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Botos László


The Rumanian People and their Language



            In this chapter, I will present two conflicting views about the origin of the Rumanian language. (After 1878, the name „Rumanian” gradually replaced the name „Wallachian”.) The one view is that of the linguists, the other that of political literature which always supports the viewpoint of the Rumanian government.  In the nineteenth century, in the Age of Romanticism, the myth of the Daco-Roman origin of the Rumanians was created.  According to this theory, the Wallachians were the ancient populace of Transylvania, the descendants of the Dacians and the Romans, therefore the Rumanians have the sole right to Transylvania.

            The latter part of the last century was the Age of Classicism, which questioned all history based on legend and patriotism and only regarded as history, that which was based on the results of research.  At this time, a series of scientific research studies about the origins of the Rumanians appeared, written by such linguists as R. Roessler, C. Gooss, Pál Hunfalvy, L. Réthy and others.[1]  The essence of these studies is that the Roman Emperor Aurelianus, between A.D. 257 and 271, withdrew his legions from Transylvania and resettled them south of the Danube.  We have a continuous flow of information about the Wallachians from A.D 579 to the fourteenth century in the Byzantine Chronicles.  The ecclesiastical language of the Wallachians indicates a strong connection with Macedonia.  The Wallachian language shows a strong Slav influence and shows a relationship with the Albanian language.  A second group of linguists was involved in researching the Rumanian (Wallachian) language:  M. Gaster, G. Moldovan, Sextil Puscariu, C. Weigand, G. Murnu and others.  This group took into consideration the information from the Byzantine Chronicles, studied the geographical locations where the language was spoken, and  attempted to reconstruct the origins of the Rumanian language. (Török, p. 205)

            After reading the researches of these scientists, Sándor Török concludes that there is no trace of Dacian influence in the Rumanian language.  There is also no trace of influence from any of the other peoples who lived in Transylvania after the withdrawal of the Romans, the Huns, Goths, Gepidae, Avars, Pechenegs and Kuns.  If these languages did not have any influence on the Rumanian language, we can be sure that this is proof that at that time there were no Wallachian settlers in Transylvania.

            Sándor Török makes an interesting observation:  „In its structure, the Rumanian language resembles the Albanian language but in its grammar it resembles Bulgarian.” (Török, p. 205)  The Rumanian and Italian words for numerals resemble each other up to the number ten but above ten the Rumanian numerals resemble the Albanian numerals.  Török concludes that the ancestors of the Rumanians lived in close community with the Italians until they learned to count to ten and then they must have moved closer to the Albanians in the Balkans where they learned the numbers above ten. (p. 206)  This would indicate that the Rumanians adopted the names for the numerals from the Italians and the Albanians.

            Historical data support this theory. In AD 976, In the territory of Kastro and Prespa, in Greece, in an attack by the Bulgars against the Byzantine Emperor, Basileios, one of the Bulgar leaders, David, was killed near the Albanian territory, by „Blachs” who were living there. (Blach > Vlach > Wallachian) This was the first time that this name was recorded in history.[2]  According to Gyóni, Kekaumenos states in his „Strategikon” that these „Vlachs” spent the winter on the Pindus Mountain and on the Thessalian Plain in Greece and spent the summer in the Grammos Mountains of Bulgaria, the Nerecska Plain, the Bisztra Mountain and Sardagon.[3]

            In 1020, Emperor Basileus II. ordered that the Wallachians living in the territory of Bulgaria be placed under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Ochrida.  Ochrida was on the border of Macedonia and Albania.  The ecclesiastical language of the Wallachians until 1715  was Bulgar-Slav. This is an indisputable proof against the Daco-Roman continuity. 

            Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, the official name of Thessaly was Megali Vlacia (Great Wallachia).  In 1097, Emperor Alexis Komnenos resettled the Wallachians from the Chalkidik Peninsula into Peloponnesos.

            Between A.D. 1130 and 1260, the territory of the Rhodope Mountains was called „Vlachia” (Wallachia). This is written in a document in the archives of the Árpád Dynasty.[4]  In 1186, the Byzantine Emperor, Angelos Izsák, heavily taxed the Bulgarians and the Wallachians.  Therefore Calopeter and Ossen, two Wallachian leaders who were brothers, revolted against the Emperor and when the Emperor defeated them, the Wallachians fled to the northern shore of the Danube and settled among the Cumanians.

            In 1208, the combined Bulgarian-Wallachian army lost a battle to the Byzantine Emperor and the Wallachians, who lived southwest of Philippopolis became his serfs.[5]

            The Wallachians organized by their church appeared in great numbers in Havasalföld in 1234.  Between 1247 and 1257, there was a war between the Wallachians and the Greeks, in the territory of the Rhodope Mountains, which the Greeks won.  According the writings of the cleric Ansbert, in the territory of northeastern Serbia, Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians and Wallachians attacked the Christian army.  The local names of the territory of Sofia showed the Wallachian presence in this area: Vakarel, Paserel, Cerecel, Chorul, Karnul, Murgas etc.[6]

            From the above-mentioned historical data, the researchers came to the conclusion that the Rumanian language was formed in the Balkan Peninsula, in the territory of Thrace and Macedonia, at the beginning of the Middle Ages.  The earliest written records appeared in A.D. 579 but these were not accepted by the Rumanians, who still advocate that Transylvania was their original ancient home.

            The Rumanian scholars, because of the strong international pressure, had to alter their theory of the Daco-Roman continuity somewhat.  However, from this politically tendentious theory, they kept the part that supports their claim to Transylvania.  In his book: Originea Rominilor, published in 1925, Philippid, a Rumanian historian, promotes the theory that the Wallachians originated in the Balkans and places their arrival into Transylvania in the 7th century, without any proof.  He tries to uphold this theory so that he can show that the Wallachians were in Transylvania at the time of the Magyar Homecoming in A.D. 896, and therefore claim that this was their land prior to the Magyar arrival.

            G.L. Bratianu, another Rumanian historian, without any supporting data, tries to explain that a new group of Wallachian settlers joined the original Daco-Roman settlers in Transylvania.  When L. Tamás refuted this theory,[7]  Bratianu altered his theory and stated that the people who lived on both sides of the Danube continually changed their place of settlement from one side to the other, and from the beginning of the thirteenth century the Wallachians migrated back to Transylvania.  He suggested that the presence of non-Roman characters in the Wallachian language was due to the influence of nomadic shepherd peoples on the language. 

            M. Friedwagner refutes Bratianu’s theory stating that a nomad people cannot change the characteristics of a Roman language. He dates the arrival of the Wallachians in Transylvania into the 12th and 13th centuries. Sándor Török agrees that there are no data until the thirteenth century, that a people speaking the Rumanian language lived in this territory, even temporarily.  E. Gamillscheg, a Rumanian linguist, states that the Rumanian language was formed in the Balkans in the territory of Albania. This would indicate that they are not of Daco-Roman origin.  However, to give support to the Daco-Roman theory, he suggests that one branch of the Rumanian people, the Móc people, lived in the Transylvanian Erzgebirge 1800 years ago.[8]

            The Daco-Roman theory is based on the supposition that the present Rumanian language is built on the phonetic structure of the language of the Móc people, which is Latin based (although the phonetic structure of the Rumanian language is clearly Slavic.)  Gamillscheg builds his theory that the Rumanian language is of Latin origin based on a single word – „rarunchiu” (kidney).  This supposedly originates from the Latin word „ren” but it is unlike any of the other Latin based languages. The French word for kidney is „rein” which sounds more like Latin than „rarunchiu”. The Italians use „reni” which means loins and the Spanish „rinon”.  In Spanish kidney stones are „cálculo renal”.  Sándor Török asks if it is possible to make the determination that the Rumanians were the original inhabitants of this territory based on just one word when we can see that all other reasoning goes against this.   

            Török gives us the length of Roman rule in countries outside of Italy. (p. 211.)


                                    Romanized population remained


            Bosnia – 576 years                                          temporarily

            Macedonia – 576 years                                    did not remain

            Hellas and Albania – 495 years                         temporarily

            Gallia – 465 years                                            remained         

            Egypt – 425 years                                           did not remain

            Pannonia – 390 years                                      did not remain 

            Serbia and Bulgaria – 381 years                        temporarily

            Britannia – 364 years                                       did not remain

            Armenia – 305 years                                        did not remain

            Dacia – 150 years                                            did not remain


            We can see that Dacia was the territory where there was the smallest chance for Latinization to take root. 

            Capidan, a Rumanian linguist, also came to the conclusion that the theory of the Daco-Roman continuity is incorrect.  He supported his reasoning in the following way: 

„I.  The Rumanian language has four branches:

                        1. Daco-Roman, (the former Dacia)

                        2. Arumun (in Macedonia)

                        3. Meglenoroman (southern Bulgaria)

                        4. Istro-Roman (northern shore of the Adriatic Sea)

These four branches were very similar and developed simultaneously.  The southern branch could not have originated in the north, so the northern branch must have originated in the south.


II.                 Among these four branches, the Albanian language had the greatest influence on the Daco-Roman language, particularly the Southern Albanian language.  Since the Albanians never lived in the northern half of the Balkan Peninsula, the ancient  homeland of the Rumanians or Wallachians must be in the territory of the Ochrida Lake.


III.              The Slav language characteristics can be found in all four branches, even in the Arumun branch.  The speakers of this language, for centuries, had no chance to mingle with Slavs because they were living among Greeks, in Greece.  This Slav influence on the Arumun branch could only have taken place in Macedonia, where the Bulgar-Slavs were living, close to Albania.


IV.              The Transylvanian Rumanians until most recent times belonged under the        jurisdiction of the far distant Greek Orthodox Bishop of Ochrida, although there were Greek Orthodox bishoprics in the Rumanian vajdaságs like Bulgaria and Serbia, which were much closer to them..  These facts indicate that the ancestors of the Transylvanian Rumanians migrated to Transylvania from the territory of the Ochrida Lake in Albania and Macedonia.” (Török, p. 212).



            G. Stadtmüller, O. Mitterstrauss and S. Dragomir state that the dispute is settled because there is overwhelming historical and linguistic evidence to disprove the Daco-Roman theory.  Dragomir reasons that there are very few geographical names  that are originally Rumanian and these are all from the thirteenth century.

            Since there is so much literature written about the research of the Rumanian ancient homeland, I can only mention a small section of it.  Publishers publish any „research” material, which is presented to them, without ascertaining its validity.  They unfortunately propagated Bratianu’s theory of the changing settlements on the banks of the Danube.  It is regrettable that the encyclopedia do not take the trouble to check on the research which is given to them, so false or incorrect information is published as accepted history. 



[1] Török, Sándor: Településtörténeti tanulmányok és határproblémák a Kárpátmedencében, 1973, Astor Park, FL p. 204

[2] Ibid. p. 207; Kedrenos II. 435. ED. Bonn.

[3] Ibid. p. 207; Gyóni: A legrégibb vélemény a román nép eredetéről . 38. Budapest. 1944.

[4] Ibid. p. 208; Wenzel: Árpádkori Okmánytár VI. 267, 277, 282-284; Thenier: Monumenta Hungariae I.  157

[5] Ibid. p. 208; Jirecsek: Geschichte der Bulgaren, Über die Abstammung der Románen.62.

[6] Ibid. p. 209; Theiner: Monumenta Hungariae, I.

[7] Ibid. p. 210; Tamás. L.: Romaiak, románok, oláhok, Dácia-Trajanában, Budapest, 1935

[8] Ibid. P. 211; Gamillscheg, E.: Cahiers Sextil Puscariu, 3.