CHANGES IN WALLACHIAN TOWNS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE MODERN TIMES. A CASE STUDY: THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY SERVANTS

Laurentiu Radvan

Abstract


This paper seeks to evaluate the role played by certain social groups in the changes occurring in Wallachia (historical province in modern-day Romania) at the end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern times. Ever since the 14th century, urban centres emerging in the area between the Carpathians and the Danube followed a Central-European pattern, with representative local institutions (with a Judex and a council of 12 Bürger in charge of town's affairs) and relative autonomy (legal and economic rights, tax exemptions and so on). Although on the outskirts of Europe, the towns in the Romanian-inhabited area were also subject to the changes that swept through the continent after 1500. The central authority gradually became more powerful and intrusive, with a decrease in the role played by urban institutions. This process runs parallel to towns being “infiltrated” by new groups of people, who were more connected to the ruler than to the town community. Even though they would come to share the same place, the same streets and churches, and the same town domain with the townspeople, the newcomers had an advantage: they were not placed under the authority of the Judex and the town council. These were the military servants, called the roşi, due to the colour of the clothes they wore in battle (“roşu” = red), accompanied into towns by the slujitori (=servants, literally), divided into mounted and foot soldiers. They were all freemen and held first and foremost military duties, their role increasing as the rulers could no longer rely on the country’s army. The roşi were well-to-do small nobles (called boyars), who owned land, while the slujitori were more modest in terms of wealth and origin, many descending from landless peasants. For this reason, they were allowed to settle into towns and to work the land on the ruler-owned town domain. This is also how they would become competitors for the townspeople, who also enjoyed this right. The ranks of these military servants were also joined by some town inhabitants, even if they were foreigners (Greeks), who found tax exemptions and a better life more appealing. In the second half of the 17th century, as the servants rebelled (especially between 1653 and 1655), the rulers gradually diminished their numbers. An increase in the obligations towards the Ottoman Empire led to the levying of new taxes from the servants, leading to the loss of this status by those unable to pay them.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.19044/esj.2013.v9n19p%25p

DOI (PDF): http://dx.doi.org/10.19044/esj.2013.v9n19p%25p


European Scientific Journal (ESJ)

 

ISSN: 1857 - 7881 (Print)
ISSN: 1857 - 7431 (Online)

 

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