The Rumanian peasant looks upon himself as the descendant of the patricians of Rome

The plains of Wallachia were defended formerly by an ancient line of fortifi­cations passing to the north of these Danubian lakes and lagoons, and known as "Trajan's Wall," like the ditches, walls, and entrenched camps in the Southern Dobruja. The inhabitants ascribe their construction to Caesar, although they are of much later date, having been erected by Trajan as a protection against the Visigoths. This ancient barrier of defence coincided pretty nearly with the political boundary between Russian and Rumanian Bessarabia, and extended probably to the west of the Pruth, across the whole of Moldavia and Wallachia. Vestiges of it still met with there are known as the "Road of the Avares." A second wall, still traceable between Leova and Bender, defended the approaches to the valley of the Danube.

In spite of the diverse races which have overrun, conquered, or devastated their territory, the inhabitants of Rumania, more fortunate than their neighbours, have preserved their unity of race and language. Wallachians and Moldavians form one people, and not only have they kept intact their national territory, but they have actually encroached upon the territories of their neighbours. Through­out Rumania, with the exception of the Dobruja, handed over to Rumania by the treaty recently concluded at Berlin, the inhabitants belonging to alien races are in the minority.

The origin of this Latin-speaking nation is still shrouded in mystery. Are they the descendants of Getae and Latinised Dacians, or does the blood of Italian colonists brought thither by Trajan, of legionaries and Roman soldiers, predomi­nate amongst them? To what extent have they become amalgamated with their neighbours, the Slavs and Illyrians? What share had the Celts in the formation of their nationality? Are the "Little" Wallachians, the "men with the eighty teeth,"—so called on account of their bravery,—the descendants of Celts? We cannot say with certainty, for men of learning like Shafarik and Miklosich differ on all these points. The vast plains at present inhabited by the Rumanians became a wilderness in the third century, when the Emperor Aurelian compelled their inhabitants to migrate to the right bank of the Danube. If it is true that the descendants of these emigrants ever returned to the seats of their ancestors, in the meantime occupied by Slavs, Magyars, and Pecheneges, when did they do so? Miklosich presumes that they did so towards the close of the fifth century; Roesler thinks in the fourteenth, although ancient chroniclers of the eleventh century mention Rumanians as dwelling in the Carpathians. Other authorities deny that there was any re-immigration; they maintain that the residue of the Latinised population sufficed for reconstituting the nationality. Thus much is certain, that this small people has increased wonderfully, and has become now the preponderating race on the Lower Danube and in Transylvania.

Even in the seventeenth century the language spoken by the Rumanians was treated as a rural dialect, and Slavonian was used in churches and courts of justice. At the present day, on the contrary, Rumanian patriots are anxious to purge their language of all Servian words, and of Greek and Turkish expressions introduced during the dominion of the Osmanli. The "Romans" of the Danube are endeavouring to polish their tongue, so that it may rank with Italian and French. They have abandoned the Russian characters, and their vocabulary is being continually enriched by new words derived from the Latin.   The idiom spoken in the towns, which was the most impure formerly, in consequence of the influx of strangers, has now become more Latin than that spoken in the country. There are, however, about two hundred words not traceable to any known tongue, and these are supposed to be a remnant of the ancient Dacian spoken at the period of the Roman invasion. The Wal­lachian differs, moreover, from the Latin tongues of Western Europe by always placing the article and the demonstrative pronoun after the noun. The same rule obtains in Albanian and Bulgarian, and Miklosich is probably right when he looks upon this as a feature of the ancient language of the aborigines.

These niceties, however, are altogether unnoticed by the mass of the people. The Rumanian peasant is proud of the ancient conquerors of his country, and looks upon himself as the descendant of the patricians of Rome. Several of his customs, at the birth of children, betrothals, or burials, recall those observed by the Romans, and the dance of the Calushares, it is said, may be traced back to the earliest Italian settlers. The Wallachian is fond of talking about Father Trajan, to whom he attributes all those feats which in other countries are associated with Hercules, Fingal, or Ossian. Many a mountain valley has been rent asunder by Trajan's powerful hand; and the avalanches descending from the hills are spoken of as Trajan's thunder. The Rumanian completely ignores Getae, Dacians, or Goths, though in the hills we still meet with tall men having blue eyes and long flaxen hair, who are probably descended from the aboriginal inhabitants of the country.

The Rumanians have generally fine sunburnt features, fair hair, expressive eyes, a mouth finely shaped, and beautiful teeth. They allow their hair to grow long, and sometimes even prefer to expatriate themselves to sacrificing it to the exigencies of military service. They exhibit grace in all their movements, are indefatigable on the march, and support the heaviest labour without complaining. Even the Wallachian herdsman, with his sheepskin cap, or cashula, his wide leather belt used as a pocket, a sheepskin thrown over his shoulders, and drawers which recall those of the Dacians sculptured on Trajan's Column, is noble in his bearing. In the large towns, where much intermixture has taken place with Greeks, Southern Russians, and Magyars, the brown complexion predominates. The Rumanian women are grace itself. They always charm us by taste and neatness, whether they have adopted a modern dress or still patronise the national costume, consisting of an embroidered chemisette, a floating vest, a party-coloured apron, a golden net, and golden sequins placed in the hair. These external advantages are combined in the Rumanian with quickness of appre­hension, a gay spirit, and the gift of repartee, which entitle them to be called the Parisians of the Orient.

In the midst of this homogeneous Rumanian population we meet with Bulgarian colonists, whose number has increased recently in consequence of the persecutions of Turks and Greeks. The character of the Bulgarians born in the country has undergone considerable modifications. They are at present the most industrious tillers of the soil, and in the vicinity of large towns they occupy themselves principally with horticulture. Many of these Bulgarians live in that portion of Bulgaria known as the Dobruja, which the treaty of Berlin has assigned to Rumania in exchange for the Bessarabian portion of Moldavia, which has been restored to Russia. The exchange, by no means a voluntary one, can hardly be said to be disadvantageous to Rumania, which has now acquired the whole of the delta of the Danube, inclusive of the much-coveted Sulina branch, which is kept open as a navigable highway by an international European commission, carrying its own flag, and levying tolls upon ships to defray the expenses incurred by it. The population of the Budzak, or Southern Bessarabia, is most motley in its character. That of the Dobruja is no less so. Rumanians are met with only in the towns and along the Danube; the Bulgarians are the principal cultivators of the soil; but the bulk of the population consists of Nogai Tartars, who came into the country after the Crimean war. The Bulgarians were forced to surrender to these unwelcome intruders their best fields, and to build houses for them; but the Tartars, in spite of the solicitude exhibited on their behalf, did not prosper, and recent events may have induced many amongst them to depart for more congenial regions.

The Russians met with in the towns of Rumania are generally engaged in commerce, and enjoy a high reputation for honesty. Most of them belong to the old sect of the Lipovani, and fled from Russia about a century ago to escape religious persecution. They nearly all speak Rumanian. Others belong to the sect of the Skoptzi, or "mutilated," which is said to recruit itself by stealing children. These Skoptzi are recognised by their portliness and smooth faces, and at Bucharest they are reputed to be excellent coachmen.

Magyar Szeklers from Transylvania, known in the country as Changhei, are the only other foreign element of the population occupying distinct settlements. These Changhei, who first came into the country when the Kings of Hungary were masters of the valley of the Sereth, are gradually becoming Rumanians in dress and language, and would have become so long ago were they not Roman Catholics, whilst the people among whom they live are Greeks. They are joined annually by a few compatriots from Transylvania, attracted by the mild climate and the fertility of the soil. In spring and autumn large bauds of Hungarian reapers and labourers descend into the plains of Moldavia.

The Hellenic element was strongly represented last century, when the government of the country was farmed out by the Sultan to Greek merchants of Constantinople. At the present time the Greeks are not numerous—not exceeding, perhaps, 10,000 souls, even if we include amongst them Hellenized Zinzares—but they occupy influential positions as managers of estates or merchants, and the export of corn is almost exclusively in their hands. Traces of the ancient government of these Phanariotes still exist in the language of the country, and in the relationships resulting from intermarriages between seignorial families. Far more numerous than these Greeks, and of greater importance, are the members of those homeless nations—the Jews and Tsigani (or gipsies). A few Spanish Jews are met with in the large towns, but the majority are "German" Jews, who have come hither from Poland, Little Russia, Galicia, and Hungary. As publicans and middlemen they come into close contact with the poor people, and they are universally detested, not on account of their religion, but because of the wonderful skill with which they manage to secure the savings of the people. Imaginary crimes of all kinds are attributed to them, and they have repeatedly been exposed to maltreatment on the frivolous charge of having eaten little children at their Passover. The Ruma­nians, however, can hardly manage without these detested Jews, and their laws, by preventing the Jews from acquiring land, fortify their commercial monopoly. The Jews, if certain estimates may be credited, constitute one-fifth of the total population of Moldavia. The Armenians, the other great commercial people of the Orient, are represented by a few flourishing colonies, more especially in Moldavia. These Haikanes are the descendants of immigrants who settled in the country at various epochs between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries. They live amongst themselves, and, though not exactly liked by the people, they have known how to avoid becoming objects of hatred. A few Armenians from Con­stantinople, and speaking Turkish, are met with on the Lower Danube.

The Tsigani, or gipsies, so despised formerly, become merged by degrees in the rest of the population. Not long ago they were slaves, the property of the State, of boyards, or monasteries. They led a wandering life—working, trafficking, or stealing for the benefit of their masters. They were divided into castes, the principal of which were the lingurari, or spoon-makers; ursari, or bear-leaders; ferrari, or smiths; aunari, or collectors of gold dust; and lautari, or musicians. These latter were the most polished of all, and were employed to celebrate the glory and the virtues of the boyards. They are now the minstrels of the country and the musicians of the town. Very few in number are the Netotzi, a degraded caste who live in woods or tents, subsist upon the foulest food, and do not bury their dead. The Tsigani were assimilated in 1837 with the peasantry, and since their emancipation nearly all of them lead a settled life, cultivating the soil with great care, or exercising some handicraft. The fusion between Tsigani and Rumanians is making rapid progress, for both races have the same religion and speak the same language.  Intermarriages between the two are frequent, and in a time not far off the Tsigani of Rumania will be a thing of the past. They are supposed still to number between 100,000 and 300,000 souls.

Approximate population of Rumania, 4,926,000 souls, of whom 3,090,000 were in Wallachia, 1,836,000 in Moldavia, and 221,000 in the Dobruja. There were 4,288,000 Rumanians, 127,000 Turks and Tartars, 70,000 Bulgarians, 15,000 Russians, 50,000 Magyars, 131,000 Tsigani (gipsies), 400,000 Jews, 9,000 Armenians, and 50,000 foreigners (30,000 Austrians, 15,000 Greeks, 5,000 Germans, 1,500 French).

The Rumanian nation is still in a state of transition from a feudal to a modern epoch. The revolution of 1848 shook the ancient system to its founda­tion, but did not destroy it. As recently as 1856 the peasants were attached to the soil. They had no rights, but were at the mercy of the boyards and monas­teries whose soil they were doomed to till, and lived in miserable hovels. The whole of the country and its inhabitants belonged to five or six thousand boyards, who were either the descendants of the ancient "braves," or had purchased their patents of nobility. Most of these boyards were only small proprietors, and nearly the whole of the land belonged to seventy feudatories in Wallachia, and three hundred in Moldavia.

This state of affairs led to the most frightful demoralisation amongst masters and serfs, and even the good qualities of the Rumanian—his energy, his gene­rosity, and friendliness—were turned into evil. The nobles lived far away from their estates, spending the income forwarded by their Greek bailiffs in debauchery and gambling. The peasants worked but little, for they had no share in the produce of the soil; they were mistrustful and full of deceit, as are all slaves; they were ignorant and superstitious, for they depended for their education upon illiterate and fanatical priests. Their popes were magicians, and cured maladies by incantations and holy philtres. As to the monks, some of them were rich proprietors, as rapacious as the temporal lords; others lived on alms, having exchanged a life of slavery for mendicity.

Not long ago the Rumanians, deprived of all education except that sup­plied by their doinas, or ancient songs, were lest almost in mediaeval darkness. Even now some of the ancient customs of their ancestors survive in the rural districts. Funerals are attended by hired weeping women, whose shrieks accompany the farewell of relatives. Into the coffin they place a stick upon which to rest when crossing the Jordan, a piece of cloth to serve as a garment, and a coin as a bribe to St. Peter for opening the gate of heaven. Nor are wine and bread forgotten for the journey. Red-haired people are suspected of returning to earth in the guise of a dog, a frog, or a flea, and to penetrate into houses in order to suck the blood of good-looking young girls. In their case it is as well to close the coffin-lid tightly, or, still better, to pierce the throat of the defunct with a stick.