Gypsy Folk Tales, by Francis Hindes Groome, , at sacred-texts.com
In 1387 Mircea I., woiwode of Wallachia, by a charter still preserved in the archives of Bucharest, renewed a grant made about 1370 by his uncle Vladislav to the monastery of St. Anthony at Voditza of forty salaschi ('tents' or families) of Atsegane. Which shows that already the Roumanian Gypsies were serfs; and serfs they continued till 1856. To the Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society (vol. i., Lond., 1857, pp. 37-41) Mr. Samuel Gardner, H.M. Consul at Jassy, contributed some interesting 'Notes on the Condition of the Gypsy Population of Moldavia.' 'The Tzigans,' he says, 'are an intelligent and industrious race, and in their general condition of prædial slavery (for few are in reality emancipated) are a reproach to the country and to the Government. Many of them are taught arts. They are the blacksmiths, locksmiths, bricklayers, masons, farriers, musicians, and cooks especially, of the whole country. . . . They dwell in winter in subterranean excavations, the roof alone appearing above ground, and in summer in brown serge tents of their own fabric. . . . The children, to the age of ten or twelve, are in a complete state of nudity; but the men and women, the latter offering frequently the most symmetrical form and feminine beauty, have a rude clothing. Their implements and carriages, of a peculiar construction, display much ingenuity. They are in fact very able artisans and labourers, industrious and active, but are cruelly and barbarously treated. In the houses of their masters they are employed in the lowest offices, live in the cellars, have the lash continually applied to them, and are still subjected to the iron collar and a kind of spiked iron mask or
helmet, which they are obliged to wear as a mark of punishment and degradation for every petty offence.' The Gypsies of Wallachia and Moldavia are referred to in eleven original documents of the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries. Every one of these documents speaks of them as serfs, but we get never a hint of when they were first reduced to serfdom.