Oltenia (Lesser Wallachia in antiquated versions, with the alternate Latin names Wallachia Minor, Wallachia Alutana, Wallachia Caesarea in use between 1718 and 1739) is a historical province and geographical region of Romania, in western Wallachia. It is situated between the Danube, the Southern Carpathians and the Olt river (although counties to the east run across the river in Muntenia in some areas).
Initially inhabited by Dacians, Oltenia was incorpored in the Roman Empire (106, at the end of the Dacian Wars; see Roman Dacia). In 129, during Hadrian's rule, it formed Dacia Inferior, one of the two divisions of the province (together with Dacia Superior, in today's Transylvania); Marcus Aurelius' administrative reform made Oltenia one of the three new divisions (tres Daciae) as Dacia Malvensis, its capital and chief city being named Romula. It was colonized with veterans of the Roman legions. The Romans withdrew their administration south of the Danube in the mid-3rd century and Oltenia was ruled by the Germanic Goths. In the late 4th century it came under the rule of the Taifals before invasion by the Huns. From 681, with some interruptions, it was part of the Bulgarian Empire (see Bulgarian lands across the Danube).
Around 1247 a polity emerged in Oltenia under the rule of Litovoi, which would later included in Muntenia (the mediaeval state of Wallachia). From an unknown moment and up until 1831, the voivode (Prince of Wallachia) was represented in Oltenia by a ban ("the great ban of Craiova", after the seat was moved from Strehaia), considered the greatest office in Wallachian hierarchy, and one that was held most by members of the Craioveşti family (from the late 15th century to about 1550).
During the 15th century, Wallachia had to accept the Ottoman suzerainty and to pay an annual tribute to keep its autonomy. From the Craioveşti-family, many bans cooperated with the Turks. However, many rulers, including the Oltenian-born Michael the Brave, fought against the Ottomans, giving Wallachia brief periods of independence. After 1716, the Ottomans decided to cease choosing the voivodes from among the Wallachian boyars, and established the Phanariote regime.
Two years later, in 1718 under the terms of the Treaty of Passarowitz, Oltenia was split from Wallachia and annexed by the Habsburg Monarchy (de facto, it was under Austrian occupation by 1716); in 1737, it was returned to Wallachia under Prince Constantine Mavrocordatos (see Austro-Turkish War of 1716-18 and Austro-Turkish War, 1737-1739). Under the occupation, Oltenia was the only part of the Danubian Principalities (with the later exception of Bukovina) to experience Enlightened absolutism and Austrian administration, although these were met by considerable and mounting opposition from conservative boyars. While welcomed at first as liberators, the Austrians quickly disenchanted the inhabitants by imposing rigid administrative, fiscal, judicial and political reforms which were meant to centralize and integrate the territory (antagonizing both ends of the social spectrum: withdrawing privileges from the nobility and enforcing taxes for peasants).
In 1761, the residence of Bans was moved to Bucharest, in a move towards centralism (a kaymakam represented the boyars in Craiova). It remained there until the death of the last Ban, Barbu Văcărescu, in 1832.
In 1821, Oltenia and the county of Gorj were at the center of Tudor Vladimirescu's uprising (see Wallachian uprising of 1821). Tudor initially gathered his Pandurs in Padeş and relied on a grid of fortified monasteries such as Tismana and Strehaia.