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  • Writer's picturepeter clings

Romanians in the ancient Hungarian archives

Extremely little written evidence for daily activities survived from the early Medieval Hungarian Kingdom from before the 13th century.

The reasons are the availability of writing for the general public (parchment and tint were very expensive) and most archives were centralized at Bishoprics. The area where the Proto Romanians lived was under continuous stress by nomadic raiding from the East, so making literature for those people was not a concern but physical survival was. The last major destruction happened during the first Mongol invasion of Hungary resulted in the dearth of half of the population and the loss of the Bishopric of Alba, and all Monasteries where archives may have reside (more on the history of those establishments at Peter Clings's answer to What is the history of the Archbishopric of Alba Iulia?). All were rebuilt decades after the event and the population slowly recovered by numbers

The very little written sources therefore must be interpreted in the right historical context. One should always ask the question whether given the severe constrains of living at the borderline of Europe (regarded from where one looks, either from the Byzantine South, or from the West) would it have been possible to record more about the Proto-Romanians and how much of that would have survived the torments of time. To have a comparative term, even after the 13th century up to the 16th century, extremely little written information survives about Romanian in general because of waves of further destruction and the prohibitive prices for writing until the arrival of the printing press

The earliest surviving of an official Royal charter mentioning some Romanians in from 1223 (The establishment of the Cistercian Monastery of Carta). Before that they were acknowledged in the Hungarian army that marched against some Cumans who held the strategic fortress of Vidin in 1207. In 1223, a Romanian Duchy is mentioned in the Royal Charter for the Teutonic Knights of the Burzenland. A second Romanian Duchy is mentioned in a charter for the Knights of Saint John just 20 years later. In both cases the Royal charters for the establishment of those duchies have not been preserved (if they existed)

Although the original 11th century issue has been lost, the Romanians appear as subject of taxation from the time of Stephen I of Hungary. Those Vlach Shepherds that found Winter residence at the Pannonian lowlands were due one Sheep due per year per flock to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Esztergom-Budapest in the times of Stephen I of Hungary. That was extended by other Bishoprics too as the Kingdom expanded

I found this information collected and presented by György Györffy in his “Adatok a románok XIII. századi történetéhez és a román állam kezdeteihez” at page 6

“ 9. 1256. XII. 16. IV. Béla, Magyarország királya megerősíti az esztergomi érsek jogait, egyebek között in decimis percipiendis regalium proventuum ex parte Siculorum et Olacorum in pecudibus, pecoribus et animalibus quibuslibet, exceptis terragiis Saxonum, sed ex parte Olacorum etiam ubique et a quocumque provenientium, in regno Hungarie persolvi consuetorum.

The text reads that in December 16, 1256, King Béla IV of Hungary restates and extends the ancient right of the Archbishopric of Esztergom to collect taxes in kind from the new Szekler communities and the Vlachs who lived outside the newly established Lands of the German Saxon guests. The same practice was in use in Hungary for the said Vlachs who have been paying one Sheep per year since the times of Stephen I

The law actually states a second message too, that of the sequence of coming into the concern of taxation for different communities. First, the Vlachs where subject of taxation in kind in the early Arpadian Kingdom (only the Great Hungarian Plains), then the same law was applied to the newly formed communities of the Szekely and Vlachs that came under the jurisdiction of the Kingdom at the time of Bela IV, except for those residing on the Lands already granted to the Saxon communities

The same Latin text of Law is restated and reissued by Charles I of Hungary

in March 15, 1332, with mentioning that it came down from the time of Stephen I of Hungary. The Sheppards were taxed according to the practice of Transhumance

, that is once per year upon returning with the flocks from the Highlands to their Winder residence, a pretty common sense taxation. They were due one Sheep to the Catholic Bishopric that their residence belong to

The Romanians, called as the Shepherds of the Romans back then, were known already as the people first encountered on the Great Hungarian plains upon the arrival of the Magyars. This by the oral tradition that was collected as the Gesta Hungarorum (an eulogy to the Arpadian Dynasty), First Russian Chronicle of Nestor, and Anonymi geographi descriptio Europae Orientalis

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