Romania History – From the Middle Ages to the 18th Century

By | December 23, 2021

From the Middle Ages to the modern age

The Romania was constituted in State, with the name of România, still subject to the sovereignty of the Sublime Porte, on January 24, 1862, as a consequence of the union of Moldavia and Wallachia into a single principality. Political unity had been prepared in the course of the struggles fought for centuries by the Romanians of the two sides of the Carpathians, born from the ancient Dacian people, and having Transylvania as its center. It has always been considered and called rumânor român, that is “Roman”, following the Trajan conquest when settlers from all over the Roman world (➔ Dacians) were transferred to Dacia. For Romania 2001, please check

1.1 Early Middle Ages In the early Middle Ages the first Romanian political formations (duchies and voivodships) were formed, grouped from the 14th century. in the ‘great voivodships’ of Wallachia and Moldavia. The state formations of Transylvania followed a different historical evolution following the penetration of the Magyars: in the 10th century. some Magyar people settled next to the native population and from the 12th century. for over 4 centuries Transylvania was part of the Hungarian state as a voivodeship. In the three regions the Romanians preserved and developed a specific material and spiritual culture in close connection with the Byzantine world. The long process of state organization, in particular, was influenced by Christianity of the Byzantine rite.

1.2 Wallachia Wallachia, subdivided into judete or giudicati and locally governed by judges, held together by the authority of a voivode or duke, was in the 14th century. tributary of the Mongols of the Golden Horde, while remaining subject to the sovereignty of the King of Hungary. In the 14th century. one of the voivodes, Basarab of Câmpulung, managed to impose himself on the other dukes and judges in the so-called Oltenia ; in 1330, by defeating the King of Hungary, Charles Robert of Anjou, he obtained the recognition of his position of primacy as “Great Voivode of the whole Romanian country”. His successors continued the policy tending to affirm the new state unity: from Nicola Alessandro (1352-64) to Mircea the Elder (1386-1418), there is a progressive extension of territorial conquests together with a more defined organization of the state. ● Divided into three classes (boyars, peasants and slaves), the Wallachian society of the 9th century. 14th-16th was held together by the prince, military leader, supreme judge and master of all the lands under him. The Wallachian state had just consolidated that already in the first years of the reign of Mircea the Elder the borders were threatened by the Turks: Mircea, after the Christian defeat in the battle of Kosovo (1389), was beaten in Ruins, then with Hungarian help beat the Turks in Turnu-Măgurele; but after the defeat of Nicopolis (1396), the independence of Wallachia was limited and the State from 1417 was subject to a tribute to Mohammed’s. The 20 domni or voivodes that succeeded one another on the throne of Wallachia from 1418 until the battle of Mohács (1526) managed to keep the country a certain autonomy, but after the defeat of Mohács Wallachia was in fact subjected and its voivodes entirely subject to sultan. Only with Michele’s rise to powerthe Valiant (1593-1601) recovered from the Turkish domination and found a capable leader, who succeeded in achieving for the first time the union of Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia, proclaiming himself prince of all Romanians. In the 17th century. the princes Matei Basarab (1632-54), Șerban Cantacuzeno (1678-88) and Costantino Brâncoveanu (1688-1714), followed by the Phanariot regime.

1.3 Moldova The future Moldavia was instead entirely subject to the dominion of the Mongols. Only when Mongolian power weakened did it emerge as a border mark against Mongolian danger. Around 1360 Bogdan, voivode of Maramureş, a region in the north of Transylvania, became domn , giving the country the first dynasty and also escaping its dependence on Hungary. Its position was identical to that of the Wallachian domn and the social structure of the Moldovan population was no different. His successors in the span of about a century extended their power to the whole territory between the Dnestr, the Danube delta and the north-eastern foothills of the Carpathians, as far as Cernauṭi, on the border with Poland. ● Keeping the Mongols at bay, then the Russians who pressed from beyond the Dniester, the Poles and Magyars, and therefore also the Turks, represented a difficult problem and only with Stephen III the Great (1457-1504) did the region find a settlement that it had to be decisive for the formation of the Romanian nation. An agreement was reached with the Poland of King Casimir IV; towards Hungary Stephen repelled the attacks of King Mattia Corvinus; more difficult was the task of providing security to the southern border: in 1474 Stefano actually connected with the great Christian league together with the pontiff, in Venice, to Mattia Corvino and the king of Naples and on 10 January 1475 he beat Suleiman the Eunuch, who had come in force from Albania. The possession of the Danube line and all the coasts of the Black Sea was too important for the Turks to be overlooked. After the defeat of Valea Alba by the joint Ottoman and Crimean armies (1476), in August 1484 Stephen III, attacked by the troops of Bāyazīd II, lost the ports of Chilia and Cetatea Alba. The Polish help made him win the Turks, but the peace concluded between the Turks and the Poles in 1489 led him to pay tribute to the sultan and to send his son Alexander hostage at the Sublime Porte. At his death (1504) Moldavia was completely inserted among the Ottoman domains.

1.4 Transylvania In Transylvania the vast majority of the population of the voivodship, including Banat, Crișana and Maramureș, was Romanian. The Saxons, settled as colonists together with the Hungarian-crowned Secleri, and the few Hungarians who settled in the cities represented a minority. Alongside the new administrative subdivisions of the voivodship, the Romanian districts remained, continuing the cnesati found on their arrival by the Hungarians. In the 14th and 15th centuries. there were various uprisings of Romanian and Hungarian peasants against the clergy Catholic and the Hungarian and Saxon nobility. After 1541 Transylvania became an autonomous principality and from 1691 a province of the Habsburg Empire. In 1784-85 violent peasant movements took place led by the three famous chiefs Horia, Cloșca and Crișan.

The eighteenth century

In these centuries-old struggles of the princes of Wallachia and Moldavia against the Hungarians, masters of Transylvania after 1000, against Poland, which tended to expand towards the Black Sea, and finally against the Ottoman Turks, who would eventually dominate almost all of the Balkans, in the Moldo-Wallachians the conscience of their own individuality was consolidated. A cultural movement in this direction took place above all in the 18th century, a period characterized by considerable economic and cultural development, in which the personalities of the princes Costantino Brâncoveanu (1688-1714) in Wallachia and Dimitrie Cantemir emerged.(1710-11) in Moldova. Cantemir, a famous humanist, aimed at eliminating the causes of Moldova’s political instability. The freedom and unity of the Romanians were the dominant ideas of his work and the actions he took, the most important of which was the alliance with Tsar Peter the Great in the fight against the Turks (1710-11); the attempt to free the Principality from Ottoman subjection ended, however, with the defeat of Stănilești (1711), which forced Cantemir to flee to Russia. ● With Cantemir, the awareness of the Latinity of the Romanians of the three Principalities was strengthened. From the end of the 18th century. onwards these already strong ties with the Western Latin world were also strengthened thanks to the spread of French culture and revolutionary, liberal and then democratic ideologies. From a political point of view, however, the situation of the Romanian lands appeared very unfavorable to their unification: against the ideal aspirations of a small elite of intellectuals, the real figure was offered by the inclusion of the two principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia in the context of Ottoman Empire with the replacement, operated by the Porta (1711 in Moldavia, 1716 in Wallachia), of the local princes with Greek phanariotes. The Habsburgs, after Transylvania, in 1775 they had extended their dominion also to Bucovina, and Russia from 1774 (treaty of Küciük Qainarge) had progressively increased its influence on the Principalities.

Romania History - From the Middle Ages to the 18th Century