Principality of Transylvania


Habsburg rule
Principality (Ottoman vassal)
Kingdom of Hungary
Hungarian expansion
Gepid empire

The modern region of Transylvania (Romanian: Ardeal, Transilvania, Hungarian: Erdély) generally includes the medieval Principality of Transylvania, plus the regions of Banat, Crișana (Bihor) and Maramureș which were not part of the historic principality.

Ancient history

The Transylvanian plateaux has been populated continuously from the earliest times; from the very early Neolithic Gura Baciului culture, through the Bronze age when Transylvania dominated the regional production of bronze, the transition to the Iron Age in connection with central Europe, and the powerful Dacian kingdom.

After Roman Dacia

Transylvania: Roman 106-270

Transylvania: Roman 106-270

The Roman Empire is taken as the source of the Latin based languages in southeast Europe. The eventual Roman conquest of Dacia only incorporated the Banat mountains, Oltenia and central Transylvania plus the all-important gold mines in the Apuseni mountains.

The period after the Roman withdrawal is also known as the “age of migrations” where successive invading powers held Transylvania. There are a few archaeological sites which are cited as having continuous occupation through this period: 367 graves have been found at Bratei, 193 tombs at Soporul de Câmpie, cemeteries at Alba, Bietan and surrounding settlements, and sites in Brasov region with Daco-Roman settlements including Felmer, and Sercaia. The practicality is that it is unlikely that a pastoral or shepherding population would have left much archaeological evidence.

The Slavs from the 6th century onwards have had the greatest influence on Romanian vocabulary and peasant costume.

The early years of Hungarian acquisition

Very little is documented in chronicles referring to Transylvania, although much is known about the Hungarian kingdom in the other regions including Bihar on the borders between the Hungarian plain and the mountains into Transylvania:

  • 1002-1003 – conflict between Gyula of Transylvania and Stephen I (birth name: Vajk) which led to Transylvania being under the Hungarian crown.
  • 1075 – Ultra siluam (beyond the forest) is used in references to the area.
  • 1097 – first mention of a Transylvanian town (Alba Iulia).
  • 11th century – Partes Transsylvanæ (parts beyond the forest) used in Legenda Sancti Gerhardi.
  • 1111 – first mention of a ‘prince of Transylvania’ named Mercurius.
  • 1141 – colonisation of Transylvania with Germans.
  • 1176 – first mention of a Transylvania voivode named Leustachius.
  • 12th century ‘Gesta Hungarorum’ (source of the stories of rulers Menumorut, Gelu and Glad).
  • ~1280 – Simon de Kéza Chronicon Hungarium (talks about Gyula whose family settled in Transylvania.

1199 – Transylvanian Voivodes

The Voivode of Transylvania was a territorial governor to the Hungarian crown. This title has Slavic origins possibly prior to the Hungarian conquest of the region. This title existed until the Principality of Transylvania was formed in the 16th century.

1571 – Principality of Transylvania plus ‘Partium’

Events leading to the Principality of Transylvania:

Principality of Transylvania 16th-18th centuries

Principality of Transylvania 16th-18th centuries

  • 1526 – Battle of Móhacs where the Hungarian army was defeated by the Ottomans and Buda is taken.
  • 1528 – Hungarian crown contested by János Szapolyai (supported by the Ottomans, France, Moldavia) and Ferdinand of Habsburg (supported by Austrians and Transylvanian Saxons)
  • 1529 – Ottomans seized Buda and enthrone János Szapolyai.
  • 1540 – János Szapolyai died and Hungary came under Ferdinand of Habsburg, and the Transylvania throne was granted by the Ottoman Porte to Szapolyai’s son John II.
  • 1541 – Ottoman seized Buda and the Kingdom of Hungary was divided: the centre and south become an Ottoman pashalik, the north was given to the Habsburgs, and Transylvania plus the ‘Partium’ were an autonomous Principality acknowledging the suzerainty of the Porte.
  • Following the death of John II, the Báthory family came to power which marked the beginning of the Principality of Transylvania.
  • Principality of Transylvania was a semi-independent state existing from 1571 to 1711.

1691 – Habsburg acquisition

Events leading to the Habsburg acquisition of Transylvania:

  • 1683 – defeat of the Ottomans at the Battle of Vienna.
  • 1686 – Treaty of Vienna: Transylvania accepts the protection of the Habsburg empire.
  • 1691 – Habsburg empire inherits the Hungarian crown and acquired Transylvania.
  • 1711 – The princes of Transylvania were replaced with Austrian governors.
  • 1765 – Transylvania was declared a grand principality.

1867 – Incorporation of Transylvania into Hungary

Transylvania counties 1913

Transylvania counties 1913

  • 1848 – Revolution by the Hungarians, led by the Polish general Józef Bem, battling Romanian and Saxon troops under Austrian command.
  • 1849 – After the intervention by the armies of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, Bem’s army was defeated decisively at the Battle of Temesvár (Timișoara).
  • Austria ruled Transylvania through a military governor and granted citizenship to the Romanians.
  • 1867 – Austro-Hungarian agreement which established the dual monarchy and incorporated Transylvania into the Kingdom of Hungary.

1919 – Union of Romania and Transylvania

Transylvania: minorities (1910)

Transylvania: minorities (1910)

  • 1919 – The Treaty of Versailles
  • 1919 – The Treaty of St. Germain
  • 1920 – The Treaty Trianon
Published on 9th August 2018, last modified on 12th July 2022