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History of Romania

Early History

Although some 42,000 years old human remains were discovered in the "Cave With Bones", and being Europe’s oldest remains of Homo sapiens they may represent the first modern humans to have entered the continent, the earliest written evidence of people living in the territory of the present-day Romania comes from Herodotus, in his 440 BCE book IV of his Histories (Herodotus). Dacians, considered a part of the Getae tribes mentioned by Herodotus, were a branch of Thracians that inhabited Dacia (corresponding mostly to present-day Romania). The Dacian kingdom reached its peak between 82-44 BC during the reign of Burebista, but was eventually conquered by the Roman Empire in the aftermath of Dacian Wars (87-106 AD), and transformed into the province of Roman Dacia.

Due to Dacia's rich ore deposits (especially gold and silver), Rome brought colonists from all over the empire. This brought Vulgar Latin and started a period of intense Romanisation, that would give birth to the Proto-Romanian language. During the 3rd century AD, with the invasions of migratory populations, the Roman Empire was forced to pull out of Dacia around 271 AD, making it the first province to be abandoned.

After the Roman army and administration left Dacia, the territory was invaded by various migratory populations including Goths, Huns, Gepids, Avars, Bulgars, Pechenegs and Cumans. Several competing theories have been generated to explain the origin of modern Romanians. Linguistic and geo-historical analysis tend to indicate that Romanians have coalesced as a major ethnic group both South and North of the Danube in the regions previously colonised by the Romans.

Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, Romanians lived in three distinct principalities: Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania.

The Pechenegs (a semi-nomadic Turkic people of the Central Asian steppes) occupied the steppes north of the Black Sea (8th-12th century) and by the 10th century were in control of the lands between the Don and lower Danube rivers. By the 11th and 12th century, the nomadic confederacy of the Cumans and (Eastern) Kipchaks (who are considered to be either the eastern branch of the Cumans or a distinct but related tribe with whom the Cumans created a confederacy) were the dominant force over the vast territories stretching from the present-day Kazakhstan, southern Russia, Ukraine, to southern Moldavia and western Wallachia.

By the 11th century, the area of today's Transylvania became a largely autonomous part of the Kingdom of Hungary. Kings of Hungary invited the Saxons to settle in Transylvania. Also living in Transylvania were the Székely. After the Magyar conquest (10-11th century), Transylvania became part of the Kingdom of Hungary until the 16th century, when it became the independent Principality of Transylvania until 1711. Many small local states with varying degrees of independence developed, but only in the 14th century the larger principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia emerged to fight a threat in the form of the Ottoman Turks, who conquered Constantinople in 1453.

Independent Wallachia has been on the border of the Ottoman Empire since the 14th century and slowly fell under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire during the 15th century. One famous ruler in this period was Vlad III the Impaler (also known as Vlad Dracula or Vlad Ţepeş), Prince of Wallachia in 1448, 1456-62, and 1476. As king, he maintained an independent policy in relation to the Ottoman Empire, and in Romania he is viewed by many as a prince with a deep sense of justice, and a defender of both Wallachia and European Christianity against Ottoman expansionism.

The principality of Moldavia reached its most glorious period under the rule of Stephen the Great between 1457 and 1504. His rule of 47 years was unusually long, especially at that time – only 13 rulers were recorded to have ruled for at least 50 years until the end of 15th century. He was a very successful military leader (winning 47 battles and losing only two), and after each victory, he raised a church, managing to build 48 churches or monasteries, some of them with unique and very interesting painting styles. Stephen's most prestigious victory was over the Ottoman Empire in 1475 at the Battle of Vaslui for which he raised the Voroneţ Monastery. For this victory, Pope Sixtus IV deemed him verus christianae fidei athleta (true Champion of Christian Faith). However, after his death, Moldavia would also come under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century.

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