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Olt Defile, Vâlcea County

Coat of arms of Oltenia

Coat of arms

“Lesser Wallachia”
Map of Romania with Oltenia highlighted

Map of Romania with Oltenia highlighted
Coordinates: 44°30′N 23°30′ECoordinates44°30′N 23°30′E
Country  Romania
Largest city Craiova

 • Total 24,095 km2 (9,303 sq mi)
Demonym(s) Oltenian
Time zone UTC+2 (EET)
 • Summer (DST) UTC+3 (EEST)

Oltenia (Romanian pronunciation: [olˈteni.a], also called Lesser Wallachia in antiquated versions, with the alternate Latin names Wallachia MinorWallachia AlutanaWallachia Caesarea between 1718 and 1739) is a historical province and geographical region of Romania in western Wallachia. It is situated between the Danube, the Southern Carpathians and the Olt river.


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Ancient times[edit]

Sucidava – ancient Roman citadel at Corabia

Initially inhabited by Dacians, Oltenia was incorporated in the Roman Empire (106, at the end of the Dacian Warssee Roman Dacia). In 129, during Hadrian‘s rule, it formed Dacia Inferior, one of the two divisions of the province (together with Dacia Superior, in today’s Transylvania); Marcus Aurelius‘ administrative reform made Oltenia one of the three new divisions (tres Daciae) as Dacia Malvensis, its capital and chief city being named Romula. It was colonized with veterans of the Roman legions. The Romans withdrew their administration south of the Danube at the end of the 3rd century and Oltenia was ruled by the foederati Germanic Goths. In the late 4th century Oltenia came under the rule of the Taifals before invasion by the Huns.

Middle Ages[edit]

Horezu Monastery – UNESCO World Heritage

From 681, with some interruptions, it was part of the Bulgarian Empire (see Bulgarian lands across the Danube).

Banate of Severin

In 1233, the Kingdom of Hungary formed the Banate of Severin in the western part of the region that would persist until the 1526 Battle of Mohács.

Around 1247 a polity emerged in Oltenia under the rule of Litovoi. The rise of the mediaeval state of Wallachia followed in the 14th century, and the voivode (Prince of Wallachia) was represented in Oltenia by a ban – “the Great Ban of Craiova” (with seat in Craiova after it was moved from Strehaia). This came to be considered the greatest office in Wallachian hierarchy, and one that was held most by members of the Craiovești family, from the late 15th century to about 1550. The title would continue to exist up until 1831.

During the 15th century, Wallachia had to accept the Ottoman suzerainty and to pay an annual tribute to keep its autonomy as a vassal. From the Craiovești family, many bans cooperated with the Turks. However, many rulers, including the Oltenian-born Michael the Brave, fought against the Ottomans, giving Wallachia brief periods of independence.

Modern times[edit]

After 1716, the Ottomans decided to cease choosing the voivodes from among the Wallachian boyars, and to appoint foreign governors. As the governors were Orthodox Greeks living in Phanar, Constantinople, this period is known as the Phanariote regime.

Oltenia under the Austrian Empire in the 18th century

Two years later, in 1718 under the terms of the Treaty of Passarowitz,[1] Oltenia was split from Wallachia and annexed by the Habsburg Monarchy (de facto, it was under Austrian occupation by 1716); in 1737, it was returned to Wallachia under Prince Constantine Mavrocordatos (see Austro-Turkish War of 1716–1718 and Austro-Russian–Turkish War (1735–1739)). Under the occupation, Oltenia was the only part of the Danubian Principalities (with the later exception of Bukovina) to experience Enlightened absolutism and Austrian administration, although these were met by considerable and mounting opposition from conservative boyars. While welcomed at first as liberators, the Austrians quickly disenchanted the inhabitants by imposing rigid administrative, fiscal, judicial and political reforms which were meant to centralize and integrate the territory (antagonizing both ends of the social spectrum: withdrawing privileges from the nobility and enforcing taxes for peasants).

In 1761, the residence of Bans was moved to Bucharest, in a move towards centralism (a kaymakam represented the boyars in Craiova). It remained there until the death of the last Ban, Barbu Văcărescu, in 1832.

In 1821, Oltenia and Gorj County were at the center of Tudor Vladimirescu‘s uprising (see Wallachian uprising of 1821). Vladimirescu initially gathered his Pandurs in Padeș and relied on a grid of fortified monasteries such as Tismana and Strehaia.

Irrigation near Dăbuleni[edit]

With water pumped from the Danube, an irrigation scheme was developed during 1971 to 1975 for some 100 square kilometres of fertile land in southern Oltenia.

The water was pumped through some 3 kilometres of 3-metre-diameter pipe (rolled on site from steel plate) and fed into a canal. Along this main some-12-kilometre-long canal, more pumps fed water into 20 subsidiary canals, each some 3 to 6 kilometres long.

Thousands of Romanians worked on site. The design and supervision by the British civil engineering company Taylor Woodrow was with the then largest earth-moving fleet in Europe. Up to 400 British engineers could be on site.

The British government had a barter agreement with the Romanian government for it to export tomatoes and other crops to Britain.

Dăbuleni’s irrigated land with its sandy soil has become famous for its water melons, other fruit and vineyards.[2]


The traditional heraldic symbol of Oltenia, also understood to represent Banat, is part of the coat of arms of Romania (lower dexter): on gules field, an or lion rampant, facing dexter, holding a sword, and standing over an or bridge (Apollodorus of Damascus Bridge at Drobeta Turnu Severin) and stylised waves.


The counties which comprise Oltenia

The Olt River separates Oltenia from Muntenia

Suspended bridge in Craiova‘s Nicolae Romanescu Park

Oltenia is part of the Sud – Vest development region. It entirely includes the counties:

and parts of the counties:

Oltenia’s main city and seat for a majority of the late Middle Ages is Craiova. The first medieval seat of Oltenia was Turnu Severin, anciently called Drobeta, in the Banate of Severin. That city is located near the site of Trajan’s Bridge, built by Apollodorus of Damascus for Emperor Trajan in his conquest of the region.


City County Population
Craiova Dolj 302,601
Râmnicu Vâlcea Vâlcea 107,656
Drobeta-Turnu Severin Mehedinți 104,035
Târgu Jiu Gorj 96,562
Caracal Olt 34,603
Motru Gorj 25,860
Balș Olt 23,147
Drăgășani Vâlcea 22,499
Băilești Dolj 22,231
Corabia Olt 21,932
Calafat Dolj 21,227
Filiași Dolj 20,159
Dăbuleni Dolj 13,888
Rovinari Gorj 12,603
Strehaia Mehedinți 12,564
Bumbești-Jiu Gorj 11,882
Băbeni Vâlcea 9,475
Târgu Cărbunești Gorj 9,338
Călimănești Vâlcea 8,923
Segarcea Dolj 8,704
Turceni Gorj 8,550
Brezoi Vâlcea 7,589
Tismana Gorj 7,578
Horezu Vâlcea 7,446
Vânju Mare Mehedinți 7,074
Piatra Olt Olt 6,583
Novaci Gorj 6,151
Bălcești Vâlcea 5,780
Baia de Aramă Mehedinți 5,724
Berbești Vâlcea 5,704
Țicleni Gorj 5,205
Băile Olăneşti Vâlcea 4,814
Bechet Dolj 3,864
Ocnele Mari Vâlcea 3,591
Băile Govora Vâlcea 3,147