AFTER the departure of the Tartar hordes about the middle of the thirteenth century, the Roumanians of the mountains gradually descended into the plains and occupied the lands, which their forefathers had abandoned centuries earlier. For a generation after the last of the barbarians had gone, no settled government seems to have existed in the country, though we hear of petty chiefs, who exercised authority over their immediate neighbours. But in 1290 a Roumanian leader, named Radou Negrou, or Rudolph the Black, came down from the Carpathians and established his sway over Wallachia. A little later, a Roumanian colony, which had made its home in Transylvania, sought to escape from the yoke of the Hungarians, to whom that country belonged, by migrating to Moldavia. A picturesque legend tells us how Dragoche, the leader of this band, halted one day on the banks of a stream, which flowed through a charming region, abounding in game. Here the
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
chief resolved to remain, so he christened the river Moldava, and the land Moldavia after his faithful hound, Molda. Such is the legendary account of the foundation of the two Danubian principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia, which continued to exist in one form or another, until their union under a single ruler in the present century.
The early princes have not left much mark upon history. Radou Negrou and his first five successors, whose reigns together fill about a century, were chiefly occupied in repelling the claims of the kings of Hungary to their newly-constituted state and resisting the efforts of the lopes to convert them to the Roman Catholic faith. But the matrimonial alliances, which they made with the Servian monarchs at a time when Servia was at its zenith, show that they must have been personages of considerable influence. The Moldavian rulers were simultaneously engaged in throwing off the last vestiges of Hungarian authority, and in extending their dominions towards the Black Sea. But in 1386 a strong man arose in Wallachia, who is known in the annals of his country as Mirtschea the Old, or the Great. Like several Balkan rulers, to whom the latter epithet has been applied, Mirtschea obtained the throne by means of a horrible domestic tragedy. It is said that he killed his brother and seized his crown. But such deeds of violence were so common in that age that they attracted little notice, while the appearance of a new and terrible enemy in the country demanded the presence of a vigorous ruler in Wallachia. In 1391 the Turks for the first time crossed the Danube.
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
Already the Roumanians had come in contact with their future masters south of that river. Nearly thirty years earlier a Roumanian contingent had assisted the Serbs in their disastrous attempt to recapture Adrianople from the Mussulmans, and Roumanian soldiers fought by the side of their fellow-Christians on the fatal field of Kosovo, where the Servian Empire fell in 1389. The Sultan Bajazet sent an army across the Danube to punish Mirtschca for this act of hostility. Mirtschea, weakened by the destruction of a large part of his army at Kossovo, was defeated, captured, and sent for a time as a prisoner to Broussa in Asia Minor. He was, however, soon set free on condition of paying an annual tribute to the Turks. On the registers of the Sublime Porte Wallachia is inscribed as a tributary state as far back as 1391. This "first capitulation," as it has been called, provided that "the country should be governed by its own laws, and that its ruler should have the power of making war and peace." But the document proceeds to state that "in return for Our great condescension in having accepted this rayala amongst the other subjects of Our Empire, he will be bound to pay into Our Treasury, every year, the sum of six thousand red piastres of the country." But Mirtschea did not long remain the obedient vassal of the Sultan. He made an alliance with his old enemy, the King of Hungary, against the common foe, and the two allies took part in the great battle of Nicopolis in 1396, when the Turks gained a signal victory over the fine flower of the Christian chivalry. Recognising that all was lost, Mirtschea withdrew to
DEATH OF MIRTSCHEA.
his own dominions, where the Turks soon followed him. But this time they were not successful The Wallachian army routed them with such slaughter that they retired, and the defeat and capture of the Sultan Bajazet by Timour the Tartar at Angora a few years later gave rise to a disputed succession, which was most favourable to the Roumanian cause. Mirtschea, who was not only a good soldier but a clever diplomatist, played off one Turkish pretender against another till the accession of Mohammed 1. reunited the scattered forces of the Ottoman Empire and forced him to submit. For the second time Wallachia bowed before a Turkish suzerain, while preserving her local independence. Moldavia, more fortunate because more remote, had hitherto escaped the Ottoman yoke. But she had been forced to acknowledge the overlordship of her Northern neighbour, the King of Poland, who regarded her chief, or voïvode, as his vassal.
Mirtschea died in 1418, not long after this second submission to the Turks. Had he been born at a period when they were less powerful, he might have founded a strong kingdom. But, like all the other minor monarchs of his age, he had to yield before the invincible Janissaries. His countrymen cherish his memory, and one of the poets of modern Roumania has sung how
"The aged Mirtschea, firm and undismayed,
With his braves, a handful, meets the furious raid."
The next quarter of a century, in both Wallachia and Moldavia, was marked by civil wars, which dis
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
tracted the principalities when they ought to have been preparing for a struggle against the Turks. In both of them the law of succession to the throne was the cause of great mischief. There was no fixed system of heredity, but every member of the reigning family had the right to succeed if elected by the nation, represented by an assembly of great nobles and clergy. If the last prince had only one son, all went smoothly; but if he had more than one, the land was honeycombed with intrigues, and there were as many parties as members of the princely family. Nor was that all. When one of the candidates had at last seated himself on the throne, he often found it necessary to secure the support of some stronger power to keep him there. Thus, Moldavia became the shuttlecock of the rival sovereigns of Poland and Hungary. Sometimes the competing candidates for the throne divided the country between them, and thus the confusion was increased. At one period we find three different princes reigning in Moldavia alone, all ready to purchase power, such as it was, at any price. "We cannot defend ourselves," said the advisers of one weak Moldavian ruler about this time, " we must bow our heads before the accursed thing." But in 1456 and 1457 two strong princes ascended the thrones of the principalities; these were V lad "the Impaler" or "the Devil," in Wallachia, and Stephen the Great in Moldavia.
The hideous surname, which history has bestowed upon this Wallachian prince, was fully deserved. No man, even in that age, was so cruel. Contemporary
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
writers describe him as a tiger, who thirsted for human blood. In six years he put twenty thousand persons to death by the most horrible tortures- a record which it would be hard to surpass even in the sanguinary annals of the Orient. But Vlad not only craved the blood of his victims; he took a fiendish delight in mocking their agonies when under torture. His cruelty had, at least, the effect of suppressing brigandage and intimidating the disloyal nobles. When the Sultan sent an army against him, not a single man of them dared to desert him, although his brother was on the side of the Turks. Foreign merchants had no fear of travelling with large sums of money through a land where thieves met with such a terrible fate. Vlad chafed under the ignominy to which the puny successors of Mirtschea had submitted, and refused to send the annual tribute of five hundred youths, which Wallachia was expected to furnish for the corps of Janissaries. Mohammed II. headed an army against this audacious ruler, but Vlad, disguised as a Turk, spied out the Turkish camp and utterly routed the invaders, impaling those whom he took prisoners. But he did not long keep his crown. Stephen the Great of Moldavia, whom he had placed on the throne of that country, attacked him in 1462 while he was, pursuing the Turks, and forced him to seek refuge in Hungary. Wallachia came under the influence of the sister-principality after his flight, and, though he was afterwards restored, he fell by the hand of an assassin. Moldavia rued ere long the fatal blunder of her prince in dethroning the man, who, in spite of his cruelties, had been a
STEPHEN THE GREAT.
bulwark of the two principalities against the Turks, soon to become masters of both.
Stephen the Great, who owed his crown to Viad the Impaler, spent most of his long reign of nearly fifty years in constant wars, which he believed to be the best means of keeping up the courage of his people. As he was generally successful, he was very popular, and his physician has given a glowing description of the prosperity of Moldavia under his warlike rule. He acted on the principle of dealing with his enemies singly. Confident in his star, and convinced that sooner or later the Turks would invade his country, he preferred that the struggle should take place during his lifetime. He had incurred their enmity by deposing their puppet, who had followed Vlad on the Wallachian throne, and endeavoured accordingly to form a league of Christian powers against them. At Racova in 1475 the first battle between a Moldavian and a Turkish army was fought. By the device of placing a number of trumpeters in a wood, Stephen made the Turks believe that they had not one but two armies in front of them. The complete victory, which he won, excited the intense admiration of his contemporaries, who addressed him as the "fittest chief of a European coalition against Islam."
The Venetians were so impressed with his importance that they despatched a'special envoy to his Court, and the Pope wrote to him as a defender of Christendom. But the next year the Turks had their revenge on a battlefield, which was henceforth called Valea Ala, or "the White Valley," from the
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
number of Moldavian soldiers whose bones lay bleaching there. Stephen, nothing daunted, collected a fresh force a few years later, and chased the enemy from the country. The story goes that his mother bade him return to his army, when he was inclined to despair of victory, and a Roumanian poet has represented her as urging him to-
" Hasten to thy brave ones; for country fall;Stephen returned at her bidding, and conquered. But he was wise enough to foresee the ultimate triumph of the Ottomans, and on his deathbed is said to have advised his son Bogdan to make a treaty with the Porte. After this advice he secured the succession by ordering the instant decapitation of the nobles whom he suspected of intriguing against his successor. This last act of a dying man sufficiently shows how little men thought of such crimes in Roumania four centuries ago. The careers of Vlad the Impaler and Stephen the Great are characteristic of their era.
Then a mother's love with wreaths shall deck thy pall."
Moldavia now speedily made submission to the Turks. Stephen's father had paid tribute as far back as 1456; Stephen's son, who succeeded in 1504, concluded an arrangement with the Sultan nine years later, in which he promised to pay an annual sum of 11,000 piastres, forty falcons, and forty mares, besides pledging himself to assist his suzerain in time of need. In return, the Sultan guaranteed the integrity of the country, forbade the erection of mosques
POWER OF THE TURKS.
and the residence of Turks within it, and granted the people the right to elect their own princes. But the subjection of Moldavia remained merely nominal until another of her rulers, driven out of the country by dissensions, purchased the aid of the Turks by further concessions. Not only was the tribute in-creased, but a force of five hundred Turkish horsemen was sent to guard the prince, whose son was detained at Constantinople as a hostage for his good behaviour. The degenerate descendants of Mirtschea had done the same in Wallachia, and the system of buying the support of the Sultan made that sovereign the arbiter of Roumania's destinies. One zealous candidate for the throne even adopted the Mahommedan faith, in order to curry favour with his patrons. As long as Hungary preserved her independence, her influence was usually exerted against that of the Turks; but, when she too fell before them, they were absolute masters of the Danubian principalities, and could make and re-make princes as they chose. The ladies of the Sultan's harem were won over by the wives of ambitious Roumanians, and used their insidious influence with their Imperial master for this or that party in the principalities. All the artifices of Oriental diplomacy were employed to win the favour of those who had crowns to dispose of, and the vendors showed absolute indifference to the claims of any save the highest bidder. One of these purchasers was a Greek adventurer, who had become a Protestant under the influence of the Reformation in Germany, and had fought in the armies of the Most Catholic King of Spain! This remarkable person,
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
having once obtained the dignity of prince by the most open bribery, set himself to benefit his adopted country, founded an excellent school near Jassy, endeavoured to check divorce, even then a fashionable Roumanian foible, and built a Lutheran church, the first of its kind in Moldavia. By far the most beautiful religious edifice of Roumania, the celebrated Cathedral of Courtea d'Ardges, on the slopes of the Carpathians, dates from this period. Erected by Neagoe Bassarab, who was prince of Wallachia about 1520, and one of the few peace-loving and artistic rulers of his day, this splendid monument may compare with some of the finest efforts of ecclesiastical architecture. The story runs that the founder, while a prisoner at Constantinople, was employed by the Sultan to design a mosque. But the materials proved to be more than sufficient, and the architect obtained leave to transport those which were not required to his native country. Out of these he built the cathedral, as a tablet outside it informs the traveller. But the work seemed as though it would never be finished. Neagoe ordered his assistant architect, Manole, to complete it without delay, and the latter, fearing for his life, resolved to build a live woman into the foundations, in accordance with a horrible custom. He summoned his men to decide upon the victim, and they agreed that the woman who first appeared with their food next day should be doomed to this terrible fate. In order to make the chances equal, none of them was to tell his wife what might be in store for her on the morrow. Manole alone kept his promise, and, in consequence, his wife, unconscious of her fate, came first on the following day.
STATE OF SOCIETY.
A Roumanian poem tells how he carried out the agreement, and with his own hand built his wife Utza into the wall, and from that time the cathedral fell no more, for "Utza within the wall upholds it." But the guilty masons met with a frightful punishment. So loud were their boasts, when the cathedral was at last finished, that Neagoc had the scaffblding removed and left them to die of hunger on the roof. In their despair, they tried to leap down, only to meet with certain death on' the stones below. Last of all, Manole approached the parapet and prepared to jump. But as he came near, he heard the cries of his wife, and fell senseless on the rocks. A fountain, called by his name, commemorates his fall. The cathedral, restored in the seventeenth century, is a striking proof of the taste of the prince who founded and the prince who renovated it. It shows that even at a period when Wallachia had sunk politically low, she was not without refinements of art, while the philosophical writings of Neagoe, couched in the form of precepts addressed to his son, are among the earliest literary productions of Roumania.
The state of society during this period was based upon the feudal system. The nobles, or boyards, as they were called, were a privileged class, and did what was right in their own eyes. They made and unmade princes, promoted civil wars and oppressed the peasantry, as they chose. All the great offices of the principalities were in their hands. One of their number was logothete, or Lord High Chancellor, and kept the great seal; another was Groom of the Bedchamber; a third was Minister of Finance. Lesser nobles held
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
the posts of Chief Cook, Master of the Horse, and Head Janitor. The boyards paid no direct taxes, and in the beginning of the present century were granted complete exemption from all taxation whatsoever. They were entitled to make the peasants work on their lands and exact a tithe of the poor man's crop. But in the earlier days of the principalities, the peasant was not a serf, tied to the soil, but could migrate as he pleased, and was permitted to hold property of his own. Agriculture was the chief occupation of the people, horses and cattle were the greatest source of wealth. Genoese merchants drove a good trade in velvets and silks with the luxurious nobles, who were always noted for their love of fine clothes, and the Roumanian town of Giurgevo derived its name from San Giorgio, the patron saint of Genoa. The prince always reserved to himself the right of pre-emption, and in this, as in all other respects, he was autocratic. The sole check upon his power was the fear of a rival, supported by a faction of the nobles. He enjoyed supreme judicial power, his will was law; he could order off an innocent person to instant execution without a murmur being heard. Violence was the characteristic of the epoch, and human life was accounted cheap. Hence the population did not increase. There were few towns of any size, and in Roumania, as in Servia, there was no fixed capital. At different periods there were four capitals of Wallachia and two of Moldavia. Cimpulung, Courtea d'Ardges, Tirgovischtea, and Bucharest were selected one after the other as the seat of the Wallachian Government, while Jassy succeeded Suceava
as the Moldavian metropolis. With the final choice of Bucharest and Jassy as capitals, the nobles abandoned country life and gravitated towards those cities. Their main employment came to be appointments at Court, and they regarded their stay on their estates as little short of exile. The nobles, who held no State office, were gradually looked upon as a separate class with the special name of mazili, and ultimately became so impoverished, that they were hardly distinguishable from the peasants. The one civilising force at this period was the Church. Favoured by the princes and respected by the people, the clergy exercised considerable political influence, while they had a monopoly of such science as existed. Enormous gifts were made to the monasteries of both principalities, and some idea of their wealth may be gained from the fact that, when their property was secularised in 1863, the State received an annual revenue of
£1,000,000 by the transaction, not including the vast tracts of forest which belonged to them. By means of their religious authority, the Roumanian clergy acquired a larger share of wealth than any other class, and the wildest of Roumanian princes acknowledged the favourite maxim of the priesthood, "the sabre does not cut off the bowed-down head."
Towards the end of the sixteenth century two princes revived the old spirit of resistance to the Turks. John the Terrible of Moldavia and Michael the Brave of Wallachia, stand out from among their contemporaries like Stephen the Great and Mirtschea the Old in earlier times. John obtained the throne by starting as a diamond merchant at
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
Constantinople, and thus securing the patronage of high Turkish officials. Thanks to their support, he
became prince of Moldavia in 1572, whereupon he turned round upon his supporters and summoned his
MICHAEL THE BRAVE.
people to follow him against the Mussulman host, which threatened him with deposition. Hated by the nobles the "terrible" prince found that his appeal excited the utmost enthusiasm among the masses. Strongly backed by them, he routed the Turkish armies even without the assistance of the nobility. But one of their number, who had remained with him and had been rewarded with an important command, sold him to the enemy. Faithful to his faithful peasants, he refused to surrender till the last gasp. At length the Turks overpowered him, and their cruel commander ordered his body to be quartered.
The career of Michael the Brave is perhaps the most striking episode in Roumanian history. His brief but brilliant reign illuminated for a moment the darkness which had fallen over Wallachia, and he is regarded by the Roumanians of to-day, who have erected an equestrian statue in his honour at Bucharest, as one of their national heroes. His revolt against the Turkish yoke was the last attempt of the people to recover their independence. Michael ascended the throne of Wallachia in 1593 by the usual means- intrigues at Constantinople, which cost him a fortune. It was the importunity of the Turkish usurers, from whom he had borrowed, which drove him to extremities. These gentry besieged him in his palace and filled the adjoining streets with their constant altercations. At Iast the prince could tolerate their complaints no longer. He summoned them all to the palace under pretext of dividing a sum of money between them. No sooner were they all inside than he gave the
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
signal to his soldiers to set fire to the building. Not a single Turk escaped; account-books and creditors alike perished in the flames. The Wallachs imitated the example of their prince; everywhere the Turks were ruthlessly massacred. These "Wallachian Vespers" were at once followed by war. The Turks, finding that all attempts to seize Michael by treachery failed, sent an army of forty thousand men into Wallachia with orders to depose him. Three successive Roumanian victories freed the country from the invaders, and when they rallied their beaten forces and renewed the attack, Michael crossed the Danube on the ice, and utterly routed them. Aided by the Moldavian prince, Aaron, he made himself master of both banks of the Danube and ravaged the Turkish provinces as far as the walls of Adrianople. The booty, which he took back to his own country, was immense. Roumania was for the moment lost to the Turks, and Constantinople and other Turkish towns, which largely depended upon the principalities for their supplies of meat, were almost starved. At the Turkish capital the confusion, caused by Michael's triumph, was increased by the fact that the Sultan did not know whom to send against him.
Finding, however, that none of their other plans could be carried out until Wallachia was subdued, the Turks resolved upon another campaign against Michael. The latter, anxious not to fight alone, recognised the nominal authority of Sigismund Bathori, Prince of Transylvania, and consented to act as his lieutenant. In theory he now became the vassal of Sigismund, pledged himself to execute no
DEFEAT OF THE TURKS.
treaties without the latter's approval, and accepted the decisions of the Transylvanian Diet, in which twelve Wallachian nobles were henceforth to sit as deputies. But although Sigismund actually deposed Aaron of Moldavia, and assumed the high-sounding title of "Prince of Transylvania, Moldavia, and Wallachia," his suzerainty over Michael was merely nominal. It had the desired effect of ensuring his active co-operation against the Turks. In a narrow defile, the Thermopyla: of Roumania, between Giurgevo and Bucharest, Michael awaited the advance of the enemy with a tiny band of followers. The Grand Vizier unfurled the standard of the Prophet at a critical moment of the battle, and Michael at the head of his men performed prodigies of valour. The victory remained with the Roumanians, and three Pashas were among the victims of that day. The Grand Vizier with difficulty escaped death in the marshes which bordered the road. Upon the news of this success, won on August 13, 1595, Sigismund marched to the aid of his vassal with a large force, and the allied armies completed the rout of the invaders. One place after another fell into their, hands, and the Turks fled before the "dog" Michael, as they contemptuously called their deadly enemy. Now was the time to carry the war into their country and deal a decisive blow at the Ottoman Empire in its own provinces. The Bulgarians had sent to Michael, promising to rise against their Turkish masters, if he would only come over and help them. But the indolence of Sigismund deprived Michael of his most valuable ally, and in 1596 he made peace
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
with the Sultan, who sent a splendid embassage to the prince whom he had been unable to conquer. Michael was assured of the pardon and favour of the august ruler, whose armies he had scattered before him. It is interesting to note that he availed himself of the good offices of the English Ambassador at Constantinople in his negotiations with the Sultan.
Michael had accomplished his great object of freeing his land from the Turkish yoke. He now set to work to realise the grand idea of uniting the whole Roumanian people in one nation by annexing not only Moldavia but Transylvania to his own principality. For a moment he succeeded in making thg dream of a Daco-Roman realm an accomplished fact, and his success, temporary though it was, has not been without influence on the Roumanians of our own time, who look upon him as "the representative of the national unity." He first attacked Transylvania, where Sigismund had been succeeded by his cousin, Cardinal Andrew Bathori, who was ready to become the vassal of the Sultan. A single battle placed that country, the "citadel of ancient Dacia," in his power. This decisive blow was struck at Schellenberg in 1599. The cardinal fought at the head of his troops and hurled the bitterest reproaches at the enemy, who had so treacherously attacked him. As he fled from the field, some shepherds fell upon him and slew him, and Michael entered the Transylvanian capital as a conqueror. His entry was long remembered for the kingly pomp which he displayed. His richly-ornamented scimitar, his costly mantle of silk and gold, his hand of gipsy musicians, and the
A "BIG ROUMANIA."
roar of his cannon proved to his new subjects that the victor was no ordinary man. By his conquest of Transylvania, a country reputed almost impregnable by reason of its mountain fastnesses, Michael won for himself a front rank among the warriors of his age. But the German Emperor, who regarded Transylvania as a fief, became suspicious of the ulterior motives of the prince, who pretended to be acting in his name, but had been welcomed as a deliverer by the Roumanian peasantry of the conquered land. For the moment, however, Michael was unmolested. The common people were devoted to him because he was of their own blood; the Hungarian nobles, who formed the dominant class in Transylvania, concealed from fear the hate which they felt for him.
Master of Transylvania, Michael next turned his attention to Moldavia. He assembled a large army, under the audacious pretext of putting an end to the Ottoman Empire, and then suddenly entered Moldavia in 1600, "in the name of the German Emperor," who was greatly opposed to the scheme. The campaign was as short as that in Transylvania. One victory sufficed to crush all resistance, and Michael was lord of the whole Roumanian race. All its three divisions were united under his sway, and he proudly styled himself, "Prince of all Wallachia, Transylvania, and Moldavia." But this union was of short duration. Michael's "big Roumania" collapsed almost as soon as it had been built up.
Michael had committed a tactical blunder in Transylvania by the severity with which he repressed the revolt of the Roumanian peasants against their
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
Hungarian masters. He thus alienated the sympathies of the class which was devoted to him without gaining those of the nobles, who regarded him as an alien, and only awaited a favourable opportunity to overthrow him. The Emperor had grown more and more suspicious; the Hungarian malcontents worked on his fears; his emissaries invited them to rise against Michael. Surrounded by traitors on every side, Michael's one chance would have been to encourage the peasants to attack their superiors. But it was too late. The mercenaries in his army had preyed upon the wretched country folk and thus completed what Michael himself had begun. The Roumanians of Transylvania were less eager than ever to take up arms in defence of a prince who, although a fellow-countrymen, punished their misdeeds with severity and allowed his troops to plunder their homes. The feeling of a common nationality was not strong enough to counteract grievances so practical as these. Meanwhile the nobles, aided by the Imperial General Basta, raised the standard of revolt. Michael threatened the Emperor with the terrors of a Turkish alliance, pointing out that the Sultan would willingly grant him undisturbed possession of all Poumania as the price of his support. But he hesitated to carry out his threat, and while he hesitated, Basta hastened to attack him. The battle took place near the village of Mirischlau in the autumn of 1600. The wily "Italian hound," as Michael termed his adversary, pretended to retreat. Michael fell into the trap, was taken at a disadvantage during the pursuit, and defeated. When he saw that
all was lost, he bade his officers bring him the flag, a raven with a red cross in its beak upon a field of green. Hiding it in his breast, he rode at full speed from the field, pursued by the enemy. He came to a river where there was no ford, and it looked as if he would certainly be taken prisoner. But his trusty steed swam the stream, and Michael was saved. He now betook himself to the Carpathians, where the Hungarian nobles sought him high and low. A price was put upon his body, alive or dead, and most of his followers forsook him. Moldavia revolted; Transylvania he had lost; even Wallachia was taken from him. In his despair, he took the bold step of throwing himself at the feet of the German Emperor. He presented himself at the Imperial Court at Vienna early in 1601, and after a somewhat cold reception, recovered the favour of that sovereign. The fact was that, since his defeat, the Transylvanian nobles had restored their old prince, Sigismund Bathori, and the Emperor preferred even Michael to him. Besides, Transylvania was the bulwark of the Empire against the Turks, and a strong arm was needed to defend it. Accordingly, Michael was appointed Viceroy of that country, and commissioned with an army for the purpose of deposing; Sigismund. In conjunction with his old enemy, Basta, Michael made short work of that prince. But the jealousy of the two allies soon provoked a catastrophe. Basta hated Michael, and Michael despised Basta, while each regarded the other as a rival. The Italian resolved at last to "remove" the Roumanian from out of his path. At a moment, when his enemy was off his guard, he
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
ordered a body of mercenaries to arrest him as a traitor. When the captain of the band summoned him to yield, he sprang up from the bed on which he was lying in his tent, and vowed that he would sooner die. But before he could reach his sword, he fell, pierced through the body. Not content with his death, the assassins cut off his head with his own weapon. His few faithful followers dispersed, and Basta had nothing; more to fear from them. But the Emperor refused to reward the murderer of a man who, with all his faults, was the greatest Roumanian of them all.
No other Roumanian hero achieved so much in so short a space of time as Michael the Brave. His whole reign was only eight years long, for he died in 1601, yet he had compressed into it the events of a generation. The results of his policy were quickly obtained, and as quickly lost. He made his unfortunate people pay heavily for the glory of his conquests. Having to maintain a large army of mercenaries, and receiving scant subsidies from the Emperor, he had to raise funds on his own account. He could not safely extort money from the Wallachian boyards, because he relied upon their loyalty while he was absent on his campaigns. He did not consider it politic to increase the burdens of the conquered countries, and actually lowered the taxes of Moldavia, so that he was driven to oppress the poor peasants of Wallachia, who were too humble to resist. In order to meet his demands, many of them gave up their little farms, and sold themselves and their children as serfs for cash down. Villages, which could not pay
THE TWO PRINCIPALITIES.
the taxes, were sometimes confiscated by the prince, and the inhabitants chained to the soil. In short, he found political support among the nobles, rather than the people, and accordingly favoured the former at the expense of the latter. He would have succeeded better had he "taken the people into partnership," instead of treating them as food for powder or tax-paying machines. His policy was thus the exact opposite of that of John the Terrible in Moldavia, who relied upon the peasantry and was hated by the nobles. It was, more than anything else, the lack of popular support, which rendered the work of Michael the Brave so ephemeral. He endeavoured to make up for the want of it by diplomatic devices, playing off one great power against another, now leaning towards the Emperor, now appearing to incline towards his old enemies the Turks. While he averted the political decline of his country for a short space of time, he accelerated its economic ruin by the legal sanction of serfdom. The condition of the peasantry became visibly worse from his time on-wards, and an oligarchy of privileged nobles tended more and more to concentrate power in its own hands. Instead of combining with other Christian princes in a league for the permanent emancipation of their lands from the Turkish yoke, he frittered away his resources on other, though less important, schemes of conquest. He is said to have meditated an even larger extension of his dominions. But no Roumanian kingdom could have stood, so long as the Turks were to be feared.
With Michael the heroic age of Roumanian history
INFLUENCE OF FOREIGNERS.
closes, and the Ottoman ascendency becomes more marked. Hitherto, attempts had been made to shake it off, but now resistance seemed useless. True, the Turks never converted the principalities into a Pashalik like Bulgaria and Servia; they professed to rule the lands beyond the Danube by deputy. Hitherto, that deputy had been a native. But in the next period we shall find a new influence, that of the Greeks, making its way into Roumania, and gradually overpowering the old native families, until at last Greek governors take their place.