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Dacia

Dacia, in ancient geography, the land of the Daci or Getae, a large district of Central Europe, bounded on the north by the Carpathians, on the south by the Danube, on the west by the Pathissus (Tisza river, in Hungary), on the east by the Tyras (Dniester[?], border between Moldavia and Ukraine), thus corresponding in the main to the modern Romania; Toward’s the west it may originally have extended as far as the Danube where it runs from north to south at Waitzen[?] (Vacz), while on the other hand Ptolemy puts its eastern boundary as far back as the Hierasus (Siret[?] river, in Romania). The inhabitants of this district were of Thracian stock. By the Greeks the Dacians were usually called Getae, by the Romans, Daci.

Dacian Kingdom, during the rule of Burebista, 82 BC

The Dacians had attained a considerable degree of civilization when they first became known to the Romans. They believed in the immortality of the soul, and regarded death as merely a change of country. Their chief priest held a prominent position as the representative of the supreme deity, Zamolxis, upon earth; he was the king’s chief adviser. They were divided into two classes - an aristocracy and a proletariate. The first alone had the right to cover their heads and wore a felt hat (hence tarabostesei = pileati); they formed a privileged class, and it is supposed they were the predecessors of the Romanian boyars. The second class, who comprised the rank and file of the army, the peasants and artisans, wore their hair long (capillati). They dwelt in wooden huts surrounded by palisades, but in later times, aided by Roman architects, built walled strongholds and conical stone towers. Their chief occupations were agriculture and cattle breeding; horses were mainly used as draught animals. They also worked the gold and silver mines of Transylvania, and carried on a considerable outside trade, as is shown by the number of foreign coins found in the country.

A kingdom of Dacia was in existence at least as early as the beginning of the 2nd century BC under a king Oroles[?]. Conflicts with the Bastarnae and the Romans (112 BC-109 BC, 74 BC), against whom they had assisted the Scordisci[?] and Dardani[?], had greatly weakened the resources of the Dacians. Under Burebista (Boerebista), a contemporary of Caesar, who thoroughly reorganized the army and raised the moral standard of the people, the limits of the kingdom were extended to its maximum expansion; the Bastarnae and Boii were conquered, and even Greek towns (Olbia, Apollonia[?]) on the Pontus Euxinus fell into his hands. Indeed the Dacians appeared so formidable that Caesar contemplated an expedition against them, which was prevented by his death. About the same time Burebista was murdered, and the kingdom was divided into, four (or five) parts under separate rulers. One of these was Cotiso[?], whose daughter Augustus is said to have desired to marry and to whom he betrothed his own five-year-old daughter Julia. He is well known from the line in Horace (Occidit Daci Cotisonis agmen, Odes, III. 8. 18), which, as the ode was written on the March 1 29, probably refers to the campaign of Marcus Crassus (30-28), not to that of Cornelius Lentulus[?], who was not consul till 18. The Dacians are often mentioned under Augustus, according to whom, they were compelled to recognize the Roman supremacy. But they were by no means subdued, and in later times seized every opportunity of crossing the frozen Danube and ravaging the province of Moesia.

From A.D. 85 to 89 the Dacians were engaged in two wars with the Romans, under Duras or Diurpaneus, and the great Decebalus. After two severe reverses, the Romans, under Tettius Iullianus[?], gained a signal advantage, but were obliged to make peace owing to the defeat of Domitian by the Marcomanni. Decebalus restored the arms he had taken and some of the prisoners. But the Dacians were really left independent, as is shown by the fact that Domitian agreed to purchase immunity by the payment of an annual tribute.

To put an end to this disgraceful arrangement, Trajan resolved to crush the Dacians once and for all. The result of his first campaign (101-102) was the siege of the Dacian capital Sarmizegetusa, and the occupation of a part of the country; of the second (105-106), the suicide of Decebalus, the conquest of the whole kingdom and its conversion into a Roman province. The history of the war is given in Dio Cassius, but the best commentary upon it is the famous Column of Trajan[?] in Rome. The province was limited to Transylvania and Oltenia. It was under a governor of praetorian rank, and Legio XIII Gemina with numerous auxiliaries had their fixed quarters in the province. To make up for the ravages caused by the recent wars colonists were imported to cultivate the land and work the mines, and the old inhabitants gradually returned. Forts were built as a protection against the incursions of the surrounding barbarians, and three great military roads were constructed to unite the chief towns, while a fourth, named after Trajan, traversed the Carpathians and entered Transylvania by the Roteturm pass. The chief towns of the province were Colonia Ulpia Traiana[?] Sarmizegetusa (today Sarmizegetusa, Hunedoara county, Romania), Apulum[?] (today Alba-Iulia[?], Alba county), Napoca (today Cluj-Napoca, Cluj[?] county) and Potaissa[?] (today Turda[?], Cluj county). With the religion the Dacians also adopted the language of the conquerors, modern Romanian language being a Romance language.

In 129, under Hadrian, Dacia was divided into Dacia Superior[?] and Dacia Inferior[?], the former comprising Transylvania, the latter Little Walachia or Oltenia. Marcus Aurelius redivided it into three (tres Daciae): Porolissensis, from the chief town Porolissum[?] (near Moigrad, Salaj[?] county), Apulensis from Apulum and Malvensis from Malva[?] (site unknown). The tres Daciae formed a commune in so far that they had a common capital, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, and a common diet, which discussed provincial affairs, formulated complaints and adjusted the incidence of taxation; but in other respects they were practically independent provinces, each under an ordinary procurator, subordinate to a governor of consular rank.

The Roman hold on the country was, however, still precarious. Indeed it is said that Hadrian, conscious of the difficulty of retaining it, had contemplated its abandonment and was only deterred by consideration for the safety of the numerous Roman settlers. Under Gallienus (256), the Goths crossed the Carpathians and drove the Romans from Dacia, with the exception of a few fortified places between the Timis river[?] and the Danube. No details of the event are recorded, and the chief argument in support of the statement in Rufius Festus that "under the Emperor Gallienus Dacia was lost" is the sudden cessation of Roman inscriptions and coins in the country after 256. Aurelian (270-275) withdrew the troops altogether and settled the Roman colonists on the south of the Danube, in Moesia, where he created the province Dacia Aureliani[?]. This was subsequently divided into Dacia Ripensis[?] on the Danube, with capital Ratiaria[?] (Arcar[?] in Bosnia-Herzegovina), and Dacia Mediterranea[?], with capital Sardica[?] (Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria), the latter again being subdivided into Dardania and Dacia Mediterranea.

See also: List of Dacian kings



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