Did You Know?

All Romance, Greek, Germanic (including English) and Slavic languages are descended from the same ancestral language, IndoªEuropean, which is thought to have been spoken between the Vistula and Elbe Rivers in Northeastern Europe 5,000 years ago.

When the Turkish Sultan Mohammed captured Constantinople in 1453, ending the Byzantine Empire, he was assisted by a Vlach named Urban, who cast the huge cannon used in the siege.

Though we usually see ourselves as having been purely Christian mountain nomads in the old country, a large group of our people outside of Salonica are agriculturalists, and many of this same community were converted to Islam. Another interesting fact about these people (usually called “Meglen Vlachs”) is noted by Wace & Thompson: “They alone of all the Vlachs use the term Vlach of themselves or their language, for the others without exception call themselves by the proud name of Arumani or Romans.”

Many cultural institutions of nineteenth-century Athens were built through the generosity of wealthy Aromanians, including the Olympic Stadium, the Metsovo Polytechnic, the military and naval schools, the Historical and Ethnological Museum, the Astronomic Observatory, and the Academy of Fine Arts. Look for some of these on your next trip to Greece.

In Vienna at the turn of the century, another Aromanian, Nikolaus Dumba, acted as a patron of the arts, and a street was named after him: the Dumbastrasse. Two wall panels in Dumba’s music room were painted by Gustav Klimt, an important figure in European Art History.

The first words recorded of our language were in 579 AD when one of the Aromanian muleteers (caravan drivers) accompanying a Byzantine army in the Balkans noticed that the load was falling from one of the animals some distance before him; he shouted out to a companion, “Torna, torna fratre” (“It is slipping, brother”) but because the same words also can mean “Turn around,” this was misinterpreted by the army as a command to retreat, and it did so. In modern Aromanian, this phrase would be rendered “Toarna, toarna frate”; and amongst the Farsherots one still hears people informally greeted as “frate.”


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