1902 Encyclopedia > Vlachs

Vlachs




VLACHS. Vlach, otherwise written Wallack, is a general name for all the members of the Latin-speaking race inhabiting eastern Europe. The name is in its origin identical with our "Welsh," "Welshman," and represents a Slavonic adaptation of a generic term applied by the Teutonic races at the time of the migration of peoples to all Roman provincials. It thus finds its analogies in the German name for Italy—Welschland (Walischland), in the Walloons of the Low Countries, the " Wallgau" of Tyrol, he. An early instance of its application to the Roman population of the Eastern empire is found in the Traveller's Song, where in a passage which in all probability connects itself with the early trade-route between the Baltic staple of Wollin and Byzantium, the gleeman speaks of Caesar's realm as Walaria — "Welshry." In verse 140 he speaks of the " Rum-walas," and it is to be observed that "Rum " is one of the words by which the Vlachs of eastern Europe still know themselves.
The Slavs, at least in their principal extent, first knew the Roman empire through a Teutonic medium, and adopted their terms Vlach, Voloch, from the Ostro-Gothic equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon " Wealh." The name is thus of foreign origin, the native Vlachs continuing to this day to call themselves " Rumeni," Romeni, or even Romani; and it is from the native pronunciation of the Roman name that we have the equivalent expression Rouman, a word which must by no means be confined to that part of the Vlach race inhabiting the present kingdom of Roumania. This Vlach or Rouman race constitutes a distinct division of the Latin family of peoples, widely disseminated throughout eastern Europe, both north and south of the Danube. North of the Danube the Roumans inhabit, besides Walachia and Moldavia, Bessarabia and the adjoining South-Bussian districts, a large part of Transylvania and the Hungarian Banat, aud extend sporadically from the Bug to the Adriatic. South of the Danube the central glens of Pindus form the principal nucleus of Rouman habitation, but there is besides a considerable colony in the Epirote district of Musakja, in ^Etolia and Acarnania, in various districts of Albania, Thessaly, Macedonia, and the Bulgarian principality. In Servia this element is preponderant in the Timok valley, while in Istria it is represented by the Cici, at present largely Slavonized, as are now entirely the kindred Morlachs of Dalmatia.
The centre of gravity of the Vlach or Rouman race is at present unquestionably north of the Danube, and corresponds roughly to the limits of Trajan's Dacian province. From this circumstance the popular idea has arisen that the race itself represents the descendants of the Bomanized population of Trajan's Dacia, which was assumed to have maintained an unbroken existence in Walachia, Transylvania, &c, beneath the dominion of a succession of invaders. The Vlachs of Pindus, &c, on this hypothesis, were to be regarded as later immigrants from the lands north of the Danube. In 1871 Boesler published, in a collective form, a series of essays, in which he absolutely denied the claim of the Roumanian and Transylvanian Vlachs to be regarded as Dacian autochthones. He laid stress on the statements of Vopiscus and others as implying the total withdrawal of the Boman provincials from Trajan's Dacia by Aurelian, and on the non-mention by historians of a Latin popula-tion in the lands on the left bank of the lower Danube, during their successive occupation by Goths, Huns, Gepidae, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, and other barbarian races. He found the first trace of a Rouman settlement north of the Danube in a Transylvanian diploma of 1222. Roesler's thesis has been generally regarded as an entirely new de-parture in critical ethnography. As a matter of fact, his conclusions had to a great extent been already anticipated by Sulzer in his Geschichte des Transalpinischen Daciens, published at Vienna in 1781, and at a still earlier date by the Dalmatian historian Lucius of Traii in his work De Regno Dalmatiee et Croatix, 1666.
The theory of the later immigration of the Roumans into their present abodes north of the Danube, as stated in its most extreme form by Roesler, commanded wide accept-ance, aud in Hungary it was politically utilized as a plea for refusing parity of treatment to a race of com-paratively recent intruders. In Roumania itself Roesler's views were resented as an attack on Rouman nationality. Outside Roumania they found a determined opponent in Dr Jung, of Innsbruck, who in his Anfdnge der Romdnen upheld the continuity of the Roman provincial stock in Trajan's Dacia, disputing from historic analogies the total withdrawal of the provincials by Aurelian; and the reaction against Roesler was carried still further by T. Lad. PiS (Ueber die Abstammung der Ritmanen, 1880) and Prof. A. D. Xenopol of Jassy (Les Roumains au Moyen Age, 1885).
On the whole,—as often in controversies,-—it may be said that the truth lies between the two extremes. Roesler is no doubt so far right that at the time of the migration of peoples, and indeed throughout the early Middle Ages, the bulk of the Rouman people lay south of the Danube.

Pi(5's view that the population of the Roman provinces of j Mcesia, &c, were Hellenized rather than Romanized, and that it is to Trajan's Dacia alone that we must look for the Roman source of the Vlach race, conflicts with what we know of the Latinizing of the Balkan lands from inscrip-tions, martyrologies, Procopius's list of Justinian's Illyrian fortresses, and other sources. This Boman element south of the Danube had further received a great increase at the expense of Trajan's colonial foundation to the north when Aurelian established his New Dacia on the Moesian side of the river. On the other hand, the analogy supplied by the withdrawal of the Boman provincials from Riparian Noricum tells against the assumption that the official withdrawal of the Roman colonists of Trajan's Dacia by Aurelian entailed the entire evacuation of the Carpathian regions by their Latin-speaking inhabitants. As on the upper Danube the continuity of the Roman population is attested by the Vici Romanisci of early mediaeval diplomas and by other traces of a Romanic race still represented by the Ladines of Tyrol, so it is reasonable to suppose a Latin-speaking population continued to exist in the formerly thickly colonized area embracing the present Transylvania and Little Walachia, with adjoining Carpathian regions. Even as late as Justinian's time, the official connexion with the old Dacian province was not wholly lost, as is shown by the erection or restoration of certain tetes-de-pont and castella on the left bank of the lower Danube.
We may therefore assume that the Latin race of eastern Europe never wholly lost touch of its former trans-Danubian strongholds. It was, however, on any showing greatly diminished there. The open country, the broad plains of what is now the Roumanian kingdom, and the Banat of Hungary were in barbarian occupation. The centre of gravity of the Boman or Romance element of Illyricum had now shifted south of the Danube. By the 6th century a large part of Thrace, Macedonia, and even of Epirus, had become Latin-speaking.
What had occurred in Trajan's Dacia in the 3d century was consummated in the 6th and 7th throughout the greater part of the South-Illyrian provinces, and the Slavonic and Avar conquests severed the official connexion with eastern Borne. The overthrow of civic life and break-down of provincial organization was complete. The Boman element was uprooted from its fixed seats, and swept hither and thither by the barbarian flood. Nomadism became an essential of independent existence. On the other hand, large masses of homeless provincials were dragged off as captives in the train of their barbarian conquerors, to be distributed in servile colonies. They were thus in many cases transported by barbarian chiefs—Slav, Avar, and Bulgarian—to trans-Danubian and Pannonian regions. In the Acts of St Demetrius of Thessalonica we actually find an account of such a Boman colony, which, having been carried away from South-Illyrian cities by the Avar khagan, and settled by him in the Sirmian district beyond the Save, revolted after seventy years of captivity, made their way once more across the Balkan passes, and finally settled as an independent community in the country inland from Salonica. Others, no doubt, thus transported northwards never returned. It is certain that the earliest Hungarian historians who describe the Magyar invasion of the 9 th century speak of the old inhabitants of the country as Romans, and of the country they occupied as Pascua Romanorum; and the Russian Nestor, writing about 1100, makes the same invaders fight against Slavs and Vlachs (Volochi) in the Carpathian Mountains. So far from the first mention of the Vlachs north of the Danube occurring only in 1222, as Roesler asserts, it appears from a passage of Nicetas of Chonse that they were to be found already in 1164 as far afield as the borders of Galicia.
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It is nevertheless true that throughout the early Middle Ages the bulk of the Rouman population lay south of the Danube. It was in the Balkan lands that the Bouman race and language took their characteristic mould. It is here that this new Illyrian Romance first rises into historic prominence. Already in the 6th century, as we learn from the place names, such as Sceptecasas, Burgualtu, Clisura, &c, given by Procopius, the Rouman language was assuming, so far as its Latin elements were concerned, its typical form. In the somewhat later campaigns of Commentiolus (587) and Priscus, against the Avars and Slovenes, we find the Latin-speaking soldiery of the Eastern emperor making use of such Romance expressions as " torna, frate!" (turn, brother!), or "sculca" (out of bed) applied to a watch (cf. Rouman " a se culca " = Italian " coricarsi" -t-ex-(s-) privative). Next we find this warlike Rouman population largely incorporated in the Bulgarian kingdom, and, if we are to judge from the names Paganus and Sabiuus, already supplying it with rulers in the 8th century. The blending and close contact during this period of the surviving Latin population with the Slovene settlers of the peninsula impregnated the language with its large Slavonic ingredient; and the considerable Albanian element in Rouman, as well as the still greater element of Rouman in Albanian, is alone sufficient to show that the two languages took their charac-teristic shapes in a contiguous area. The fact that these peculiarities are common to the Roumans north of the Danube, whose language differs dialectically from that of their southern brothers, shows that it was this southern branch that throughout the early periods of Rouman his-tory was exercising a dominating influence. Migrations, violent transplantation, the intercourse which was kept up between the most outlying members of the race, in its very origin nomadic, at a later period actual colonization en masse and the political influence of the Bulgaro-Vlachian empire, no doubt contributed to propagate these southern linguistic acquisitions throughout that northern area to which the Rouman race was destined almost imperceptibly to shift its centre of gravity.
Byzantium, which had ceased to be Roman, and become Romaic, renewed its acquaintance with the descendants of the Latin provincials of Illyricum through a Slavonic medium, and applied to them the name of " Vlach," which the Slav himself had borrowed from the Goth. The first mention of Vlachs in a Byzantine source is about the year 976, when Cedrenus (ii. 439) relates the murder of the Bulgarian czar Samuel's brother " by certain Vlach way-farers," at a spot called the Fair Oaks, between Castoria and Prespa. From this period onwards the Rouman inhabit-ants of the Balkan peninsula are constantly mentioned by this name, and we find a series of political organizations and territorial divisions connected with the name of " Vlachia." Within the limits of the present article it is impossible to give more than a short synopsis of the most important of these, while for a history of the later Bouman princi-palities of Walachia and Moldavia the reader is referred to the article BOUMANIA.
1. The Bulgaro- Vlach Empire.—After the overthrow of the older Bulgarian czardom by Basil Bulgaroktonos, the Vlach population of Thrace, Hcemus, and the Moesian lands passed once more under Byzantine dominion; and in 1185 a heavy tax, levied in kind on the cattle of these warlike mountain shepherds, stirred the Vlachs to revolt against the emperor Isaac Angelus, and under the leader-ship of two brothers, Peter and Asen, to found a new Bulgaro-Vlachian empire, which ended with Kaliman II. in 1257. The dominions of these half-Slavonic half-Rouman emperors extended north of the Danube over a great deal of what is now Roumania, and it was during this period that the Vlach population north of the river seems to have been most largely reinforced. The French traveller Rubruquis speaks of all the country between Don and Danube as "Asen's land" or "Blakia."
2. Great Walachia (Meyd\T) BXaxia).—It is from Anna Com-nena, in the second half of the 11th century, that we first hear of

a Vlach settlement, the nucleus of which was the mountainous region of Thessaly. Benjamin of Tudela, in the succeeding century, gives an interesting account of this Great Walachia, which was then completely independent. It embraced the southern and central ranges of Pindus, and extended over part of Macedonia, thus including the region in which the Roman settlers mentioned in the Acts of St Demetrius had fixed their abode. After the Latin conquest of Constantinople Great Walachia was included in the en-larged despotate of Epirus, but it soon reappears as an independent principality under its old name, which, after passing under the yoke of the Serb emperor Dushan, was finally conquered by the Turks in 1393. Many of their old privileges were still accorded to the in-habitants, and their taxes were limited to an annual tribute to the sultana Valide. Since this period the Megalovlachites have been largely Hellenized, but they are still represented by the flourishing Tzintzar settlements of Pindus, and traces are at present perceptible among them of a national Rouman reaction.
3. Little Walachia (yitxpa BKax'ta) was a name applied by Byzantine writers to the Rouman settlements of /Etolia and Acarnania, and with it may be included "Upper Walachia" or Araj/SXaxa. Its inhabitants are still represented by the Tz-in tzars of the Aspropotaino and the Karaguni (Black Capes) of Acarnania.
4. The Morlachs (Mavrovlachi) of the West.—These are already mentioned as Nigri Latini by the Presbyter of Dioclea. (circ. 1150) in the old Dalmatian littoral and the mountains of what is now Montenegro, Herzegovina, and North Albania. Other colonies extended through a great part of the old Servian interior, where is a region still called Stara Vlaska or "Old Walachia." The great commercial staple of the east Adriatic shores, the republic of Ragusa, seems in its origin to have been a Rouman settlement, and many Vlach traces survived in its later dialect. Philippus de Diversis, who described the city as it existed in 1440, says that "the various officers of the republic do not make use either of Slav or Italian, with which they converse with strangers, but a certain other dialect only partially intelligible to us Latins," and cites words with strong Rouman affinities. In the mountains above Ragusa a number of Vlach tribes are mentioned in the archives of that city, and the original relationship of the Ragusans and the nomadic Alpine representatives of the Roman provincials, who preserved a traditional knowledge of the. old lines of communication throughout the peninsula, explains the extraordinary development of the Ragusan commerce. In the 14th century the Mavrovlachi or Morlachs extended themselves towards the Croatian borders, and a large part of maritime Croatia and northern Dalmatia began to be known as " Morlacchia." A " Major Vlachia " was formed about the triple frontier of Bosnia, Croatia, and Dalmatia, and a " Little Walachia " as far north as Posega. The Morlachs have now become Slavonized.
5. Cici of Istria.—The extreme Rouman offshoot to the north-west is stili represented by the Cici of the Val d'Arsa and adjoining Istrian districts. They represent a 15th-century Morlach colony from the Isle of Veglia, and had formerly a wider extension to Trieste and the counties of Gradisca and Gorizia. The Cici are at present rapidly losing their native tongue, which is the last re-maining representative of the old Morlach, and forms a connecting link between the Daco-Roman (or Roumanian) and the Macedo-Roman (or Tzintzar) dialects.
6. Roumans of Transylvania and Hungary.—As already stated,
a large part of the Hungarian plains were, at the coming of the
Magyars in the 9th century, known as Pascua Rornanorum. At a
later period privileged Rouman communities existed at Fogaras,
where was a Silva Vlachorum, at Marmaros, Deva, Hatzeg, Hun-
yad, and Lugos, and in the Bauat were seven Rouman districts.
Two of the greatest figures in Hungarian history—John Corvinus
of Hunyad, and his son King Matthias—were due to this element.
Oppressed by the dominant race, which had deprived them of their
ancient privileges, the Roumans of Transylvania and the Banat
rose in 1785 under Horia, Closca, and Crischanu. This Rouman
"Jacquerie " was suppressed, but Joseph II. declared the peasants
free. Since that date the Rouman element in this part of the old
Dacian region has largely increased in numbers, though it has
hitherto failed to secure its political rights. The contiguous dis-
trict of the Bukovina, a part of Moldavia annexed to the Haps-
burg dominions in 1775, remains under the Austrian Government.
The present numerical strength of the Roumanians may approxi-mately be given as follows:—
Southern or Tzintzar branch in Pindus, &c...225,000
Roumans of Tirnok district 150,000
Roumanians 4,500,000
In Austria-Hungary 3,500,000
In Bessarabia and South Russia 600,000
Total 8,975,000
In features the Vlachs especially of the Carpathian valleys pre-sent decidedly Roman characteristics, and it is not unfrequent to find types which occur in North Italy and amongst Spaniards and
Provencals. They are usually short and dark. Those of Pindus have sharper-cut features and some Slovene traits in their physio-gnomy. The race has a great natural capacity for trade and manu-facture. The Vlachs excel as builders and artisans, but notably as workers in metal; their financial enterprise is also remarkable, and some of the principal banking establishments in Vienna are due to members of this race. An extraordinary example of their successful enterprise in the Balkan peninsula is supplied by the history of Moschopolis on the Epirote side of Pindus, which was founded by a Vlach colony in the 16th century, and which not only became a populous commercial staple but a centre of literary culture. Moschopolis possessed a large public library, flourishing schools, and a printing press, from which issued both Greek and Rouman books of a religious and scholastic nature. Joannina, since completely Hellenized, was also of Rouman origin. Metzovo (Minciu) is another flourishing Rouman colony in the same region, and, though Moschopolis has fallen a victim to the ravages of the wild Arnauts, a local successor has sprung up in the rising town of Gjurtza. The Roumans make good soldiers, as was seen at Plevna. In their customs and folk-lore both Latin and Slavonic traditions assert themselves as in their language. Of their Roman traditions the Trajan saga, the celebration of the Rosalia and Kalendae, the belief in the "striga" (witch), the names of the months and days of the week, may be taken as typical examples. Some Roman words connected with the Christian religion, like biserica (basilica) = a church, botez = baptizo, duminica = Sunday, preot (presbyter) — priest, point to a continuous tradition of the Illyrian church, though most of their ecclesiastical terms, like their liturgy and alphabet, were derived from the old Slovene. In most that con-cerns political organization the Slavonic element is also pre-ponderant, though there are words like imparat = imperator, and domn = dominus, which point to the old stock. Many words re-lating to kinship are also Latin, some like vitrig (vitricus) = father-in-law being alone preserved by this branch of the Romance family. Although of the actual vocabulary only about one-fifth is Latin, and two-fifths, or about double the amount, Slavonic (see Cihac, Diction-naire d' Etymologic Daco-Romainc), the greater proportion of the words in common use is still Latin. Many words, however, of common and indispensable use, those even connected with ideas nearest to the heart, as for instance the Rouman iubesc = to love, and niaica = a mother, are themselves of Slavonic origin. Alike in the dwellings, customs, and costumes of the Vlach race we en-counter at every turn the dominating influence of the Slav peoples by whom they were surrounded. This external influence, however, has not by any means affected the strong pride of Roman origin which is the heirloom of all members of the Rouman race. Hel-lenization itself, hitherto successful among the southern Roumans, has received a check in the Pindus region, while north of the Danube the Rouman race is continually gaining at the expense of its neigh-bours. A glance at the ethnographic map of eastern Europe shows that the reconquest of Trajan's Dacia by the Latin race is already practically completed, and with the triumphant progress of the principle of nationality in the Danubian lands the reunion of Dacia Romana under a single sceptre cannot long be deferred. (A. J. E.)










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