Monday, December 23, 2013


One of the books more famous about the neolatin presence in Serbia and Macedonia was written at the end of the nineteenth century by Sir Arthur Evans: "Antiquariam researches in Illyricum" (Sir Arthur Evans' complete book)

Map in hungarian language showing in red the neolatin areas (like "Romanija Planina" and "Stari Vlah") in the Dinaric Alps of Serbia and Bosnia in the eleventh century & later (click on it to enlarge):

In this book -written by a british scholar known as impartial and not linked to latin or slav nationalism- it is clearly declared that in the Middle Ages (and until some centuries after ther year 1000 AD) there was a huge population of neolatins who survived the massacres of the barbarian invasions in the balkan lands of the Dinaric Alps, from actual Croatia & Bosnia to Serbia & Macedonia.

Indeed it is stated at pag.31 of the book that:

"Politically the country outside the limits of the still Roman coast-towns was by Constantine (Porphyrogenitus)'s time in the hands of Slavonic Zupans, but side by side with the dominant race the older inhabitants of the land continued to inhabit the Dinaric glens and Alpine pastures. The relics of the Roman provincials who survived the Slavonic conquest of Illyricum were divided, in Dalmatia at all events, into two distinct classes, the citizens of the coast-towns, who retained their municipal and ecclesiastical institutions and something of Roman civilization under the aegis of Byzantium, and the Alpine population of the interior, the descendants for the most part of Romanized Illyrian clansmen recruited by the expropriated coloni of the municipia, or at least that part of them who had been forced to give up fixed agricultural pursuits for a semi-nomad pastoral life. Both classes spoke the Latin language, approaching, in various stages of degradation, the Romance variety still spoken by the Rouman population of parts of Macedonia and the Danubian provinces; and both were indiscriminately spoken of by their Slavonic neighbours as Vlachs, or Mavrovlachs: Romans, or Black Romans (Morlachs)."
In short, Evans says there is evidence - of archaeological type and of other kind -showing that in the territories that were the Roman province of Dalmatia a substantial proportion of the population (probably the majority before the year 1000 AD) was of Romance language until the beginning of the Renaissance. And this language was similar to the one spoken in the nineteenth century in the still Vlach-Romanian region "Timok" (Vlachs of Serbia)
of Serbia, located in the hills bordering the "Iron Gates" of the Danube river. This statement contrasts with what was stated by academic historians of the era of the Yugoslav ommunist dictator Tito, who denied (or rather, tried to delete) this strong presence of neo-Latin populations. Moreover there is still a region of eastern Bosnia called "Romanija" (read my article on italian wikipedia: (Romanija)
, with a precise map ) and a region of western Serbia with the name "Stari Vlah" (ie "Historical Wallachia " in Serbian): from local cemeteries ( and the registers of the churches) we deduce that at the time of the first Turkish invasions the population of these two regions was mostly neo-Latin, even if reduced to an advanced state of Slavicization.

It should be remembered, moreover, that the Roman presence in the present territory of Serbia was notable because of the number of Roman cities that survived until the times of the Byzantine Heraclius in the eighth century. Next the names of these cities, in that century inhabited by neo-Latin people (with the actual Slavic name in brackets): Acumincum (Stari Slankamen); Rasa (Stari Ras); Bassianae (Donji Petrovci); Bononia (Banoštor); Budalia (Martinci); Burgunae (Novi Banovci); Cornacum (Susek); Cusum (Petrovaradin ), Felix Romuliana (Gamzigrad ); Horreum Margi (Knjaževac ); Justiniana First (Caricin Grad); Margum (Dubravica - Požarevac); Naissus (Niš) ; Neoplanta (Novi Sad); Remesiana (Bela Palanka); Rittium (Surduk); Semendria (Smederevo), Singidunum (Belgrade); Sirmium (Semska Mitrovica); Taurunum (Zemun); Timacum majus (Ćuprija); Ulpiana (Lipljan) and Viminacium (Kostolac).

Only in the ninth century is finally used only the Slavic name of these cities: which is probably a reason to deduce that almost around the year 1000 AD there had to be in many of these cities a residual community of neo-Latin inhabitants, according to the eminent German historian Theodore Mommsen.

In other words, in the century after CharleMagne the Vlastimirovic dinasty of Serbia created a process of "serbianization" in the areas of these cities that assimilated most of the neolatin population by the year 1000. But some areas away from the main valleys remained unaffected, like in the Stari Vlah and the Timoc region, probably because full of not easily accessible mountains.

Obviously, what was written by Evans is linked a little to what I wrote last September about the "City-states of Dalmatia" (Neolatin city-states in Dalmatia)
and in recent years in italian language on the "Neo-Latins of the Dinaric Alps" ((Neolatini dinarici)
and on the "Romance language and people ​​of Bosnia and Herzegovina" (Neolatini in Bosnia-Erzegovina)

Evans 's book is centered on Serbia and Macedonia (although there are numerous references to Croatian and Bosnian territories), including the Montenegro with the Bay of Kotor-Cattaro in the territory of Serbia. In my opinion one of the most interesting sections is the third. In fact, parts III and IV of the book concern especially the Roman "Dardania", which is the current northern Macedonia, and contain numerous and detailed references to the presence of neo-Latin populations during the Middle Ages from Montenegro (and from "Raska" - "Stari Vlah" ) until the ancient Scupi (currently called Skopije, the capital of Macedonia). For example, on p.107 Evans states that "There is definite evidence that in the Middle Ages there was a Rouman population in the neighbourhood of Skopia".

In addition, Evans says -like the historian Mommsen- that the Romanization of Roman Dalmatia was complete after five centuries of Roman Empire in Illyria, in contrast to the claims of the Slavic nationalist of communist Tito (who continually write that inside Illyria there had been little penetration of Latin culture, and that the local language was still the one of the native population when arrived the Slavs). Indeed 17 Roman emperors were born in the territories that now belong to Serbia and Macedonia, and imperial cities like "Felix Romuliana" -in the area of ​​the river Timok- attest to this roman presence that is currently awarded by the Unesco with the title of "World Heritage".

It should also be noted that the scholar Noel Malcolm believes that the area of origin of the Aromanian language is located in southern Serbia and northern Macedonia, and that from here these "Vlachs" were moved by the Turks to Bosnia to repopulate areas devastated by wars and epidemics.(Malcolm: Bosnian Serbs related to Vlachs)
And now -according to him- they would be the origin of the local Orthodox Serb population. This fact would explain -always according to Malcolm- the disappearance of the Romance populations from Dardania (and Kosovo), which of course would have been assimilated locally because reduced to only a few families after the transfer.

In addition, Malcolm says that the difference between the Bulgarian and the Croatian-Serbian language is due precisely to this neo-Latin presence (in the area of Naissus/Nis, Ulpiana/Pristina and Scuti/Skopje), which joined Romania with the Albanian Kosovo and blocked contacts & linguistic exchanges among the Bulgarian & Serbian Slavs at least up to the time immediately following the conquests of Charlemagne (and may be up to the year 1000 AD for two centuries more).

Indeed Malcolm writes in his "Kosovo:a short history" that "...the Slav presence in Kosovo and the southernmost part of the Morava valley may have been quite weak in the first two or three centuries of Slav settlement. If Slavs had been evenly spread across this part of the Balkans, it would be hard to explain why such a clear linguistic division emerged between the Serbo-Croat language and the Bulgarian-Macedonian one. The scholar who first developed this argument also noted that, in the area dividing the early Serbs from the Bulgarians, many Latin place-names survived long enough to be adapted eventually into Slav ones, from Naissus (Nish), down through the Kosovo town of Lypenion (Lipljan) to Scupi (Skopje): this contrasts strongly with most of northern Serbia, Bosnia and the Dalmatian hinterland, where the old town names were completely swept aside. His conclusion was that the Latin-speaking population, far from withering away immediately, may actually have been strengthened here (and in a western strip of modern Bulgaria around Vidin), its numbers swelled, no doubt, by refugees from further north. These Latin-speakers would have thus formed 'a wide border-zone between the Bulgarians and the Serbs'.Kosovo's protective ring of mountains would have been useful to them; and the Roman mountain-road from Kosovo to the Albanian coast - along which several Latin place-names also survive, such as Puka, from 'via publica' - might also have connected them with other parts of the Latin-speaking world. (The hill-top town of Koman, mentioned earlier, is only a few miles from Puka, and may well have had a Latin-speaking population too.) If this argument is correct, we might expect many of the ancestors of the Vlachs to have been present in the Kosovo region and the mountains of western Bulgaria".

As a corollary to what Malcolm says, we must remember that the so-called "Culture of Koman" (that existed in northern Albania during the seventh and eighth century and is mentioned by him) is classified by scholars (like Popovic and Bowden) as likely to be post-Roman: so it would be connected (and perhaps integrated) to the romance people who lived in the neo-Latin Nis-Skopjie area of southern Serbia and northern Macedonia (Koman culture, p.57)

As I wrote before, it must be inferred from the studies made ​​in this respect by Evans and others that the neo-latins who survived the invasions of the sixth and seventh centuries were scattered around the ninth century in the Dinaric Alps, especially between Banja Luka (which probably takes its name from "Bagni di San Luca") - Sarajevo (the current Romanija ) - Drina/Morava (the ancient Stari Vlah), and reached the mountains Velebit of the Dalmatian coast (where survived the dalmatian cities and islands of the autoctonous Dalmatians).

To the southeast these neo-Latin Dinaric populations were connected with the partially Romanized populations of the Albanians, while were continued to the northeast by the Romanians of the Timok region.(Map of Neolatin/Morlachs areas)
With the creation of Croatia by king Tomislav and of Serbia by the Vlastimirovic dinasty began their assimilation - often forced - by the Slavs. Assimilation practically completed at the time of the Turkish invasions in the Renaissance (except of course for the Venetian hinterland of Dalmatia where survived the "Dalmatian Italians" and the partially slavicized "Morlachs").

I think it is impossible to quantify their numerical amount in the Dinaric Alps region: I believe the most we could do is a rough calculation of the percentage of their presence. So, from 100% of the total population in the Dinaric Alps before 580 AD, the neolatin population could be expected to have declined to 66% at the time of Tomislav (concentrated in the highlands and mountains) and to 50% after the year 1000 AD, then to have decreased to 10% in the fourteenth century (when the Turks arrived) and finally to have disappeared in the sixteenth/seventeenth century. In other words, the existence of these Romance populations in the area of the Dinaric Alps would last a millennium. But then again, we are always in the field of approximate assumptions.

Finally, we must remember that until the last century the Vlach area was bigger than what is today in the southern Balkans, according to maps like this done by Koryakov: Detailed map of Vlachs in southern Balkans

Summing up the current neo-latin presence in Serbia and Macedonia:
SERBIA. Romance populations now exist in Serbia only in the region of the river Timok (Map of neolatin areas in Timok)
near the Iron Gates of the Danube, but there are some groups of Romanians in Vojvodina (just north, bordering the area of ​​Timisoara in Romania (Map of neolatin areas in Vojvodina)
). This area until the nineteenth century reached the river Morava and before the Renaissance probably extended up to the hill regions of "Stari Vlah" and "Romanija" ( populated mostly by neo-Latins until the thirteenth century ) of western Serbia and eastern Bosnia.
MACEDONIA.In Macedonia ( MACEDONIA: ITS RACES AND THEIR FUTURE; chapter VI of Brailsford about the Vlachs)
remain very small areas populated by "Vlachs" especially around Bitola (Vlachs in Macedonia)
near the border with Greece.There are even a few "Megleno-Vlachs" next to the Florina & Aridena provinces of northern Greece ( (Vlachs in the border Greece-Macedonia)
. But up to the year 1000 AD what was once the Roman Dardania had residual but significant communities of Romance people even near Skopije. The last members of these neolatin communities in Dardania (and Kosovo) were transferred to Bosnia by the Turks, according to the historian Malcolm.