Origin of the Romanians

Origin of the Romanians
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Regions of Southeastern Europe actually inhabited by Vlachs/Eastern Romans
Evolution of the Eastern romance languages since Brezeanu, Niculescu, Rosetti & Sanfeld.
The Jireček Line dividing the Latin-speaking territories of Southeastern Europe from the Greek-speaking regions until the 4th century

The origin of the Romanians – the ethnogenesis of the Romanian people (speakers of a Romance language in Southeastern Europe) – can be traced back to the region’s Romanized inhabitants living, within the Roman Empire, in the lands north of the Jireček Line (an imaginary line which had divided the influences of the Latin and Greek languages in Southeastern Europe before the 4th century).[1][2] Besides the Romans and the Romanized autochthonous population (Dacians, Thracians or Illyrians), the Slavs also played a vital role in the formation of the Romanians.[1][2][3]

The early Romanian language, perhaps as early as the 10th century, began to split into four dialects which later tended to become languages in their own right.[4] The principal one, in terms of numbers, is Daco-Romanian, with approximately 25 million speakers.[4] The second largest division is called Aromanian.[4] The other two divisions (Megleno-Romanian and Istro-Romanian) are quite limited in extent.[4] All these peoples share the Vlach exonym (first recorded in the 11th century by Byzantine authors) which indicates that they have been perceived as speakers of a Romance language.[1]

The origin of the Romanians became subject to heated controversy, primarily for political reasons, as early as the 18th century.[1] On the one hand the denial of Romanian continuity on the territory of present-day Romania corresponded to Austro-Hungarian objectives;[5] on the other, by claiming a “Daco-Roman” descent,[5] the Romanians of Transylvania demanded political rights equal to those owned by the three “political nations” of the province.[6]

The confrontation among scholars is based on three sets of arguments which are of historical, archeological and linguistic character.[6]

Scholars who suggest that the Romanians descended (primarily or partly) from the Romanized population of the Roman province of Dacia Traiana (now Transylvania, Banat and Oltenia in modern Romania), base their theories on archaeological[1][7] and linguistic[8] researches; they also state that early written sources[1][7][9] support their views. Among these scholars, the followers of the ‘theory of Daco-Romanian continuity’ emphasize the role the Dacians played in the formation of the Romanian people (the Encyclopedia Britannica’, Encyclopædia Universalis's accounts expand upon this interpretation).[1][7][10] The ‘admigration theory’ suggests that the northward migration of the Romanized population from the regions lying south of the river Danube also strengthened the presence of Romance speakers (the descendants of the Romanized population of Dacia Traiana province) in modern Romania.[2] The followers of the ‘theory of the core regions of the Romanian language’ emphasize that the population of the Romanized regions of Southeastern Europe survived the storms of the Migration Period in larger or smaller territories (e.g., in the Apuseni Mountains in Romania), and the Romanians descended from them.[2]

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.

Opreanu, Coriolan Horațiu (2006), p. 108.

The followers of the ‘immigrationist theory’, based on linguistic researches and early written sources,[11] suggest that the Romanians descended from the population of the most intensively Romanized regions of the Balkan Peninsula (to the south of the Danube), and their ancestors’ migration to the territory of modern Romania commenced in the 10th-12th centuries.[2] They also emphasize that archaeological researches do not contradict to their theory.[12]

Therefore, based on the facts that we can take for certain at this time, it can be stated that not a single geographical name (the name of a river, a mountain, or a place) exist in Romania which could prove the plausibility of the survival of a language island, even solely in a smaller territory, from the Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Whereas whole Romania is entwined with conclusive geographical names which excludes any form of continuity there.

Schramm, Gottfried (1997), p. 105.

Schramm claims that the fact that a language of Latin origin is spoken in modern Romania works to the advantage of those who claim the continuous presence of a Latin-speaking population there.[2] He believes the burden of proof lies with the scholars who undertake to demonstrate that certain facts are incompatible with the continuity and further claims, without taking the possibility of migrations into account, that there are no facts that cannot be explained without assuming it:[2]

The most striking example, of course, are the Romanians; centuries after the fall of the Balkan provinces, a pastoral Latin-Roman tradition served as the point of departure for a Valachian-Roman ethnogenesis. This kind of virtuality — ethnicity as hidden potential that comes to the fore under certain historical circumstances — is indicative of our new understanding of ethnic processes. In this light, the passionate discussion for or against Roman-Romanian continuity has been misled by a conception of ethnicity that is far too inflexible.

Pohl, Walter (1998), p. 21.


Summary of theories

The theories which have been set up in order to explain the fact that a language of Latin origin (the Romanian language) is spoken in modern Romania can be simplified into four basic models:[2]

  • The ‘theory of Daco-Romanian continuity’[13] holds that the Romanians are a synthesis of two ethnic elements, namely the Roman conquerors of ancient Dacia and the autochthonous Dacians.[7] Although, the venue of this ethnogenesis was situated on both sides of the Danube, but after the onrush of the Slavs, the center of Danubian Romanity was concentrated in today's Romania.[7]
  • The ‘immigrationist theory’[5] or the ‘theory of moving continuity’[2] (in Romanian scholarship, ‘Roesler’s theory’)[13] suggests that the Romanian language can be traced back to the idiom spoken by the inhabitants of the intensively Romanized provinces of the Roman Empire to the south of the river Danube.[2] After the collapse of the Roman limes on the Danube, they sought refugee in the mountainous regions of the Balkan Peninsula where their language was preserved.[14] The Romanians’ ancestors commenced their migration to the territory of modern Romania not earlier than the 10th–12th centuries.[2]
  • An interim theory, the ‘admigration theory’,[5] argues that two centers of the latinophones crystallized in Southeastern Europe: one in Dacia Traiana and the other in the central regions of the Balkan Peninsula.[2] But a close relationship existed between the two centers, and parts of the southern population joined (‘admigrated’ to) the northern latinophones.[2] The Romanians thus appear at one and the same time as indigenous (in Dacia Traiana), immigrants (from the south of the Danube), and conquerors (in the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia).[5]
  • The ‘theory of the core regions of the Romanian language’[13] implies that the territory where the formation of the Romanians occurred cannot be determined exactly.[2] Instead, a vast homeland is supposed: a large block of latinophones existed in modern Romania, while in other territories solely language islands survived the storms of the Migration Period.[2]

Origin of theories

Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459)

The Eastern Romans (Greeks) were the first to refer to the Romanians, specifically to the Balkan Vlachs.[1] Kekaumenos (11th century) mentioned that the Vlachs “are the so-called Dacians and Bessi who used to live near the rivers Danube and Saos (which we call Sava), where now the Serbs live”.[15] Ioannes Kinnamos (12th century) wrote that they “are said to have descended from the one-time Italian settlers.”[11]

Dimitrie Cantemir, prince of Moldavia (1693, 1710-1711)

In 1199, Pope Innocent III wrote to Kaloyan of Bulgaria (Ioannitsa), the brother of the leaders of the Vlach-Bulgarian liberation movement of 1185, saying that he had heard of Kaloyan's Roman descent.[16] In the 15th century, French and Italian travelers realized the Neo-Latin features of the Romanian language.[6] The Dominican John of Sultanieh referred to the Romanians’ Latin origin already around 1400.[6] The archaic-sounding name ‘Daco-Roman’ was given to them by Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (1380–1459).[17] who writes that in the western part of eastern Europe live the descendants of Trajan's settlers[18]

Giovanni Andrea Gromo (in 1564) and Pierrre Lescalopier (around 1574), remarked that the Romanians called themselves the descendants of the Roman colonists [19]

In Romanian historiography it was Grigore Ureche (c. 1590-1647) who first noted that the origin of the Romanians was in “Râm” (Rome).[5] In his Chronicle of Moldavia, he presents many strong arguments for the claim that the Romanians “descended from Rome.”[1] With the exception of Constantin Cantacuzino (c. 1640-1714), who accepted a Daco-Roman mixing in his History of Wallachia, Romanian historians, from Dimitrie Cantemir (1673–1723) to the Transylvanian School,[note 1] would agree to nothing less than a pure Roman origin, with the Dacians exterminated or expelled to make way for the conquerors.[5]

Mihai Cantacuzino’s History of Wallachia, written between 1774 and 1776, was the first book to speak of the symbiosis of the Dacians and the Romans.[1] After this, the idea of the Romanization of the Dacians became a permanent feature of Romanian historiography.[1]

The ‘immigrationist theory’ was set up by Franz Joseph Sulzer, an Austrian scholar of Swiss origin,[20] who published his work (History of the Transcarpathian Dacians)[note 2] in 1784-1785.[6] He argued that the lack of linguistic elements in Romanian from the Migration Period disproved the theory of continuity.[20]

The idea that there is a correlation between the geographical position and the age of a linguistic phenomenon was raised by Sextil Pușcariu (1877–1948), based on lexical findings published in "the Linguistic Map of the Romanian Language" (finished in 1938).[20] In his view, the Roman settlements were most dense in the region of the Apuseni Mountains, and certain peculiarities of speech of the Romanians living there[note 3] indicates that Romanian has been spoken there uninterruptedly since the Roman period.[20] His theory was accepted by Ernst Gamillscheg (1887–1971) who commented "the Linguistic Map of the Romanian Language".[21][22][23] Günter Reichenkron (1966) has similar conclusions.[24]

Historical background

Autochthonous people

Ethnolinguistic entities in southeastern Europe, 4th century BC

If the classical sources can be trusted, three indigenous peoples were to be found in the territories of Southeastern-Europe north of the line running roughly through Albania, Macedonia, and Thrace on to Constantinople: the Dacians, Thracians and Illyrians.[25]

The Dacians lived north of the lower Danube.[26] But there is a recurrent inconsistency in the literary sources regarding their ethnic names: the Greek sources use the name ‘Getae’, while the Latin ones seem to prefer the name ‘Dacians’, but some of the Latin authors[note 4] made a distinction between them.[27] Since the very first detailed account by Herodotus (c. 484 - 430/420 BC), the Getae are acknowledged as belonging to the Thracian tribes.[27]

The Thracians inhabited the eastern Balkans; Herodotus describes them as the greatest and most populous people on earth after the Indians.[28] Among the Thracian tribes, the Bessi lived in the mountains north-east of today's Thessaloniki, and the Moesi lived in the plains bordering the Black Sea and the Danube.[29]

The Illyrians constituted a loose tribal confederation that occupied the territory of modern Albania, Dalmatia, Bosnia and Croatia.[26]

The provinces of the Roman Empire

Southeastern Europe, c. 200

By the middle of the 1st century BC, the Romans were using the name Illyricum for their Adriatic territories north of the river Drina.[3] Dalmatia was organized into a province in 9 AD when the command of Illyricum was divided along the southern confines of the valley of the river Sava.[3]

The province of Moesia, named after the Moesi,[30] was created around 15 AD.[29] Dobruja also became part of the new province.[31]

Roman sources first include Dacia Traiana among the imperial provinces in 106 AD.[1] The province was confined to the core territory of the Dacian kingdom (Transylvania, the Banat and western Oltenia);[27] the greater part of modern Moldavia, together with Maramureş and Crişana was ruled by free Dacians even after the establishment of the province.[1] The Roman Empire decided to abandon Dacia Traiana in 275.[32]

Southeastern Europe, c. 400

The result of the evacuation of Dacia Traiana was the establishment of a new province south of the Danube, Dacia Aureliana, formed by cuts from the territory of Moesia.[30] In 297 Dobrudja became a separate province, Scythia Minor.[33] At the end of the 3rd century, the new province of Dardania was also formed out of Moesia, while the area around the Lake Shkodër was separated from Dalmatia and organized into the province of Praevalitana.[3]

In 312 emperor Constantine I (312-337) restored the confiscated property of Christians, and by the time of the First Nicean Council (325) he had clearly declared himself a partisan of Christianity.[34] He also restored direct Roman control of the southern half of Oltenia and Muntenia.[1] But by 369, the river Danube had marked again the physical limit of Roman power.[35]

When emperor Theodosius I (379-395) died, he left the empire divided in two parts to his two sons.[25] The part of the eastern empire that most resembled the West was the Prefecture of Illyricum which encompassed, among other provinces, Dacia Aureliana, Dardania and Praevalitana; it came under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the pope.[34]

Dalmatia was occupied by Odoacer’s barbarians in 479, and by Theoderic’s Ostrogoths in 488.[34] The Ostrogoths abandoned the territory in 536 when the armies of emperor Justinian I (518-565) invaded Dalmatia.[34] The emperor established the archbishopric of Justiniana Prima in 535[36] which became a separate papal vicariate for the northern part of the Prefecture of Illyricum.[34]

The communis opinio is that the Danubian limes crumbled in 602,[37] but it was only in 620 when all Roman troops were definitely moved from Europe.[37]

Around 733, Emperor Leo III revoked papal jurisdiction over the Byzantine Empire’s western territories and awarded it to the patriarchate of Constantinople.[34]

Germanic people and the Huns

Invasions of the Roman Empire, c. 100-500

During the later 2nd century, the migration of Germanic peoples towards the Danube generated a new situation beyond the Black Sea.[32] The old neighboring peoples (e.g., free Dacians, Costoboci, and Carpi).[38] wished to obtain the receptio into the Roman Empire by force, and this receptio was granted to a few groups.[30]

Soon after the middle of the 3rd century, the Tervingi (the Goths living to the west of the river Dniester) consolidated their hold between the Dniester and the Danube.[39] Among the Tervingi, a substantial community of captives taken by Goths lived:[32] e.g., the family of Ulfilas, who would later translate the Bible into Gothic, was taken from a small village in Cappadocia (Turkey).[32] The German tribes (Goths, Carps, Taifali, Bastarns) devastated Dacia in 248-250, the Carps and Goths in 258 and 263, Goths and Heruli in 267 and 269.[40][41]

After 376, the first phase of the intrusion of the Huns into Europe forced the Roman Empire to accept upon its soil the establishment of enclaves of unsubdued barbarians: e.g., a vast throng of Goths was admitted and settled in Thrace.[32] Attila the Hun (434-453) struck across the Danube with devastating force in 447, and thereafter the parts of the Diocese of Dacia up to 5-days’ march from the Danube were to remain desolate and open to the Huns.[34] After Attila’s death, the Gepids led a revolt against his sons; their success on the river Nedao gave them a homeland in the eastern Carpathian Basin.[39]

Slavs, Avars and Bulgars

The first written evidence of the appearance of the Slavs refers to raids against the Byzantine Empire from about 518, but it is likely that the westward expansion of the victorious Huns was accompanied by arrival of the first Slav-speaking settlers in the Danube region.[42] Contemporary sources attest the use of more than one language by individuals whom their authors viewed as Antes or Sclavenes; artifacts displaying emblematic styles, such as "Slavic" bow fibulae became popular only after c. 550.[37]

The arrival of the Avar nomads in the lower Danube area in the 560s further disrupted the situation.[42] They destroyed what was left of Gepid power, but some splinters of the Gepid people survived the shock of the Avar conquest.[39]

The Avars established themselves in the Great Hungarian Plain.[42] They took Sirmium (Sremska Mitrovica, Serbia) in 582[42] which eliminated a major Byzantine border defense post.[25] Although the local garrison army still held the main strongholds near the Danube frontier, but between and behind them the Slavs had conquered vast territories in the Balkans by the 610s.[34] The Slavic settlement was on such a large scale that the Balkans were lost for several centuries to the empire.[25] However, the earliest archaeological evidence of settlements suggests that there was no "Slavic tide" in the Balkans following the presumed collapse of the Danube frontier.[37] The "Slavs" were isolated pockets of population in various areas of the Balkans, which seems to have experienced serious demographic decline in the 7th century.[37] It is also possible that the emblematic use of Slavic language was a much later phenomenon and cannot be associated with the Sclavenes of the 6th and 7th centuries.[37]

Southeastern Europe, c. 700

In the 670s, one of the groups of the Onogur Bulgars began crossing the Danube and set about subjecting the Slavic tribes living north of the Balkan mountains.[25]

In the late 670s or early 680s Kuver, who had been made governor by the Avars over a mixed population in the region of Sirmium, revolted against his overlords.[25] His followers were descendants of the 270,000 captives taken in Thrace in about 619.[25] They managed to cross the Danube and occupy a plain near Thessaloniki.[25]

The Avar Khaganate collapsed under the attacks of the Frankish armies[43] in the winter of 795-796.[12] Between 802 and 804, the army of Krum (c. 802-814), the Bulgar khan advanced northward into the Tisa region.[12]

New states and last waves of migrations

Southeastern Europe, c. 880

By the 9th century, the First Bulgarian Empire had become a major European power.[36] Tzar Simeon I of Bulgaria (893-927) decided to lead a policy of war, especially directed against Byzantium.[43] The Byzantine diplomacy appealed to the Hungarians (who had been consistently moving to the west since their first temporary presence north of the lower Danube in 837), but the Bulgarians and the Pechenegs invaded and destroyed the Hungarian settlements in 896[36] which made the Hungarians look for settlements in the Great Hungarian Plain.[43]

The first king of Hungary, Stephen I (1000/1001-1038)[44] defeated his uncle ‘King Gyula’ and occupied the latter’s “whole country” (probably Crişana and Transylvania) in 1003.[11] Around 1028, the king’s troops also defeated and killed Achtum who had been ruling over the Banat.[36]

Europe and the The Byzantine Empire, c. 1000

Between 1014 and 1019, the conquest of the First Bulgarian Empire put the Byzantine Empire in the position of a commanding power.[34] But at the beginning of the second quarter of the 11th century the Pechenegs’ invasion in the Balkans assumed greater frequency.[43] This was a consequence of the pressure exerted by the Uzes, who, in their turn, were pressed by the Cumans.[43] After 1068, the Cumans controlled the entire territory between the Aral Lake and the lower Danube.[43]

On July 16, 1054[45] the papal legates excommunicated Michael Cerularius, the Patriarch of Constantinople who also excommunicated the legates.[34] After the Great Schism of 1054, the Romanians were amongst those people who profess the Orthodox religion.

In 1066-1067, the Vlachs living in the hinterland of Larissa (Greece) were at the center of a rebellion against the Byzantine government.[36] In 1095, the Vlachs helped the Cumans in attacking the Byzantine Empire by showing them the mountain paths of the eastern Balkan Mountains.[16]

During the reign of Géza II of Hungary (1141–1162), groups of German, Walloon and Flemish settlers (later known as the ‘Transylvanian Saxons’) arrived to Transylvania.[11]

In the fall of 1185, two brothers named Theodore and Asen, from the region of Tirnovo in Bulgaria called for a full rebellion of Vlachs and Bulgarians against the Byzantine Empire.[46] They were also able to mobilize many Cumans.[46] In 1188, a treaty between Asen and Emperor Isaac II Angelus (1185–1195) recognized the existence of an independent state, the Second Bulgarian Empire.[46]

The conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade (April 13, 1204) drastically altered the balance of power in the entire Southeast European region.[36] The papal legate crowned the ruler of Bulgaria, Ioannitsa ‘King of Bulgaria and Vlachia’.[36]

In 1238, a direct Mongol attack on the ‘Cumans’ Steppe’ seems to have encountered serious resistance from various Cuman chieftains; at least one of them, Köten, fled to the west to find shelter within the borders of Hungary.[36] The main target of the 1241 Mongol invasion was Hungary, and the Mongol onslaught effectively stopped the Hungarian expansion across the Carpathian Mountains for several decades.[36]

By 1280, an ambitious general of the Golden Horde, Nogai had established himself on the lower Danube.[36] When rumor had it that the Mongols wanted to invade Thrace and Macedonia, the Byzantines deported the Vlachs living in Thrace en masse to Anatolia in order to prevent their possible joining up with the Mongol invaders.[16]

Foundation of principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia

In the future Wallachia, voivodates dependent on Hungary began to form toward the middle of the 13th century.[1] The first recorded sovereign of the unified Wallachia was Basarab I (c. 1310-1352) whose armies defeated the troops of King Charles I of Hungary (1308–1342) in 1330.[1][7]

The process of political unification was slower in the area between the Carpathian Mountains and the river Dniester.[7] After 1352-53, King Louis I of Hungary (1342–1382) organized a defensive border province in northern Moldavia to be ruled by Dragoş, a voivode from Maramureş.[1] However, the Romanians living there were discontent with the Hungarian domination.[7] Bogdan I (1359–1365), another Romanian from Maramureş took advantage of this situation, crossed the mountains to Moldavia and proclaimed its independence.[7]

Historical events under debate

Fate of native Dacians in Dacia Traiana after the Roman conquest

The subjugation of Dacians (Trajan’s Column, Scene XCIII)
  • One theory holds that the Roman conquest of Dacia was followed by a general pacification in an attempt to encourage the native population to cooperate.[7] A country this large could not have been fully exploited by imported labor,[1] and the natives were a precious labor force.[7] (Many of the followers of the ‘imigrationist theory’[note 5] also point out that the native Dacians survived the Roman conquest; moreover, in the course of the 2nd and 3rd centuries free Dacians and other tribespeople were resettled into the province.)[2][12]
  • The opposing theory argues that under the Romans, Dacia Traiana appears to have been laid waste, ethnically cleansed and re-settled by foreign colonists.[47] In effect, the wars were traumatic to such an extent that the autochthonous population became so strongly debilitated and demoralized that it was swept away; the survivors in large part emigrated elsewhere.[48]

Romanization of the natives in Dacia Traiana

  • One theory argues that the massive and organized colonization of Dacia Traiana with Latin-speaking ethnic elements and the close life of the Romans and the natives together in common settlements contributed to the Romanization of the Dacians.[7] The Latin language, as the only mode of communication among the diverse peoples of the province, influenced every level of society.[45] Through the mix of the Roman and native Dacian populations a Daco-Roman people, speaking Latin, came into being.[45]
  • The opposing theory holds that the indigenous population did not play a significant role in the creation of the provincial society in Dacia.[49] Considering the fact that the native languages spoken in the provinces, which had been under Roman rule for more than four centuries, (e.g., Britannia), survived the Roman occupation, very specific circumstances should be demonstrated in order to prove that the Dacians adopted the conquerors’ language in 165 years.[2] Moreover, the Romans effectively ruled only half of Dacia and the un-annexed part of that logically had no way of being Romanized at all.[5]

Ethnic situation in Dacia Traiana after the Roman withdrawal

The ruins of Trajan's bridge at Drobeta-Turnu Severin
  • One view is that no power has ever succeeded in the course of history to relocate such a mass of population as the inhabitants of Dacia Traiana.[7] The ‘Daco-Romans’ were not willing to move to foreign places where the lands had already been occupied;[7] and thus the withdrawal under Aurelian (270-275) in the 270s was largely of administrators and landed proprietors.[31] Normal contacts between the ‘Daco-Romans’ and the Roman world continued uninterrupted as long as the Byzantine Empire still controlled the Danube until 602.[38] Scholars who accept the theory of Daco-Romanian continuity also suggest that the relations between the ‘Daco-Romans’ and the free Dacians developed after the Roman withdrawal, and thus Romanization continued and was further spread, even to areas which had not been directly conquered by the Romans.[7] Although, waves of migratory peoples rode across Dacia; but, as a rule, they did not settle amongst the ‘Daco-Romans’, but those who did were quickly assimilated by them.[7]
  • The opposite view is that the evacuation and resettlement of Roman citizens was well within the capacities of the empire’s efficient administration; many civilians had already fled since the 250s, and the evacuation did not have to be accomplished overnight.[12] Even the barbarians of the territory on the periphery had regarded the empire as a prosperous and well-guarded haven for centuries, and the province’s Latin-speaking Roman citizens had no interest in remaining in an undefended territory.[12] Dacia Traiana was evacuated partially because Illyria and Moesia had been devastated; thus the relocation of its reduced population coincided with the need to repopulate the Balkans.[12] The Roman withdrawal did not result in the total depopulation of the province, but the vernacular spoken by those who stayed behind was not the Latin language.[2]

Migrations of the proto-Romanians

  • One theory argues that the ‘Daco-Romans’ had to give up their Roman-type city life and search for safety in the woods when the raids of the migratory peoples became more and more frequent after 350.[7] When the Roman border on the Danube fell, two branches of the Proto-Romanians developed, and the southern branch, driven by the Slavs, become eventually the Balkan Vlachs.[1] But in the north, the remaining Slavic population was in the end assimilated by the Proto-Romanians.[1]
  • The opposite theory holds that after the collapse of the Roman limes on the Danube, the latinophones who had been living for centuries in the territories to the south of the Danube fled southward.[2] Some of their number settled in the towns of Macedonia; but their majority took refuge in the mountainous regions where they became involved in transhumance.[2] This mobile pastoralist population, occupying a specific ecological niche, could easily expand its territory by migrating towards the regions of modern Greece, Serbia, and Bosnia in the First Bulgarian Empire and the Byzantine Empire in the 9th-11th centuries.[2] Some smaller groups may have crossed the Danube already in the 10th century, but their masses began their migration to modern Romania in the 13th century.[2]

Volochs and Blachs

There are two written sources on the basis of which the presence of Romanians in Transylvania before the 13th century can be assumed:[11] the Russian Primary Chronicle was elaborated in the 1120s, and the Gesta Hungarorum (The Deeds of the Hungarians) was written around the year 1200.[43] The latter, being one of the very few written documents from that era, is often referred either by Hungarian and Romanian historians in disputes about the origin of different Transylvanian peoples. However, some statements of Gesta are rejected even by the Hungarian Academy of Science MTA): e.g. Hungarians being descendants of Huns. Both sources refer to the events of the Hungarian conquest of the Carpathian Basin around 896.[11][43]

The Russian Primary Chronicle narrates that the Slavs had lived on the territories west of the Carpathians before the “Volochs” subdued their land; later the Hungarians “drove out the Volochs, and settled in their country”.[11]

  • One view is that the Volochs are identical to the ancestors of the Romanians.[43] They cannot be identical to the Eastern Franks since the latter are mentioned separately under their own name in the chronicle.[50] Not only are the Volochs and Franks listed in the same chronicle, but also in the same sentence, using different names:[50] Nestor lists “the Varangians, the Svear, the Norwegians, the Götar, the Rus, the Anglians, the Galicians, the Vlachs (Вольхва), the Romans, the Germans, the Carolingians, the Venicians, the Franks (фряги)” among the peoples living “in areas from the west to the east”.[51] Furthermore, Voloch was a term used for a variety of Latin people.[52]
  • The opposing view is that the Volochs cannot be regarded Romanized Dacians living in that territory since the 1st century, because the text shows explicitly that Slavs had already inhabited the region before them.[11] Consequently, the Volochs are probably identical to the Franks who occupied parts of the Carpathian Basin at the end of the 8th century, and the Hungarian conquest put an end to their rule.[11] This view, according the scholars who accept it, is also reinforced by the analysis of the Voloch name in the chronicle, for example Nestor speaks of “the Varangians” whose area in the west “reaches to the Anglians’ and Vlachs’ land”.[11]

The Gesta Hungarorum writes that the Hungarians found “Slavs, Bulgarians and Vlachs [Blachii], and the shepherds of the Romans”[53] on the plains of the rivers Tisa and Danube when they settled there.[1] According to the Gesta, Transylvania was inhabited by “Vlachs [Blasii] and Slavs” at that time, and Gelou, “a certain Vlach [Blachus] had the supreme authority over them.[7][53]

  • One view is that most of the reports in the Gesta are not inventions, but they have a real support.[43] The Gesta is the oldest surviving Hungarian chronicle, and the anonymous notary of the Hungarian king wrote his work based on ancient chronicles and oral tradition.[1] Although the version given by the author of this chronicle is in sharp contrast with that of Simon of Kéza and of the 14th-century chronicles, but there was no reason for its author to “make up” Romanians (Vlachs) and insert them into his narrative.[8]
  • Other view is that very few of the episodes of the Gesta can be substantiated from other sources.[54] Of the Hungarians’ actual adversaries, the Gesta’s author knew only of the Bulgars; consequently his choices reflect the ethnic and political realities of the 12th century.[54] The author neither knew any of the some two dozen historic personalities[note 6] of the regions neighboring the area of the Carpathian Basin who are mentioned in contemporary sources.[11] In lack of trustworthy information, he could turn only to his own imagination when he outlined the history of the Hungarian conquest: this was exactly what the romantic gest genre expected from the writers.[11]

Christianization of proto-Romanians

  • One theory holds that after the Roman withdrawal Christianity was gaining more and more ground in the former province of Dacia Traiana.[7] By the spreading of the Christian faith, Romanity was actually strengthened: the free Dacians did not merely turn to Christianity, but they also became latinophones.[7] But the political troubles in the region brought a considerable delay to the organization of church structures in the lands north of the Danube.[43] In the 9th century, Old Church Slavonic was adopted as liturgical language by many powers in the Carpatho-Danubian area.[43] That language remained in use among Romanians for centuries, a phenomenon still insufficiently studied and understood.[43]
  • The other theory argues that the Romanians' ancestors adopted Christianity within the Roman Empire after 312.[2] At that time, they lived in the territories of the Balkan Peninsula where the Latin was the liturgical language of the Church.[2] The Slavonic liturgy was adopted by them within the First Bulgarian Empire in the second half of the 9th century.[2]

Written sources

Natives in Dacia Traiana after the Roman conquest

The capture of the pileati; Alpine landscape; Dacian prisoners rounded up (Trajan’s Column, Scenes CXLVIII-CL)

The theory that the Dacians were completely exterminated is based on the claim of Eutropius (4th century) who wrote that “the land had been exhausted of inhabitants in the long war waged against Decebalus.”[1] However, not all existing manuscripts of his work are consistent: five codices (dating to the 9th to the 13th centuries) contain another variant which would imply that Dacia was depleted of resources (“res”).[55]

Julian the Apostate (331/332 - 363) also refers to the annihilation of the Dacians, but his words may be considered as satirical fiction.[14] Drawing on the work of Criton (1st-2nd centuries), who had participated in Trajan’s Dacian campaign, later chroniclers say that the Romans captured 500,000 Dacians, and the life of only 40 of them was spared; but these estimates may be excessive.[12]

Other historians – Cassius Dio (c. 150 - 235), Eusebius of Cesarea (c. 263 - c. 339), and Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330 - 395) – relate the conquest of Dacia in less dramatic terms; e.g., Dio Casius writes that “Decebalus,(…), committed suicide; and his head was brought to Rome. In this way Dacia became subject to the Romans, and Trajan founded cities there.”[56]

Romanization of the natives in Dacia Traiana

So far the Dacian elite have not been identified epigraphically after the Roman conquest;[27] only one piece of solid epigraphic evidence has been discovered: “Decebalus Luci”, found on a small golden plate in a pool in Germisara (Geoagiu-Băi).[57] As individuals, the Dacians are better represented in the inscriptions found in other provinces, even in Italy and Rome.[57]

There is no evidence of civitates peregrinae, which were native communities organized by the Romans, in Dacia Traiana.[14] But before the Roman conquest, the Dacians had gone beyond the tribal organization, reaching state level which neither the Celts, nor the Germanic peoples had achieved.[57]

Roman withdrawal from Dacia Traiana

According to Eutropius, Aurelius Victor (c. 320-c. 390) and Festus (4th century), Dacia Traiana was lost under the reign of emperor Gallienus (260-268).[14] Eutropius, the Augustan History, and Festus[14] also give a uniform account of the resettlement of the province’s population under Aurelian (270-275).[12] They describe that the emperor “had moved the Romans” or “led away both soldiers and provincials” from Dacia Traiana.[56]

In opposition with the authors cited above, Jordanes (6th century), who knew very well his contemporary ethnical realities in Dacia Traiana, mentions that Aurelian “calling his legions from” Dacia, “settled them in Moesia”.[56]

Latinophones, Blakumen, and Vlachs north of the Danube

Vlachs and Slavs in present-day Romania in the 6th-8th centuries (from a historical atlas for schools, published in 1970, representing a view of Yugoslav historians)
Vlach-Slavic voivodship (duchy) of Gelou in the 9th century according to Hungarian historian Dr. Márki Sándor

Contemporary sources of the expansion of the Latin language in the Barbarian world to the north of the Danube are not plentiful in the 4th-7th centuries.[9] The following sources confirm the importance of the circulation of the Latin language in the territory of modern Romania:[9]

  • During his embassy to the court of Attila the Hun,[9] Priscus (5th century) ascertained that the ‘language of the Ausoni’ (the Latin language) was spoken at the king’s residence.[58] He wrote that “the subjects of the Huns, swept together from various lands, speak, besides their own barbarous tongues, either Hunnic or Gothic, or – as many as have commercial dealings with the western Romans – Latin.”[59]
  • According to an episode recorded by Procopius (c. 500-c. 565) in his History of the Wars, the ‘phoney Chilbudius’,[37] an Ant slave strikingly resembled with the Roman general Chilbudius (also a Slav by his origin), was able to pretend that he was the Roman general, because he “spoke Latin”.[9]
  • When mentioning “some Romans” who “forget their own people, and prefer the good will of the enemy”,[60] ‘Pseudo-Maurice’ (6th century) may have referred either to Roman prisoners who returned to the East Roman Empire or to Romans who definitely settled in the territories north of the Danube.[9]

The oldest source in which the Romanians outside the Carpathian range are mentioned is the writing on a memorial rune stone set at Sjonhem (Sweden).[43] The stone with runes datable to the mid-11th century was set by a couple for their son Rodfos, killed by Blakumen during his trip abroad.[43]

The oldest extant documents from Transylvania, dating from the 12th and 13th centuries, make passing reference to both Hungarians and Vlachs.[61] The first mention of Vlachs in the royal charters of Hungary is in the grant of King Andrew II of Hungary (1205–1235) to the Cistercian Cârţa Monastery.[36] The charter mentions that the monastic estates were carved out of “the land of the Vlachs”.[36] Starting from around 1210, information we have on Romanians living in Transylvania increase more and more:[11] e.g.,, the Diploma Andreanum granted Transylvanian Saxons free use of “a forest belonging to the Romanians and the Pechenegs”, and a royal charter granted the Teutonic Knights exemption from duty when travelled “through the lands of the Székely people and the Romanians”.[12] The actual number of persons belonging to each nationality is at best guesswork.[61] Jean W.Sedlar estimates that Vlachs constituted about two-thirds of Transylvania's population in 1241 on the eve of the Mongol invasion.[61] On the other hand, King Andrew III of Hungary (1290–1301) decreed that all Romanians in Transylvania who had settled on private land be relocated on crown lands along the river Secaş.[11] Personal names recorded in 1138 and 1219 suggests that the ratio of names of Slav origin decreased in the 80 years (in 1138 Slav, while in 1219 Christian names were more), but even in 1219 every fifth person had a name of Slav origin, although the ratio of Hungarian common names increased from 10 to 17%.[11]

The sources consistently refer to Wallachia as being a largely uninhabited woodland before the thirteenth century, and, until this time, they contain no explicit references to Vlachs either here or anywhere in Hungary and Transylvania. There can be little doubt, however, that a Romanian population dwelled in the region, although it is impossible to estimate either its size or its principal economic activity. Linguistic evidence suggests a Romanian presence in Hunyad County from at least the eleventh century. Both Byzantine and papal sources were convinced, moreover, that the Vlachs were the direct descendants of the Romans. It may well be, as Hungarian historians universally maintain, that the sudden entry of the Vlachs into the Hungarian historical record around 1200 was a consequence of Romanian immigration from the Balkan interior. It could, nevertheless, also be taken to indicate the new political importance attached to the Romanian chieftains of Transylvania and the Lower Danube which made their presence for the first time worthy of record.

Rady, Martin, (2000) pp. 90-91.

It is not easy to reconcile such contradictory evidence. There must have been a Romanian population in Transylvania well before the time of Anonymus, and since he thought them to be the native population there their number cannot have been wholly insignificant. However, their early presence in the central and northern counties is highly improbable. When they appear about 1200 they are living in the southernmost regions of Transylvania, on and below the slopes of the southern Carpathians, their land (terra Blacorum) bordering upon the territory of the Teutonic Knights in the east and that of the Saxons of Sibiu in the west. This land, later called Făgăraş, was to remain until the end of the Middle Ages a separate Romanian district, not melting into the Saxon lands nor becoming a county of Transylvania. There must have been many Romanians in the country of Hunedoara, a region where they are in evidence as early as about 1250, and maybe also in the mountains south of Caransebeş. In other parts of Transylvania their number may have been small at this time, for in 1293 King Andrew III thought it possible to gather 'all the Wallachians living on the estates of the nobles and of anyone else' on the royal domain of Armeni (near Alba Iulia).

Engel, Pál (2000) p. 119.

Latinophones and Vlachs south of the Danube

An episode of the war of the Byzantine Empire against the Avars in 587-588, recorded by Theophylact Simocatta (7th century) and Theophanes Confessor (c. 758-817/818), contains the first reference to a proto-Romanian population at the southern end of the Balkan Mountains.[14] The episode indicates that the loss of order among the marching troops was caused by a soldier who called the one marching ahead of him in his “native tongue” to turn around (“torna, torna” or “torna, torna frater”).[14] This expression shows the evolution of vulgar Latin into Proto-Romanian.[1]

The first reference to Balkan Vlachs is connected to the murder of David, brother of Samuel (who later became the tsar of the Bulgarians) in 976.[14] John Skylitzes (c. 1040-1101) writes that[14] he was killed by “voyaging Vlachs” between Prespa and Castoria (Republic of Macedonia).[62]

A statement of Anna Komnene (1083–1153) in her Alexiad clearly shows that at the end of the 11th century the primary connotation of ‘Vlach’ was ‘nomadic shepherd of the Balkans’; she relates that in 1091 emperor Alexios I Komnenos ordered Nikephoros Melissenos “to enroll new men for a term of duty from (…) the nomads (commonly called Vlachs)”.[16]

In accordance with the important role the Vlachs played in the liberation movement that had led to the foundation of the Second Bulgarian Empire, the new country separating from Byzantinum was called Vlachia/Blacia in the Latin sources.[16]

It is an extremely interesting phenomenon of ethnic history that the Vlakhs, who initiated the uprising in 1185-6 and lent their name to the new Vlakho-Bulgarian state, gradually disappeared from Bulgaria, and, about 150 years after that uprising, founded the Romanian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, both on the territory of the former Cumania.

Vásáry, István (2005), p. 27.

Numerous Serbian documents, dating from the end of the 12th century, mention Romanian shepherds in the mountainous region between the Drina and Morava rivers:[12] e.g., the law code issued by Stephen Uroš IV Dušan of Serbia stipulates that the Vlachs, who tended flocks instead of farming land, owed work dues in transport as well as a donation of a certain number of animals a year.[46] References to Romanians in Serbian royal charters became progressively rarer in the 14th-15th centuries.[12]

Migrations of the Vlachs/Romanians

According to the Byzantine Kekaumenos (11th century), who knew of clashes between Vlachs in Serbia and the Byzantine authorities, the Vlachs withdrew southwards, to Epirus, Macedonia, and Hellas, and not to the region north of the Danube.[43] An anonymous author at the beginning of the 14th century, supposed to be a French Dominican, was also informed about an emigration of Romanian shepherds from Pannonia towards the Balkans, again from north towards the south.[43]

Undoubtedly, if in the period when the anonymous author of the Gesta Ungarorum and Simon of Kéza were writing their works the Vlachs had continued to flow from the Balkans towards Transylvania, or if their movement had begun only a couple of decades before, the two chroniclers might have been informed about that important event.

Spinei, Victor, (2009) p. 76.

In the Kingdom of Hungary, royal charters[note 7] indicate that at least some of the Romanian settlers came from beyond the borders of the kingdom: when a certain Voivode Bogdan, son of Micola, moved to Hungary in 1334 from his own lands. In 1359, six members of a distinguished Romanian family from Wallachia settled in the Banat, where the king had given them 13 villages to accommodate their retinue.[12]

According to a Romanian tradition, which was recorded in a Russian chronicle[note 8] written around 1504, the Romanians asked a certain 'king Ladislaus of Hungary' “to give them a place to stay”, and the king “gave them land in Maramureş, between the rivers Tisa and Mureş at the place called Criş”.[14] According to The Moldo-Polish Chronicle, written in the third quarter of the 16th century, Dragoş (one of the Romanians who had been granted land in Maramureş) crossed into Moldavia from Maramureş while hunting an aurochs; in Moldavia, Dragoş “feasted with his nobles, and liking the country he remained there, bringing Hungarian Romanians as colonists.”[63] Later, as the chronicler of King Louis I of Hungary, John of Küküllő states “Bogdan, the voivode of the Romanians of Maramureş, gathering the Romanians from this district, secretly passed into Moldavia, which was subject to the Hungarian Crown, but had been abandoned by its inhabitants because of the vicinity of the Tatars.”[63]

Bogdan, son of Micola, first appeared in Máramaros in 1334-1335 when, together with his people, he migrated from the Balkans to Máramaros and settled there.

Vásáry, István, (2005) p. 159.

Bogdan has been assumed to be the voivode Bogdan, son of Micula, who in 1335 asked king Charles Robert and was granted the permission to move from his own lands in the Hungarian kingdom. The similitude of the names is insufficient to identify the two voivodes; moreover, the situation of Bogdan of Cuhea and his family within socio-political relations in Maramureş excludes his having come from other regions.

Spinei, Victor, (1986) p. 204.

No medieval chronicle mentions a migration of Romanian-speaking peoples from the Balkans northward [64] But a 17th century Muntenian chronicle, attributed to Stoica Ludescu writes of Romanians “who separated from the Romans and went to the north” and after crossing the Danube, “some settled at Turnu Severin; others, along the waters of the Olt, the Mureş, and the Tisa; and still others in Hungary, reaching as far as Maramureş”.[20][65] The chronicle's author also refers to “a voievod in Hungary called voievod Radu Negru who “set forth from there with his whole household and many peoples (Romanians, papists, Saxons, and all kind of men), descending towards the waters of Dâmboviţa.[65]

Romanian polities before the establishment of Wallachia and Moldavia

An interpolation (probably from the 1st centuries of the second millennium) in the book written by Ananias of Shirak is among the oldest attestations of the countries of the Vlachs on the northern side of the Danube.[43] The passage refers to an “unknown country called Balak”.[43]

The diploma granted the Knights Hospitalers by Béla IV of Hungary (1235–1270) in 1247[1] lists in Oltenia and western Wallachia, the principalities of two voivodes named Litovoi and Seneslau who are said to be Vlakhs (Olati) in the document.[16]

William of Rubruck (c. 1220-c. 1293) reports that at the court of Sartaq Khan he encountered messengers of the Blacs and other peoples.[43] Rashid-al-Din Hamadani (1247–1318) mentions that in 1241 a Mongol army crossed the mountains of the "Black Vlachs" (Kara Ulagh) and defeated them and one of their leaders named Mišlav.[36]

In 1276-77, the Romanians were, according to Thomas Tuscus' chronicle, at war with the Ruthenians.[66]

Proselytism and church organization

Scythia Minor (Dobruja) in Late Antiquity

Greek inscription in the Tomb of the Four Martyrs (Niculiţel)

The claim that the apostle St Andrew preached in Dobruja, is based only on a late legendary tradition, which, in any case, refers to Scythia (southern Russia), and not specifically to Little Scythia (Dobrogea).[5] But beginning with the age of the tetrarchy, Christianity made important progress in the province.[57] Most of the large numbers of Christians who became martyrs, in about 300, during Diocletian's persecution remained anonymous, but some names exist in the so-called 'martyrdom acts'.[33]

Some high clerics[note 9] were involved in the theological controversies debated at the first Ecumenical Councils.[33] In the early 5th century, Theotimos, Bishop of Tomis, was also well known to the Huns living north of the Danube, who called him “the god of the Romans”.[36] The names of some reputed monks in the Christian world of the time are linked to monastic settlements in Scythia Minor (e.g., John Cassian, Dionysius Exiguus).[33]

The episcopal sees in Scythia Minor disappeared after 602.[33] But from the 10th or 11th centuries there are again evidence of a superior hierarchy in former Scythia Minor.[33]

The earliest examples of the use of Slavic Cyrillic writing in the territory of modern Romania are the graphite writings on the walls of the cave churches in the Basarabi Cave Complex, and the inscription from Mircea-Vodă from the 10th century.[66]

Territories north of the Danube in the Late Antiquity

The first bishop mentioned in the lands north of the Danube was Teophil, the bishop of the Goths who participated in the First Nicean Synod in 325.[58] The modern research is under controversy with regards to the location of his see, oscillating between the mouths of the Danube and the Pontic steppes.[9]

A letter written by Auxentius of Durostorum around 400 illuminates the extraordinary achievements of Ulfilas who in 341 “was ordained – for the salvation of many – bishop among the people of the Goths” and “preached in the Greek, Latin, and Gothic tongues”.[32][67]

A passage of the The Passion of St Saba (who was a ‘proper’ Tervingi, not the descendant of Roman prisoners)[32] demonstrates that some harmony existed between Gothic Christians and their Gothic non-Christian neighbors who “intended while offering sacrifices to the gods to swear to the persecutor that there was not a single Christian in their village.”[68]

When Emperor Justinian I established the archbishopric of Justiniana Prima in 535, he declared that “both banks of the Danube are occupied by towns subject to Our Empire”.[58]

Theophylact Simocatta refers to a Gepid “who had once long before been of the Christian religion” when he writes of the campaign which the Roman general Priscus launched against the Slavs north of the Danube around 596.[37]

Orthodox proselytism and church organization in the early Middle Ages

St Clement of Ohrid

According to the Life of St. Clement of Ohrid, at least three of the disciples of St. Methodius (Clement, Naum, and Angelarius) managed to come across the Danube to the First Bulgarian Empire after their expulsion from Moravia in 885.[37] If a later Russian chronicle is accurate, Old Church Slavonic was proclaimed the official language of the Bulgarian church in 893.[25]

One of the Hungarians’ military commanders, the gyula was baptized in Constantinople a few years after 948.[36] John Skylitzes records that he “returned with a monk called Hierotheus (…) who (…) led many to Christianity from their barbarian erring.”[11] Constantinus Porphyrogenitus describes Turkia as a region bordered by the rivers Timiş, Mureş, Criş, Tisa, and “Toutis”.[11]

The Long Life of Saint Gerald (an early 14th century compilation of different sources) contains a much earlier account of a chieftain, named Achtum, ruling over the Banat who had been baptized in the Orthodox faith in Vidin (Bulgaria).[36]

References to the Vlachs’ religion

Following the conquest of the First Bulgarians Empire, the Byzantine Emperor Basil II (976-1025) determined the jurisdiction of the archbishopric of Ohrid in 1020; he also authorized the archbishop “to collect the church levy (...) from the Vlachs living throughout Bulgaria”.[16]

To Benjamin of Tudela, who was traveling through modern Greece in 1165, the Vlachs living there were not true Christian; he writes that these Vlachs “do not hold fast to the faith of the Nazarenes”.[36][69]

When narrating the beginnings of the Vlach-Bulgarian rebellion, which lead to the establishment of the Second Bulgarian Empire, Nicetas Choniates (c. 1155-1215/16) writes that Theodor and Asen built a “house of prayer”[70] dedicated to St Demetrius, the patron saint of the city of Thessalonica.[36] There “they gathered many demoniacs of both races” who prophesied the success of the forthcoming rebellion saying that St. Demetrius “would abandon the metropolis of Thessaloniki and his church there”[46][70]

According to the charter of 1234 of Pope Gregory IX (1227–1241), “there are certain people within the Cuman bishopric named Vlachs [Walati]” who “receive all the sacraments not from our venerable brother, the Cuman bishop, who is the diocesan of that territory, but from some pseudo-bishops of the Greek rite.”[58]

Given the close relation between lay and ecclesiastical power throughout the Middle Ages, the existence of Romanian bishoprics begs the question of what political entities may have also existed in the area. Neither the size, nor the form of such an entity can be established at the moment, but the existence of “pseudo-bishops” and the Romanian resistance to Catholic proselytism cannot be explained away simply as Orthodox activism by churchmen coming from the Bulgarian lands south of the Danube or as an attempt by the Asenid rulers to expand their influence to the lands north of that river.

Spinei, Victor (2009), p. 155.


Native Dacians in Dacia Traiana after the Roman conquest

After the Roman conquest, Dacia faced the disappearance of the high-status settlements of the previous period (hillforts and tower-houses), especially from the Orăştie Mountains.[27]

Very few settlements in Dacia have been proved to be continuously occupied from the pre- to the post-conquest period. Within the study area, the most famous examples are the settlements at Cetea and Cicău. As is clear from the case of Cetea, the Romans did not move all the Dacian settlements into the lowlands by force. Sometimes, however, settlement movement towards lower altitudes involved only short distances, which may reflect no more than minor adjustments in response to different economic and social circumstances. At Varmaga, for example, Dacian occupation was identified on the top of the hill to the north of the modern village, while occupation of Roman-date was discovered a little distance further down the hill, closer to the modern village. Some 46 sites throughout the area have been documented on the same location in both the La Tène and Roman periods, and future research could prove their continuous occupation more explicitly.

Oltean, Ioana A., (2007) pp. 212-213.

According to other scholars, however, all settlements ceased to exist due to violent destruction[57] and no Roman settlement was built on the location of a previous Dacian one.[57]

There is no evidence that Dacian habitation continued in Roman times. All settlements, fortified or not, including the Dacian fortresses, ceased to exist due to violent destruction.

Opreanu, Coriolan Horaţiu (2006) p. 75

Archaeological research indicates that around 60 rural settlements in Dacia Traiana are indigenous or mixed (locals and colonists).[71] Rural indigenous communities on their old location from pre-Roman Age were archaeologically identified in the south of Transylvania (e.g., at Slimnic and Şura Mică).[57] Aspects of continuity have been detected in architecture, such as the persistence of traditional forms of sunken houses and storage pits in several locations where continuity of site occupation was not necessarily applicable (e.g., at Obreja, which is a post-conquest foundation).[27]

In a study area covering middle-Mureş valley and the plain of Haţeg, some 46 sites have been documented on the same location in both La Tène and Roman periods, and future research could prove their continuous occupation more explicitly.[27] Late pre-Roman native occupation of villa sites has been documented by excavation at Răhău, Şeuşa and Chinteni; another example of a relationship between a villa site and a late pre-Roman and Daco-Roman settlement is at Vinţu de Jos.[27] Archaeological evidence included sporadic finds of handmade Dacian ceramic fragments in the pars rustica of several villas, which represent mainly storage vessels.[27]

Romanization in Dacia Traiana (2nd–3rd centuries AD)

Stamped Roman brick in Potaissa

The nature of change under Roman rule in Dacia as reflected in material culture is very similar to that experienced by other Roman provinces.[27] The wider landscape experienced substantive changes: the emergence of Roman-type urbanism, a large increase in settlement numbers and settlement density.[27]

The rural indigenous communities, with sunken houses and storage pits, look similar architecturally to the pre-conquest lowland villages (e.g., at Vinţu de Jos, Lancrăm).[27] Roman influences were scarce, though, with very few discoveries consisting of stone buildings, hypocausts, and Latin inscriptions; Roman currency was little used.[57] There is persistence of certain elements of native material culture, particularly pottery, in varied archaeological context (e.g., ‘jar’-shaped cooking pot, ‘Dacian mug’ were present even in Roman forts).[27]

“Daco-Romans” in the former province of Dacia Traiana (3rd–5th centuries AD)

Society in the former province achieved a certain state of breaking down of the social and cultural patterns at the end of the 3rd century and the beginning of the 4th century.[57] This society must have been rural, composed of small, poor, remote communities, but the rural environment in the former province is still insufficiently known from archaeological point of view.[57] Most notable are the effects of Roman de-colonization in modern Cluj and Alba counties – a reduction in number of sites, but not the purported terra deserta.[55] But the data from Mureş county warn us against generalizing about population history across a wider territory, and in fact show more consistent settlement in the post-Roman period.[55]

Archaeology has identified many settlements which continued to exist within their own precincts, other rural settlements were probably founded in the 4th century.[71] But it is extremely difficult to formally identify what of the provincial Roman material culture belongs to the pre- or post-withdrawal age.[57]

Table 1: “Daco-Roman” rural settlements in Transylvania[13]
Established in Pre-Roman Dacia Established in the Roman period Established in the 3rd-4th centuries Established in the 5th century Established in the 6th century
Abandoned in the Roman period Cernatul de Jos, Copşa Mică, Cristeşti, Curciu, Guşteriţa, Micoşlaca, Roşia, Ruşi, Şimoneşti, Slimnic, Vulcan
Abandoned in the 4th century Sebeş, Şura Mică Aiton, Archiud (‘Fundătura’), Bistriţa (‘Han’), Boarta, Braşov-Stupini (‘Pe Dos’), Cicău, Feldioara, Felmer, Mediaş, Mugeni, Nocrich-Ţichindeal, Obreja, Ocniţa, Porumbenii Mici, Rădeşti, Şintereag, Sic Braşov, Ciceu-Corabia, Cristian, Cristuru Secuiesc, Cuci, Hărman-1, Hărman-2, Iernut, Prejmer, Şercaia, Sfântu Gheorghe, Sfântu Gheorghe-Chilieni, Râşnov
Abandoned in the 5th century Aiud, Batoş, Ghirbom, Moreşti, Târnăvioara Archita, Bistriţa (‘Şos.Năsăud’), Noşlac Dipşa
Abandoned in the 6th century Suceagu Soporu de Câmpie, Ţaga Braşov-Stupini (‘La Curte’), Cernat, Ghirbom (‘Faţa Crasnei’)
Abandoned in the 7th century Brateiu (‘La Zăvoi’), Brateiu (‘Nisipuri’), Sighişoara (‘Dealul Viilor’), Voivodeni Hărman-3

The inhabited urban areas shrank in size; the remaining ones were near the former residential areas or moved near the former city.[71] In the former Roman towns, where archaeological evidence attested to their habitation from the 4th century to the beginning of the 5th century, life eventually disappeared, and the towns fell into ruin and oblivion.[71]

In Potaissa (Turda), coins and pottery show that the town lived on after Aurelian’s withdrawal from Dacia;[31] its population went on burying people in the proximity of the old cemeteries.[71] In Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa the latest coins bear the effigy of Gallienus (260-268);[31] later (in the 360s-370s) the amphitheatre's gates were blocked, and defense ditches were set up.[71] The very last document of Porolissum as part of the Roman province are coins from the reign of Gallienus,[31] afterwards its inhabitants performed burials in formerly forbidden places;[71] but coinage began to circulate again under Valentinian I (364-375) and Valens (364-378).[31]

The most visible changes in the archaeological record of the post-Roman period are the method of burial (from cremation to inhumation) and the augmentation of burial inventories.[55]

The cemeteries of many rural settlements give witness to the development of a new people, Latinic, but with customs and traditions inherited in equal measure from the Dacians and the Romans. One such find was at Bratei (near modern Mediaş), where the largest known Dacian cemetery has been excavated. Its five hundred fourth- and fifth-century graves and a wealth of glass and metal objects, coins, pottery, and fragments of weapons show a mixture of elements: tools and pottery are Dacian or provincial Roman in character, the contents of the graves predominantly Dacian, and the burial ritual Roman.

Georgescu, Vlad (1991), p. 10.

Sometime at the middle of the 6th century, the situation in the Bratei 1 and 2 settlements seem to mark an interruption in the earlier inhabitation, as different archaeological discoveries were made there (sunken dwelling with stone ovens, hand-made pottery).

Opreanu, Coriolan Horaţiu (2006), p. 124.

Bronze and silver coins dating from the Aurelian age to the beginning of the 5th century are known in over 160 settlements of Transylvania and the Banat.[71] The monetary index of the region near the Danube has a larger value than that of Transylvanian settlements which suggests that the former province of Dacia Traiana became a buffer region with a monetary economy limited to the southern regions (in Transylvania, the coin became an object of value, not a currency).[57]

Archaeological cultures in the Migration Period (2nd–13th centuries)

The civilization of the local communities of post-Roman Dacia has been constantly attested by archaeological documents belonging to the cultures of Bratei-Ipoteşti-Costeşa (4th-6th centuries), Ipoteşti-Cândeşti-Botoşana-Hanska-Filiaş (6th-7th centuries), Dridu (8th-10th centuries) and Răducăneni (11th-12th centuries).

Sălăgean, Tudor (2006), p.

Scythia Minor (Dobrogea)

The continuing of Roman presence makes the archaeological evidence much richer in Dobrogea.[31] Under Diocletian (284-305) new legions did guard duty in the camps, which he rebuilt or strengthened, e.g., at Dinogetia (Bisericuţa).[31] Constantine I also did a great deal of rebuilding in Dobrogea: e.g., in Tropaeum Traiani (Adamclisi) and at Tomis.[31] The reign of Justinian I saw much building activity in the province: e.g. at Troesmis (Igliţa) and Histria the walls were reinforced.[31]

Tropaeum Traiani was destroyed after 586, Dinogetia fell in 596/597, and Tomis in 704.[31]

Our final example of continuity in Dobruja comes from the huge (eight thousand square meters) necropolis of 811 tombs at Piatra Frecăţei (…) where the burials stretch from the second to the seventh Christian century. Since all the graves are of inhumation type, the skeletons survive: a significant number of these shows the skull deliberately deformed, which we have seen to be a Sarmatian folkway.

MacKendrick, Paul (1976), p. 186.

Trans-Carpathian regions

Table 3: Number of locations with archaeological materials from gazetteers published for three counties in Moldavia (numbers in parentheses indicate additional locations of possible but uncertain date).[55]
century Botoşani
5th BC – 1st AD 51 (?+11) 205 (?+8) 229
2nd – 3rd AD 23 (?+4) 89 (?+3) 172
3rd – 4th 204 (?+8)
4th 348 535
4th – 5th 8 (?+2) 27
5th 3 22
5th – 6th 1 35
end 4th – beg. 6th 111 (?+5)
6th – 7th 10 68 (?+3)
7th – 8th 48
8th – 11th 35 (?+3) 344 (?+8) 133

After the Marcomannic Wars (162-72, 177-80),[31] the region located beyond the limes become more populated, this contributed to the creation of contact zones.[57] At the beginning of the 4th century, there was a spectacular demographic boom in the plain areas outside the Carpathians.[57] Agricultural sedentary communities were organized where handicrafts were also practiced.[57] A large cultural leveling, named the Sântana de Mureş - Cernjachov culture,[57] had spread over an area between the Danube and the Don by the middle of the 4th century.[32] In present-day Romania, 158 settlements and 206 cemeteries, burial groups and isolated burials belonging to this culture have been excavated.[72] But around 400 this culture was undergoing a deep crisis.[57]

There are about 100 6th- to 7th-century settlement sites excavated so far at the foot of the eastern Carpathians and alongside the lower Danube.[36][42] Their material culture indicates a mixture of different elements: e.g., there are square sunken-floored buildings both with corner ovens (typical buildings of a type previously known from Ukraine) and with free-standing fireplaces; the pottery includes vessels reminiscent of Korchak type.[42] In Wallachia, the buildings are typically equipped not with stone ovens (as in Ukraine and Moldavia) but with a specific form of clay ovens.[42] The first is exclusive for the low plain, where there is any stone in substratum or rolling stones along rivers; both types are encountered in upper plain, the second being dominant.[73] There is also a third type of house oven, made by bricks (recovered from Roman sites); the type has a long history in the area, including within Roman camps, and is frequent in Illyricum too.[73]

An interesting feature of the 6th century pottery assemblages in Wallachia is the frequent occurrence alongside handmade wares of wheel-made vessels;[42] local potters fired both type of pottery in the same kiln.[37] In a large perspective above all Ipoteşti-Cândeşti sites, exactly half of its pottery is handmade.[73] The missing homogeneity is operating also at the design level: the morphologies with arguably Roman analogies are rising to 90% in Oltenia, 66% for western Muntenia, but only to 25% in some of the Bucharest sites.[73] From the second half of the 6th century, there is a significant cluster of vessels with finger impressions or notches on the lip east of the Carpathians, while stamped decoration is especially abundant within the Carpathian Basin.[37]

Romanian archaeologists have provisionally identified a number of pottery groups, such as the Ipoteşti-Candeşti-Ciurel Culture. The pottery groups are typically contain an intermixture regarded as representing Slavs, ‘Romanized indigenous’ and East Roman elements. It is worth bearing in mind that these taxonomic divisions were created in the archaeological material in the assumption that they would demonstrate the gradual assimilation of the Slavs into native communities (and not vice versa).

Barford, P. M. (2001), p. 49., note 12.

In the mid-6th century, the earlier regional pottery groups are replaced by material of the ‘Suceava-Şipot’ type.[42] These assemblages consist of handmade pottery (with extremely close affinities with the ‘Penkovka’ material of the Ukraine) found together with metalwork of ultimate ‘Cernjachov’ type.[42] A large cemetery discovered at Sărata-Monteoru consists of 1536 graves holding cremated remains;[12] the cremation burials are either in urns (of the ‘Prague-Korchak’ type but with wheel-made pottery) or pit-graves without urns.[42]

In Moldavia the earlier cultures are replaced in the 7th century by the ‘Hlinca culture’ which seems to be a local variant of the ‘Luka Raikovetska’ culture of the Ukraine.[42] On the Danubian plain, the ‘Suceava-Şipot’ material seems to disappear, though the date at which this occurs is uncertain (it is usually accepted that it ends at the time of the Bulgarian invasion of c. 680).[42]

The classification of sixth- to seventh-century pots found on East European sites raises two major problems. One is that of dating, which I already discussed in a previous section of this chapter. The other is that of the mental template, a combination of technological, functional, cognative, and cultural factors, which in the eyes of many archaeologists was specific to the early Slavs, and only to them. (...) First, Borkovský[note 10] and Rusanova[note 11] insisted that the Prague type is a specific class of handmade pottery, but this series of plots clearly shows that both handmade and wheelmade pots were shaped similarly. Second, the Březno experiment[note 12] and the fact that very similar shapes appear in ceramic assemblages considerably different in date suggest that vessel shape is primarily determined by vessel use and is not a function of "ethnic traditions." Furthermore, the experiment demonstrated that contents of all pots had to be mixed frequently as the cooking was mostly carried out at the hearth by the oven, so that only half of the pot was usually exposed to fire. This seems to point to a certain correlation between use of cooking ovens and vessel shape and size.

Curta, Florin (2001), pp. 287.,289-90.

During the 7th century, the settlements belonging to the ‘Ipoteşti-Ciurelu-Cândeşti culture’ ceased to exist south of the Carpathians, no direct connection can be established between these cultures and the ‘Dridu culture’ (a new cultural synthesis born in the Lower Danube Plain at the beginning of the 8th century).[57] This cultural horizon, extending from the Romanian plains to the Stara Plannina range, is often connected to the establishment of the First Bulgarian Empire.[74] According to a recent study,[note 13] there are 107 10th- to 11th-century sites in southern, and 87 in central Bessarabia (47 of those 87 sites also produced evidence of an 8th- to 9th century occupation, an indication of continuity); in Moldavia, to the west from the river Prut, field surveys identified 129 9th- to 10th-century sites attributed to the ‘Dridu culture’.[43]

By 1050, the sites that had flourished during the 10th century in the Moldavian and Bessarabian Uplands had already been abandoned; it is perhaps during this period of time that most, albeit not all, sites south and east of the Carpathian Basin were deserted.[36]

Developed by a sedentary, mostly agricultural population, unlike the migratory world of the steppes or the territories under the administration of the Byzantine Empire, the Dridu culture can be considered a result of the merger between the traditions of the Romance and Slavic populations in the area.

Sǎlǎgean, Tudor (2006), p. 135.

The burial assemblages so far discovered, which can be attributed to the Romanian population, consist of a few cemeteries and a number of isolated graves, a clear indication of insufficient research. (…) As already mentioned, cremation was favored throughout the early Middle Ages, up to the tenth century, when it was gradually replaced by inhumation.

Spinei, Victor (2009), p. 279.

Some Romanian authors (e.g., Spinei 2004) [note 14] support the idea of a Christian, Romance-speaking population practicing cremation, which runs against all the existing evidence about late antique and early medieval burial customs in the Mediterranean area.

Fiedler, Uwe (2008), p. 158.

Judging from the published archaeological evidence, there are about 100 sites of the ‘Răducăneni culture’ dated to the 11th and 12th centuries known from the area to the east of the Carpathian Mountains.[43] By contrast, only 35 sites are known, which have been dated to the 12th and 13th centuries.[note 15][43]

Intra-Carpathian regions

Table 2: Number of locations with archaeological materials from gazetteers published for three counties in Transylvania.[55]
century Cluj
5th BC – 1st AD 59 111 252
Roman 144 155 332
3rd – 4th 40 67 79
5th 49
6th 48
7th 40
8th 39
9th 19
10th 16
11th – 13th 47

The expansion of the Sântana de Mureş - Cernjachov culture in Transylvania probably began around 330.[75] The graves of the culture were made in its last period of existence in 376-425.[57]

Population shifts occurred, the former settlements were abandoned, and the settlements and necropolises became mixed, heterogeneous.[57] This archaeological horizon begins to take shape in northwestern Romania in the Barcǎu valley between 380-440.[57]

Between 420 and 455, Transylvanian settlement stood at its nadir, for there are no traces of human presence on the most hospitable land, the river valleys.[12] The only exceptions are the valleys of the Someş and the Mureş, and the road along the Olt.[12] Settlements and graves which yielded grey jugs with smoothed decoration, vessels and a glass have been unearthed in Târgu Mureş.[12]

According to the archaeological evidence, it seems that around 471 the population of modern northeastern Hungary withdraw to the south, a movement that could have reached the plains in the present-day western regions of Romania (e.g., few graves found in Dindeşti and Ghenci).[57] If the large graves on the valley of the Someşul Mic River (Apahida, Someşeni), dating back to the last third of the 5th century relate to the same population, then these discoveries can indicate the advance of this population in Transylvania, maybe from the period immediately following the fall of the Hunnish kingdom.[57]

In Transylvania, the first sunken floored huts with stone ovens appear in the very end of the 6th century in the valley of the rivers Râul Negru, Covasna and Caşin.[12] Some time after the middle of the 7th century, an enclave of sites in the region of Cluj forms a zone of settlements in the upper reaches of the Mureş and its tributaries.[42] These are mainly settlement sites and flat cremation cemeteries, some containing also inhumation burials.[42]

The ‘Band-Noşlac’ types of graveyards (e.g., Bratei 3, Târgu Mureş) saw a peak of activity in the 7th century.[57] The villages linked to the cemeteries underwent a peculiar transformation after the turn of the 7th century: the traditional fashions of the earlier population (e.g., the smoothed or stamped decoration of pottery, comb-makers’ products) became mixed with a new culture (interment with horses, horse harnesses, pike-heads).[12]

‘Early Avar’ graves were found in the Western Plain, mostly from the first half of the 7th century (e.g., at Felnac and Sânpetru German).[57] The area of the Gâmbaş group included the Middle Mureş valley at the confluence between the rivers Arieş and Târnava; its beginning cannot predate the first half of the 7th century, and the maximum expansion was achieved in the second half of the 7th century and in the early 8th century.[57]

An important group of 7th- to 9th-century cemeteries known as the ‘Mediaş group’ cluster near the salt mines (e.g., the cemetery of Ocna Sibiului, with 120 cremation and 15 inhumation burials).[8] Adjacent to the zone are the Someşeni and Nuşfalău barrow cemeteries which seems to reflect tradition of construction similar to the barrow cemeteries in the Ukraine.[42]

The distribution of these river names[note 16] coincides with that of a series of archaic cranial features within the restricted area of the Apuşeni Mountains. Linguistic data thus suggest the existence of speakers of Romanian in the vicinity of the salt mine district. This is indeed important, for it is very difficult to distinguish between "Slavic" and "Romanian" pottery or dress accessories. In most cases, archaeology can only identify cultural groups that, unlike Avars or Magyars, were not of nomadic origin. The wheel-made pottery produced on the fast wheel (as opposed to the tournette), which was found in several settlement of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, may indicate the continuation of Roman traditions.

Madgearu, Alexandru, 2005 (p. 105)

Elements of the ‘Dridu culture have been identified only in the southeast of this province and near Alba Iulia,[62] all dated to the second half of the 9th century.[8]

In addition to burials found near the church, three cemeteries have been excavated in Alba Iulia, which produced artifacts very similar to those from burial assemblages in Slavonia and the Hungarian Plain that had attributed to the ‘Bjelo Brdo culture’.[36] One of the earliest Bjelo Brdo cemeteries in Transylvania is that of Deva; another was established shortly after 1000 in Hunedoara and continued through the 11th century.[36] Burial in most pre-Christian cemeteries ceased by 1100.[36]

At some point in the early 12th century, strongholds erected in the 11th century in the northwest (Biharea, Dăbâca, Cluj-Mănăştur, Moldoveneşti) had their ramparts repaired and heightened.[36] Churches were built inside each one of them, and around those churches grew the 12th-century cemeteries that Romanian archaeologists group together in what they call the ‘Citfalău’ phase following the disappearance of the ‘Bjelo Brdo culture’.[36]

Other Latin provinces in Southeastern Europe (3rd century AD–7th century AD)

The Balkans' prime function was to provide a bridge between the two halves of Empire; and many resources were devoted to maintaining the roads, and the towns and way-stations along them.[32] Around 296 Emperor Diocletian secured the Danube frontier by building new fortresses.[34] In the 4th century, the Danubian Plain north of the Haemus Mountains was still dotted with Roman towns and villas.[32]

However, the late 4th and early 5th century layers of the recently excavated Nicopolis ad Istrum are striking for the number of rich houses that suddenly appeared inside the city walls; it looks as though, since their country villas were now too vulnerable, the rich were running their estates from safe inside the city walls.[32] After the middle of the 5th century, medium-sized estates completely disappeared (with just a few exceptions, mainly in the coastal areas).[36]

By 500, most, if not all, major cities in the Balkans had contracted and regrouped around a fortified precinct, almost always dominated by a church building.[36] A relatively large number of small houses was built in the 6th century in every city of the region, often within the ruins of previously large buildings.[36]

When Justinian I sought to re-establish Roman Illyricum in the 6th century, the essential foundation of strategically placed cities in the valleys created in the 1st and 2nd centuries, linked by policed roads and bridges, no longer existed.[3] During his reign, relatively small forts were built along the Danube and in the immediate hinterland.[36] Many forts on the mountain passes across the Stara Planina were comparatively larger.[36] Inside the walls, houses were built; and no other buildings exist besides churches.[36]

After 620, occupation ceased on most urban or military sites in the central Balkans, whose existence may have continued in one form or another into the early 7th century.[36] In several cases, there are clear signs of destruction by fire at some point after 600 AD.[36]

The key evidence for the population of the period between the 7th and 8th centuries is the Komani-Kruja group of cemeteries whose distribution is centered on Dyrrhachium (Durrës, Albania), and the general character of the remains suggests communities that were town-based and Christians.[3]

There can surely be no doubt that the Komani-Kruja cemeteries indicate the survival of a non-Slav population between the sixth and ninth centuries, and their most likely identification seems to be with a Romanized population of Illyrian origin driven out by Slav settlements further north, the Romanoi mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenitus.

Wilkes, John, 1995 (p. 278)

Evidences of Christianity

Scythia Minor (Dobrogea)

The strength of Christianity in Scythia Minor after 313 is proven by an impressive number of early Christian objects (rush-lights, crosses) and by over a hundred funeral inscriptions.[33] There is a remarkable martyrs' crypt discovered in Niculiţel, with the names of martyrs Zotikos, Attalos, Kamasis and Philippos written in Greek on the inner wall.[57]

Moreover, 35 basilicas (of the 4th to 6th centuries) were discovered in the main fortress towns of the province.[33] At Callatis (Mangalia), the basilica-with-atrium is unique in the Balkans, for it is a type common in Syria.[31]

Territories north of the Danube

There is no evidence of Christianity in Dacia Traiana until after the Roman withdrawal.[31] A piece of evidence for Christianity in the former province is a pierced bronze inscription of the 4th century from Biertan which records that one Zenovius made the offering; its inscription is in Latin.[31] Clay lamps are numerous from the end of the 4th century and especially in the 5th and 6th centuries (Apulum, Potaissa, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, Gherla); bronze lamps were discovered near Dej and Gherla.[71] A treasury belonging to a Christian woman (dating from the 5th century) was found in Someşeni; two rich tombs were discovered at Apahida.[71]

After 271-5, when the Romans abandoned Dacia and the Roman army and administration were withdrawn to south of the Danube, certain public edifices were transformed into Christian cult sites. This occurred in Slaveni and Sucidava (in Oltenia), at Porolissum (nowadays Moigrad), probably at Morisena (nowadays Cenad in Banat). According to some researchers, even the present day church in Densus (near the former Roman capital Sarmizegetusa, nowadays in Hunedoara county), which has different architectural plan, might have initially been a funeral monument for a general in Emperor Trajan's army.

Pacurariu, Mircea (2007), p. 187.

From there, The History of the Romanians[note 17] suggests that Christianity spread throughout the future national territory by the end of the fifth century (IR2,[note 18] Protase: 596). Dumitru Protase thinks “we are logically and necessarily” to suppose the existence of cult buildings on the “whole Daco-Roman territory”, from the withdrawal of Aurelian to the end of the sixth century, although he admits that the only ones we know about are the one from Sucidava, a Roman city on the northern bank of the Danube, at that time part of the Byzantine Empire, and two (highly) questionable constructions in Porolissum and Slăveni.(...) Protase plays the archaeological evidence against the evidence of the translation of the Bible by Ulfilas and that of the Gothic martyrs, to claim that the Goths from the territories north of the Danube were not Christians (IR2, Protase: 594-596), and he declares that any paleo-Christian find of the fourth and fifth centuries was exclusively that of the “autochthonous population” (595-596).

Niculescu, Gheorghe Alexandru, 2007 (pp. 151-152)

From the 6th and 7th century, Maltese crosses worn (especially by women) either as pectorals or attached to dress pins and earrings were found e.g., at Bucharest and Ruginoasa.[76] Moulds found north of the Danube demonstrate that such crosses were produced locally.[76] The distribution of Maltese crosses overlaps that of ceramic artifacts (pots, and spindle whorls) with incised crosses, images of fish, and Christian inscriptions; handmade pots with such decoration are indisputably of local production.[76] Humbler signs of Christian devotion, such as mold-made clay lamps with cross-shaped handles, are rare on 6th- to 7th-century sites in Romania and Moldavia.[76]

Do the artifacts found on sixth- to seventh-century sites north of the Danube indicate a Christian identity? As suggested in the previous section of this chapter, in the absence of any evidence of a well-organized congregation similar to that signalized by the basilica at Fenékpuszta, the artifacts with Christian symbolism found on “barbarian” sites can hardly be interpreted as evidence of conversion.

Curta, Florin (2005), pp. 151-152.

A small rotunda, which may have been built in the 9th century, was unearthed in Alba Iulia.[8] Byzantine crosses dated to the 10th century were found in the region between the rivers Mureş, Criş and Tisa; no such finds are known from Transylvania.[8]

Some ‘Citfalău’ cemeteries have burials clustering around an empty space in the middle, which has been interpreted as the mark of wooden church.[36] The distribution of churches of either stone or wood overlaps that of the increasing number of finds of coins struck for the 12th-century kings of Hungary.[36]

Latin provinces of the Roman Empire

Starting with Justinian’s reign, there was an increasing number of baptisteries (baptismal fonts) in the Balkans.[36] The evidence of monastic sites is remarkably small.[36]

Though the dating of early Balkan churches is most controversial subject, archaeologists agree that there was a gap without churches that included the 7th and 8th centuries.[46]

Bosnia and Hercegovina are famous for their enormous medieval gravestones, particularly those from the 14th to 16th century.[46] The most elaborate and interesting motifs are found on the stones erected by Vlachs, especially in the area of Stolac.[46]

Linguistic aspects of the Romanians’ origin

The substratum of the Romanian language

Trajan addresses his troops; Reception of a Dacian embassy; Roman reconnaissance troops (Trajan’s Column, Scenes XXVII-XXIX)

For approximately 90[4]-160[38] words in Romanian that lack Latin or Slavic ancestors, a Dacian, “Geto-Dacian”,[38] “Thraco-Dacian”,[7] “Thraco-Illyrian” or “Daco-Thracian-Illyrian”[4] origin has been supposed, but the Indo-European nature of these words is controversial.[77] Examples include buză ‘lip’, băiat ‘boy’, and vatră ‘hearth’.[38] Approximately one third of these words are specific shepherd expressions (e.g., caţă ‘sheep hook’; cârlan ‘one-year-old lamb’) or denote things of special importance to a pastoral population (e.g., măldac ‘hay stacks’; viscol ‘snowstorm’).[2][13]

The Dacian language is generally regarded as a variety of Indo-European closely related to Thracian.[26] However, all attempts to relate Thracian to Phrygian, Illyrian, or Dacian are purely speculative – our knowledge of these languages is simply too limited for claims of this kind.[28] Even the notion that what ancients called “Thracian” was a single entity is unproven.[28]

The Latin heritage

The Eastern and Western Romance languages split by the La Spezia-Rimini Line

Basic core vocabulary of the Romanian language is, and always has been Latin: 20% of the more than 48,000 entries of the The Dictionary of the Modern Romanian Language[note 19] is of Latin origin; if one counts other Romance sources (e.g., French), the overall Latin-based content comes to around 85%.[77] Considering the usual 200 or so items of truly basic vocabulary, Latin achieves an even higher percentage in standard Romanian.[77]

Many names of crops, tillage and harvesting, as well as gardening practices and tools are of Latin origin: e.g., câmp ‘field’; a ara ‘to plough’; grâuwheat’; furcăpitchfork’.[43] The names of "man's part of the farm" are Latin: e.g., casǎ 'house'; poartǎ 'gate'; fereastrǎ 'window'.[31] Similarly Latin is the name of several domesticated and wild animals: e.g., cǎprioarǎ 'deer', câine 'dog'; lup 'wolf'; urs 'bear'.[78] On the other hand, no traces were left in the Romanian language of the Latin vocabulary of city life.[43]

Some (sub)dialects of Balkan Romance are more innovative, others more conservative, and this particularly applies to lexis.[77] For example, among more conservative features of the Maramureş subdialect of the Rumanian are lexical items of Latin origin such as gint ‘people’ and arină ‘sand’, while Aromanian, unlike Daco-Romanian, retains the Latin for ‘twenty’ (/jingits/), and the specific word for ‘month’ (/mes/).[77] It is the Wallachian subdialect of Daco-Rumanian which has been most subject to change.[77]

Several Romanian words of Latin origin, such as păcurar (shepherd), arină (sand), nea (snow), june (young man), or ai (garlic), are in use only within the territory of the former Roman province of Dacia, particularly in Transylvania. This suggests an early occupation of this region by speakers of the Romance dialect from which Romanian derives, as Transylvania was undoubtedly the Romanian territory that received the strongest and most durable Roman influence.

Madgearu, Alexandru (2005), pp. 104-105.

If the existence of ancient Latin elements in a Romanian dialect indicates that the speakers of that idiom have been living in their present-day area since the Roman period, then the Arumanians (together with the Meglenitic) would be the most likely candidates for this group. (…) As is known,[note 20] however, the Arumanians migrated to their present territory.

Illyés, Elemér (1988), pp. 283-284.

The Balkan Sprachbund

Though often genetically only remotely related, the Balkan languages (Albanian, Bulgarian, Greek, Macedonian, Serbo-Croatian, and the Eastern Romance languages) share sets of typological features.[79] For instance, the postposed articles (e.g., fecior - 'boy', feciorul - the boy'), the periphrastic future (signaled by “want” auxiliaries), the periphrastic perfect (with “have” auxiliaries), and the syncretism of dative and genitive are singled out among the shared typological features of the Balkan languages by most scholars.[79]

These “prominent” Balkan properties are present in most of the individual languages, although (e.g., the postposed articles are absent from Modern Greek and Serbo-Croatian, and the periphrastic perfect with “have” auxiliaries is present only in the Macedonian, Albanian and Eastern Romance languages).[79]

Albanian connections

Albanian forms its own separate branch of Indo-European.[28] The widespread assertion that it is the modern-day descendant of Illyrian makes geographic and historical sense but is linguistically untestable.[28] Competing hypotheses, likewise untestable, would derive Albanian from Thracian, or from “Daco-Mysian” (a hypothetical mixture or ancestor of Thracian, Illyrian, and Dacian).[28] The Romanian epigraphist I. I. Russu suggested that the Albanians were descendant of the Carps, who had been displaced by the Romans to the south of the lower Danube in the latter half of the 3rd century.[17]

The duration of the borrowing from the Latin language was so long that loanwords in Albanian reflect several distinct chronological stages.[80]

Romanian has approximately 70-120[17] substratum words cognate with Albanian (e.g., Albanian vatër, Romanian vatră ‘fireplace’; Albanian brez, Romanian brâu ‘girdle, belt’).[2] The largest group of these lexical isoglosses (about 1/3 of the words) relates to the terminology of goat and sheep breeding[2] (e.g., Albanian dash, Romanian daş ‘ram’; Albanian gëlbëza, Romanian gălbeazafasciolosis’) .[13]

Albanian has many loans cognate with Romanian[77] (e.g., Albanian vjetër, Romanian bătrân 'old' < Latin veterānus 'veteran'; Albanian pyll 'forest', Romanian pădure 'forest' < Latin paludem 'swamp').[2][13] Some Romanian words of Latin origin can possibly be traced back to the Latin via the Albanian language (e.g., Romanian sat 'village' < Albanian fshat 'village' < Latin fossātum 'ditch');[2] but the Romanian linguist Sorin Paliga argues that Albanian borrowings in Romanian are impossible.[81]

The Slavic adstratum

Much more substantial than the Germanic adstrate in the Western Romance languages is the Slavic adstrate in Balkan Romance.[77] But only 15 words can be attributed to a Common Slavic influence on the basis of their phonetical treatment[37] (e.g., şchiau 'Bulgarian'; daltă 'chisel');[13] no other words of a very long list of Slavic loans in Romanian can be dated earlier than the 9th century.[37]

Romanian-Slavic linguistic contacts reached their apex between the 9th and the 11th centuries when the Romanian language assimilated a significant number of terms of Slavic origin.[62] On the other hand, according to Romanian linguists (e.g., Gheorghe Mihăilă, Sorin Paliga), there is no argument which may support the idea that Slavic influence in Romanian may be dated earlier than the 11th century (more probable 12th century).[81]

The oldest Slavic elements in Romanian are popular and have Bulgarian characteristics.[77] About 70 words of Slavic origin can be found in all the Eastern Romance dialects (e.g., prag 'threshold'; lopată 'shovel').[13] Many items of the agriculturalists' and artisans' vocabulary are of Slavic origin (e.g., a plivi 'to weed'; a răsădi 'to plant'; a prăşi 'to hoe'; coasă 'scythe'; pahar 'glass'; potcoavă 'horseshoe'; bob 'bean'; morcov 'carrot'; şuncă 'ham'; ocol 'farmyard'; grajd 'stable').[31][78] The names of most of the freshwater fish species were also borrowed from a Slavic language (e.g., biban 'perch'; cegă 'starlet'; mreană 'barbel').[78] Several old borrow words relate to general household management nad trade: gospodărie 'household', plăti 'pay'.

Linguistic traces of other languages

Several migrations of peoples crossed the territory of today’s Romania between the departure of the Roman legions and the appearance of the modern Romanian people, but little or no linguistic trace of the Goths, Huns, Gepids, Avars, et al. remain.[4] The word jupân (‘lord’) may be of Avar origin; if this is the case, it may have been borrowed at the same time by the early Slavs and the Proto-Romanians.[13] Distinguishing Pecheneg and Cuman loanwords of the Romanian language from much later Tatar or Ottoman Turkish loans is very difficult, but some words may be regarded as of Pecheneg or Cuman origin (e.g., buzdugan ‘mace’; coboc ‘goblet’; călăuză ‘guide’).[43]

Up to the 18th century, Greek influence was primarily through the medium of Old Church Slavonic; the influence of Ancient Greek on Balkan Romance is minimal.[77] Even the Romance languages spoken in present-day Greece, Albania and Macedonia do not betray the influence of Ancient Greek elements that they should if they had originated where they are spoken.[79]

The Christian vocabulary

The Latin character of the Christian vocabulary of the Romanian language attests the ancient tradition of the Christianity of the Romanians.[82] But only the terms referring to the most important objects of cult have been preserved[43] (e.g., Dumnezeu ‘God’; biserică ‘church’; cruce ‘cross’; creştin ‘Christian’; sân or sânt ‘saint’; înger ‘angel’; and a boteza ‘to baptize’).[1]

Following the adoption by Romanians of the Slavonic liturgy, numerous terms of South Slavic origin were adopted (e.g., a se căi 'to repent'; călugar 'monk', clopot 'bell', duh 'soul, spirit', iad 'hel', rai 'paradise').[43] Some of those words are undoubtedly of Greek origin, but they entered Romanian through South Slavic.[43]


Pre-Roman place names in Dacia Traiana province

Most of the names of Roman towns are of Dacian origin, but Sarmizegetusa Regia (Grădiştea Muncelului) is the only pre-Roman locality mentioned in written sources which is identified after archaeological excavations.[57] In the case of Napoca, Potaissa, Drobeta, Porolissum there are no known Dacian settlements in the vicinity, and consequently the indigenous names are most likely local toponyms.[57]

The names of Dacia’s main rivers – Maris, Samus, Crisia, Tibiscus, and Alutus – were taken from the locals by the Romans.[57]

Place names in Romania

After the Roman withdrawal, without exception, the names of onetime Roman towns, settlements, and fortresses fell into oblivion.[12] The ancient or archaic sounding name instead, before or after the name of some modern settlements was only added in the recent past:[11] e.g., Cluj (from 1974 Cluj-Napoca)[45] and Sătmar (from the 1950s Satu Mare).[17]

The modern Romanian names of the great rivers have been transmitted through Slavonic phonology:[83] e.g., Romanian Mureş < Slavic *Moriš < pre-Slavic Maris(ia)/Marisus; Romanian Olt < Slavic *Olt < pre-Slavic Alutus/Aluta (the Romanian linguistic rules would have produced *Mareş and *Alut respectively, but the a > o vowel shift is typical for all Slavic languages).[12] On the other hand Sorin Paliga assumes that the a > ô > u vowel shift occurred in the Dacian language (Romanian Mureş < Dacian *Môreş < Maris).[81] The Romanian name of the Danube (Dunăre) may have originated from the “Daco-Moesian” *Donaris;[83] Sorin Paliga also argues that the Slavic and Hungarian forms with root Dun- reflect their Romanian origin.[81]

Most Romanian toponyms are of Slavic origin.[57] In contrast to the earlier Slavic loanwords (e.g., Romanian dumbravă ‘oak forest’ < Slavic *dǫbrǫva), the geographical names of Slavic origin, never contain the reflex -un, -um for the Slavic nasal back vowel (ǫ), but exclusively the reflex -ân, -âm (e.g., Dâmboviţa, Glâmbocea).[2] In Transylvania, Slavic geographical names were also adopted by the Hungarians and the Transylvanian Saxons: e.g., Hungarian Zalatna, German Kleinschlatten (Zlatna) ‘golden’; Hungarian Beszterce, German Bistritz (Bistriţa) ‘swift’.[11]

In many cases, a geographical name of Hungarian origin was adopted by the Romanians: e.g., Almaş ‘with apple(trees)’, Căpuş ‘with doors’, Mediaş ‘with sour cherry’.[12] Of the 153 tributaries of the rivers Someş, Criş, Ampoi, Mureş, Olt, Timiş and Bârzava 72 (47%) are of Hungarian origin.[12] The adopted names covering mostly the territory of Banat, Partium and Transylvania, most of them are (or partly) phonetic transciptions of the Hungarian toponyms.[citation needed] More examples: Hunyadvár-Hunedoara (Hunyad Castle), Temesvár-Timişoara (Temes Castle) - vár=castle, Nagyvárad-Oradea (formerly Oradea Mare, mare=nagy=big, várad=castle+suffix), Karánsebes-Caranşebes (Kara=Turkic origin[84] and old Hungarian person name,[85][86] meaning black [84][86] or Slavic origin[87][88] and the Hungarian sebes=fast[87])[original research?], Székelyudvarhely-Odorheiu Secuiesc (udvarhely=court place), Máramarossziget-Sighetu Marmaţiei (formerly Sighet, sziget=island), etc.[citation needed] Sorin Paliga argues that the Hungarian name of the Criş (Körös) is borrowed from Romanian.[81]

The Romanian and Hungarian names of some tributaries of the Olt are of German origin: e.g., Romanian Ghimbav, Hungarian Vidombák from German Weidenbach.[12]

Romanian place-names from north of the Danube appear only rarely in pre-1300 documents.[12] In Transylvania, the earliest Romanian toponyms include Nucşoara (1359), Cuciulata (1372),[11] Râuşor (1377).[12] Alexandru Madgearu propounds that the name of Achtum's capital in the Latin text of the Long Life of Saint Gerald (urbs Morisena) derived from the Romanian form Morişana.[8]

47 names of rivers ending in -ui and -lui (‘river’ or ‘valley’), identified in the Romanian plain, are of Turkic origin (e.g., Bahlui, Vaslui).[43] Besides these names, several philologists and historians have assigned an old Turkic origin to other place names in the Carpathian-Dniester region (e.g., Bârlad, Galaţi).[43]

In Transylvania proper, many river names are of Slavic origin, but in some cases, the Slavic name is in fact a translation of the Latin or Romanian one. For example, the upper course of the river bearing the Slavic name Bistriţa goes by the Romanian name Repedea. The meaning of both names is “swift river”, but the former is most likely the translation of the latter. Other names, such as Criş and Gălpâia have no Slavic intermediary, since their pre-Slavic forms are documented in Jordanes’ Getica (Grisia and Gilpil). The same is true for Ampoi, a name derived from that of the Roman city Ampelum.

Madgearu, Alexandru (2005), p. 105.

Firstly, Romanian place names abound, and are in fact dominant, in all those parts of eastern Hungary which were, and partly still are, covered with forests and were thus areas of secondary human settlement. All these regions, mostly lying in the mountains, seem to have been colonized during the later Middle Ages. On many occasions even the time and circumstances of the original settlement can be established by written sources. Secondly, Romanian toponyms are missing in all those regions where early settlement could be expected and where, indeed, in many cases it can be verified by archaeological evidence.

Fügedi, Erik (2005), p. 105.

Place names of Latin and Romanian origin in other parts of Southeastern Europe

The persistence of Roman place-names in several areas of Illyricum suggests the survival of Latin-speaking communities, notably in that region near the Danube where Aurelian had settled the people moved out of Dacia Traiana.[3] There is also a concentration of Latin place-names around the Lake of Shkodër, in the Drin and Fan valleys and along the road from Lissus (Lezhë, Albania) to Ulpiana (Kosovo), with some in the Black Drin and Mat valleys, a distribution limited on the south by throughout the Via Egnatia road.[3]

The Romanian presence in the Balkan Peninsula is illustrated by the Romanian toponymy in Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Serbia.[66] For example, names of mountains like Vacarel "little cattle herder", Pasarel "small bird" (Bulgaria), Durmitor "sleeping room", and Visitor (Montenegro) are of Romanian origin.[66]

Other aspects of the Romanians’ ethnogenesis

The territory inhabited by Romanians has a well-marked individuality that, on the whole, and in spite of its large variety and complexity, has a remarkable homogeneity and symmetry. Indeed, one may confidently assert that the unity of the land has much to do with the unity of the Romanian people.

Spinei, Victor (2009), p. 13.

The unitary geography of the Romanian people, which has continued to the present day, was elaborated in the nineteenth century in the image of a perfect, almost circular space bounded by three great waterways – the Danube, the Dniester, and the Tisza – a space supported and solidified by the vertebral column of the Carpathians which passes right across it. In the Romanian version, mountains unite while rivers divide.

Boia, Lucian (2001), p. 132


The use by Byzantine authors of ‘Vlach’ indicates that these people were perceived as speakers of a Latin language, for this term, initially used by ancient Germans to refer to the Roman and Romanized population of Gaul, was later extended to the population of the Italic peninsula.[1] It passed from the Germans to the Slavs and Byzantines, who applied it to the Romanic, Proto-Romanian populations on both sides of the Danube.[1]

One of the earliest mentions of the name, which Romanians used to refer to themselves appears in an Italian description of the world, probably drawn up in Tuscany between 1312 and 1342.[43] Among the peoples living in the region of Hungary, the unknown author lists “i Rumeni e i Vallacchi” (‘the Romanians and the Vlachs’), obviously without knowing that the two names referred to one and the same people.[43] The name 'Roman' itself received a pejorative sense from a social point of view:[82] during the Middle Ages, the rumâni were dependent peasants attached to feudal estates in Wallachia.[45]

Cultural aspects

Many Romanian scholars (e.g., Mircea Eliade) suggest that the ethnic continuity is also manifested in the national costume: Romanian peasants are still dressed the same way as the Dacians on Trajan's Column.[82]

According to Mircea Eliade, the types of houses from prehistoric times and certain villages in Transylvania also conserve the structures of the pre-Roman period.[82]


A recent study reflects eminent genetic similarity between the old Thracian individuals and modern populations from Southeastern Europe[89] Computing the frequency of common point mutations of the present-day European population with the Thracian population has resulted that the Italian (7,9%), the Albanian (6,3%) and the Greek (5,8%) have shown a bias of closer genetic kinship with the Thracian individuals than the Romanian and Bulgarian individuals (only 4,2%).[89]

So far it can only be supposed, that the old Thracian populations would have been able to contribute to the foundation of the Romanian modern genetic pool.[89]

See also


  1. ^ Samuil Micu-Klein (1745-1806), Gheorghe Şincai (1754-1816), Petru Maior (1756-1812)
  2. ^ Sulzer, Franz Joseph: Geschichte des Transalpinischen Daciens, das ist: der Walachey, Moldau und Bessarabiens; Rudolph Gräffer, 1781, Vienna [1] (retrieved: 2009-12-12)
  3. ^ For example, the usage of such words of Latin origin as aigarlic’, neasnow’, instead of Slavic loanwords.
  4. ^ Pliny the Elder (23 - 79 AD) and Lucan (39 - 65 AD); Oltean, Ioana A. (2007), p. 44.
  5. ^ For example, Gottfried Schramm and Endre Tóth.
  6. ^ For example, Emperor Arnulf, Symeon of Bulgaria, Svatopluk of Moravia; Kristó, Gyula (2003), p. 32.
  7. ^ E.g., a charter issued by King Charles in 1335; Spinei, Victor (1986) p. 204.
  8. ^ The so called Moldo-Russian Chronicle which records the legend-like stories of Roman and Vlahata, the eponymous heroes of the Romanians; Spinei, Victor (1986) p. 197.
  9. ^ For example, Mark at Nicaea (325), Gerontius at Constantinople (381); Pacurariu, Mircea (2007), p. 188.
  10. ^ Ivan Borkovský (1897-1976) was a Czech archaeologist who first called, on the basis of finds from several residential areas of the Czechoslovak capital, a ceramic category the "Prague type" which was - according to him - a national, exclusively Slavic, pottery; Curta, Florin (2007), p. 9.
  11. ^ Irina P. Rusanova, a Soviet archeologist who re-baptized Borkovský's type "Korchak-Zhitomir" on the basis of extensive excavations in the 1950s and 1960s in the Zhitomir Polesie; Curta, Florin (2007), p. 228.
  12. ^ An archaeological experiment stemming from excavations of the early medieval settlement at Březno (Czech Republic); Curta, Florin (2007), p. 282.
  13. ^ Postică, Gh: “Evoluţia aşezărilor din spaţiul pruto-nistrean în epoca migraţiirol (sec. V-XIII)”, Thraco-Dacica 20 (1999), nos. 1-3, p. 333.
  14. ^ Spinei, Victor: Pratiques funéraires das l’espace carpato-danubien dans la seconde moitié du Ier millénaire ap. J.-C.; in: Cojocaru, V. – Spinei V.: Aspects of Spiritual Life in South East Europe from Prehistory to the Middle Ages; Iaşi, 2003.
  15. ^ The Romanian historian Victor Spinei suggests that the small number of 13th-century sites is certainly a problem of the current research, and must therefore be treated with caution; Spinei, Victor (2009), p. 193.
  16. ^ The author refers to the names of the rivers Criş and Gălpăia, and the Romanian name (Repedea) of the upper course of the Bistriţa; Madgearu, Alexandru (2005), p. 105.
  17. ^ Petrescru-Dîmboviţa, Mircea – Vulpe, Alexandru (Coordinators): Istoria Românilor, Vol. 1: Moştenirea timpurilor îndepărtate (Editura Enciclopedică, 2001, Bucureşti, ISBN 978-973-45-0382-7); Protase, Dumitru – Suceveanu, Alexandru (Editors): Istoria Românilor, Vol. 2: Daco-romani, romaneci, alogeni (Editura Enciclopedică, 2001, Bucureşti, ISBN 978-973-45-0389-6); Pascu, Ştefan – Theodorescu, Răzvan (Coordinators): Istoria Românilor, Vol. 3: Genezele româneşti (Editura Enciclopedică, 2001, Bucureşti, ISBN 978-973-45-0390-2)
  18. ^ Protase, Dumitru – Suceveanu, Alexandru (Editors): Istoria Românilor, Vol. 2: Daco-romani, romaneci, alogeni (Editura Enciclopedică, 2001, Bucureşti, ISBN 978-973-45-0389-6)
  19. ^ Dicţionarul Limbii Române Moderne (Editura Academiei, 1958, Bucureşti)
  20. ^ For example Ioan Aurel Pop refers to the southward migration of the Balkan Vlachs; Pop, Ioan Aurel (1999), p. 33.


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