Romanul non pere. "The Roumanian never dies."



(106 A.D.)

THE earliest known inhabitants of the present kingdom of Roumania were the Gets or Dacians, of whom ancient Greek and Roman writers make such frequent mention. The Roman geographer Pliny expressly tells us that the former was the Greek and the latter the Latin name for the same people, and the best authorities upon Roumanian history have adopted his view. According to them, the Gete and Dacians spoke the same language, had the same origin, and were, in fact, the same race, though we find them mentioned sometimes by one name and sometirries by the other. Herodotus has much to say about the Getar, who early camp into contact with 2 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. the Greek colonies on the West Coast of the Black Sea. He calls them "the bravest and most honourable of all the Thracian tribes," and speaks of them as endeavouring to oppose the march of the Persian King Darius. Thucydides alludes to their prowess with the bow and arrow on horseback, and fixes their abode on the shore of the Euxine. At that time however, they had not yet crossed the Danube, but were living in the district south of that river known as the Dobrudza. Here, in the fourth century before our era, they were attacked by Philip of Macedon, who laid siege to one of their towns. The great conqueror was about to give the signal for the assault, when the gates opened and a long line of priests, clad in snow-white robes with lyres in their hands, came forth and approached with song and music the Macedonian camp, Struck with the novelty of the sight, Philip bade spare the citadel and took Meda, daughter of the Getic king, as his wife. From that moment the Getæ became allies of Macedon and aided Philip in his Scythian campaign. But, at the close of his reign, about the year 340 B.C., they crossed the Danube, either from the natural expansion of their numbers, or in order to escape the attacks of some other barbarous tribe. Alexander the Great, in the course of his Thracian expedition, found himself confronted on the left bank of the Danube by an army of Getic horsemen and foot-soldiers, who refused to allow him to land. Nothing daunted, he waited till night came on, crossed the river lower down at daybreak and fell upon the Getæ, whom he defeated and put to flight. But the 3 MACEDONIA INVASION. defeat had no lasting results. The Getæ fled to their forests; their conqueror contented himself with burning their wooden town. He then returned southwards across the stream, and the Gets were left unmolested. But some fifty years later they had their revenge. Lysimachus, who succeeded to the Thracian dominions of Alexander, attempted to chastise them for the assistance which they had rendered to the barbarous tribes of Macedonia. But he made the mistake of despising his enemy. Wearied with long marches, and oppressed with thirst in a barren land, his great army was forced to surrender to the Getic king, Dromichaetes. The victor displayed an unwonted generosity towards the vanquished Macedonian. He led him to his capital, a place called Helis, which cannot now be identified, and treated him as his honoured guest. Lysimachus secured his liberty by the payment of a heavy ransom, and half a century ago gold pieces, bearing his name, were found in Roumania and Transylvania, where the natives used them as signet rings and ornaments.

A long period of peace followed this disastrous expedition. The Getæ or Dacians, as they were now more usually called, increased in numbers and received from successive bands of immigrants the rudiments of civilisation. The cunning slaves, who play such an important part in the comedies of Plautus and Terence, were usually of Getic extraction, and, as those authors copied the Greeks, it is evident that there was considerable intercourse between Greece and the country beyond the Danube. 4 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. But with the first appearance of the Romans on the confines of Dacia a new era in the history of the nation began. The first conflict between the two peoples took place in III B.C., when the Roman legions, already masters of Macedonia, had advanced to the Danube, and found the Dacians assisting the tribesmen of the right bank against them. For some time, no Roman general thought it desirable to enter their territory; and, when at last a commander crossed the Danube, he hesitated to entrust himself to the sombre gorges of the Carpathians, where the Dacian warriors lurked in readiness to surprise the rash invader. If it had not been for the incursions of the Dacians into the Roman provinces, a Roman occupation might have been indefinitely postponed, and the Roumanian race might never have existed.

But under a king called Bcerebistes, a contemporary of Julius Cæsar, these raids became so serious, that Rome was alarmed for her supremacy in the Balkans. Bcerebistes was at the head of a powerful nation, which had gradually absorbed all the minor races up to the frontier of modern Bavaria, and could put two hundred thousand men into the field. His soldiers had been seen as far south as the Balkan slopes, and were threatening Macedonia and the Dalmatian coast. Cæsar himself was meditating a Dacian campaign, and had actually assembled the troops for it, when the dagger of Brutus laid him low. The Dacians would have been no unworthy foemen of the great Roman captain. They were well armed and well led. They knew the use of breast-plates and helmets, and their curved swords were scarcely less deadly than the 5 COTISO, THE DACIAN KING. poisoned arrows, which they fired from horseback. Bcerebistes offered his aid to Octavius in the civil war, which culminated at the battle of Actium, and it was owing to the refusal of his assistance by Cæsar's nephew that the Dacians took sides with Antony at that great conflict which decided the fate of the Roman world. Taught by experience, Augustus conferred upon Bcerebistes' successors the proud title of "friend and ally of the Roman people." But this "friendship" was of short duration. The Dacians again became a terror to the Roman province. Horace makes one of the characters in his "Epistles" ask,"What is the latest news from Dacia ?" just as a modern Roman might ask, "What is the latest from Abyssinia?" The exploits of the Dacian king Cotiso are mentioned by contemporary Roman authors, and the gossips of the forum would have it that Augustus intended to marry the daughter of the terrible barbarian, and thus secure peace for the Empire. Whenever the Danube was frozen over, the Dacians crossed on the ice and ravaged the Roman province of Moesia the present Bulgaria, far and wide. The fortified towns on the Black Sea kept their gates shut night and day for fear of these savage warriors, and the poet Ovid, who spent seven years of exile among them, and acquired such a knowledge of their language that he even composed elegiacs in Getic, wrote with the utmost respect of their martial prowess. The defeat and death of Cotiso, though hailed with enthusiasm at Rome, and followed up by the construction of forts along the right bank of the Danube, were merely temporary checks to the 6 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. Dacian power. Augustus boasted that he had subdued the Dacians in their own home and transplanted many of them into Bulgaria; but the nation was not conquered, much less was its territory occupied. The policy of the early Roman Emperors was to prevent the Dacian bands from crossing the river, not to annex their country to the Empire. When the civil war of 69 A.D. necessitated the withdrawal of the legions from Mœsia, a Dacian invasion of that province at once followed, which was repulsed by orders of Vespasian. Once again, the sole means of pacifying the people was to transplant them over the river. Dacia at this period was little more than a desert, and it looked as if the nation were on the point of disappearing, when a great chief arose and led it to renewed victories. This man was Decehalus whose name, "the strength of the Dacians," is the most appropriate summary of his career. Possessing a scientific as well as a practical knowledge of warfare, he spent the two first years of his reign in making preparations for attacking the Roman possessions south of the Danube. It is said that he even attempted to form an alliance with the Parthians against the common foe. In 86 A.D. he at last crossed the Danube with a disciplined army behind him, and drove the Romans to the Balkans before him. Two Roman generals succumbed to his arms, and the historian Tacitus might well regret the defeat of the Roman legions and the capture of a Roman standard. At the news of this double reverse the Emperor Domitian took the field in person against the Dacian monarch. But he cautiously remained 7 DECEBALUS AND THE ROMANS. at his headquarters in a small Mœsian town, and entrusted his lieutenant, Julianus, with the task of bearding Decebalus in his own country. Julianus defeated the Dacians at a place called Tapæ, the site of which is uncertain, and besieged, for the first time


in its history, the capital of Sarmizegethusa, the modern Varhely. But the exigencies of Roman policy necessitated a speedy peace, for there were other dangerous tribes besides the Dacians to be subdued. Decebalus had no objection to come to terms with his enemy, and sent his brother as an envoy to the Roman camp. The favourable concessions, which 8 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. he obtained from Domitian, prove that the Emperor was afraid of driving him to extremities. Decebalus restored the prisoners, whom he had taken, and received in return the title of king; while Domitian added the surname of "the Dacian" to his other designations, and celebrated on his return an empty triumph in honour of his vicarious successes. Slaves, specially hired for the occasion, personified the vanquished in the victor's procession, and the courtly poets, Martial and Statius, praised the Imperial "clemency which had given back to the Dacians their mountain home." A forged letter of Decebalus, imploring the Emperor to spare his country, was read before the credulous senate, but the shrewd commonsense of the people detected the fraud and mocked at the "funeral of the Dacian dead." Domitian had, in fact, bought his scanty laurels by the promise of an annual tribute to Decebalus.

But the accession of Trajan, in 98 A.D., soon put an end to this ignominious arrangement. It is clear that the object of the great Emperor, whose name has ever since been connected with the history of Roumania, was not primarily the conquest of the country, but the removal of this irritating burden. The fullest preparations were made to show the "barbarians," that they were no longer able to insult the majesty of Rome with impunity. Six legions were assembled at the present town of Kostolac in Servia, where they were reviewed by the Emperor. A poet was engaged to celebrate the forthcoming exploits of the Roman arms in an epic, and Trajan himself, like his prototype Cæsar, found time to jot down his impressions 9 TRAJAN'S TABLET. of the campaign in a book, now unhappily lost. A more durable monument of the war exists to this day in the Roman road, begun by Domitian and finished by Trajan, along the right bank of the Danube as far as a point opposite Orsova. In some places the road was hewn through the solid rock, in others it consisted of planks fastened over the water along the perpendicular face of the cliff. The traveller may still read on an ancient tablet opposite Gradina a Latin inscription,1 blackened by the smoke of centuries, which contains the name and titles of Trajan. Crossing the Danube on two bridges of boats at Kostolac and Orsova respectively, the Romans entered Dacia in two divisions, while the two flotillas, which they had for some time been accustomed to keep on the river, supplied them with provisions. No pains were spared to ensure success over a nation which had earned the distinction of being the "most warlike of men." The Dacians themselves recognised that this time they had a man to deal with, and sent a gigantic fungus to the Emperor, upon which was scratched in Roman characters the request that he would leave them alone. So great was the dread, which the expedition inspired, that the messenger, to whom this strange document was entrusted, fell down dead with fright as he delivered it into Trajan's hands.

But the Emperor's march was slow and difficult. No fewer than eighteen months were spent in advancing sixty-five miles to the spot where the two divisions of the army were to meet. The legionaries 1 When I visited the spot in June, the tablet had just been cleaned.óW. M. 10 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. had to grope their way, as it were, in the dark, through a country of which they knew little against an enemy, of whom they could see nothing. The mountains lent themselves to that guerilla warfare, at which the Dacians excelled; huge boulders of rock were rolled down upon the heads of the soldiers as they entered the narrow ravines; showers of arrows impeded their progress as they forded the deep streams. At Tapæ, the spot where Decebalus had been defeated fourteen years earlier, they at last met the foe in open combat. The victory of the Romans was hardly bought, and so severe were their losses that the Emperor tore up his own garments to provide bandages for the wounded. The invaders now marched upon the Dacian capital, which, after a desperate engagement, fell into their hands. A great booty, including the standard, which had been captured by the Dacians in the last war, rewarded the Romans for their hardships. Decebalus saw himself deserted by his allies, his sister taken prisoner, his treasures carried off. He bowed his neck to the yoke, resolving to reserve himself for better days. Accompanied by two dignitaries of his court, and followed by a crowd of kneeling warriors, he flung himself at Trajan's feet. The Emperor dictated peace on his own terms. He ordered the king to surrender all his arms, to dismiss the Roman deserters, who had joined his army, to raze his fortresses and abandon all his foreign conquests. Decebalus swore to share the friendships and enmities of the Roman people, and promised never again to receive a Roman into his service. Trajan was contented with what he had 11 TRAJAN'S BRIDGE. accomplished. Leaving a garrison behind him at Sarmizegethusa, he took with him to Rome a Dacian embassy, for the ratification of the treaty, and assumed, with far more reason than Domitian, the title of Dacicus, in memory of his triumph. A letter of the younger Pliny tells us how great an impression this "first victory over a hitherto invincible enemy" made upon the Roman populace. Dacia was regarded as finally subdued.

But there was little finality about Trajan's first expedition. Decebalus had only submitted as a temporary expedient, and as soon as his conqueror had gone, he recommenced his forays, and formed a fresh league of tribes against the Roman Empire. Trajan resolved that this time he would finally annex Dacia to his dominions and have done with these troublesome warriors, who had only submitted in order the better to attack him. As a first step towards the annexation of the country, he ordered the construction of a more permanent means of communication than the bridge of boats, which had served to convey his army across the Danube during his former campaign. Opposite the present Roumanian town of Turnu-Severin there may still be seen in the river several piles of the magnificent stone bridge which Apollodorus of Damascus, the most famous architect of that period, erected for the Emperor in 104. The bridge originally consisted of twenty piers, each 163 feet apart, 145 feet high, and 58 feet broad. This done, Trajan declared war against Decebalus, who endeavoured to rid himself of his great enemy by assassination. He had previously 12 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. seized the commander of the Roman garrison at Sarmizegethusa and refused to give him up, unless the Emperor recompensed him for his losses in the last war. The brave Roman officer took poison in order to relieve Trajan from this dilemma, and the scanty ruins of the mausoleum, which his grateful master raised to his memory, are still to be seen a little to the north of Varhely.

The second Dacian campaign of Trajan was easier than the first. The remembrance of their former defeats made many of the Dacians unwilling to risk further losses. Decebalus offered to make peace. But Trajan replied that he must first lay clown his arms. The Dacian monarch preferred to die, and held out with a mere handful of men against the Roman army. No quarter was given on either side; the Roman soldiers cut off the heads of their prisoners and stuck them on pikes; the Dacian women fastened their captives' hands behind their backs and applied blazing torches to their bare bodies. A final battle beneath the walls of the capital ended the war. The Dacians set fire to the town and took poison to avoid falling into the hands of their enemies. Decebalus, tracked by the legionaries to his retreat in the mountains, sank exhausted at the foot of a tree; and when the Romans advanced to seize him, plunged a dagger into his breast. Ilis head was carried to Trajan; Dacia lay at the mercy of the conqueror. By the end of 106 it had become a Roman province. The Emperor, after remaining a short time to arrange for its future administration, returned to celebrate, by what was perhaps the most magnificent spectacle of 13 TRAJAN'S COLUMN. ancient Rome, his final subjugation of the Dacian people. From every part of the Roman world congratulations were showered upon the victor, and nearly three centuries later the two Dacian expeditions of Trajan, occupying only five years together, constituted his chief claim to apotheosis. To this day, Roumania bears abundant marks of his presence. Walls, plains, and meadows are called by his name, and the modern Roumanians, proud of their Roman


origin, may say in the language of 'Childe Harold,' "Still we Trajan's name adore."

But the most striking memorial of his Dacian conquest is to be seen at Rome. Trajan's Column is an epitome in marble of his two campaigns against Decebalus, and forms a priceless commentary upon the early history of Roumania. From it we learn, more vividly than from any printed page, the chief 14 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. events which we have just described. We see the passage of the Roman forces across the Danube on the two bridges of boats, and Trajan, seated on a platform and surrounded by his officers, addressing his army from the Dacian shore. The next relief shows us the obstacles encountered on the march; the sappers and miners are at work; trees are being felled; streams bridged and forts built. Then we


have the Dacian envoys, suing in vain for peace, and the figure of the Roman Emperor is seen as he spares the defenceless. The artist next gives us a picture of the Dacian attack; the natives are clad in mantles and tunics with long sleeves, the nobles wearing Phrygian caps of liberty on their heads, such as may be seen to-day in the country districts of 15 THE DACIAN RELIGION. Roumania; the common soldiers bareheaded with no other protection than their flowing locks. We can distinguish the uncouth Dacian standards- long monsters, with the body of a snake and the head of a savage dog, stuck at the end of a pole. Their richly decorated oval shields and curved swords contrast strangely with the weapons of the Romans. Finally, we behold them setting fire to their capital, with a look of desperate determination on their bearded faces, while from a huge vessel filled with poison their chiefs are drinking the fatal draught. On the ground some are writhing in their last agony, and two corpses are being carried away. To crown all, the triumph of Trajan, and the soldiers bearing the head of Decebalus, reminded the Roman world of the Dacian conqueror's success. More fortunate than the bridge over the Danube, the column has survived practically intact, and the 2,500 human figures, which it contains, are the best proof of the skill of Apollodorus, the famous architect. Trajan lies buried beneath it, but the piety of the Popes has replaced his statue, which stood on the summit, by that of St. Peter.

The evidence of the column and the testimony of Latin authors show that the Dacian monarchy had reached a considerable degree of civilisation at the time of its fall. The government of the country, like that of Gaul, was based upon a strongly religious feeling, and the Dacians owed their reputation for bravery to their belief in the immortality of the soul. Herodotus calls them the "Immortals,". and tells us that they never spoke of "dying," but always of 16 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. "rejoining Zalmoxis," their deity. It was this disregard of death which made them such a terror to their enemies. The Dacian knew no fear, either of man or of the forces of nature. He obeyed the orders of his sovereign and the chief pontiff, who was supposed to have inherited the powers of Zalmoxis and to be the deity's vicegerent upon earth. This personage was the chief counsellor of the monarch, and his decisions were received as the voice of a god. His influence may be understood by a single example. When Ba rebistes became king, one of his desires was to stop the drunken habits of his people. He accordingly prohibited the use of wine. But, powerful as he was, he could not make his subjects obey him. He appealed, in despair, to the chief pontiff, who at once ordered every vine in Dacia to he destroyed. The order was executed in a single clay, such was the respect which that ecclesiastic inspired. To him Dacia owed its first code of laws and the first germs of physical science. But theocratic as was the Dacian system of government, no temples were found in their land. The simple sanctuaries of their faith were placed on the mountain peaks, far removed from the dwellings of men. The great river, which was their natural bulwark on the south, was for them an object of superstitious reverence, and Roman poets noticed their picturesque custom of chinking the water of the Danube on the eve of a campaign, and vowing that they would never return except as conquerors. The nation was organised on an aristocratic basis. The lower orders, consisting of common soldiers, artisans, and peasants, wore their hair long, 17 HABITS OF THE DACIANS. as we have seen from Trajan's Column, while the nobles, from whose ranks the king and the chief priest were drawn, were distinguished from the common herd by the bonnets which covered their heads. They formed a privileged class, presided at religious ceremonies, were the leaders of the people in war and peace, acted as judges and teachers, and watched over the preservation of ancient customs. A highly conservative force, we find these "bonneted men," as the Romans called them, in frequent opposition to the king, if he showed any inclination to grant popular reforms. They were, in fact, the predecessors of those Roumanian boyards, or landed aristocracy, whom we shall have occasion to mention later on. Battle and the chase were the most serious business of the Dacians' existence, and Ovid, who knew them well, said that their appearance reminded him of Mars himself. But they had other and more peaceful activities. Agriculture was of such importance even at that early date, that a great official was told off to watch over it. The studs of the Dacian monarchs were deservedly famous, and the country produced large herds of cattle. The gold and silver mines of Transylvania were worked before the Roman occupation, and yielded the precious metals, which were manufactured into ornaments by skilled native artificers. That Dacia carried on a considerable trade with the outside world is proved by the number of foreign coins found there; its situation on the Danube naturally favoured the growth of its commerce. But there were few towns, for the population was scattered. Sarmizegethusa was practically 3 18 DACIA BEFORE THE ROMAN CONQUEST. the only city of importance, and the other places mentioned by the Roman historians were nothing but fortified camps, where the country folk sought refuge in time of war, or else military posts on the banks of rivers or at the entrance to mountain passes. The inhabitants dwelt in wooden huts, or even in holes in the ground, which, under the name of bordei, were found in Roumania as late as the middle of the present century. In short, Dacia, as it was before the Roman conquest, preserved several characteristics of the country, which has derived its name from the conquering race.

Shield with Eagle and Ox.