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Great Wallachia


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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 the area.


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 Delphinas, a relative of his and grandson of the original Nikoulitzas, whom Emperor Basil II (r. 976–1025) placed to rule over the Thessalian Vlachs. Anna Komnene reports a Vlach settlement near Mount Ossa in 1083, in connection with the campaign of her father, Alexios I Komnenos (r. 1081–1118), 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 Emperor Alexios III Angelos (r. 1195–1203) 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;[8] the 13th-century scholar George Pachymeres comments on the bravery of the Megalovlachitai in the army of the ruler of Epirus, Michael II Komnenos Doukas (r. ca. 1230–1268). Michael's bastard son, John, was married to a Vlach, the daughter of the chieftain Taron, and his Vlach troops—it is unclear whether they were regular forces or perhaps a private army raised from his estates—played 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 Nicaean 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.


Afbeeldingsresultaat voor skaranikon

12th cent. miniature


The pinkernes (rank 14) bore an apricot skaranikon  and was standing in front or enthroned in back on the imperial portraits


After the conquest of large parts of the Byzantine Empire in the mid-1340s, the Serbian ruler Stefan Dushan was crowned emperor in 1346, founding the Serbian Empire. In 1347–1348 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 Vlachia").


Thessaly in the 14th and 15th centuries


Coat of arms of the Duchy/Duke of Neopatras.


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 as—apparently briefly—Domokos, 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 Mesaritai, 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 Monomachos as 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 Epirote–Thessalian border (i.e. the Pindus mountains), while the modern researcher Božidar 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 control.

The successful Byzantine reconquest was led by Andronikos III's friend and chief aide, John Kantakouzenos. Thus when the Byzantine civil war of 1341–47 broke out between Kantakouzenos and the regency for the underage John V Palaiologos, 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 Serbian 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 Orsini, the 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 Uroš. Enjoying the support of the local Greek and Serbian nobility, Simeon Uroš 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 Uroš 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 adventurer Nerio Acciaioli had 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.


Ottoman period

Further information: Sanjak of Tirhala (Wikipedia)


The Ottomans first invaded Thessaly in 1386, when Gazi Evrenos took 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 until 1470

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 1877–1878. 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.

Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.

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: 1–16. JSTOR 25505111.

Osswald, Brendan (2007). "The Ethnic Composition of Medieval Epirus". In Ellis, Steven G.; Klusáková, Lud'a (eds.). Imagining Frontiers, Contesting Identities. Pisa: Edizioni Plus – Pisa University Press. pp. 125–154. ISBN 88-8492-466-9.

Soulis, George C. (1953). "Βλαχία-Μεγάλη Βλαχία- ἐν Ἑλλάδι Βλαχία. Συμβολὴ εἰς τὴν ἱστορικὴν γεωγραφίαν τῆς μεσαιωνικῆς Θεσσαλίας" [Vlachia—Great Vlachia—Vlachia in Hellas. Contribution to the historical geography of medieval Thessaly]. Γέρας Αντωνίου Κεραμοπούλου. Athens. pp. 489–497.

Soulis, George C. (1963). "Thessalian Vlachia".Zbornik Radova Vizantološkog Instituta. 8 (1): 271–273.

Stavridou-Zafraka, Alkmini (2000). "Μεγάλη και Μικρή Βλαχία" Τρικαλινά. 20: 171–179.


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.

To 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 Empire.

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 [1]


Seal of Mircea the Elder (1386-1418)

 on a treaty of alliance with the King of Poland, Vladislav II (1386-1434) dated 1411.

Arms: Lion



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 Poland.


The arms with the lion are confirmed by Ulrich Richental:

Arms: Or, a lion Sable crowned Gules

Legend: Der durchluchtig fürst hertzog dispott inder meren walachy des bottschafft kam mitt dem thobermur. (Ulrich Richental fol 135b)


Conrad Grüneberg, 1483


Virgil Solis, 1555

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)


After 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.





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© Hubert de Vries 2020-08-04




[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Thessalonica

[2] Vitezovic, Ritter, Paulus alias: Stemmatographia, sive armorum Illyricorum delineatio, descriptio et restitutio, 1701. Autore Equite Paulo Ritter | Vitezovic.  no. 48


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