Awaken thee, Romanian, shake off the deadly slumber…
Today is National Flag Day in Romania.
The three colors of the Romanian flag represent the blood of the people, the golden crops of the land, and the blue sky above…according to the Communists who ruled Romania from 1947 to 1989. But much has changed since the fall of the Iron Curtain, including the country’s national anthem, which was “Three Colors” from 1977 to 1989.
Like the flag itself, the country is an amalgamation of three nations: Dacia, Wallachia, and their all-too-famous cousin Transylvania. Though Transylvania is the most notorious, Romania was actually formed by the merging of the other two, Moldavia and Wallachia in 1859. Transylvania didn’t join the club until 1918.
Who put the Roman in Romania?
After decades of clashes between Rome and the land known as Dacia, the Roman Emperor Trajan attacked and conquered the defiant kingdom around 100 AD. The war had tested and refined Roman military ingenuity. Dacia was powerful, wealthy, and no stranger to war. Trajan declared 123 days of celebration in Rome following the victory.
Two full Roman legions were posted in Dacia even in peacetime. The soldiers and Dacians intermarried, as did their native tongues. Dacian fighters repelled the Roman invaders around the 4th century, but even today Romania bears the name of the ancient empire. Romania, meaning Land of the Romans, didn’t become the official name until 1862, three years after the creation of the Moldavia-Wallachia state.
The Romanian flag has survived in one form another for 1500 years. Emperor Justinian issued a decree in 535 describing the region’s coat of arms and banner:
“On the right…a red shield, on which towers can be seen, signifying the other Dacia; in the second section a blue-sky shield, with the ensigns of the Bur tribe…and golden in the middle.”
A thousand years later the colors still coincided with the three major regions: red for Moldavia, gold for Wallachia, and blue for Transylvania. And in 1600, the prince Michael the Brave briefly united the three provinces before his assassination in 1601. The colors were used during this time to symbolize the amalgamated territories.
During the Communist regime a coat of arms was added to the banner, but removed in 1989, sometimes quite literally…