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In medieval Serbia a social group known as "Vlachs" (Serbian: Власи / Vlasi) existed.



Romance elements in the early Byzantine periodEdit

Following Roman withdrawal from the province of Dacia at the end of the 3rd century, the name of the Roman region was changed to Dacia Aureliana, (later Dacia Ripensis); it extended over most of what is now Serbia and Bulgaria, and an undetermined number of Romanized Dacians were settled there.[1] A strong Roman presence persisted in the region through the end of Justinian's I reign in the 6th century.[2][page needed]

Amalgamation of Slavs and RomansEdit

The Slavs, settling the Balkans in the 6th and 7th centuries, absorbed the Romanized populations over the centuries. Some Romance placenames survived Slavicization, such as the names of rivers and mountains. The Old Roman culture was preserved mainly in maritime Dalmatia, while Eastern, Greek influence and linguistics prevailed in the hinterland. The linguistical border roughly went from Lezhë, below the Shkodër-Prizren road towards Lipljan and Skopje, and then towards Sofia. The Roman element in the inlands retreated into the mountains with the Slavic incursions, however, larger areas of Roman elements were preserved in some parts of inland Balkans, such as in southern Macedonia and in Carpathian regions. Romance shepherd terminology were preserved in certain areas of the Dinaric Alps. The Slavs, due to their large numbers and abundance of reserves, easily assimilated the Roman population due to the deteriorating state of the Roman Empire. The Serbs came under the Latin sphere of influence, and first came into contact with Christianity through these contacts. Serbs adopted many Latin terms, part of the vocabulary still today. With time, ties between the Slavs and Romans of the Balkans became more tighter, the larger numbered Slavs absorbing the largest part of the Roman population in the Western Balkans. The Vlach shepherds completely mixed with the Serbs, a result of the predominant pastoralist society and Christianity. Romans for long held themselves separately in the city municipalities on the coast, however, after the 10th century the Slavic inflow strengthened and subsequently the maritime cities had more or less Slavic character (such as Dubrovnik and Split, becoming holders of Slavic culture and literature in the 14th and 15th centuries). As anthropologist J. Erdeljanović noted, Serbs received cultural elements from the Vlachs, such as the stone house and cottage, parts of folk costumes, some shepherd terminology and likely some shepherding skills. Combinations of Slavic–Romance nomenclature were preserved in higher mountainous areas, and with the many migrations from the mountains into the lowlands northwards, most of the preserved old Balkan characteristics were merged into the general characteristics of all or larger parts of Serbs and Croats from the Adriatic and to the Timok river.[3]

Social classEdit

The vlasi (власи) or pastiri (пастири) were dependent shepherds in the medieval Serbian state, part of the sebri social class.[4] The multitude and likely prevalence of Vlachs (Romanized remnants) among the shepherds made the term "Vlachs" a synonym for shepherds, similarly as the term Srbljin was sporadically used for farmers.[5] The status of the vlasi was basically equal to the meropsi.[5]

Vlachs in Nemanjić chartersEdit

The first mention of "Vlachs" in Serbian historical sources is the Hilandar founding charter (1198–99) by Stefan Nemanja. 170 Vlach families were mentioned, granted together with villages and churches. Romance names were identified through de Radu i Đurđa.[6] Nemanja's son, Stefan the First-Crowned, granted the Žiča monastery with 200 Vlach families from Prokletije mountain, near Peć, Kosovo.[6] In 1220, king Stefan proclaimed that all Vlachs of his kingdom belonged to the Eparchy of Žiča.[6] Vlach counts (comes catuni or catunarius) were mentioned in Hvosno in 1220, 1282–98 and 1302–09.[6] Crusader chronicles describe encounters with Vlachs in various parts of modern Serbia in the 12th and 13th centuries.[6] King Stefan Uroš I of Serbia granted the Hilandar monastery with another 30 Vlach families from the Drim river.[6] In the grant (around 1280) by his wife and queen, Helen of Anjou, which confirmed the grant given by Stefan Vladislav to the Vranjina monastery, the Vlachs are separately mentioned, along with Arbanasi (Albanians), Latins and Serbs.[6] King Stefan Milutin's charter to the Banjska monastery granted it with six katuns (highland hamlets), and also made the first mention of the "Vlach law" (zakon Vlahom).[6] In 1330, King Stefan Dečanski granted the Visoki Dečani monastery with pasture land along with Vlach and Albanian katuns around Drim and Lim rivers of whom had to carry salt and provide serf labour for the monastery.[6][7][8] Granting monasteries with Vlachs continued during the reign of Emperor Stefan Uroš V (1355–71), in his charter as members of the Church of St. Nicholas in Hvosno, and 30 Vlach families as servants of Gračanica monastery, Kosovo.[6]

According to Croatian-Albanian historian Zef Mirdita, despite the fact that the "Vlach" exonym partially meant shepherds as a socio-professional category (regardless of ethnos), the individuality and identity of the Vlachs are seen in the Banjska and Dečani charters, as well as in Dušan's Code (1349).[6] Therein is included a prohibition of intermarriage between Serbs and Vlachs,[6] while after Emperor Dušan conquered a large part of southeast Europe (including Macedonia, Epirus and Thessaly, that is Great Vlachia, and Albania, with significant Vlach population) he clearly differs Vlachs from Serbs and Albanians.[6] An article provides that in the case of conflict between villagers it is punishable with a fine of 50 perper, while among Vlachs and Arbanasi of 100 perper.[6] Another article, on the Vlachs and Arbanasi, prohibits the overnight stay by other shepherds in villages of Vlachs or Arbanasi, and in the case they did, have to pay for the amount their herds graze.[6] Dušan's charters of the Monastery of the Holy Archangels and Hilandar mention the Vlach duties of shepherding and giving sheep, up to two horses every year or 30 perper, as transporters for salt and other stuff monastery needs, mowing hay, and being construction workers.[6]

The medieval Vlachs in the Balkans had hybrid names, evidenting intermarriage with the Slavs.[9]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Watson, Alaric (2003). Aurelian and the Third Century. Psychology Press. p. 155. ISBN 9780203167809.
  2. ^ William Rosen (2007). Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe. Viking Adult.
  3. ^ Ćorović, Vladimir (2001) [1997]. "Балканска култура у доба сеобе Словена". Историја српског народа (in Serbian). Belgrade: Јанус.
  4. ^ Šarkić 1996, p. 31.
  5. ^ a b Jevtić & Popović 2000, p. 46.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Zef Mirdita (1995). Balkanski Vlasi u svijetlu podataka Bizantskih autora (in Serbo-Croatian). Zagreb: Croatian History Institute. pp. 27-31 (Serbian), 31-33 (Crusades).
  7. ^ Malcolm, Noel (1998). Kosovo: A short history. Macmillan. p. 54. ISBN 9780810874831. "From the details of the monastic estates given in the chrysobulls, further information can be gleaned about these Vlachs and Albanians. The earliest reference is in one of Nemanja’s charters giving property to Hilandar, the Serbian monastery on Mount Athos: 170 Vlachs are mentioned, probably located in villages round Prizren. When Dečanski founded his monastery of Dečani in 1330, he referred to ‘villages and katuns of Vlachs and Albanians’ in the area of the white Drin: a katun (alb.:katund) was a shepherding settlement."
  8. ^ Wilkinson, Henry Robert (1955). "Jugoslav Kosmet: The evolution of a frontier province and its landscape". Transactions and Papers (Institute of British Geographers). 21: 183. JSTOR 621279. "The monastery at Dečani stands on a terrace commanding passes into High Albania. When Stefan Uros III founded it in 1330, he gave it many villages in the plain and catuns of Vlachs and Albanians between the Lim and the Beli Drim. Vlachs and Albanians had to carry salt for the monastery and provide it with serf labour."
  9. ^ Biblioteka Etnološkog društva Jugoslavije. Etnološko društvo Jugoslavije. 1962. Što se tiče narodnosti sredovječnih Vlaha, držim, da jedino tipovi imena kaošto su 1) Rad i 2) sa članom Radul, dozvoljavaju pouzdan zaključak, da su Vlasi onoga vremena bili dvojezičan narod (bilingues), jer se samo ovako mogu razumjeti ove hibridne pojave". Skok je ujedno utvrdio i veoma značajnu činjenicu da su balkanski Vlasi preuzeli i slovenski onomastičfki sistem, jer u izvorima srednjeg vijeka preovlađuju imena koja pokazuju „ne samo slovenska kompozita, nego i slovenske sufikse -an, -oje, ilo". Zatim bi slijedila slovenska imena tipa Rad, Braik, Neg, koja su Vlasi oblikovali prema svojim imenima Bun, Bukur, i najzad poneko rumunsko ime koje se javlja u osnovi prezimena sa nastavkom ić, ović, kao Bun — Bunišić, Žur — Žurović. Meni se čini da hibnidnost vlaško-islovenskih i slovensko-vlaških imena u izvorima srednjeg vijeka ukazuje u prvom redu na hibridne brakove, >tj. na ženidbene veze između vlaškog i slovenskog stanovništva. Slovenska hipokoristična imena ...


Further readingEdit