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.

The physical configuration of Rumania is extremely simple. In Moldavia low ridges running parallel with the high mountain chain extend from the north-west to the south-east, being separated from each other by the valleys of the Bistritza, Moldava, and Sereth, and sinking down gradually into the plains of the Danube. In Wallachia the southern spurs of the Transylvanian Alps ramify with remark­able regularity, and the torrents which descend from them all run in the same direction. The rivers, whether they rise at the foot of the hills or traverse the entire width of the mountains, such as the Sil, Shil, or Jiul, the Olto or Aluta, and the Buseo, turn towards the east before their waters mingle with those of the Danube.

The slope of the hills is pretty uniform from the crest of the mountains to the plain of the Danube, and the zones of temperature and vegetation succeed each other with singular regularity. Summits covered with forests of conifers and birch, and clad with snow during winter, rise near the frontiers of Transylvania. These are succeeded by mountains of inferior height, where beeches and chestnuts predominate, and all the picturesque beauties of European forest scenery are met with. Lower still we come upon gentle hills, with groves of oaks and maples, and their sunny sides covered with vines. Finally, we enter the wide plains of the Danube, with their fruit trees, poplars, and willows. The zone lying between the high mountains and the plain abounds in localities rendered delightful by pic­turesque rocks, luxuriant and varied verdure, and limpid streams. In this "happy Arcadia" we meet with most of the large monasteries, magnificent castles with domes and towers, standing in the midst of parks and gardens. As to the plains, they are no doubt barren and monotonous in many places, but the villagers, though their habitations are half buried in the ground, enjoy the magnificent prospect of the blue mountains which bound the horizon. The most characteristic objects in these lowlands are the huge hay-ricks already figured upon Trajan's column at Rome.

The Rumanian campagna is a second Lombardy, not because of the high state of its agriculture, but because of the fertility of its soil, the beauty of the sky, and of the distant views. Unfortunately there are no mountain barriers to protect it against the cold north-easterly winds which predominate throughout the year. Extremes of cold and heat have to be encountered. The vines have to be covered with earth to protect them against the colds of winter; and in South-eastern Wallachia, which is most exposed to the violence of the winds, it happens some­times that herds of cattle and horses, flying before a snow-storm, precipitate themselves into the floods of the Danube. Several districts suffer from want of rain, and are veritable steppes. Amongst these are the plains of the Baragan, between the Danube and Yalomitza, where bustards abound, and a tree is not met with for miles.

Geologically we meet with a regular succession of formations, from the granite on the mountain summits to the alluvial deposits along the banks of the Danube. The rocks encountered on these southern slopes of the Carpathians are of the same kind as those found in Galicia on their northern slopes, and they yield the same mineral products, such as rock-salt, gypsum, lithographic stones, and petroleum. Tertiary strata predominate in the plains, but to the east of Ploiesti and Bucharest only quaternary deposits of clay and pebbles are met with, in which are found the bones of mammoths, elephants, and mastodons. The muddy rivers which traverse these plains have excavated themselves sinuous beds, and resemble large ditches.

The plain of Rumania, like that of Lombardy, is an ancient gulf of the sea filled up by the debris washed down from the mountain sides. But though the sea has retired, the Danube remains, pouring out vast volumes of water, and offering great advantages to navigation. At the famous defile of the Iron Gate, where this river enters the plain, its bed has a depth of 155 feet, its surface lies 66 feet above the level of the Black Sea, and its volume exceeds that of the com­bined rivers of Western Europe, from the Rhone to the Rhine. The Romans, in spite of this, had thrown a bridge across the river, immediately below the Iron Gate, which was justly looked upon as one of the wonders of the world. This work of architecture, which Apollodorus of Damas had erected in honour of Trajan, was pulled down by order of the Emperor Hadrian, who was anxious to save the expenses of the garrison required for its protection. There only remain now the two abutments, and when the waters are low the foundations of sixteen out of the twenty piers which supported the bridge may still be seen. A Roman tower, which has given name to the little town of Turnu Severin, marks the spot where the Romans first placed their foot upon the soil of Dacia. The passage from Servia to Rumania is as important as it was of yore, but modern industry has not yet replaced Trajan's bridge.

The Danube, like most rivers of our northern hemisphere, presses upon its right bank, and this accounts for the difference between its Wallachian and Bul­garian banks. The latter, gnawed by the floods, rises steeply into little hills and terraces, whilst the former rises gently, and merges almost imperceptibly in the plains of Wallachia. Swamps, lakes, creeks, and the remains of ancient river beds form a riverine network, enclosing numerous islands and sand-banks. These channels are subject to continual change, and to the south of the Yalomitza may still be seen a line of swamps and lagoons, which marks the course of an ancient river no longer existing. The lowlands on the Wallachian side of the Danube are constantly increasing in extent, whilst Bulgaria continuously suffers losses of territory. The latter, however, is amply compensated for this by the salubrity of its soil and the fine sites for commercial emporiums which it offers. It is said that the beaver, which has been exterminated almost in every other part of Europe, is still common in these half-drowned lands of Wallachia.

At a distance of thirty-eight miles from the sea, in a straight line, the Danube strikes against the granitic heights of the Dobruja, and abruptly turns to the north, subsequently to spread out into a delta. In the course of this detour it receives its last tributaries of importance, viz. the Moldavian Sereth and the Pruth. Thirty miles below the mouth of the latter the Danube bifurcates. Its main branch, known as that of Kilia, conveys about two-thirds of the entire volume of its waters to the Black Sea, and forms the frontier between Dobruja and Russian Bessarabia. The southern branch, or that of Tulcha, flows entirely through Ruman territory. It separates into two branches, of which that of Sulina is the main artery of navigation.

The main branch of the river is of the utmost importance when considering the changes wrought upon the surface of the earth through aqueous agencies. Below Ismail it ramifies into a multitude of channels, which change continuously, new channels being excavated, whilst others become choked with alluvial deposits carried down by the floods. Twice the waters of the river are reunited into a single channel before they finally spread out into a secondary delta jutting into the Black Sea. The exterior development of this now land amounts to about twelve miles, and supposing the sea to be of a uniform depth of thirty-three feet, it would advance annually at the rate of 660 feet. Yet, in spite of this rapid increase, the coast, at the Kilia mouth, juts out far less to the east than it does in the southern portion of the delta, and we may conclude from this that the ancient gulf of the sea, now filled up by the alluvial deposits brought down by the Kilia branch, was far larger and deeper than those to the south. (Mean volume of the Danube, according to C. Hartley, 2,000,000 gallons per second; maximum volume, 6,160,000 gallons; mean volume of Kilia mouth, 1,276,000 gallons; mean of St. George's mouth, 572,000 gallons; mean of Sulina mouth, 176,000 gallons per second. Mean alluvial deposits of Danube, 2,119 cubic feet per annum.) On examining a map of the Danubian delta, it will be found that, by prolonging the coast-line of Bessarabia towards the south, it crosses the delta. This is the ancient coast. It rises above the half-drowned plains like an embankment, through which the branches of the river forced themselves a passage to the sea. The alluvium brought down by the Sulina and St. George's mouths has been spread over a vast plain lying outside this embankment, whilst that carried down through what is at present the main branch forms only a small archipelago of ill-defined islands beyond it. We may conclude from this that the latter is of more recent origin than the other arms.

In the course of its gradual encroachment upon the sea, the river has cut off several lakes of considerable extent. On the coast between the mouth of the Dniester and the delta of the Danube there are several lagoons, or limans of inconsiderable depth, the water of which evaporates during the heat of summer, depositing a thin crust of salt. In their general configuration, the nature of the surrounding land, and parallelism of the rivers which flow into them, these sheets of water are very much like the lakes met with more to the west, as far as the mouth of the Pruth.   These latter, however, are filled with fresh water, and the sandy barriers at their lower ends separate them not from the Black Sea, but from the Danube. There can be no doubt that these lakes were anciently gulfs of the sea, similar in all respects to the lagoons still existing along the coast. The Danube, by converting its ancient gulf into a delta, separated them from the sea, and their saline water was replaced by fresh water carried down by the rivers. The existing saline lagoons will undergo the same metamorphosis, in proportion as the delta of the Danube gains upon the sea.