May 18, 2009

The Many Names of Transylvania

On my search to look for towns and cities and their histories. It is fun and enlightening. This search is teaching me a lot about Transylvania.

One of these fun facts that I found interesting is the many names that Transylvania goes by. The Romanians, the Romans, the Germans the Polish and the Hungarians each have or had their own versions of the name which Transylvania goes by.

For example, in the Germans called the area, Siebenburgen or translated "seven fortresses" which denoted, their seven major cities. According the the Saxons they fonded all these cities, though they probably helped rebuild them. The Polish used a similar wording, Siedmiogrod.

The Romans, who spoke Latin gave the area the name : ultra silvam, which means beyond the forests. Given that Transylvania is lush with forests, this is a good name, although a bit misleading. Another form in the Latin is: Ultrasylvania.

The Hungarians gave Transylvania the name of Erdely. It can be found in a document in Hungarian, so the name was known early.

The Romanians also gave Transylvania a name: Ardelui. The name to me seems closest to the Hungarian version, but I haven't had much time to look deeply into this. (I took this spelling from wikipedia, listed under Transylvania)

This is all interesting to me, since much of the history of a place can be found in its name. Transylvania is unique as a place, and I am still looking for some information on a few of the major towns to tell people about this.


as said...

The Romanian name is Ardeal. See e.g.,

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Hi Rebecca,

I found your blog by chance and that's great. Yor effort to find new oppinions about Trasylvania are amazing for someone that was not born in Romania. For this I try to say few words about Transylvania.
So, after the retreat of Roman occupation (271 AD), DACIA remained under political, economical, and cultural influence of the Roman Byzantine Empire and until the 7th century AD, the Dacian Roman population living in the N of the Danube maintained permanent relations with the latin-phobic provinces.During the Roman Occupation a lot of migration people crossed the Romania's territory of today: the Goths, the Huns, the Visigoths, the Ostrogoths, the Gepidaes, the Kumans and the Avars, all of them representing a war minority. At this time there was no colonization, their influence over the material culture, spiritual life, language and customs over the Roman Dacian population being of no importance. The Huns, led by Attila did a lot of raids over these territories, while the population had to leave the old cities. This is a reason why the old urban areas of Dacia couldn't have been transformed into rich feudal sites, as the West Europe was.
Starting with 7th century there was a massive insight in the extra Carpathians lands of the slav tribes. They brought a strong influence so that it was made the step from the barbarian society to a feudal one.
It seems that the Romanian language appeared at the begining of the 10th century as being fully constituted, with some modification in its evolution.
According to the Gesta Hungarorum, written by an annonymous author, at the begining of the 11th century, in Transylvania there were 3 principalities, ruled by Gelu, Menumorut and Glad, which were conquered by the Hungarian King Stephen I. In time, after the conquerer of this area becomes The Principality of Trasylvania, ruled by a prince named by the Hungarian King, vassal to the kings of Hungary.
So, according with the same document written by that annonymous, Transylvania was first mentioned in a medieval latin document as ULTRA SILVAM (ultra= beyond, on the other side, and, the accusative case of sylva - sylvam = forest, wood)around 1075 (11th century). Later became Transylvania (having the same meaning).
The Hungarian name Erdely comes from Erdo-elve and it means the same = beyond the forest. In my oppinion the romanian term for Transylvania, ARDEAL, was taken from this language, or, at least was transformed from this.
In my oppinion the german name SIEBENBURGEN defines the 7 fortified cities FROM Transylvania, not Transylvania as a german translation of the area. After all Transylvania was the SE border of Hungarian Empire. Why there are szeklers and saxons here, well, this is another topic.
One last thing. The 7 citadels,burgs, fortified german cities, are: Kronstadt - the political centre under Hapsburgs, Schassburg, Mediasch, Hermannstadt - the Seat of the Hapsburg governor and cultural centre,Broos - destroyed by the Otomans in the XV century and replaced with Saschisch Regen, Bistritz and Klausenburg - excluded in the XVI century and replaced with Muhlbach. There were no changes since then for the SIEBENBURGEN.


Rebecca said...

Thanks to all who have given me so much information, to dan especially, all of your hard work is great.

Hope you all come again!