State of the country at, the close of the barbarian era—Foundation of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia—Traditions of Radu Negru and Bogdan Dragosch—Historical evidence—Description of the various rulerships in Wallachia in the thirteenth century—The clans Liteanu and Bassarab—Mircea the Old—His history—The First Capitulation (1393)—Character of Mircea—- Verses in his memory by Bolentineanu (1826-1872)—John Corvin von Hunniad, Prince of Transylvania—His history, character, and exploits—Vlad 'the Impaler'—His cruelties—Capitulates to the Turks (1460 a.d.)—Moldavia—Its founders—Obscurity of records—Stephen the Great—His history—His flight to Niamtz—Verses by Bolentineanu—Recommends his son to capitulate to the Turks—His character—Neagu Bassarab, founder of the Cathedral of Curtea d'Ardges—His peaceful reign and works—- Radul d'Affumati completes the cathedral—His death—Turkish encroachments—Michael the Brave.


When the title of barbarian immigration was ebbing in the Danubian Principalities, it is natural to suppose that there must have remained a very mixed population; and that, owing to the necessity for defence against such ruthless invaders as we have described in our last chapter, the inhabitants would congregate in various places under their ablest leaders, and would fortify themselves in the best manner possible. This was indeed the case, but until recently the historians of Roumania have had little to guide them concerning the events of the period beyond traditions which, though very interesting, are now gradually giving place to recorded and authenticated facts.

Almost any history of the country which it is possible to find to-day, narrates the rise of the Principalities after the following fashion: The Daco-Roman colonists, historians say, fled into the Carpathian mountains before the Goths and Huns, and for nearly a thousand years they retained their nationality, from time to time making descents into the plains from one or other colony which they had established, always, however, to find new hordes of barbarians in possession. At length, when the great wave of barbarism had subsided, one Radu Negru, whose name is translated Rudolph the Black, the chief of the Daco-Roman colony of Fogaras in the Carpathians, descended into the plains with his followers, according to some writers in 1240 a.d., whilst others say in 1290, and, first fixing his capital at Campu-Lung, and then moving it to Curtea d'Ardges, where he built a beautiful cathedral, drove out the barbarians who remained in Wallachia, and became the first Voivode of that province. This is the tradition of the foundation of Wallachia.

About the same time, we are told, there dwelt in another part of the mountains, to the west of Fogaras, a colony of Daco-Roman descendants, namely, that of Marmaros or Maramurish, ruled over by one Bogdan, or Dragosch. This chief, as the story runs, was once out hunting the aurochs with a large following, accompanied by his dog Molda, and being arrived in a beautiful country through which flowed a pretty stream, he determined to settle there, called the river the Moldava, built a city which he named Roman, reduced the inhabitants and their chiefs to submission, and became the first Voivode of Moldavia.

Of late years these traditions have been subjected to the searching light of criticism, sharpened in some cases by national or political tendencies, and whilst the story of Radu Negru has fallen into discredit, that of Bogdan has undergone considerable modification. The very names of the heroes have been canvassed, and Radu, instead of Rudolph, has been shown to mean 'joy' (as Bogdan Dragosch was the God-given'), so that, instead of Radu Negru, we now sometimes meet with the name of Negru Voda, or 'the Black Prince,' who, according to the traditions of some parts of the country, is still believed to have descended from the Carpathians, and to have freed the land from the Tartar hordes.


Thus far tradition. Roumania possesses no historical records of the period, but the discovery of manuscripts in Hungary, Poland, and elsewhere, has established certain facts that are beginning to serve as a solid foundation upon which the early history of the country is being based.

First, it is admitted that the plains and the slopes of the Carpathians were inhabited by communities ruled over by chieftains of varying power and influence. Some were banates, as that of Craiova, which long remained a semi-independent State; then there were petty voivodes or princes, as the Princes of Zevrin or Severin, Farcas, Seneslas, &c.; and besides these there were khanates, called in French kinezats, and in German knesenschaften (from the Slav. kniaz, a prince), some of which were petty principalities, whilst others were merely the governorships of villages or groups of them. These are only a few of the small rulerships, which are every day multiplied as the State records of the neighbouring countries are being more and more carefully investigated.

The names of prominent chieftains, too, are becoming clearer in the obscurity of the period. In or about 1285 a Prince Liteanu conquered and united three Wallachian principalities, and declared himself independent of the crown of Hungary, which claimed suzerainty over the western part of Wallachia. He was attacked by the Magyars under George Sowar, and slain in battle, while his brother was taken prisoner and executed. Some of the successors of this prince were more fortunate, and one of them, Tugomir, succeeded for a time in securing his independence. The clan Bassarab was mentioned at even an earlier period, a ban of that name having resisted the Tartars. Much confusion exists as to the origin of this clan, and whilst some writers call Tugomir (just referred to) by that name, others confound him with the Negru Voda of tradition. Whatever may be the obscurity, however, in which their rise is buried, it is certain that the Bassarab family gave many princes and rulers to Wallachia, and, after intermarrying with other members of the ruling classes, only became extinct about the year 1685.

In the mountains the state of affairs was somewhat different. There, no doubt from their greater proximity to the centre of Magyar rule, the tie between the petty princes and the Hungarian crown seems to have been closer, and whilst some writers affirm that the Wallachs (or Roumanians, as their countrymen like to call them) enjoyed privileges amounting to a quasi-independence, the Austrian chroniclers maintain that they were mere vassal retainers of the Court of Hungary. So, for example, they say that Bogdan, ruler of Marmaros, broke his allegiance to the King Louis of Hungary, and about 1359 descended, with a largo body of Wallachian followers, amongst whom were his sons, into the lower lands of what was already called Moldavia, and took possession of the country.

Shaking ourselves free as far as possible from controversial questions, we may state with safety, in regard to Wallachia, that for more than a century after the wave of barbarian immigration had ceased to flow over it, it resembled the condition of Independent Tartary of to-day; that the number of its petty princes gradually diminished, one of them, Vladislav Bassarab, having at length secured a great portion of the country under his rule, and almost, if not completely, shaken off the Hungarian yoke (1350-1376), until, under the reign of Mircea the Old (1386-1418), a new enemy, the Turks, so far obtained the ascendency over the country as to acquire permanent rights of suzerainty.


Mircea, one of the heroes of Roumanian history, not only secured the independent sovereignty, and called himself Voivode of Wallachia 'by the grace of God,' but in 1389 he formed an alliance with Poland, and assumed other titles by the right of conquest. This alliance was offensive and defensive with Vladislav Jagello, the reigning king, and had for its objects the extension of his dominions, as well as protection against Hungary on the one hand, and the Ottoman power on the other; for the Turks, who during the fourteenth century had been waging war with varying success against the Eastern Empire, were now rapidly approaching Wallachian territory. Although Constantinople did not come into their possession until the following century, Adrianople had already fallen, the Turkish armies had overrun Bulgaria, and about the year 1391 they first made their appearance north of the Danube.

At first the bravery of Mircea was successful in stemming the tide of invasion. The reigning Sultan was Amaruth II., who sent an army against him under the command of Sisman, Prince of Bulgaria, a renegade who had married the daughter of the Sultan, and had taken the offensive against the Christians; but he was signally defeated, and for a brief period Wallachia continued to enjoy her independence. A year or two afterwards Bajazet II., the successor of Amaruth, resumed the offensive, and this time, finding himself between two powerful enemies, the King of Hungary and the Sultan, Mircea elected to form an alliance with the latter, and concluded a treaty with him at Nicopolis (1393), known as the 'First Capitulation,' by which Wallachia retained its autonomy, but agreed to pay an annual tribute and to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Sultan. This treaty is dated 1392; but according to several historians Mircea did not adhere to it long, for he is said to have been in command of a contingent in the army of the crusaders, and to have been present at the battle of Nicopolis (1396), in which the flower of the French nobility fell, and, when he found their cause to be hopeless, once more to have deserted them and joined the victorious arms of Bajazet.

Of the continued wars and dissensions in Wallachia, during the reign of Mircea it is unnecessary to speak. He ruled with varying fortunes until 1418 a.d., and there is no doubt that the State was much better organised for defence, although his wars entailed great misery upon the peasantry. It is clear, not only from the Treaty of Nicopolis, but from other records, that the general condition of the country somewhat resembled that of England in the Saxon period. The prince was elected by the boyards, or barons spiritual and temporal, and by the nation (probably through representatives), and there was a general Council of State. There were probably freemen and serfs, although some writers maintain that there was perfect equality until after Mircea's wars commenced; then it is universally admitted that absolute slavery existed.

It has been said that Mircea kept a standing army of about 18,000 foot and 17,000 cavalry; but whether that was so or not, he certainly maintained a force sufficiently well organised to cope with his powerful adversaries the Turks and the Hungarians. That these latter were still a fierce and untamed race is very probable, as were, no doubt, the followers of Mircea, and they committed ravages by their inroads, which have caused modern writers to class them with the barbarians whose rule had ceased. Whatever may have been his faults and vices (and his desertion of the Christians at Nicopolis, and the number of illegitimate children left by him, prove that he had both), his patriotism and courage endeared him to posterity, and his deeds are commemorated in the national poems of the present century. Here is a graphic picture of

By D. Bolentineanu (1826-1872).
Countless hosts of Magyars desolate the lands,
E'en the sun in terror sees their roving bands;
But the aged Mircea, firm and undismayed,
With his braves, a handful, meets the furious raid.
Knows, full well, to save the homestead's all but vain,
Calmly still determines duty to maintain.
Ah! the days of heroes surely now are fled,
When, at duty's summons, Roumains nobly bled!
Speaks the hoary chieftain: 'Hearken, brothers all,
'Tis the will of God, as Roumain I should fall.'
Dedicate thy life-blood, saviour of a nation;
'Tis a puny flamelet in a conflagration.
What is one poor lifetime in th' eternal day?
'Tis a single blossom in a gorgeous May.
Ere the noble falcon to the Jäger yields,
Casts he nest and offspring down into the fields.
Ere our arms or ankles should be locked in chains,
Lot us fall as heroes, die as free Roumains.
Ah! the days of heroes surely now are fled,
When, at duty's summons, Roumains nobly bled.


Before referring to the events which were passing in Moldavia during the period, it may not be out of place to say a few words here concerning another hero, who, although he ruled in Transylvania, was a Wallachian by birth, led the Wallachian armies against the Turks, and for a time succeeded in checking their advance in Europe. This was John Corvinus, as he is known to English readers, or, more correctly, Johann Corvin von Hunniad, Prince of Siebenbürgen, who was born about the year 1368 in the village of Corvin, in the Wallachian Carpathians. His father was a Wallachian, some say of ancient family, and his mother a Greek, to whom also a high ancestry is attributed. As his history was written by flatterers in order to gain the favour of his son and successor, these statements as to his high ancestry must be taken cum grano salis. Johann was at first the captain of a small party of adventurers, having served, as was the custom in those days, with a troop of twelve horse, first under Demetrius, Bishop of Agram, and then for two years in Italy under Philip, Duke of Milan. There he met Sigismund, King of Hungary, who induced him to join his standard, and, as a reward for his services, conferred upon him the estate of Hunnyades, from which he took his name. Subsequently he rose from post to post, until he was appointed Viceroy of Siebenbürgen (Transylvania), and eventually Regent of Hungary. In the former capacity he formed an alliance against the Turks (about 1443) with Vladislaus, King of Poland and Hungary, and Vlad, Voivode of Wallachia, and under his leadership the Christian armies frequently encountered the Ottomans, notably on three occasions—at Varna under Amaruth II. (1444) and Cossova (1448), in both of which encounters the allies were defeated, and finally at Belgrade (1456), where the Turks were completely routed. Various and conflicting accounts have been given of these battles, and of Hunniades's conduct during the encounters. At Varna, where Vladislaus was killed, the Poles charged Hunniades with cowardice; but the facts are probably that he defeated the right wing of the Turks, but that the temerity of Vladislaus caused the defeat of the army and his own death. The same charge was brought against him by the Poles in regard to the defeat at Cossova, but from his known bravery it was no doubt equally groundless. At Belgrade the city was completely invested by the Turks; but at the head of an undisciplined army Hunniades forced his way into the city, and by a subsequent sally, in which the Sultan Mohammed was wounded, he compelled the Turks to raise the siege and withdraw in confusion. John Hunniades died in the same year, and his son Matthias was elected to the crown of Hungary, over which country he ruled for more than thirty years.

The character of John Hunniades is well worth a brief consideration. As we have said, he was charged with cowardice by his Polish allies, but by the Turks he was so dreaded that they gave him the name of the Devil, and used it to frighten their children when they misbehaved themselves. Many anecdotes, of which the following is one, are related of his personal courage. After the battle of Cossova, whilst fleeing alone through the Carpathians, he was captured by two brigands, who deprived him of his arms. The cupidity of these men was aroused by a splendid gold chain which he wore, and one of them snatched it from his neck. Presently, however, forgetting the maxim that there is honour even amongst thieves, the two bandits began wrangling for the possession of the booty, and whilst they were so occupied Hunniades managed to recover his sword, and, engaging them in fight, he ran one through the body, whereupon the other fled.

If his biographers are to be believed, he must have been a remarkable man. 'As fishes are used to the water,' says one, 'as the deer to the forest glade, so was he adapted for the bearing of arms, a born leader of warriors, and the field of battle was his life-element.' The nobility of his bearing, another says, and his winning manner enabled him to secure the affection of his soldiers, whilst his readiness to serve, his piety and benevolence, and his shrewd policy, gained for him the confidence of his superiors, the leadership of armies, and the highest offices of the State. At his death he was universally mourned. Pope Nicholas ordered the cardinals to perform a magnificent requiem in his memory, as the pious and successful defender of the Christian religion. Even the Sultan Mohammed, whom he had just defeated—when George, Despot of Servia, brought him what he thought would be the gratifying news of the prince's death—lowered his head, and, after a long silence, exclaimed, 'There never was, under any ruler, such a man since the beginning of the world.'

As we have said, the Turks were so much afraid of Hunniades that they are said to have given him the name of 'the Devil;' but the same designation, as well as that of the Impaler, has also been bestowed upon Vlad, a voivode of Wallachia, who was probably the ally of Hunniades, and who, if one-tenth of what has been related of him be true, has a much better claim to the title. He is represented to have been one of the most atrocious and cruel tyrants who ever disgraced even those dark ages. One day he massacred 500 boyards who were dissatisfied with his rule. The torture of men, women, and children, seems to have been his delight. Certain Turkish envoys, when admitted into his presence, refused to remove their turbans, whereupon he had them nailed to their heads. He burned 400 missionaries and impaled 500 gipsies to secure their property. In order to strike terror into Mohammed II. he crossed over into Bulgaria, defeated the Turks, and brought back with him 25,000 prisoners, men, women, and children, whom he is said to have impaled upon a large plain called Praelatu. Notwithstanding his successes, however, Vlad was at length compelled to submit to the Turkish rule, and he concluded the 'Second Capitulation' at Adrianople (1460), in which the tribute to the Porte was increased, but no other important change was made in the terms of suzerainty.


For a century after the foundation of Moldavia, or, as it was at first called, 'Bogdania,' by Bogdan Dragosch, the history of the country is shrouded in darkness. Kings or princes are named, one or more of whom were Lithuanians; two or three Bogdans, Theodor Laseu, Jurgo Kuriotovich, Peter, Stephen, Roman, Alexander, &c., and some of them are said to have been dethroned and to have reigned twice and even three times, until at length a prince more powerful than the rest ascended the throne, and by the prowess of his arms succeeded in establishing his name and fame in history. This was Stephen, sometimes called the 'Great' or 'Good,' but whether he deserved the latter title the reader will be best able to judge for himself.

He came to the throne about 1456 or 1458, and reigned until 1504, and his whole life was spent in wars against Transylvania, Wallachia (which he at one time overran and annexed to Moldavia), the Turks, and Tartars. Considered in conjunction with the acts of Hunniades and Vlad the Impaler, those of Stephen present a tolerably faithful picture of the condition of Roumania in the fifteenth century. We shall therefore ask the reader to bear with us whilst we hurry through the leading events of his life. Five years after he came to the throne, Stephen overran Transylvania. In 1465 he married Eudoxia, a Byzantine princess, and two years afterwards we find him at war with Matthias of Hungary (the son of John Corvinus), by whom he was defeated at Baja. Between that time and 1473 he once, if not twice, defeated Radu (the brother of Vlad the Impaler), King of Wallachia, and in 1475 he was at war with the Turks, whom he defeated on the river Birlad, between Barnaba, and Racoviça. This battle he is said to have won by stratagem. He concealed a number of men in a neighbouring wood, and when the battle was at its height they were ordered to commence playing various instruments as though another force were approaching, and this created such a panic amongst the Ottomans that they gave way and fled precipitately, followed by Stephen, who put many to the sword. In that year also Stephen again defeated Radu and completely overran Wallachia. Having reduced it to submission, he placed a native boyard on the throne as his viceroy, who showed his gratitude to Stephen by rebelling and liberating the country from his rule; but he was in his turn murdered by his Wallachian subjects. In 1476 Stephen sustained a terrible defeat at the hands of the Ottomans at Valea Alba (the White Valley), but eight years afterwards, allied with the Poles, he again encountered this terrible enemy. His army was at first forced to give way, and he is said to have fled for refuge to Niamtz, where he had a castle, but his mother refused him admission and bade him return to his army. Here is the story, with its sequel, as it is told by the poet who has already once been quoted (Bolentineanu):—

'Blows are heard resounding at the outer gate.
'Tis the hour of midnight; whose the voice so late?
"Hasten, dearest mother"—ha! that well-known sound—
"From the host I'm driven, bleed at every wound!
Fearful was our fortune, terrible the fray,
Scattered all my army, fled they in dismay.
Mother, open quickly; infidels pursue,
Icy is the night wind, purple blood their cue."
"Ha! what say'st thou, stranger? Stephen's far away,
Dealing death, strong-handed, where he stands at bay.
Of him the mother I; such my son is he.
Be thou who thou may'st, my son thou canst not be.
(Yet can Heaven have fated, dealt this fearful blow?
Can his soul be craven, quail before the foe?)
If in truth thou'rt Stephen, faint returning home,
Not within these portals shalt thou ever come.
Hasten to thy brave ones; for thy country fall;
Then maternal love with wreaths shall deck thy pall!"
Once more Stephen rallies; lusty sounds his horn;
Heroes flock around him on the battle morn.
Fierce and dire the slaughter; on that glorious day
Falls the Moslem chivalry like the new-mown hay.'

Notwithstanding the great victory which he obtained, the Moslem power was too strong for him, and he is found, before the century's close, allied with them against Poland, to whose sovereign he had but a few years previously sworn fealty, and into which he now made a raid. In 1504 he died a natural death, and it is said that before his decease, either from fear of the Turks, or distrusting the power of his son Bogdan, he advised the latter to make a permanent treaty with the Porte, which he did shortly after his death. The most favourable traits in Stephen's character seem to have been his courage and patriotism, notwithstanding the story which is told of his flight to Niamtz. Like Mircea, he organised an army which is estimated at about the same strength, with the addition of irregular troops. That he was pious after a fashion is most likely, but that he also practised the tyrannic cruelties of his age is undoubted. Shortly after his advent to the throne, the Tartars entered his dominions, carrying fire and sword everywhere, but they were eventually repulsed and driven out by Stephen. In the course of this campaign he took a son of the Tartar chief prisoner, and when envoys came to treat for his liberation he ordered the prince to be decapitated in their presence, a deed which may have been justified as a lesson to the ruthless tribe who had invaded his country. Not content with this, however, he impaled all the envoys but one, whose nose and ears he cut off, and sent him back to his master in that dreadful condition. 'But,' adds the chronicler, 'Stephen, who was a man of his period, only regarded this act as a manifestation of zeal in the faith. Shortly afterwards he built the monastery of Putna, dedicated it to Jesus and the Virgin, and caused to be transported thither the wooden chapel which Dragosch had constructed at Volovitz.' 'These were the ordinary practices of the age,' remarks another commentator; 'and if such treatment was reserved for the high and noble, one may guess what was the fate of the humble.'


What that fate was may easily be imagined by anyone who follows the narrative of the wars which devastated the land. But, before treating of the condition of the country and the customs of the period, we must refer to one or two voivodes whose rule was pacific, and whose energies were directed to the promotion of civilising influences. Concerning these, too, we have the trustworthy records already cited in our description of the cathedral of Curtea d'Ardges. One of them was Neagu Bassarab, the other John Radul, known as Radul d'Affumati, and both were voivodes of Wallachia.

The first-named, Neagu, came to the throne either in 1511 or 1513, and died a natural death in 1520, a rare event in those days. He was conspicuously a man of peace in a country and age of war and bloodshed, and was eminently pious and benevolent. He repaired several churches, restored the cathedral of Tirgovistea, roofed other churches with lead, both in and out of Wallachia, and built the beautiful cathedral of Curtea d'Ardges, the erection of which, as we have heard, was attributed by tradition to Radu Negru, the reputed founder of Wallachia. The tablet in his memory has already been referred to elsewhere. In war he never took any personal part, and, as we have already remarked, he died peacefully in his bed.

He was followed on the throne by 'Radu the Monk,' who met with the usual fate, having been slain by the Turks; and this prince was succeeded by the Radu d'Affumati above named, a nephew of Nyagu (1522), who occupied the throne for seven years.

War, war was still the cry; he had numerous vicissitudes during his short reign; participated in the defeat of the Hungarians and Poles in the battle of Mohacs, 'which witnessed the slaughter of a king, seven bishops, five hundred nobles, and twenty thousand soldiers; not only laid open the whole country to the inroads of the Turks and established them for nearly a century and a half in its capital, but changed the reigning dynasty of Hungary and introduced for the first time a German sovereign to the Hungarian throne.' Radu was dethroned, and in his attempt to leave the country he was seized by two of his nobles and decapitated. During part of his reign, however, Wallachia enjoyed some tranquillity, and Radu continued the works begun by his uncle; amongst others, as we know, he completed the cathedral of Ardges.

After the battle of Mohacs the Turks began to encroach more openly upon Roumanian (Moldo-Wallachian) territory. They occupied and fortified Braila, Giurgevo, and Galatz; interfered in the election of the princes, in one or two instances securing the appointment for men whose sole claim to the crown was their willingness to pay a heavy bribe. One of those was a Saxon Lutheran of Transylvania, who was, however, a favourable example of the princely race. He was elected Voivode of Moldavia about 1580, and built a church for the Lutherans. In addition to the intrigues for the voivodeship, internecine wars broke out between the two Principalities, and the boyards made lawless raids upon one another. In these civil broils the Turks intervened, adding to their own influence, and rendering the princes more and more subservient to their will. This state of things lasted until the end of the sixteenth century, when another hero, Michael the Brave of Wallachia, restored tranquillity and independence to the Principalities, and raised them for a season in the esteem of surrounding nations. As his victories were solid, and the heroic age in the early history of Roumania may be said to have closed with his death, we feel justified in making more than a passing reference to his exploits and career, more especially as in so doing we shall also be able to present a trustworthy account of the condition of society in his day.