Arrival of Roma in Europe?

There are no relieable accounts of the Asian and early European history of the Roma, but only hints, the interpretation of which, to a large extent, is still a topic of scholarly discussion. Perhaps we will never know for sure why, how, or even when the Roma settled in Europe for the first time. In this regard, the period from 1200 to 1500 brings about important changes: from the 14th century onwards, at the latest, the contemporary evidence states without doubt that the people and groups mentioned were definitely Roma. It is generally agreed that the Roma had already been living in the European parts of the Byzantine Empire before the 13th century. However, it remains unclear, when exactly the first Roma moved northwards from their settlements in Greece. Similarly, we do not know why and in what numbers they left the Byzantine Empire. Most probably, single groups had been moving north from the mid-14th century onwards. At first, the documents do not necessarily point to Roma, and could be read as evidence of other groups of people. From 1385 onwards, however, we have reliable evidence of the Roma in Wallachia, in today’s Romania. From that time on, the Roma are mentioned more and more frequently; these documents show how groups of Roma explored the European mainland. Already in 1435, the Roma were well-known in most European cities. [Ill. 1] Knowledge of the newly arrived people did not increase in the same way as the number of accounts about them. There are mentions of letters of safe conduct by emperors, kings, and the pope, and about pilgrim legends, which were to assure a friendly reception in the late Middle Ages, strongly shaped by Christianity. Services like fortune telling and palmistry or dishonest skills like pickpocketing are also mentioned – the settled Europeans saw only what they were meant to see. Or what they wanted to see: Many of the earliest sources accuse the Roma of immorality and godlessness, or of espionage for the Turks, and, in general, paint a picture of a “treacherous” and “disloyal” people, however, without any evidence. The earliest European accounts thus shape a clear picture of the Roma; it is, however, a distorted picture, a caricature, which still shapes the non-Roma’s picture of the Roma until today



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