Banat is the Romanian language word for a Banate – a term used in the Middle Ages for a region ruled by a military governor, who was called a Ban. Currently Banat is a region that spans 3 countries – Romania, Serbia, and Hungary. However those national boundaries make little sense in terms of history, ethnicity or geography, as it’s been thought of as a single entity for over a thousand years.
Basically, the Banat is the region where the Carpathian Mountains gradually slope down to the west until they become the Pannonian Plain. [See https://folkdancefootnotes.org/culture/ethnicity-history-geography/pannonnia-carpathian-basin-hungarian-plain/]. Quoting Wikipedia: “The Banat is defined geographically as the part of the Pannonian Basin bordered by the River Danube to the south, the River Tisa to the west, the River Mureș to the north, and the Southern Carpathian Mountains to the east. Its historical capital was Timișoara, now in Timiș County in Romania.“
“The Romanian Banat is mountainous in the south and southeast, while in the north, west and south-west it is flat and in some places marshy. The climate, except in the marshy parts, is generally healthy. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, flax, hemp and tobacco are grown in large quantities, and the products of the vineyards are of a good quality. Game is plentiful and the rivers swarm with fish. The mineral wealth is great, including copper, tin, lead, zinc, iron and especially coal. Amongst its numerous mineral springs, the most important are those of Mehadia, with sulphurous waters, which were already known in the Roman period as the Termae Herculis (Băile Herculane). The present “Banat Region” of Romania includes some areas that are mountainous and were not part of the historical Banat or of the Pannonian plain.”
“In Serbia, the Banat is mostly plains. Wheat, barley, oats, rye, maize, hemp and sunflower are grown, and mineral wealth consists of oil and natural gas. A popular tourist destination in the Banat is Deliblatska Peščara. There are also several ethnic minorities in the region, including Hungarians (10.21% of the population), Romanians, Slovaks, Bulgarians, Macedonians, Roma people, and others“
Although Romanians and Serbs consider the Banat to be a distinct region within their own country, it’s also part of larger regions. For Serbs, Banat is part of Vojvodina, the northern, Pannonian part of Serbia.
For Romanians Banat is more often thought of as a separate region, but is sometimes considered part of Greater Transylvania.
Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of stone-age peoples who lived in the Banat region. The Celts were there 2400 years ago,followed by the Romans, Goths, Huns, Gepids, and Avars. During Avar rule, many Slavs moved in until by the the 800’s the region became part of the Bulgarian empire. Hungarians took over around 1000. For 500 years the Banat was a Hungarian-controlled collection of ethnicities. From 1552 – 1716 the Ottomans ruled, though there were many attempts to break free by Hungarians and Serbs. In 1716 an alliance of Austrians, Hungarians, Serbs, and Romanians wrested control of most of the Banat from the Turks, and the Austrians took charge. After centuries of warfare, much of the Banat had became de-populated and reverted to marshland, heath, and forest. The Austrians began inviting other German-speakers from Austria Swabia, Alsace and Bavaria. Many settlements in the eastern Banat were developed by Germans and had ethnic-German majorities. The Germans in the Banat region became known as the Danube Swabians, or Donauschwaben. After years of separation from their native German provinces, their language was markedly different, preserving historic characteristics. In 1779, the Banat region was incorporated into the Habsburg Kingdom of Hungary.
At the end of WW1, the victors reduced the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire to a fraction of its former self, carving off the Banat and splitting it between Romania & Serbia. Though Serbian Banat had a Serb majority and Romanian Banat a Romanian majority, both contained a significant number of Romanians or Serbs, as well as Germans, Hungarians, Roma, plus a few Bulgars, Czechs, Slovaks, and others. During WW2 the substantial German population of the Banat sided mostly with the Nazis. Upon the Nazis’ defeat, life was uncomfortable for the Danube Swabians. Most have left.
John Uhlemann wrote: “My wife and I have been going to Romania since 1973. One interest was the German population of southern Transylvania. It was like a time warp with very neat, distinctive German rural architecture, some amazing fortified churches (look up Viscri on Google Earth or Google maps for photos). and preservation of a German folk culture that had largely disappeared in Germany. They had been there since the 12th century, invited in to create a middle class (the Romanian peasants they conquered didn’t have anything to tax) and to guard the borders. After WWII the Germans were not popular with the new Communist government, so they went from the top of the social heap to the bottom. In 1990 the German government offered automatic citizenship, an apartment, a job, and free health care to any Germans who wished to move to Germany. An astounding 98% left, and Villages were abandoned to disintegration. The story of how Prince Charles set up a fund for their restoration is interesting in itself, but now Romanians have moved into many villages, restored the houses, and opened bed and breakfasts in them. My wife and I stayed in one of them in June (look up La Hansi in Crit).“