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).
Oltenia includes entirely the counties:
and parts of the counties:
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 (marele ban al Craiovei - "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 1400s 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.