Shaking ourselves free as far as possible from controversial questions, we may state with safety, in regard to Wallachia, that for more than a century after the wave of barbarian immigration had ceased to flow over it, it resembled the condition of Independent Tartary of to-day; that the number of its petty princes gradually diminished, one of them, Vladislav Bassarab, having at length secured a great portion of the country under his rule, and almost, if not completely, shaken off the Hungarian yoke (1350-1376), until, under the reign of Mircea the Old (1386-1418), a new enemy, the Turks, so far obtained the ascendency over the country as to acquire permanent rights of suzerainty.
[Footnote 128: For the details of this controversy the reader is referred to the recently published pages of Roesler and Pic, the first an Austrian and the second a Slav writer.]
Mircea, one of the heroes of Roumanian history, not only secured the independent sovereignty, and called himself Voivode of Wallachia ’by the grace of God,’ but in 1389 he formed an alliance with Poland, and assumed other titles by the right of conquest. This alliance was offensive and defensive with Vladislav Jagello, the reigning king, and had for its objects the extension of his dominions, as well as protection against Hungary on the one hand, and the Ottoman power on the other; for the Turks, who during the fourteenth century had been waging war with varying success against the Eastern Empire, were now rapidly approaching Wallachian territory. Although Constantinople did not come into their possession until the following century, Adrianople had already fallen, the Turkish armies had overrun Bulgaria, and about the year 1391 they first made their appearance north of the Danube.
At first the bravery of Mircea was successful in stemming the tide of invasion. The reigning Sultan was Amaruth II., who sent an army against him under the command of Sisman, Prince of Bulgaria, a renegade who had married the daughter of the Sultan, and had taken the offensive against the Christians; but he was signally defeated, and for a brief period Wallachia continued to enjoy her independence. A year or two afterwards Bajazet II., the successor of Amaruth, resumed the offensive, and this time, finding himself between two powerful enemies, the King of Hungary and the Sultan, Mircea elected to form an alliance with the latter, and concluded a treaty with him at Nicopolis (1393), known as the ’First Capitulation,’ by which Wallachia retained its autonomy, but agreed to pay an annual tribute and to acknowledge the suzerainty of the Sultan. This treaty is dated 1392; but according to several historians Mircea did not adhere to it long, for he is said to have been in command of a contingent in the army of the crusaders, and to have been present at the battle of Nicopolis (1396), in which the flower of the French nobility fell, and, when he found their cause to be hopeless, once more to have deserted them and joined the victorious arms of Bajazet.