|Stefan Pascu: A History of Transylvania|
Pascu, p. XIX
Pascu starts with a description of the geography of Transylvania "as the name is generally used". This usage has become general indeed, but it must be pointed out that other areas, which do not belong to Transylvania proper, are included: part of the Banat, the plains between the Muntii Apuseni (Transylvanian Alps) and the Hungarian frontier from Arad to the region of Satu Mare (Hungarian Szatmár, German Salzmarkt), Maramures and Crisana (Hungarian Máramaros and Körösvidék, respectively). In other words, it is the territory given to Rumania at the Paris peace treaty in 1920.
In the law about the annexation of the territories in question, passed by the Rumanian House of Deputies and the Senate on December 29, 1919, referring to the decision of the meeting of Rumanians in Alba Iulia on November 18, 1918, four different territories are specified:
The decrete-law No. 3631 of December 13, 1918, about the unification of Transylvania, Crisana, Satmar, and Maramures with the old Kingdom of Rumania is ratified and given the status of a law 2 (emphasis added to the names of the territories).
For the sake of brevity, and in order to follow the general usage, the designation Transylvania will be used to signify all these territories also in the present book.
Modern Transylvania is the creation of the indigenous Romanians and those peoples - Hungarians, Szeklers, Gemans, and Serbs - who have lived alongside them and helped to shape an unusually rich and complex cultural heritage. The Romanians, a synthesis of the Dacian and Roman peoples, have always constituted an absolute majority of the Transylvanian population.
These sentences contain two major assertions which belong to the main themes of Pascu's book and, consequently, also of this critical survey. We abstain from commenting on them here and point out only that they are among the many assertions Pascu makes without giving any material evidence. The origins of the Rumanians and their settlement in Transylvania are vast and complex problems, treated recently in English by A. Du Nay and E. Illyés. 3 Frequent references will be made to these monographs. To arrive at a sound understanding of these problems, much more data are needed than are given by Pascu in this book - and, unfortunately, also the correction of very many of his statements.
... the Romanian people were aware of the Roman origin of themselves and their language long before any scholarly discussion, Romanian or foreign, of the subject.
Pascu refers to the Italian Humanist Flavio Biondo, who in the year 1453
knew of their Roman origin from the Romanians themselves, as well as from the evidence of their language...
The problem is who these Rumanians were: educated people or the common people, peasants and shepherds? Pascu does not give more details here but in Voievodatul Transilvaniei, volume IV, p. 364, one may read:
...the proof that the Rumanian language was used in writing is also confirmed by Flavio Biondo, who wrote in 1453 to Alfonso, the king of Sicily, that the coastal Dacians [dacii ripensi] or Vlachs (Romanians) declare their Roman origin as an honour and are proud of it, something which is seen from their speech, so that what they uttered according to the custom of their people had the scent of a peasant Latin, little grammatical.
Poggio Bracciolini wrote: ...rusticam male grammaticam redoleant latinitatem. This does not imply that the speakers whom Bracciolini met were peasants. It is rather the first mention in a document of the observation that the Romance languages (in this case, Rumanian), developed from popular Latin ("Vulgar Latin"), not from classical Latin known from the grammars.
The Humanists in the 15th and 16th centuries visited monasteries and the court of the voivode in Muntenia, where the Rumanian language was used in writing and where also the similarity of Latin and Rumanian was known.
This was in the period of the renaissance, the revival of art and letters under influence of classical (Greek and Roman) models. Interest for the Latin language was therefore very high, but there were no sufficient data nor sound methods (systematic and critical research of the sources) of historical or philological investigation. Beginning with Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), Italian humanists explained the existence of a language in south-eastern Europe which was very similar to Italian, by simply assuming that the speakers of this language were the descendants of Trajan's soldiers. Francesco della Valle wrote in 1532, in his notes about a visit at the monastery Dealu near Târgoviste, that the language of the Vlachs is similar to Italian and if you ask them why, "they explain that they came in Antiquity from Rome" (dicono esser venuti anticamente da Roma). Such statements suggest a learned source, because a popular tradition would be about Oriental people, Greeks, etc. - not exclusively about Rome, from which only a very small part of the population of Dacia Traiana came.
An attempt has also been made to prove the existence of a popular tradition about Roman ancestry on the basis of the designation rumîn "Roman" but this is very dubious indeed.
Istoria Romîniei, 1960, discusses the question (pp. 797-799: "What does tradition tell us?") and mentions the Anonymous Chronicle of Tara Româneasca (Letopisetul Cantacuzinesc) which tells us about a late settling down (descalecare), but states that the rest of the Rumanian and foreign chroniclers were always convinced of the Roman origin and of the continuity in Dacia of the Rumanian people. "Tradition" is here defined as the contents in scholarly works, not as a conviction or belief among the masses of people.
Beatrice Daicoviciu gave a more detailed survey of what learned men in Western Europe wrote, between the 15th and the 18th centuries, about the Rumanians. Most of them stated that Rumanian is a Romance language, and many have also expressed their belief that it is a continuation of Latin once spoken in Dacia Traiana. Regarding the question of a popular tradition, nothing certain may be said (and only the tradition regarding Latinity is discussed):
Regarding the knowledge among Rumanians about their Latinity, this is more difficult to document. Since the documents were written in chancellaries by scholars (thus, in learned places), an alien influence may always be suspected, and it is very difficult, if not impossible, to find out whether the masses have had a knowledge about Latinity. 4
Ethnic Continuity in the Carpatho-Danubian Area, East European Monographs, No CCXLIX, Boulder, Columbia
University Press, New York, 1988; we refer to the 2nd, revised edition,
Hunyadi Öcs. Mk., Hamilton, Ontario; Struktura Press, 1992, pp. 219 - 221.
- Elemér Illyés, 1919 - 1989, historian; born in Torja,
Transylvania, lived from 1942 in the West. He published articles and books on
the past and present of Transylvania; the monograph mentioned here, as well as
National Minorities in Romania, Boulder, 1982, also published in the German langauge, are his most important works.] - André Du Nay, The Early History of the Rumanian Language, Edward Sapir Monograph No 3, Jupiter Press, Lake Bluff, Illinois, 1977; and André Du Nay, The Origins of the Rumanians, Matthias Corvinus Publishing, Toronto-Buffalo, 1996.
4Beatrice Daicoviciu, "Marturii apusene despre latinitatea si continuitatea românilor (sec. XV - XVIII)"[Western testimonies about Latinity and continuity of the Rumanians (15th- 18th centuries], in Acta Mvsei Napocensis, V, 1968, p. 204. A presentation of this problem is also given by Lajos Tamás, Rómaiak, románok és oláhok Dácia Trajánában [Romans, Rumanians and Vlachs in Dacia Traiana], Budapest, 1935, pp. 89-106; cf. also Elemér Illyés, Ethnic Continuity in the Carpatho-Danubian Area, Boulder, 1988; 2nd revised edition Struktura Press, Hamilton, 1992, pp. 32-37.
|Stefan Pascu: A History of Transylvania|