CANTEMIR, the name of a celebrated family of Tatar origin, which came from the Crimea in the 17th century and settled in Moldavia.
Constantine Cantemir became a prince of Moldavia, 1685–1693. He was a good and conscientious ruler, who protected the people from the rapacity of the tax-gatherers and introduced peace into his country. He was succeeded on the throne by his son Antioch, who ruled twice, 1696–1700 and 1705–1707.
His youngest brother, Demetrius or Demeter Cantemir (b. October 26, 1673), was made prince of Moldavia in 1710; he ruled only one year, 1710–1711, when he joined Peter the Great in his campaign against the Turks and placed Moldavia under Russian suzerainty. Beaten by the Turks, Cantemir emigrated to Russia, where he and his family finally settled. He died at Kharkov in 1723. He was known as one of the greatest linguists of his time, speaking and writing eleven languages, and being well versed in Oriental scholarship. He was a voluminous and original writer of great sagacity and deep penetration, and his writings range over many subjects. The best known is his History of the Growth and Decay of the Ottoman Empire. He also wrote a history of oriental music, which is no longer extant; the first critical history of Moldo-Walachia; the first geographical, ethnographical and economic description of Moldavia, Descriptio Moldaviae, under the name of Historia Hieroglyphica, to which he furnished a key, and in which the principal persons are represented by animals; also the history of the two ruling houses of Brancovan and Cantacuzino; and a philosophical treatise on the old theme of the disputation between soul and body, written in Greek and Rumanian under the title Divanul Lumii.
The latter’s son, Antioch Cantemir (born in Moldavia, 1700; died in Paris, 1744), became in 1731 Russian minister in Great Britain, and in 1736 minister plenipotentiary in Paris. He brought to London the Latin MS. from whence the English translation of his father’s history of the Turkish empire was made by N. Tindal, London, 1756, to which he added an exhaustive biography and bibliography of the author (pp. 455-460). He was a Russian poet and almost the first author of satires in modern Russian literature.
Bibliography.—Operele Principelui D. Cantemir, ed. Academia Română (1872 foll.); A. Philippide, Introducere in istoria limbei şi literat. romane (Iaşi, 1888), pp. 192-202; O. G. Lecca, Familiile boereşti romane (Bukarest, 1898), pp. 144-148; M. Gaster, Chrestom. româna, i. 322, 359 (in Cyrillic). (M. G.)