The Getæ ; their supposed origin and history---The Dacians ; their origin and migrations-Their incursions into the Roman provinces-Their King, `Decebalus'-His contests with Cornelius Fuscus and Tertius Julianus Legends regarding him-Domitian pays him tribute--Trajan-His first expedition against the Dacians-His supposed route-The engineering works of the Romans-Defeat and submission of Decebalus-Trajan's triumphal return to Rome-The bas-reliefs on Trajan's Column - Description of the first expedition therefrom- Decebalus breaks the treaty Trajan's second expedition-Capture and suicide of Longinus-Defeats of the Dacians-Arrival of the Romans before Sarmizegethusa and its destruction by the Dacians-Suicide of Decebalus and his chiefs - Dacia a Roman province--Approximate boundaries -Carra's opinion of the colonists Hadrian destroys Trajan's bridge-Duration and decline of the Roman power in Dacia-The Goths and Vandals defeat the Emperor Decius They are beaten by Marcus Aurelius Claudius (called Gothicus)- Permanent withdrawal from Dacia by Aurelian -Conflicting opinions of historians regarding the evacuation-Gibbon's views probably correct Character of the colonists who remained in Dacia.


Dacian Warrior Image
Dacian Warrior Image

ALTHOUGH the earliest authentic records of Roumania or, more I correctly speaking, of Dacia, the Roman province which embraced Roumania, Transylvania, and some adjoining territories of to-day, do not reach further back than about the century immediately preceding the Christian era, a good deal of information is to be gathered from the writings of Herodotus, Dion Cassias, and other early historians regarding the Getæ, race from whom the Dacians sprang. The Getæ were all probability a branch of the Thracians, who were [116] amongst the earliest immigrants from the East; and for some time before they appeared in Dacia, which was situated on the northern side of the Danube (or Ister, as it was called by the Romans), they had settled between the south bank of that river and the Balkans (Mount Hæmus of the Romans). About the fourth century B.C., however, the Getæ had crossed the river, either driven north by an inimical neighbouring tribe, the Triballi, or in consequence of the growth of the nation itself. When they were first encountered by the Greeks, they occupied the eastern part of Dacia, reaching probably to one portion of the Black Sea; and some account of them is given by Ovid, who was exiled to their vicinity, but little is known of them until they came in contact with the Roman armies. The Getæ have little direct interest for us, but as we find associated with them the names of Philip of Macedon, Alexander the Great, and Lysimachus, a few words concerning their connection with those heroes may not be out of place, and will at least serve to fix a period in the history of the people. Whilst they were still seated on the southern side of the Danube, they are said to have been the allies of Philip in his expedition against the Scythians, and in his contest with the Triballi ; but Alexander the Great found them on the northern bank of the river when he undertook the conquest of the Thracian tribes prior to his expedition into Persia. He is said to have crossed the Danube at a place not clearly defined (B.C. 335), and to have defeated about 10,000 foot and 4,000 horsemen. These took refuge with their families in a wooden town, from which they were also dislodged, and fleeing to the steppes they escaped from the victorious Greeks. Now it is that we find the name Getæ changed into that of Dacians,1

[117] and in the events which followed during the reign, of Lysimachus they are known by both designations. After the death of Alexander the Great, Lysimachus inherited Thrace, and subsequently acquired Macedonia and Asia Minor; but in order to secure the first-named territory he found it necessary to cope with barbarian tribes, who formed a coalition against him. These he defeated; but inasmuch as the Getæ or Dacians, under their king (hellenised) Dromichætes, had co-operated with the barbarians, he undertook an expedition into their country north of the Danube shortly afterwards. Penetrating to their barren plains, he sustained a defeat, and was captured along with his whole army. According to certain Greek writers he was treated with great magnanimity by the Dacian king; but all are agreed that the latter only liberated him for a ransom of some kind, either in money or territory. Paget thinks he secured a large treasure, as many thousands of gold coins have been found, some of them bearing the name of Lysimachus. `I am in possession of some of these coins,' he says, ` and though many were melted down by the Jews in Wallachia, to whom they were conveyed across the frontier in loaves of bread, they are still [1850] very common, and are frequently used by the Transylvanians for signet rings and other ornaments. 2

From the time of Lysimachus until about that of Augustus Cæsar we hear little or nothing of the Getæ or Dacians, and we will therefore pass on to what may be called Roman period.

1Full accounts of the relations, or supposed relations, between the Thracians, the Getæ, and the Dacians will be found in Smith, Geog. Dict., articles 'Dacia,' Geography; I Thracia,' p. 325 ; ' Mœsia,' p. 677; and Dacia,' p. 679. In Dierauer (pp. 63-4 and note 1) and Roesler (chap. i.) everything of interest from the Greek and Roman historians is fully discussed, but the other German, French, and English writers treat the matter with more or less brevity, in some instances dismissing it in a few words.
2 Vol. ii. pp. 105-106. The whole question is involved in obscurity.


Some modern writers are of opinion that when the Romans first became acquainted with the country north of the Danube, they found two allied or germane tribes, the Getæ in the eastern, and the Dacians in the western part the territory; but according to Dion Cassius the Romans called all the inhabitants north of the Inter `Dacians,' no [118] matter whether they were Thracians, Getæ, or Dacians, and the probability is that the Getæ; had spread themselves gradually over the plains westward, then acquired possession of the Carpathian mountains, and descended into the plains of Transylvania. 1

Their fastnesses, called forts or cities, were built of wood, and were situated in the mountains, and there it was that their fiercest contests with the Roman arms took place previous to their complete subjugation.

The first we hear of them is that under a powerful chief Burvista or Boerebestes, they conquered their neighbours, the Boii, Jasyges, and probably other tribes, at the eastern boundary of their territory, driving them from their possessions, and from that time they appear as a distinct nation constantly threatening the safety of the Roman provinces in their vicinity. Julius Caesar, it is said, proposed to attack them shortly before his death, as they made periodical inroads into the Empire, more especially into Mœsia, the country lying between the Danube and the Balkan mountains, of which the Romans had secured the possession. Every winter, as soon as the Danube was frozen over or blocked with ice, they descended from their mountain fastnesses, crossed the broad stream, and carried fire and sword into the Roman territory. Before the latter people had time to gather their forces, their barbarous enemy had retreated, and, the river being once more open, the Dacians endeavoured to prevent the landing of the Roman troops, or, failing that, they made good their retreat to the mountains, whither the Romans feared to follow them. Nor were the Dacians by any means despicable opponents. Although many of the fought bareheaded and clothed in a light tunic, they we well acquainted with the use of armour, and possessed standards, shields, helmets, breast-plates, and even chain and [119] plate mail, fighting with bows and arrows, spears, javelins, and a short curved sword somewhat resembling a sickle.2

They fought on horseback as well as on foot, and it is said that they sent showers of poisoned arrows into the ranks of their enemies. Of their further proceedings in war as well as in peace we shall have occasion to speak hereafter. About the year 10 B.C. the Emperor Augustus sent one of his generals, Cn. Lentulus, to punish them for having entered and devastated Pannonia under a chief Kotiso; but the expedition was ineffectual, and for a long series of years they continued to harass the Empire, often threatening to overrun whole provinces. One such enterprise is mentioned by Tacitus :---

`Commotions about the sumo time broke out amongst the Dacians, a people never to be relied on, and since the legions were withdrawn from Mœsia there was no force to awe them. They, however, watched in silence first movements of affairs. But when they heard that Italy was in a blaze of war, and that all the inhabitants were in arms against each other, they stormed the winter quarters of the cohorts and the cavalry, and made themselves masters of both banks of the Danube. They then prepared to raze the camp of the legions, when Mucianus sent the sixth legion to check them, having heard of the victory at Cremona, and lest a formidable foreign force should invade Italy on both sides, the Dacians and the Germans making irruptions in opposite quarters. On this, as on many other occasions, fortune favoured the Romans in bringing Mucianus and forces of the East into that quarter, and also in that we had settled matters at Cremona in the very nick of time.' 3

It was in the reign of the Emperor Domitian, however, that the inroads of the Dacians assumed their most formidable proportions. About this time it is probable that the Dacians were divided into several tribes, and that one leader more powerful than the rest had secured the chieftainship of the whole nation. This chief is known to historians as 'Decebalus,' although there is great difference of opinion as whether that was his name or his title.4

[120] In the year 86 A.D., he gathered together a great host, and, crossing the Danube into Mœsia, defeated and hilled the praetor Oppius or Appius Sabinus, seizing several of the Roman fortresses an driving their army to the foot of Mount Hæmus. As soon as the defeat and the position of the Roman forces became known, Domitian collected an army in Illyria, and placed it under the command of Cornelius Fuscus, a general of more bravery than experience, who entered Mœsia, and, finding that Decebalus, according to precedent, had retired across the Danube, followed him into his own country, only, however in his turn to be defeated and slain. Upon this the Roman again recrossed the river, leaving behind them their baggage and many prisoners. Tacitus writes in great indignation concerning these reverses :--

`So many armies in Mœsia, Dacia, Germany, and Pannonia, lost through the temerity or cowardice of their generals ; so many men of military character with numerous cohorts defeated and taken prisoners ; whilst a dubious contest was maintained, not for the boundaries of the Empire and the banks of the bordering rivers, but for the winter quarters of the legion and the possession of our territories.' 5

Whilst these events were occurring, Domitian is said to have been making progresses and indulging in all kinds of excesses, but, fortunately for him and for the honour of the Roman arms, another general succeeded in stemming the tide of invasion, and eventually (A.D. 89) in assuming the offensive. This was Tertius Julianus, who had already distinguished himself in Mœsia under Otho and Vespasian. Following Decebalus into his own dominions, he was not content to remain in the plains, but pursued him into his mountain retreats, where he completely overthrew him in pitched battle and compelled him to sue for peace. It is in [121] the accounts of this expedition that mention is first made of regular roads in Dacia,, and two passes, the Vulcan and Rothenthurnr (or Red Tower), are referred to. A place called Tapæ also named, near to which Julianus is said to have overthrown Decebalus, and where subsequently Trajan obtained a victory over the same prince; but so much doubt attaches to the movements of Julianus that it will be better for the present to defer any reference to those localities. The whole account of Julianus's campaign in Dacia is mixed up with legendary tradition. It is said that he threatened the capital of Dacia, Sarmizegethusa, and that he would have succeeded in capturing it and in reducing the whole country but for a stratagem of Decebalus, who caused trees to be cut down to a man's height in the woods through which the Romans had to pass, and clothed them in armour, which so terrified the soldiers as to stay their progress. According to another account he cut the trees through their trunks but owed them to stand, and when the Romans attempted to force their way through with their engines of war, the trees fell on them and killed them. Whether it was the difficulty encountered by the Roman general in attempting to cope with his warlike enemy in his mountains and forests, where the arts of war as practised by the former were not so readily applicable as in the plains, or the more probable circumstance that Domitian had been unsuccessful in an expedition against two other tribes, the Quadi and Marcomanni, and needed the port of Julianus certain it is that the overtures of Decbalus were at length received favourably, and a peace was included with hirer in the year 90, which was less favourable to the victors than to the conquered. Decebalus refused treat in person with the Roman general, but sent one of chiefs (some historians say his brother), with whom the conditions were arranged. According to Roman accounts Decebalus restored the Roman prisoners, acknowledged the supremacy of Domitian, and accepted sovereignty at his hands. It subsequently transpired, however, that this was the whole treaty, and that Domitian agreed to pay the Dacian king an annual tribute, and to send him a number of [122] skilled artificers to teach him the art of constructing works the and fabricating arms upon the Roman model. Domitian then celebrated a triumph, which was however made a subject of ridicule by those who were aware of the actual result of the expedition.

We now approach a crisis in the history of Dacia. During the short reign of Nerva nothing was undertaken against the country, and Decebalus continued to harass and annoy the Romans in Mœsia until Trajan (who had been adopted by Nerva) ascended the throne (A.D. 98).

This emperor at once began preparations for putting an end to his humiliating relations with Decebalus and his people, and although there have been many conjectures concerning his motives and intentions, there can be little doubt that his object was eventually, if not immediately, to incorporate Dacia with his empire. Already in the reign of some of his predecessors the construction of a military road along the the right or south bank of the Danube had been proceeding, and the first operation of Trajan was to hasten the completion of this road for the passage of his troops. 6

With this by object he is said to have reconnoitred in 98 and 99, and the cot road probably attained completion as far as the bank opposite Orsova, about A.D. 100, as the tablet at Gradina, to which reference has already been made, indicates. It is impossible for us to estimate the difficulties which must have attended this undertaking. Possessing as we do explosives and rock-borers with which to break a passage through mountains and to blast rocky embankments, we can hardly understand how a people, with such limited mechanical appliances as then existed, can have surmounted the obstacles that presented themselves to their progress. In one place the way was a plank road resting on beams, which were driven into the perpendicular face of the solid rock a few feet above the water's edge, whilst a little further on it is seen to wind along terraces cut artificially, high up on the hillsides. Hundreds if not thousands of lives must have been sacrificed in the work, for it must be remembered that [123] the Roman generals and artificers had not only to combat natural difficulties, and to overcome the same obstacles as those which our modern engineers have to face, but that they were harassed by the savage but skilled enemy front the heights above, or from the opposite bank of the river, which here and there narrows itself into defiles 150 or 200 yards wide.

As soon as the road was sufficiently advanced for the passage of his array, A.D. 101, Trajan commenced his first expedition into Dacia. The constitution and number of his forces are not accurately known.7

They varied, according to different accounts, from 60,000 to 80,000 Romans, with a considerable number of allies, Germans, 8armatians, Mauritanian cavalry, &c., the last-named under Lucius Quietus and these Trajan is said to have assembled at a place some here south of Viminacium, which subsequently served as e base of his operations. 8

Pages upon pages have been devoted by ancient and modern historians to surmises concerning the routes taken Trajan in his expedition and the localities where his encounters with the Dacians took place, but in every case the ascertained facts have been few in number. The best history of the campaigns is delineated in the bas-reliefs on Trajan's Column 9

at Rome, and many details have been collected from fragmentary writings of Dion Cassius and other old historians.

For the convenience of crossing the Danube the army divided into two parts, and the river was crossed by bridges of boats at two points, one near Viminacium and the other opposite Orsova. The first section then skirted the western slopes of the Carpathians through the valley of the Theiss, and so entered the Dacian highlands; the other marched up the valley of the Tierna (Czerua), past the baths [124] of Mehadia, which already existed in the Roman period, and the two divisions of the army formed a junction at Karansebes,10

or at Tibiscum close by, where two Roman roads met; Trajan is known to have accompanied and led the eastern division until the junction was completed. It is probable that in that year (101 A.D.) no serious encounter took place between Trajan and Decebalus, who had been occupied for some time in preparing for his defence, and had now received reinforcements from many of the neighbouring tribes. One of these in the name of the allied tribes sent a threatening message to Trajan, written or scratched upon a fungus, warning him to withdraw his troops, but lie heeded neither this admonition nor overtures of peace proceeding from Decebalus himself. His army went into winter quarters, and early in 102 A.D. he commenced operations by forcing the Iron Gate pass in the Carpathians,11 and encountered the enemy, it is said, at the same place where Julianus had previously defeated Decebalus, namely, Tapæ12 Here the Dacians again met with a sanguinary defeat, but the Romans also sustained severe losses, and Trajan secured himself in the affections of his soldiers by tearing up his garments to make bandages for the wounded. 13 After this reverse Decebalus sought to reopen negotiations with Trajan, but on his refusal to receive the emissaries of the emperor, who decline to meet him in person, hostilities were renewed, and the war was prosecuted by the Dacians with great fierceness and barbarity. The discipline and warlike resources of Rome however, maintained the ascendency for her arms. Decbalus was pressed from stronghold to stronghold, and defeated in one encounter after another, until at length his capital Sarmizegethusa was threatened by his triumphant enemy. [125] Then it was that he sued earnestly for peace, and accepted the unfavourable conditions offered him by Trajan. He was compelled to give up all his war material and artificers, to raze his fortresses, to deliver up all Roman prisoners and deserters, to conclude a treaty defensive and offensive with me, and to appear before and do homage to the emperor. Dacia thus became a vassal but autonomous province of the Empire, and, content with his victory, Trajan returned to the capital, taking with him certain Dacian chiefs, who repeated the act of homage in the senate. He then celebrated a triumph, and received the distinctive title of 'Dacicus.'14

Trajan addressing his army.

Trajan addressing his army.

As we have already stated, the story of Trajan's expeditions into Dacia is recorded in the bas-reliefs of the column bearing his name and still existing in Rome. These bas-reliefs have been subject to various readings and interpretations, but we have so far avoided referring to them under the impression that they can only be taken in a general sense to resent the exploits of Trajan, and that any attempt to extract from them the names of localities is at best a hazardous experiment. With these reservations, however, it is safe say that they vividly represent incidents of the campaign and bring us face to face with the warlike character and cuss of the contending nations. The progress of the expedition, as shown on the column, is divided into sections, placed one above another, and separated by stems of trees which coil round the column; in the first of these sections see the passage of the army across the Danube over two bridges of boats. The Roman soldiers are chiefly bared, carrying their shields and helmets, and many bearing standards with eagles, images of the gods, and other devices. Some of the objects carried are supposed to be lanterns, which it is inferred that the passage took place at night. In advance are the trumpeters bearing long curved horns, and the led horses of Trajan and his generals. The named have already crossed the river, and Trajan is seated on a platform surrounded by his officers, haranguing [126] his men. Next we find ourselves in the enemy's country, although there are no signs as yet of the Dacians, and the two succeeding sections of the column are occupied by the progress of the Roman arms. The soldiers are felling timber, removing obstructions, and building forts and bridges, over all of which operations Trajan is seen to preside in person. In the fourth division the Dacians appear, suing for peace; the emissaries are clad in long robes, and Trajan meets them outside a fort. Then follow further incidents in the campaign; encounters take place between the opposing forces, in which the Dacians are defeated and their dead lie scattered on the ground. They are then seen retreating with their women and children, devastating the country and slaying their cattle which are heaped up in piles. Trajan is again present, sparing the old men, women, and children, and making prisoners Now the Dacians are the attacking party, and the Romans defend themselves behind forts; and then again the army is in motion with Trajan at its head, crossing rivers, and erecting fortifications. In the next section the Dacians have made a stand, and the scene represents a pitched battle in which they are again defeated with great slaughter. All the incidents of the fight are vividly depicted: Romans fighting from their chariots, Dacians an their allies mounted and on foot, prisoners brought in, an a roan, apparently a spy, bound before Trajan himself. Then follows a further advance, which occupies some of the succeeding scenes of the panorama. Here the Romans fall into an ambuscade, from which they extricate themselves; there [127] they pass a post of danger, apparently a wooden stronghold of the Dacians, under cover of a wall of shields held aloft by the soldiers; and at length they arrive before a fortified town, where Trajan is again seen seated upon a platform, surrounded by his generals, whilst the Dacians, one of whom is supposed to be Decebalus himself, kneel round about, suing for peace. In this scene the attire, emblems, and accoutrements of the two contending nations are presented in marked contrast. The Roman standards and eagles have already been mentioned; those of the Dacians generally represent serpentine monsters at the end of a long pole.15 Whilst the Romans carry their tall, curved, oblong shield, the oval ones of the Dacians ornamented with floral devices lie heaped confusion. Most of the Dacians are bareheaded, but some, opposed to be chief's, wear a head-dress resembling a cap of liberty. Another section completes the panorama of the first expedition, representing the embarkation and landing of rajah ; the sacrifices, triumph, and rejoicings in the capital. But Decebalus had no more intention of abiding by the terms of his treaty with the Roman emperor than had Trajan with that of his predecessor. The Dacian king no sooner seen his enemy's back than he repaired his tresses, armed his people afresh, sought new alliances with his neighbours, and commenced depredations upon territories of Rome and her allies. Than it was that Trajan prepared to chastise the barbarians, and this time He determined to crash the Dacian power completely, and to annex the conquered country as a Roman province. Although he is said to have been in Mœsia in A.D. 104, the actual movements against Dacia only commenced the following year, and in this as in the preceding expedition routes pursued by the Roman army have not been clearly defined. The bridge across the Danube from Gladowa to Turnu-Severin was most likely completed, and part, if not the whole, of Trojan's army crossed there. Those writers who believe that in the first expedition a portion of [128] the forces entered from Pannonia, say that, knowing the geography of the country better, Trajan now sent a division up the valley of the Theirs, crossing. the Danube at Viminacium; a whilst there is little doubt that a portion of the army continued the march eastward along the Mœsian bank of the Danube, crossed at a station opposite the mouth of the Alutus (now Oltu), landed near the modern Celeiu, and, crossing the plain, entered the mountain fastnesses through t the Rothenthurm pass.16

By whatever routes Trajan's army invaded the dominions of the doomed king, it is known that his advance was prompt and successful, and that this time the fame of the Roman arms prevented Decebalus from securing many allies. He once more sued for peace; but Trajan's terms being a virtual relinquishment of his independence, he prepared himself for a supreme and desperate effort for the defence of his kingdom. At first it is said that he attempted to remove Trajan by assassination, but that his emissaries were detected and put to death. Another expedient seems to have been temporarily successful. He managed to decoy into his power Longinus, a Roman general, said to have been a great favourite of Trajan, and, holding him as hostage, Decebalus demanded extravagant terms of peace. To this proposal Trajan gave an evasive reply, in order, if possible, to save the life of his officer. The last-name however, with true Roman patriotism, had a message conveyed to Trajan by his freedman, advising him to proceed with his operations, and at the same time he himself took a dose of poison in order to relieve his master from further perplexity on his account. Decebalus then offered to give up the body of the Roman general and certain other captives in return for the escaped freedman, but Trajan returned answer to his proposal. Very little is known of the incidents of thin campaign, excepting that Trajan forced the passes of the Carpathians, and, taking one defended post after another, drove the enemy into the vicinity of his [129] capital ; that the tribes who lad allied themselves with the Dacians, amongst whom the Sarmatians, Jasyges, and Burri are named, deserted them one by one, and that the Romans at length laid siege to Sarmizegethusa, where Decebalus had taken refuge. After a brave but ineffectual defence the king, rather than yield himself a prisoner, committed suicide with his sword; whilst his followers, after setting fire to the town, imitated the example of their leader by taking poison. The head of Decebalus was cut off and sent Rome by Trajan, who discovered and divided amongst his soldiers vast spoils and treasures which the Dacians had endeavoured to conceal, and then returned to Rome, where (A.D. 106) a triumph was celebrated on even a grander scale after the conclusion of his first expedition.17

Dacians setting fire to their capital. (From Trajan's columns.)
Dacians setting fire to their capital. (From Trajan's columns.)

Before drawing to a close this hasty survey of the rise fall of the Dacian monarchy, let us turn again for a moment [130] to the bas-reliefs upon Trajan's Column, the indelible and, after all, the most trustworthy record of his second expedition. 18 Passing hastily over the first scenes, which any comprise the landing of his troops, the assault and capture war of a fortified place, the defeat of the Dacians, and what appears to be a refusal on the part of Trajan to grant them peace, we leave a very faithful and circumstantial picture of a halt, where the emperor is present at the offering of a bull as sacrifice. Then there is a continuance of the march inland, followed by fierce contests between the two armies. At length the Romans arrive before a walled city (probably Sarmizegethusa) where all the incidents of a siege, including personal adventures, are portrayed. A Roman soldier, standing at the top of a scaling ladder, has struck off the head of one of the Dacians on the wall, whilst the latter are seen hurling stones and other missiles at those engaged in the assault. Then comes another application for peace, a Dacian prince kneeling at the feet of Trajan ; whilst in it the same section, separated only by a couple of thin trees, we have the scene of the Dacians setting fire to their city, and in close contiguity is their dying leader. The remaining scenes depict the Roman soldiers dividing the spoil. Trajan is addressing them, distributing rewards, and bidding them adieu.. Then follow secondary incidents; the building of fortresses by the Romans; one or two more contests in which Trajan's generals defeat the Dacians, driving them into the mountains, whither they are seen fleeing with their flocks, women, and children. One of the last scenes represents the second triumph of Trajan, with soldiers who arrive bearing the head of Decebalus. Some of the minor incidents in the panorama are intended to exhibit the barbarity of the Dacians, one being the exhibition of a row of heads stuck upon spears on the walls of a town or fortress; another the burning and torturing of naked Roman prisoners [131] by Dacian women. Altogether these bas-reliefs, which are said to be the work of several artists, present anything but an edifying spectacle of the ancient mode of warfare.

1Dion Cassius (Cocceianus), the Roman historian, was born 155 A.D. a Nicæa in Bithynia, where he also probably died in retirement after a to and eventful political life; the date of his death is unknown. He w governor of Pannonia tinder Severus;, and had opportunities of learning about Trajan's expeditions into Dacia. He wrote a history of Rome, including o of Trajan, but of the latter there is only an abridgment by Xiphilinus mad in the eleventh century; our extracts are from the French version referred to in the Appendix.
2 See initial letter, and vignette at the end of this chapter.
3 Bohn's Tacitus, vol. ii. p. 164. This occurred 70 A.D. under Vespasian. Mœsia had been formally constituted a Roman province 9 A.D. (or 2 B.C., Merivale).
4 According to Merivale, vol. vii. p. 103 note (Longmans, 1862), it was a e: 'interpreted by some writers "The Strength of the Dacians," by others Dakhi-Valhus," the Scythian for the Day Falcon.' Smith (Biography, article Decebalus') says it was probably a title of honour amongst the Dacians equivalent to chief or king, since we find that it was sorne by more than on of their rulers, and that the individual best known to history as the Decebaln of Dion Cassius is named Diurpaneus by Orosius, and Dorphaneus, by Jornandes. Roesler and Dierauer expend a large amount of research and learning upon the name. The former (p. 35) believes that 'the Dierpaneus of Jordanes ' is king Duras from whom Decebalus received his crown, and he leaves the question an open one. Dierauer says (p. 67) that Decebalus was his name and quotes an inscription in which he is spoken of as ' Regem Decebalum,'
5 Bohn's Agricola, p. 382.
6 See historical map.
7The fullest account of the probable number and constitution of his army, generals, &c., is to be found in Dierauer, pp, 76 et seq. and the numerous notes appended.
8See map.
9Erected after the final subjugation of Dacia, probably upon the designs Apollodorus, who also designed the bridge across the Danube.
10 This is by no means the unanimous view as to the course which was taken by the army, although most are agreed that it was divided into two sections.
11 This must not be confounded with the Iron Gates (sunken rocks) in the Danube. The reader will find all the leading places referred to in our historical map.
12 Nothing certain is known as to the position of Tapæ. By some writers it is said to be identical with Crossfeldt near Thorda ; but this hardly agrees with the account of the operations against Decebalus after his first defeat.
13 Dion Cassius, lxviii. 8.
14Dion Cassius, Ixviii. 9.
15 See vignette at the end of this chapter.
16 All these places, along with the lines indicating existing remains Roman roads, will be found on our map.
17Full details of games, gladiatorial fights, coins struck, &c., in Dierauer, pp. 106 et seq.
18Those of our readers who desire to follow these superficial outlines the story, as represented on the column, will do well to inspect the beautiful line engravings of 1'iranese, without however accepting his interpretations as conc1usive.


Whatever uncertainty attaches to the details of Trajan's expeditions, there is none as to their ultimate result, nor concerning the chief operations of the conqueror and his successors in the newly-acquired territory, which was for many annexed as a province of the Empire. Some historians d have attempted to define with great minuteness the boundaries of the new province, but more cautious writers content themselves with naming approximate limits; and these have done wisely, as there is no doubt that the movements of the neighbouring tribes and even of the conquered Dacians (for it is a mistake to suppose, as some do, that they went out of existence) prevented any strict line of demarcation. The nominal boundaries of Roman Dacia were the river Theiss on the west, the Pruth on the east, `barbarians' on the north, and the river Danube on the south. The country actually colonised embraced the Banate of Temesvar, Transylvania, (Siebenbürgen), and Roumania as they exist to-day. There were several centres of colonisation, of which the chief was Ulpia Trajana, including the old capital of Decebalus, Sarmizegethusa (now Varhely), and other important centres were Apulum and Cerna or Tierna.1

Trajan and his successors built fortifications, walls, and towns; and, attracted partly by the fertility of the plains and partly by the gold mines of the Carpathians, the Roman [132] colonies soon swelled in numbers and importance. 2

Different opinions have been expressed concerning the character of these colonists. One modern writer, Carra, who is considered an authority in Roumanian history, says that the Romans regarded Dacia as the French, Cayenne, and sent thither a colony consisting of the scum of the principal towns of Greece and the Roman Empire. Their descendants, he adds, who inherited their vices and cowardice, were turn by turn conquered and enslaved by the Sarmatians, Huns, and Tartars.3 This is a statement which rather affects the feelings of modern Roumanians than the current of historical events, and it brings us face to face with an enquiry which we shall have to handle with great circumspection, namely, the descent of the modern Roumanians from the old Daco-Roman colonists, lest we find ourselves involved in a controversy that would fill volumes. So far as the records of Roman history enable us to judge, Carra has done great injustice to the colonists of Dacia. It is true that the Romans banished some of their malefactors, and especially political offenders, to their colonies, as Ovid was expatriated; and that Trajan colonised Dacia from various parts of the Empire; but the custom of the Roman generals, which Trajan would doubtless have followed, was to divide the most fertile districts amongst their veteran soldiers,4 and therefore, if the charges of cowardice and debauchery made by Carra were true, they would apply to the bravest in the legions who had conquered the almost indomitable Decebalus. But Carra lived and wrote at a time (A.D. 17 77) when cool judgment could hardly be expected in a writer on Roumania, and if he were alive to-day he would be surprised to hear that there is a school of modern historians who, using his very [133] authorities, deny that the descendants of the Daco-Roman colonists were ever to be found on Dacian ground during the incursions of the eastern barbarians. But of that more here after.5

The history of the Roman occupation of Dacia, which lasted from the time of Trajan until it was evacuated by Aurelian,6

affords little to interest the reader. Dada was, so to speak, the outwork of the Empire which served to hold the barbarians at bay during its ` decline and fall; ' and the country was more prosperous than during the period of its independence, when the tribes were constantly at war with one another and there was no settled government. That the attitude of the barbarians was threatening even a few years after the death of Trajan is, however, more than probable, for his immediate successor, Hadrian, contemplated with drawing his legions, and destroyed the bridge across the Danube, 118 or 120 A.D. Some writers, indeed, attribute this act to his jealousy of Trajan, others to his hatred of Apollodorus, the architect; but most probably the cause assigned by Dion Cassius, that it was to prevent its being used by the barbarians for making inroads into Mœsia, was the true one.7 During the reigns of Antoninus Pius and Marcus Aurelius for about half a century, the barbarians were kept in check, although even during that period they a had managed to encroach upon the Roman territory.


At the beginning of the third century, however, the Roman hold on Dacia began to be very precarious, and we approach the time when the dark veil of the so-called barbarian ages is drawn over the history of Europe. That the Roman emperors had to contend, with very varying fortunes, with barbarous tribes is certain, and that their arms were still frequently successful is proved by the erection of fortresses and towns, named after their emperors, on the borders of their possessions. For example, Caracalla defeated certain barbarous hordes about A.D. 212, and assumed the name of 'Geticus,' but whether the conquered tribes were Dacians or Goths is uncertain.

A few years later the Quadi and Marcomanni made inroads into Western Dacia, but they were held in check by the proconsul Varus, who built a tower or fort in close proximity to Trajan's bridge, of which the ruins are still visible to travellers on the Danube, and which has given its name to the modern town of Turnu-Severin. But the Goths, a people of Scandinavian origin, had been for some time previously drawing nearer to the borders of the Roman Empire. Between the beginning of our era and the end of the second century they had spread themselves, associated with the Vandals, in the direction of the Carpathians and the Ukraine, and in the reign of the Emperor Philip (243-249) they made irruptions into Mœsia. In that of Decius they invaded the Roman territory a second time under a chief, Cniva, and, after defeating the Romans and compelling the emperor to flee, they took and sacked Pbilippopolis. Shortly afterwards Decius met them again, but he was again defeated and slain. The barbarians then retired with their plunder.

The next event of importance was the defeat of the Goths (about 268 or 269 8)

by Marcus Aurelius Claudius. They had once more entered Roman territory, had overrun Mœsia and Illyria, and were approaching the capital ; it was therefore found necessary to raise a powerful army and drive them over the frontier. This time they were defeated with great Freeman (General Sketch of European History) says 260-270 A.D. [135] slaughter at Naissos in the Balkans and elsewhere, and were then driven across the Danube. Marcus Aurelius, who took the name of 'Gothicus,' describes the fate of the enemy in I these terms: We have annihilated 320,000 Goths, and have I sunk two thousand of their ships. Everywhere rivers are covered with their shields, all the banks with their swords and ears, whilst the fields are sown with their bones. The roads are indistinguishable; much baggage is taken. We have captured so many women that every soldier is able to possess two or three of them.9 And yet, notwithstanding this decisive victory of Marcus Aurelius, his successor Aurelian found himself very shortly afterwards in deadly conflict with these same Goths, and his contests were so doubtful in their results that lie was glad to make a treaty of peace with them d leave them in undisturbed possession of Trajan's Dacia. That he decided to ,withdraw the Roman legions (about 270 or 275 A.D.) from Dacian territory, that he offered protection to all colonists who were prepared to follow them across the Danube, and that a new colony, called Dacia Aureliani, was founded along the south bank of the Danube : these are uncontradicted facts. But when we come to enquire into the details of the withdrawal and the composition of the remaining population, we find such a conflict of authorities that it is impossible to come to a definite conclusion. Nay, not only do the historians differ from one another in regard to the conditions under which Aurelian evacuated Dacia, Trajana, or Dacia, north of the Danube, but in some cases they even contradict themselves, and, after a careful perusal and comparison of the statements of many of them, we are quite disposed to accept the opinion expressed by our own historian Gibbon, who, after saying that Aurelian withdrew the Roman legions from Dacia and offered the alternative of leaving to those colonists who were disposed to follow him, ads :--

'The old country of that name (Dacia) detained, however, a considerable number of its inhabitants who dreaded exile more than a Gothic [136] master. These degenerate Romans continued to serve the Empire whose allegiance they had renounced by introducing amongst their conquerors the first notions of agriculture, the useful arts, and the convenience of civilisation. An intercourse of commerce and language was gradually established between the opposite banks of the Danube, and after Dacia became an independent State it often proved the firmest barrier of the Empire against the invasions of the savages of the north. A sense of interest attached these more settled barbarians to the alliance of Rome and a permanent interest very frequently ripens into sincere and useful friendship.' 10

And Gibbon, who had read and studied the works of Eutropius and his successor Vopiscus, as well as other more recent historians, gives us further details of the negotiations that took place between Aurelian and the Goths, which remove any doubts as to the accuracy of his views. Aurelian treated with the barbarians after a battle had been fought which was by no means adverse to the Roman arms, and he stipulated with the Goths that they should contribute an auxiliary force of 2,000 men to the Roman army. He moreover secured a large number of hostages, being the sons and daughters of Gothic chiefs, whom he sent to Rome to be educated. He adds, concerning the constitution of the province north of the Danube : ` This various colony which filled the ancient province, and was insensibly blended into one great nation, still acknowledged the superior renown and authority of the Gothic tribe, and claimed the fancied honour of Scandinavian origin.' 11

But this is not all. The great historian, whose views can only be rejected on what we may call a political or partisan theory, believed the Roman colonists to have been industrious agriculturists ; for when he speaks, in another place, of the temptations which led the wandering Goths in the first instance to cast longing eyes upon Dacia, he says: `But the prospects of the Roman territory were far more alluring, and the fields of Dacia were covered with a rich harvest; sown by the hands of an industrious, and exposed to be gathered by a warlike people.' 12


In bringing the history of the Roman occupation of Dacia to a close, we have therefore to acknowledge that, far from being inhabited by the scorn of the earth as Carra supposed, the country was at first in the hands of an industrious, though probably a sparse peasantry, and, as Gibbon has said, 'only those who had nothing to lose accompanied the Roman army,' leaving the remainder, a large body of industrious Daco-Roman agriculturists, ruled over by a tribe of warlike barbarians. What these and their posterity suffered, more will be seen from the narrative in our next chapter.

Dacian trophies. (From Trajan's Column.)

Dacian trophies. (From Trajan's Column.)

Historical Map of Dacia
Historical Map of Dacia

1 According to certain writers, Transylvania was Dacia mediterranea ; the Banate, D. riyensis; and Roumania, D. transalpina ; but Smith (Geography, 'Dacia') gives those names to divisions of Mœsia after the withdrawal of the Romans from Dacia ; and later historians make no reference to the divisions. Dierauer (p. 103) only refers to one or two leading colonies, and Roesler (p. 45) says that Trajan did not subdivide his conquest at all, but that under Antoninus Pius (7 G8 A.D.) there existed three non-political divisions: D. Apulensis, D. Porolissensis, and D. malnvensis. Gibbon (chap. i. pp. 7 and 8) gives what be calls ` the natural boundaries,' and says the province was about 1,300 miles in circumference.
2 Neigebaur (p. 43) gives a list of twenty-eight towns known (and many doubtful ones) in Trajan's Dacia, built during the Roman occupation. 0f these the ruins of some still remain, and on the site of others modern to have been built, whose names vary but little from the Roman appellation e.g. Zernes, now Cernetz ; Caracalla, Karakal ; Castra Severum, Turnu Sevrunul (where there is an old Roman tower); Ardeiscus, Ardeish or Ardges, Pallada, Berlad ; Kallatia, Galatz ; Thermæ ad Medias, Mehadia.
3 Carra, p. 3.
4 As in the case of Britain ; see Smith, Geography, article 'Colonia.'
5 Carra takes his account from Entropies, who says (Book VIII. cap. 6): 'Trajan, when he conquered Dacia, transferred thither from all parts of the Roman Empire considerable numbers of men to till the fields and live in the towns. For by its long war under Decebalus Dacia had been exhausted of its men.' He says nothing of the 'scum of the towns.' But in Book IX. cap. 16, Eutropius, in speaking of the Roman withdrawal from Dacia under Aurelian, says: 'He took the Romans away from the cities and fields of Dacia, and planted ahem in the middle of Mœsia.'
6 Smith (Dada) says it was evacuated between 270 and 275 A.D. Neigebaur and other German as well as French writers name years between these two, e edict of Aurelian being dated, it is said, 274 A.D.; whilst Roesler (pp. 50-51) believes that the actual withdrawal of the Roman army did not take place until 280 A.D.

7 lxviii. 13. He says (after describing the bridge in glowing terms) : 'Trajan, fearing lest, when the Inter was frozen, the Romans on the farther bank should be attacked, built it in order to afford an easy passage for the troops; Adrian, on the other hand, apprehensive that the barbarians, after having overcome those who guarded it, would find it an easy means of penetrating into Mœsia, demolished the upper portion of it.'
8 Freeman (General Sketch of European History) says 269-270 A.D.
9 Trebellius Pollio. Gibbon seta down the number of Goths slain at 50,000.
10 Vol. ii. p. 17. The other writers here referred to are Pic, Roesler, Paget, Petermann, &c.
11 Ibid.
12 Vol. i. p. 330.

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