Greater Wallachia or Great Vlachia (Greek: Μεγάλη Βλαχία, Megáli Vlachía) or simply Vlachia
(Βλαχία) was a province in southeastern Thessaly in
the late 12th century, and was used to denote the entire region of Thessaly
in the 13th and 14th centuries. The name derives from the Vlachs (Aromanians), who had lived across much of
Thessalian Vlachs in
the Middle Ages
The Vlachs of Thessaly first appear in
Byzantine sources in the 11th century, in the Strategikon of Kekaumenos and Anna Komnene's Alexiad. Kekaumenos, who wrote in the late 1070s, in
particular stresses both their transhumance as well as their disdain of
imperial authorities. Kekaumenos records a failed Vlach uprising of 1066,
under the unwilling leadership of Nikoulitzas
relative of his and grandson of the original Nikoulitzas, whom Emperor Basil II (r. 9761025) placed to rule over
the Thessalian Vlachs. Anna Komnene reports a Vlach settlement near Mount
1083, in connection with the campaign of her father, Alexios
I Komnenos (r.
10811118), against the Normans.
In the 12th century, the Jewish traveller Benjamin
of Tudela, who
toured the area in 1166, recorded that the town of Zetouni (Lamia) was
"situated at the foots of the hills of Vlachia". The term was
evidently not simply a geographic or ethnic designation, for a chrysobull of
III Angelos (r. 11951203) in 1198 includes the Provincia Valachie among the
districts of Thessaly where Venetian merchants were granted
exemptions, and the same information is repeated in the list of provinces
granted to Boniface of Montferrat
in the Partitio
Romaniae of 1204.
According to the Byzantinist George C. Soulis, from this information it appears that this
late 12th-century Byzantine province of Vlachia "was situated in the Mount Othrys region, occupying the area
lying between the towns of Lamia, Domokos and Halmyros".
Despite their prominence in Thessaly,
however, the Vlachs never came to rule over the region, submitting instead to
the various Greek, Latin, and later Serb rulers. Following the Fourth Crusade and the capture of Thessaly
by the Despotate
of Epirus, the
Vlachs were used by the Epirotes as elite
troops against their rivals; the 13th-century scholar George
comments on the bravery of the Megalovlachitai in the army of the ruler of
Epirus, Michael II Komnenos Doukas (r. ca. 12301268). Michael's bastard son, John, was married to a Vlach, the daughter of the
chieftain Taron, and his Vlach troopsit is unclear whether they were regular
forces or perhaps a private army raised from his estatesplayed a prominent
role in the Battle
of Pelagonia in 1259. When Michael II died in ca. 1268, his realm was divided,
and John became ruler of Thessaly, with his capital at Neopatras. Western authors often used the
term "Vlachia" to refer to the autonomous Thessalian realm of John Doukas and his heirs. Part of
Thessaly, however, around Demetrias, Velestino, Halmyros, and Pharsalos, had remained in the hands of the
Empire, and after
1261 the restored Byzantine Empire, for several years after
Pelagonia. This district was governed by a "kephale of Great Vlachia", a post held in 1276 by the pinkernes Raoul Komnenos.
12th cent. miniature
The pinkernes (rank 14) bore an apricot skaranikon and was
standing in front or enthroned in back on the imperial portraits
conquest of large parts of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-1340s, the Serbian
crowned emperor in 1346, founding the Serbian Empire. In 13471348 he and his general Preljub extended Serbian control over Epirus and
Thessaly. Afterwards, Stefan Dushan
claimed the titles, in Latin, of imperator Raxie et Romanie, dispotus Lartae
et Blachie comes ("Emperor of Rascia and Romania [Byzantine Empire], Despot of Arta and Count of
Thessaly in the 14th
and 15th centuries
Coat of arms of the Duchy/Duke
The Catalans continued for a while to hold
the parts of southern Thessaly they had occupied and raided the region in the
following years, while John Doukas' authority was increasingly enfeebled in
Thessaly itself at the expense of the large landholders, who became virtually
autonomous, maintaining their own, independent contacts with the Byzantine
court. As a result, probably ca. 1315, John too was forced to formalize his
relations with the Byzantines, recognizing the Empire's suzerainty and
marrying Irene Palaiologina, the illegitimate daughter of Emperor Andronikos II Palaiologos. When John Doukas died in 1318, the southern part of Thessaly was
quickly captured by the Catalans of Athens. Between 1318 and 1325, the
Catalans took Neopatras, Zetounion, Loidoriki, Siderokastron, and Vitrinitsa, as well asapparently
brieflyDomokos, Gardiki, and Pharsalus. Venice also took advantage of the
anarchy in Thessaly to acquire the port of Pteleos. The central and northern part of Thessaly
remained in Greek hands. Lacking a central authority, however, the area
fractured among competing rulers. The north came under control of the
Byzantines from Thessalonica, while in the centre three rival magnates, Stephen Gabrielopoulos
of Trikala, a certain Signorinos, and the Melissenos, or
rather Maliasenos, family in the west around Volos, emerged. Gabrielopoulos
was the most successful of the three, and soon managed to gain recognition of
his rule by the Byzantine court, which granted him the title of sebastokrator. The Maliasenoi on the other hand
seem to have turned to the Catalans for support. With the loss of Neopatras
and the rise of Gabrielopoulos, Trikala became the new political centre of
Thessaly. At about the same time, larger groups of Albanians, such as the
tribes of the Malakasioi, Bouoi, and
began to raid and settle in Thessaly, although smaller groups of Albanians
may have been present in the region already from the late 12th century.
When Gabrielopoulos died in ca. 1333, the
Epirote ruler John
II Orsini tried
to take advantage of the situation and seize his lands, but the Byzantines
under Andronikos III Palaiologos moved in and established direct control over the
northern and western part of the region. Andronikos himself made agreements
with the transhumant Albanian tribesmen of the Pindus mountains and appointed Michael
governor of the region. It is unclear over which parts of Thessaly Byzantine
control was restored: John
Kantakouzenos claims that the campaign restored the old EpiroteThessalian
border (i.e. the Pindus mountains), while the modern researcher Boidar Ferjančić suggests that the Byzantines recovered eastern and
central Thessaly, but that the western part remained under Epirote rule until
Orsini's death three years later, when this area too came under Byzantine
The successful Byzantine reconquest was led
by Andronikos III's friend and chief aide, John Kantakouzenos. Thus when the Byzantine civil war of 134147 broke out between Kantakouzenos and the regency for
the underage John
Thessaly and Epirus quickly rallied to his side. Kantakouzenos' cousin, John Angelos,
ruled the two regions until his death in 1348, whereupon they fell to the expanding
Empire of Stefan Dushan. Dushan appointed his general Gregory Preljub as governor of Thessaly,
which he ruled, probably from Trikala, until his death in late 1355 or early
1356. In 1350, Kantakouzenos, now emperor, launched an attempt to reconquer
Thessaly, but after capturing the towns of Lykostomion and Kastrion, he
faltered before Servia, which was defended by Preljub himself. Kantakouzenos
withdrew, and Lykostomion and Kastrion were recovered by the Serbs soon
after. Preljub's rule is otherwise obscure, except for his reaching an
agreement with the local Albanian tribes; an agreement that probably did not
last long, for he was killed in a clash with them.
The death of Preljub was preceded by that of
Dushan himself, leaving a power vacuum in the wider Serbian Empire and in
Thessaly in particular. In this context, Nikephoros
exiled son of John II Orsini, who had entered Byzantine service, tried to
realize his ancestral claims over the region. From Ainos, he sailed to Thessaly, which he captured
quickly, expelling Preljub's wife and son. He then conquered Aetolia, Acarnania, and Leukas. Catalan control over southern Thessaly had
ceased by this time. Nikephoros came into conflict with the Albanians,
however, and was killed in the Battle of Achelous in 1359. Following Nikephoros' death, Thessaly was taken over
without resistance by Dushan's half-brother Simeon Uro. Enjoying the support of the
local Greek and Serbian nobility, Simeon Uro reigned as self-proclaimed
emperor from Trikala until his death in 1370. He was particularly noted as a
patron of the Meteora monasteries, who regarded
him as their "second founder". His son John Uro succeeded him until 1373,
when he retired to a monastery; Thessaly was then ruled by Alexios Angelos Philanthropenos and (from ca. 1388) Manuel Angelos Philanthropenos, who recognized Byzantine suzerainty until
ca. 1393, when the region was conquered by the Ottoman Empire. In the south, the Florentine
managed to take over the Duchy of Athens from the Catalans, and in 1390
captured Neopatras as well. These territories were soon lost to the Ottoman
Turks, at about the same time as the fall of Thessaly.
Further information: Sanjak
The Ottomans first invaded Thessaly in 1386,
Larissa for a time, confining the Angeloi Philanthropenoi to their holdings
in western Thessaly, around Trikala. In ca. 1393, the second phase of the
invasion began, again under Evrenos. The Ottomans defeated Manuel Angelos
Philanthropenos, and retook Larissa. The conquest of Thessaly was completed
during the next few years, from 1394 under the personal supervision of Sultan
Bayezid I. The fortresses of Volos,
Pharsalus, Domokos and Neopatras were taken, and in 1395/6, Trikala too fell.
After the disastrous Battle of Ankara in 1402, the weakened
Ottomans were forced to return the eastern coasts of Thessaly and the region
of Zetounion to Byzantine rule. In 1423, however, the renewed Ottoman
pressure forced the local Byzantine commander to surrender the forts of Stylida
and Avlaki to the Venetians. By 1444, however, the entire region had been
finally conquered by the Turks. Pteleos alone remained in Venetian hands
The newly conquered region was initially the
patrimonial domain of the powerful marcher-lord Turahan Bey (died 1456) and of his son Ömer Bey (died 1484) rather than a regular province. Turahan and his heirs
brought in settlers from Anatolia (the so-called "Konyalis" or
"Koniarides" since most were from the region around Konya) to repopulate the sparsely inhabited area,
and soon, Muslim settlers or converts dominated the lowlands, while the
Christians held the mountains around the Thessalian plain. The area was generally
peaceful, but banditry was endemic, and led to the creation of the first
state-sanctioned Christian autonomies known as armatoliks, the earliest and most notable of
which was that of Agrafa. Failed Greek uprisings occurred
in 1600/1 and 1612, and during the Morean War and the Orlov Revolt.
Ottoman Greece in the early 19th century
After 1780, the ambitious Ali
Pasha of Ioannina took over control of Thessaly, and consolidated his rule after
1808, when he suppressed a local uprising. His heavy taxation, however,
ruined the province's commerce, and coupled with the outbreak of the plague
in 1813, reduced the population to some 200,000 by 1820. When the Greek War of Independence broke out in 1821, Greek risings occurred in the Pelion
and Olympus mountains as well as the western mountains around Fanari, but
they were swiftly suppressed by the Ottoman armies under Mehmed
Reshid Pasha and Mahmud
Dramali Pasha. After
the establishment of the independent Kingdom of Greece, Greek nationalist
agitation continued, with further revolts in 1841, 1854 and again during the Russo-Turkish War of 18771878. Thessaly remained in Ottoman hands until
1881, when it was handed over to Greece under the terms of the Convention of Constantinople.
Fine, John Van Antwerp (1991), The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey
from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century, Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, ISBN 978-0-472-08149-3
Fine, John Van Antwerp (1994). The Late Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey
from the Late Twelfth Century to the Ottoman Conquest. Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-08260-5.
Nicol, D. M. (1962).
"The Greeks and the Union of the Churches the Report of Ogerius,
Protonotarius of Michael VIII Palaiologos, in 1280". Proceedings of the Royal
Irish Academy, Section C. 63: 116. JSTOR 25505111.
Osswald, Brendan (2007). "The Ethnic Composition of
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(eds.). Imagining Frontiers, Contesting Identities. Pisa: Edizioni Plus
Pisa University Press. pp. 125154. ISBN 88-8492-466-9.
Soulis, George C. (1953).
"Βλαχία-Μεγάλη Βλαχία-Ἡ ἐν Ἑλλάδι Βλαχία. Συμβολὴ εἰς τὴν ἱστορικὴν γεωγραφίαν τῆς μεσαιωνικῆς Θεσσαλίας"
[VlachiaGreat VlachiaVlachia in Hellas. Contribution to the
historical geography of medieval Thessaly]. Γέρας Αντωνίου Κεραμοπούλου. Athens. pp. 489497.
George C. (1963). "Thessalian Vlachia".Zbornik Radova Vizantolokog Instituta.
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Stavridou-Zafraka, Alkmini (2000).
Μικρή Βλαχία" Τρικαλινά. 20:
í In German and Rumanian sources however the region Grosse Walachei
is called Muntenien or Muntenia and is situated in central
and east Walachia
Die Große Walachei (dt. auch
Muntenien, rum. Muntenia) ist eine historische Landschaft im Süden Rumäniens.
Sie umfasst den zentralen und östlichen Teil der Walachei.
Die Region wird im Süden und
Osten von der Donau begrenzt, im Norden von den Karpaten und dem Fluss Milcov.
Im Westen wird die Grenze der Landschaft vom Fluss Olt gebildet, jenseits
dessen sich die Kleine Walachei befindet.
Im östlichen Teil Munteniens
liegt das Bărăgan-Flachland, das wegen des nährstoffreichen Bodens
ein großes Getreideanbaugebiet ist und als Rumäniens Kornkammer gilt.
Die wichtigste Stadt in dem
Gebiet ist Bukarest, die Landeshauptstadt. Weitere wichtige Städte sind Brăila,
Ploiești, Pitești, Slatina, Alexandria, Giurgiu, Călărași
und Slobozia, sowie die ehemaligen Hauptstädte der Walachei Câmpulung, Curtea
de Argeș und Târgoviște.
Sehenswerte Orte in Muntenien
sind außerdem das Snagov-Kloster, wo vermutlich das Grab Vlad III.
Drăculeas liegt, und der Kurort Sinaia im Bucegi-Gebirge. Der Kurort
Sinaia existierte seit Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts, als der rumänische König Karl
I. seine Sommerresidenz, das Schloss Peleș, dort bauen ließ.
From the 15th to the 17th century a coat of
arms of Or, a lion Sable is
associated with Greater Walachia. Thereby
Rumania scientests understand by Greater Walachia the part of Walachia
situated in present Rumania. and neglect the possibility that also the part
situated in present Greece or Thessaly, that is to say the part of Boniface of Montferrat is meant.
understand the connection of Thessaly, Boniface and a Or, a lion Sable we
have to know about the connection of Boniface and Baldwin
of Flanders who bore this coat of arms.
After the fall of Constantinople to
the crusaders in 1204, Boniface of Montferrat, the leader of the crusade, was expected by both the Crusaders and
the defeated Byzantines to become the new emperor. However,
the Venetians felt that Boniface was too closely tied to the
Byzantine Empire, as his brother Conrad had married into the
Byzantine imperial family. The Venetians wanted an emperor whom they
could control more easily, and with their influence, Baldwin of Flanders was elected
as emperor of the new Latin
Boniface reluctantly accepted
this, and set out to conquer Thessalonica, the second-largest Byzantine
city after Constantinople. At first he had to compete with Emperor
Baldwin, who also wanted the city. He then went on to capture the city later
in 1204 and set up a kingdom there, subordinate to Baldwin, although the
title of "king" was never officially used. Late 13th and 14th century sources suggest
that Boniface based his claim to Thessalonica on the statement that his younger
brother Renier had been granted
Thessalonica on his marriage to Maria Komnene in 1180 
Seal of Mircea the Elder (1386-1418)
on a treaty of alliance with the King of Poland, Vladislav II (1386-1434) dated 1411.
Legend.: X IѠ MIRCKSA ELERR VOEVOD.
In fact the adoption of the arms Or, a lion
Sable by Mircea
the Elder means that he claimed the succession in the Latin Empire of
Baldwin, in the same quality as Boniface or Renier as a voievod ( = warlord), vassal of the former Latin Empire. This
would certainly have been possible when corresponding with the King of
with the lion are confirmed by Ulrich Richental:
Legend: Der durchluchtig
fürst hertzog dispott inder meren walachy des bottschafft kam mitt dem
Richental fol 135b)
Herzog von Walachie
Martin Schrot 1581
Wallachia, Rother Löw im weiſſen ſchildt
Here the lion is presented as a the arms of
an Ottoman prince (the crescent (the state) and the star (a prince)). For
example Ömer Bey
or a successor..
Petru II of the Earring (Petru Cercel)
Seal attributed to Peter II.
With a crowned lion and a six-pointed star
(Hist. Muz. Cluj. Pl. II-6)
Petar Bogdan Bakshev, 17th century (1667)
the Morean War (1684-1699) the arms with the lion disappears and is replaced
by new arms for Thessalia consistng of a party per fess Or and Gules, in chief an eagle Sable an
din base three arrows points upwards Argent.
© Hubert de Vries 2020-08-04
 Vitezovic, Ritter, Paulus alias: Stemmatographia, sive
armorum Illyricorum delineatio, descriptio et restitutio, 1701. Autore Equite
Paulo Ritter | Vitezovic. no. 48