During the great
migrations of an earlier period, Indo-European groups of warriors and their
families moved into large areas of Europe. One of these closely related
groups occupied territory in south-eastern Europe and, eventually, parts
of the Near East and cast-central Europe. These were the Thracians. In
the 1 st century the Thracians of southern Europe were separated from their
more northerly kin, the Dacians. The Thracians within the Roman frontier
became famous for their recruitment into the Roman cavalry.
The ancient land of Dacia approximates to the modern state of Romania. north of the Danube. and embraces the mountainous territory of Transylvania The Dacian people were a mixture of many different races and cultures Steppe warriors from north of the Black Sea appear to have invaded the area. and their Sarmatian culture mixed with the Graeco Thracian culture to the south in present day Bulgaria and the Celtic culture of central Europe to the west We therefore have a people who retained Celtic manners long after the main body of Celts bad moved westwards, The Dacians were an industrious people who quickly created a settled civilization of farmers and traders renowned for the richness of their way of life In the 2nd century AD. this prosperous land attracted the attention of the Roman emperor Trajan. who set out to conquer it between 101 and 105 AD Our main source for this war and the Dacian people it was fought against is the stone column erected in honor of Trajan s conquest in Rome in 113 ADLooking at the stone carvings. we see many objects similar to those employed by the Celts The Dacians employed large. round oval shields richly decorated with swiriing Celtic style patterns. not unlike that found on the Thames bronze shield. with large. round bronze bosses Dacian helmets form two main types a simple cone shaped shell and a more complex helmet with a point that curves forward in the style of a Phrygian cap. None of these are especially Celtic and may represent the Hellenic influence Body armor consists of mail. scale. and banded armor Basic clothes are tunic. trousers. and cloak Swords are long slashing types typical of the Celts and Germans. and one even echoes the La Tene style A windsock style standard in the shape of a dragon with an open mouth evokes the influence of steppe warriors such as the Sarmatians. as does the use of scale armor Trumpets after the style of the Celtic carnyx are shown Spears javelins. axes. and bows are common weapons. as is that distinctly Dacian weapon the falx The seated figure at the bottom of the painting carries this curved. double handed samurai sword style weapon The Romans were said to have increased the use of leg and arm armor similar to that used by gladiators. to protect themselves against these vicious weapons Trajan began his invasion of Dacia with thirteen legions Like Celts elsewhere. the Dacians retreated before him. avoiding a pitched battle In the winter of 101 AD. they made a counterattack. but it was repulsed Trajan advanced into the Carpathian mountains and found the capital of the Dacians Rather than have it destroyed. the Dacian leader Decebalus left it open to the Romans. and Trajan could return to Rome. confident In having won a new province and calling himself Dacius Decebalus however was biding his time and in 105 AD be led an uprising The bitter campaign that followed featured guerrilla fighting. and atrocities were committed by both sides. This time the Dacian capital was taken by force. and Decebalus fled to the north where be committed suicide Durlng these campaigns. the Romans brought the full ingenuity of their engineering skills into use. just as Caesar bad employed against Vercingetorix The major achievementsincluded a wooden bridge across the Danube -at almost a kilometer long it was the longest permanent bridge in antiquity and an improved cliff road through the Iron Gates of Orsova This was a deep 1lmestone gorge in which a twelve mile road was partly cut out of the rock. with an additional span created with planks supported by brackets keyed into the cliff The Impressiveness of the organization and engineering of the Roman achievement is well represented on Trajanís column Faced with the remarkable determination of the Romans. it is not surprising that the Dacians failed to preserve their independence.