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102 - Roman Dacia

The modern Rumanians are generally regarded as the descendants of the Dacians, a branch of the ancient Thracians; they dwelt north of the Danube in the territory now known as Transylvania, and formed at the beginning of the Christian era a comparatively well-organized state. Under the rule of able princes (e. g. Decebalus) they frequently threatened the Roman civilization between tbe Adriatic Sea and the Danube. Trajan first succeeded after several campaigns (102-06) in bringing the country under the Roman dominion: the new Roman province received the name of Dacia, and embraced the modern Transylvania, Banat, and Rumania.

To replace the Dacians, a portion of whom had emigrated northwards, Trajan introduced colonists into the land from every part of the Roman Empire, especially from the neighbouring Illyrian provinces; these settlers soon converted the Dacian territories wasted by the wars into one of the most flourishing Roman provinces, which was shortly known as "Dacia felix". From the fusion of the remaining Thracians and the Roman colonists, who possessed a higher culture, issued in the course of the third and fourth centuries the Daco-Rumanian people.

As early as the second century began the assaults of the Germanic tribes on the Roman Empire. After several unsuccessful attempts, the Goths occupied the Dacian province in the third century, and in 271 Emperor Aurelian formally ceded the territory to them. In the fourth century the Goths were followed by the Huns, who in similar fashion brought the Romans and Goths into subjection after several campaigns. In the fifth century came the Gepidse, and in the sixth the Avars, who occupied Dacia for two centuries. Under the dominion of the Avars the Slavs made their appearance, settling peacefully among the inhabitants; they left many traces of their presence in the names of places and rivers. Gradually, however, they were absorbed and Romanized, so that the Latin character of the language was preserved.

The influence of the Slavs was greater on the right bank of the Danube, where they overwhelmed the Thrace-Roman population by weight of numbers, and denationalized the Finnic Bulgars who settled in the country in the seventh century. In this way the Romanic population of the Balkan Peninsula was divided by the Slavs into two sections; the one withdrew northwards to the Carpathians, where people of kindred race had settled, while the other moved southwards to the valleys of the Pindus and the Balkan Mountains, where their descendants (the modern Aromuni or Macedo-Vlachs) still maintain themselves.

In the history of the Southern Rumanians the erection of the Rumano-Bulgar Empire by the brothers, Peter, Jonita, and Asen at the end of the twelfth century is especially noteworthy; this empire disintegrated in the middle of the thirteenth century on the extinction of the Asen dynasty.

The Bulgar dominion over ancient Dacia exercised a decisive influence on the ecclesiastical development of the country. Christianity had been introduced - especially into the modern Dobrudja, where there was a strong garrison - by Roman colonists and soldiers, the Latin form and liturgy being employed. In Tomi (now Constanta) existed an episcopal see, nine occupants of which between the fourth and sixth centuries are known. During the dominion of the Bulgars the ancestors of the Rumanians with their lords came under the jurisdiction of the Greek Patriarch of Constantinople, and were thus drawn into the Greek Schism. Consequently, even to-day the vast majority of the inhabitants of Rumania belong to the Orthodox Church.

The immigration of the Bulgars was followed by the campaigns of the Magyars, who however made no permanent settlement in the land, choosing for settlement the plain between the Danube and the Theiss. At the beginning of the tenth century the country was subjected to the repeated attacks of the Peshenegs, and in the middle of the eleventh to those of the Cumans. During the migrations and invasions of various tribes, the population of the country was strongly impregnated with Slav and other elements, and only in the wooded hills of Northwestern Moldavia and Transylvania did the original Daco-Rumanian population remain pure and unmixed. After peace had been restored, the people descended from these remote retreats, and united with the inhabitants of the plains to form the Rumanian people.

During the tenth and eleventh centuries small principalities called Banats were formed in the territory of ancient Dacia; those which extended from Transsylvania northwards and westwards to the valley of the Theiss came gradually under the sway of the Magyars, while those extending eastwards and southwards from the Carpathians maintained their independence. From the latter originated the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia. By uniting the smaller districts on both sides of the River Olt, Voivode Bassarab (d. 1340) founded toward the end of the thirteenth century the Grand Banat, Little Wallachia, and successful wars against Charles I, King of Hungary, and Robert of Anjou enabled him to preserve his independence and to extend his authority to the Danube and the Black Sea.



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Page last modified: 10-01-2012 19:23:33 ZULU