Wallachia under the Reign of Neagoe Basarab

After the death of Vlăduț, his successor to the throne of Wallachia was Neagoe, the son of the great man of state Pârvu Craiovescu. Being in this high function which, according to the tradition, should have been heired by the descendants of Basarab I, Neagoe created himself a genealogy that could prove the legitimacy of his coming to the throne. He did this in order that the country would admit him as the ruler; in realising the genealogical table he had in view some connections between the Craiovescu family and the princely one. In the papers that were emitted by his office he claimed to be the son of Basarab the Young (Țepeluș) and adopted the name of Basarab which itself evoked the descendency from Basarab, "the founder" of the country.

After Neagoe, the descendants of his family, the successors of the boyars in the Craiovescu family, used the name of "Basarab" to call themselves; the name became a patrimonial one for the new princely class.

Socio-Political Equilibrium

The reign of Neagoe Basarab signified a certain socio-political equilibrium for Wallachia, an equilibrium that has been facilitated by disturbances in the neighbouring countries. The ruler could focus his attention on the internal process of organising the country, caring on in this matter, his predecessors' best traditions. In the economical, administrative, cultural and political fields he acted according to his contemporary notion of "progress". He did his best, and generally succeeded in giving back to Wallachia its former grandeur, he made it be counted again among the countries that could take the floor and from which it was expected that their actions had signification's beyond the local character. The fact that sultan Selim was preoccupied especially with problems concerning Asia and Africa allowed Neagoe to eliminate th Ottoman infiltration's in the northern side of the Danube River.

City of Brasov

The political stability, during the reign of Neagoe had a positive reflection on the demographic plan. The country witnessed a demographic increase, which stimulated a growth of the country's incomes. This fact allowed Neagoe to achieve a work of constructions and foundations without precedent. He also renewed the military force of Wallachia.

In 1517, the armies of Wallachia and Moldavia had an important role in what was intended to be a series of crusades against the Ottomans. In 1520 Neagoe informed the inhabitants of the city of Brasov that he would help Hungary, if necessary, with 40,000 mounted and pedestrian soldiers, and that he would use the occasion of a church sanctifying to gather and to register the army.

Neagoe Basarab brought with him a wind of change in all the fields of activity at the state level and shown a deep receptivity for what the European Renaissance meant for the life of the peoples. In his time the border between Oltenia and Transylvania was settled; this fact forecasted modern times, it forecasted the appearance of the notion of "border".

Protector of art and culture

Episcopal church from Curtea de Arges

A man with a vast culture, a writer himself, Neagoe Basarab proved to be a great protector of art and culture. He knew, like other European contemporary monarchs, how to make out of this not only mere ornaments but supplementary means of action and power with which he could blind his rivals.

Being called to Wallachia on the occasion of the sanctifying of the Episcopal church from Curtea de Argeș, an architectural masterpiece of his time, Gavril Protul (the first among the Fathers Superior from Athos) elaborated between 1517 and 1519 a writing which, although dealt with Nifon's life, ex-metropolitan bishop of Wallachia, during the time of Radu the Great, was nothing else but a praise of Neagoe's image, insistently presented as belonging to the "honoured and most devoted family Basarab." A very good researcher in the domain of the Wallachian history of art, Pavel Chihaia noticed that the representation of the Basarab sovereigns in "Neagoe's Church" from Curtea de Argeș is the visual expression of the effort made by the Craiovescu family to establish relations with the great sovereigns of the past, in order to increase their political prestige.

A centre of the orthodox world
and an important cultural focus of Byzantine tradition

Considering himself a descendent of the Basarabs and looking for rapprochement to its brilliant representatives, Neagoe also pretended to be their continuer and, through them, the continuer of the Byzantine imperial tradition. In his time, Wallachia became indeed a centre of the orthodox world and an important cultural focus of Byzantine tradition. The Snagov fresco shows Neagoe with the double-headed golden eagle, sow on his red brocade clothes. Following the model of the Byzantine emperors, Neagoe wrote "Învățăturile" (The Sermons) to his son Theodose, a name that recalls the Byzantine emperor Theodose the Great. "Învățăturile" constitute a compilation work, but it includes original parts, too, which reflect a deep thinking and a brilliant literary talent. As he read very much, he assimilated elements of the Byzantine politics, which he rounded with the conclusions of his lifetime experience obeying, of course, the contemporary political principles of his time; this was achieved in "Învățăturile". In the original form "Învățăturile" represent the first larger written statement of Romanian political thinking, the first registering, with few details, of the principles of the Romanian diplomacy.

The state of prosperity in Wallachia during the reign of Neagoe Basarab was facilitated by a favourable international political concourse of events and by a wise internal rule. It was reflected in various fields of activity and had results that were situated at the same level with those achieved in countries that were less submitted to harsh historical conditions. These facts suggest what a prolonged peace would have meant to Wallachia and to the other Romanian provinces as well.

By the death of Neagoe Basarab, the socio-political equilibrium, achieved in his time, broke. At the time that the Ottomans begun, in 1521, the great offensive against Hungary, affecting Wallachia as well, a serious political crisis sustained from abroad, burst out in the northern areas of the Danube River. The frequent changing of sovereigns, as well as the robberies of the foreign armies, which penetrated the country, created a state of insecurity for the population. The people were often obliged to leave their homes as they were situated in open battlefield or on the access way of the battling armies.

Text after Ștefan Ștefănescu, Țara Românească de la Basarab I "Întemeietorul" până la Mihai Viteazul, București, Editura Academiei RSR, 1970, p.87-91.

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