Romanian History and Culture

A Library of Knowledge from the Web. An Educational Website.

Pechenegs,  Cumans and the Vlachs



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; 


Eastern Europe, showing the area of main Pecheneg settlement, c.1015.

The Pechenegs or Patzinaks (Turkish: Peçenek(ler), Hungarian: Besenyő(k), Greek: Πατζινάκοι, Πετσενέγοι, Πατζινακίται, Latin: Pacinacae, Bisseni) were a semi-nomadic Turkic people of the Central Asian steppes speaking the Pecheneg language which belonged to the Turkic language family.

Origins and area

In Mahmud Kashgari's 11th-century work Dīwānu Lughati t-Turk (Arabic: ديوان لغات الترك‎),[1] the name Beçenek is given two meanings. The first is "a Turkish nation living around the country of the Rum", where Rum was used by the Turks to denote the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantine Empire. Kashgari's second definition of Beçenek is "a branch of Oghuz Turks"; he subsequently described the Oghuz as being formed of 22 branches, of which the 19th branch was named Beçenek. Max Vasmer derives this name from the Turkic word for "brother-in-law, relative" (Turkmen: bacanak).

Whatever the truth of this, the Pechenegs emerge in the historical records only in the 8th and 9th centuries, inhabiting the region between the lower Volga, the Don and the Ural Mountains. By the 9th and 10th centuries, they controlled much of the steppes of southwestern Eurasia and the Crimean Peninsula. Although an important factor in the region at the time, like most nomadic tribes their concept of statecraft failed to go beyond random attacks on neighbours and spells as mercenaries for other powers.

According to Constantine Porphyrogenitus, writing in c. 950, Patzinakia, the Pecheneg realm, stretched west as far as the Siret River (or even the Eastern Carpathian Mountains), and was four days distant from "Tourkias" (i.e. Hungary).

The whole of Patzinakia is divided into eight provinces with the same number of great princes. The provinces are these: the name of the first province is Irtim; of the second, Tzour; of the third, Gyla; of the fourth, Koulpei; of the fifth, Charaboi; of the sixth, Talmat; of the seventh, Chopon; of the eighth, Tzopon. At the time at which the Pechenegs were expelled from their country, their princes were, in the province of Irtim, Baitzas; in Tzour, Konel; in Gyla, Kourkoutai; in Koulpei, Ipaos; in Charaboi, Kaidoum; in the province of Talmat, Kostas; in Chopon, Giazis; in the province of Tzopon, Batas. [2]

In Armenian sources

In the Armenian chronicles of Matthew of Edessa Pechenegs are mentioned a couple of times. The first mention is in chapter 75, where it says that in the year 499 (according to the old Armenian calendar — years 1050–51 according to the Gregorian calendar) the Badzinag nation caused great destruction in many provinces of Rome, i.e. the Byzantine territories. The second is in chapter 103, which is about the Battle of Manzikert. In that chapter it is told that the allies of Rome, Padzunak and Uz (some branches of the Oghuz Turks) tribes which changed their sides at the peak of the battle and began fighting against the Byzantine forces, (side by side with the Seljuk Turks). In the 132nd chapter a war between Rome and the Padzinags is described and after the defeat of the Roman (Byzantine) Army, an unsuccessful siege of Constantinople by the Padzinags is mentioned. In that chapter, the Patzinags are described as an "all archer army". In chapter 299, the Armenian prince, Vasil, who was in the Roman Army, sent a platoon of Padzinags (they had settled in the city of Misis, around modern Adana, which is far away from the lands where Pechenegs were then mainly living) to the aid of the Christians.

Alliance with Byzantium

In the 9th century, the Byzantines became allied with the Pechenegs, using them to fend off other, more dangerous tribes such as the Rus and the Magyars. This was an old Roman ploy (divide and rule) continued by their Byzantine successors — playing off one enemy tribe against another.

The Uzes, another Turkic steppe people, eventually expelled the Pechenegs from their homeland; in the process, they also seized most of their livestock and other goods. An alliance of the Oghuz, Kimeks and Karluks was also pressing the Pechenegs, but another group, the Samanids, defeated that alliance. Driven further west by the Khazars and Cumans by 889, the Pechenegs in turn drove the Magyars west of the Dnieper River by 892.

In 894, the Bulgarians went to war against Byzantium. Early in 895, Emperor Leo VI the Wise invoked the help of the Magyars, who sent an army under a commander named Levente into Bulgaria. Levente conducted a brilliant campaign and invaded deep into Bulgaria, while the Byzantine army entered Bulgaria from the south. Caught in a vice of Magyar and Byzantine forces, Tsar Simeon I realised he could not fight a war on two fronts, and quickly concluded an armistice with the Byzantine Empire.

Tsar Simeon also employed the Pechenegs to help fend off the Magyars. The Pechenegs were so successful that they drove out the Magyars remaining in Etelköz and the Pontic steppes, forcing them westward up the lower Danube, Transdanubia and towards the Pannonian plain, where they later founded a Hungarian state.

History and decline

From the 9th century AD, the Pechenegs started an uneasy relationship with Kievan Rus. For more than two centuries they launched random raids into the lands of Rus, which sometimes escalated into full-scale wars (like the 920 war on the Pechenegs by Igor of Kiev reported in the Primary Chronicle), but there were also temporary military alliances (e.g. 943 Byzantine campaign by Igor).[3] In 968, the Pechenegs attacked and then besieged the city of Kiev.

Part of them joined the Prince of Kiev Sviatoslav I in his Byzantine campaign of 970–971, though eventually the Pechenegs ambushed and killed the Kievan prince in 972, and according to the Primary Chronicle, the Pecheneg Khan Kurya made a chalice from his skull—a traditional steppe nomad custom. The fortunes of the Rus-versus-Pecheneg confrontation swung during the reign of Vladimir I of Kiev (990–995), who founded the town of Pereyaslav upon the site of his victory over the Pechenegs[4], but were followed by the defeat of the Pechenegs during the reign of Yaroslav I the Wise (1037). Shortly afterwards, the decimated Pechenegs were replaced in the Pontic steppe by another nomadic Turkic people—the Cumans or Polovtsy.

After centuries of fighting involving all their neighbours—the Byzantine Empire, Bulgaria, Kievan Rus, Khazaria and the Magyars—the Pechenegs were annihilated as an independent force at the Battle of Levounion by a combined Byzantine and Cuman army under Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos in 1091. Attacked again in 1094 by the Cumans, many Pechenegs were slain or absorbed. They were again defeated by the Byzantines at the Battle of Beroia in 1122, on the territory of modern day Bulgaria. For some time, significant communities of Pechenegs still remained in Hungary, but finally the Pechenegs ceased to be a distinct people and were assimilated into their neighbours—Bulgarians, Magyars and Gagauz. In the 15th century Hungary some people adopted the surname Besenyö, which is Hungarian for Pecheneg. They were most numerous in county Tolna. Abu Hamid al Garnathi in the late 12th century referred to Hungarian Pechenegs who were probably Muslims living disguised as Christians. Others survived within the ranks of the pastoral nomadic tribes of the Balkan Highlands as Yörüks, eventually adopting Islam.[citation needed]

Further reading

  • Pálóczi-Horváth, A. (1989). Pechenegs, Cumans, Iasians: Steppe peoples in medieval Hungary. Hereditas. Budapest: Kultúra [distributor]. ISBN 963132740X
  • Pritsak, O. (1976). The Pečenegs: a case of social and economic transformation. Lisse, Netherlands: The Peter de Ridder Press.


  1. ^ Maḥmūd, Kāshgarī; James Kelly, Kütüphanesi (Istanbul, Turkey) Millet (1982). Türk Şiveleri Lügatı = Dīvānü Luġāt-It-Türk. Duxbury, Mass: Tekin. 
  2. ^ Jenkins, Romilly James Heald (1967). De Administrando Imperio. Corpus fontium historiae Byzantinae (New, rev. ed ed.). Washington, D.C: Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies. ISBN 0884020215. 
  3. ^ Ibn Haukal describes the Pechenegs as the long-standing allies of the Rus, whom they invariably accompanied during the 10th-century Caspian expeditions.
  4. ^ The chronicler explains the town's name, derived from the Slavic word for "retake", by the fact that Vladimir "retook" the military glory from the Pechenegs

Retrieved from ""


Patzinakia (c. 895 - 1121)


The Pechenegs were a Turkic tribe.[28] In 894/895, they crossed the river Don and concluded an alliance with Tzar Simeon I of Bulgaria against the Magyars.[25] The Pechenegs fell upon the latter who, wedged between two hostile forces, immediately looked for a new home further west.[25]

The land of the Pechenegs (Patzinakia) was divided into eight “provinces” (most likely the territories of the leading clans), and the entire steppe corridor between the Danube and the Dnieper rivers was under their control.[17]

 The Primary Chronicle points out that the Ulichians and the Tivertsians settled on the Dniester Riever, spreading up to the Danube.[22]

Emperor Alexios I Komnenos

In 1018, the Pechenegs were allies of Grand Prince Sviatopolk I of Kiev (1015-1019) against his brother, Grand Prince Yaroslav I the Wise (1019-1054)).[17] The unknown author of an early 13th-century biography of St. Olaf of Norway also mentions Blókumenn among Sviatopolk’s allies.[17] Similarly, the inscription of an 11th-century runestone commemorates a merchant who was traveling to Constantinople and was killed by Blakumen.[17] The traditional interpretation of the ethnonym Blokumenn is Vlach (that is Romanian).[29] In this case, the Vlachs were clearly north, not south of the river Danube at that time, although the exact region cannot be established with any precision.[17] On the other hand, the ethnonym is also interpreted as "black men"[29] which may stand for the mixed tribes that are called “Black Hats” in the Russian sources.[30]

It is perhaps during this period of time that most, albeit not all, sites south and east of the Carpathian Mountains were deserted.[17]

In 1087, the Pechenegs invaded Thrace where at last they were put to flight, but Emperor Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118) made the mistake of pursuing them, and was beaten at Silistra.[28] The empire was saved by the arrival of another Turkic horde, the Kipchaks (the Cumans) who emerged from the Russian steppe behind the Pechenegs and defeated them on the Danube.[28]

On April 29, 1091, the combined Byzantine and Cuman forces crushed the Pecheneg army at Mount Levunion; it was the decimation of a whole people.[28] The remnants of the Pechenegs made a fresh attempt in the succeeding generation in 1121 - an attempt which was confined to Bulgaria, but they were surprised and massacred by Emperor John II Komnenos.[28]


 File:Hungary 11th cent.png

Hungary in the 11th century


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;

Cumans (Byzantine Greek: Κο(υ)μάνοι, Ko(u)manoi;[1] Hungarian: kun / plural kunok;[2] Turkic: kuman / plural kumanlar[3]) were a nomadic Turkic people who inhabited a shifting area north of the Black Sea known as Cumania along the Volga River. They eventually settled to the west of the Black Sea, influencing the politics of Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Moldavia, and Wallachia. Cuman is an exonym for the western Kipchak tribes living in Central Europe and the Balkans.

The Cumans were nomadic warriors of the Eurasian steppe who exerted an enduring impact on the medieval Balkans. The basic instrument of Cuman political success was military force, which none of the warring Balkan factions could resist. As a consequence, groups of the Cumans settled and mingled with the local population in various regions of the Balkans. The Cumans were the founders of three successive Bulgarian dynasties (Asenids, Terterids, and Shishmanids), and the Wallachian dynasty (Basarabids)."[4] They also played an active role in Byzantium, Hungary, and Serbia, with Cuman immigrants being integrated into each country's elite.

The people known in Turkic as Kipchaks were the same as the Polovtsy of the Russians, the Komanoi of the Byzantines, the Qumani (Cumans) of the Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi, and the Kun (Qoun) of the Hungarians. According to Gadrisi, they originally formed part of the group of Kimak Turks who lived in Siberia along the middle reaches of the Irtysh River, or along the Ob River. The Kimaks and the Oghuz were closely related."[5]


It is a known fact[citation needed] that the Cumans called themselves "Kipçak", but the origin of this word is not clear. Several sources have tried to explain this, Olzhas Suleimenov in his book Az i Ya proposes the theory that the word "kipçak" came from their tribal tamga (sign or emblem) that is represented by two sticks or two knives (iki pıçak). The modern tamga of the Qıpşaq tribe among the Kazakhs looks like two sticks but it is called "qos alıp" (double alīf). This name probably was changed due to islamisation.

Another explanation is a combination of the words "Qu" or "Ku" (bright) and "Saq" (ethnonym, probably Sakae/Scythian).[1][citation needed]

The Russian word "polovtsy" (Пóловцы) has many different explanations. The most common is that it means "blonde" since the old Russian word "polovo" means "straw". The German word for Cumans was "Folban" (blonde). Another explanation was given by O. Suleymenov as "men of the field, steppe" from the Russian word "pole" - open ground, field, not to be confused with "polyane" (from Greek "polis" - city). A third explanation of the word was also made by O. Suleymenov which stated that the name "polovtsy" came from a word for "blue-eyed," since the Serbo-Croatian word "plav" literally means "blue".[citation needed]


Asia in 1200 AD, showing the Cumans and their neighbors.
The field of Igor Svyatoslavich's battle with the Kypchaks by Viktor Vasnetsov
Kipchak stone statue in Lugansk (Ukraine)
Cuman prairie art, as exhibited in Dnipropetrovsk.

Originally inhabiting the prairies of southern Siberia and northern Kazakhstan the Cumans entered the grassland of Eastern Europe in the 11th century, from where they continued to assault the Byzantine Empire, the Kingdom of Hungary, and Rus.

Ladislaus I of Hungary defeated the Cumans who attacked the Kingdom of Hungary in 1089.

In 1091 the Pechenegs, a semi-nomadic Turkic people of the prairies of southwestern Eurasia, were decisively defeated as an independent force at the Battle of Levounion by the combined forces of a Byzantine army under Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos and a Cuman army under Togortok and Maniak. Attacked again in 1094 by the Cumans, many Pechenegs were again slain. The remnants of the Pechenegs fled to Hungary, as the Cumans themselves would do a few decades later: fearing the Mongol invasion, in 1229, they asked asylum from Béla IV of Hungary.

In alliance with the Bulgarians and Vlachs[6][7] during the Vlach-Bulgar Rebellion by brothers Asen and Peter of Tarnovo, the Cumans are believed to have played a significant role in the rebellion's final victory over Byzantium and the restoration of Bulgaria's independence (1185). The Cumans were allies with Wallachia and Bulgaria emperor Kaloyan in the Bulgarian-Latin Wars.

The Cumans defeated the Great Prince Vladimir of Kievan Rus in the 12th century (at the Battle of the Stugna River).

Like most other peoples of medieval Eastern Europe, they put up resistance against the relentlessly advancing Mongols, but they were finally crushed in 1238, when a Cuman and Russian army was defeated near Astrakhan. Previously, in 1229, they had asked for asylum from king Béla IV of Hungary, who in 1238 finally offered refuge to the remainder of the Cuman people under their leader Kuthen (Hungarians spelled his name Kötöny). Kuthen in turn vowed to convert his 40,000 families to Christianity. King Béla hoped to use the new subjects as auxiliary troops against the Mongols, who were already threatening Hungary. The king assigned various parts of central Hungary to the Cuman tribes. A tense situation erupted when Mongol troops burst into Hungary. The Hungarians, frustrated by their own helplessness, took revenge on the Cumans, whom they accused of being Mongol spies. After a bloody fight the Hungarians killed Kuthen and his bodygards, and the remaining Cumans fled to the Balkans. After the Mongol invasion Béla IV of Hungary recalled the Cumans to Hungary to populate settlements devastated by war. The nomads subsequently settled throughout the Great Hungarian Plain. Throughout the following centuries the Cumans in Hungary were granted various rights, the extent of which depended on the prevailing political situation. Some of these rights survived until the end of the 19th century, although the Cumans had long since assimilated with Hungarians.

The Cumans who remained scattered in the prairie of what is now southwest Russia joined the Golden Horde khanate and their descendants became assimilated with local Tartar populations.

The Cumans who remained east and south of the Carpathian Mountains established a country named Cumania, in an area consisting of Moldavia and Walachia. The Hungarian kings claimed supremacy on the territory of Cumania, among the nine titles of the Hungarian kings of the Árpád and Anjou dynasties were rex Cumaniae.

The Cuman influence in the region of Wallachia and Moldavia was so strong that the earliest Wallachian rulers bore Cuman names (Tihomir and Bassarab I). In lack of convincing archaeological evidence of a Cuman civilisation, however, it is most possible that the Cumans did not constitute the majority of local population, but they made up the ruling elite in Wallachia. As in case of Bulgaria, this ruling elite was gradually assimilated by the majority population they governed, which became Romanian.

Basarab I, son of the Wallachian prince Tihomir of Wallachia obtained independence from Hungary at the beginning of the 14th century. The name Basarab is considered as being of Cuman origin, meaning "Father King".

It is generally believed that the Bulgarian mediaеval dynasties Asen, Shishman and Terter had at least some Cuman roots.


Robert de Clari described Cumans as nomadic warriors, who did not use houses, or farm, but rather lived in tents, and ate milk, cheese and meat. The horses had a sack for feeding attached to the bridle, and in a day and a night they can ride seven days of walking (Mansio), they go on campaign without any baggage, and when they return they take everything they can carry, they wear sheepskin and were armed with composite bows and arrows. They pray to the first animal they see in the morning.[8][9]


In the 13th century, the Western Cumans adopted Roman Catholicism (in Hungary they all later became Calvinist) and the Gagauzes Pravoslav/Orthodox, while the Eastern Cumans converted to Islam. The Catholic Diocese of Cumania founded in Milcov in 1227 and including what is now Romania and Moldova, retained its title until 1523. It was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Esztergom in Hungary.


While the Cumans were gradually absorbed into eastern European populations, their trace can still be found in placenames as widespread as the city of Kumanovo in the Northeastern part of the Republic of Macedonia; a Slavic village named Kumanichevo in the Kostur (Kastoria) district of Greece, which was changed to Lithia after Greece obtained this territory in the 1913 Treaty of Bucharest, Comăneşti in Romania, and Comana in Dobruja (also Romania).

As the Mongols pushed westwards and devastated their state, most of the Cumans fled to the Bulgarian Empire as they were major military allies. The Bulgarian Tsar Ivan-Asen II settled them in the southern parts of the country, bordering the Latin Empire and the Thessallonikan Despotate. Those territories are present-day Turkish Europe and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The Cumans also settled in Hungary and had their own self-government there in a territory that bore their name, Kunság, that survived until the 19th century. There, the name of the Cumans (Kun) is still preserved in county names such as Bács-Kiskun and Jász-Nagykun-Szolnok and town names such as Kiskunhalas and Kunszentmiklós.

The Cumans were organized into four tribes in Hungary: Kolbasz/Olas in the big Cumania around Karcag, and the other three in the lesser Cumania. The other Cuman group in Hungary is the Palóc group, the name deriving from the Slav Polovetz. They live in northern Hungary and current Slovakia and have a specific dialect. Their Cuman origin is not documented as is the other two Cuman territories, but their name derives from the above word. They have a very special "a" sound close to Turkish "a", unlike Hungarian pronunciation.

Unfortunately, the Cuman language disappeared from Hungary in the 17th century, possibly following the Turkish occupation. Their 19th century biographer, Gyárfás István, in 1870 was of the opinion that they originally spoke Hungarian, together with the Iazyges population. Despite this mistake, he has the best overview on the subject concerning details of material used. [2]

In addition, toponyms of Cuman language origin can be found especially in the Romanian counties of Vaslui and Galaţi, including the names of both counties.

In the countries where the Cumans were assimilated, family surnames derived from the words for "Cuman" (such as coman or kun, "kuman") are not uncommon. Among the people that have such a name are Romanian gymnast Nadia Comăneci, Romanian poet Otilia Coman (Ana Blandiana), contemporary painter Nicolai Comănescu, and Romanian football player Gigel Coman. Traces of the Cumans are also the Bulgarian surnames Kunev or Kumanov (feminine Kuneva, Kumanova), its Macedonian variants Kunevski, Kumanovski (feminine Kumanovska), and the widespread Hungarian surname Kun.


By the 11th and 12th century, the nomadic confederacy of the Cumans and (Eastern) Kipchaks (who are considered to be either the eastern branch of the Cumans or a distinct but related tribe with whom the Cumans created a confederacy) were the dominant force over the vast territories stretching from the present-day Kazakhstan, southern Russia, Ukraine, to southern Moldavia and western Wallachia. Considering the nomadic way of life of these peoples, these frontiers can be regarded only as approximate; hence there were various definitions over what Cumania meant over the course of time. Depending on their region and their time, different sources each used their own vision to denote different sections of the vast Cuman territory: in Byzantine, Russian, Georgian, Armenian, Persian and Muslim sources, Cumania meant the Pontic steppe, that is the steppelands to the north of the Black Sea and on its eastern side as far as the Caspian Sea, where the lowlands between the Dnieper, the Volga, the Ural and the Irtysh rivers were favorable to the nomadic lifestyle of the Cumans. Later, for a short time period, in Western sources Cumania also referred to the area in eastern Wallachia and southern Ukraine (centered on the lowlands of Budjak and the Bărăgan Plain), referring to the area where the first contact between the Cumans and the Western Christians took place, and where, later, the Cumans would accept Roman Catholicism.

Using the traditional Turkic assignment of colours to the cardinal points, White Cumania used to be located to the east, while Black Cumania was located to its west.

As in the case of many other large nomadic Eurasian confederacies, the ethnonym "Cuman" (referring to the inhabitants of Cumania) denoted different ethnic realities. While the main component was probably the Turkic-speaking tribes, the confederacy included other ethnic components as well. Cumania was primarily a political name, referring to the leading, integrating tribe or clan of the confederacy or state. The Cumans, when they first appear in written sources, are members of a confederacy irrespective of their tribal origin. Former tribal names disappeared when the tribe in question becomed part of a political unit. For instance, when we hear of an incursion of Cumans, it means that certain tribes of the Cuman confederacy took part in a military enterprise. In his "History of the Mongols", the Persian historian Rashid al-Din, referred to Cumania around 1236-1237, during the Mongol invasion of Möngke, the future Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. Among others, he mentions the Kipchaks, the Alanic Asi (probably the same as the later Jassic tribe) and the "Karaulaghi" (Black Vlachs)[1] It is to no surprise that while the general view of the Cumans is that they are Turanid, many historic sources describe the Cumans as strikingly handsome physically, having blond or red hair, and blue eyes.[2]

The vast territory of this Kipchak-Cuman realm, consisting of loosely connected tribal units who were the military dominating force, was never politically united by a strong central power. Cumania was neither a state nor an empire, but different groups under independent rulers, or khans, who acted on their own initiative, meddling in the political life of the surrounding states: the Russian principalities, Bulgaria, Byzantium and the Wallachian states in the Balkans, Armenia and Georgia (see Kipchaks in Georgia) in the Caucasus, and Khwarezm, having reached as far as to create a powerful caste of warriors, the Mamluks, serving the Muslim Arab and Turkish Caliphs and Sultans.

In the Balkans, we find the Cumans in contact with all of the statal entities of that time, fighting with the Kingdom of Hungary, allied with the Bulgarians and Vlachs against the Byzantine Empire, and involved into the politics of the fresh Vlach statal entities. For example, Thocomer, by name apparently a Cuman warlord (also known as Tihomir, he might have been a Bulgarian noble), was possibly the first one to unite the Vlach states from the west and the east of the Olt River, and his son Basarab is considered the first ruler of the united and independent Wallachia. This interpretation corresponds with the general view of the situation of the Romanian lands in the 11th century, with the natives living in collections of village communities, united in various small confederacies, with more or less powerful chiefs trying to create little kingdoms, some paying tribute to the various militarily dominant nomadic tribes (see Romania in the Middle Ages).

This pontic Cumania, (and the rest of the Cumanias to the east), ended its existence in the middle of the 13th century, with the Great Mongol Invasion of Europe. In 1223, Genghis Khan defeated the Cumans and their Russian allies at the Battle of Kalka (in modern Ukraine), and the final blow came in 1241, when the Cuman confederacy ceased to exist as a political entity, with the remaining Cuman tribes being dispersed, either becoming subjects and mixing with their Tatar-Mongol conquerors as part of what was to be known as the Nogai Horde, or fleeing to the west, to the Byzantine Empire, the Bulgarian Empire, and the Kingdom of Hungary.

Hungarian Cumania

The end of the Cuman military entity did not mean the end of the term Cumania. In the Kingdom of Hungary, Cuman refugees created two more regions named Cumania (Kunság in Hungarian): Greater Cumania (Nagykunság) and Little Cumania (Kiskunság), both located in the Great Hungarian Plain. Here, the Cumans maintained their language and some ethnic customs well into the modern era.

Diocese of Cumania

Cumania was also preserved as part of the Roman Catholic ecclesiastical structure with a "Diocese of Cumania" existing until 1523 in what is now Romania, long after the Cumans ceased to be a distinct group in the area. At Milcov, years earlier, in 1227, the Cuman warlord Bortz accepted Catholic Christianity from missionary Dominican monks. Pope Gregory IX heard about the mass conversion of the Cumans, and on 1 July 1227 empowered Robert, Archbishop of Esztergom, to represent him to Cumania and in neighbouring Land of the Brodnici. Teodoric, the bishop of this new diocese, became the guardian of the Dominican Order in the Kingdom of Hungary. [3]

Hence, Cumania became part of the superior archbishopric of Esztergom, determining King Béla IV of Hungary to add "Rex Cumaniae" (King of Cumania) [4] to his titles in 1228, and later to grant asylum to the Cumans in face of the Mongol invasion. The Diocese of Cumania, or of Milcov, had subordinated in Transylvania the abbacy of Sibiu, the dioceses of Burzenland, Brasso and Orbai, and over the Carpathians, in the lands of the "infidel" Orthodox Vlachs (in partibus infidelium), all the Christian Catholics, irrespective of their ethnicity, despite the fact that many believers fell under the influence of the Romanian Orthodox "pseudo" bishops (episcopo Cumanorum, qui loci diocesanus existit, sed a quibusdam pseudoepiscopis Graecorum ritum tenentibus). [5]

So, at that moment, Hungarian and Papal documents use the name Cumania to refer to the land between the eastern border of the lands of Seneslau and the land of the Brodnici (Buzău, southern Vrancea and southern Galaţi): that is Cumania meant, more or less, Muntenia. At that time, the use of the name Cumania should not to be understood as asserting the existence of a Cuman state, nor even a land inhabited by Cuman tribes (as the bulk of them had either fled, or were destroyed by the Mongols, and the rest had been absorbed) but rather to the Diocese of Cumania. From the military point of view, the land comprising the Diocese of Cumania was held either by the Teutonic Order (as early as 1222), or by the Vlachs (Brodnics or the Vlachs of Seneslau). The term Cumania had come to mean any Catholic subordinated to the Milcov Diocese, so much so that in some cases, the terms Cuman and Wallach (more precisely, Roman Catholic Wallach, as the Orthodox Christians were considered schismatic, and the Pope did not officially recognise them) were interchangeable, [6] (as were the terms Wallach and Brodnic).

In a charter from 1247, parts of this earlier Cumania were granted to the Knights Hospitalers, as were the Banat of Severin and the Romanian cnezats of Ioan and Lupu (a fluvio Olth et Alpibus Ultrasylvanis totam Cumaniam …excepta terra Szeneslai Woiavode Olacorum). [7] These, from a juridical point of view, had an inferior status than the states of Seneslau (east of the Olt river) and Litovoi (west of the Olt River), cnezats which continued to belong to the Romanians (quam Olacis relinquimus prout iidem hactenus tenuerant), "like they held them so far".

See also



  1. ^ Alexandru D. Xenopol in "Histoire des Roumains', Paris, 1896, i, 168 quotes Rashid-od-Din:

    In the middle of spring the princes crossed the mountains in order to enter the country of the Bulares and of the Bashguirds. Orda, who was marching to the right, passed through the country of the Haute, where Bazarambam met him with an army, but was beaten. Boudgek crossed the mountains to enter the Kara-Ulak, and defeated the Ulak people.

  2. ^ Robert Lee Wolff: "The 'Second Bulgarian Empire.' Its Origin and History to 1204" (Speculum, Volume 24, Issue 2 (Apr., 1949), 167-206).
  3. ^ The letter of Pope Gregory the IXth:

    Gregorius Episcopus … venerabili fratri … Strigoniensi Archiepiscopo apostolicae sedis legato salutem … Nuper siquidem per litteras tuas nobis transmissas accepimus, quod Jesus Christus … super gentem Cumanorum clementer respiciens, eis salvationis ostium aperuit his diebus. Aliqui enim nobiles gentis illius per te ad baptismi gratiam pervenerunt, et quidam princeps Bortz nomine de terra illorum cum omnibus sibi subditis per ministerium tuum fidem desiderat suscipere christianam; propter quod unicum filium suum una cum fratribus praedicatoribus, messis dominicae operariis in terra praedicta, ad te specialiter destinavit, attentius obsecrans, ut personaliter accedens ad ipsum et suos viam vitae ostenderes ipsis … Unde quamvis pro executione voti tui, quod emiseras pro terrae sanctae succursu, in peregrinationis esses itinere constitutus, confidei exinde pervenire posse, si piis eorum desideriis condescendas, intermisso dictae peregrinationis itinere, dilectum filium … Archidiaconum de Zala ad nos destinare curasti … supplicans ut tibi hoc faciendi, non obstante voto praedicto, licentiam praeberemus, et … in Cumania et Brodnic terra illae vicina, de cuius gentis conversione speratur, legationis officium tibi committere dignaremur … Datum Anagniae II. Kal. Aug. Pontificatus nostri anno I.

  4. ^ The full list of titles was
    • Bela Dei gratia Hungariae
    • Dalmatiae
    • Croatiae
    • Romae
    • Serviae
    • Gallicie
    • Lodomerie
    • Cumanieque Rex



The Hungarian Point of  View

The Cumanian Country and the Province of Severin

Until 1263, the history of the Hátszeg region was interwoven with that of the Cumanian Country (Kunország, Cumania) and Severin Province (Szörényi bánság). Hungarians and Bulgars had been vying for possession of Nándorfehérvár and Barancs since the beginning of the century. This conflict intensified when, following {1-435.} the expulsion of the Teutonic Knights, King Andrew II put his son Béla in charge of Transylvania, with the title of 'junior king'. Prince Béla's first priority was to sever the alliance between the Cumanians and the Bulgaro-Romanian, Asenid dynasty. The opportunity came with a sudden turn in the Cumanians' political fortunes. After uniting the Mongol tribes, Genghis Khan had launched a series of military campaigns comparable only to those of the Huns; within twenty years, he acquired an immense empire stretching from the Yellow Sea to the Volga River. In 1223, Genghis threw his main army against the Cumanians and their Russian allies. After defeating them in a great battle at the Kalka River, he extended his rule to the Dnieper. When the Mongols withdrew their army to deal with a crisis on the China front, their forward positions were relocated on the Volga. The Cumanians, however, anticipated that their fearful enemy would soon resume its westward advance. Since they could not count on the Russian princes, who were mired in internecine quarrels, the Cumanians turned to Christian Europe and sought the support of Eastern Europe's mightiest ruler, the King of Hungary.

For years, Dominican monks from Hungary had been trying to convert the Cumanians, who were encamped on the left bank of the Danube, west of the Szeret River. The Cumanian tribes' ruling prince, Bars (Barsz), used the monks as intermediaries to offer his conversion to Róbert, the archbishop of Esztergom and head of the Hungarian Roman Catholic Church, as well as his submission to Prince Béla. Both the French-born archbishop and his close friend, Prince Béla, were tireless champions of a Church that was reaching the apogee of its power. In 1227, having obtained the Pope's permission to organize a Cumanian Catholic Church, Róbert joined Béla and two other French-born prelates, Bertalan, the bishop of Pécs, and Rajnald, the bishop of Transylvania, for a ceremonial meeting in Transylvania with Prince Bars. The latter, together with his family and retinue, formally espoused the Christian faith, and {1-436.} placed his country and people under the suzerainty of the King of Hungary.

The superior of the Dominicans in Hungary, Teodorik, was named bishop of the new Cumanian diocese; his episcopal seat was located at Milko, a small town beyond the Carpathians, across from Háromszék county. Prince Béla visited Cumania, which was already annexed to Hungary (and referred to as terra sua in the Papal charter), to supervise its reorganization. Hungarians, Székelys, and Saxons in quest of land began to migrate eastward over the Carpathians and settle among Cumania's Slav farmers and Cumanian as well as Romanian shepherds. Contemporary documents and surviving toponyms attest to the establishment of numerous Hungarian villages and Saxon-Hungarian market towns in the region's river valleys. Moldavia's 'Csángó' people, who were said not long ago to number close to 100,000, are the descendants of these and later Hungarian settlers.

The Asenid ruler of Bulgaria construed the Cumanians' abrogation of alliance and submission to Hungary as a declaration of war. Indeed, Prince Béla intended to attack the Bulgars. In 1230, the Hungarians laid siege to Vidin, but they were beaten back, and the Székely count was captured by the enemy. It is probably after this event that Béla, seeing the need for a bridgehead, converted a part of Cumania lying west of the Olt (today's Oltenia) into the Province of Severin (Szörényi bánság). The bán — the title of governors appointed by the king in Croatia and other southern provinces of Hungary — had his castle seat at Szörényvár (today's Turnu Severin); the first documented reference to this official dates from 1233. According to a Papal document from 1234, the population of Cumania included Romanians, who were ministered by Greek Orthodox bishops, as well as the later Hungarian and Saxon settlers. The ethnic mix in Severin was probably similar; in any case, its population must have grown rapidly, for in 1238 King Béla asked the Pope to appoint a bishop to the province.

{1-437.} Although the Mongol invasion of 1241 dealt a severe blow to Severin's development, it is likely that conditions prior to that date were similar to those outlined in a charter from 1247, granting the province to the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. With regard to Severin, the grant included the districts (kenézség) of cnez János and cnez Farkas, but not that of the voivode Litvoj, which the king left in Romanian hands (quam Olacis relinquimus prout iidem hactenus tenuerant). The knights were also granted the rest of the earlier Kun Country, the part lying beyond the Olt and the Transylvanian mountains, again with the exception of a Romanian district, governed by the voivode Seneslaus (excepta terra Szeneslai woiavode Olacorum). Half of the royal taxes generated by voivode Litvoj's land (terra Lytua) was assigned to the knights — except for the income from the Hátszeg district (misspelt as terra Harszoc in the charter's only surviving, papal copy), which the king kept all for himself. In this way, the Romanian border-guard district of Hátszeg was taken away from voivode Litvoj, and its cnezes were subordinated to the Hátszeg castellan. On the other hand, Litvoj won a greater degree of autonomy in his remaining domain, which in the second half of the 13th century came to be known as 'Litva's Land' (terra Lytua). (Similary, Dobrudja was named after its Bulgar governor, Dobrotich, and Bessarabia after its conqueror, Basarab, the voivode of Wallachia.) Some time around 1272, Litvoj renounced fealty to King Ladislas IV the Cumanian ('Kun László'), who dispatched a punitive force led by György Sóvári. Litvoj was killed, and his brother Bărbat had to pay a heavy ransom to be released from captivity. There is no trace after this date of Romanian voivodes in the province of Severin. The onetime 'Litva's Land' may have lain somewhere along the upper reaches of the Zsil River. The name of Vîlcea county, in the Zsil valley, could indicate the land of the cnez Farkas (farkas, Hungarian for wolf > the Slavic vlk > Vîlcea). The land of cnez János may have lain farther south along the Zsil, around present-day Craiova, for {1-438.} that toponym evokes a (Hungarian) royal possession. It is unclear whether the domain of voivode Seneslaus, like that of Litvoj, had extended into Transylvania, potentially in the Fogaras area. If so, then Seneslaus would have suffered the same fate as Litvoj: in 1247, he would have lost his foothold in Transylvania and received a voivodeship south of the Carpathians, perhaps the same one mentioned in connection with a campaign led by György Sóvári in 1272 against a certain Dorman and his Bulgar allies. Dorman was presumably a precursor of Basarab, who, at the beginning of the 14th century, took Wallachia out of the Hungarian Kingdom.

The charter of 1247 refers to military service by the Romanians of Severin Province and the Cumanian Country (cum apparatu suo bellico). Their contribution to the royal treasury must have been an animal tax, which is mentioned in sources from 1256, 1262, and 1293; the latter specifies that the rate was one-fiftieth of their sheep (quinquagesima ovium).

The route, immediately to the west of Severin Province, that led from the Temes River region to the Danube's Iron Gates, was probably also part of the second line of defence on the Southern Carpathian border; and this line would have consisted of castle districts and Romanian cnezes, as in the case of Hátszeg. Until recently, only one of these defensive installations was known, that at Sebes (today's Karánsebes), whose castle and count are mentioned in early 14th-century records. The first reference to a Romanian cnez in the district dates from 1319 (Bach kenezius), and to a Romanian place-name, from 1337; the latter, Căprior — Kaprevár, is the very first recorded Romanian toponym in Hungary, including Transylvania.

In a recently-found document, dating from 1350, Pósa Szeri, the count of Krassó and Sebes, certifies that Juga's son Lupcsin (Lupchyn), otherwise known as the voivode János, had laid claim on the basis of inheritance (predecessorum suorum ... possessiones hereditarie) to certain properties being held by others in the Sebes {1-439.} district, notably at Tövis and Gyepű, and had presented a charter from King Béla to back up his claim; the count complied with the request.[15] The location of Gyepű (today's Gyepesfalu), near Karánsebes, coincides with a site referred to in another source as Mutnokpataka — unoccupied land that was granted in 1352 to Juga and Bogdán, sons of István Mutnoki, 'with all the rights enjoyed by cnezes who own free villages in the Sebes district'. There is no doubt that the two sources refer to the same family. Since the Mutnokis are subsequently mentioned as belonging to the nobility, their career must have followed a pattern similar to those of noble cnezes in the Hátszeg district. Sebes and seven other castles in Krassó county enjoyed the same degree of autonomy as the cnez's seat near Hátszeg. Although the first source to offer details of the king's terms for this autonomy dates from 1457, references are found as early as 1376 to 'the old and approved (antiqua et approbata) law pertaining to the Vlach districts'. The charter from King Béla IV referred to in the document above (the original is lost) gives an indication of the scope of this 'old law'; it suggests both that the voivode Lupcsin had a status similar to that of the Hátszeg district's voivode Litvoj, and that, like in Hátszeg, the office of voivode in Sebes had disappeared by the 14th century. The example of Hátszeg makes it likely that Sebes castle and its Romanian voivode district date back to the time of Béla IV, but confirmation depends on the discovery of additional documentary evidence.

The foregoing description of conditions in Transylvania's southern border regions is based largely on documents relating to the settlement of Saxons in the mid-1100s and to that of the Teutonic Knights in 1211, and on inferences, drawn from these documents, regarding earlier times. Although the Vlach-Romanian ethnic group appears in these documents no earlier than 1210, there is a strong likelihood that it had been present for some time. After all, the first documented references to Saxons, Székelys, and Pechenegs are found in the very same sources (dating from 1190 in {1-440.} the case of the Saxons), yet it is known that these groups were already present in Transylvania at least as early as the middle of the 12th century. Thus it is entirely possible that there were Vlach- Romanians in the region at the same time as these groups, and perhaps even earlier; and the reorganization of the border zone may well have imposed changes in their own organization and area of settlement, just as happened to the other groups.

In sum, it appears more than likely that around 1200, there lived along both sides of the Southern Carpathians Romanian border guards, who were administered by ethnic Romanian voivodes and cnezes. They lived alongside Székelys, Pechenegs, and Saxons, sometimes sharing land with the latter, but organized independently under the supervision of counts appointed by the king of Hungary. There are no documentary sources to indicate the exact date when the Romanian border guard districts were established, and when Romanians began to settle on the Transylvanian side of the Southern Carpathians. The answer to these questions can only be inferred from the Romanians' interaction with the other ethnic groups.

Their association with the Pechenegs in Transylvania probably came about through Hungarian mediation, for Transylvanian Romanians called the Pechenegs 'Beşineu', a term borrowed from Hungarian, whereas the Romanians of Wallachia used a term of Slavic derivation, 'Pečeneg'. A part of the Pecheneg people migrated to Hungary some time after 950; another part moved in the 11th century to the Byzantine empire, which at that time extended to the Danube. South of the Danube, the Pechenegs lived in a Slavic environment; in 1147, they served as mercenaries of Byzantium when the Crusaders fought their way across the Bulgarian plain. The Wallachian Romanians may have learnt the Pechenegs' Slavic name from remnants of this group, or from those who remained north of the Danube. The coexistence of Pechenegs and Romanians in Transylvania probably dates from after 1150. As noted, sources {1-441.} refer to Székelys, Pechenegs, and Romanians fighting side by side in the first half of the 13th century; but of the three, only Pechenegs and Székelys are mentioned in Hungarian as well as Czech accounts of the battles at Olsava (1116) and on the Leitha River (1146). (However, in the latter case, it is possible that the Székelys and Pechenegs in question came not from Transylvania, but from western Hungary.) The Slavic, Hungarian, German, and Turkic toponyms that were adapted by the Romanians (and thus antedate the arrival of the latter in the Southern Carpathian region) also points to the conclusion that the local Vlach-Romanians were organized into border guard villages sometime between 1150 and 1200.


Recent Videos

Recent Blog Entries

Newest Members