The Romanians cherish their Latin origins and language, which date from Trajan’s occupation of Dacia. The foundation of the feudal ’Danubian Principalities’ of Wallachia and Moldavia in the late 13th and early 14th centuries marks the beginning of an era. (Transylvania, also part of the modern Romania by this time, was in the hands of the Magyars). The Orthodox church and quarrelsome nobility were nearly as powerful as the princes, a balance of power which the expansionist Turks were able to manipulate after the 14th century. Wallachia and Moldavia became tribute-paying vassals without ever being formally incorporated into the Ottoman Empire. The nobility acted as the Turks’ agents until 1711 when, suspected of pro-Russian sentiments (Peter the Great was on their northern doorstep), they were replaced by Greek merchant adventurers, the Phanariots.
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