The Vlahs :: The Vlahs of Veria :: The Wallachian Language :: The Wallachian Songs

I. The Vlahs (Armani)
The historical elements about Vlahs (Armani) are scattered in Byzantine collumnists. Their historical presence is dated about 2000 years ago from the Roman years and the Latinization of the Balkans (Porfyrogennitos, J.Lidos).

As the first written evidence of the Vlah' s language we have that of the Byzantine collumnists, Theophanis is and Theophylactus (579 A.D.) while the word Vlahs (Armani) was mentioned for the first time in 976 A.D. from Kedrinos. He talks about Vlahs travellers in the region of Kastoria-Prespa.

However Vlahs (Armani) with a few exceptions were not known with this name but with the world "Armani". This world derives from the "Romanus lives" and it is related to the decree of Karakala (Edictum Antonianium), 212 A.D. According to this decree, the right of the Roman citizen was passed on to all the residents of the whole Roman province.

The word Vlah according to recent research-originated from the German language whereby Latin speakers are called Wolhrolc and it derives from the words valon, valia, Wales etc.Besides the general name Vlahs (Armani), the Latin speakers of South Balkans are called with other names too, (Farsiarotes, Tsipani, Miglianiats=Moglenites, Grammoustiani, Mouzikiari or Tsimoureani, Sarmaniotes etc.)

The term Koutsovlahs that is used by scholars since the past century and which very often has a humiliating character, is related to "Kioutsouk Vlahia" as the Turks call Etoloakarnania. This is an area with many (Vlah  speakers) until the years of Kosmas Etolos (Epigram of  Evgeniou Etolou).

After this first evidence of Kedrinos, Vlahs (Armani) are repeatedly mentioned indicatively: Sigilia Vassiliou B, Kekavmenos, Anna Komnini, Choniatis Kinnamos, Halkokondilis, Frantzis, Latin sources, files of  Venice, Chanson  de Roland, a German epic, Nibelougen, chronical of Moreas, Erotokritos.

Furthermore, the historical presence of Vlahs (Armani) is intense. There are no foreign sightseers -during the years of the Turkish domination- there is no mention of them. We indicatively mention  the names of Pouqueville (Voyage en Grece) Leak (Travels in Northern Greece), Heuzey (1858) Kouzinery (Voyages en Macedoine) Berard (Turkish domination and Hellenism), Wace- Thomson (Nomads of Balkans)etc.

In the 18th century, under specific circumstances like the fall of the empire, successive tension of pashas, Orlophika, internal conflicts, big cities of Vlahs (Armani) like Moshopoli, Nikolitsa, Linotopi, Grammousta and many more were totally destroyed and the inhabitants were scattered towards every direction: Vienna, Budapest, Belgrad, Boukourest, Thessaloniki, Veria, Naousa, Serres, Philippoupoli, Konstantinopolis etc.

The Serb Academic, Dousan Popovic in his work "O Cincarina" mentions that Serbian markets were in undated by Vlahs (Armani) in the 18th century and all the import and export trade was in their hands and they created the bourgeois class of Serbia.

Moreover, the dissemination of Vlahs (Armani) is due to their professional occupations as they were stock-breeders wood-cutters and merchants. They were constantly "on the road" they were conveyors on not only of products but also of ideas. They connected the Greek area with the Balcans and Europe. Their contribution to Hellenism is undoubtly tremendous (armatolism, revolution, benefactors, economy, literature).

We indicatively mention a few names Rigas, Georgakis, Olympios, Yiannis Pharmakis, Hatzipetros, Vlahavei, (all the benefactors except Sigron), Zappas, Averof, Sinas, Spiridon, Lambrou, Papagos, Svolos, Kristallis, and all the others who with their strength, good spirit, money and their donations secured financially the newly established Hellenic republic and they founded it. Another aspect of the newly established Hellenic republic that is not well known is that many modern artists are of Vlah Origin just as Koutsomitis, Prokovas, Papatakis, Tsitsanis, Virvos, Kaldaras, Mitropanos, Sgouros etc.

Despite the enormous dissemination and the unfavorable conditions, even nowadays thousands of Vlahs (Armani) live outside the Hellenic territory, Albania, the region of Monastery-Scopia Bulgaria (only those that were not assimilated)  and Rumania where these people deserted under various nationalistic and political conditions during the first decades of our century.

In these new homelands their contribution is priceless. We indicatevely mention the names of George Mournou who translated "Iliada" in the Rumanian language and that of the great comedy writer of Serbian literature, Alkiviadis Nousia that is Vlah from Klisoura in Macedonia and is well known in Serbia as Branislav Nushici. Moreover, we also mention the siblings Manakia who were pioneer photographers and film-makers from Avdella in Grevena and a considerable part of their work is now at the Monastery of Skopia.  

The Vlahs :: The Vlahs of Veria :: The Wallachian Language :: The Wallachian Songs

II. The Vlahs (Armani) of Veria
Veria is a very old town. It is even refered by Thucidides AG1  "and arriving in Veria". Later in the beginning of the Roman domination (146 AD), Veria was the sacred town, the seat of the bishop of the Macedonian public. Its purpose was the worship of the Goddes of Rome and Augustus. Many feasts were held in this town. Many bishops and officers and many people from several regions of Macedonia would meet here. Veria had the right to build a temple of emperors for the practice of their worship.

Not surprisingly, Veria saw the settlement of the Roman rules, finance officers, tax reuters and other Roman officials. Taking for granted that all these were speaking formal Latin, it was unavoidable that this language was spread in Veria and thus from the beginning of the Roman Domination Latin speakers appeared in Veria.

It is proven that the massive inauguration of Vlahs (Armani) in Veria, from their eternal Pindikes birthplaces, took place in the second decade of the 19th century. However , it is also proven that Vlahs (Armani) existed in Veria during the Byzantine era and also during the Turkish domination. Thus, we know that in 1350 AD the chief shepherd Margelatos, helped the Byzantine emperor Ioannis Katakouzinos in the seizure of Veria which was previously occupied for a short period, by the Serb Stefan Dousan (C.H. Hionidis "History of Veria" volume two, Byzantine years, Thessaloniki, 1970,p.48-41 and 100).

Furthermore, in 1627, Margelatos is refered to as a resident of this region. According to the Vlah researcher S.Liakos and A.Vakalopoulos, professor in the University of Thessaloniki, Martzelos was from an Arvanito-Vlah tribe. This tribe would go down to the winter quarters of Veria and Thessaloniki plane according to their long-lasting tradition while during Spring time they would go up to the mountainous grasslands in order to pass the Summer.(A.Vakalopoulos, Pankarpia, Macedonian land p.637-642).

Moreover, the Turk sight-seer Evliya Tselempi mentions that among the residents of Veria (1668) there were also "Latino" and it is a matter of course that this information refers to the Vlahs (Armani) of Veria.

About 1770, after the massive catastrophe of Moshopolis, many residents of Moshopolis -bourgeois- inhabited Veria too. The massive residence of Vlahs (Armani) in Veria took place fifty years later, when Ali Pasha, brought on war to the wallachian armatolikia, charged the Albanian with dervenia, disrupted the economic and social status of Vlahs (Armani), sapped the tseligata and offended their honour. Under these circumstances, chief shepherds from the wealthy wallachian villages of Pindos and mainly from Avdella, instead of going to Thessalia, went to Macedonia and they spent their time between the winter quarters of Kassandra and the greenlands of Beles and Vermion. There they made their "hats" of  Bandralexis today' s Seli, was enforced with other families from Samarina and Perivoli.

At about the same period, Vlahs (Armani) settled at Xerolivado too and a few years later residents from Seli and Xerolivado, settled at Koumaria (Doliani). Simultaneously the big tseligato of  Zega from Frasiari of south Albania and more than fifty thousands sheeps and goats were installed in Ano Seli.

The most significant source of the transition of  Vlahs (Armani) from their eternal homeland in Pindos and their settlement in Veria, is an extensive verbal tradition, the wallachian songs which refer to those years, the historical notice about Vlahs (Armani) by A.Papavasiliou, but mainly the "unpublished" memories of  Gioti Naoum which were published in 1984 by C.H. Hionidis with extensive footnotes.

Vlahs (Armani) in Veria, in 1878, played a leading part in the rebellion of Kolindros with the Bandralexis leaders. Unfortunately this rebellion ended in the holocaust in "At the All saints".

As the years went by the changes in the structure of economy, the great agricultural developments in the plain of Veria, the primitive conditions in stock-raising, and industrialisation forced the Vlahs (Armani) to move on from the mountain to town and plane. That is why the wallachian villages of  Vermio, Seli, Xerolivado, Koumaria, developed into nice resorts.

Nowadays, the main bulk of Vlahs (Armani) in Imathia prefecture live in Veria. After the decade of the 50s many other Vlahs (Armani) from Briaza , Armata, Smixi, Neveska, Blatsi, etc. came especially to Veria. Many Vlahs (Armani) also live in old villages at the plain of Veria, Perivoliotes mainly and Albanian Vlahs (Arvanito-Vlahs).

Vlahs (Armani) are a dynamic element of Imathia prefecture and they are distinguished in many sectors: literature, science, economy, industry, trade, stock-breeding and they are represented by three associations of Vlahs (in Veria, Naoussa, Skilitsi and environs). These associations make their presence felt with a great variety of shows and mainly with their efforts for the preservation of the wallachian language.

The Vlahs :: The Vlahs of Veria :: The Wallachian Language :: The Wallachian Songs

III. The Wallachian Language
The wallachian language is an autonomous neolatin language, which was already created in the 6th century AD. The phrase (Torna-torna frater) preserved by the byzantine columnist Thephylactus Simocatis (7th AD) is considered to be the first written evidence.

Nowadays scientific research has given an answer to the birth of the wallachian language. The formal language of the eastern Roman State called Byzantium many centuries ago, up to the years of  "Iraklios" (at the beginning of the 7th century AD), was the Latin language.

After "the first Romanian period" of the neolatin languages (derived from the folk Latin language of Balkans Latinum Balkanicum) four neolatin languages (the wallachian and the Moglenitiki in the axis of  Egnatia and Istroroumaniki and Dakoroumaniki in the axis of Dounabe).  In an exactly similar way the modern neolatin languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese) derived from the western neolatin language. In this way, we can explain the similarities among the wallachian, the previously mentioned European languages and simultaneously with the corresponding neolatin languages of the Balkans.

When one tries to encounter the wallachian civilization with respect, as this is expressed in  the wallachian language too, he will discover that the songs, traditions, folk-tales and proverbs are filled with astonishing wealth. In recent years, with individual or collective initiative, similar publications see the light. These publications show a rich primary material, linguistic, historical, social which consist an excellent "verbal literature".

The first written signs of the wallachian language have their roots in the mid of the 18th century and they are mainly inscriptions of the Greek alphabet and texts, by scholars and lexicographers  who used Greek and Latin alphabet.

The first grammar of the wallachian language of M.Boyiatzi, was printed in 1813 in Vienna. This grammar proposes the Latin alphabet so that the language would acquire a literate form. This was also previously supported by other "daughters" of the Latin language. In the recent wallachian grammar of academic N.Katsani-K.Ntina (Thessaloniki 1990), the wallachian language was written in Latin letters completed with letters from the Greek alphabet.

The choice of the alphabet of course even today, is not very simple as there are many parameters (historical, religious, cultural, political) that must be taken into account. However, an unbiased and without expediency approach to science cannot deny that a neolatin language like the wallachian one, can be written more efficiently in the Latin alphabet.

The wallachian language which was once spoken widely in  the Balkans, is now lost day by day. The language was dwindled  not due to natural but historical and social reasons. Despite all these factors the wallachian language even in today' s adverse circumstances of immense antisocialisation, of dissolution of old close social structures and communication is still a reality.

Man should learn to consider as national whatever is real and this reality should not be encountered with a negative mood because according to the great contemporary intellectual Noam Tsomsky, there are not any good or bad languages, superior or inferior, but there are advanced or not at all advanced languages with which people communicate.

The present recording of the songs in the wallachian language with respect and sensitivity for our civilization, is a short collection of the Wallachian Association of Veria for the recording and presentation of the wallachian language.

The Vlahs :: The Vlahs of Veria :: The Wallachian Language :: The Wallachian Songs  

IV. The Wallachian Songs
The wallachian song, due to the extensive dissemination of  Vlahs
(Armani) as they were mainly (stock-breeders, wood-cutters, merchants), was differenciated from area to area and it varies greatly. However two types of performance prevail. The first and most widespread is frequent in Vlahs (Armani) of Pindos, Grammousta, Bitolia, Vermion. The other one is widespread in Albanian Vlahs (Armani) and Farsiarotes.

The songs of the first type are generally executed in unison and scarcely eterophonically or polyphonically. The majority of  executors sing the basic melody and those who have a good voice move up and down the basic melody. The polyphonic song is common with the Farsiarotes while the individual execution  almost does not exist. The melody of the song is maintained by two main singers, while the rest -choir- simply accompanies (ee...)

A characteristic of the wallachian songs are the responses (antiphonies) mainly between men and women. These were born due to the need of the two teams to rest or to compete.

Although the team polyphonic song of Wallachians is traditional and almost generalized there are cases mainly in the songs of the first type that are sung personally.

The wood-cutters songs, stock-breeders (picurarescu canticu) and other love songs (di vreare) belong in this category. The lonely life of the wood-cutters and stock-breeders is reflected in these songs. This record and CD contains songs of this kind of monophonic and duet songs. This new attempt aims to show that our association  has already moved towards polyphonic songs which were mainly sung by Vlahs (Armani).

Instrumental incidental music follows and this is later followed by the melodies of the earlier songs. The improvised flute accompanied the stock-breeders songs, while the violin, according to verbal tradition, was the first among the instruments of  today’s company troop, which accompanied the wallachian songs. This happened because it could follow the variation in wallachian melodies. Later the clarinet became the main instrument of the company troop which was completed by a lute and a tambourine.

The copper instruments came later on as a western influence related to military bands usually found in urban and wallachian centers (Neveska, Klisoura, Bitolia, etc.). Copper instruments that replaced the violin have prevailed in Veria for the last decades since the song retreated too.

A few years ago, people were singing, monophonic or polyphonic songs during feast time, copper instruments would not accompany. In the present recording, incidental music is played by violins. This happens because all the songs contained are former to the use of copper instruments.

Professor at the seat of linguistics at the University of Thessaloniki N.Katsanis notices that the wallachian songs have hardly been subject to research by the science of literature up to now in our country. Furthermore, the connection between the wallachian songs in Greek and other wallachian songs has not been studied yet. Many wallachian songs were sung in Greek and it is to be expected that their original form did not survive. The evidence is explicit as K.Kristallis has  translated many wallachian songs in Greek. At the same time, the fact that many wallachian songs in Greek praise the beauty of the Vlah woman leads to this thought too.

The study of the wallachian songs by unforgettable Sam-Baud-Bovy has not been completed because of his death. The Wallachian Association has many extensive collections of songs in its files that wait for scientific approach by ethnologists, musicologists and folklorists.

The Vlahs :: The Vlahs of Veria :: The Wallachian Language :: The Wallachian Songs