A History of Wallachia
Where is Wallachia?
The modern country of Rumania in the Eastern Balkans was created from a union of a number of smaller states, amongst which the three largest were Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia. Rumania is crossed by two mountain chains, which in medieval times separated the three most important states in the region. These mountain chains are the Carpathian mountains running in a north-south direction. These separated the Transylvania plateau in the west from her eastern neighbour Moldavia. Transylvania's southern border was marked by the Transylvanian Alps which run in an East-West direction and separated Transylvania from a number of southern neighbours. The largest of these neighbours was the Principality of Wallachia, an area of approximately 77,700 sq miles, whose southern border rested on the mighty River Danube.
The region has a continental climate, with hot dry summers and very cold winters. In the summer months hot dry winds blow across the country, whilst in winter there is only light rainfall. Much of the higher ground in heavily forested chiefly with fir, beech and oak, and in these forested areas the wildlife can include bears, deer, boar, lynx, wolves and foxes. In the plains and in the Danube delta can be found large flocks of bustard, partridge, heron, swan, ducks, pelican, wild geese, and quails. The main rivers, which for the main part flow from the Carpathian Mountains into the Black Sea, contain sturgeon, trout, perch, and pike.
Principally rural in economy, the main crops are maize, wheat and sugar beet. Large amounts of fruit and grapes for wine making are also grown. Domestic animals include the raising of Cattle, Sheep, Pigs, Horses and Poultry. The area does have significant mineral resources including coal, iron, copper, salt and some Gold and Silver (and today, oil, natural gas, manganese and aluminum deposits). The native language is, like French, Italian and other Romance languages, descended from Latin.
Although there is evidence of habitation by man since Neolithic times, the first real civilizations began when this area of the Balkans as settled by Skythian tribesmen expanding outward from the Crimea. Later Greek colonists settled along the Black Sea coast. During the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan the dominant Dacian (so named because the region was the nucleus of the slave trade), and Getae (a Skythian people) tribes were defeated in A.D. 106 and the area became a Roman province. About A.D. 271 the Emperor Aurelian withdrew the garrisons although many Roman settlers remained behind. From the sixth until the twelfth century the region was constantly overrun by successive waves of barbarians, Goths. Tatars, Huns, Avars, Slavs, Bulgarians, Magyars, and finally Petchenegs and Cumans, who largely replaced the earlier inhabitants (except perhaps for the Vlach people of Transylvania who may still have been descended from the remnants of the earlier Dacian-Romans).
In the 10th and 11th Centuries the Transylvanian area was conquered by the Hungarians and incorporated into the Hungarian kingdom. This brought the feudal dukes into close contact with the Byzantine Empire, which controlled the region south of the Transylvanian Alps. Thus the area became very much a buffer zone between these two great empires which effectively compelled the Hungarian Kings to recognize and collaborate with the local Romanian leaders, giving them a certain amount of individuality and autonomy. In the 12th-13th Centuries the Hungarians began introducing colonists of German origin, particularly Saxons and Szeklers (of unknown origin), and for a short time (1211-1225) even Teutonic Knights into Transylvania. In true feudal fashion these colonists were given land in exchange for a military obligation.
Information on the Wallachian medieval age is a little sketchy, largely due to the fact that the first native literature did not appear until the early 16th century, and even then it was mostly confined to translations of Slavic religious text and psalms. The first attempt at recording a factual history not becoming available, apparently, until quite late in the 16th century.
The state of Wallachia was founded in 1290 by Randolf the Black, known as the Black Prince, with his capital being established at Cimpulung. During Randolf's reign Wallachia would stay a vassal of the Hungarian crown, but in 1330 the Voivode (Prince) John Bassarab the Great would inflict a crushing defeat on King Charles I of Hungary. This would lead to a fourteen-year period of independence, before Louis the Great again reasserted Hungarian suzerainty.
Wallachia would become an Ottoman vassal state in 1383, although the Voivode Mercea the Old (1386-1418) would lead a brave campaign against Turkish expansion into the region, but ultimately he would be obliged to recognise Ottoman suzerainty. From then on Wallachian Princes would be obliged to become either an Ally of Hungary or to accept the rule of the Ottoman Turks.
A nationalistic uprising during 1437-1438 in Transylvanian resulted in an alliance being concluded between the ruling Hungarians, Saxons and Szeklers (known as the 'Unio trium nationum') which left the majority Romanian population with no rights, and being considered as merely 'tolerated'. Under such Hungarian control the Principality of Transylvania would be heavily involved in Hungary's struggle with the Ottoman Empire, especially during the reign of Prince Iancu de Hunedoara, who would ultimately become the Regent of Hungaria in 1446, gaining many victories over the Turks. The most notable being the Battle of Belgrade in 1456 in which the Ottoman Turks of Mahommad II were defeated.Serbia would fall under Ottoman control in 1459 and neighboring Bosnia in 1463. Moldavia, under Polish control from 1397 would hold out a little longer, not being incorporated into the Ottoman Empire until 1504.
Following the disaster of the Battle of Mohacs (1526), Hungary surrendered to the Ottoman Turks, which resulted in the region becoming a group of autonomous principalities owing their allegiance to the Ottoman Empire in 1541. It would not be until the reign of Michael the Brave (1593-1601) that Wallachia would once again achieve independence.
Throughout this era Wallachia, Moldavia and the other Balkan states seem to have been very much a frontier region whose princes often owed their suzerainty to their more powerful neighbors, including Hungary, Poland and the Ottoman Empire. It would appear that generally the Romanian population much preferred to be ruled by the more tolerant Turks than by the Hungarian Magyars whom they utterly detested. In fact, the Wallachians would often provide quite large contingents to Ottoman Armies and the area soon became a favoured recruiting ground of candidates for recruitment into the Sultans elite Janissary Corps. In contrast the Hungarians, under influence from the Roman Church, considered the Wallachians heretics, with all the resultant violence that this implied. Wallachia's northern neighbour Poland too tended not to employ Wallachians in their armies either, much preferring Cossacks or western mercenaries instead.
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- Matthew, Donald. Chronicles of the Middle Ages. (Andromeda Oxford Ltd. 1989).
- Nicolle, David. Armies of the Ottoman Turks 1300-1174 (Osprey Publishing 1983).