2. Formation of the Rumanian Nation

About the fifth century B.C., when the population of the Balkan-Carpathian region consisted of various tribes belonging to the Indo-European family, the northern portion of the Balkan peninsula was conquered by the Thracians and the Illyrians. The Thracians spread north and south, and a branch of their race, the Dacians, crossed the Danube. The latter established themselves on both sides of the Carpathian ranges, in the region which now comprises the provinces of Oltenia (Rumania), and Banat and Transylvania (Hungary). The Dacian Empire expanded till its boundaries touched upon those of the Roman Empire. The Roman province of Moesia (between the Danube and the Balkans) fell before its armies, and the campaign that ensued was so successful that the Dacians were able to compel Rome to an alliance.

Two expeditions undertaken against Dacia by the Emperor Trajan (98-117) released Rome from these ignominious obligations, and brought Dacia under Roman rule (A.D. 106). Before his second expedition Trajan erected a stone bridge over the Danube, the remains of which can still be seen at Turnu-Severin, a short distance below the point where the Danube enters Rumanian territory. Trajan celebrated his victory by erecting at Adam Klissi (in the province of Dobrogea) the recently discovered Tropaeum Traiani , and in Rome the celebrated 'Trajan's Column', depicting in marble reliefs various episodes of the Dacian wars.

The new Roman province was limited to the regions originally inhabited by the Dacians, and a strong garrison, estimated by historians at 25,000 men, was left to guard it. Numerous colonists from all parts of the Roman Empire were brought here as settlers, and what remained of the Dacian population completely amalgamated with them. The new province quickly developed under the impulse of Roman civilization, of which numerous inscriptions and other archaeological remains are evidence. It became one of the most flourishing dependencies of the Roman Empire, and was spoken of as Dacia Felix .

About a century and a half later hordes of barbarian invaders, coming from the north and east, swept over the country. Under the strain of those incursions the Roman legions withdrew by degrees into Moesia, and in A.D. 271 Dacia was finally evacuated. But the colonists remained, retiring into the Carpathians, where they lived forgotten of history.

The most powerful of these invaders were the Goths (271-375), who, coming from the shores of the Baltic, had shortly before settled north of the Black Sea. Unaccustomed to mountain life, they did not penetrate beyond the plains between the Carpathians and the Dnjester. They had consequently but little intercourse with the Daco-Roman population, and the total absence in the Rumanian language and in Rumanian place-names of words of Gothic origin indicates that their stay had no influence upon country or population. Material evidence of their occupation is afforded, however, by a number of articles made of gold found in 1837 at Petroasa (Moldavia), and now in the National Museum at Bucarest.

After the Goths came the Huns (375-453), under Attila, the Avars (566-799), both of Mongolian race, and the Gepidae (453-566), of Gothic race - all savage, bloodthirsty raiders, passing and repassing over the Rumanian regions, pillaging and burning everywhere. To avoid destruction the Daco-Roman population withdrew more and more into the inaccessible wooded regions of the mountains, and as a result were in no wise influenced by contact with the invaders.

But with the coming of the Slavs, who settled in the Balkan peninsula about the beginning of the seventh century, certain fundamental changes took place in the ethnical conditions prevailing on the Danube. The Rumanians were separated from the Romans, following the occupation by the Slavs of the Roman provinces between the Adriatic and the Black Sea. Such part of the population as was not annihilated during the raids of the Avars was taken into captivity, or compelled to retire southwards towards modern Macedonia and northwards towards the Dacian regions.

Parts of the Rumanian country became dependent upon the new state founded between the Balkans and the Danube in 679 by the Bulgarians, a people of Turanian origin, who formerly inhabited the regions north of the Black Sea between the Volga and the mouth of the Danube.

After the conversion of the Bulgarians to Christianity (864) the Slovenian language was introduced into their Church, and afterwards also into the Church of the already politically dependent Rumanian provinces.[1] This finally severed the Daco-Rumanians from the Latin world. The former remained for a long time under Slav influence, the extent of which is shown by the large number of words of Slav origin contained in the Rumanian language, especially in geographical and agricultural terminology.

[Footnote 1: The Rumanians north and south of the Danube embraced the Christian faith after its introduction into the Roman Empire by Constantine the Great (325), with Latin as religious language and their church organization under the rule of Rome. A Christian basilica, dating from that period, has been discovered by the Rumanian; archaeologist, Tocilescu, at Adam Klissi (Dobrogea).]

The coming of the Hungarians (a people of Mongolian race) about the end of the ninth century put an end to the Bulgarian domination in Dacia. While a few of the existing Rumanian duchies were subdued by Stephen the Saint, the first King of Hungary (995-1038), the 'land of the Vlakhs' ( Terra Blacorum ), in the south-eastern part of Transylvania, enjoyed under the Hungarian kings a certain degree of national autonomy. The Hungarian chronicles speak of the Vlakhs as 'former colonists of the Romans'. The ethnological influence of the Hungarians upon the Rumanian population has been practically nil. They found the Rumanian nation firmly established, race and language, and the latter remained pure of Magyarisms, even in Transylvania. Indeed, it is easy to prove - and it is only what might be expected, seeing that the Rumanians had attained a higher state of civilization than the Hungarian invaders - that the Hungarians were largely influenced by the Daco-Romans. They adopted Latin as their official language, they copied many of the institutions and customs of the Rumanians, and recruited a large number of their nobles from among the Rumanian nobility, which was already established on a feudal basis when the Hungarians arrived.

A great number of the Rumanian nobles and freemen were, however, inimical to the new masters, and migrated to the regions across the mountains. This the Hungarians used as a pretext for bringing parts of Rumania under their domination, and they were only prevented from further extending it by the coming of the Tartars (1241), the last people of Mongolian origin to harry these regions. The Hungarians maintained themselves, however, in the parts which they had already occupied, until the latter were united into the principality of the 'Rumanian land'.

To sum up: 'The Rumanians are living to-day where fifteen centuries ago their ancestors were living. The possession of the regions on the Lower Danube passed from one nation to another, but none endangered the Rumanian nation as a national entity. "The water passes, the stones remain"; the hordes of the migration period, detached from their native soil, disappeared as mist before the sun. But the Roman element bent their heads while the storm passed over them, clinging to the old places until the advent of happier days, when they were able to stand up and stretch their limbs.'[1]

[Footnote 1: Traugott Tamm, Ueber den Ursprung der Rumaenen, Bonn, 1891.]