The legend of Iancu Jianu

Contacts: +40 249 511 344; Intrarea Muzeului, nr. 26, Caracal, 235200 (Iancu Jianu Memorial House)


For almost 100 years, from the first decades of the eighteenth century to the first decades of the nineteenth century, in Oltenia, as in other areas of the country, outlaw appeared and developed. The outlaws were known in all the Balkan countries as fighters for justice who opposed the power of local boyars and abuses of foreign oppressors, true heroes of ordinary people. Their acts of bravery, courage and intelligence have entered the legend, giving them, most of the times, a mythical aura.

Iancu Jianu, one of Oltenia’s most famous outlaws, who opposed the rule, stealing, committing robbery and even killing, as needed. He was born in Caracal in 1787, in a wealthy family with estates spread throughout the Olt area. Even as a young man, Iancu showed strong character and rose against the rulers, swearing that he fought for the justice of the troubled. The legend of Iancu Jianu is strongly rooted in folklore.

The sources of the time describe Iancu Jianu as being “a short, thick man, with red face, red hair and with a thick and short mustache”.  Although he was short, he is said to be slim, agile and fluffy and had no equal in the country in a straight fight. Experienced rider, very good gunman, daring and clever, Iancu Jianu would have been caught and arrested several times, but would have escaped unpunished each time through various types. History tells us that, at the height of his power, Iancu Jianu was leading a real army, numbering around 2,000 – 3,000 outlwas and even holding three cannons.

With their help, in 1809, at just 22 years of age, Iancu Jianu led a campaign south of the Danube, in response to the attack of Pazvantoglu from Vidin over Craiova. Preserved in the collective memory by the name of Pazvante, Pazvantoglu Pasha is also a well-known legend in the area of Oltenia and Vidin. In one of the clashes between Iancu Jianu’s outlaws and the scimitars of the Pasha, Iancu Jianu takes an eye from the dreaded Pazvante, ans this is why he got the nickname Pazvante Chiorul (One-eyed Pazvante). Seriously injured by Jianu, he is ultimately rescued by his personal guard. The Jian’s over-indignation is contained in some ballads, famous both in Romania and in Serbia and Bulgaria. According to the lyrics, Jianu would have shouted: “With this hand I took your eye, and I will also kill you with this hand, heathen dog”.

Iancu Jianu continues the fight against the Turks who had robbed and burned countless times the territories north of the Danube and, along with the bands of panduri from Oltenia, responds with fire to the fire set by the Pasha to the Bani Fortress – Craiova and the villages of Oltenia. It fires, in turn, Vidin and Plevna, killing every Turk in the way, not stopping until destroying from the ground the Turkish Raya from Turn Magurele, which had become Pazvante’s favorite raid base.
Iancu Jianu personally fired the wick that would blow up the mosque in Turnu Măgurele. Following these blows, the Turks will never try to build any Muslim edifice in the Romanian Country.

In the area of Olt today the old ballad about Iancu Jianu is sung at the wedding and popular celebrations, which would have committed outlaw through those places:

“Burdock leaf,

have you ever heard of one Jian,

And a captain’s thief,

Walking through the woods

With sixteen Pandurs”.


Also more known is Iancu Jianu’s Song, sung by the well-known Romanian folk music singer Liviu Vasilică (


Green leaf, three lemons.

Iancule, where do you come from?

From the fair, over Jii

From the fair in Lisandrii (Alexandria)

Iancule, what did you buy?

Almost nothing

With the gold I bought lead

To take the kids to the grove

That the children without me

Use a lot of bullets –

Use a lot of bullets.

I also bought three quarts

I took them by myself

And I will release them when I want

When the posse comes to me, ‘cos I am a proud boy.

I take the posse on foot.

I’m a boy with fine hair

With seven posses I fight –

With seven posses I fight.

You, ferryman, yo-yo!

You, ferryman, yo!

Pull the bridge further down the valley

Or I’m throwing a bullet at you.

And I’ll tell you words of shame.

Pull the bridge more to the right

Or I’ll shoot a bullet in your chest

Than to be at the bridge

Better with the horse swimming

Better with the horse swimming, yo!

That my horse is a little crazy, yo-yo!

That my horse is a little crazy,

It passes the River Olt as on the road –

It passes the River Olt as on the road.

And my horse is a little dummy

It passes the River Olt as on the bridge

It passes the River Olt as on the bridge, yo!

And on the shore when it will take me out

Nothing would be wet

Only the corner will push, yo! (Iancu Jianu’s song)


Although they committed outlaws throughout Oltenia, Jianu and his folks walked more along the banks of the Olt River. The legend says that one day, the outlaw and two of his comrades were riding a carriage pulled by two powerful horses. The cart, covered with quilt, was full of money and other stolen treasures. When their road to Craiova intersected with the one descending from Ocnele Mari to Slatina, the outlaws stopped at a cold water fountain to quench their thirst and water their horses. The sun was high in the sky at noon, the heat had dampened every breath of the field, the midday wind had dampened as well. Thus it is that the outlaws have put themselves in the shade to stay a little in the cold, to shelter from the burning rays of the sun. Suddenly, a troop of horses heard and a cloud of dust covered the sun. Next to the cart, a few newly arrived Arnauts descended with the mission of catching the criminals.

Immediately, not even after the dust raised by the hooves of horses, when the Arnauts tightened around the outlaws, looking for them and asking for their account, the outlaws presented themselves as merchants who went with affairs to Slatina, except Jianu, who, standing up, tense and ready to fight, replied in a frenzied voice, still chewing a thread of grass:

– And I am Iancu Jianu.

A wave of laughter swept through the ranks of the Arnauts as they gathered around Jianu to weigh him from their eyes:

– Say no! That Iancu Jianu would be as small as you! Iancu Jianu is two and a half times higher and nine times much good-looking than you and does not waste his time foolishly near the wells, said one of them. And this being said, still laughing at such a joke, the Arnauts leaped into the saddle and still as fast as they had appeared and melted into the bleak heat away from the road, hurried not to lose the robbers in vain.

After the Arnauts left, when the voice returned to the outlaws who accompanied Iancu Jianu, they rushed to ask for his account. Iancu spit only the blade of grass he had been chewing from one corner of the mouth to the other, just to calculate his movements and words in peace, and only then, smiling, would he have answered:

– I’ve already told you, we must have the cunning and courage to win what we want. The rulers have more power, but we have to have the intelligence, to say what they want to hear and to make them see what they want to see.

This legend is just an example of ingenuity and cleverness that Iancu Jianu demonstrated.



• “Iancu Jianu (1787-1842)”,

• Mirela Marinescu, “Legends of the Oltenian lands”, 7 September 2013,

• “Iancu Jianu” Memorial House, ”

• Dan Cârlea, “Stories and legends with famous oulwas”, 18 January 2013,

• Nicu Parlog, “The Story of Pazvante Chioru”, 9 August 2008,

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