Pre-Roman History

Dacia is an area in central Europe south of the Carpathian Mountains covering much of the region of Transylvania. The name comes from the Dacian people. They occupied land from the Carpathian to south of the Danube river. They were Thracian and most similar with the Getae. The historian Herodotus called both tribes Getae, while the Romans referred to both as Dacian. They used a Thracian dialect but were influenced culturally by the Scythians and by Celtic invaders around the 4th century BC. They first appear in the Athenian slave market in the 4th century BC, which means they had active trade with the Greeks, especially with wine and even used Greek coins. The first coins produced by the Dacians were imitations of silver coins of the Macedonian king Philip II and Alexander the Great. In the first century BC they replaced these coins with silver denarii of the Roman Republic. Around the end of the 2nd century BC, Dacian society had divided into two classes: aristocracy (tarabostes) – consisted of the nobility and the priests, and proletariat- agricultural peasant and cattle breeders. They also mined rich mines of silver, iron and gold. Herodotus writes that the Dacians (same as most Thracians) believed in immortality and regarded death as a change of country. The priests held a prominent position as the representative of the supreme deity, and also as the king’s personal adviser.

Wars with Rome

Dacians were part of an alliance that attacked Roman troops in 112, 109 and 75 BC. Around 60-50 BC, King Burebista unified and expended the kingdom making it a regional power. He even defeated the Greek cities on the north coast of the Black Sea and expended his kingdom beyond the Tisza River, north to modern day Slovakia and south of the Danube River to the aria of Belgrade. It’s likely that Burebista offered assistance to Pompey in 49 BC and in 44 BC Caesar was planning an expedition against the Dacian Kingdom. However, Caesar was murdered that very same year and soon after that Buribista was assassinated too. After his death Dacia split into four parts. But that didn’t stop them to harass Rome. They even launched an invasion of Rome’s territory in 11 or 10 BC but Augustus generals pushed them back from the left bank of the Danube and left troops in the province of Moesia. After the legions left in Moesia were departed in 69 AD, Dacians captured a number of fortresses. Despite that, they were defeated and pushed back by Vespasian’s general Gaius Licinius Mucianus.


Dacians unified again under Decebalus and raided Moesia where they killed the provincial governor Oppius Sabinus in 85 AD. Domitian restored order the fallowing year and tried to invade Dacia. This invasion was a catastrophe for the Romans. Their commander Cornelius Fuscus was killed with a large part of his army. In 88 Rome won a battle in Tapae near the Iron Gate Pass but troubles broke out with some tribes to the west, so Domitian gave Dacia a favorable peace. In 101 AD Trajan invaded Dacia and in 102 the Dacian capital Sarmizegethusa was captured and a Roman garrison was left there. In 105 the war was renewed and ended in 106 with the fall of Dacia under Roman rule. As for Decebalus, well, he committed suicide. Trajan captured enormous loot and the Dacian mines were immediately exploited. A Roman province Dacia Traiana was established with a consular legate consisting of two legions. In the time of Hadrian, the province was divided into Dacia Superior in Transylvania under praetorian legate (supported by a single legion at Apulm) and Dacia Inferior in Walachia, governed by a procurator. The territory was divided again in 159 by Antoninus Pius into three provinces: Dacia Porolissensis, Dacia Apulensis and Dacia Malvensis. In 168 Marcus Aurelius made them a single military area. Germanic and Celtic kingdoms, particularly the Goths made a slow progression toward Dacia, and soon started making assaults on the province. Rome took these attacks hard, and in 271, the Emperor Aurelian abandoned the province. During the reign of Diocletian a number of fortifications were build in order to defend the border. In 336 AD, Constantine the Great had reconquered the province, but after his death, Roman abandoned Dacia again.