Romanian origins III–land of confusion  

Thrown (Ţâpat) in , ,

We finally get to present and hopefully elucidate our argument.

HicSuntDraconesThe initial question can be easily answered with “the map is wrong”, end of story. After all, in those times (as late as 1503 and even 1600-1700) cartographers still marked unknown spots with mythical creatures and the shaky handwriting “HIC SVNT DRACONES/LEONES” – here be dragons/lions.

But that offers no explanation and no pleasure of discovery. It’s worth delving into what has caused the error and trying to find a rational explanation and the sources of the error.

As stated in as well as in genetic origin, I favour a linguistic model, for it is the language people speak that determines their culture and nationality and not the political structure imposed upon them. (This is in contrast to what most people prefer: delimitations by race and / or nationality which are generally impossible to make.) After all, Romania has found itself at the confluence of 3 major Empires – Russian, Ottoman (Turkish) and Austro-Hungarian, each keeping a piece of it for most of its history. It was only around 1848, in the revolutionary wave which engulfed Europe, that the Romanian national spirit and drive for independence and reunification found a coherent, emergent voice in all 3 principalities.


GeatsTo pick up , medieval historians seem to have confused even Swedish Götaland (Geatland) with Getae (cf. wikipedia):

Geats should not be confused with the Thracian Getae, a connection long made by some, such as the authors of the medieval Swedish Chronicle (PDF, RTF) or early-modern Swedish historian Carolus Lundius (PDF).

Beowulf, a hero of an ancient epic poem, was a warrior of the Geats.  A beautiful “Shrek-animated” adaptation can now be seen starring Angelina Jolie. (He’s also given name to the cluster of inexpensive computers.) Still, I see it as another possible reincarnation of Zalmoxis: the Dacians’ flag was made of a wolf head that made a bee-like sound when running:

Draco-Dacian-flagThe Romans called it Draco (meaning Dragon) and it terrified them.

Now, the above may be a coincidence, but there are other interesting similarities between the Calusari and Morris / Ceili dance (see also Nightlosers mention) or between Miorita and an Indian story.  Such “coincidences” lend credence to the “universal myth” theory of people like Campbell.


Before jumping to the conclusion that Romania is a disturbing land of confusion it’s worth noting that the linguistic model I favour actually seems to provide a valid, congruent explanation. Here it is, in point form:

  1. romanceEven the Wikipedia quote you present seems to favour a lingustic model. This may be because empires and principalities were in a state of constant flux in those times, whereas populations were more stable, making the map likely to be valid longer if going by ethnonyms.
  2. A direct quote from the article seems to directly validate my “1848 statement”:
    • The name "România" as common homeland of the Romanians is documented in the early 19th century. –>
    • footnote: The first known mention of the term "Romania" in its modern denotation dates from 1816, as the Greek scholar Dimitrie Daniel Philippide published in Leipzig his work "The History of Romania", followed by "The Geography of Romania". On the tombstone of Gheorghe Lazar in Avrig (built in 1823) there is the inscription: "Precum Hristos pe Lazar din morti a înviat/Asa tu România din somn ai desteptat."
    • The name "Romania" (România) was first brought to Paris by young Romanian intellectuals in the 1840s, where it was spelled "Roumanie" in order to differentiate Romanians (fr.: Roumains) from Romans (fr.: Romains).
      • It has been an alternative name for the Byzantine Empire (also known as the Eastern Roman Empire,??µa??a Romanía in Greek - compare with the name ???µa??a Roumanía for Romania). The name was also kept by non-Latin peoples, such as the Byzantines, who used to call themselves "Romaioi" (??µa???, also the origin of the first name Romeo). In the Arabic and Ottoman Turkish languages, it came to mean further Eastward regions of the empire, like Rûm and Rumelia in Asia. Rumi was also an Arabic word for Christian.
      • It has been an alternative name for the Latin Empire, centred on Byzantium, set up by Roman CatholicCrusaders of the Fourth Crusade with the intention of replacing the Eastern Orthodox Byzantine Empire with a Roman Catholic empire. In the Balkans there are Romanic people that have an ethnonym derived from "Romanus", including Aromanians (armâni, arumâni or ramani) and Istro-Romanians (rumâri). The Megleno-Romanians originally used the form ramâni, but it was lost by the 19th century and used the word Vlasi borrowed from Bulgarian/Macedonian.
  3. There were 4 Eastern Romance languages that had evolved from Vulgar Latin: Aromanian, Istro-Romanian (an endangered language spoken by only 500 people, the smallest ethno-group in Europe), Megleno-Romanian (1200 people) and what we call today Daco-Romanian or simply Romanian. Aromanian = Proto-Romanian (Vulgar Latin) + Greek, whereas Daco-Romanian = Proto-Romanian + Slavic influences.
  4. Although we have some disparate and limited occurrences of the name “Romanian” used in connection with the people living in the 3 principalities Moldova, Wallachia and Transylvania, it is unlikely that this was widely used, because the 3 empires were interested in presenting their dominions as separate entities as to not foment the nationalist spirit, reunification fervour and ultimately revolt. The name Vlach and/or Wallachia were probably predominant at that time.
  5. As it should be obvious from the map, there were clusters of mostly Aromanians living all the way to Greece (present-day Republic of Macedonia), below the Jirecek line (separating the Latin from Greek influence). The Aromanian population managed to keep its language and customs despite a strong drive to assimilation by Greek nationalists and its language is now official in the aforementioned republic.
  6. The cartographers who made the map have thus mistakenly considered only the Aromanians as being “Romanians”, while the Daco-Romanians from today’s “Romania proper” were designated as “Vlachs”, “Moldovans” and “Transylvanians”.

So if that’s true, why is it that so few know / admit to the “Vlachs” / “Wallachian” name history?


The more specific question is why doesn’t Romania rebrand itself as Dacia?

Back when Romanians were still subjugated by the 3 empires (and let me tell you, their situation was dire), they were only united by their language – a Romance / Latin language – and, to a lesser extent, their customs. They needed a name (a brand, if you will) that would contain the story of their origins. Vlachs or Wallachs wasn’t it, while Dacians had little connection to the Western powers they were trying to sweet-talk into allowing and supporting unification and independence. “Romanians” was a natural choice as it suggested a clear connection to the Roman empire and it was easier to grasp than a tedious analysis of the Daco-Romanian language.

Since then, the large Gypsy minority living in most of Eastern Europe, subjected to incredible persecutions and fighting hard for emancipation much like Daco-Romanians did only a few centuries ago, have chosen (or had it chosen for them) a very similar etnonym. Apart from adding several layers to the previously mentioned confusion, this should be a great opportunity to rediscover the glorious past (without falling into fascist or racist rhetoric) and embrace the Dacian name. This is not happening for three main reasons:

  1. Most Romanians are unaware of their own history as this is not the official line and it is not emphasized in school. The education system has suffered tremendously in the past couple of decades.
  2. There is still a certain irredentist, chauvinistic undercurrent in Hungary which seeks to rebuild the “Great Hungary”. Hungarian people have never really adapted to going from one of the founding nations of a major empire to rather small country. Beset by Soviet crushing occupation in 1956, Hungary has long recorded [one of] the highest suicide rate[s] in Europe. The brand “Romania” is seen as a stronger juxtaposition to this “threat”.
  3. The drive to recover this glorious past is often mixed with racist and xenophobic rhetoric and other weird and grandiose theories that could never be mainstream. Furthermore, redefining one’s identity is hard even without all the above.

Besides, from the same article you’ve quoted, the name “român” had started in the XVII century to have negative connotations:

In the Middle Ages the ethno-linguistical designation rumân/român also denoted common people. During the 17th century, as serfdom becomes a widespread institution, common people increasingly turns into bondsman. In a process of semantic differentiation in 17th-18th centuries the form rumân, presumably usual among lower classes, got merely the meaning of bondsman, while the form "român" kept an ethno-linguistic meaning. After the abolition of the serfage by Prince Constantine Mavrocordato in 1746, the form "rumân" gradually disappears and the spelling definitively stabilises to the form "român", "românesc".

I hope this answers your question. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to blabber on a dear subject! ChatterboxPeace SignHee hee

LE: Toma Caragiu, the god with curly hair, was also aromanian.

Sources / More info: wiki-proto, wiki-calusari, wiki-Jirecek line, draco-flag, ro-consul [disturbing]

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