Neacșu’s Letter (1521)

Neacșu’s letter, written in 1521 in the Cyrillic script, is the oldest surviving document available in Old Romanian.  

In the letter, Lupu Neacșu, a merchant from Câmpulung, Wallachia (present-day Romania), informs Johannes Benkner, the mayor of Brassó, Kingdom of Hungary (present-day Brașov, Romania), about the imminent invasion of the Ottoman Empire.

The following is our own translation into English.

To the most wise and venerable and by God endowed master Johannes Benkner of Braşov, much health to you from Neacşu of Câmpulung. [this introduction was written in Old Church Slavonic]

And again* I let you** know of the deed of the Turks, as I heard that the Emperor [Suleiman I, commonly known as Suleiman the Magnificent] had left Sofia [the capital of Bulgaria] and the truth is no other. And they went up the Danube.

And again you should know that a man from Nikopol [town in northern Bulgaria on the bank of the Danube] came to me and told me that he saw with his own eyes that those ships that you know about have passed up the Danube.  

And again you should know that they take 50 men from every city to help on the ships.

And again you should know how some experts*** from Tsargrad [Slavic name for Constantinople, present-day Istanbul] have figured out how to pass those ships at that narrow place that you (also) know about.

And again I tell you of the deed of Mahamet-Beg [Piri Mehmed Pasha, Ottoman statesman and grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire], as I heard from the boyars that are neighbored and from my son-in-law Negre, how the Emperor had allowed him [Mahamet-Beg] to pass through the Romanian Country [Romanian name for Wallachia, present-day Romania] as he pleases.

And again you should know that Basarab [Voivode of Wallachia] is greatly fearful of that thief Mahamet-Beg, more than you are of him.

And again I tell you as my superior**** what I have understood myself. I tell you (this), and you are wise and these words [the information from the letter] you keep to yourself, not let many people know [about this] and you have to protect yourself as you know best.    

And may God bring happiness upon you. Amen. [this line was written in Old Church Slavonic]


* “And again” is an expression used in those days.

** Other translators have used “Your Highness” throughout the text but we decided to use the word “you” instead. “Your Highness” is too strong a word and there is no proper equivalent in English. “You” should be read as a highly respectful pronoun in this context.

*** Neacșu was referring to skilled sailors, engineers.

**** As someone who is above Neacșu in rank, in life.


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