The Vlach law or Wallachian Right (Lex Antiqua Valachorum or Jus Valahicum/Valachorum in Latin) represents a collection of the Romanian pre-statal judicial system, with afferent juridical rituals, customs and traditions, kept and transmitted from generation to generation. The Latin term "Lex Antiqua Valachorum" means "Ancient Wallachian Law".
Many Vlachs were shepherds in the Middle Ages, driving their sheep through the mountains of Southeastern Europe.
As they penetrated into the medieval states of the times, the "Jus Valachicum" ("the Wallachian right") developed in relation with the states they found themselves, a relation primarily based on transhumance. The Vlachs could freely use their own judicial system, as opposed to the official one. In exchange for these privileges, the Vlachs had military obligations, of guarding and protecting the borders and mountainous areas, and even as militia, protecting the populations against thieves and bandits. The Vlachs were also charged with specific taxes, most typical being the sheep fiftieth tax.
The Vlach Law was officially recognised as used by:
In Serbia, the Vlachs were subordonate only to the King, or sometimes, to monasteries on the lands they found themselves. In many cases, the only requested obligation was the payment of metayage for grazing on the properties of the monastery. The fact that the Vlachs lived according to their own set of laws is the fact that they did not had a status on the Feudal pyramid, being only tolerated shepherds, unlike the rest of the population, who were regular serfs on the estates. To be permitted to graze their sheep on the territory of the estates, they were obliged to also graze the sheep of the estate and to give each year a female sheep with her lamb out of fifty sheep (the "quinquagesima"). The landlords had to pay taxes according to the number of Vlachs living on their territory.
Numerous documents (hrisovs) written by kings and noblemen during the 12th to 15th centuries, present the situation of these Vlachs in raport with the state. In the hrisovs of Prizren, the obligations of the Vlachs within the Serbia, who were subjects to the king, are stated: each of them had to give each year, out of 50 sheep, one sheep with a lamb and a cow; and each second year a horse. Their situation became more clearly defined when the Serbian lords started to make laws concerning them. Such laws or statutes were made at first for the Vlachs of the monasteries of Dusanovac (near Negotin,State: Bor), Studenica and Milosevo. Their obligations are, however, clearly shown by the so-called "law of the Vlachs", found in the hrisov of Banja and in two of Czar Dusan's donations, those from Vranje and Prizren. In general, the Vlachs provided all the products of grazing and also with all kinds of transports facilities.
In Poland (see Gorals), the special character of the Romanian villages was given by the "Jus Valachicum", and had to respect stated certain norms to be recognised by the feudal lord. Among these, most important was the need for a cneaz in front of a village, having a "jurisdiction" (ethnic and territorial range within which he could apply the Lex Valachorum), economical obligations, and used as "interface" between the community and the lord. The peasant had the right to be treated according to the jus Valachicum also in case he moved to another village. Thus, the "Vlach right" had an economic part and a juridical one, which could not be violated. In relation with the state own tools of imposing and assuring of the respect of the law, the Vlachs usual reply was: "Take me to your lord. I possed the Vlach right". The Vlachs protested against those who "dared to interfere and violate the recognized privileges of the Vlachs", as stated in a document from the year 1447. In the course of time, however, the use of it has decreased until it disappeared.
In the Czech lands the Vlachs rebelled when the Habsburgs tried to put an end to their privileges (see Moravian Wallachia).
As Vlachs numbers increased and actively involved into the political life of the states they found themselves, the term had come to mean a juristic institutions regulating the economy and way of life of the peoples who lived a transhumant life style, hence applied not exclusively to the members of enclaves inhabited by a Romanian speaking population. The fact is corroborated with the phenomenon of losing the Romanian language and the adoption of another language as they moved further and further, being absorbed in the mass of the surrounding peoples, and it is the main reason for this new appliance of the term "Jus Valahicum". This has led to the use of the "Vlach Law" by people later nominated as Serbs, Ruthenians, Slovaks, etc.
The Vlach contribution to the shaping of modern identities of west Balkan states like Montenegro, Serbia, and Bosnia is very important. For example, in Montenegro during the Ottoman conquest the land was devastated and depopulated. There followed a steady inflow of Vlach herdsmen from Bosnia organized in their pastoral cantons (cătun). The interblending of these newcomers and the remaining peasants living in the sedentary lowland villages produced a territorially constituted tribal society; to this community the "village brought a feeling for legal order, while the katun introduced the blood feud, respect for the word of honor, hospitality, and the cult of brotherhood by adoption", basically the same Lex Antiqua Valachorum.
References and footnotes
- Jean W Sedlar, East Central Europe in the Middle Ages, 1000-1500, University of Washington Press, 2011, p. 317
- Ethnologia Slavica, Volume 21 , Slovenské pedagogické nakl., 1990, p. 112
- Silviu Dragomir: "Vlahii din nordul peninsulei Balcanice în evul mediu"; 1959, p. 122.
- Silviu Dragomir: "Vlahii din nordul peninsulei Balcanice în evul mediu"; 1959, p. 172.
- Ştefan Meteş: "Emigrări româneşti din Transilvania în secolele XIII - XX (cercetări de demografie istorică)"; Bucureşti, 1977, 2nd edition, p. 30.
- The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute : The National Question - "Antecedents and Antipodes" .pdf
- Ivan Bozic: "Svijet ratnickih družina i stocarskih katuna" in Crna Gora u doba oblasnih gospodara; voI.2, pl.2, Istorija Crne Gore, ed. Milinko Djurovic; Titograd,1970;p.349.
- Traian Herşeni: "Forme străvechi de cultură poporană. Studiu de paleoetnografie a cetelor de feciori din Ţara Oltului", Editura Dacia, Cluj-Napoca, 1977.;
- Octavian Buhociu, "Confreriile de feciori", Bucureşti, Ed. Minerva, 1979, p. 50.;
- Ion Muslea: "Obiceiurile junilor braşoveni", Institutul de Geografie al Universităţii din Cluj, Cluj-Napoca, 1930.;
- Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu: "Fond B. P. Hasdeu", mss. 1429, State Archives, Bucharest, Romania.;
- Ştefan Paşcu and Vladimir Hanga: "Crestomaţie pentru studiul Istoriei Statului si Dreptului", vol. II, Bucureşti, 1958, 870 p.;
- Grigore I. Alexandrescu: "Studiu asupra istoriei generale a dreptului", 1905, 316 p;
- Ştefan Gr. Berechet: "Obiceiul pământului românesc" (Încercare de studiu juridico-etnografic), Iaşi, 1930;
- Ioan D. Condurachi, "Formarea vechiului drept românesc nescris", Braşov, 1935, 49 p.;
- George Fotino: "Ce este vechiul drept românesc ?", Bucureşti, 1939, 30 p. ; idem, "Încercari de vechi drept românesc. Obiceiuri la fixarea hotarelor"- Monografie, Craiova, 42 p.; idem, "Pagini din istoria dreptului românesc", Bucureşti, 1972, 315 p ;
- Nicolae Iorga: "Anciens documents de droit roumain. Avec un preface contenant l'histoire du droit coutumier roumain", Vol.1-2, Bucureşti, 1931, 602 p.; idem, "Les origines et l'originalité du droit populaire roumain", Bucureşti, 1935, 25 p.;
- Grigore Ioan Lahovari: "Despre obiceiul pamantului", 1892, 23 p.; Ion Peretz, "Curs de istoria dreptului român", Bucureşti, 1928, Vol. I, II (443 p; 444 p.);
- Andrei Rădulescu: "Originalitatea dreptului român", Bucureşti, 1933, 24 p.;
- Arthur Gorovei: "Partea sufletului. Un vechi obicei juridic al poporului român." Fălticeni, 1925, 17 p.;
- Ştefan Meteş: "Din istoria dreptului românesc din Transilvania", Bucureşti, 1935, 32 p.
- Imreh Istvan: "Legiuirea săteasca în secuime", Bucureşti, Kriterion, 1983, p. 53