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Alternate meaning: Dacia (car)
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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 Pathissus (Tisza river, in Hungary), on the east by the Tyras (Dniester, border between Moldavia and Ukraine). It thus corresponds in the main to modern Romania. Towards the west it may originally have extended as far as the Danube where it runs from north to south at Waitzen (Vacz). 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. The Dacians were usually called Getae by the Greeks and Daci by the Romans.



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

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


The Dacians 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. The chief priest was also the king's chief adviser.

Besides Zamolxis, the Dacians believed in other deities such as Gebeleizis and Bendis.


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, wore their hair long (capillati in Latin).

Dacians dwelt in wooden huts surrounded by palisades. In later times, aided by Roman architects, they built walled strongholds and conical stone towers.


The chief occupations of Dacians were agriculture and cattle breeding. Horses were mainly used as draught animals. They also engaged in viticulture, but their great king Burebista demanded that all vineyards be burnt.

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.


Main article:Dacian language

The characteristics of the Dacian language are still disputed.


Political entities

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) fell into his hands.

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 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 March 1, 29 BC, probably refers to the campaign of Marcus Crassus (30 BC-28 BC), not to that of Cornelius Lentulus , who was not consul until 18 BC.

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 province of Moesia.

Marcus Crassus is supposed to be long dead by 30 BC; something needs to be done about this mistake.

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.

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. Nevertheless, 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. The second campaign (105-106) achieved 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.

Roman rule

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. The Romans built forts as a protection against the incursions of the surrounding barbarians 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 Roteturm (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 adopted the religion and language of the conquerors - the modern Romanian language being a Romance language.

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 commune in so far 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.

Roman withdrawal

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.

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 fixed the Roman frontier on the Danube river.

Post-Roman history

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, theory supported by most Romanian historians.
  2. they accompanied the troops in their withdrawal, only to return after the Migration Era, theory supported by most Hungarian historians.

This scientific issue has political implications: If the people withdrew with the troops, then Hungarian settlers were the first to occupy Transylvania (which was empty at that time), while if they stayed the Romanians have a continuity in the disputed area going back to prehistory.

For more on this debate, see: Origin of Romanians.

See also

External links

Last updated: 12-24-2004 00:20:51