Roumania Past and Present eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 387 pages of information about Roumania Past and Present.


As to the gipsies themselves, concerning whom our readers will no doubt have heard a great deal in connection with this country, they formed, until recently, a nation within a nation, and even now they speak a language of their own, and to some extent stand aloof from the remaining population.  They are the same people variously named Bohemians by the French, Zigenner by the Germans, Gitanos in Spain, Tschinghenneh by the Turks, and Tsigani by the Roumanians, who look upon them pretty much as the white man regards the negro, between whose nature and that of the Roumanian gipsy there is much that is analogous.  That they are of Hindoo origin few doubt, for their language has great affinity to the Sanscrit; and when they first entered Roumania, probably early in the fifteenth century, they were simply a race of wandering barbarians, a later arrival, who were soon enslaved by the boyards.  Many of them followed the occupation of gold-washers in the Carpathians, and part if not all the product of their labour fell to the portion of the wives of the Voivodes; indeed, according to some writers, a considerable number were slaves, whom the princess or her officials did not hesitate to sell, maltreat, or even put to death with impunity.

[Illustration:  GIPSY MUSICIANS.]

Wilkinson has given us anything but a flattering description of them in his day (1820).  The Principalities, he says, contained about 150,000 of them, and ’they make a more profitable use of them than other countries do by keeping them in a state of regular slavery.’  They were able to undergo constant exposure to the rigours of the weather, and were fit for any labour or fatigue, but their natural indolence caused them to prefer all the miseries of indigence to the enjoyment of comforts that are to be reaped from industry.  They were thieves from choice, but ’not with a view of enriching themselves, and their thefts never extend beyond trifles.’[35] The women were well-shaped before they began to have children; both sexes slovenly and dirty in the extreme.  An account of their habits in the coarse language of the historian would be unfit for our readers’ perusal.  There was no regular traffic in them, ’both purchases and sales being conducted in private, and the usual price for one of either sex was from five to six hundred piastres.’  He says the Government owned 80,000, consequently more than one-half of them, and they were ’suffered to stroll about the country, provided they bound themselves not to leave it, and to pay an annual tribute of the value of forty piastres each man above the age of fifteen.’  They lived in tents near the large towns, and seem only to have worked as much as was requisite to keep body and soul together.  But, he adds, ’they possess a natural facility and quickness in acquiring the knowledge of the arts,’ and musical performance was their forte.  They were also employed as slaves

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Roumania Past and Present from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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