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Romania is located between Bulgaria, Serbia on one side and Ukraine/many Slavic countries on the other. Romanian is however a Romance (Latin) language, and not Slavic. They don't use the Cyrillic alphabet. My impression is also that Romanian culture is more Latin than that of some other countries in the region. (Romanians are mostly Othodox Christians, though.)

Why is Romania more "Latin" than it's neigbors north and south?

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There's also the name. :) – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 29 at 6:54
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Are you asking about the language or other part of the culture? If the later, can you be more specific what do you mean by "more Latin"? – Greg Mar 29 at 7:00
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I'm not sure that we can answer why you have the impression that Romanian is more Latin. Is there any way that we can translate that impression to some evidence that the rest of us can work with? – Mark C. Wallace Mar 29 at 11:03
    
It is funny that major part of nowadays Romania was mostly under Hungarian, Hapsburg and Ottoman influence under the last millennium, the biggest historical minorities are the Hungarians and Saxons, yet you talk about Slavic influence. – Greg Mar 30 at 6:09
up vote 23 down vote accepted

Romania was the ancient Roman province of Dacia. Under Roman rule, the province was systematically colonised and developed. It has been theorised that these Roman settlers, intermingling with Romanised native Dacians, become the ancestors of the modern Romanian people. Under this theory, the Romanians inherited a Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin.

Some doubts that Latin could have survived in ancient Dacia as an language island surrounded by Slavs. An alternative theory is therefore that the Romanians came from south of the Danube. It is proposed that after the fall of the Roman Empire, the various Romanised peoples of the Balkans migrated northward into modern Romania.

This theory, too, has been criticised by writers for evidence:

The fact that a migration of such proportions left not even the smallest trace in the places where it supposedly had started, or in the ones where it ended, remains inexplicable. On the other hand, the eleventh-century Byzantine author Kekaumenos knew of clashes between Vlachs in Serbia and the Byzantine authorities. According to him, following those clashes, the Vlachs withdrew southwards, to Epirus, Macedonia, and Hellas.

- Spinei, Victor. The Romanians and the Turkic Nomads North of the Danube Delta from the Tenth to the Mid-Yhirteenth century. Vol. 6. Brill, 2009.

Regardless, there is general consensus that the ancestors of the modern Romanians were Romanised during the Roman Empire, and for whatever reason, retained that Latin heritage. In this respects it is no different from France or Spain, which also remain Romance countries.

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TIL where the car company name came from. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 29 at 6:54
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@ycc_swe Did some "proto-Slavic" language exist or did Slavic languages come entirely from Latin? Certainly Proto-Slavic existed. As well as Proto-Germanic and a bunch of others. Only a few modern European languages directly descend from Latin: roughly saying, the only "major" languages of Latin origin are French, Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Romanian (although there are quite a few others such as Corsican etc.). – Matt Mar 29 at 8:49
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@ycc_swe Which ones? Proto-Slavic, Proto-Germanic, Latin, Greek and many others really descend from the single language commonly referred as "Proto-Indo-European" (aka PIE). But, say, Hungarian doesn't. – Matt Mar 29 at 8:58
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@ycc_swe The pre-Roman Dacian language was also (like Germanic, Slavic, and Latin and Greek) descended from the Proto-Indo-European language. But it has long since gone extinct and is poorly attested, as is the nearby Illyrian and Thracian languages. The former Illyrian and Thracian regions adopted Slavic/Greek, while the Dacian region adopted and kept Latin, would be how the island formed. As Matt said, most European languages did not come from Latin: See the article I linked for Romance countries at the end of my answer for a map. – Semaphore Mar 29 at 10:19
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FWIW, WP's "Indo-European Languages" article has maps, schematics, and much more. – DevSolar Mar 29 at 12:29

In addition to the excellent answer by Semaphore, there are some details about why Romania kept a much stronger character of the Latin culture and language, compared with surrounding countries.

The influence of the French Revolution ( 1789 - 1799) was felt all across Europe. At the time, the territory of the modern Romania, while populated by people of same descent and similar language, was divided between the Ottoman Empire (South - Wallachia), the old Russian Empire (East - Moldavia ) and the Habsburgic Empire(North-West - Transylvania). Romanian intellectuals were looking at ways to coagulate the diverging culture and language, and offer a ideological framework for unifying the three territories and create a new statal entity under similar principles of the French Revolution. A cultural manifesto was drafted to advance these ideas. Nicolae Balcescu is one of the most prominent figures of the time.

As part of this manifesto, the Latin inheritance was emphasized (as a connection with the French culture, which is also Romance). New books have been written avoiding Slavic words, Italian words have been imported into the language, magazines and newspapers advanced the new trend, and a general shift from the Slavic world to the Western, Latin and French one has started.

Further reforms saw the Cyrillic alphabet replaced with the Latin one (1917), the law system was Westernized, Wallachia and Moldavia united (1856), education has been made available to all (1861), and the process was completed in 1918 when Transylvania joined the now-independent state of Romania.

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Thanks. Great points. – ycc_swe Mar 29 at 14:28

Disclaimer: I am not a historian, however I do have a passion for history, and have researched some of the theories regarding the origins of my language and culture. If my answer doesn't meet H SE standards please let me know and I'll try and improve it (it's my first post)

I noticed this question in the HNQ list and joined the site simply so I could get my two cents in. As my name might clue you in, I am Romanian.

The question you ask is one that is actually being debated more and more in recent years. The traditional explanation is the one which Semaphore offers above: Romania was a Roman province, and we were simply influenced by them.

This explanation is the one that I was taught in school, and the one that my friend, who holds a Doctorate in History, was also taught throughout his academic career. However there are many historians coming forward now-a-days who question that explanation. Unfortunately, these people seem to be regarded as rocking the proverbial boat (as per my friend, who works for the Romanian National Historic Institute), and are mostly discredited within Romanian circles, although less so abroad.

There are two aspects to them doubting the official story:

Adoption of Language?

Modern day Israel was a Roman province for well over 400 years. Over that time the Romans tried to impose their rule over the locals quite ruthlessly, yet their language was not at all affected by those centuries of Roman rule - at least, not fundamentally.

Dacia was a Roman province for less than 200 years, however the Romanian language is so close to Latin that as a 13 year old schoolboy I could read Latin texts and understand the gist of them with no language training whatsoever. Our verb "to be" is conjugated the same as in Latin. The similarities are nearly endless.

Furthermore, Romanians are separated into 3 major regions: the Romanian Plains, or "The Romanian Country", as we called it, which is the region south of the Carpathian mountains, Transylvania, which is the region contained within the Carpathians, and Moldova, the region to the right of the mountains, and which is now split between Romanian territory, and the independent country of Moldova (thanks to the Soviets).

Over that vast area the Romanian language, although peppered with small differences in vocabulary and accent, is fundamentally identical. However, the Romans only ever conquered a relatively small part of Romania, in the south-east. Most Dacian tribes were not, in fact, under Roman rule, and, especially in those days, would not have come into direct and constant contact with the Romans (people would be born, and die without having ever left an area of a few square kilometers).

The official theory is that the Romans colonists simply influenced the local language. However, how could that have happened so completely, over so wide and area, and influenced all Dacians?

Furthermore, most Roman colonists were legionaries, and while Roman in theory, in practice they came from many different backgrounds, spoke many different languages, and communicated with each other mostly in Pig Latin. This raises yet another question: why is Romanian so similar to classic Latin?

The counter argument raised is that Roman merchants would have traveled to those communities and thus introduced the language to them, however, realistically, this same phenomenon completely failed to influence the language and culture of other people's, such as the Germanic tribes.

Links to the Past

Last but not least, even today, us Romanians use some expressions the origins of which can be traced back many thousands of years, to the worship of the goddess Gaia (which the Dacians worshiped), and other Dacian practices.

  • "Să te ia Gaia", or "Lua-te-ar Gaia" is an expression which my grandparents can remember their own great-grand-parents using. It literally means "May Gaia take you". The origins of this expression are so ancient as to send shivers down my spine, yet it is still widely used today. Had Roman culture and language overtaken Dacian language and culture so completely surely this expression would not have survived such a change?

  • "L-ai făcut pe Dracu ghem" - this expression, which exists in a number of different variations, translates to "You folded the Devil into a ball" (used to mean "you screwed up"), which is descriptive of the Dacian warrior's habit of rolling up their battle standard - a dragon with the head of a wolf - and running the heck away when defeated on the battlefield. Again, this expression links back to a behavior so ancient as to be breathtaking. Something which has not been done for well over a thousand years, yet is still part of our cultural memory today.

This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but to me it's indicative of my language's deep, deep ties to the past - and they are not the only such "hints". Had we been so thoroughly Romanized that we readily abandoned our language and culture we would not, IMO, and in the opinion of these historians, be saying these things today.

Other Historical References

As I mentioned, the Romanian people are geographically divided into three distinct areas. These areas were - throughout our history - under the influence of one major empire or another.

We were - historically - trapped between the Turks, the Autro-Hungarians, and the Russians, not to mention the Tatars, who also made their presence felt in Moldova.

These empires were much more powerful than the three Romanian countries, and used us a buffer. Many bloody wars between these powers were fought on Romanian soil, and each Empire made sure - in their own ways - that the Romanian people did not unite and become powerful ourselves.

In 1600 Michael the Brave made a very well known attempt to unite the three Romanian countries. The Turks had gained significant influence in the Romanian countries, and this worried the neighboring emperors. Michael received backing from the Austro-Hungarians to drive the Turks from Romanian territory, which he did. He fought them across all three territories, and was received as a hero by all three Romanian countries. He was crowned their king, at which point his allies betrayed him. The Austro-Hungarians sent executioners to meet with him, rather than a diplomatic party. He was summarily executed by decapitation in front of his own command tent.

This historic event is well remembered in our history, but less so are some of the letters between Michael the Brave and other Romanian nobles of the time, in which he spoke not of creating a unified Romanian country, but of uniting Dacia.

And he is not, by a long shot, the only one to reference Dacia, and the Dacian people, rather than Romania, or the Romanian people. Other very famous historical figures from our history also speak extensively of Dacia, and our heritage as Dacians, not Romans, or Romanians.

Not long after this attempt at unification, worried by the influence that the Turks had achieved, the Catholic Church initiated an exchange of clergy between Transylvania (under the control of the Catholic Austro-Hungarians), and Rome. These Orthodox priests and clergymen were invited to study in Rome under the pretense that Christians should stick together against the Turkish influence.

It is at this point in time that Romanians start referring to themselves as such, and that notable historical references to us being the descendants of Romans begin to enter our official documents.

It is the belief of these historians that a monumental propaganda effort was made to insert this belief within the history of the Romanian people in order to strengthen our bonds with Rome, and thus the Christian fate, as we were in direct contact with the Turks and had to be counted on to keep them at bay.

Such papers which I have read - which are automatically dismissed in Romanian historical circles - show, in my opinion, pretty good evidence of this trend in our history.

Alternative Theory

And so, if we are not the descendants of Romans why is Romanian so close to Latin? This is the newly proposed theory (in a few short sentences):

The Dacians were, at their origin, Thracians. So were the Trojans, and the survivors of Troy are known to be the founders of Rome.

What these historians claim is that rather than Romanian being a child of the Latin language, they were cousins long before the Romans invaded Dacia. That the Dacian and Roman people were related from ancient times, and that this is the reason why our languages are so similar - both are of Thracian origin.


I'm going to end my answer here, as it has already grown to a rather ridiculous length. I know that I'm not providing sources for the above, however everything is easily Googled. I can provide some references later today (at work at the moment), if requested.

I personally, as a child, was a great believer, and very proud, that we are the "descendants of Romans". In recent years, having read of this theory, and looked at some of the facts which these "rogue" historians are pointing to have grown to be very doubtful of the official story.

In the end, this all happened so long ago that we may never know for certain.

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Absolutely great comments. Thanks for taking your time giving them. – ycc_swe Mar 30 at 20:18
    
@ycc_swe - thank you :-) A lot of people don't look past the Romanian/Roman play on words, which does not well explain many aspects of our culture and language (as I mention above). It was nice seeing someone take interest in the subject! – AndreiROM Mar 30 at 21:26
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While the official history of Romania is arguably airbrushed, I think it's worth noting that this particular view is part of a wider "conspiration theory" folklore stating that Dacians were the centre of the civilized world. Unfortunately it poses way more questions than it answers. P.S. I am a fellow Romanian as well. – sammy Apr 1 at 17:14
    
@Sammy - salutari :) Not aware of the details of this "conspiracy" theory, so I can't comment on that, however I do feel that the logic of how we embraced all things Roman, all across the 3 territories is a big stretch. In final insa ce sa mai crezi? Totul a avut loc acum 2000 de ani, iar Dacii nu prea ne-au lasat documentatie. – AndreiROM Apr 1 at 17:29

Keep in mind that Romania was part of the Roman empire (during the time of Trajano). Also Romanian language is of latin descent (as Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French), I guess that that could be part of the explanation.

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FYI, Trajano is "Trajan" in English. – Steve Jessop Mar 29 at 9:59
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Good, but given that he was Spanish I assumed that the Spanish name should be fine :) but thanks! – Juan Antonio Gomez Moriano Mar 29 at 20:44
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@JuanAntonioGomezMoriano I think you will find that Trajan was Roman, not Spanish. He certainly hailed from Hispania Baetica, which now falls within modern day Spain. However, at the time it was a Roman province and he a Roman citizen. Furthermore, the Ulpia, family of Trajan, were Roman settlers in Italica Hispania Baetica. They may well have had some marriages with local notable families, though. – BOB Mar 30 at 13:19
    
@BOB Good to know, thanks ! :) – Juan Antonio Gomez Moriano Mar 31 at 0:10

How Romans are Romanians?

Very Romans.

The Romanians were known in the past as: VALACHUS (By the Catholic West) FLACI(By catholic West) IFLAK (By the Turks) VLASI & VOLOH (By the Slavs) OLAH &BLACH (By the Hungarians) OLAHOK (By the Hungarians) OLASZOK (The Hungarian name for the Italians) WALACH (By the Germans) WALSCHER (The German name for the Italians) BLACHOS & VLACHOS (By the Greeks) BLOCH (By the Saxons in Transilvania) WOLOSZY (By the Polish) WLOCHI (The Polish name for the Italians) In old German WALH = ROMAN In Gothic VOLK = ARMED PEOPLE In old slavonic VLAST = POWER(considered of Gothic origin) In old slavonic VLAST = GIGANTE Romanians always called themselves ROMANS & RUMANS, RUMANI and the neighbors called them Vlachs,Vlasi,Olahs,etc. Since The language of the Church was Old Slavonic where RUM = ROME The Vlachs called themselves Ruman The other people in Europe who claim roots from Rome are in Switzerland and call themselves “Romansh” The Germans couldn’t call the Romanians/Vlachs = Foreigners Based on the same principle why the Germans didn’t call the Prussians, Slavs, Baltics foreigners??? The only alternative is the Gothic one: Volk = Armed people And Slavonic , Vlast = Power

POPE Innocent III (in a letter addressed to IONITA, lord of the Bulgarians and Romanians,from 1203)

"Thus, taking this into account, we have decided since long, through our envoy or our letters, that we should pay a visit to your lordship, so that,realizing your faith to the Roman Church,Your Mother, we might then send to you,WHO SAY THAT YOU ARE A DESCENDENT OF THE NOBLE KIN OF THE ROMANS...As, he (God the Father) will help you to be a ROMAN in this wordily life and for your Eternal Salvation by your own striving, the same as you are BY YOUR DESCENT; and he shall help the people of your country, which say that they are the ROMANS,blood and flesh".

Enea Silvio Piccolomini, "Cosmography" 1501.

"Transilvania...,it is inhabited by three peoples: the Saxons, the Szecklers and the ROMANIANS. The Saxons had come from Saxony,and are strong men,used to the struggle... The Szecklers are considered the most ancient Hungarians...,The ROMANIANS are of Italian stock..., A colony of the ROMANS was settled there (Dacia) to keep a tight rein over Dacians under the leadership of a certain Flaccus, after whose name the coutry was called Flacohia and its inhabitants were called VLACHS instead of Flacci. This people speaks now a ROMAN idiom, although partly changed,and hardly understood by an Italian".

Francesco della Valle,1532,(Secretary of Aloisio Gritti,a natural son to Doge Andrea Gritti).

"The Romanians(Vlachs) are of Italian stock, and according to them, they are the descendants of the OLD ROMANS". The anonymous notary of King Bela,Gesta Hungarorum.

http://historum.com/ancient-history/62034-goths-vandals-really-germans-11.html

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