The Vlachs, who call themselves Aromani or Arman, first appear in the historical record during the Middle Ages, primarily in the region south of the Balkans. They traditionally claim to be descendants of the Romans who in the 2nd century bce occupied ancient Macedonia and what is now northern and northeastern Greece and who by the 2nd century ce occupied Dacia, a Roman province located in Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains of present-day Romania. After the Romans evacuated Dacia (271 ce), the area was subjected to a series of barbarian invasions. According to some scholars, the Romanized Dacians remained in the area, probably taking refuge in the Carpathian Mountains. They remained there for several centuries as shepherds and farmers, until conditions settled and they returned to the plains.
The Vlachs also lived in Macedonia, Epirus, and Thessaly. According to the 12th-century Byzantine historian Anna Comnena, they founded the independent state of Great Walachia, which covered the southern and central Pindus Mountain ranges and part of Macedonia. (After the establishment of the Latin empire at Constantinople in 1204, Great Walachia was absorbed by the Greek Despotate of Epirus; later it was annexed by the Serbs, and in 1393 it fell to the Turks.) Another Vlach settlement, called Little Walachia, was located in Aetolia and Acarnania. In addition, Vlachs known as Morlachs, or Mavrovlachi, inhabited areas in the mountains of Montenegro, Herzegovina, and northern Albania as well as on the southern coast of Dalmatia, where they founded Ragusa (modern Dubrovnik). In the 14th century some Morlachs moved northward into Croatia. In the 15th century others, later called Ćići, settled in the Istrian Peninsula.
Albania has the second largest Aromanian community, living mostly the southern region of the country, especially around Gjirokaster and Permeti. Aromanian colonies can be found in towns in the south-eastern part of Albania, such as Kastoria, Florina, Monastir, Ohrid and Korca. Another concentration is around Vlora. They inhabit the north-western part of the Pindus Mountains of Greece and southern Albania as well.
In Macedonia, they are concentrated around Bitola, Resen and Krusevo.
Greece: Greece has by far the largest Aromanian community, the majority of them, lives in northern Greece, in scattered rural communities. The main areas inhabited by these populations are the Pindus Mountains, Meglan, around lake Prespa, and around the mountains of Olympus and Vermion.
Macedonia and then Greece were eventually incorporated into the Roman Empire and the Balkans and Macedonia marked the zone between Latin and Greek speaking cultures. The official language was Latin from the Danube down to a line marked by Durres, Ohrid, Skopje and Sofia and then east to the Black Sea; south of this line Greek predominated. Hence, even if by the 2nd century AD most inscriptions are in Greek this only indicates the official language of towns. The native peoples may have been Latin speaking.
Throughout the early Middle Ages the bulk of the Romanic population lay south of the Danube. It was in the Balkan lands that the Romanic race and language took their characteristic mould. It is here that this new Illyrian Romance first rises into historic prominence. Already in the 6th century, as we learn from the place names, such as Sceptecasas, Burgualtu, Clisura, &c., given by Procopius, the Romanic language was assuming, so far as its Latin elements were concerned, its typical form. In the somewhat later campaigns of Cornmentiolus (587) and Priscus, against the Avars and Slavs, we find the Latin-speaking soldiery of the Eastern emperor making use of such Romance expressions as torna, fratre! (Turn back, brother!), or sculca (out of bed) applied to a watch (cf. Romanian a se culca, Italian coricarsi+ex-(s-) privative).
Soon after, the historical sources mentioned this warrior Romanized population as largely incorporated in the Bulgarian kingdom, and, if we are to judge from the names Paganus and Sabinus, already supplying it with rulers in the 8th century.
The fact that these peculiarities are common to the Romanized populations north of the Danube, whose idiom is a different dialect of that spoken by their peers south of Danube, shows that it was this southern branch that had been domineering during earlier periods of the history of Romanized populations in the area. As a result of many historical "accidents", the linguistic particularities of the populations south of Danube irradiated to the northern bank of the river. Little by little, the center of gravity shifted from south to north.
The first mention of Vlachs in a Byzantine source is about the year 976, when Kedrenos (ii. 439) writes about the murder of the Bulgarian tsar Samuel’s brother by certain Vlachian wayfarers, at a spot called the Fair Oaks, between Castoria and Prespa. From, this period onwards the Romanized inhabitants of the Balkan Peninsula are constantly mentioned by this name, and we find a series of political organizations and territorial divisions connected with the name of Vlachiia.
The Bulgarian-Vlach Empire. After the overthrow of the older Bulgarian rulers by Basil Bulgaroktonos (976-1025), the Vlachian population of the former territory of Thrace, Haemus and the Moesian lands passed once more under Byzantine dominion; in 1185 a heavy tax, levied in kind on the cattle of these warlike mountain shepherds, stirred the Vlachs to revolt against the emperor Isaac Angelus; under the leadership of two brothers, Peter and Asan, they founded a new Bulgarian-Vlachian empire, which ended in 1257. The dominions of these half-Slavonic half-Roman emperors extended north of the Danube over a great deal of what is now Romania, and it was during this period that the Vlachian population north of the river seems to have been most influential in the area. The 13th century French traveler Rubruquis speaks of all the country between Don and Danube as a seas land or Blakia.
Great Walachica. It is from Anna Comnena, in the second half of the 11th century, that we first hear of a Vlachian settlement, the nucleus of which was the mountainous region of Thessaly. In the 12th century, Benjamin of Tudela gives an interesting account of this Great Walachia, then completely independent. It embraced the southern and central ridges of Pindus, and extended over part of Macedonia, thus including the region in which the Roman settlers mentioned in the Acts of St. Demetrius had fixed their abode. After the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204, Great Walachia had been included in then larger principality of Epirus, but soon reappeared as an independent principality under its old name, which, after passing under the yoke of the Serb emperor Dushan, was finally conquered by the Turks in 1393.
The Morlachs (Mavrovlachos). These had been mentioned as "Nigri Latini"(Black Latin Speakers) by the presbyter of DiocleaÂ as early as 1150; they inhabited the old Dalmatian littoral and the mountains of what is now Montenegro, Herzegovina and North Albania. Other colonies extended through a great part of the old Serbian interior, where there is a region still called Stara Vlaka or Old Walachia. They were to be found great commercial towns of the east Adriatic shores in the Venetian republic of Ragusa (Dubrovnik); the republic itself seems to have been a Roman settlement, and many Vlach traces were found in the dialect that would later be spoken there. Philippus de Diversis, who described Ragusa as he saw it was in 1440, writes that the various officers of the republic do not make use either of Slav or Italian, in which they converse with strangers, but a certain other dialect only partially intelligible to us Romance-language speakers; he cites words with strong Romanian affinities. In the mountains above Ragusa a number of Vlach tribes are mentioned in the archives of that city, and the original relationship between the inhabitants of the city of Ragusa and the nomadic Alpine representatives of the Roman provincials, who preserved a traditional knowledge of the old lines of communication throughout the peninsula explains the extraordinary development of the Ragusan commerce. In the 14th century the Mavrovlachos or Morlachs extended themselves towards the Croatian borders, and a large part of maritime Croatia and northern Dalmatia began to be known as Morlacchia. A Major Vlachia was formed about the triple frontier of Bosnia, Croatia and Dalmatia, and a Little Walachia as far north as Po~ega. The Morlachs have now become Slavonized.
The Romanic communities in the extreme northwest (Istria) are still represented by the Cici of Val d’rsa and the adjoining Istrian districts. They represent a 15th-century Morlach colony from the Isles of Veglia which formerly extended to Trieste and to the counties of Gradisca and Gorz. The Cici have almost entirely abandoned their native tongue, which is the last remaining representative of the old Morlach, and forms a connecting link between the Daco-Roman dialect (the contemporary literary Romanian) and the Illyrian or Macedo-Roman dialects.