Online Encyclopedia

BASSARAB

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V03, Page 491 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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BASSARAB  or BASSARABA, the name of a

dynasty in Rumania, which ruled Walachia from the dawn of its
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history until 1658 . The origin of the name and
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family has not yet been explained . It undoubtedly stands in dose connexion with the name of the province of
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Bessarabia, which
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oriental chroniclers gave in olden times to the whole of Walachia . The heraldic sign, three heads of negroes in the Bassarab shield, seems to be of
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late western origin and to rest on a popular etymology connecting the second
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half of the word with
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Arabs, who were taken to signify Moors (blacks) . The other heraldic signs, the crescent and the
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star, have evidently been added on the same supposition of an oriental origin of the family . The Servian chroniclers connect its origin with their own
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nationality, basing this view upon the identification of Sarah with Sorb or Serbia . All this is mere conjecture . It is, however, a fact that the first appearance of the Bassarabs as rulers (knyaz,
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ban or voivod) is in the western
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part of Rumania (originally called Little Walachia), and also in the
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southern parts of Transylvania—the old dukedoms of Fogarash and Almash, which are situated on the right
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bank of the Olt (Aluta) and extend south to Severin and Craiova . Whatever the origin of the Bassarabs may be, the foundation of the Walachian principality is undoubtedly connected with a member of that family, who, according to tradition, came from Transylvania and settled first in Campulung and Tirgovishtea . It is equally certain that almost every one of the long
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line of princes and voivods
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bore a
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Slavonic surname, perhaps due to the influence of the Slavonic Church, to which the Rumanians belonged . Starting from the 13th century the Bassarabs soon split into two
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rival factions, known in history as the descendants of the two brothers
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Dan and Drakul . The form Drakul—devil—by which this line is known in history is no doubt a
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nickname given by the rival line .

- It has fastened on the family on

account of the cruelties perpetrated by Vlad Drakul (1433-1446) and Vlad Tsepesh (1456-1476), who figure in popular legend as representatives of the most fiendish cruelty . The
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feud between the rival dynasties lasted from the beginning of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th . The most prominent members of the family were Mircea (1386-1418), who accepted
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Turkish
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suzerainty; Neagoe, the founder of the famous
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cathedral at Curtea de Argesh (q.v.); Michael, surnamed the Brave (1592-1601); and Petru Cercel, famous for his profound learning, who spoke twelve
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languages and carried on friendly correspondence with the greater scholars and poets of Italy . He was drowned by the
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Turks in Constantinople in 1590 through the intrigues of Mihnea, who succeeded him on the
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throne of Walachia . The
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British Museum possesses the
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oldest
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MSS. of the Rumanian Gospels, once owned by this Petru Cercel, and containing his autograph signature . The text was published by Dr M . Gaster at the expense of the Rumanian government . Mateiu Bassarab (1633-1654) established the first printing-press in Rumania, and under his influence the first code of
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laws was compiled and published in Bucharest in 1654 . The Bassarab dynasty became
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extinct with
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Constantine Sherban in 1658 . See RUMANIA: Language and Literature . (M .

End of Article: BASSARAB
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