Țara Românească (Wallachia)


Ottoman vassal
Țara Românească
Cuman and Pecheneg rule


The historic principality Țara Românească (referred to as Wallachia by non-Romanians) existed from the 14th to 19th century. Parts of Dobrogea have at times been ruled from Wallachia or Romania, but Dobrogea is now split between Romania and Bulgaria.

The centre to east is also known as Muntenia (land of mountains) or greater Wallachia, with the west known as Oltenia (land of the river Olt) or lesser Wallachia. The far west has at times been part of the ‘Banat of Severin’. The south west is dominated by the Bărăgan plain.

Period of Roman rule

In the second Dacian war (105AD) the west of Oltenia became part of the Roman Dacian province with the rest of Wallachia in Moesia Inferior. The Roman fortification Limes (patrol road with wooden lookout towers and forts at intervals) were initially along the Olt (119AD) and later in the 2nd century moved slightly east, from the Danube up to Rucar in the Carpathians mountains. The Roman line fell back to the Olt in 245AD, and in 271AD the Romans pulled out of the region.

Post Roman period of migrations

Much of the area of modern Romania had post Roman populations with elements of Goths, Dacians, and Sarmatian peoples known as the Mures-Cerneahov culture followed by waves of migratory tribes. In 328 AD the Romans built a bridge between Sucidava (Celei) and Oescus (Gigen) which indicates that there was a significant trade with the peoples north of the Danube.

The Goths attacked the Roman Empire south of the Danube in 332 AD, settling north of the Danube then later to the south. The period of Goth rule ended when the Huns arrived in the area of modern Hungary and under the command of Attila they attacked and destroyed some 170 settlements on both sides of the Danube.

Byzantine Empire influence is evident during the 5th to 6th century, for example the site at Ipotești-Cândești, but from the start of the 7th century Slavic peoples started settling and populating much of the Balkans.

Wallachia was under the control of the Pechenegs (a Turkic people) who extended their rule west through the 10th century until defeated around 1091 when the Cumans of southern Russia took control of the lands of Moldavia and Wallachia. The Mongol state in southern Russia, known as the Khanate of the Golden Horde, destroyed Kiev and the Cuman rule. In 1241 groups of Mongols separately attacked Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, and Bulgaria. The Mongols had control of Moldavia, but most of Wallachia was outside the Mongols’ authority, and Transylvania was subjected to many Mongol attacks. The removal of pressure exerted from Hungary and Bulgaria no doubt helped the assertion of the Romanian feudal states which were to found Romania.

The formation of the Vlach lands known as Wallachia

Wallachia 1390

Wallachia 1390

One of the first items of documentary evidence of Romanian voivodes is of Litovoi in 1272 who ruled over land each side of the Carpathians, including Făgăraș in Transylvania, and refused to pay tribute to the Hungarian King Ladislaus IV. His successor was his brother Bărbat (1285-1288). The continuing weakening of the Hungarian state by further Mongol invasions (1285) and internal disputes opened the way for the process of unification of the Romanian areas independent of the Hungarian king.

The formation of the Romanian state happened when Basarab I (1310-1352), son of Tihomir, united the Romanian voivodes either side of the Olt, creating a feudal state based at Câmpulung. He extended his lands to comprise those to be known as Wallachia together with the Banat of Severin, Făgăraș, southern Moldavia, the Danube Delta, and the lands between the Prut and Dniester which were to be later known as Basarabia (counties of Cahul, Ismail and Cetatae Albă). After Basarab’s death his son Nicolae Alexandru ruled Wallachia (1352-1361), followed by his son Vladislav I (1364–1377).

For the next half century the Hungarian king repeatedly tried to regain control of the Romanian lands and force suzerainty of the voivodes.

  • 1324 Basarab I consents to Hungarian suzerainty in return for being recognised as the effective ruler of the Banat of Severin.
  • 1330 King Charles Robert of Hungary conquered Banat of Severin and moved through Oltenia as far as the Cetetea Argeșului, but was defeated probably at Lovistea on the way back through the Carpathians. This victory by Basarab I gave independence to Wallachia.
  • 1355 Nicolae Alexandru and King of Hungary reach agreement in return for Severin.
  • 1368 Louis I, King of Hungary, had a campaign against Wallachia, but failed and had to retreat.
  • 1369 Vladislav I subdues Vidin and accepted Hungarian suzerainty in return for Severin, Olmaș, and Făgăraș.
  • 1373 Louis I took Severin again. The Romanians took it back in 1376-1377.

Battles with the Turks and nobilty

The next three and a half centuries were dominated by the expanding Turkish Empire. For 150 years the Romanians succeeded in preventing Wallachia becoming a Turkish pashalik:

  • In 1369 first raid by Ottomans north of Danube.
  • 1386-1418 Reign of Mircea cel Batrin, son of Radu I. He defeats the Turks in several battles, removing the Turks from Dobrogea and increasing Wallachia to include Dobrogea and Silistra.
  • 1393 Turks took back Dobrogea and Silistria, only to lose them again in 1404 to Wallachia.
  • 1415 Mircea cel Bătrân agreed to pay tribute to the Ottomans in return for them ceasing to plunder Wallachia, but refused to pay in 1415. The Turks took Dobrogea, Giurgiu and Turnu forcing Mircea to pay tribute to the Turks.
  • 1418-1420 Mihai I, son of Mircea, defeated the Turks at Severin fortress.
  • 1420 The Turks invaded Wallachia and killed the king, but in 1422 Dan II defeated the Turks.
  • 1456 Vlad Tepes penetrated Wallachia, killed King Vladislav II and took the throne. In 1458 he defeated the 1458 Turkish invasion into Wallachia and in 1462 Vlad freed the town of Giurgiu from the Turks.
  • 1462 Campaign by the Turks against Wallachia to replace Vlad with his brother Radu cel Frumos. Vlad was initially successful then retreated to Transylvania where he was later imprisoned by the Hungarians.
  • 1476 Campaign by Stefan of Moldavia and Stefan Bathory reinstated Vlad Tepes on the throne of Wallachia in place of Laiota Basarab. Laiota returned with Turkish help and killed Vlad Tepes.
  • 1477 Stefan cel Mare succeeded in removing Laiota and replaced him with Basarab cel Tinar.
  • 1509 Wallachian nobility, who supported the Turks, chased out Mirea cel Rau and he was replaced by Vladut, only to be killed 3 years later by another powerful noble.
  • 1522-1529 Radu de la Afumati scored several victories against the Turks and prevented Wallachia being turned in to a Turkish pashalik, only to be killed by some of his nobility.

The conflicts of the boyars and powerful families of Wallachia with their kings led to the eventual surrender to the Turks:

  • Radu Paisie’s (1535-1545) rule was threatened by boyers and the Craiovescu family. These were repelled with help from the Turks, but the Turkish domination of Wallachia gradually took hold. They controlled the election of the voivode and demanded payment in money and goods. Mircea Ciobanul (1545-1554 and 1558-1559) ordered many troublesome boyars to be killed, or expelled. Petru cel Tanar (1559-1589) defeated armies of the fugitive boyars with help of the Turks and during the 1590s the Turks settled in Wallachia.
  • In 1593 Mihai Viteazul reorganised Wallachia to regain its independence and tried to create a union with the other Romanian lands of Moldavia and Transylvania, but in 1595 the Turks again took control of most of Wallachia, only to be forced out by the Wallachian army advancing on Sofia.
  • 1599 Andrei Bathory of Transylvania asked Mihai Viteazul to leave Wallachia, but Mihai defeated Andrei’s army with Andrei being killed by Szekeler peasants. Mihai Viteazul took the title of voivode of Transylvania, and in the following year he also took the title of voivode of Moldavia. After Mihai and General Basta (of Vienna) defeated Sigismund Bathory, Basta ordered the murder of Mihai.
  • 1611 The Turks installed Radu Mihnea as voivode with an increasing number of Greek officials. Some of the Greeks, such as the Cantacuzino, later took an important role in the country.
  • 1632 The boyars forced the voivode to make changes in their favour, such as the removal of Greek officials, exemption from taxes, prevention of orders to kill boyars, but the voivode was replaced by Matei Basarab. During the 1650s many boyars were killed in uprisings, followed by further being killed in 1658 when Mihai Radu became voivode and set about defeating the Turks, killing some 30 boyars that opposed this struggle.
  • 1663 Grigore Ghica (1660-1664) had Cantacuzino murdered which unleashed a struggle for power between the Baleanu and Cantacuzino boyars. The reign of Constantine Brancoveanu (1688-1714) was a period of stability and recognition by the Ottoman Porte. However, the Cantacuzino family succeed in having him banished, taken to Constantinople and beheaded in 1714.
  • 1716 Micolae Mavrocordat was appointed voivode, the first non-native Wallachian to be voivode.
  • 1718 The Treaty of Passarowitz gave Banat and Oltenia to the Habsburg Empire which lasted until the Russian-Austrian-Turkish war which returned Oltenia to Wallachia in 1739.

Post Turkish rule and the formation of modern Romania

  • 1857 Assemblies in Moldavia and Wallachia proposed to form a single state of Romania.
  • 1858 Paris conference statute give the United Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, but required having its own separate ruling Princes.
  • 1859 Alexandru Ioan Cuza was separately elected prince of Moldavia and of Wallachia, thus realising the union of the principalities.
  • 1862 Bucharest was declared the capital of Romania.
Published on 13th August 2018, last modified on 12th July 2022