Last modified: 2016-06-29 by alex danes
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The colours of the Romanian flag is a heritage from the Dacians, the
Romanians' ancestors. The first written description of the flag is since 14
April 535. It was made by Roman Emperor Justinian (527 - 565) in his book
Novella XI, and representing the colours of Dacia. Novella XI is now in
Vatican's Library. The Latin text: "Ex parte dextra, in prima divisione, scutum
rubrum, in cuius medio videtur turris, significans utramque Daciam, in secunda
divisione, scutum coelesti, cum (signum) tribus Burris, quarum duae e lateribus
albae sunt, media vero aurae". (Dr. Marius Bizerea, "Tricolorul românesc peste
veacuri", "Magazin istoric", nr. 9/1970, p.50- 51).
Michael the Brave who reunited all 3 Romanian provinces (Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia) in 1600, reunited also the 3 colours red, yellow and blue. (" Tricolorul romanesc: marturie a vechimii si dainuirii neamului nostru", prof. Gheorghe Vasilescu).
Aurelian Macovei, 7 January 2008
My Latin is not very good, but it's something like "On the dexter side a red
field with a castle for Dacia, on the other side (the sign of) Burris on a
celestial field." The rest is even more iffy; something like: "these two being
white on the side and gold in the middle"?
Curiously, for "field" it uses the word "scutum", which I associate with "shield". Yet, this is supposedly to be long before the 9th century.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 8 January 2008
It does not convince me fully. If one searches for the Latin text in the
internet, only Romanian pages citing this turn up (some of them saying the date
is 535, some 553). No other pages show this text, although most (all?) of the
Novellae should be found online. One problem might be, that most of the Novellae
("new, additional" legislation after the well-known main part of the Corpus
Iuris Civilis) were originally published in Greek, so Latin translations (of
later date?) might differ somewhat. My short search does cast some doubt about
the correct citation as well, i.e. what exactly is "book XI" of the Novellae? Is
this the running number (of 168 known novellae) or the number of a compilation
volume? I would like to find the original text (ad fontes!).
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 8 January 2008
I did some research on this topic. The results I present here, are preliminary, though. The problem is that Marius Bizerea has successfully obscured his traces.
"Insuper constituimus, tibique damus hic descripta armorum insignia: videlicet: scutum in septem partes divisum; in medio eius, scutum aureum, cui inest aquila dupplex, alba et nigra, quae significat Emblema Imperiale, cuius capita coronata sunt purpureo Imperiali diademate, ex parte dextra in prima divisione scutum rubrum, in cuius medio videtur turris, significans utramque Daciam, in secunda divisione scutum coeleste, cum tribus Burris, quarum duae e lateribus albae sunt, media vero aurea, quae indicat Albaniam superiorem; in tertia sectione scutum album cum uno Leone, indicante Epyrum; ex parte vero sinistra in sectione scutum coelestis coloris cum dupplici cruce aurea, exprimente secundam Pannoniam; in secunda divisione scutum rubrum, in cuius medio est caper nigri coloris, significans Macedoniam: et in tertia sectione scutum viridis coloris, et in eo duo brachia vestita, stemma aureum septem margaritis gemmatum tenentia, quae indicant Thessaliam: duo quoque emicant astra aurea, unum in media superioris scuti parte, et alterum in inferiori, quae complementum symbolicum ceterarum terrarum, et provinciarum terminant. Super dictis emblematibus apparet crux erecta triformis, significans dignitatem summi sacerdotii, corona Ducali tecta; in dextra eius parte gladius aureus absolutam in temporali authoritatem indicans: e sinistra vero pedum Pastorale, dictans authoritatem in spirituali, quae omnia cooperiuntur Pileo rubro, longo funicolo cum longis nodis et aureis fimbriis circumplexo, quo caput tuum adornabis comparens in omnibus publicis functionibus."My translation:
"Furthermore we resolve and give you here the described armorial bearings, namely: a shield divided in seven parts, in the center thereof a golden shield, on which there is a double eagle, white and black, which signifies the emblem of the Emperor, the heads of which are crowned by a purple imperial diadem; on the right side in the first division a red shield, on which appears a tower, for both Dacias; in the second division a blue shield, with three cows, the two lateral ones being white, but the central one golden, which means Upper Albania; in the third division a white shield with one lion, meaning Epyrus; on the left side, however, in the first division a shield of blue colour with a golden double cross, representing Pannonia Secunda; in the second division a red shield, on which there is a goat of black colour, signifying Macedonia; and in the third division a shield of green colour, and on it two clothed arms, holding a golden wreath adorned with seven pearls, that means Thessalia; and there appear also two golden stars, one in the middle of the upper shield and the other in the lower part, which limit the symbolic complements of the other countries and provinces. Over said emblems appears a threefold erect cross, signifying the dignity of the highest priest, covered with a ducal crown; on its right side a golden sword indicating the absolute power in temporal matters; on its left side, however, a crozier, meaning the authority in spiritual matters; all of them are covered by a red cap, embraced by a long rope with long knots and golden fringe, with which you will adorn your head whenever you consider in all public functions."Almost final conclusions
My opinion is this:
(See our versions of the English and Romanian language pages here)
As a Romanian, I can tell you a large part of this is based on unreliable and
biased information, and, largely, on wishful thinking. Its source is qualified
enough, but it did not bother to look beyond the shroud of what is, in fact,
very recent myth.
1) "Sigillography attests that at certain historical stages, the Romanian flag had the three colours arranged horizontally"Nothing like that! First of all, there is no medieval sigillography for Romania, just for its individual Principalities. There were no common symbols, other than incidental (during certain reigns, as a union of -usually- the seals of Moldavia and Wallachia). The flags (always several) had a wide variety of colours (most I have seen were either white or green) and stood for army units. And also, flags in Transylvania, a polity linked to the Hungarian crown throughout its medieval history, should not be included in any professional description.
2) "Moreover, recent research indicates that they existed even on the Dacian standard presented on Trajan's Column in Rome. This standard was of a special form: a bright metal wolf's head hanging from which were long coloured bands of cloth. As the wind blew, the standard gave a whiz that scared the enemy and encouraged those who carried it in battle. In critical moments, hiding the standard so that it should not be taken by the enemy was a custom common with several peoples, including therefore the Dacians, the Daco-Romans and the Romanians."I challenge anybody to try reconstruct colours on a marble monument. The wolf standard did exist (with a very unclear meaning and purpose), but linking the Dacians and Romanians of today belongs to the realm of anti-science. Incidentally, the description that the site gives of the Phanariotes is absurdly biased and out-of-date.
The flag appeared as a fact (and not legendary "recent research") at some point
in the early XIXth century, probably introduced by a prince of Wallachia. It's
hard to find info about this, but I remember that it was allowed by the Porte in
the 1830s (it makes the story about it being Tudor's standard, a decade earlier,
highly doubtful - I don't know the flag in the Military Museum, but I know that
the expos in there have never been updated since Ceausescu). The prince, I
think, was from the Ghica (also known as Ghika) family. The flag was
horizontally red-yellow or yellow-red, with a crest on blue - even a blue crest,
it's not clear to me (either the Wallachian eagle or both it and the Moldavian
bull's head). Flags of this combination of colours were spawned individually in
the both of the extra-Carpathian principalities, out of obscure but recent
traditions (no later than the late 1700s, if not the early 1800s). These are
featured on the Moldavia and
Wallachia pages. It became standard to speak of blue-red for Moldavia and
yellow-blue for Wallachia, with the 1848 Revolution placing them together (the
Revolution was the very first
traceable event to have a Union as its goal, no matter what the folklore
may be). With it started a Romantic re-invention of the past: the two
flags would feature in paintings from the period, but dealing with
XIVth-XVIth century subjects. At the same time, the colours became
symbols to the Romanians living in other regions, such as Transylvania,
but never actually stood the regions as such. They were "extended" to
the idea of a Romanian nation, but were not symbols of geographical
entities other than Moldavia and Wallachia. In parallel, it was also
what happened with the name - the word "Romanian" was very loosely used
prior to the XIXth century, and is to be found mostly in Wallachian
tradition - the proper name for this principality, in our language, is
"Tara Romaneasca" (roughly: "The land of the Romanians" - arguably,
connected somehow to the fact that serfs in this part of the country
were known as "rumani", than from any direct connection with the Romans
- although our language is, beyond doubt, a Romance one). Also, the flag
was and was not a symbol of resistance: the Austro-Hungarians made sure
to limit any nationalism in Transylvania and the Banat - parts of the
very centralised Hungarian half - but had no problem with the three
colours featuring on the crest of autonomous Bukovina, placed there
through local initiative.
Dan Dima, 7 September 2005
"Balkan Ghosts" is a 1992 travelogue by Robert Kaplan. Two notable flag mentions are made, both about Romania. On page 143, in the chapter "The Painted Monasteries of Bukovina" a folk etymology of the Romanian flag is offered (perhaps somewhat self-servingly) by a tour guide:
"Now, do you understand why our national flag is red, blue and yellow?" asked Mihai. "Because they are the reigning colors of our great monasteries: red for Humor, blue for Voronets and yellow for Moldovitsa."Eugene Ipavec, 30 December 2009
This explenation for the Romanian colors is pure
fantasy. Not to mention that in the 19th century, when the flag was born, Humor,
Voronets and Moldovitsa were part of the Duchy of Bukovina,
itself part of the Habsburg Empire.
Alex Danes, 30 December 2009