Phanariotes (from Phanar, the chief Greek quarter at Istambul, where the oecumenical patriarchate is situated) were those members of families resident in the Phanar quarter who between the years 1711 and 1821 were appointed voivodes of the Danubian principalities (Moldavia and Wallachia).
That period of Moldo-Wallachian history is also usually termed the Phanariote epoch. It is not to be understood as marking the introduction into the principalities of the Greek element, which had already established itself firmly in both provinces, to both of which Greek princes had been appointed before the 18th century. But whereas the Greek families of earlier introduction gradually became merged in their country of adoption, the later immigrants retained their separate nationality and grew to be powerful agents for furthering the spread of Graecism in the principalities.
The person raised to the princely dignity was usually the chief dragoman of the Sublime Porte, and was consequently well versed in contemporary politics and the statecralt of the Ottoman government.
The new prince, who was compelled to purchase his elevation with a heavy bribe, proceeded to the country which he was selected to govern, and of the language of which he was in nearly every case totally ignorant, accompanied by a horde of needy hangers-on. He and his acolytes ceunted on recouping themselves in as short a time as possible for their initial outlay and in laying by a sufficiency to live on after the termination of the princes brief authority. It was the interest of the Porte to change the princes as often as possible, as the accession donation thus became due more frequently.
When, owing to the numerous cases of treachery among the princes, the choice became limited to a few families the plan was hit upon of frequently shifting the prince from one province to the other: the prince of Wallachia, the richer of the two principalities, was always ready to pay a handsome douceur to avert his transfer to Iasi; the prince of Moldavia was equally ready to bribe his supporters at Constantinople to secure his appointment to Wallachia.
To raise funds to satisfy the rapacity of the Porte the princes became past masters in the art of spoliation, and the inhabitants, liable to every species of tax which the ingenuity of their Greek rulers could devise, were reduced to the last stage of destitution. The active part taken by the Greek princes in the revolt of 1820-21 induced the Porte to revert to the appointment of native princes.
This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopędia Britannica.