The Rumanians are certainly one of the most curious amongst European nations
Rumania. - Officially called Romania, and frequently spelt Roumania; in French it is Roumanie. (Rumanians: Wallachia and Moldavia 4,460,000; Austro-Hungary 2,896,000; Bessarabia and other parts of Russia 600,000; Servia 156,000; Turkey 200,000; Greece 4,000. Total 8,315,000.)
The Rumanians are certainly one of the most curious amongst European nations. The descendants of the conquerors of the ancient world, they live detached from, and far to the northeast of, the other nations of the Greco-Latin family, and not many years ago they were hardly known by name. The grave events of which the Lower Danube has been the scene since the middle of this century have brought these Rumanians prominently to the fore, and we know now that they differ essentially from their neighbours, be they Slav, Turk, or Magyar. They constitute, in fact, one of the most important elements amongst the populations of Eastern Europe, and numerically they are the strongest nation on the Lower Danube, the Bulgarians alone excepted.
The ethnological boundaries of Rumania are far wider than are the political ones, for they embrace not only Wallachia and Moldavia beyond the Carpathians, but also Russian Bessarabia, a portion of the Bukovina, the greater portion of Transylvania, as well as extensive tracts in the Banat and Eastern Hungary. The Rumanians have likewise crossed the Danube, and established themselves in portions of Servia and Bulgaria; and the settlements of their kinsmen, the Zinzares, sporadically extend far south to the hills of Thessaly and Greece. Rumania proper has an area of only 40,709 square miles, but the countries of the Rumanians occupy at least twice that extent, and their numbers exceed 8,000,000, most of whom dwell in a compact mass on the Lower Danube and the adjoining portions of Hungary and Russia.
The Roman territories on the Lower Danube almost encircle the mountain masses of the Eastern Carpathians, but only about one-half of this territory has been formed into an autonomous state, the remainder belonging to Hungary and Russia. If the national ambition of the Rumanians were to be realized, the natural centre of their country would not lie within the actual limits of the territory, but at Hermannstadt (called Sibiu by the Wallachians), or elsewhere on the northern slope of the Carpathians. Thrust beyond the Carpathians, and extending from the Iron Gate to the upper affluents of the Pruth, the independent Rumanians occupy a country of most irregular shape, and separated into two distinct portions by the river Sereth and one of its tributaries, which join the most advanced spur of the Eastern Carpathians to the great bend of the Lower Danube. To the north of this boundary lies Moldavia, thus named after a tributary of the Sereth; to the south-west and west is Wallachia, or the "Plain of the Welsh," i.e. of the Latins. This plain, the tzara Rumaneasca, or Roman-land proper, is intersected by numerous parallel water-courses, forming as many secondary boundaries, and the river Olto separates it into Great Wallachia to the east, and Little Wallachia to the west. The Danube forms the political boundary down to its delta. It is a wide and sinuous river; below the Iron Gate, lakes, forests, and swamps render access to its banks almost impossible in many places; and migratory nations and conquerors, instead of crossing it, as they could easily have done in Austria and Bavaria, rather sought to avoid it by seeking for a passage through the mountains to the north. The abrupt bend of the Lower Danube and its extensive swampy delta still further shielded the plains of Wallachia, and invaders not provided with vessels were thus turned to the north, in the direction of the Carpathians. The lowlands of Moldavia were protected, though in a less degree, by the rivers Dnieper, Bug, Dniester, and Pruth running parallel with each other.
But, in spite of these natural bulwarks, it remains matter for surprise, and proves the singular tenacity of the Rumanians, that they preserved their traditions, their language, and nationality, in spite of the numerous onslaughts from invaders of every race to which they were exposed. Ever since the retreat of the Roman legions, the peaceable cultivators of these plains were preyed upon so frequently by Goths, Huns, and Pecheneges, by Slavs, Bulgars, and Turks, that their extinction as a race appeared to be inevitable. But they have emerged from every deluge which threatened to destroy them, thanks, no doubt, to the superior culture for which they were indebted to their ancestors, and again claim a place amongst independent nations. They have fully justified their old proverb, which says, Romun no pere!—"the Roman perishes not."
The Transylvanian Alps lie within the territory of the Rumanians, who occupy both slopes. Their upper valleys, however, are but thinly inhabited, and we may travel for days without meeting with any habitations excepting the rude huts of shepherds. The political boundary traced along the crest of the mountains is merely an imaginary line, passing through the forest solitudes of vast extent. Excepting near the only high-road, and the paths which join Transylvania to the plains of Wallachia, these mountains remain in a state of nature. The chamois is still hunted there, and not long since even bisons were met with. The Tsigani penetrates these mountains in search of the brown or black bears which he exhibits in the villages. He places a jar filled with brandy and honey near the beast's haunt, and, as soon as the bear and his family have become helplessly intoxicated, they are seized and placed in chains.