Most of the facts related to the history of Roma are disputable and unclear. Unlike scientists, historians try to restore the picture of the past on the basis of remaining documents, archaeological data, etc. For obvious reasons the written sources, related to Roma, are few in number and quite inaccurate; they are left by “the others” – Byzantine, Balkan, Ottoman and West-European chroniclers – and as a result the information provided is scarce and often doubtful.
One of the few certain facts related to the origin and settlement of Roma in Europe is their Indian origin. For a long time it was thought that Roma come from Egypt – territory nearer and more familiar to Europeans than the distant and mysterious India. Moreover, the Roma themselves claimed to be descendants of Christians expelled from Egypt. As a result they got statute of martyrs for the faith, protected by means of honorary diplomas by the pope Martin V, the emperor Sigismund and many other West-European rulers and were benevolently accepted in Europe. (Fraser: 1992, 63 – 665) Remnant of this notion is how Roma were called in many languages– for example the popular word Gypsy in English language is derived from Egypt. Even nowadays some groups of Roma relate themselves with Egypt – for example the so-called Egyptions in Macedonia and Kosovo (a small number of them live also in the most south-western parts of Bulgaria), etc. The modern Greek name of Roma – Guphtoi – also refers to that notion. (Fraser: 1992, 48)
The Indian origin of Roma was defined on the basis of linguistics, by means of parallels between the Roma language Romani and the ancient Indian holy language Sanskrit.
In 1776 the Vienna newspaper “Wiener Anzeigen” published the notes of the Hungarian student Istvan Valyi from Komarno (todays Komarom, Hungary). While still studying in Leiden, he made acquaintance with three Hindy-Brahmana people, who spoke Sanskrit. It seemed to him that the words of this language resembled the words of Roma in his native town, so he wrote down about 1000 Sanskrit words. When he returned to Komarno, he read these words to the Roma living there and they guessed the meaning of almost half of them. This article made the linguist Heinrich Moritz Gotlieb Grellmann collect materials for Sanskrit and Roma languages and after working for two decades, he published his famous work “Die Zigeuner” in 1783. As a result the hypothesis of the Indian origin of Roma is imposed as a major one. (Marushiakova, Popov: 1993, 21 after Grellmann: 1787) Various theories in the scholarly literature give credit for the “discovery” of the Indian origin of Roma to different scholars (Hancock: 2007–2008) nevertheless this was a corner stone in the studies of Roma origin and history.
At the same time, another hypothesis shared in the scholarly literature is the one that considers the Iranian highlands as Roma homeland. According to Alexey Pamporov it is the place where Roma are constituted as an ethnic entity with a common language network, similar social structure, and similar social and religious practices. Gradually, as a result of the historical processes going on at that time, Roma are pushed westward. (Pamporov: 2006, 16).