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I watched a documentary which basically claims that modern-day Romanians are not the descendants of Rome, but that the Romans and the Romanians share a common ancestor with the same language. One of their stronger arguments is that it's impossible for the Romanian language to become so latinized in the 150 years or so in which Rome occupied a small part of Romania (I think they said about 16%), because in other places where they occupied a much greater region (such as Egypt) the languages only show traces of Latin. What do you think, is this a good theory? There is also a part 2 in which they also show genetic evidence among other things, but I was not able to find a translated version of it. If you would like more detailed information from part 2, please let me know. Thanks.

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    This is a frequent "meme" when you speak to Romanians, who esp. in the early years after 1989 and for understandable reasons tended to emphasize differences between their home country and other (Slavic) countries in the former "Eastern Block". – Drux Jun 21 '13 at 8:06
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    I would think a major strike against the theory is that nowhere in the description of the various Dacian wars is it mentioned that these fellows speak Latin. The place names and names of the Dacian leaders also don't seem that Latin. – Oldcat Nov 7 '13 at 18:31
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    I don't think there is any serious dispute that the Romanian language is a romance (latin-based) language. How a region that was only partly and briefly dominated by Rome could end up speaking a romance language even though its neighbors did not is an interesting question but whether it could is a moot question. It just did so trying to show it didn't based on some non-linguistic evidence is a non-starter. OTOH, “descendants of the Romans” sounds more like vague propaganda than a serious historical claim to me so I am not sure it can be reasonably evaluated one way or the other. – Relaxed Oct 6 '14 at 8:38
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    Deriving an ethical group's history purely from language is a very naive approach. Especially in a case where the ethnic group has a strong political need to prove superiority and ancient root in the region. Also, the Romans themselves were not an ethnic group around.. – Greg Mar 27 '16 at 11:45
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I'm not a linguist so I can't comment on whether 150 years are enough or not to thoroughly Latinize a language. However, I think I can point out that the analogy with Egypt is deeply flawed.

When the Romans conquered Egypt from the Ptolemaic dynasty they took over a country that had roughly speaking two distinct populations: a "Greek" elite and semi-elite that was already Hellenized and spoke Greek and a native Egyptian population which spoke its own language and took no part in the political, cultural, administrative or financial affairs of their masters (except for the priests, but they were a thin layer which was probably as distant from the plain native folks as the foreign overlords).

With the advent or Roman rule nothing much changed for the Egyptian native peasant - he kept tilling his land, paying his taxes and had as little need or incentive to learn the language of his masters as before. Therefore, small wonder that his own language bears few traces of theirs.

Why was the linguistic situation different in other modern-day-Romance countries which the Romans conquered (such as France or Spain)? I think it's because in these countries the mass of native population had willy-nilly constant contact with the Romans and adopted eventually their language. A new elite grew up through trade and services to the Romans which associated itself with Latin. On the other hand, in Egypt there were no conditions for the rise of such an elite because there was little internal trade and the Romans did not settle the hinterland densely or required the direct services of the natives, having the "Greek" segment of the population at their beck and call.

So, to sum up, the comparison of Romania to Egypt is not a valid one.

P.S. There was a third major part of the Egyptian population at the time: the Jews. But for the purposes of this discussion this is not crucial so I left this fact out to keep matters simple.

  • what about the question the OP asks in the title? have you guessed what theory is that? is it plausible? – cipricus Jun 14 at 16:43
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Those backing the idea that Romanians are the descentants of Romance language speakers who arrived in the territory of modern day Romania during the Middle Ages are mainly Hungarian historians and this has to do with the dispute over who settled first in Transylvania. This theory is however contradicted by Hungarians' own 'national chronicle', Anonymous's Gesta Hungarorum, which lists the Vlachs as well as 'the shepards of the Romans' among the peoples encountered by the Hungarian tribes when arriving in the area. Interesting is that, while Hungarians do agree with some other stuff that their chroncler wrote, they regard this part as pure fiction'.

I dont't see no violence in this dispute, though...

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From my prospective the outlined 2 possibilities may be considered not only opposed, but may also be seen as complementary to each other. We have a similar situation with the Russian language which is a synthesis of "Danubian" Slavic language and "Novgorod" Slavic language, the later is a more archaic version of Slavic. What if there were a series of migration waves of Latin-speaking population? The written sources mention at least 2: (i) after the Roman conquest of Dacia and (ii) the migration of Italic colons to Dalmatia and further to Balkans under emperor Diocletian.

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The territory of the Republic of Moldova is for more than 200 years under strong Russian influence - political, economical, cultural, linguistic etc. But up till now there is no sign of assimilation of the indigenous Romanian-speaking population. If compared with the antiquity over the last 200 years there were much more "channels" for promoting the assimilation policy but the result is well known - the local population preserved its ethnic and linguistic identity. For this reason it is hard to believe that only 160 years of Roman presence in 16% of Dacian territory could lead to the latinization of the local population. From the other hand when speaking about partial Russification over the last 200 years we must distinguish two separate phenomena - the increased percentage of Russian native-speakers in the region and the "contamination" of the Romanian language of indigenous population. The local Romanian-speaking population borrowed a lot of Russian words which are used in daily communication, but the structure of the language did not change at all. The Russified Romanian language in Moldova is a Romanian language with plenty of Russian loan words but with intact grammar. The same phenomenon can be seen in Ukrainian villages in Moldova which are surrounded by Romanian villages. Sometimes they speak an Ukrainian language with so many Romanian insertions which is understood only by the members of that small community. The point is that for changing the language spoken in a region it is not enough to teach them another language. In the best(or worst) case they will borrow more or less words from the new language and will use them in their traditional language.

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    I am not very knowledgeable about that region, but I feel like Moldava didn't get russified (too much) only because there was active resistance to keep Romanian language/culture. On the other hand (again correct me if I'm wrong) Bessarbia in modern-day Ukraine has been quickly Russified when it was Romanian, 1st by the Tsarist government by colonisation and then by the soviet government which deported people, etc... – Bregalad Apr 11 '16 at 15:46
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    On the other hand, France has been quickly romanized even though there was an advanced Celtic civilisation there - the only remaining Celtic area was/is in Brittany. If France could be latinized that way I don't see why Romania couldn't (this is no proof that this is what happened - just a counter-argument). – Bregalad Apr 11 '16 at 15:48
  • In ancient times assimilation was much weaker: national identity were rarely pushed in empires. – Greg Apr 8 '17 at 7:42
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I had read in a book that, when Avars and Slaves tribes that arrived north of the Danube river, where today Romania is situated in the VII century, after they raided several Romanised cities in the Balkans they took by themselves a large number of people to use them as ransom tools against the Byzantine empire. Sometimes they killed them, as a chronicle mentioned it "where around 20 thousand peoples where killed after the Byzantine emperor refused to pay them the amount of money they required to him", but sometimes the Romanised population where taken north of river Danube.

In the cases when ransom wasn't paid they left them free to live in this area, because those tribes didnt needed slaves to work in their fields. In this way we had on one side, deserted and depopulated cities south of the Danube and in the north, we had a large number of Romanised peoples who were living tax free and undisturbed by the slavic raids.

There this Romanised population started a new life that resembled these tribes, which explains some slavic words in their vocabulary. After the Seventh Century, Avars and Slaves moved into the warmer and more developed countries in the south while the Romanised population remained there and combined with the romanised population from Rome which started the nucleus of the Romanian Nation.

This hypothesis explains also why all the Romaniana are situated in the north of Danube. From this time, the differences between the two dialects of Romanian Language started to develop. North of Danube, contact with the Greek culture were less developed, while the Romanised population that remained in the south was within the empire territory or near them and had more cultural diffusion, especially Greek words in their vocabulary. (p.s. this is only a personal opinion) M.S

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    You should include references for the works mentioned in the first paragraph. – KillingTime Mar 20 '18 at 21:39
  • Do you think the OP asks about Romanian language and people's origin? It seems only to ask about the plausibility of an obscure theory. – cipricus Jun 14 at 16:35
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I'm late to the party, but for what is worth, here are my 2 cents. Keep in mind that I am not a historian, just a logical individual with limited knowledge of history (even of my own people's history, I am Romanian, ethnically). DNA analysis should settle any questions, this is science, not open for debate. You can establish historical migration patterns, as well as deep time ethnical/racial roots , based on DNA analysis (that's a fact). I am not aware of any serious study in this direction, but that can definitely answer your/our question. I also want to point out that the Rosia Montana gold mine is one of the largest gold reserves in Europe (if not the largest, present day ), and it was at some point in time a Roman gold mine (after the conquest of Dacia). The Empire was interested in this resource. It is interesting to take into consideration the notion of "gold rush". For reference/comparison, see the impact of massive migration , related to the Californian gold rush (as a well documented "measuring stick" of the phenomenon). In other words, this might explain the special circumstances related to the the Latin origins in that part of the world. It was more than just the Roman legionaries that stationed there for almost 200 years.

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    " this is science, not open for debate" - proper science is always open to informed debate. – Steve Bird Jun 10 at 9:18
  • You are correct @SteveBird (thank you for the feedback) , that's the main difference between science and religion (for example), but once the scientific conclusions are laid on the table, any counter arguments are irrelevant. – Cristian Dumitrescu Jun 10 at 9:35
  • It is exceedingly difficult to detect signals in DNA analysis when you have as much noise as European migrations in the last centuries will cause. Also, I am not sure what you propose to look for in your DNA analysis. Whether Italians and Romanians are related? Whether Romanians and ancient Romans are related? (Sure they are. Thanks to various migrations, all Europeans are.) Whether present day Romanians are more closely related to ancient Romans than Bulgarians, Hungarians, etc.? (Probably not as there was quite a bit of admixture in the Balkans too. But conceivably you could test that.) – 0range Jun 10 at 14:26
  • Of course all Europeans are related. All humans on Earth are related, to a certain extent, but science can answer more precise question. I am not proposing anything in particular, I hope they all live like brothers and sisters in the Balkans. All I am saying is that science can answer these questions, in a way that is independent of propaganda and political agendas. That part of the world has always been the scene of proxy wars (including propaganda) coming from the great empires that surrounded them. – Cristian Dumitrescu Jun 10 at 16:40
  • Based on DNA studies all Europeans are most related to their neighbors. This doesn't answer the question at all. – cipricus Jun 13 at 19:06
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The question is to what degree the romance language speaking ancestors of the Modern Romanians in Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia were descended from ancient Romanized Dacians and Roman colonists, and to what degree they were descended from Romance language speakers who arrived in the 3 Romanian regions from elsewhere sometime (probably over centuries) during the Middle Ages.

Those 2 possibilities are at the extreme and opposite ends of the spectrum of possible origins for the Romanians, and from what I have read Romania is deep enough into southeastern Europe that the supporters and defenders of those 2 extreme positions are often very violent supporters of their views.

So it is possible that some other persons who might answer later may shed more heat than light on the question due to their strong ethnic identification with one or the other extreme view.

  • The problem whether Romanian language was created in Dacia or not is justified, but the question above is asking something very different, namely about a romantic-nationalistic story posing as "theory". – cipricus Jun 14 at 10:19

protected by Denis de Bernardy Jun 14 at 11:06

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