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And beneath the surface of the troubled waters is there is the feeling of a heavy ground-swell. The Goths came down the Valley of the Maritza and met the Roman legions at Adrianople; the latter were defeated, Emperor Valens left among the slain. Yet those Goths were only the fringe of that great movement which broke the power of Rome. Are matters very different now?
Perhaps the only difference is that the desire to expand, subconscious in early days of Christianity, is now informed of consciousness, is born of clearly defined necessities, and directed towards definite aims. The movement has been so slow as to pass unobserved for many years, but it has been deliberate, because racial impulses have been curbed by the arts of diplomacy, by the science of strategy, and by a keen realization of economic necessities.
Each of these three factors has its victories to record, acts which to most people seemed but loose links in the chain of history rather than the firm steps towards the goal, distant but clearly seen by those who led the movement. The science of strategy brought Schleswig-Holstein into the German Union, welded the German States together, and extended their line of outposts to the Vosges Mountains. Diplomacy, following victory in the field, made of the German States an Empire, reconciled Austria, and forced Italy into the Triple Alliance.
Diplomacy again brought Heligoland as an outpost in the sea to Germany, and political economy is endeavouring to bring Holland into the German Zollverein. Thus we find the right flank of the Teuton movement from the Baltic to the Balkans fully secured. Neither has the left flank been neglected; wedged in between the Balkan Kingdoms and Russia is Roumania. A Hohenzollern sits on the throne of that country, and all who know Roumania will realize that Austria is paramount there. Meanwhile Russia is deliberately organizing her vast resources.
Does it not seem as if the struggle between the Balkan Kingdoms and the Porte were but the prelude, but a vanguard action, to clear the Turk out of Europe, and so make room for the titanic conflict impending between the Slav and Teuton peoples? When they meet, what then? Are those who live on the flanks of the impending movement prepared to hold their own? When last the Teuton nations moved so many centuries ago a world-wide Empire fell in ruins, an Empire glutted with wealth yet teeming with a pauper population in its capital, luxurious, unnerved, disdaining any service to their country, unconscious of any obligations in return for the privileges of citizenship.
So Rome fell before the Teuton. Again the Teuton is stirring. Germany is daily perfecting an already formidable navy, for flank defence first, then for further enterprise; Austria has recently greatly added to the budget for naval and military purposes, and the road to Saloniki is no longer closed by Turkey; Italy with her considerable naval power is allied to Germany and Austria. What is Great Britain, the vast Empire encircling the moving forces from west to east, doing towards her own safety?
Servia, a country hitherto denied a voice in the great Committee of European States, at once mobilized troops exceeding in number the expeditionary force with which Great Britain proposes to take part in an armed conflict of the Great Powers, and moreover that small kingdom proved itself capable of even greater effort and produced as many fighting men as Moltke required to vanquish France. The Allies acted sharply and decisively. From here Ottoman armies marched to victory; Bulgars, Greeks, Serbs were conquered, enslaved, their national identity swamped by the rising tide of Moslems as it flowed on over the plains of Hungary even up to the bastions of Vienna, that bulwark of the Western world.
From Stamboul, where I write, successive Sultans directed the policy of Turkey as their power waned. Here plans were devised, intrigues inaugurated to check the forces that threatened Ottoman supremacy. Here the Sultan in his palace heard of fresh troubles in his Empire, of defeats on the field of battle and in the council chamber.
Here between the deep calm of the Orient and the restless striving of the West successive wearers of the sword of Othman must have marked the signs of the times and wondered how disaster might be averted.
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But disaster came, a swift retribution for years of indolence. As I write this the sound of firing is borne on the westerly wind into the City of Constantine, Tsarigrad, Stamboul. I was mightily drawn to revisit this ancient city now in these days of darkness, so I hurried out overland, crossing Germany, Poland, Roumania, till I landed on the banks of the Golden Horn. I T was with strangely mingled feelings that I left London one Saturday evening, left the capital of one great Empire supposed to rest on firm foundations, considered strong in the council of nations, to visit the heart of yet another Empire once considered mighty and of weighty influence in Europe, now tottering to its fall with alarming rapidity, under the staggering blows of four small peoples, young and purposeful, unspoilt by wealth and power.
The lights of Dover gleamed steadily in a black sky, the dark waters gave back broken reflections from a brilliantly lit liner making her stately way down Channel, as the throbbing turbines carried our little ship towards the East. A grey morning rose over the Dutch landscape, shrouded trees reflected heavily in the sullen waters of dykes and canals. From Berlin my road turned to south-east, past prosperous cities such as Frankfort-on-the-Oder, Breslau, towards that corner of Europe where three Empires meet on what was once part of the picturesque Kingdom of Poland, long since forced into the realm of things forgotten by those three Powers that meet here.
It is a gloomy country, black and ungainly in its tense industrial existence. As it were, subconsciously, I felt like one hurrying to the death-bed of a friend; strange, for I have no reason to consider the Turk my friend. Indeed, though I like the individual Turks I have met, I cannot summon up a really friendly feeling for a Power which has deliberately mis-governed its varied subjects, has times out of number countenanced, even encouraged, acts the remembrance of which makes the heart sick.
Yet in spite of reasoning, that feeling of hurrying to the death-bed of a friend never left me, but it had in it something of the antagonism which, as psychologists declare, is an ingredient of the love of a man for a woman. This strange feeling that obsessed me became stronger as I left well-ordered Germany behind, and felt the subtle influence of the East on entering Austrian territory.
Apologists say that this state is due to the many Polish Jews who freely use their cheap season tickets; this might account for the dirty condition of third-class carriages when packed with worthies in greasy gaberdines, with ringlets dangling down from either temple; it is no pleasure to pass through a third-class carriage on your way to the dining-car.
However well this excuse may serve, I found no attempted cleanliness in any other class while travelling through Austrian territory, and it seemed that the Roumanian railway authorities do not set much store by the God-like virtue either, at least as far as the accommodation of travellers is concerned. Throughout my travels I have found that romance and picturesqueness are seldom separated from dirt, and, fortunately, the former may often outbalance the latter.
The world of romance became gently insistent as the railroad left the teeming coalfields of Prussian Poland behind and passed on to places famous in the history of the Kingdom of Poland—Cracow, still a centre of the refined and gracious intellectuality which characterizes Polish nobility.
Here, again, Empires have gone under and their lands have been divided among younger races. We hurry on ever to south-east, and shortly enter a land which was formerly a portion of the Empire now on its death-bed—Moldavia, a province of Roumania. Roumania is a very interesting country, and I must own to a kind of spell which its past history and its present prosperity cast upon me. The former is stirring indeed. Memories of histories I had read came crowding in upon me as I travelled through Moldavia, the country separated from Russia by the Pruth, watered by the Sereth and its tributaries, Moldava, Bistritza, and others that come down from the Carpathian Mountains into the fertile plain.
The Carpathians, snow-tipped, densely wooded on their lower slopes, accompanied me in the blue distance, until about the latitude of Galatz they turned away to westward, curving round in their southern range until they meet the Danube at Orsova, and force it to narrow down to a third of its stately width in order to pass through the Iron Gates.
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Streams of savages poured into this valley from the plains of Western Russia. Who were the first inhabitants is matter of conjecture: Scythians probably occupied the eastern districts, Thracians and Dacians were found by Trajan in the western part. Trajan conquered the Dacians in his campaign of A. Among the Roman remains scattered about the western parts of Roumania are the bridge-heads at Turn Severin and the ruined tower of Severus in the public gardens of that thriving township.
It is supposed by the Roumanians themselves that they are descended from the Roman colonists of Dacia Trajana, and they point to their language in evidence. Theirs is indeed a Latin tongue, but language is often a false guide in the difficult and intricate paths of ethnology. It seems to me open to doubt that Rome of the second century could have afforded a sufficiently large supply of emigrants to people a large colony; and that the whole Roumanian nation should be descended from the Roman legionaries seems unlikely, for in the first instance it does not follow that the legionaries were all Romans, or even Latins, and again, if they had been, there would have been only a small proportion of them who would be permitted to bring wives and families with them.
Moreover, the Roman tenure of the land was short, only about a century and a half, as in the Goths streamed in from the north-east, obliging Emperor Aurelian to withdraw his troops into the province of Moesia, subsequently called Dacia Aureliana. The Goths were not inclined to settle anywhere in those days; they simply plundered and murdered as they went along, and probably left no definite impression on the races they were pleased to visit. We shall meet them again nearer Constantinople. Slavs and Bulgars forced their way here, and of the former many traces have been found, leading to the supposition that they enter largely into the composition of the Roumanian people.
The Hungarians may have contributed something towards building up the present people of Roumania, when they marched through in , and subsequent Slav races, such as the Petschenegs in and the Kumani, Tartars, in , probably added their quota.
At any rate German influence had vanished, and Slavs and Finns Bulgars , with detachments of other wandering races united, blended into one, and it is thus that the Roumanian nation of to-day may be said to have originated. Towards the end of the fourteenth century yet another race came into Dacia from out of the East, driven from their homes in India by Tamerlane. They are known by various names, and are spread all over Europe.
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They call themselves Romanies, probably because they made Roumania their home, and here they are to be found in great numbers. Wherever they go they bring music with them, grand epics, love-songs, quaint little popular ditties, which they sing to the accompaniment of string instruments. It is these Tsigani who have been instrumental in keeping alive the traditions of a great past among the peoples of the Balkan countries.
Together with religion, their songs have helped to preserve the national identity of Roumanians and Serbs, have fostered racial ambitions, and inspired heroes to fight for freedom.
They sing in soul-stirring epics of Stephan Dushan, of great Voivods who led men to battle, of Hunyadi Janos and his paladins, of ill-fated Knjes Lazar, whose army of crusaders went under in a sea of blood before the sword of Othman on the Amselfeld at Kossovo, since recaptured by the Serbs. Michael showed the Osmanli that it is vain to attempt the suppression of a strong race and its religion. No doubt the attempt seemed successful for a while; Cantomir of Moldavia and Brancovan of Wallachia, allied to Peter the Great of Russia, suffered defeat at the hands of the Turks on the banks of the Pruth, and had to submit to the rule of Greek hospodars, placed in power by the Porte, for a period of fifty-eight years.
The duchies, like greater Powers in Eastern Europe, were unable for long to withstand the influence of the latest race to come from out of the East, and became subject to the Osmanli.
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During troubled centuries of Turkish suzerainty the Roumanian people preserved their faith, their national characteristics, and this enabled them to rise as a young, strong race when the hour of deliverance came. Of one of these the following story is told. Among his customers he noticed an elderly, dejected individual who was very particular in his choice of the daily morsel of meat, choosing liver as a rule.
Now it struck the Armenian that possibly this daily purchase might be meant for human consumption, instead of for the delectation of a pet cat; careful inquiries led to the following discovery. His customer was an old servant, the only one who had remained true to his master, and that master, once Grand Vizier, had fallen from his high estate on very evil times. By one of those turns of the wheel not unusual in Oriental countries, the former Grand Vizier rose from poverty and rags to power again, and decided to reward the Armenian.
There are descendants of yet more ancient families still to be found in Roumania, amongst them some Cantacuzene, of Byzantine fame. Roumania followed Greece and Servia in wresting its freedom from the Turk, and the Convention of Paris in assured the autonomous rights of the principalities, their union into one State, and constitutional government. This Prince resigned in , and as a Count of Flanders, younger brother of the King of the Belgians, declined the invitation to succeed him, Prince Charles of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen accepted it as Carol I.
This precipitated the war against Turkey, and three divisions of Roumanian troops, some 35, men, with guns, led by their Prince, joined the Russian forces. Prince Charles himself fired the first shot at Vidin, and his gallant troops followed him on to victory. They particularly distinguished themselves by spirited bayonet attacks at Plevna, and it was to the Roumanian troops that Osman Pasha surrendered. Roumania was not called to the conference at S. For this kindness Russia annexed fruitful Bessarabia, leaving to Roumania the swamps of the Dobrutsha.
He rules still, and wisely, over a prosperous country of 50, square miles, with a population of six to seven millions. The majority of the people of Roumania belong to the Orthodox Greek Church, have so far lived in peace with their neighbours, and are happy and prosperous. But they have not remained unaffected by the desperate events which brought such an upheaval to the other Balkan States.
As matters stand at present, many Roumanians think that they have missed an opportunity of getting some useful trifle of territory for themselves, or that they have been deprived of opportunity, and are consequently very sore about it.
So here, too, threatening clouds obscure the political horizon.
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