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The so-called "Romanians" are the Vlachs who inhabited the territory just north of the Danube in Roman times, and today. Wallachia (home of the Vlachs), represented the outer limit or Roman expansion. The name of their country, Romania, is a take-off on Roman, and their language is recognizably derived from Latin. In these regards, Romania is the most "Latin" country in the Balkans, and in fact outside of Italy, France, Spain and Portugal.

During the Middle Ages, Romanian territory was crossed by the Magyars from modern Russia, on their way to Hungary, and Bulgars on their way to modern Bulgaria. Afterward, the Romanians were subjects of Turkey. The Vlachs were unable to repel any of these people, yet they were not crushed or absorbed by them.

How did the Vlachs manage to retain a semblance of "Romaness" when surrounding areas such as Bulgaria, Greece and Yugoslavia did not? And maybe the related question is what caused them to be more "Roman" in the first place than their neighbors?

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See also… – knut Nov 6 '13 at 19:38
What else but the often-cited similarity between the Latin and Romanian languages substantially constitutes Romania's "Romaness"? – Drux Mar 1 '14 at 11:41
I've been told (but I I can't back it up) that the lexicon in the Romanian language shows its origins to be much further to the south-west, i.e. it originated as a form of Arumanian, which is still being spoken in Greece and elsewhere. Dalmatian only died out in 1898. So Romance languages have generally been slow to die out on the Balkans, it's just that political circumstances have happened to favour Romanian over the last few centuries, while Romance languages in other areas have not been so lucky. – reinierpost Jul 31 at 21:27
Why do you think the Roman empire, especially the border regions were an ethnically homogeneous country (with people all speaking Latin)? Or in other words, do you have any proof that Romania was Roman even in Roman times in the ethnic sense you suggest and the majority of people spoke Latin as mother tongue? – Greg Nov 19 at 22:02

3 Answers 3

up vote -1 down vote accepted

I would say this had a lot to do with the Eastern Roman Empire's influence. You probably know, before the fifth century fall of Rome, the empire was divided east and west with two separate emperors. The west was overrun by Germanic tribes such as the Vandals, Goths, etc. The east hung on for many centuries more, until the Muslims conquered the area around the late sixteenth century, I believe. We now often refer to this eastern empire as the Byzantine empire, though this is mostly a historical term. Throughout the middle ages they continued to call themselves Roman and adhered to that old culture and identity. The Byzantines encompassed a good sized piece of south eastern Europe, including modern Romania's general area and I'm pretty sure at least some of Greece for a time. You can find a lot of very interesting information about Scandinavian (Vikings) floating down the rivers of eastern Europe to trade with these people and even to become the famed and feared warriors of the Varangian Guard, the personal elite soldiers of the 'Emperors'. Harald Hadrada was one such warrior before dying at Stamford Bridge. Most relevant to your question about Romania specifically, is that in the early 1200s, Constantinople was captured by crusaders, who formed it into a state called the "Romanian Empire" or the "Latin Empire of Constantinople". So that's probably the most explicit reason for Romania in particular to take on that identity seriously, while Bulgaria and other neighbours didn't get a lot of attention as they did. I hope I've given some of the answer you were looking for and haven't rambled too much. I'm an overly keen storyteller haha 😉

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Hmm, in this map the Imperium Romaniae does not seem to overlap with present-day Romania. – Drux Mar 13 '14 at 21:29
Modern day Romania (Dacia) was abandoned by Romans during the rule of Aurelian - it was never a part of what we today call "the Byzantine Empire". – Nemanja Trifunovic Mar 14 '14 at 1:06
Doesn't seem a likely explanation: if Romania was under the lasting influence of Eastern Roman (aka Byzantine) Empire one would expect Romanian language to relate to Greek rather than Latin. – Michael Oct 6 '14 at 2:44
@Duncan This answer does not convince me either. The term Byzantine is a historiographical one, granted, and the Byzantine called themselves Romans. But the language of the Empire was much more related to Greek than to Latin. This was evident already during the late Roman Empire (V cen.), but became more and more obvious under Justinian (VI cen.) and finally Heraclius (VII cen.) Although they could have been influenced by the Byzantine, I doubt that the weak and short-lived Latin Empire of Constantinople could had exerted such a deep and long lasting influence. How do you address these? – astabada Oct 6 '14 at 8:26
In 617 the official language of Byzantine Empire became Greek. So how it can influence preservation of Latin? Also, you assertion the "perts of Greece" were included in the Empire is rediculous: the Byzantine Empire was exactly known as "Greece" at the time. In the Byzantine-controlled Italian areas there was a huge influence of Greek on local (Latin-derived) language. It included other areas of Eastern Europe as well. So, -1 – Anixx Jul 29 at 9:54

This is just speculation as i cannot back it up with any hard data but there might be a few causes:

  • Dacia went an intensive colonization process after it's conquest by Traian causing a big chunk of population to be foreigners. This coupled with the lack of written tradition in the native dacians and the need for a now mixed population to effectively live together made latin the dominant language in a very short time
  • after the fall of the empire the whole area remained in a form of relative anarchy (with the Bulgarian empire having a short reign and later the Hungarian state organizing mostly northern Transylvania) without any central administration until the rise of the 2 Vlach principalities in the 14th century.
  • all successive waves of invaders mostly passed through without influencing much the local customs (not entirely true as the political stratification of early Vlachs and they "boyar" noble class was clearly of slavic influence) and language (not entirely true as there are clearly slavic and cuman influences but they seem to not have been so great as to shift the local language altogether)
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The question is why, however. All of that same stuff happened to the other Balkan areas, too, but they were turned into Slavic-speaking regions, or Hungarian. – Oldcat Jul 30 at 22:11
@Oldcat: actually none of those things happened in the balkans. The south of the Danube was never so intensely colonised with foreigners in such a short time. Greek was the dominant culture before and after the fall for the roman empire. After the fall the area was pretty well centralized under Bysantium. The invaders that came actually settled there for a long time (slavs and bulgars) and turned the area towards a slavic culture with heavy greek influences (see the slavic alphabet) – AZ. Jul 31 at 13:54
The Slavs were exactly what I was talking about, as I said. – Oldcat Aug 3 at 17:39

Since this is a speculative question, I'll add mine. Romania is singular among regions in East Europe in that it is guarded on three sides - and the sides facing the directions that barbarian incursions would come - by significant hills and mountains - the Carpathians. This shield could help buffer them from attacks and from cultural influences from neighbors more than a more easily crossed border would.

Bohemia, in central Europe, has a similar border facing west and north and also has a distinct cultural difference from the Germans across the border.

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