The “Persian” origin of some Romanians – making fun of nationalism

One of the enduring myths of the Romanian nationalism is the origins of the nation in the ancient Dacians who once lived in the Carpathian basin and were conquered by the Romans. This has become the one of the tenets of the Romanian extreme right, much as in Hungary the nationalists there claim the origin of the nation into the fearsome Turkic Magyar warriors of one millenia ago, or in Poland their counterparts are the descendants of the galant Sarmatians. As most of the national myths of origins, the Dacian one is laughable and easily demolishable through basic historic facts and arguments. One of the most obvious is the not very European roots of this ancient tribe, which were probably in Persia, or other part of Asia, a fact which the Romanian nationalists are at pain to avoid speaking or debating about it. In this video I bring arguments in a good natured way to show the probable Iranian origin of the Dacians and how nationalism corrupts the scientific enquiry in that regard. I use examples from my engraving collection, recent study trip to Ravenna and also from my small collection of Roman coins.

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My aim, through this series of blog articles, is to inspire appreciation of the historic houses of Romania and Southeast Europe, a virtually undiscovered, but fascinating chapter of world’s architectural history and heritage.

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If you have a historic house project in Romania or other country in Southeast Europe, I would be delighted to advise you in aspects pertaining to its architectural history and ways to preserve as much as possible from its period fabric and aesthetics in the course of restoration or renovation works, or to counsel you with specialist consultancy work related to that project. To discuss your particular plan please see my contact details in the Contact page of this website.

2 thoughts on “The “Persian” origin of some Romanians – making fun of nationalism

  • Thank you, Mr Mandache, for throwing light on a fascinating aspect of the Romanian national myth. (The connection with the Ravenna frescoes is really very amusing!)
    As a foreigner living in Romania, I am wary of entering into the politically charged discussion of the Romanians’ alleged Dacian origins, which seems to rest mainly on the tenuous link of the Latin origins of their language. However, as a layman (I stress that I am not a professional historian), it seems unlikely to me that a brutally subjugated people would so thoroughly absorb the culture of their oppressors (within less than two hundred years) that they would preserve that culture for another 1800 years. Isn’t it more likely that the Latin roots of the Romanian language lie in modern Romanians’ descent from the Vlach people, who still speak a Latin-based language in small population pockets across the Balkans? (The British historian, T. J. Winnifrith published a rare study of this fascinating people in 1987, entitled simply The Vlachs.)

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    • It is good to be diplomatic in such a politically charged debate, as the ethnic origins of the Romanians. The big problem is that the history is just scratched on the surface, there will be another century of archive and archaeology, and related fields research to shed more light into it. Nationalism obscures the rational debate and willfully ignores facts on the ground. The approach towards the Latin roots of the Romanian language ignores the fact that the Balkans could be the main retort where the language has got forged, a fact which is a political bomb for the Romanian ideology. My own view, which is shared by many historians, but does not have traction in the public sphere, is that the Romanian language is a descendant of the countryside Latin spoken in the Balkans and the Carpathians, with a mix of local older, Thracian, languages, and ethnic backgrounds, in a very similar way in which French has developed. We now have Romanian speakers and Vlachs of different languages, but all related because of that old background in the Balkans and the Carpathians, very similarly with how the French, Provencal, Langue d’Oc, Catalan, Savoyard or Piemontese have developed on boths sides of the Alps and the Pyrenees from the mix of Celtic and Latin.

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