Neagoe Basarab (1482-1521)

Neagoe Basarab

1482 Probably this is, according to some researchers of his life and work, the year when Neagoe Basarab was born, a former Prince of Wallachia (1512-1521) and author of the oldest masterpieces of old literature, “Neagoe Basarab’s lessons for his son, Theodosius”. He comes to the throne of Muntenia after Vlad the Monk, a wise, peaceful and righteous Prince: Radu the Great (1495-1508). He did not fight; he wanted peace and he mainly took care of religious and cultural affairs. So, he called to him Nifon, the former patriarch of Constantinople and, helped by him, reorganized Wallachian Church, deciding that – apart of  Metropolitan residing at Arges – it would move to Targoviste, as Nifon wanted, only during Neagoe Basarb’s reign, in 1517 and he established two bishops: one in Buzau and the other in Oltenia, at Ramnicu Valcea. Then, he built a nice church of  Dealu Monastery, made of stone and with marble ornaments. In the end, he received monk Macarie, the printer that had worked before in Balkan Peninsula, in a monastery near Cetinie and ordered for him the first book printed here, a Liturgy that had appeared in 1508, in Slavic, the language of the Church and of the Orderly Room during that time.

1508 This period a strong boyar family in Oltenia raised up, that of Craiovesti. The founder of this was Neagoe from Craiova; his sons, Barbu, Parvu. Preda and Radu, occupied high positions, the first time the Oltenian leading position (banie) and had a substantial influence over politics. In 1508 they helped one of their relatives, Neagoe, to be crowned.

1510-1511 Neagoe Basarab became Great Commission in Wallachia.

1512 By Moldavia’s metropolitan Theoctistus’ order a Slavic-Romanian Tetraevangel was copied on parchment at Neamt monastery. The manuscript contains an important historical Note about Polish King Ioan Albert’s expedition and defeat in Cosmin’s Forests (1497).

Helped by landowners Craiovesti, Neagoe Basarab became Prince of Wallachia: “Neagoe Basarab was the illegitimate son of Tepelus Basarab of Danesti family, replaced to the throne by Vlad the Monk, Radu the Great Basarab’s father from Mircea the Elder’s family. It seems that his mother, Neaga, married to Governor Parvu Craiovescu who adopted him because historical sources say that he was “the nephew of leader Barbului Craiovescu, Parvu’s son”, but he added: “And so he called him son of prince”. Of course, adopting a prince son of one of the two brunches of the dynasty, Craiovesti wanted to win the descent over the other brunch, to strengthen their political position in case Neagoe gets the throne. Radu the Great had been a godly prince (his father became a monk when he was very young), but was killed by Patriarch Nifon’s order. It is clear that he dared to reprove the prince because he had Craiovesti’s help, who had offered to Neagoe the position of accountant (a kind of secretary) of the Patriarch. It is said that in Patriarch Nifon’s life Neagoe was also a disciple, Patriarch’s “soul son whose teaching and spiritual nourishment he always wanted to get”.

The new prince, Mihnea, illegitimate son of Vlad Tepes (chronic says he was “evil’s son, guardian from Manesti”) came into collision with Craiovesti who, helped by Turkish people, drove him away to Transylvania. Hunters bailiff now, Neagoe captured Mircea, Mihnea’s son, at Cotmeana and drived him away from the country.

Vlad the Younger (the younger brother of Radu the Great) came to Wallachia’s throne, period when Neagoe became equerry and enjoyed Craiovesti’s help. But these started to be competed to the Court by Prince’s brother-in-law, Bogdan, the author of Nifon’s dismissal, who “instigated – as the chronic says – with anger the Prince against Craiovesti, telling that Neagoe was son of prince and that they would remove him from the throne”. Vladut convened Craiovesti and put them to swear that Neagoe was not a prince son, threatening to cut their nose or pull out their eyes in case they would not accept. Craiovesti formally sworn then they crossed the Danube, came back helped by Turkish, destroyed Vladut’s armt and then caught him and cut his head, accepting Neagoe Basarab to the throne (23rd of January 1512)”.

1512-1521 He was an active protector (donations of money, jewels, income of some monastic communities from Sinai Mountain, Jerusalem, Minor Asia, Istanbul, from Greece and especially from Athos Mountain.

Neagoe also built the famous church at Curtea de Arges, artisan Manole’s work; made of stone and marble, richly decorated, it has aroused admiration of all viewers and can be considered one of the worldwide architecture’s magnum opus. Neagoe was buried in this church (1521).

Helped by Ottomans, Neagoe caught Vladut, his predecessor, and beheaded him; at the beginning of the helm he had cut many boyars, Craiovesti’s enemies. Outside, Neagoe’s efforts – who added the name of the dynasty as a Prince, so becoming Neagoe Basarab – were done in order to keep the peace with Ottomans – but tribute payment did not mean that Ottoman Empire was implied in the internal helm of the state (thing that happened for 9 years) – and also contacts establishing with Ottoman Empire’s hostile powers.

1517-1521 Gavriil, Athos’ protos, wrote “Nifon’s Life”, Tsargrad’s Patriarch, by Neagoe Basarb’s order.

Typed initially in Byzantine Greek, the work would have translations into Slavonic, vulgar Greek, Romanian. It also contains some data about Radu the Great, Mihnea the Bad, Vlad V and Neagoe Basrab’s reigns. Belonging to hagiographic genus, the work is important from historical point of view, fact that leads to its incorporation into Walachia’s annals, and also from the literary point of view because of some spectacular descriptions of places in Walachia and of an interesting princes’ portraits gallery, among which that of Neagoe Basarab can be distinguished.

1518-1521 Aproximately during these last years of Neagoe Basarab’s reign “Good Christian Yo Neagoe’s Lessons, Ungro-Walachia’s Prince who Taught His Son, Prince Theodosie”, prenatal work within Byzantine and Slavic historical sources are united into a perfect art form.

1520 After the consecration of the church in Targoviste, Neagoe Basarab removed to this city Walachia’s Metropolitan’s center. The new Metropolitan became the cultural center of the state. Here a series of books were typed for Romanians in all provinces and for the entire Orthodox East.

1521 The first dated text, typed in Romanian, “Letter of Neacsu from Campulung” attests, by its lexicon and by expression’s fluency, the fact that the process of Romanian language formation had been ended for a long time and that there is a tradition of Romanian writing.

The Letter is addressed to boss Hanas Begner (Iohannes Benker), Brasov’s mayor and regards Turkish expedition of Mahmet beg to the Danube.

On the 13th of February, printer Philip the Moldavian occurs certified within Sibiu city papers as translator of Romanian letters of correspondence between Council in Sibiu and Walachia’s princes.

On the 15th of September Neagoe Basarab, Prince of Walachia (1512-1521), author of lessons (approximately 1518-1521) for his son Theodosius, “Romanian culture’s upholder, founder of Episcopal Church in Curtea de Arges”, died.

“Neagoe’s ten-year reign continued the politics of feudal state’s centralization of Radu the Great’s reign. Authoritarian with the landowners, Craiovesti’s adverse factions (he cut Bogdan’s head, he obliged chancellor Blagodescu to become a monk and castigated the nose of a throne pretender), Neagoe wrote to people in Sibiu on a haughty tone: “You will see that I am a worthy Prince and that this country has a Prince”, and to people in Brasov even threatening: “I will make Barsa Country ruler and its father, Tepelus, the dishonest traders”, hanged the thieves, fact that did not stop him, like Stephen the Great (presented by Ureche as impulsive blood shedder but also a saint), to be a religious prince, the greatest founder of feudal period (priest Gavril called him “benefactor of all Sfetagora”).

His love for culture and for artistic daintiness are derived not only from the fact that he patronized “Slavonic Gospel Book” of Macarie printing and built that architectural masterpiece, Episcopal Church of Court of Arges, but also from the clothes he wore (red brocade, sewed with the Byzantine double-headed golden eagle, imperial crown of basileus). He ordered from Brasov a badger fur, an ermine one and a pearls necklace and ironically and improperly rejected a silvery censer, made at Sibiu. The Greek poet at his Court, Maximos Trivalis, called him in an epigram “the divine” and put them in Olympus’ palaces. He supported surgeon Hieronim. He sent to Doge of Venice a horse of 200 ducats and in 1519 asked  Pope Leon X, Michelangelo’s boss, to consider his son, Theodosius, and his servants linked to him, “by perpetual alliance” with Romanian Church.

1841 Within section “Courier”, “Romanian Archieve” of Kogalniceanu, it was announced that there was in Bucharest “the very interesting manuscript “Neagoe Prince’s Exhortation to His Son”. It is hard to believe that this composition was done during the good Prince’s reign, but it can be a processing of the book that, according to Radu Greceanu, Prince Neagoe did during his life.”

1843 M. Gaster categorically contests the possibility – that was believed by Hasdeu and other researchers – that Neagoe would have written his work in Romanian. According to Gaster, “even if the language is really perfect and beautiful, though there is no doubt that those lessons were firstly written into Slavonic by their author and that they were translated into Romanian approximately in 1650, in every way, by a pen master”.

Slavonic text’s discovery by Lavrov in 1894 would brilliantly confirm this point of view and nowadays there is not any doubt regarding the fact that the translation was done in the mid-seventeenth century.

1906 In contradiction to the vast majority of Romanian and foreign researchers who had been dealing with lessons until that moment (Balcescu, Hasdeu, Sbiera, Xenopol, Ioan Bogdan, Aron Densusianu, D. Onciul, P. Lavrov, N. Iorga, P. Sarcu, A. I. Jatimirski), D. Russo said in 1906 on a peremptory tone, the thesis that “Lessons are the work of a monk of century XVII”, who shamelessly plagiarized Byzantine theological literature by Slavonic translations. Russo suppressed – at least in intent – “Neagoe Basarab’s Lessons” as precious historical source and as an original monument of Romanian literature (as Balcescu and Hasdeu considered them), transforming them into a chaotic mixture of Byzantine religious texts, a huge “plagiarism”. So, it was not only about a time translational, but also about a demonetization of work’s literary and ideological structure, undertaken with an obstinate persistence along three decades (his last “contribution” to this thing appeared in 1939) and with undeniable ability and information that imposed and intimidated some people.

Anton Balota and Pavel Chihaia’s observations which support authenticity are ingenious and fair. In fine, N. Stoicescu, within “Neagoe Basarab’s Politics” and “Lessons for His Son Theodosius”, represent a strong historical argumentation. So, there is not nowadays a serious reason to doubt that “Lessons” would not have been written during Neagoe Basarb’s reign.

The text of Romanian version and an accurate philological translation of the Slavonic original were the only things that were missing for an examination of “authenticity problem” with all known items.

1971 “Minerva Publishing” launched a new edition of “Neagoe Basarab’s Lessons for His Son Theodosius”; the text was chosen by Florica Moisil and Dan Zamfirescu. A new translation on Slavonic original by G. Mihaila. Introductory study and notes by Dan Zamfirescu and G.Mihaila.

1972 To “Minerva Publishing” appeared referential volume “Neagoe Basarab”, published by “Neagoe Basarab” Culturally Society in Curtea de Arges.

1973 “Neagoe Basarab and the Lessons to His Son Theodosius” appeared within “Universitas” series. Controversial issues by Dan Zamfirescu. Culturally importance revealing in the European context of Neagoe Basarb’s work and the emphasis of ardent patriotism expressed by it seem to be very interesting for us.

1976 “Romanian Literature and the South-East-European Spirit” was typed by Mircea Mutu, a research of “Balkanism’s” infiltration within Romanian literature and culture, from Neagoe Basarab to Eugen Barbu.

1977 Edgar Papu: of our classics. “Contributions to a Romanian Protochronism” – studies related to our literary values with a participatory function on universal plan, from Neagoe Basarab to interbelic period”.

1984 To “Minerva Publishing” “Neagoe Basarab’s Lessons to His Son Thedosius” was typed within the prestigious collection “Patrimony”. Text chosen and established by Florica Moisil and Dan Zamfirescu.[1]






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