|Drago? the Founder|
|Voivode of Moldavia|
|Reign||1345-1359 – 1353-1361|
|Successor||Sas of Moldavia|
|Issue||Sas of Moldavia|
|Dynasty||House of Drago?|
|Father||Giula of Giule?ti (debated)|
Drago?, also known as Drago? Vod?, or Drago? the Founder was the first Voivode of Moldavia, who reigned in the middle of the , according to the earliest Moldavian chronicles. The same sources say that Drago? came from Maramure? while chasing an aurochs or bison across the Carpathian Mountains. His desc?lecat, or "dismounting", on the banks of the Moldova River has traditionally been regarded as the symbol of the foundation of the Principality of Moldavia in Romanian historiography. Most details of his life are uncertain. Historians have identified him either with Drago? of Bedeu or with Drago? of Giule?ti, who were Vlach, or Romanian, landowners in the Kingdom of Hungary.
Most Moldavian chronicles write that Drago? came to Moldavia in 1359, but modern historians tend to propose an earlier date (1345, 1347, and 1352). Drago? became the head of a march of the Kingdom of Hungary, which emerged after a Hungarian army inflicted a crushing defeat on a large army of the Golden Horde in 1345. Early sources say that he founded Baia and Siret, and invited Saxon settlers who introduced viticulture in Moldavia. According to the traditional dating, he died in 1361, but earlier years (1353, c. 1354 and 1357) have also been suggested by historians. Drago? did not establish a royal dynasty, because his grandson, Balc, was expelled from Moldavia by Bogdan of Cuhea, another Vlach landowner from Maramure?.
The early 16th-century Moldo-Russian Chronicle, which contains the most detailed description of the foundation of Moldavia, described Drago? as one of the "Romans" who had received estates in Maramure? from "King Vladislav of Hungary". According to the chronicle, the king invited the "Romans" to fight against the Tatars and settled them in Maramure? after their victory over the invaders.
Modern historians' attempts to determine Drago?'s family connections and to describe his early life have not produced a broad consensus. According to a scholarly theory, he was identical with Drago? of Bedeu, mentioned in a royal charter which was issued in late 1336. In that charter, Charles I of Hungary instructed the Eger Chapter to determine the boundaries of the domain of Bedeu (now Bedevlya in Ukraine) that he had donated to the brothers Drag and Drago?. Drag and Drago? were mentioned as the king's "servants", showing that they were directly subjected to the sovereign, like all noblemen in the Kingdom of Hungary. Historian Radu Carciumaru says that the identification of Drago? of Bedeu with Drago?, the first ruler of Moldavia has not been convincingly proven.
A second scholarly hypothesis suggests that another Vlach lord, Drago? of Giule?ti, was the founder of Moldavia. He was the son of one Giula, son of Drago?, to whom Charles I of Hungary granted two estates in Maramure? – Giule?ti and the nearby Nire? – at an unspecified date, according to a royal charter, dated to 15 September 1349. Giula and his six sons (Drago?, Stephen, Tartar, Dragomir, Costea and Mir?sl?u) remained loyal to Charles I's son and successor, Louis I of Hungary, even when two other Vlach lords, Bogdan of Cuhea and Stephen, son of Iuga, tried to persuade them to turn against the sovereign. In revenge, Bogdan of Cuhea and Stephen expelled them from their estates. In his diploma, King Louis ordered John, the Vlach voivode of Maramure?, to reinstate Drago? of Giule?ti and his family in the possession of their estates. Historians Victor Spinei and István Vásárhelyi say that Drago? of Giule?ti and Drago?, voivode of Moldavia were not identical.
Based on the similarity of certain place names in Maramure? and Moldavia, taking into account local folklore, historian ?tefan S. Gorovei proposes that Drago? was a member of the Codrea family who held the domain of Câmpulung in Maramure?. He says that parallel toponyms – for instance, Bedeu in Maramure? and B?deu?i in Moldavia – show that Vlach groups from the region of Câmpulung settled in the basin of the Siret River. According to Carciumaru, no documentary evidence substantiates Gorovei's theory.
The Ragusan historian, Jacob Luccari, who completed his chronicle in 1601, wrote that Drago? had been "the baron of Khust, a town in Transylvania" before moving to Moldavia. Khust was a fortified town in Maramure? in the . The Drágffys, who were descended from Drago?, held Khust for a short period at the end of the century, but no document proves that Drago? had ever held the same town.
The Moldavian chronicles preserved several variants of the legend of Drago?'s hunting for an aurochs or bison, ending with his "dismounting" by the Moldova River, which gave rise to the development of Moldavia. The Anonymous Chronicle of Moldavia contains a short summary: "In the year 6867 Drago? Voivode came from the Hungarian country, from Maramure?, hunting an  The Moldo-Polish Chronicle preserved a more detailed story: "By the will of God, the first voivode, Drago?, came from the Hungarian country from the town and river of [Maramure?], hunting an aurochs which he killed on the river Moldova. There he feasted with his noblemen, and liking the country he remained there, bringing [Vlachs] from Hungary as ". According to the most comprehensive Moldo-Russian Chronicle, after the hunting Drago? returned to Maramure? to persuade the local Vlachs to accompany him back to Moldavia; they crossed the Carpathians after "Vladislav, the Hungarian king" permitted them to leave and they dismounted at the very place where Drago? had killed the beast. On the other hand, the 17th-century Grigore Ureche did not mention Drago? when narrating the legend of the "dismounting". According to Ureche's version, Transylvanian shepherds chased the aurochs and killed it at Boureni whose name is connected to the Romanian word for aurochs (bour). Ureche also stated that the head of an aurochs was put on the coat-of-arms of Moldavia on this occasion.
Scholar Mircea Eliade dedicated a separate chapter to "Voivode Drago? and the ritual hunt" in his De Zalmoxis à Gengis-Khan ("From Zalmoxis to Genghis Khan"), published in Paris in 1970. He concluded that the two principal motifs of the legend – the hunting and the sacrifice of the aurochs – were probably based on an "authochtonous legend", describing a "heroic act" connected, for instance, to the foundation of a local chiefdom or to an act of colonization, even if the existence of a similar Dacian legend could not be proven. Eliade says that the legend of Drago?'s hunting was only stylistically influenced by the similar Hungarian legend of Hunor and Magor.
According to most chronicles, Drago? arrived in Moldavia in 1359. The Moldo-Polish Chronicle is the sole exception, which states that Drago?'s "dismounting" occurred in 1352. Historians still debate the year of the foundation of Moldavia. Many historians (including ?tefan S. Gorovei, Dennis Deletant, Neagu Djuvara, and Constantine Rezachevici) propose an early date, 1347 or even 1345. They say that a successful Hungarian campaign under the command of Andrew Lackfi, Count of the Székelys, against the Tatars across the Carpathians in 1345 gave rise to the development of a defensive march, ruled by Drago?. According to Deletant, the establishment of that border province was connected to the foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Milkovia, which was sanctioned, upon the request of Louis I of Hungary, by Pope Clement VI on 27 March 1347.
Other historians (for instance, Constantin C. Giurescu and Petre P. Panaitescu) accept the year proposed by the Moldo-Polish Chronicle (1352). Vlad Georgescu says that Drago? had participated in the Hungarian campaigns against the Tatars before Louis I made him head of the border province around 1352. Finally, there are many historians (including Victor Spinei, István Vásáry, Tudor S?l?gean) who say, in accordance with the majority of the Moldavian chronicles, that 1359 was the year of the foundation of Moldavia. Vásáry writes that Drago? came to Moldavia, taking advantage of the anarchy which followed the death of Berdi Beg, Khan of the Golden Horde, in 1359.
The Moldo-Russian Chronicle says that Drago? and his people settled in the borderlands "where the Tatars were wandering". The exact borders of Moldavia during Drago?'s reign cannot be determined. Spinei and Andreescu write that it developed in the region that is now known as Bukovina. According to the local inhabitants' tradition, Drago? set up his residence in Siret. The Moldo-Russian Chronicle attributed the foundation of both Siret and Baia to him. The 17th-century Miron Costin wrote that viniculture had been introduced in Moldavia by Saxon craftsmen who came upon Drago?'s invitation.
According to an interpolation by Misail the Monk in Grigore Ureche's chronicle, Drago?'s rule in Moldavia "was like a captaincy". When Misail the Monk made his remark in the , captaincy was a military unit, made up by villagers who were obliged to render specific military services. Earlier sources did not mention that Drago? had participated in any military actions. Nevertheless, the fact that he was the head of a frontier zone of the Kingdom of Hungary shows that he and his retainers had an important role in the military actions east of the Carpathians.
Drago? "reigned for two years", according to the Anonymous Chronicle of Moldavia and the Moldo-Polish Chronicle. Some historians (including Andrei Brezianu and Marcel Popa) write that Drago? died around 1353. According to historian Dennis Deletant, Drago? reigned for about seven years (until around 1354). Radu Carciumaru thinks that Drago? died fighting against the Tatars in 1357. According to Victor Spinei, who accepts the narrative of the majority of the Moldavian chronicles, Drago? died in about 1361. Drago? was buried in a church in Volov.
Although most Moldavian chronicles attribute the establishment of Moldavia to Drago?, that tradition "is not in keeping with contemporary sources", according to Victor Spinei. For instance, one Voivode Peter, supported by the local Vlachs and Hungarians, expelled his brother, Stephen, and defeated a Polish army at ?ipeni? (now Shypyntsi in Ukraine) in 1359, according to Jan D?ugosz and Filippo Buonaccorsi, which shows the existence of a Vlach polity in the lands which were integrated into Moldavia by the end of the century. Drago? accepted the suzerainty of Louis I of Hungary. However, numerous local Vlach groups were opposed to the rule of the king. For instance, Louis I granted Drago? of Giule?ti (whom some historian identify with the first voivode of Moldavia) six villages along the river Mara in Maramure? on 20 March 1360, because Giule?ti had "turned, with wakeful care and tireless endeavour, back to the path of unswerving many rebellious Romanians" in Moldavia.
Drago? was succeeded by his son, Sas, according to the Moldavian chronicles. However, Drago? did not establish a dynasty, because Bogdan of Cuhea came to Moldavia and expelled Drago?'s grandson, Balc. In compensation, Balc and his brother, Drag, received the former estates of Bogdan of Cuhea in Maramure? from King Louis I. Drag's descendants (members of the Drágffy family) held vast estates in the northeastern parts regions of the Kingdom of Hungary in the late . The list of the voivodes, recorded in the Bistri?a Monastery in 1407, also shows that a "change of dynasty" occurred shortly after Drago?'s death, because it begins with Bogdan, without mentioning Drago? and Sas.