Dacian-themed mural on a Communist-era apartment block in Orăştie

Protochronism (anglicized from the Romanian: Protocronism, from the Ancient Greek terms for first in time) is a Romanian term describing the tendency to ascribe, largely relying on questionable data and subjective interpretations, an idealised past to the country as a whole. While particularly prevalent during the regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu, its origin in Romanian scholarship dates back more than a century.

The term refers to perceived aggrandizing of Dacian and earlier roots of today's Romanians. This phenomenon is also pejoratively labelled Dacomania or sometimes Thracomania, while its proponents prefer Dacology.



In this context, the term makes reference to the trend (noticed in several versions of Romanian nationalism) to ascribe a unique quality to the Dacians and their civilization.[1] Usually glossing over the fact that Dacian society lacked such basic instruments as a writing system, protochronists attempt to prove either that Dacians had a major part to play in Ancient history, or even that they had the ascendancy over all cultures (with a particular accent on Ancient Rome, which, in a complete reversal of the founding myth, would have been created by Dacian migrants).[2] Also noted are the exploitation of the Tărtăria tablets as certain proof that writing originated on proto-Dacian territory, and the belief that the Dacian language survived all the way to the Middle Ages.[2]

An additional - but not universal - feature is the attempted connection between the supposed monotheism of the Zalmoxis cult and Christianity,[3] in the belief that Dacians easily adopted and subsequently influenced the religion. Also, Christianity is argued to have been preached to the Daco-Romans by Saint Andrew, who is considered, doubtfully, as the clear origin of modern-day Romanian Orthodoxy. Despite the lack of evidence to support this, it is the official church stance, being found in history textbooks used in Romanian Orthodox seminaries and theology institutes.[4]


The ideas have been explained as part of an inferiority complex present in Romanian nationalism,[5] one which also manifested itself in works not connected with Protochronism, mainly as a rejection of the ideas that Romanian territories only served as a colony of Rome, voided of initiative, and subject to an influx of Latins which would have completely wiped out a Dacian presence.[6]

Protochronism most likely came about with the views professed in the 1870s by Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu,[7] one of the main points of the dispute between him and the conservative Junimea. For example, Hasdeu's Etymologicum magnum Romaniae not only claimed that Dacians gave Rome many of her Emperors (an idea supported in recent times by Iosif Constantin Drăgan),[8] but also that the ruling dynasties of early medieval Wallachia and Moldavia were descendants of a caste of Dacians established with "King" (chieftain) Burebista.[9] Other advocates of the idea before World War I included the amateur archaeologist Cezar Bolliac,[10] as well as Teohari Antonescu and Nicolae Densuşianu. The latter composed an intricate and unsupported theory on Dacia as the center of European prehistory,[11] authoring a complete parallel to Romanian official history, which included among the Dacians such diverse figures as those of the Asen dynasty, and Horea.[11] The main volume of his writings is Dacia Preistorică ("Prehistoric Dacia").

After World War I and throughout Greater Romania's existence, the ideology increased its appeal. The Iron Guard flirted with the concept, making considerable parallels between its projects and interpretations of what would have been Zalmoxis' message.[12] Mircea Eliade was notably preoccupied with Zalmoxis' cult, arguing in favor of its structural links with Christianity;[13] his theory on Dacian history, viewing Romanization as a limited phenomenon, is celebrated by contemporary partisans of Protochronism.[14]

In a neutral context, the Romanian archaeology school led by Vasile Pârvan investigated scores of previously ignored Dacian sites, which indirectly contributed to the idea's appeal at the time.[15]

In 1974 Edgar Papu published in the mainstream cultural monthly Secolul XX an essay titled "The Romanian Prothocronism", arguing for Romanian chronological priority for some European achievements.[16] The idea was promptly adopted by the nationalist Ceauşescu regime, which subsequently encouraged and amplified a cultural and historical discourse claiming the prevalence of autochthony over any foreign influence.[17] Ceauşescu's ideologues developed a singular concept after the 1974 11th Congress of the Communist Party of Romania, when they attached Protochronism to official Marxism, arguing that the Dacians had produced a permanent and "unorganized State".[18] The Dacians had been favored by several communist generations as autochthonous insurgents against an "Imperialist" Rome (with the Stalinist leadership of the 1950s proclaiming them to be closely linked with the Slavic peoples);[19] however, Ceauşescu's was an interpretation with a distinct motivation, making a connection with the opinions of previous protochronists.[20]

The regime started a partnership with Italian resident, former Iron Guardist and millionaire Iosif Constantin Drăgan, who continued championing the Dacian cause even after the fall of Ceauşescu.[21] Critics regard these excesses as the expression of an economic nationalist course, amalgamating provincial frustrations and persistent nationalist rhetoric, as autarky and cultural isolation of the late Ceauşescu's regime came along with an increase in prothocronistic messages.[22]

No longer backed by a totalitarian state structure after the 1989 Revolution, the interpretation still enjoys popularity in several circles.[23] The main representative of current Protochronism is still Drăgan, but he is seconded by the New York City-based physician Napoleon Săvescu. Together, they issue the magazine Noi, Dacii ("Us Dacians") and organize a yearly "International Congress of Dacology".[24]

Dacian script, an example

A Dacian script or the work of an illiterate potter?

Dacian alphabet is a term used in Romanian "Protochronism" for pseudohistorical claims of a supposed alphabet of the Dacians prior to the conquest of Dacia and its absorption into the Roman Empire. Its existence was first proposed in the late 19th century by Romanian nationalists, but has been completely rejected by mainstream modern scholarship.

In the opinion of Sorin Olteanu, a modern expert at the Vasile Pârvan Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest, "Dacian script" is "pure fabrication [...] purely and simply Dacian writing does not exist", adding that many scholars believe that the use of writing may have been subject to a religious taboo among the Dacians.[25] It is known that the ancient Dacians used the Greek and Latin alphabets,[26] though possibly not as early as in neighbouring Thrace where the Ezerovo ring in Greek script has been dated to the 5th century BC. A vase fragment from the La Tène period (Fig., right), a probable illiterate imitation of Greek letters, indicates visual knowledge of the Greek alphabet.[27] during the La Tène period, prior to the Roman invasion. Some Romanian writers writing at the end of the 19th century and later identified as protochronists, particularly the Romanian poet and journalist Cezar Bolliac, an enthusiast amateur archeologist,[28] claimed to have discovered a Dacian alphabet. They were immediately criticized for archeological[29] and linguistic[30][31] reasons. Alexandru Odobescu, criticized some of Bolliac's conclusions.[32] In 1871 Odobescu, along with Henric Trenk, inventoried the Fundul Peşterii cave, one of the Ialomiţei caves (See the Romanian Wikipedia article) near Buzău. Odobescu was the first to be fascinated by its writings, which were later dated to the 3rd or 4th century.[33] In 2002, the controversial[34] Romanian historian, Viorica Enăchiuc, stated that the Codex Rohonczi is written in a Dacian alphabet.[35] The equally controversial[36] linguist Aurora Petan (2005) claims that some Sinaia lead plates could contain unique Dacian scripts.[37]

Modern-day equivalents

  • Albanian nationalists claim that the Albanians descend from the ancient Pelasgians, the semi-mythical original inhabitants of Greece, as a way of establishing primacy over other Balkan peoples, particularly the Greeks.[38] In Communist Albania, an Illyrian origin of the Albanians (without denying Pelasgian roots[39] a theory which has been revitalized today[40]) played a significant role in Albanian nationalism,[41] resulting in a revival of given names supposedly of "Illyrian" origin, at the expense of given names associated with Christianity. The protochronist ideology developed in Romania was directly borrowed by the communist regime in Albania.[42]
  • Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein frequently appealed to imagery and rhetoric that assumed a direct link between the modern-day country and Sumer or Babylon.
  • The "Venetic theory" (Slovene: Venetska teorija) of Slavic settlement of Eastern Alps forwarded by Slovene authors Jožko Šavli, Matej Bor and Ivan Tomažič.[43]


  1. ^ Boia, p.160-161
  2. ^ a b Boia, p.149-151
  3. ^ Boia, p.169
  4. ^ Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.48
  5. ^ Verdery, p.177
  6. ^ Boia, p.85, 127-147
  7. ^ Boia, 138-139, 140, 147; Verdery, p.326
  8. ^ Boia, p.268
  9. ^ Boia, p.82
  10. ^ Boia, p.139-140
  11. ^ a b Boia, p.147-148
  12. ^ Boia, p.320
  13. ^ Boia, p.152; Eliade, "Zalmoxis, The Vanishing God", in Slavic Review, Vol. 33, No. 4 (December 1974), p.807-809
  14. ^ Boia, p.152; Şimonca
  15. ^ Boia, p.145-146
  16. ^ Boia, p.122-123; Martin
  17. ^ Boia, p.117-126
  18. ^ Boia, p.120
  19. ^ Boia, p.154-155, 156
  20. ^ Boia, p.155-157; 330-331
  21. ^ Verdary, p.343
  22. ^ Boia, p.338
  23. ^ Babeş; Boia, p.356
  24. ^ "Ca şi cînd precedentele reuniuni n-ar fi fost de ajuns, dacologii bat cîmpii in centrul Capitalei", in Evenimentul Zilei, 22 June 2002
  25. ^ [1] "Este un bun prilej să demontăm un alt mit drag tracomanilor, anume cel al 'scrierii dacice' si al vechimii ei 'imemorabile'. 'Scrierea dacă' este pură inventie. Nu este nici măcar vorba de incertitudini, de chestiuni de interpretare (din ce punct de vedere privim) s.a.m.d., ci pur si simplu nu există nici o scriere dacă [...] Asa cum cred multi dintre învătati, este foarte posibil ca la daci, întocmai ca si la celti până la un anumit moment, scrierea să fi fost supusă unui tabu religios.
  26. ^ Daicoviciu, Hadrian (1972). Dacii. Editura Enciclopedică Română. 
  27. ^ (in French) Dacia.Recherches et découvertes archéologiques en Roumanie. vol 3-4. 1933. p. 342. Retrieved January 9, 2011. "On ne possède malheureusement pas de plus grand fragment pour établir s'il s'agit d'une inscription en langue latine ou grecque, éventullement gète,, ou plutôt d'une ornementation grossière en forme d'alphabet , oeuvre probable d'un potier illetré. Ce tesson présente dans tous les cas un grand intérêt au point de vue de l'influence méridionale sur les artisans de notre station de Poiana, à la fin de l'époque Latène, à laquelle il appartient. Même s'il ne s'agit que d'un jeu d'imitation de quelque potier gète, sa connaissance approximative des lettres grecques ou romaines prouve que les relations entre les Gètes de la Moldavie et le monde gréco-romain d'outre Danube étaient devenues extrêmement étroites à la veille de la directe expansion romaine en Dacie." 
  28. ^ Măndescu, Dragos. "DESCOPERIREA SITULUI ARHEOLOGIC DE LA ZIMNICEA ŞI PRIMA ETAPĂ A CERCETĂRII SALE: ‘EXPLORAŢIUNILE’ LUI CEZAR BOLLIAC (1845, 1858?, 1869, 1871-1873)" (in Romanian). Museul Judetean Teleorman. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  29. ^ Boia, p.92
  30. ^ Hovelacque, Abel (1877). The science of language: linguistics, philology, etymology. Chapmanand Hall. p. 292. Retrieved January 9, 2011. "The Rumanian writer Eajden... fancies he has lighted upon the old Dacian alphabet, in an alphabet surviving till the last century amongst the Szeklers of Transylvania. But he has altogether overlooked the preliminary question, to what group of languages Dacian may belong." 
  31. ^ (in French) Le Moyen âge. Champion. 1888. p. 258. "La théorie d'un alphabet dace est une fable; les caractères cyrilliques sont d'origine slave, non roumaine. Ce n'est que depuis le XV^ siècle que le peuple roumain les a admis dans son idiome national." 
  32. ^ Oisteanu, Andrei (April 30, 2008). "Scriitorii romani si narcoticele (1) De la Scavinski la Odobescu" (in Romanian). 22 Revista Grupului Pentru Dialog Social. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  33. ^ Popescu, Florentin. "Les ermitages des Monts de Buzau" (in French). Le site des monuments rupestres. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  34. ^ Ungareanu, Dan (May 6, 2003). "Nu trageti in ambulanta" (in Romanian). Oservator Cultural.*articleID_8150-articles_details.html. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  35. ^ Enăchiuc, Vioroca (2002) (in Romanian and French). Rohonczi Codex: descifrare, transcriere si traducere (Déchiffrement, transcription et traduction). Editura Alcor. ISBN 973-8160-07-3. 
  36. ^ Olteanu, Sorin. "Raspuns Petan" (in Romanian). Thraco-Daco-Moesian Languages Project. Retrieved January 9, 2011. 
  37. ^ Petan, Aurora. "A possible Dacian royal archive on lead plates". Antiquity. Retrieved January 8, 2011. 
  38. ^ Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 2009, Gilles de Rapper, "by identifying with Pelasgians, Albanians could claim that they were present in their Balkan homeland not only before the "barbarian" invaders of late Roman times (such as the Slavs), not only before the Romans themselves, but also, even more importantly, before the Greeks‟ (Malcolm 2002: 76-77)."
  39. ^ Stephanie Schwandner-Sievers, Bernd Jürgen Fischer, Albanian Identities: Myth and History, Indiana University Press, 2002, ISBN 978-0253341891, page 96, "but when Enver Hoxha declared that their origin was Illyrian (without denying their Pelasgian roots), no one dared participate in further discussion of the question".
  40. ^ Anthropological Journal of European Cultures, 2009, Gilles de Rapper.
  41. ^ ISBN 960-210-279-9 Miranda Vickers, The Albanians Chapter 9. "Albania Isolates itself" page 196, "From time to time the state gave out lists with pagan, supposed Illyrian or newly constructed names that would be proper for the new generation of revolutionaries."
  42. ^ Priestland, D. The red flag of communism. Grove Press, p.404.
  43. '^ Zlatko Skrbiš. The First Europeans' Fantasy of Slovenian Venetologists: Emotions and Nationalist Imaginings. V: Svasek, M. ur., Postsocialism: Politics and Emotions. Oxford, New York, 2006.


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