Encyclopædia Orbis Latini

A European people constituting the major element in the populations of Romania and Moldova, as well as smaller groups located throughout the Balkan Peninsula, south and west of the Danube River. Although their Slav neighbours gave them the name Vlachi (or Vlasi, in East Slavic Volokhi), from which the term Vlachs is derived, the Vlachs call themselves Romani, Romeni, Rumeni, or Aromani.

See Wallachians, Walloons, Welschen etc.

The Vlachs emerged into history in the European Middle Ages, primarily in the region south of the Danube. Since the 19th century the Rumanian historians traditionally claim the Vlachs to be descendants of the ancient Romans who in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD occupied Dacia, a Roman province located in the regions of Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains of modern Romania. Another theory suggests that their ancestors were a Thracian tribe, native to the Roman province of Dacia, which intermarried with the Roman colonists and assimilated their language and culture. After the Romans evacuated Dacia (AD 271), the area was subjected to a series of barbarian invasions. According to some scholars, the Romanized Dacians remained in the area, probably taking refuge in the Carpathian Mountains. They remained there for several centuries as shepherds and primitive farmers, until conditions settled and they returned to the plains.

The Romanized Dacian population may have moved south of the Danube when the Romans left Dacia. After the barbarian invasions subsided, the Vlachs, seen in this theory as a later group of immigrants, moved into the area from their Romanized homelands south of the Danube or elsewhere in the Balkans. This theory cites the major role the Vlachs played in the formation and development of the Second Bulgarian Empire (also known as the Empire of Vlachs and Bulgars; founded 1185) as evidence that the centre of the Vlach population had shifted south of the Danube.

By the 13th century the Vlachs were reestablished in the lands north of the Danube, including Transylvania, where they constituted the bulk of the peasant population. From Transylvania they migrated to Walachia ("Land of the Vlachs") and Moldavia, which became independent principalities in the 13th and 14th centuries and combined to form Romania at the end of the 19th century.

Other Vlachs migrated to other regions of the Balkan Peninsula. The Macedo-Vlachs, or Tzintzars, settled on the mountains of Thessaly. According to the 12th-century Byzantine historian Anna Comnena, they founded the independent state of Great Walachia, which covered the southern and central Pindus Mountain ranges and part of Macedonia. (After the establishment of the Latin Empire at Constantinople in 1204, Great Wallachia was absorbed by the Greek Despotate of Epirus; later it was annexed by the Serbs, and in 1393 it fell to the Turks.) Another Vlach settlement, called Little Wallachia, was located in Aetolia and Acarnania. In addition, Vlachs known as Morlachs or Mavrovlachi ("Black Wallachians"), inhabited areas in the mountains of Montenegro, Herzegovina, and northern Albania as well as on the southern coast of Dalmatia, where they founded Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik). In the 14th century some Morlachs moved northward into Croatia. In the 15th century others, later called Çiçi, settled in the Istrian Peninsula.


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Zdravko Batzarov