The Banat region of Romanian has two very distinct zones; the plain zone Câmpia Banatului which was historically connected with the parts now in Serbia and Hungary, and the mountain zone Banatul de munte which has been the border between the lower Danubian empires and the Pannonian empires through history.
This area west and south of Timişoara is water meadows and marsh lands, to the north and east are the slightly higher table lands which meet the mountain and valleys. The Banat mountain region comprises a number of well known ethnographic zones, valea Almăjului and valea Bistrei, joined by the Timiş-Cerna corridor.
This page is about the ethnographic region of Banat, but "Banat" its origins in historic administrative regions.
Pre-history archaeology shows less evidence of continued inhabitation in the lowlands, with some Bronze age tumuli and iron age remains along the edge of the plateau lands to the lower marshes. However, there is strong evidence in the mountain zones for inhabitation from the Neolithic to present day along the valleys and mountain foothills.
In the late Iron-age the Banat came under the rule of the Dacian rulers Burebista, Cotiso then Decebal. In 88 Roman general Julianus advanced through valea Bistrei to the the Iron gate of Transylvania, being stopped there by Decebal, but in 106 Dacia fell to the Romans with Banat becoming part of the Roman imperial province of Dacia (106-118), Dacia Superior 119-167), Dacia Apulenis (168-275) the remains of their presence is found through all the valley communication routes through the mountain zones.
The departure of the Romans left the Banat at the border of the Roman, Byzantine, and Bulgarian empires to the south and Visgoth, Hun, Gepid, Avar kingdoms to the north. Slavs settled in the area during the 6th century under the Avar empire which existed throughout the 7th and 8th centuries. The Avar kingdom was probably an ethnic mix of Avars, Gepids (Germanic), Slavs and others, possibly Vlachs. The Avar rule continued until terminated by the Franks under Charlemagne in 796, followed by the Bulgars under Krum probably occupying Banat, and incorporation into the Bulgarian empire by 824.
It is speculated (from the Gesta Hungarorum) in the 9th to 10th centuries the local ruler was Glad, who ruled over the Slavs and Vlachs fo Banat and part of south Transylvania, probably vassal to the first Bulgarian Empire under tsar Simeon, but defeated by the Hungarians during the 10th century. From two sources, the Gesta Hungarorum and the Legend of Saint Gerard, Ahtum was a duke of Banat in the 11th century who opposed the Hungarian Kingdom until he was defeated and Banat became part of the Hungarian kingdom.
Banat area came under the Hungarian rule of Stephen I in the early 11th century and was consolidated into the Hungarian Catholic kingdom. Around 1230 the "Banat of Severin" ("Banat of Szörény") is first mentioned, being founded as the frontier to the Bulgarian Kingdom with a semi-autonomous position within the Kingdom of Hungary.
Ban being a term used during the middle ages in southern Slavonic states for local administrative regions. Severin is derived from Slavic for northern.
This consisted of the west of Oltenia and the Banat mountain regions. The Hungarian fortified town of Temesvar was first document mentioned in 1212, but was destroyed by the Tartars in 1241. After the 1241 Tartar devastation, King Endre II invited the Knights of St. John to colonise Banat's southern borders. In 1316 King Robert Karoly of Hungary installed his court at Timişoara, but moved out in 1324 and in 1438 comes under Iancu of Hunedoara to defend the southern border of Hungarian kingdom.
It is likely that Vlachs, Serbians and Bulgarian relocated to the Banat from Serbia and Bulgaria with the advancing of the Ottoman Turks, but the population declined throughout the Turkish-Hungarian wars. The first Turkish incursion into Banat was in 1482, but was defeated at Timişoara. In 1541 the Turks seized Buda in Hungary which results in the division of Hungary with Banat being part of the autonomous principality of Transylvania, vassal to the Ottoman empire. In 1552 the Turks occupied Banat and part of Crişana transforming into a pashalik centred at Timişoara and in 1568 this was extended into the mountain parts of Banat.
In 1718 the area became known as "the Banat", part of the Hapsburg empire under the treaty of Passarowitz. At this time most of the villages were Romanian, but during the Hapsburg period the land was drained and colonised by Swabian and Swiss. In addition to the state organised colonisation, there was also private colonisation organised by the landlords and spontaneous movements of peasants. This all led to a mix of Germans, Serbs, Romanians, Hungarians, Slovaks (from southern Hungary), and Czechs. A border military zone in the Banat mountains was formed in 1775 with tax privileges to the villages. During the 1840s to 1860s the Banat Romanians attempted to get autonomous rule status from Vienna.