History of the Aromanians

This article is about the history of the Aromanians. For the history of Northern Vlachs (Romanians), see History of Romania.


Vlachs originate from the Romanized people of south-eastern Europe; from a mix of Roman colonists (from various Roman provinces) and indigenous peoples who were Romanized. The Vlach peoples from the south Balkans have generally been identified with the indigenous populations of Thracian and or Illyrian origin. Many Vlachs settled into the less-accessible mountainous areas of Greece and the northern Balkan region because of the Germanic and Avar-Slav invasions and immigration of the 5th-7th centuries.

Their more exact place of origin is hard to determine as they can be found all over the Balkan peninsula. Aromanians can be found in Greece, Bulgaria, Albania and the Republic of Macedonia, while Romanians in Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Serbia and Hungary. Their occupations were mostly trading, shepherding and craftsmanship. It is not known exactly when the Vlachs who were the ancestors of present day Aromanians broke off from the general body of Vlach people; historians point to a period between the 5th--9th Centuries.

Byzantine period

The history of the Vlachs is a long struggle for achieving own statehood and separateness and was marked by rebellions against foreign and imperial rule.

In 579 AD, two Byzantine chroniclers, Theophanes and Theophylactus, provided accounts of the language of the Armani (Vlachs) Fact|date=February 2007. The Slavic-derived exonym "Vlachoi" ("Vlachs") became a substitute for the term "Armani" when it was first used in 976 AD. In 1020, Basil II specifically placed the "Vlachs of all Bulgaria" under the jurisdiction of the new Archbishop of Ochrida. In 1027 they are included in Western accounts (the "Annales Barenses") of a Byzantine expedition to Italy.

Another Byzantine historian, Kekaumenos mentions a revolt of Vlachs of Thessaly in 1066, and their ruler Verivoi. One of the first full description is given in the "Strategikon of Kekaumenos", where the presence of numerous Vlach shepherds in Epirus and Thessaly is noted, as well as their provenance in the Danube valley and their descent from ancient tribes. Because of their nomadic and migratory lifestyle, Kekaumenos writes, they enjoyed a bad reputation.

According to the 12th-century Byzantine historian Anna Comnena, they founded the independent state of Great Walachia, which covered the Pindus Mountain ranges and part of Macedonia. The Vlachs of Thessaly and Macedonia appear regularly in Anna Comnena's "Alexiad"

The Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jew who traveled through out South-Eastern Europe and the Middle East between 1159 and 1173 wrote about the Vlachs coming down from the mountains to attack the Greeks. He also described them as a group of rebels, who may have had Jewish origins. Rabbi Benjamin of Tudela while traveling through Thessaly describes the Vlachs as nimble mountaineers. Referring to the Vlachs of Macedonia he said: "no Emperor can conquer them". He visited Constantinople, during the reign of Manuel Comnenus (1143-1180 AD), and writes of the Emperor's special sympathy for the Vlachs because of his origins from that people.

After the collapse of the Byzantine Empire in the Fourth Crusade, the numerous Aromanians ("Valachians") of Thessaly and the southern regions of Macedonia and Epirus established their own state, and the area was known as Great Wallachia("Vlahia").

Choniates wrote, between 1202 and 1214, that the Thessalian mountain region was called "Great Wallachia".After the establishment of the Latin Empire at Constantinople in 1204, Great Wallachia was absorbed by the Greek Despotate of Epirus; later it was annexed by the Serbs, and in 1393 it fell to the Turks. Another Vlach region, called Little Walachia, was located in Aetolia and Acarnania(department in west central Greece).

Ottoman period

Under Ottoman rule, their rights to remain an independent nationality were respected. As many of the Vlachs became involved in the trade between the Occident and Orient, the city of Moscopole, became one of the most important and prosperous cities of the Balkans, until it was sacked and pillaged by Ali Pasha in 1788. The Aromanian Vlachs experienced several movements of national reawakening from the eighteenth century onwards. The Aromanian colony in Bucharest founded the Macedo-Romanian Intellectual Cultural Society, which worked to strengthen the movement among the other Aromanian communities in the Balkans.

Turkish authorities took steps to promote the Aromanian national cultural movement. An order issued by the Vizier in 1878 gave Vlachs the right to be taught in their own language and afforded assistance and protection to their teachers. In 1888 the "Macedo-Romanians" obtained an imperial firman granting them the right to set up national churches. In 1908 Aromanian members were admitted to the Turkish Parliament.

World War II

During the Axis Occupation of Greece, the Italians tried to set up an autonomous Aromanian state in Northern Greece, the "Principality of Pindus". The leaders of the Principality were Alchiviad Diamandi di Samarina (Prince Alchibiades I, 1941-1942), Regent Nicola Matushi (1942-1943) and Baron Gyula Cseszneky (Voivode Julius I, 1943). The principality failed to enlist the support of local Vlachs, and ceased to exist after the Italian capitulation in 1943.

Modern history

Today Aromanians can be found in most Balkan countries. There are Vlach cultural associations in countries such as Macedonia, Albania,Serbia and Greece.The official position of the Greek government is that the Vlachs are only Greeks speaking a Latin dialect. Some assert that the reason for this official position is because the Greek government does not want to declare the Aromanians as a national minority. However, many Aromanians in Greece themselves do not wish to be recognized as a national minority in Greece. The willingness of the Aromanians in Greece to maintain their ties with the Greeks has led to the dwindling usage of their distinct language. Though their traditions are not infringed upon by the Greek state, the Aromanians are encouragedFact|date=May 2008 not to speak their own language (aromanian), but the official language (Greek).Fact|date=May 2008

ee also

* Vlachs
* History of Romania


*Lozovan, Eugen. Romani şi barbari pe cursul mijlociu al Dunării.
*Wollf, R. - "The 'Second Bulgarian Empire.' Its Origin and History to 1204" - [http://groznijat.tripod.com/bulgar/wolff_appA.html Appendix A, on the Vlachs]

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