Alternate meanings: see Dacia (disambiguation)
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Dacia, in ancient geography the land of the Daci or Getae, was a large district of Central Europe, bounded on the north by the Carpathians, on the south by the Danube, on the west by the Tisa (Tisza river, in Hungary), on the east by the Tyras (Dniester or Nistru, now in eastern Moldova). It thus corresponds in the main to modern Romania and Moldova. The capital of Dacia was Sarmizegetusa.

The inhabitants of this district are considered as belonging to the Thracian stock. The Dacians were known as Geton (plural Getae) in Greek writings, and as Dacus (plural Daci) and Getae in Roman documents; also as Dagae and Gaete — see the late Roman map Tabula Peutingeriana. Ancient writers are unanimous in considering the Getae the same as the Daci.



Dacian Kingdom, during the rule of Burebista, 82 BC
Dacian Kingdom, during the rule of Burebista, 82 BC

There were three distinct historical periods of Dacia.

Thus, the territory of Dacia varied according to the above timeline.

Towards the west it may originally have extended as far as the Danube where it runs from north to south at Waitzen (Vacz). Julius Caesar in his De Bello Gallico (book 6) speaks of Hercynia forest extending along the Danube to the teritory of the Dacians. Ptolemy puts the eastern boundary of Dacia Trajana as far back as the Hierasus (Siret river, in modern Romania).


The Dacians had attained a considerable degree of civilization by the time they first became known to the Romans.


Main article: Dacian mythology

According to Herodotus History (book 4) account of the story of Zalmoxis (or Zamolxis), the Getae (speaking the same language as the Dacians - Strabo) 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, Zalmoxis. The chief priest was also the king's chief adviser. The Goth Jordanes in his Getica (The origin and deeds of the Goths), gives account of Dicineus (Deceneus), the highest priest of Buruista (Burebista).

Besides Zalmoxis, the Dacians believed in other deities such as Gebeleizis.


Dacians were divided into two classes: the aristocracy (tarabostes) and the common people (comati).

The aristocracy alone had the right to cover their heads and wore a felt hat (hence pileati, their Latin name). 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, might have been called capillati (in Latin). their appearance and clothing can be seen on Trajan's Column.

Dacians had developed the Murus Dacicus, characteristic to their complexes of fortified cities, like their capital Sarmizegetusa in today Hunedoara (Romania). The degree of their urban development can be seen on Trajan's Column and in the account of how Sarmizegetusa was defeated by the Romans. The Romans identified and destroyed the water pipelines of the Dacian capital, only thus beeing able to end the long siege of Sarmizegetusa.

Greek and Roman chroniclers record the defeat and capture of Lysimachus in the 3rd century BC by the Getae (Dacians) ruled by Dromihete, their military strategy, and the release of Lysimachus following a debate in the assembly of the Getae.

The cities of the Dacians were known as Dava, Daua, Deva, Deba or Daba. A list of dacian davas 1 (http://members.tripod.com/~Groznijat/thrac/thrac_8.html) :

1. In Dacia: Acidava, Argedava, Burridava, Dokidava, Carsidava, Clepidava, Cumidava, Marcodava, Netindava, Patridava, Pelendava, *Perburidava, Petrodaua, Piroboridaua, Rhamidaua, Rusidava, Sacidava, Sangidava, Setidava, Singidava, , Tamasidava, Utidava, Zargidava, Ziridava, Sucidava – 26 names altogether.

2. In Lower Moesia (the present Northern Bulgaria) and Scythia minor (Dobrudja): Aedeba, *Buteridava, *Giridava, Dausadava, Kapidaua, Murideba, Sacidava, Scaidava (Skedeba), Sagadava, Sukidaua (Sucidava) – 10 names in total.

3. In Upper Moesia (the districts of Nish, Sofia, and partly Kjustendil): Aiadaba, Bregedaba, Danedebai, Desudaba, Itadeba, Kuimedaba, Zisnudeba – 7 names in total.

Gil-doba, a village in Thracia, of unknown location.

Thermi-daua, a town in Dalmatia. A Grecized form of *Germidava perhaps.

Pulpu-deva, (Phillipopolis) today Plovdiv in Bulgaria.


The chief occupations of Dacians were agriculture, apiculture, viticulture, livestock, ceramics and metal working. The Roman Province Dacia is represented on Roman Sestertius (coin) as a woman seated on a rock, holding aquila, a small child on her knee holding ears of grain, and a small child seated before her holding grapes.

They also worked the gold and silver mines of Transylvania. They carried on a considerable outside trade, as is shown by the number of foreign coins found in the country. See also: Decebalus Treasure


Main article:Dacian language

The characteristics of the Dacian language are still disputed, due to insufficient archaeological evidence.


Political entities

Classical Dacia and environs, from Alexander G. Findlay's Classical Atlas to Illustrate Ancient Geography, New York, 1849
Classical Dacia and environs, from Alexander G. Findlay's Classical Atlas to Illustrate Ancient Geography, New York, 1849

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 Julius Caesar, who thoroughly reorganized the army and raised the moral standard of the people, the limits of the kingdom were extended to their maximum. The Bastarnae and Boii were conquered, and even the Greek towns of Olbia and Apollonia on the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus) recognised Burebista's authority.

Indeed the Dacians appeared so formidable that Caesar contemplated an expedition against them; something his death prevented. 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 Augustus 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).

The Dacians are often mentioned under Augustus, according to whom they were compelled to recognize Roman supremacy. However they were by no means subdued, and in later times seized every opportunity of crossing the frozen Danube during the winter and ravaging the Roman cities in the province of Moesia.

Roman Conquest

From A.D. 85 to 89, the Dacians were engaged in two wars with the Romans, under Duras or Diurpaneus, and the great Decebalus.

In 87, the Roman troops under Cormelius Fuscus were defeated, and Cornelius Fuscus was killed by the Dacians under the authority of their ruler, Diurpaneus. After this victory, Diurpaneus took the name of Decebalus (which means "The mighty One"). The next year, 88 A.D., new Roman troops under Tettius Iullianus, gained a signal advantage, but were obliged to make peace owing to the defeat of Domitian by the Marcomanni, so the Dacians were really left independent. More than this, Decebalus received the statute of "king client to Rome", receiving from Rome military instructors, craftsmen and even money.

To put an end to this disgraceful arrangement, or perhaps to restore the finances of the Roman Empire by capturing the famous Treasure of Decebalus, Trajan resolved to conquer Dacia, thus gaining control over the Dacian goldmines of Transylvania. 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. The second campaign (105-106) achieved the suicide of Decebalus, and the conquest of the territory that was to form the Roman province Dacia Traiana. The history of the war is given in Dio Cassius, but the best commentary upon it is the famous Column of Trajan in Rome.

Roman rule

Missing image
Map of the Roman provinces Pannonia, Dalmatia, Moesia, and Dacia

The Roman province Dacia was limited to Transylvania, Banat and Oltenia. It was under a governor of praetorian rank, and Legio XIII Gemina with numerous auxiliaries had their fixed quarters in the province. Due to a decrease in population of the conquered territory, caused by the recent Dacian Wars and consequent flight of many Dacians north of Carpathian mountains, colonists were imported to cultivate the land and work the mines alongside the Dacian population that can be seen on Trajan's Column submitting to Trajan during the Dacian Wars. The colonists, besides the Roman troops, were mainly first- or second-generation Roman colonists from Noricum or Pannonia, later supplemented with colonists from other provinces: South Thracians (from the provinces of Moesia orThracia) and settlers from the Roman provinces of Asia Minor.

The Romans built forts as a protection against the attacks of the Roxolani, Alanni, the Dacic Carpians, and the free Dacians; and constructed three great military roads to unite the chief towns. A fourth road, named after Trajan, traversed the Carpathians and entered Transylvania by the Turnu Rosu 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). The Dacians in Roman territory adopted the religion and language of the conquerors (but whether the Romanian language, a Romance language, developed from this Romanization in Dacia is disputed: see Origin of Romanians).

In 129 Hadrian divided Dacia into Dacia Superior and Dacia Inferior, the former comprising Transylvania and 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 single society insofar as they had a common capital, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, and a common diet, which discussed provincial affairs, formulated complaints and adjusted the incidence of taxation. However, in other respects they were practically independent provinces, each under an ordinary procurator, subordinate to a governor of consular rank.

After the Dacian Wars, Dacians were recruited into the Roman Army, and were employed in the construction and guarding of Hadrian's Wall in Britain, or elsewhere in the Roman Empire. Several Cohors Primae Dacorum (first cohort of Dacians) and Alae (Ala) Dacorum fighting in the ranks of the Legion were stationed in Deva (Chester), Vindolanda (Stanegate) and Camboglana (Birdoswald), in Britain. The Antonine Column of Marcus Aurelius and the Arch of Galerius depict the Dacian Cohors and their characteristic Phrygian Cap and Parthian Draco Standard. The English word dagger might come from Vulgar Latin daca, a Dacian knife.

Roman withdrawal

Missing image
Sestertius minted to celebrate Dacia province and its legions, V Macedonica and XIII Gemina.

The Roman hold on the country was 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.

During the reign of 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), confronted with the secession of Galia and Hispania from the Empire since 260, with the advance of the Parthians in Asia and the devastations that the Carpians and the Goths had done into Moesia and Illyria, abandoned the province of Dacia created by Trajan and withdrew the troops altogether, fixing the Roman frontier at the Danube. A new Dacia Aureliana was reorganised south of Danube river, with its capital at Serdica (today Sofia the capital of Bulgaria). Later on, Diocletian and Constantine reorganised the provinces Dacia Mediteranea, Moesia Inferior, Dardania, Prevalitania and Dacia Ripensis into Diocese of Dacia, which along with Macedonia formed the Prefecture of Illyricum.

The abandonment of Dacia Trajana by the Romans is mentioned by Eutropius in his BREVIARIVM LIBER NONVS, book IX :

Provinciam Daciam, quam Traianus ultra Danubium fecerat, intermisit, vastato omni Illyrico et Moesia, desperans eam posse retinere, abductosque Romanos ex urbibus et agris Daciae in media Moesia collocavit appellavitque eam Daciam, quae nunc duas Moesias dividit et est in dextra Danubio in mare fluenti, cum antea fuerit in laeva. http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/eutropius9.html

The province of Dacia, which Trajan had formed beyond the Danube, he gave up, despairing, after all Illyricum and Moesia had been depopulated, of being able to retain it. The Roman citizens, removed from the town and lands of Dacia, he settled in the interior of Moesia, calling that Dacia which now divides the two Moesiae, and which is on the right hand of the Danube as it runs to the sea, whereas Dacia was previously on the left. http://www.ccel.org/p/pearse/morefathers/eutropius_breviarium_2_text.htm

Post-Roman history

After the Roman withdrawal, the former Roman province Dacia Traiana became the possesion of the Goths and the Carpians.

It is known that Constantine the Great - who was born in Dacia Aureliana - had assumed the title Dacicus, and initiated the building or restoration of a bridge across Danube into Dacia Traiana. The Roman emperor Galerius, also born in Dacia Aureliana, and whose mother was from Dacia Traiana, had became an enemy of the Roman name and proposed that the Eastern Roman Empire to be called the Dacian Empire (Lactantius - Of The Manner In Which The Persecutors Died chapter XXVII 1 (http://www.ucalgary.ca/~vandersp/Courses/texts/lactant/lactpers.html)).

The issue of "what happened with the population after the Aurelian withdrawal" is under debate. The main two theories about the Romanized population are:

  1. they continued to live in the same place and assimilated the non-Romanized Dacians, the theory supported by most Romanian historians.
  2. they accompanied the troops in their withdrawal, only to return after the Migration Era, the theory supported by most Hungarian historians.

This scientific issue has political implications: if the people withdrew with the troops, then the Magyar tribes conquered Transylvania from non Daco-Roman local rulers (Gelu, Glad and Menumorut - see Gesta Hungarorum), while if they stayed the Romanians have a continuity in the area going back to Dacians and the Getae and their Roman conquerors. (For more on this debate, see: Origin of Romanians.)

See also

External links

Template:Roman provinces 120 ADde:Dacia (Provinz) ja:ダキア no:Dacia pl:Dacja pt:Dcia ro:Dacia fi:Daakia fr:Dacie


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