the days of Roman rule; the survival of the old Illyrian tongue
in Albania shows that in that part of the peninsula Roman influences were
never paramount; the fact that many Thracian tribes preserved their
national organization under their own rulers up to the third century also
tends to prove that Thrace was never completely Romanised. On the other
hand, on the northern bank of the Danube, in the province of Dacia Trajan,
the California of the ancients, which attracted colonists from all parts of the
empire, the Roman element must have rapidly acquired a complete
preponderancy, and absorbed the native population.

Modern Hungarian historians have either ignored Jireeks discovery, or have
tried to co-opt it into the Immigrationist Theory by producing increasingly elaborate
narratives on the Romanian migration. Elemr Illys for instance still believed the
Vlachs were Romanized north of this line, but tagged on the statement that the Vlach
shepherds [why always shepherds?] in their wanderings, however, reached areas south
of the J irecek line in an early period.
This migration was, like all the other
hypothetical migrations involved in this theory, completely undocumented. The
historian Seton-Watson had concluded this almost eighty years ago whe he wrote that
there was no complete historic proof for any Vlach migration prior to the fourteenth
These elbarotations are born more out of necessity than out of any discovery,
and are required to keep the Immigrationist Theory afloat in light of the discoveries that
have been made against it.

A brief explanation must nevertheless be made for why the Aromanians
currently reside south of the Jireek Line. We cannot exclude that some Romanized
inhabitants of Moesia migrated south after being displaced by the Slavs, but we cannot
speak of a complete withdrawal of the majority of the Latins south of this line, nor can
we use this as evidence against Romanian continuity in the north. The documentary
evidence simply does not suggest such a migration. Linguistic evidence on the other
hand suggests the separation between Romanian and Aromanian happened at an early
date. The Slavic borrowings in northern Daco-Romanian differ from the Balkan
Romance languages enough that to indicate that the languages separated when the Slavs
arrived in the Balkans, that is to say since the seventh century at the latest.
The Slavic
settlement south of the Danube in that century had essentially broken the unity of proto-
Romanian Latin into the northern Daco-Romanians and the Southern Macedo-
Romanians. The Macedo-Romanians may have been pushed further south, but they were
a people separate from the Romanians already. Some have considered the Slavic
loanwords in Aromanian and Romanian as indicative that the Aromanians had formed
south of the J ireek Line.
It must be pointed out however that this argument relies on
the differences between Aromanian and Romanian, and the origin of the Aromanians
can only be placed south of this line if the Romanians are excluded from the region.
Where we place the Aromanians has little bearing on the Romanians during Late
Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages since by the seventh century they were not even
the same people anymore, assuming they had ever been at all.

Such considerations did not stop Hungarian historians however, who were quick
to champion Roeslers new theory. The man who popularized the theory in Hungary was
Paul Hunfalvy.
Hunfalvy, even more-so than Roesler, was profoundly contemptuous
towards the Romanians. He once even threatened the Romanians in the Hungarian
parliament with the words Don't provoke us to employ towards the other nations the
methods of total extermination employed by the Anglo-Saxons towards the Red Indians
of North America.
That was Hunfalvy on a nice day, and it is not hard to imagine
what he would have said off-record. His bias did not go unnoticed by his peers, as the
historian Rudolf Bergner had pointed out that Hunfalvy no longer speaks as a scientist
accepting the truth but rather as a representative of Magyar chauvinism who excelled in
his blind fury against the Romanians.
Hunfalvys hatred for the Romanians and his
support for Roeslers theory should in any case be treated as more than a coincidence.

Hungarian historians had, up until the nineteenth century, widely admitted that the Romanians
predated them in Transylvania. This ethno-political map of 907 Europe comes from the first
Hungarian encyclopedia (the Pallas Nagy Lexikona), published in 1893, and and clearly places the
Romanians (Vlachok) north of the Danube in this time. Unfortunately, it was among the last
Hungarian publications that admitted this fact.

Numerous other Hungarian historians adopted Roeslers thesis, but their works
were profoundly unscientific in their nature.
Laszlo Rethy for instance claimed that
the Romanians were nomad shepherds from central Italy who then migrated into the
Balkans and only came north of the Danube in the thirteenth century.
J anos
Karacsony, not to be outdone in absurdity, claimed that not only did the Romanians
originate in Italy but they had only migrated into Transylvania in 1526!
J anos Peisker
proposed perhaps the most absurd theory of all, suggesting that the Romanians were
descended from Tatars and Mongolians (!) who had actually moved to northern Bulgaria
first, been Romanized by the locals there, and then moved into Transylvania.
history of the Romanians had thus become a circus of absurdities among the Hungarians,
a classic trait of a theory fueled more by politics than by science. It is hard to imagine
even the most profoundly nationalistic Hungarian author today maintaining that no
Romanians lived in Transylvania until the sixteenth century, or that the Romanians
originate from Central Asia.

All of these theories had one thing in common: they justified Magyar dominance
over the Romanians and presented the Romanians not only as late arrivals but as
culturally inferior as well; it was politically convenient to say the least. The emphasis
was always placed spitefully on the shepherd nature of the Romanians. The deciding
factor in Peiskers conclusions were aptly summarized by his reviewers: [to him] their
language is a secondary fact; their nomadic habits of life are the fundamental fact.
was, like in Sulzers time, not important to resolve the actual home of the Romanians;
even Roesler didnt specify it properly. All that mattered was proving that the
Romanians were late arrivals in Transylvania and to show that the inferiority of their
culture was a timeless factor. These authors figured that the Romanians would have
willingly become Magyars, if only they were shown just how inferior their maternal
culture was in comparison.

They figured incorrectly, of course. The Romanians did not prove receptive to
Magyarization. It was ironically the centuries-long Hungarian persecution of the
Transylvanian Romanians which resulted in the very introverted, conservative
Romanian culture in Transylvania that made their Magyarization so difficult.
high level of illiteracy caused by Hungarian persecution and their exclusion from cities
had protected their nationhood from Magyarization.
Magyarization in schools did not
produce a generation of patriots, but rather created resentful minorities that supported
separatist, national movements of their own.
Portraying the cruel policies of
Magyarization as cultural charity also fooled very few men of note in European politics.

These factors culminated in drastic consequences for the Hungarian kingdom at
the end of World War One. The peace treaty of Trianon signed between the Entente and
the Kingdom of Hungary in 1920 saw the dismemberment of the state, and with it, the
end of centuries-long Hungarian domination of the Transylvanian Romanians. Greater
Hungary ceased to exist, Transylvania became a part of Romania, and by all accounts
Roeslers theory should have become politically useless as a consequence. It should
have ceased to find support in both in Hungary and abroad. Unfortunately, it did not, and
a debate which belonged in the nineteenth century continues to dominate Hungarian-
Romanian historical discourse.


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Indo-European Studies, Vol. 15. Washington, DC, USA : J ournal for Indo-European Studies
1987. p. 240.

[113] Boia, Lucian. History and Myth in Romanian Consciusness. Budapest : Central European
University Press, 2001. p. 118.

[114] Du Nay, Andre. The Daco-Rumanian Theory of Continuity: Origins of the Rumanian Nation
and Language. ed. Kazar, Lajos et al. Facts against fiction: Transylvania-Wallachian/Rumanian
homeland since 70 B.C.?. Chester Hill, N.S.W., Australia : Forum of History, 1993. p. 24-36.

[115] Densusianu, Ovidiu. Histoire de la Langue Roumaine, volume 1. Paris, France : Macon &
Protat, 1901. p. 289.

[116] Brezeanu, 1984. p. 78.

[117] Densusianu, 1901. p. 306.

[118] Xenopol, Alexandru D. Teoria lui Roesler: Studii asupra staruintei romanilor in Dacia
Traiana. Iasi, Romania : 1884 (reprint Bucharest, Romania : Albatros, 1998). pp. 22-23.

[119] Idem. pp. 38-39.

[120] Idem. p. 49. My own translation.

[121] J ung, J ulius. Rmer und Romanen in der Donaulandern. Innsbruck, Germany : Historisch-
ethnographische Studien, 1878. pp. 238-239, 273-274, 312-314.

[122] Stoicescu, Nicolae. O fals problem istoric: discontinuitatea poporului romn pe teritoriul
strmoesc. Bucharest, Romania : Editura Fundatiei Culturale Romane, 1993. p. 35.

[123] Brezeanu, 1984. p. 80.

[124] Stoianovich, Traian. Balkan Worlds: the First and Last Europe. Armonk, NY, USA : Sharpe,
1994. p. 129.

[125] Idem. p. 123.

[126] Friedman, Victor A. Linguistics, Nationalism, and Literary Languages: A Balkan
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[127] Fletcher, Richard A. The Barbarian Conversion: from Paganism to Christianity. Berkeley,
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[128] Chirol, Ignatius V. 'Twixt Greek and Turk, or, Jottings during a journey through Thessaly,
Macedonia, and Epirus. London, UK ; Edinburgh, UK : William Blackwood and Sons, 1881. pp.

[129] Illys, 1988. p. ??

[130] Seton-Watson, 1934. p. 13.

[131] Nandri, Grigore. The Earliest Contacts between Slavs and Roumanians. The Slavonic and
East European Review, Vol. 18, No. 52 (J ul., 1939). London, UK : Maney, 1939. p. 152.

[132] Sobolev, Andrej N. On the Importance of Borrowing in the Languages of the Balkan
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Frank & Timme, 2008. p. 97.

[133] Bucur, Ioan-Marius and Costea, Ionu. Transylvania between Two National Historiographies.
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Identities in Europe. Pisa, Italy : Plus-Pisa University Press, 2009. p. 278.

[134] Seton-Watson, Robert W. IV. Transylvania since 1867. The Slavonic Review, Vol. 4, No.
10 (Jun., 1925). p. 102.

[135] Bergner, Rudolf. Siebenbrgen: eine Darstellung des Landes und der Leute. Leipzig,
Germany : Hermann Brudner, 1884. p. 246.

[136] Brezeanu, 1984. p. 74.

[137] Rthy, Lszl. Daco-Roumains ou Italo-Roumains? tudes historiques et
philologiques.Budapest, Hungary : 1984. p

[138] Karacsonyi, Johann. Die Ansiedlung der Rumnen auf dem linken Donauufer. Kolozsvar,
Austro-Hungary : 1912.

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untersucht The English Historical Review, Vol. 35, No. 140 (Oct., 1920). Oxford, UK :
Oxford University Press, 1920. p. 615.

[141] Livezeanu, Irina. Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building, &
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[142] Hitchins, Keith. The Romanians: 1866-1947. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1994. p. 233.

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Roeslers theory, one born out of political considerations, should have perished
once it became politically useless. Even if the theory could somehow have justified
Magyar domination of the Romanians, that situation was no longer practical since
Romania now controlled Transylvania. The Romanians of Transylvania did not
suddenly become educated or urbanized due to this turn of events, but the Romanian
governments backing greatly accelerated both processes. Hungarian administrators
were dismissed en masse and Romanians were installed in their place.
Though some
have argued that this was the result of anti-Hungarian policies pursued by the Romanian
government, this is not entirely true. In fact, the dramatic nature of this change was
caused by the absence of the Romanians in Transylvanias administration to begin with.
Though the Romanians formed around 60 percent of the population of Transylvania,
only 6 percent of the officials from the region were Romanian by birth, and they always
occupied the lower positions of office. No Romanian had been appointed to the office of
High Sheriff (governor) in any county since 1870.
This was an unsustainable situation,
and attempting to justify this inequality to a Romanian-controlled central government by
using Roeslers theory was a fruitless endeavor. Similarly, it proved impossible to
continue the policy of forced Magyarization upon the Romanians once they had
separated from Hungary, so Roeslers theory could not be used in that regard either.

Yet, in spite of this, the debate around the continuity of the Romanians persisted,
due to a variety of reasons. Firstly, in spite of its political nature, Roeslers theory had
brought to light some considerations on Romanian continuity, none of which could
decisively disprove continuity, but all of which needed to be explained. His thesis was
logically unsound, and his conclusion can no longer be accepted in the light of modern
research, but the facts he had highlighted in order to reach that conclusion were in many
cases real and prompted further study into the field both by Romanians and by foreign
specialists. The political aspects of the debate tended to die off among third-party (non-
Hungarian and non-Romanian) historians.

The main reason as to why Roeslers theory was kept alive among Hungarian
historians was because it had been adapted to serve a new political purpose: to justify
Magyar territorial irredenta. It is almost impossible to understand the effect Trianon had
on Hungarian society and politics. Flags were flown at half-mast throughout Hungary
for the eighteen years that followed the treaty. Revisionism of the treaty and
reacquisition of the lost territories became a staple goal for an entire generation of
lawmakers, politicians, and of course, historians.
This single goal would dominate
politics for the next twenty years, and still has strong reverberations even today.

The Hungarian nationalists and policy makers of Dualist Hungary had, in some
respects, succeeded in their goals. They desired to transform Hungary from a multi-
ethnic empire into a homogenous Magyar nation-state. The Treaty of Trianon was a
rather ironic punishment in this regard, since the much smaller Hungary which remained
was ethnically homogenous. Only nine percent of Hungarys 7.6 million inhabitants
were non-Magyars in the post-Trianon borders, whereas the percentage of non-Magyars
in pre-Trianon Hungary of 1910 reached 51 percent.
It is doubtful that this mission
accomplished gave any solace to the Hungarian politicians who witnessed the
dissolution of their empire and left Hungary cornered by the larger, more powerful states
of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and Romania.

Given that Magyarization had not produced Magyar patriots out of the minorities,
but rather virulent separatists, it might have seemed logical to conclude that a Hungary
more tolerant to minorities would have weathered the storm better. Unfortunately,
internal policy rarely displays this level of rationality. Instead, the exact opposite lesson
was drawn by the Hungarians: Hungarys failure was not its oppression of the minorities
or its Magyarization policies, but rather, its inability to pursue the policies of ethnic
cleansing (and it was just that, for any reader wondering if such words are warranted)
with sufficient vigor. It was believed that a more intense policy of Magyarization might
have resulted in an ethnically homogenous country that could have prevented the
Trianon catastrophe.

An ethnic map of Austro-Hungary dating from 1892. The map explains why Hungary lost so much
of its lands after World War One, namely because the Hungarian kingdom was not all that
Hungarian ethnically.

Hungarians became even more resolute in their xenophobia, to the tragic fate of
Hungarys remaining minorities. The most significant of these were the J ews and the
Germans, people who had readily accepted Magyarization and joined the Hungarian
The J ews in particular were seen by nationalists in pre-Trianon Hungary as part
of the solution to the minority problem and a model for Magyarization. J ews became
part of the minority problem, sometimes the problem, in post-Trianon Hungary.
results were disasterous; by the end of World War Two neither of these minorities
existed in considerable numbers in Hungary. Over 437,000 Hungarian J ews had
perished in the Holocaust, with the full cooperation of the Szalasi-run Hungarian
Roughly 240,000 Germans, many of whom had lived in Hungary for
generations, were expelled from Hungary at the end of the war under the Potsdam
There was of course, considerable Nazi and Soviet backing for these two
respective ethnic cleansings, but the fate of Hungarys J ews in particular was decided by
Hungarian anti-Semitism developed after World War One.


The second lesson Hungarians took from Trianon was that Hungary had failed on
the PR front. In this sense they were overwhelmingly correct, and the case of the
English-speaking world is most indicative. The British had a profound, almost irrational
sympathy for Hungarians in the late nineteenth century.
English correspondents and
politicians had come to Hungary with a strongly positive bias, but even this was
gradually eroded by the growing awareness of the Magyarization policy. Robert Seton-
Watson and Henry Wickham Steed are two prolific examples of this new trend, since
they both were against national self-determination in Hungary at first but had become
sympathizers of the minorities after witnessing the policies of Magyarization.
H. W.
Steed had spoken very generously of the Hungarians in 1905 when he stated my friends
the Magyars who, after all, have a certain sense for progress and liberalism as we
understand it.
His perspective changed significantly after having witnessed the much-
vaunted Magyar liberalism. In his work The Habsburg Monarchy, published in 1914,
he stated in no uncertain terms that:

From the standpoint of the internal cohesion of the Monarchy, the Magyar
State has acted as a repellent force, powerless for good, powerful for evil;
and, pending proof to the contrary, students of Hapsburg affairs are
constrained to regard the Magyars rather as a liability than as an asset of
the Crown. The instinct of selfpreservation might perhaps work a miracle at
the twelfth hour had not the present generation of Magyars been so steeped
in chauvinism as to have lost all sense of their real position in Europe

The remedy, in the eyes of Hungarian historians, was simple: prove the injustice
of Trianon and win back the foreign observers. To do this, the Magyars launched a vast
propaganda campaign setting up various historical research institutes in numerous
European capitals, in the hopes that international public opinion would believe the
Treaty of Trianon was unjust.
Science became submerged by politics as Hungarian
historians tried to paint a caricature of Hungarian and Balkan history, and it is precisely
from this goal that the Immigrationist Theory became relevant again. The principle was
to create a contrast between the Hungarians as representatives of European civilization,
and the Romanians and Slavs who represented Balkan barbarism. Transylvania was
presented as a citadel of this European civilization which had been surrendered to the
Balkan savages.
In their eyes the Romanians should actually have been grateful for
the civilization that was bestowed upon them by the Magyars.

Unfortunately this argument continues to enjoy substantial popularity among
Hungarian historians. The idea that the Romanians owe their civilization to the
Hungarians was widely published in the late twentieth century, especially by the
Hungarian diaspora. Phrases akin to primitive Wallach serfs
became all-too-common
and some concrete examples were used to substantiate the point. It was for instance
argued that the uncultured Vlachs, instead of being assimilated or oppressed, received
their first Bible translations from the Hungarian [people].
Endre Harasztis work The
Ethnic History of Transylvania (1971) provides the clearest example of such an
argument, where he stated:

The Transylvanian Vlach peasant and shepherd did not wish to imitate his
Magyar or Saxon neighbours although the Anjou kings offered them
opportunities for this. Nevertheless, in the light of the brilliant Kingdom,
they gradually transformed themselves. Their life-standard, their homes,
Greek-Orthodox churches, their personal looks became bette[r], more

This pressed forward the issue of why the Romanians had become serfs in
Transylvania, given all of this Magyar generosity. Hungarian historians had naturally
concluded that only the Romanians could be held accountable for their own plight.
Though the Magyars had tried to civilize them, the Romanians had either refused
civilization and remained some sort of Balkanic community in the heart of
or had, in the words of Anthony Endrey, remained uncivilized out of
their own incompetence.

They were just culturally too primitive and socially too
underdeveloped to assume responsibility for themselves and the political structures
granted to them by the kings of Hungary soon disintegrated.
Even academic works
written by Hungarian authors and published by Western institutions express this
sentiment. Istvan Vasary, in a book published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press,
stated that The Balkans have yet to find the key and meaning of their historical
existence and to decide whether they want to belong to the mainstream of European
development or to insist on their Byzantine and Ottoman autocratic traditions.
message is clear: the Romanians had chosen to remain backward and refuse Hungarys
civilizing light. Blaming the victims it seems, is always in vogue.
There are a multitude of problems with such an idea, and it is tragic enough that
it has remained in force for so long. Not only is the argument downright racist or at
least it would be were the Romanians not white but factually incorrect as well. It is
similar to the early twentieth century concept of the White Mans Burden, which
turned European imperialism and colonialism of the nineteenth century into a noble
duty of diffusing the benefits of civilization amongst the lesser races.
The culturally
deficient subordinates should have felt honored to receive civilization from their
superiors, even if this civilization came in the form of slave labor and oppression. The
difference is that while such sentiments are no longer seen as socially acceptable in
Western Europe, the Hungarian Mans Burden is still a valid concept in Hungary.

Hungarian loanwords in the Romanian language were used to substantiate this
idea of civilizing Magyars. One example frequently used by Hungarian historians is
the Romanian word ora for city, assumed to be derived from the Hungarian
It was claimed that The fact that the Wallachians / Vlachs / Roumanians,
who had migrated north of the Danube had borrowed Old Hungarian waras town along

One would wonder why only the Transylvanian Romanians were heirs to this apparent incompetence in
administration given Moldavia and Wallachia managed to survive as territorial entities that were
populated and run by Romanians. Not only did Wallachia and Moldavia not collapse under their own
weight due to the primitive nature of their Romanian inhabitants, but they proved able enough to resist
the onslaught of the much larger Hungarian, Ottoman, and Polish states that surrounded them.
with masses of Hungarian words pertaining to a relatively high level of societal life,
proves once more the hollowness of the Daco-Roman continuity theory.
In essence,
since the Romans were (according to the same source) famous far and wide for their
ability to build magnificent towns, and the Romanians appear to have re-learned
urbanity from the Hungarians, it was clear the Romanians were not descendants of the

This is, to say the least, a very ironic argument since it works against an
Immigrationist Theory. Firstly it must be pointed out that, much to the chagrin of these
authors, regardless of where one places them the Romanians still descend from Roman
colonists. The language is evidence enough for this. Secondly, the Balkans are home to
several large Roman cities that had survived since antiquity, many in close proximity to
the supposed homeland of the Vlachs. Such cities included Naissus (Ni), Scopium
(Skopje), Thessalonica, and the famed queen of cities, Constantinople (Istanbul). The
Romanian word for city should either have been preserved from Latin or come from
Greek had the Romanians formed south of the Danube. The Aromanians for instance use
the Greek-derived term poli when referring to cities, but the word is indicatively absent
in Romanian. However, things become a lot clearer if the Romanians formed in Dacia:
urban life had largely disappeared in the province in the fifth century with the arrival of
the Huns.
The loss of the Latin term and absence of a Greek term for city becomes
readily explainable if one admits the Romanians continued to reside in the ruralized,
former Roman province.
The word would simply have fallen out of use with the end
of urban life.

All things considered, Hungarian interference did not produce a civilizing
effect on the Romanians but rather stunted their social development. Instead of the
supposed political structures granted to them by the kings of Hungary, the Hungarian
crown in reality caused the dissolution of the Romanian nobility. The case of the states
mentioned in the Gesta Hungarorum, which were dissolved or incorporated into the
Magyar aristocratic system, provide a prime example. Those states had been dismantled
in the ninth or tenth centuries, and it would only be three centuries later until one could
safely identify Romanian political entities again. Such entetities were indicated in the
aforementioned J oanite Diploma, but all of them were on the margins of the Hungarian
kingdom, outside of direct Hungarian influence.
Even if we disregard the Gesta
Hungarorum, we know Hungarian interference continued to have a retarding effect on
Romanian statal development. When the same Litovoi mentioned in the J oanite Diploma
rebelled in 1273, likely an attempt at becoming independent, the Hungarian crown
struck back decisively. Litovoi was killed, his brother Barbat taken prisoner and only
returned on the throne after paying a large ransom and accepting to continue paying
How long Barbat continued to reign for is uncertain since no mention is made
of a Romanian state in the area afterwards until 1324.
If the Hungarian king had not
reconsidered and dissolved his state outright, it is likely that it was at the least greatly
weakened. It was only with the internal chaos caused by the fall of the Arpad dynasty as
well as the Tatar raids of 1285-1293 that the Romanians would be able to establish their
own state, Wallachia, at the turn of the thirteenth century.

The Romanians inside Transylvania fared no better as the Hungarian crown had
a disastrous effect on the Romanian possessions and the knezial system. The Romanian
nobles, at least the those which had not merged with the Hungarian nobility, were
simply dispossessed, despoiled eventually of their land, reduced to utter poverty and
even to servitude.
Papal documents from the fourteenth century indicate that a
Catholic noble family, with the aid of the Hungarian crown, managed to conquer the
fortress of Media (NW Transylvania) from the hands of the schismatic Vlachs (de
manibus Vallachorum (et) schismaticorum), the conquest likely occurring between 1204
and 1215.
Marginalization is noted in the very first Hungarian documents regarding
Transylvanias Romanians. King Andrew II of Hungary had issued a charter in 1222 that
granted the Teutonic Knights the right not to pay customs when travelling through the
Szeckler counties or the Vlach land (terra Blacorum), located in southern
Economical marginalization was shortly followed up by expropriation.
In 1223 King Andrew II made a donation of land to the monastery of Cra, land that
had been taken from the Vlachs (erram quam prius eidem monasterio contuleramus
exemptam de Blaccis).

As an aside, Hungarian historians use these texts as evidence that the Vlachs had
arrived in Transylvania in the thirteenth century,
but this is in contradiction to the
actual content of the documents. None of them refer to Vlachs settling in Transylvania
and yet all the documents indicate that Vlachs were proprietors of lands which could
easily be identified by their ethnic character. This indicates that the Vlachs were residing
in these regions much earlier than when these documents were written, most likely for as
long as anyone could remember. Such a conclusion is corroborated by the Hungarian
chroniclers like Anonymous and Simon de Keza who gave the Vlachs chronological
precedence in Transylvania. The written evidence both directly and indirectly indicates
that the Romanian presence in Transylvania predated the Magyar arrival, even in
Northwestern Transylvania.

The pressure on the Romanians grew throughout the centuries, their gradual
decline in social status being noticeable through several key documents in
Transylvanias history. In 1234 King Bela IV swore an oath to Pope Gregory IX that he
would do everything in his power to subdue the heretics and root out the false
Christians of our country (falsos christianos de terris nostris bona fide studebimus pro
viribus extirpare),
undoubtedly a reference to the Romanians and other Orthodox
Christians. The Decree of Turda, issued in 1366 by Louis I of Hungary, officially stated
that the knezes of the Romanians were to be lowered to the status of commoners, save
for the few whose rights were conferred by royal charters. In addition, the Hungarian
nobles were to show special hospitality by reserving the right to remove/exterminate
from this country malefactors belonging to any nation, especially Romanians (ad
exterminandum seu delendum de ipsa terra malefactores quarumlibet nationum,
signanter Olachorum).
The Romanians were soon formally and completely excluded
from Transylvanian politics by grace of the Unio Trium Nationum (Union of Three
Nations), a military alliance established in 1437 between the Hungarian, Saxon, and
Szeckler ruling elites.
By the time the Approved Constitution of Transylvania was
written in 1635 the status of the Romanians had deteriorated so badly that their very
presence in Transylvania was merely tolerated, the constitution stating that the
Vlachs of the Greek [Orthodox] rite are temporarily allowed to stay in the country as
long as this is agreeable to the princes and inhabitants of the country (Valachi vel
Graeci ritus, qui pro tempore usque ad beneplacitum Pricipum et Regnicolarum
So long as they could be used for cheap labor they could stay, but their
subordinate position was strictly enforced.

Even this cursory glance at Transylvanian history indicates that the status of the
Romanians had deteriorated not out of their own blundering but rather due to specific
policies employed by the Hungarian crown. The Romanians were being driven down
Transylvanias social pyramid or out of Transylvania in general, their positions to be
taken up by more loyal, Catholic colonists. This conclusion did not escape foreign
commentators on Hungarys history, as an article in the 1863 London Quarterly Review

The degeneracy of this people [the Romanians] is attributable to
prolonged Magyar tyranny, which kept them for centuries in a state of
abject helotry. A Rouman [Romanian] was obliged to wear sandals instead
of shoes; he was not permitted to wear an embroidered coat or a hat; his
house was not to be furnished with windows that looked into the street, nor
was it allowed to be constructed with a chimney. Much has been done of
late by the Austrian Government to elevate this long-depressed people.

The Immigrationist Theory needed to explain away a demographic conundrum as
well: when and by what means had the Romanians become the majority of
Transylvanias population? The number of Romanians in Transylvania must have
already been significant in the thirteenth century, since the Romanian principalities of
Moldavia and Wallachia were founded by Romanian emigrants from Transylvania
around 1290 and 1345. The Romanian population in Transylvania must have been
sufficiently large to repopulate Wallachia and Moldavia after the Mongol devastation of
the thirteenth century, such that those regions gained a distinct Romanian character.
seems plausible that the Romanians were about two-thirds of Transylvanias population
in 1241, just prior to the Mongol Invasion.
A Romanian majority in Transylvania in
the thirteenth century obviously made any claim that the Romanians had arrived only a
few decades prior an absurdity.

It was all too predictable that Hungarian historians tried to minimize the
historical demographic presence of the Romanians, as well as to present the growth of
the Romanian population as more gradual. Various historical documents were
manipulated in this regard, the example involving Anton Verantiuss words being
highlighted in previous chapters. Another example involves the use of papal [Catholic]
tithes to approximate populations. The ratio of names recorded on tithe registers could,
supposedly, be used to approximate the ethnic makeup of the entire province.
Supposedly the small number of the Vlach population was shown on the papal tithing
lists of between 1332 and 1337 [showing that] in all of Transylvania 310,000
Hungarian and Szekely catholics, 21,000 catholic Saxons, and 18,000 orthodox [actually
Catholic] Vlachs were manifest.
It all makes perfect sense until one realizes that most
Romanians, being Orthodox Christians, did not pay tithes to the Catholic church.

Those present on the thithe listings must have belonged to the far less numerous
Catholic Romanians, and therefore these documents do not represent the entire
Romanian population. If even as much as ten percent of the Romanians were Catholic,
this leaves a massive body of Romanians in Transylvania which easily discredits any
notion that they had arrived only a century prior to Transylvania.

Similar manipulation was performed on more recent documents, as happened to
a Romanian Uniate Church document from 1701. Istvan Bethlen pointed out that
according to this document in Transylvania, one-fourth of the population, amounting to
about 800,000 souls, was Rumanian at the time [i.e. 200,000 Romanians].
document, therefore, would have served as indisputable proof that a massive wave of
Romanian immigration occurred, whereby Transylvania gained a majority Romanian
population. This is a balatant lie in all aspects. Firstly, the document does not mention
Transylvanias total population, but we will leave it at 800,000 for the sake of the
argument (it was most likely lower than this). Secondly, the document does not speak
for all of the Romanians, but rather only mentions that at least 200,000 Romanians
converted to the Uniate (Greek Catholic) faith (totamque Ecclesiam Nostram, per
Transylvaniam diffusam, quae ad minimum 200,000 animum numerat).
we know that only a minority of Transylvanias Romanians had accepted the Union with
meaning that one would have to at least double, and most likely triple, the
200,000 to reach the true Romanian population. Therefore, the document proves the
exact opposite of Bethlens conclusion: the Romanians in 1700 represented over half of
Transylvanias population! An official, religious-based census conducted in 1733 in
Transylvania confirms this, as it recorded 677,308 members of the Romanian faiths
(Greek Orthodox and United) representing 63.5% of the population.

It seems clear however the Romanians formed the majority of Transylvanias
population by the mid-16
century at the latest,
regardless of what one makes of
Transylvanias ethnic composition prior to this time. If the Immigrationist Theory were
correct, then there must be some explanation for this turn of events. What were the
circumstances that could have allowed the Romanians to numerically overtake the

One explanation came in the argument that Romanian immigration into
Transylvania had continued and even accelerated after the thirteenth century. A heavy
influx from among the Romanian mountain shepherd tribes
has become the staple
argument from Hungarian historians. Similarly, in the sixteenth century a massive
migration of Rumanians continued from the Rumanian principalities (Wallachia,
Moldavia) because of extreme social oppression and the uncertain political situation
This migration continued up until the eighteenth century, when the Romanians
flooded Transylvania and the eastern parts of the Hungarian Plain.
Thus the
Romanians finally became a majority in the 18
century due to continuous immigration.
Of course, the fact that the 18
century is the first time when the first official and
reliable censuses are made in Transylvania is (they would assure us) just a matter of
coincidence. The Romanians therefore do not deserve Transylvania since they just
lucked out in having a Romanian majority in Transylvania by the time the Treaty of
Trianon was signed.

There are significant problems with such an argument, the first of which being
that Wallachia and Moldavia were always less populous than Transylvania. It was
estimated that mid-fourteenth century Wallachia had a population of 500,000; Moldavia
of 400,000 (though some have argued as low as 84,000); and Transylvania had an
overwhelming 900,000 inhabitants. Constant warfare had reduced the populations of the
principalities, while the overall population of Transylvania continued to grow. By the
early sixteenth century, Wallachias population had been reduced to 300,000-400,000;
Moldavias roughly 300,000 as well. A census in Moldavia in 1591 recorded 46,860
families, which, if we plug in five people per family, results in only 234,300 inhabitans.
By the eighteenth century Wallachia was inhabited by only 800,000 people, Moldavia
had 500,000 inhabitants, while Transylvanias population, well-protected by the other
two principalities and by the Habsburg army, had grown to roughly 2,000,000.
counter-argument is an obvious one: even if all of Wallachias and Moldavias
Romanians moved to Transylvania, they still would not have been enough to create a
Romanian majority in the region.

The second problem for such an argument involves the abundance of evidence
and documentation for a Romanian exodus from Transylvania starting from the very
earliest of dates. The Cantacuzino Chronicle by Stoica Ludescu, Wallachias first
chronicle, mentions that in the year 1290 there was a voievod in Transylvania that was
called Radu the Black Voievod, who rose up from there with his whole house and a
great mass of men: Romanians, papists, Saxons crossed towards the Dambovita [in
Wallachia] and began founding a new country.
Moldavia was likewise founded by a
Romanian noble originally from Transylvania, called Bogdan. The Hungarian chronicler
Thuroczy stated that Bogdan, the voievod of the Romanians from Maramure, lead his
Romanians from that region, to the lands of Moldavia which had been depopulated
due to the nearby Tatars.
The fourteenth century saw the acceleration of Romanian
flight from the region, largely due to economic pressure but also since the Anjou
Dynasty was hell-bent on Catholic proselytism.
Religious persecutions continued to
force an exodus of Romanians from Transylvania; Hussites of varying ethnicities as well
as Orthodox Christian Romanians continued to flee to Moldavia throughout the fifteenth
In 1692 the Transylvanian Diet (government) notified Leopold I that they
were having trouble stemming the flow of Romanians to Wallachia and Moldavia.

Similarly, the German ambassador to Transylvania, Diez, wrote that over 24,000
families (that is to say: about 120,000 Romanians) had fled from Transylvania in 1764
(only one year), gone to settle in Wallachia and Moldavia.
Social oppression was not
a motivator for Romanian flight to Transylvania, but rather for a Romanian exodus from
it. The eye-witness testimony of the Habsburg General Preiss in the late eighteeth
century leaves no doubt in this regard:

Unfortunately, a large number of Romanians from Transylvania emigrate
to Wallachia and Moldavia every year. But it is quite seldom that one may
see Romanians emigrating from those countries to Transylvania. The
reason for it is easily found if one considers the fact that the former
Romanian Prince Constantin Mavrocordat did away with serfdom. The
Romanians do only moderate unpaid work for their masters and what they
have to pay every year is again a moderate sum of money. The result of all
this is the fact that, if they are not ravaged by war and invading enemies,
these two neighbouring countries have a plentiful life; by the industrious,
but not exhaustive cultivation of land, the generous nature offers plenty of
rich products; the peasant is content and always in high spirits; he works
for his own good and, knowing it, he becomes quite productive and,
therefore, has not the slightest intention to emigrate.

One would be hard-pressed to prove the proportion of Romanians in
Transylvania increased by immigration. At most, one can speak of a population
exchange across the Carpathians, but it was always the less populous Wallachia and
Moldavia that were the net-beneficiaries.

A variety of smaller but no less fundamental problems also plague this theory.
Firstly, it seems hard to believe that Romanians would have migrated to a region where
they would have been, by all accounts, socially and economically oppressed, brutalized,
and enserfed.
Furthermore, the Ottoman conquest of the Hungarian kingdom resulted
in a large flight of Hungarians from Central Hungary to Transylvania,
one which
would surely have counter-balanced any Romanian immigration. Furthermore, the
outright absence of documentation for Romanian settlement in Transylvania is shocking,
given the claim that their [the Romanians] arrival in great numbers was the outcome of
a deliberate settlement policy on the part of the monarch and the local landowners.
How could it be explained that none of these landowners, not even the king himself, had
bothered to write of this colonization? True, there are documents mentioning the
Romanians in Transylvania in the 13
century but none of them mention immigration,
settlement, or colonization. Romanian immigration is therefore just an assumption, the
equivalent of saying they must have come from somewhere. It is telling enough that
this supposed Romanian demographic takeover of Transylvania had rather conveniently
been completed by the time reliable census data became available, in the 18

Since immigration was not a convincing explanation for the Romanian majority
in Transylvania, Hungarian historians looked for other reasons for this incredible
population growth. The most frequent explanation was that the Romanians had been
shielded from the harsh realities of war at the expense of the Hungarians. It was argued
that the Magyars died on the battlefields, or were exterminated during the Mongol
Conquest. The Wallachians hid themselves well; reappeared after the danger, and
invited new groups of their nationality from Wallachia and Moldavia.
Thus, the
Romanians, masters of subterfuge, had not only entered Transylvania so stealthily that
no one noticed their arrival, but they had also managed to evade all the Mongol and
Turkish invaders. This contrast of brave Hungarian warriors and elusive Romanians
persists even in recent literature, as an article by Laszlo Hollo in 2007 argued that:

the Romanians who immigrated to Transylvania belonged to the mass of
outcast peasants who did not contribute to defending the land. Therefore
they were not included in the alliance of the three Transylvanian nations
(Hungarians, Szecklers, Saxons) founded in 1437. It was the Hungarians,
together with the Transylvania Saxons, who defended Transylvania from
enemy attacks and paid a high price in blood, while the Romanians
contributed practically nothing to military defense for a century.

The only, small problem with Hollos assertion is that it is incorrect. While the
idea of Romanian shepherd secret agents may be fitting of a J ames Bond movie, it is one
not worthy of history books. Ironically, the very first mention of Romanians in
Hungarian documents portrays them as warriors in the Hungarian army. In 1210 the
Count of Sibiu, J oachim, was recorded as leading an army of Saxons, Romanians,

and Pechenegs (associatis sibi Saxonibus, Olacis, Siculis, et Bissenis) in
order to liberate the city of Vidin.
Romanians were recorded in 1260 fighting as far
away as Bohemia, where the Romanians were among the inhuman men who formed
the auxiliaries of the Hungarian kings army (innumeram multitudinem inhumanorum
hominum... Sclauorum, Siculorum quoqoe et Valachorum ).

The Mongol invasion of 1241 did not spare the Romanians, who engaged the
Mongols in several battles. One wing of the Mongol army was sent around the southern
Carpathians, with the mission of aniihilating the Romanian polities in that area. The first
confrontation occured in Wallachia where it was recorded by the Persian writer Rashed-
od-Din that the Black Vlachs

(Kara Ulagh), under their leader Mishelav, had
resisted the Mongols but were defeated and crushed in the ensuing battle. The resistance
and resulting defeat of the Christians in Wallachia and Moldavia is also mentioned by
the chronicler Rogerius, who however foregoes mentioning specific ethnicities.
Romanians can next be seen in the chronicles of Marino Sanudo and J ean de Ypres,
where they are noted as trying to seal off the mountain passes of the Carpathians but,
sadly, to no avail.

Finally the Hungarian king Bela IV decided to step into the arena, leading a
massive army of knights to the region of Mohi in order to face the invaders. This army
was undoubtedly joined by Romanians in its Transylvanian contingents.
Bela of course,
decided to do the chivalrous (read: stupid) thing and make his forces plainly visible to
the Mongols, who used terrain and tactics to funnel the Hungarians into nearby swamps

Incidentally, this is the first document to mention not only the Romanians but also the Szecklers.
Hungarian historians have an invariable double-standard when it comes to interpreting this document.
While they consider the fact that this is the first mention of Romanians as proof that the Romanians had
only arrived in Transylvania shortly prior to its writing, they do not make the same argument for the
Szecklers. It makes one wonder: why should the argument from silence only be applicable when it is
Before one delves into Afrocentrism, it should be noted that the term black refers most likely to the
status of the Romanians as vassals (Epure, 2004. p. 17). The Romanians living in Wallachia were
undoubtedly under Mongol yoke by the time Rashed-od-Din wrote this work, and thus the description
would be very apt. Another possibility is that black is a reference to cardinal directions, as black is the
equivalent North in Turkic cultures. If that is the case, then we are speaking of the Northern Vlachs.
were they were summarily riddled with arrows. The Romanians seem to have decided
third times the charm as they are recorded once again fighting the Mongols during
their retreat from Hungary in 1242 and, if we are to believe the words of Philippe
Mousket, the king of the Vlachs

defeated the Mongols at the passes (Que li rois de la
tiere as Blas / Les ot descomfis a l pas).
A second Mongol invasion, in 1285,
ultimately failed as it met with stiff resistance from the Romanians and Szecklers, who
had managed to seal off the mountain passes (Olaci et Siculi, qui prope illos Zipheos
montes vel silvas Hungariae inhabitant, passus illos sic clauserunt, ut amplius Tartari
per eos transire non possent).
The Romanians defense of Transylvania continued to
throughout the fourteenth century.

The Romanians were also much-noted participants in the struggle against the
Ottomans. Firstly, the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia served as buffer regions
and defenders of the Kingdom of Hungary. Furthermore, Transylvanian Romanians
repeatedly won renown themselves in the wars against the Ottomans. Numerous
Romanian families were ennobled in the fifteenth century as a result of the anti-Ottoman
The most famous of these Romanian nobles was J ohn Hunyadi, who would
eventually become the Regent of Hungary. Perhaps the most famous general in
Hungarian history, Hunyadi was perceived by his contemporaries not only as the leader
of the Hungarians but also of his own people, the Romanians. It is no coincidence that
the Romanian nobility experienced great social mobility throughout this period, as a
result of their outstanding military contributions.
The account of J ehann de Wawrin is
an important source on the Romanians fighting under the banner of Hunyadi in order to
face the Ottomans:

The Grand Turk [the Ottoman Sultan] assembled a huge army numbering
a hundred thousand men commanded and led by Beirlabey. With this great
army he crossed the River Danube and entered Wallachia. When the
Vlachs knew that it had come, they assembled as many men as they could
and appointed a captain called J ohannes de Hognac [J ohn Hunyadi], a great
lord of that realm whose domains were in Transylvania, stretching between
Hungary and Wallachia.

The Romanian nation had certainly by this time earned renown as a warrior
nation, as Pope Pius II, a contemporary of J ohn, stated that J ohns Dacian (i.e.
Romanian) ancestry was evidenced by his military valor.
Some Hungarian
contemporaries of the time even regarded Transylvanias army as a predominantly
Romanian institution.
Though the Romanians were the majority of Transylvanias

It must be noted that the identity of this supposed king is still debatable but much evidence suggests
he is the Emperor of Bulgaria. Dimitri Korobeinikov noted in his article The Kipak World in the
Thirteenth Century that the chronicle of Mousket matches an Arab description of the Emperor of
Bulgaria as the king of Vlachia (malik awalaq). There are some historians (Pop, 1996. p. 163) that doubt
this interpretation, especially due to the geographical description, and believe Mousket is writing of a
Romanian kneaz in the Carpathians. Whatever the case may be, Mouskets source is yet another document
which illustrates that the Romanians did not hide themselves well but rather fought the Mongols both
north and south of the Danube.
population, they were overrepresented in the army as well.J oining the Transylvanian
army was a popular method, alongside emigration, by which one could escape serfdom.
One of the most violent Romanian peasant revolts in Transylvanian history, the revolt of
Horea in 1784, was caused by Emperor Leopold I abolishing such voluntary military

It seems evident then that the Romanians were not protected at the expense of
the Hungarians but rather are noted as warriors, ever-ready to join armies and
campaigns. Even war proved more appealing to the Romanians than their miserable
existence on the lowest rung of Transylvanias social ladder. Far from being protected
from invasions as shepherds in the foothills, the Romanians were noted by chroniclers
such as Marino Sanudo and Rashed-od-Din as being the first to fight, the vanguard of
Transylvanias defense, and as the gate-keepers of the Carpathians. It is clear that
warfare could not have worked to the demographic advantage of such a people.

Lastly we should mention a meta-argument, one not against Romanian continuity
per se, but rather an attack on the Daco-Roman theory itself, and particularly its
development. The attempt was made to discredit the Daco-Roman theory by presenting
it as an invention of Romanian nationalists in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. The
claim was that in the nineteenth century, in the Age of Romanticism, the myth of the
Daco-Roman origin of the Romanians was created.
The theory had simply been
invented for political gain, as Rumanian [sic

] nationalism was fueled by a relatively
new historical theory
which was used to justify their demands for equal rights. Who
were the masterminds behind this intrepid conspiracy? The title is always reserved by
the Transylvanian School, the leaders of Transylvanias Romanian intellectuals. The
Hungarian scholar Ivan Berend argued that:
Also during this initial stage, the theory of the so-called Daco-Roman
continuity emerged at the end of the eighteenth century and served as a
foundation of the romantic Romanian national identity. Samuil Klain-Micu,
working in Hungarian-ruled Transylvania, and Petru Maior, operating in
the Ottoman-dominated Romanian Principalities around the turn of the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, rediscovered early myths about the
glorious origins of the Romanians people. According to this myth, the Dacs,
the alleged genuine ancient population of Transylvania, had mixed with the
conquering Romans who had occupied the territory and founded the last
province of the Roman Empire named Dacia.

Since the Daco-Roman Continuity theory is (according to these authors) a new
theory, and more importantly one which was made for political purposes, it should not
be taken seriously by modern academics. It was thus the Romanians, and not the
Austrians/Hungarians, who had broken from the established theories of European

Some (notably polemical) Hungarians love using this archaic spelling. It is undoubtedly used as an
under-the-table jab at the Romanians, an attempt to separate Rome from Romania. Some could say
this is reading too much into it, but the alternative is to believe that these Hungarian authors (many of
whom live in the United States) have learned English from nineteenth century dictionaries.
history and had invented something for short-term political gain. It was the Romanians
who were guilty of forging history and the Romanians who needed to return to
objective historiography, which one can only assume meant the Immigrationist

From all we have read on the controversy up to this point, should an argument is
almost ironic in its falsity. Among the first writers to make claims of Daco-Roman
Continuity were in fact Byzantine authors during the High Middle Ages. Then there are
the Renaissance humanists, who unanimously claimed that the Romanians were
descended from Roman colonists in the region. Lastly we have the numerous writers
from the Baroque period and onward who continued to adduce evidence for such a
theory. It is arguable then that the theory of Daco-Roman Continuity is at least nine
centuries old, since the time when Kekaumenos wrote of the Vlachs. The argument that
Daco-Roman continuity theory was recently invented is ignorant of the facts, if not
written in bad faith entirely. One would have to gloss over the entire body of
Renaissance literature to reach such a conclusion. By what measure could we consider a
theory that is nine centuries old as relatively new? Relative perhaps to the Sumerians
or to the Romanian presence in Dacia, which by now is pushing almost two millennia,
but certainly not relative to the alternative theories on Romanian origin.

The irony of it all is that it was the Immigrationist Theory that was invented in
the nineteenth century and adopted by Hungarians out of political convenience. Daco-
Roman continuity had until then become an accepted fact of universal history. When
Micu-Klein or the Transylvanian School decided to use historic arguments to justify the
expansion of Romanian civil liberties, they were not inventing anything but using what
they had learned in the Western J esuit schools! It would not have made any sense for
them to demand new rights using arguments and facts no one was familiar with or that
no one believed. Clearly Daco-Roman Continuity must have been widely accepted for
Micu-Klein to even consider it as a political weapon. When the Austrians and
Hungarians had seen the headache a little bit of education in history could make, they
decided the best policy was to nip the problem in the bud and change (read: falsify)
history outright. Thus it was in fact the Immigrationist Theory which was relatively new,
fueled by nationalism, and created to serve political purposes.

Aside from such chauvinistic arguments, the Immigrationist Thoery has
remained mostly stagnant, a typical development (or lack-there-of) for theories of a
dogmatic and political nature. The arguments used in Hungarian publications today are
mostly the same as those used nearly a century ago. The fact that Count Istvan Bethlens
The Treaty of Trianon and European peace, a piece of propaganda originally published
in 1934, was republished in 1971 by Hungarian expats in America is not a coincidence;
it is a tacit acknowledgement that the Immigrationist Argument had failed to develop
since the early 20
century. Some new arguments were adduced, but this was done done
by the unscientific method of making the conclusion first and finding the evidence later.
This is not to say the other side has been completely innocent of using the same
methodology, but at the very least the Daco-Roman Continuity theory was not always
tainted by political bickering.

Critical questions have still not been resolved by the Immigrationist Theory.
Where the Romanians would have formed is still not clarified, other than by the vague
answer of the Balkans. No logical motive for why the Romanians migrated to
Transylvania has been produced, and likely none ever will be. The basic yet
fundamental mathematical question of where so many Romanians came from has never
been answered, and it relies on the spontaneous generation of Vlach refugees from the
Balkans which were never recorded and likely never existed. Some of these questions
were brought on nearly eighty years ago (for example, in Robert Seton-Watsons A
History of the Roumanians
) and they still have no convincing answer.

Some consider Romanian folk costumes as evidence for the continuation of ancient traditions
among the Romanians. The image of Dacian women from the Adamklissi Monument on the left,
and the early-twentieth century photograph of a Romanian peasant woman on the right show
evident similarities (unfortunately, right down to the bare feet of the women).

In the end, we must conclude that the Immigrationist Theory has been a failure.
It was largely a politically-oriented counter to the long-established notion that the
Romanians trace their origins to the Roman colonization of Dacia. Much to the chagrin
of Hungarian historians, the Immigrationist Theory has failed to produce a scientific
explanation on the origin of the Romanians, but rather only mystified and obscured the
issue further. The Immigrationist Theory was a trainwreck of inconsistencies since it
was, from its inception, not designed provide an alternative narrative on the origin of the
Romanians but rather to contradict the central tenets of Daco-Roman Continuity. Thus,
if Daco-Roman Continuity argued that a Dacian element continued in Dacia after the
Roman conquest, then the Immigrationist Theory had to counter by saying all or the vast

Image courtesy of Berry, J ames. Transylvania and Its Relations to Ancient Dacia and Modern
Rumania. The Geographical J ournal, Vol. 53, No. 3 (Mar., 1919).
majority of the Dacians were exterminated.
If the Daco-Roman theory then continued
by saying the Dacians left in the Roman province were Romanized, the Immigrationist
Theory retorted that Romanizing the Dacians in 165 years would have been
impossible even though according to the same theory the Dacians were already
exterminated. While we might agree that, indeed, it would be pretty hard to teach Latin
to the dead, this is clearly not what the Immigrationists were referring to. Instead we are
left with the contradiction that a gravely weakened (dare one say exterminated?) people
had managed to resist Romes cultural magnetism.

The Daco-Roman Continuity theory is supported by modern historians, both in
Romania and abroad, not for any political purposes but rather because it is the most
logical thesis. The much-too-frequently encountered claim that Daco-Roman
continuity provides them [the Romanians] with a historical precedence that
ostensibly justifies their rule of Transylvania
is a disingenuous one. Romanian rule in
Transylvania is justified by the fact that the Romanians form the absolute demographic
majority in the region, a situation that likely has not changed for well over 1,000 years.
Historical precedence is not a weapon for those who have already gained ownership
demographics and self-determination. Rather, it is a weapon of last resort for those who
do not have any legal argument for ownership; it is the Hungarians who need temporal
precedence to prove rightful ownership.

If Romanian historians reject Roeslers dinosaur, the motive for it is not because
it is anti-Romanian but rather because (to use the words of historian Florin Curta) it
is not supported by any shred of evidence.
Rudolf Windisch provided a review of
Roeslers theory one hundred years after it had been conceived, taking into account the
progress made in archaeology and linguistics since then. His conclusion was telling: in
essence we consider that the Roeslerian thesis especially in the dogmatic, obstinate
form represented by Roesler himself can no longer be maintained.
Or, to put it in
the words of Coriolan H. Opreanu:

Still, nowhere else has anyone defied reason by stating that a Latin people,
twice as numerous as any of its neighbors of different ethnic-linguistic
origins, is only accidentally inhabiting the territory of a former Roman
province, once home to a numerous and strongly Romanized population,
but to which the contemporary inhabitants are allegedly not related in any
way. Those attempting to scientifically demonstrate the absurd are free to
do so. It is not our duty, as Romanian scientists, to respond by
demonstrating the absurdity of the absurd.


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[36] Du Nay, Andr

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