Statues of Dacians surmounting the Arch of Constantine[1] (i.e. southern side, left)

The Dacians (Latin: Daci, Ancient Greek: Δάκοι Dakoi[2], Δάοι Daoi[2], Δάκες "Dakes"; Medieval Greek Δάκαι Dákai[citation needed]) were an Indo-European people, very close or part of the Thracians. Dacians were the ancient inhabitants of Dacia (located in the area in and around the Carpathian Mountains and east of there to the Black Sea). This area includes the present-day countries of Romania and Moldova, as well as parts of Sarmatia (mostly in eastern Ukraine), Moesia (Eastern Serbia, Northern Bulgaria), Slovakia[3] and Poland. They spoke the Dacian language, believed to have been closely related to Thracian, but were culturally influenced by the neighbouring Scythians and by the Celtic invaders of the 4th century BC.[4]

Indo-European topics

Albanian · Armenian · Baltic
Celtic · Germanic · Greek
Indo-Iranian (Indo-Aryan, Iranian)
Italic · Slavic  

extinct: Anatolian · Paleo-Balkan (Dacian,
Phrygian, Thracian· Tocharian

Vocabulary · Phonology · Sound laws · Ablaut · Root · Noun · Verb
Europe: Balts · Slavs · Albanians · Italics · Celts · Germanic peoples · Greeks · Paleo-Balkans (Illyrians · Thracians · Dacians·

Asia: Anatolians (Hittites, Luwians)  · Armenians  · Indo-Iranians (Iranians · Indo-Aryans)  · Tocharians  

Homeland · Society · Religion
Abashevo culture · Afanasevo culture · Andronovo culture · Baden culture · Beaker culture · Catacomb culture · Cernavodă culture · Chasséen culture · Chernoles culture · Corded Ware culture · Cucuteni-Trypillian culture · Dnieper-Donets culture · Gumelniţa-Karanovo culture · Gushi culture · Karasuk culture · Kemi Oba culture · Khvalynsk culture · Kura-Araxes culture · Lusatian culture · Maykop culture · Middle Dnieper culture · Narva culture · Novotitorovka culture · Poltavka culture · Potapovka culture · Samara culture · Seroglazovo culture · Sredny Stog culture · Srubna culture · Terramare culture · Usatovo culture · Vučedol culture · Yamna culture


Name and etymology


The Dacians (tribe) were known as Geta (plural Getae) in Ancient Greek writings, and as Dacus (plural Daci) and also Getae in Roman documents [5]; also as Dagae and Gaete—see the late Roman map Tabula Peutingeriana. It was Herodotus who first used the ethnonym Getae; in Greek and Latin, in the writings of Caesar, Strabo and Pliny the Elder, this people becomes ‘the Dacians’[6]. There is no doubt that Getae and Dacians were interchangeable terms or used with some confusion by the Greeks.[7][8] Latin poets for designating the Daci often used the name Getae.[9]. Virgilius named them four times Getae and one time Daci, Lucain three times Getae and two times Daci, Horace[10] cited two times Getae and five times Daci, Juvenal one time Daci and two times Daci etc.[11] [9] In AD 113, Hadrian used the poetic term Getae for the Dacians[12].Contemporary historians are more prudent and prefer to use the name Geto-Dacians [6]. Strabo, who describes Getae and Dacians as distinct, though cognate tribes, states that they spoke the same language [13]. This distinction refers to the regions they occupied[14]. Strabo and Pliny the Elder state they spoke the same language [15]. Probably the name of Getae, by which they were originally known to the Greeks on the Euxine, was always retained by the latter in common usage: while that of Dacians, whatever be its origin, was that by which the more western tribes, adjoining the Pannonians, first became known to the Romans[16]. According to Strabo's Geographica, the original name of the Dacians was Δάοι "Daoi"[2], [17]. The name Daoi (one of the ancient Geto-Dacian tribes[6]) was certainly adopted by foreign observers to designate all the inhabitants of the as yet unconquered countries north of Danube[6].

The ethnographic name Daci is found under various forms within ancient sources. Greeks used the forms Δάκοι Dakoi (Strabo[2], Dio Cassius[18] and Dioscorides[19][20]) and Δάοι "Daoi"[17] (pl. Daoi, sg. Daos[21]). The form Δάοι "Daoi" was frequently used according to Stephan of Byzantium [11] Latins used the forms Davus, Dacus and a derived form Dacisci (Vopiscus[22] and inscriptions,[23] [24], [25]).[11] The same name is often used in the geographical vocabulary of the Ancient Persia [26].where Pliny[27] names among the people of Sogdians the Dahae (Greek Δάσαι, Δάαι; Latin Daci[28]).[11]

By the end of the first century AD, all the inhabitants of the lands which now form Romania were known to the Romans as Daci, with the exception of some Celtic and Germanic tribes who infiltrated from the west and of Sarmatian and related people from the east.[8]


The name Daci, Daki ‘Dacians’ is a collective ethnonym. Dio Cassius confirmed that they themselves used that name and the Romans so called them, while the Greeks called them Getae.[29][30][31]

The name Getae probably originates in the Indo-European *guet- ‘to utter, to talk’.[32][33] As far as the origins of the name Daci are concerned, opinions are divided. Some scholars consider it to originate in the Indo-European *dha-k-, with the stem *dhe- "to put, to place," others think that the name Daci originates in *daca — "knife, dagger" or in a word similar to daos, meaning "wolf in the related language of the Phrygians. [33]

Other hypothesis was that "Getae" and "Daci" are two Iranian names of two Scythian groups, Iranian- speaking, that had been assimilated into the large Thracian-speaking population of the later known "Dacia". [34] [35]

Early history of etymological approaches

  • In the 1st century AD, Strabo suggested that its stem formed a name previously borne by slaves: Greek Daos, Latin Davus (-k- is a known suffix in Indo-European ethnic names).[36]
  • In the 18th century, Grimm proposed the Gothic dags "day" that would give the meaning of "light, brilliant". Yet, dags belongs to the Sanskrit word-root dah- and a derivation from Dah to Δάσαι "Daci", is difficult to be explained.[11]
  • In the 19th century, Tomaschek (1883) proposed for the form "Dak" those who understand and can speak, by considering "Dak" as a derivation of the root da("k" being a suffix) cf. Sanskrit dasa, Bactrian daonha.[37] Also, Tomaschek (1883) proposed for the name's form "Davus" the meaning of 'members of the clan/countryman' cf. Bactrian daqyu, danhu "canton".[37]

Modern times

  • The PIE *dhe-, ‘to set, place’ from where dheua > dava ‘settlement’ and Dhe-k > Daci 'Dacian' is supported by Russu (1967).[38]
  • "Daos" 'wolf' was suggested in 1957 by Decev as a possible connection with the Phrygian daos, meaning "wolf" [39]. (Phrygian "daos" 'wolf' is attested by Hesychius's gloss, [40], [41]). This hypothesis has had a large diffusion due to the late Mircea Eliade[39]. The identification or connection with wolves is not unique to Dacians but also present to other ancient Indo-European tribes, including Luvians, Lycians, Lucanians, Hyrcanians, Dahae etc.[42], [43]. The assumption of Daoi (wolf?) may be supported also by the fact that one of the Dacian standards, the Dacian Draco, had a wolf's head on it. Phrygii was another name used within the region, and in later times, some Roman auxiliaries recruited from the area were referred to as Phrygi.The German linguist Paul Kretschmer explained “daos” with the root dhau, meaning to press, to gather, to strangle (as the wolves use the neck bite to kill their prey).[Full citation needed]. According to Romanian historian and archaeologist Alexandru Vulpe, the Dacian etymology explained by daos 'wolf' has little plausibility, as the draco was not unique to Dacians, while the transformation of daos into dakos phonetically improbable. He thus dismisses it as folk etymology.[44]
  • The form "Daus" or "Davus" could be also compared to a similar ethnikon in Old Persian "Daos" and to a Phrygian deity also called "Daos". [39]

Mythological theories

Dacian Draco as from Trajan Column

Romanian historian of religions Mircea Eliade attempted, in his book "From Zalmoxis to Genghis Khan", to give a mythological foundation to an alleged special relation between "Dacians and the wolves"[45]:

  • Dacians might have called themselves "wolves" or "ones the same with wolves"[46][45], a fact with religious significance[47]
  • Dacians draw their name from a god or a legendary ancestor who came forward as a wolf [47]
  • Dacians had taken their name from a group of fugitive immigrants arrived from other regions or from their own Dacian young outlaws, who acted in similar manner as the wolves circling around villages and living from looting. As it was the case in other societies, those young members of the community needed to go through an initiation, maybe up to a year, during which they were required to live as a "wolf".[48][47] Comparatively, Hittite laws referred to the fugitive outlaws as "wolves". [49]
  • The existence of a ritual that provides one with the ability to turn into a wolf.[50] Such a transformation may be related either with lycanthropy itself, a widespread phenomenon, but attested especially in the Balkans-Carpathian region[49], or a ritual imitation of the behavior and appearance of the wolf.[50] Such a ritual was presumably a military initiation, potentially reserved to a secret brotherhood of warriors (or Männerbünde).[50] To become formidable warriors they would magically assimilate the beast behavior of the wolf, by wearing wolf skins during the ritual.[47] Traces related to wolves as a cult or as totems were found in this area since the Neolithic period as is the case with Vinča culture artifacts: wolves statues and fairly rudimentary figurines representing dancers with a wolf mask.[51][52] The items could indicate warrior initiation rites or ceremonies in which young people put their seasonal wolf masks.[52] The element of unity of beliefs about werewolves and lycanthropy consists in the magical-religious experience of mystical solidarity with the wolf by whatever means used to obtain it. But all have one original myth, a primary event.[53][54]

Origins and ethnogenesis

In absence of written historical records, the origins of the Dacians (and Thracians) remain obscure. Evidence of proto-Thracians or proto-Dacians in the prehistoric period depends on remains of material culture. It is generally proposed that a proto-Dacian or proto-Thracian people developed from a mixture of indigenous peoples and Indo-Europeans from the time of Proto-Indo-European expansion in the Early Bronze Age(3,300–3,000 BCE)[55] when the latter, around 1500 BC, conquered the indigenous peoples.[56] The indigenous people were the Danubian farmers and the invading people of the BC 3rd millennium were the Kurgan warrior-herders from Ukraine-Russian steppes [57].

Indo-Europeanization was certainly complete by the beginning of the Bronze Age. It is safer to name the people of that time proto-Thracians, from whom there developed in the Iron Age Danubian-Carpathian Geto-Dacians on the one hand and Thracians of the eastern Balkan Peninsula on the other [58].

The eastern branch who were settled between the Isker, Yantra and Danube rivers were called the Getae and the western group of the culture became known as the Dacian. They all spoke a Thracian dialect (Indo-European) and were mainly sedentary grain farmers who also worked mines of gold, silver and later iron. The tribes were headed by chieftains with religious responsibilities and practice similar to the Brahmins of India, the magi of the Persians and the druids of Ireland.

Between BC 15th-12th century, the Dacian-Getae culture was influenced by the Bronze Age Tumulus-Urnfield warriors who were on their way through the Balkans to Anatolia[59].

When the La Tene Celts arrived in BC 4th century, the Dacians were under the influence of the Scythians[59].

Alexander of Macedonia attacked the Getae in BC 335 on the lower Danube but by BC 300 they had formed a state, founded on a military democracy and began a period of conquest[59].

More Celts arrived during the BC 3rd century and in BC 1st Century the fearsome Boii made the mistake of trying to take away some of the Dacians’ territory, on east side of the Teiss river. The Dacians drove the Boii south across the Danube and out of their territory at which point the Boii gave up and went away. [59].

Identity and distribution

Celts, Dacians, Thracians and Illyrians, 4th century BCE

At the North of Danube, Dacians occupied a larger territory than Ptolemaic Dacia, stretching between Bohemia in the West and Dnepr cataracts in the East, and up to the Pripyat, Vistula and Oder rivers in the North and North West [60].

In BC 53, Caesar stated that the Dacian territory was on the eastern border of the Hercynian forest[59]. According to Strabo's Geografica (written around AD 20[61]), the Getes (Geto-Dacians) bordered with the Suevi, who lived in the Hercynian Forest, which some locates somewhere in the vicinity of the river Duria, the present-day Vah (Waag)[62]. Dacians lived on both sides of the Danube [63], [64]. According to Strabo when speaking of the Getae, Moesians also “lived on both sides of the Danube [31].

According to Agrippa,[65] Dacia was limited by the Baltic Ocean in the North and by the Vistula in the West [66]. People’s names and settlements confirms the Dacia’s borders given by Agrippa [67],[68]. Dacian people were living also South of Danube[67].

Linguistic affiliation

The Dacians and Getae were always considered as Thracians by the ancients (Dio Cassius, Trogus Pompeius, Appian, Strabo and Pliny the Elder), and were both said to speak the same Thracian language.[69][70]

The linguistic affiliation of Dacian is uncertain since the ancient Indo-European language in question became extinct and left very limited traces (in the form of place-names, plant names and personal names). Thraco-Dacian (or Thracian and Daco-Mysian) seems to belong to the eastern (satem) group of Indo- European languages [71].There are two contradictory theories:

  1. Some scholars (such as Tomaschek 1883; Russu 1967; Solta 1980; Crossland 1982; Vraciu 1980) consider Dacian was a Thracian language, or it was a dialect (idiom) of the Thracian language. This view is supported by R.G. Solta who says that Thracian and Dacian are very closely related languages. [72] [73]
  2. Other scholars (such as Georgiev 1965 Duridanov 1976) consider that Thracian and Dacian are two different and specific Indo- European languages which cannot be reduced to a common language

Linguists such as Polome and Katičić expressed reserves to both theories.

  • 1) The Dacians are generally considered to have been Thracian speakers, representing a cultural continuity from earlier Iron Age communities loosely termed Getic[74]. Since on one interpretation, Dacian is a variety of Thracian, for the reasons of convenience, it is adopted the generic term ‘Daco-Thracian” and reserved the term ‘Dacian’ for the language or dialect spoken north of Danube, in present-day Romania and eastern Hungary, and ‘Thracian’ for the variety spoken south of Danube [75]. It is no doubt that Thracian language was related to the Dacian language which was spoken in what is today Romania before that area was occupied by the Romans.[76]. Also, both Thracian and Dacian have one of the main satem characteristic change of Indo-European language *k and *g to *s and *z [77].

With regard to the term ‘Getic’ (Getae) even though attempts have been made to distinguish between Dacian and Getic, there seems no compelling reason to disregard the view of the Greek geographer Strabo that the Daci and the Getae, Thracian tribes dwelling north of the Danube (the Daci in the west of the area and the Getae further east), were one and the same people and spoke the same language.[75]

Another variety that has sometimes been recognized is that of Moesian (or Mysian) for the language of an intermediate area immediately to the south of Danube in Serbia, Bulgaria and Romanian Dobruja: this and the dialects north of the Danube have been grouped together as Daco-Moesian[75]. The language of the indigenous population has hardly left any trace in the anthroponomy of Moesia, but the toponymy indicates that the Moesii on the south bank of the Danube, north of the Haemus Mountains, and the Triballi on the valley of the Morava, shared a number of characteristic linguistic features with the Dacii south of the Carpathians and the Getae in the Wallachian plain, which sets them apart from the Thracian though their languages are undoubtedly related.[78]

  • 2) Vladimir Georgiev disputes that Dacian and Thracian were closely related for various reasons, most notably that Dacian and Moesian town names commonly end with the suffix -DAVA, while towns in Thrace proper (i.e. South of the Balkan mountains) generally end in -PARA. (see Dacian language)According to Georgiev, the language spoken by the ethnic Dacians should be classified as "Daco-Moesian" and regarded as distinct from Thracian.[79]

Georgiev also claimed that names from approximately Roman Dacia and Moesia show different and generally less extensive changes in Indo-European consonants and vowels than those found in Thrace itself. However, the evidence seems to indicate divergence of a Thraco-Dacian language into northern and southern groups of dialects, not as different as to rank as separate languages[80].

Polome consider that such lexical differentiation ( -dava vs. para) would, however, be hardly enough evidence to separate Daco-Moesian from Thracian [81].


Dacian tribes
Roman era Balkans

An extensive reference to the native tribes in Dacia can be found in the ninth tabula of Europe of Ptolemy’s Geography [82]. The Geography was probably written in the period AD 140-150, but the sources were often earlier i.e. Roman Britain is shown before the building of Hadrian’s Wall in the AD 120s [83]. Geography of Ptolemy contains also a physical map probably designed before the Roman conquest, and containing no detailed nomenclature[84]. Some refers to Tabula peutingeriana, yet it is evident at any rate that the Dacian map of the Tabula has been completed after the final triumph of Roman nationality [85]. Ptolemy's list includes no fewer than twelve tribes with Geto-Dacian names[86][87]

The 15 tribes of Dacia named by Ptolemy, starting from the northernmost ones are the followings : the Anartes, the Teurisci and the Coertoboci /Costoboci. To the south of them the Buredeense (Buri / Burs), the Cotense / Cotini and in a next row the Albocense, the Potulatense and the Sense, while the southernmost were the Saldense, the Ciaginsi and the Piephigi. To the south of them were Predasense / Predavensi, the Rhadacense / Rhatacenses, the Caucoense (Cauci) and Biephi [82]. Twelve out of these fifteen tribes listed by Ptolemy are ethnic-Dacians [87] and three are Celt Anarti, Teurisci, Cotense[87]

There are also previous brief mentions of other Getae or Dacian tribes on the left and right banks of the Danube, or even in Transylvania to be added to the list of Ptolemy. Among these other tribes are Trixae, Crobidae and Appuli.[82]

Some peoples inhabiting the region generally described in Roman times as "Dacia" were not ethnic-Dacians.[88] The true Dacians were a people of Thracian descent. German elements (Daco-Germans [89]), Celtic elements(Daco-Celtic [89][90]) and Iranian elements (Daco-Sarmatian) occupied territories in the north-western and north eastern of Dacia.[88] This region covered roughly the same area as modern Romania plus Bessarabia (Rep. of Moldova) and eastern Galicia (SW. Ukraine) (although Ptolemy places Moldavia and Bessarabia in Sarmatia Europaea, rather than Dacia).[91] After the Dacian Wars (AD 101-6), the Romans occupied only about half the wider Dacian region. The Roman province of Dacia covered just western Wallachia as far as the Limes Transalutanus (East of the river Aluta, or Olt) and Transylvania, as bordered by the Carpathians.[92]

The impact of the Roman conquest on these people is uncertain.

  • One hypothesis was that they were effectively eliminated, through war casualties. An important clue to the character of Dacian losses / casualties is offered with the descriptions provided by ancient sources, Eutropius and Crito. Both speak about men when they describe the losses suffered by the Dacians in the wars. This suggests that both refer to losses due to fighting, not due to a process of extermination of the whole population [93] A strong component of the Dacian army, including the Celtic Bastarnae and the Germans, rather than submit to Trajan, had withdrawn.[94] Some scenes on Trajan’s Column represent acts of obedience of the Dacian population and other scenes show the refugee Dacians returning to their own places [95]. Dacians trying to buy amnesty (i.e. one offers to Trajan a tray of three gold ingots) are depicted on the Trajan's Column.[96].
  • Alternatively, a substantial number may have survived in the province, although probably outnumbered by the Romanised immigrants.[97] Cultural life in Dacia became very mixed and decidedly cosmopolitan because of the colonial communities. The Dacians retained their names and their own ways in the midst of the newcomers, and the region continued to exhibit Dacian characteristics[98]. The Dacians who survived the war are attested as revolting against the Roman domination in Dacia at least twice, in the period of time right after Dacian wars, in a more determined manner in 117 AD [99]. In 158 AD, they revolted again and were put down by M. Statius Priscus [100].
  • Some Dacians were apparently expelled from the occupied zone at the end of each of the two Dacian Wars, or emigrated. It is uncertain where these refugees found a home. Some of these people might have mingled with the existing ethnic-Dacian tribes beyond the Carpathians (the Costoboci and Carpi)

Since Traian’s conquest of Dacia there had been recurring trouble involving Dacian groups excluded from the Roman province, as finally defined by Hadrian. By the early third century the “Free Dacians’’ as they were earlier known, were significantly troublesome group, then identified as the Carpi, requiring imperial intervention on more than one occasion [101]. In 214 Caracalla dealt with their attacks. Later, Philip had come in person to deal with them, he assumed the triumphal title Carpicus Maximus and inaugurated a new era for the province of Dacia (July 20, 246) Later both Decius and Gallienus assumed the titles Dacicus maximus. In 272, Aurelian assumed the same title as Philip [101]

In about 140 AD, Ptolemy lists the names of several tribes residing on the fringes of the Roman Dacia (West, East and North of the Carpathian range) and the ethnic picture seems to be a mixed one. North of the Carpathians are recorded the Anarti, Teurisci and Costoboci.[102] The Anarti (or Anartes) and the Teurisci were originally probably Celtic peoples or possible mixed Dacian-Celtic [90]. The Anarti, together with the Celtic Cotini are described by Tacitus as vassals of the powerful Quadi Germanic people;[103] Teurisci was probably a group of Celtic Taurisci from the eastern Alps). However, regarding to these groups, the archaeology has revealed that the Celtic tribes had originally spread from west to east as far as Transylvania before being absorbed by the Dacians in the 1st century BC. [104][105]


The main view is that Costoboci were ethnic-Dacian.[106] Others considered them a Slavic[107] or Sarmatian tribe.[108] There was also a Celtic influence, so that some consider them as a mixed Celtic and Thracian group that appear after Trajan conquest as a Dacian with Celtic superstratum.[109] Costoboci inhabited the southern slopes of the Carpathians.[110] Ptolemy, named the Coestoboci (Costoboci in Roman sources) twice, showing them divided by the Dniester and the Peucinian (Carpathian) Mountains. That would suggest that they lived on both sides of the Carpathians but it is also possible that two accounts about the same people were combined.[110]

There was also a group Transmontani that some modern scholars identified them as Dacian Transmontani Costoboci of the extreme north[111], [112]. The Transmontani (that is a name from the Latin of the Dacians [113], literally "people over the mountains"). Mullenhoff identified these with the Transiugitani, other Dacian tribe north of the Carpathian mountains [114]

Based on the account of Dio Cassius, Heather (2010)considers that Hasding Vandals, around 171 AD, attempted to take control of lands which previously belonged to the free Dacian group called the Costoboci. [115] Hrushevskyi (1997) mentions that, the rather widespread view, held earlier, that these Carpathian tribes were Slavic has no basis. This would be contradicted by the Coestobocan names themselves that we know from the inscriptions, which were written by a Coestobocan and therefore presumably accurately. These names sound quite unlike anything Slavic. [107] Scholars such as Tomaschek (1883), Shutte (1917), Russu (1969) consider these Costobocian names are Thraco-Dacian [116] [117] [118] This inscription also indicate the Dacian background of the wife of the Costobocian king "Ziais Tiati filia Daca".[119] This indication of the socio-familial line of descent seen also in other inscriptions (i.e. Diurpaneus qui Euprepes Sterissae f(ilius) Dacus[120]) is a custom attested since the historical period (beginning with 5th century BC) when Thracians were under the Greek’s influence. It doesn’t necessarily mean it originated from Thracians since it could be just a fashion borrowed from Greeks for specifying the ancestry and for distinguishing homonymous individuals within the tribe[121] Shutte (1917), Parvan and Florescu (1982) pointed also to the Dacian characteristic place-names in '–dava' given by Ptolemy in the Costoboci’s country [122] [123]


Carpi was a sizeable Dacian (North Thracian) group of tribes living outside of Roman Dacia . The majority view is that they were a Thracian tribe, a subgroup of the Dacians[124] Some historians classify them as Slavs.[125] According to Heather (2010), Carpi were the Dacians from the eastern foothills of the Carpathian range – modern Moldavia and Wallachia – who had not been brought under direct Roman rule at the time of Trajan conquest of Transylvania Dacia. Since they generated a new degree of political unity among themselves (in the course of third century), these Dacian groups came to be known collectively as the Carpi [126]

Dacian Cast in Pushkin museum after original in Lateran Museum. Early II c.

The ancient sources about Carpi, before 104 AD, located them on a territory situated between the western side of Eastern European Galicia and the mouth of Danube [127] The name of the historically well-known Dacian tribe Carpi is homonymous with the Carpathian mountains[111] Carpi and Carpathian are Dacian words derived from root (s)ker- "cut" cf. Albanian Karp "stone"[128] and Sanskrit kar- "cut" [129] As for the Carpi, a quote from the 6th-century Byzantine chronicler Zosimus referring to the Καρποδάκαι (Latin: Carpo-Dacae or "Carpo-Dacians"), who attacked the Romans in the late 4th century, is seen as evidence of their Dacian ethnicity. In fact, Carpi /Carpodaces is the term used for Dacians outside Dacia[130]. However, that the Carpi were Dacians is shown not so much by the form Καρποδάκαι (Latin: Carpo-Dacae) of Zosimus as by their characteristic place-names in –dava given by Ptolemy in their country. [131]. The origin and ethnic affiliations of the Carpi have been debated over the years; in our period they are closely associated with the Carpathian Mountains, and a good case has been made for attributing to the Carpi a distinct material culture “a developed form of the Geto-Dacian La Tene culture” often known as the Poienesti culture which is characteristic of this area[132].

Physical characteristics

Dacians as depicted on Trajan's Column Rome

Dacians are represented in the statues surmounting the Arch of Constantine [1] and Trajan's Column. The artist of the Column took some care to depict, in his purview, a variety of Dacian people — from high-ranking men, women, and children to the near-savage. Although the artist looked to models in Hellenistic art for some body types and compositions, he does not represent the Dacians as generic barbarians. [133]

Xenophanes described Thracians as having blue eyes and red hair.[134]

Physically, the Dacians and the Getae had similar characteristics to other barbarians around them (Thracians, Celts, Scythians). Unlike the Greeks, Dacians are generally described as taller, their skin whiter and with less hair with straight, light-coloured (red?) hair and blue eyes [135]. On Trajan’s column, Dacian soldiers are shown with relatively short hair (although not as short as the Romans') and trimmed beards [136].

Painting of the body was customary among the Dacians. It is probable that the tattooing had originally a magical significance [137]. They practiced symbolic-ritual tattooing or body painting for both men and women, with hereditary symbols transmitted up to the fourth generation[138].


Early history

Getae on the World Map according to Herodotus

In absence of written historical records, the origins of the Dacians (and Thracians) depends on remains of material culture. On the whole the Bronze Age witnessed the evolution of the ethnic groups which emerged during the Eneolithic period and eventual the syncretism of autochthonous elements and Indo-European elements from the steppes and the Pontic regions [139]. Various groups of Thracian population had not separated out in the 1200 BC [139] but there are strong similarities between the ceramic types found at Troy and the ceramic types from the Carpathian area. [139]. About the year 1000 BC, the Carpatho-Danubian countries were inhabited by a northern branch of the Thracians [140]. At the time of the arrival of the Scythians (ca. 700 BC) the Carpatho-Danubian Thracians, were moving rapidly towards the Iron Age civilization of the West. Moreover, the whole of the fourth period of the Carpathian Bronze Age had already been profoundly influenced by the forms of the first Iron Age as it developed in Italy and the Alpine lands. The Scythians, arriving with their own type of Iron Age civilization, put a stop to these relations with the West[141]. From roughly 500 BC (the second Iron Age), the Dacians developed a distinctive civilization capable of supporting large centralized kingdoms in 1st BC and 1st AD[142].

Since the very first detailed account by Herodotus, Getae / Dacians are acknowledged as belonging to the Thracians. Still, they distinguished from the other Thracians by particularities of religion and customs [135].

The first written mention of the name Dacians is in Roman sources, but classical authors are unanimous in considering them a branch of the Getae, a Thracian people known from Greek writings. Strabo specified that the Daci are the Getae who lived in the area towards the Pannonian plain (Transylvania), while the Getae proper gravitated towards the Black Sea coast (Scythia Minor).

Relations with Thracians

Since Herodotus writings (5th century BC), Getae / Dacians are acknowledged as belonging to the Thracians, Yet, they distinguished from the other Thracians by particularities of religion and customs [135].Geto-Dacians and Thracians were kin people but they were not the same. [143]. The differences from the Southern Thracians or from the neighboring Scythians were probably faint, as several ancient authors make confusions of identification with either one or other [135].

In 19th century, Tomaschek considered a close affinity between Besso-Thracians and Getae-Dacians, an original kinship of both people with Iranian [144]. They are Aryan tribes who, several centuries before Scolotes of the Pont and Sauromatae still located at East, left the Aryan homeland and settled in the Carpathian chain, Haemus (Balkan) and Rhodope mountains[144]. Besso-Thracians and Getae-Dacians separated very early from Aryans since their language still maintains roots that are missing from Iranian and it shows non-Iranian phonetic characteristics (i.e. replacing the Iranian l'’ with r’') [144]. He considered that Geto-Dacians and Besso-Thracians would represent a new layer of people that extended in the autochthonous fund, probably Illyrian or Armenian-Phrygian[144].

Relations with Celts

Diachronic distribution of Celtic peoples:
  core Hallstatt territory, by the 6th century BC
  maximal Celtic expansion, by 275 BC

Geto-Dacians inhabited both sides of the Tisa River prior to the rise of the Celtic Boii and again after the latter were defeated by the Dacians under the king Burebista.[145] During the second half of the 4th century BC, Celtic cultural influence appears in the archaeological records of the middle Danube, Alpine region, and north-western Balkans, where it figured the Middle La Tène material culture. This material appears in north-western and central Dacia and is reflected especially in burials [142]. The Dacians absorbed the Celtic influence that came down from the northwest in the early third century BC [146]. Archaeological investigation of this period has highlighted several Celtic warrior graves with military equipment. It suggests the forceful penetration of a military Celtic elite within the region of Dacia, now known as Transylvania, bounded on the east by Carpathian range.[142] The archaeological sites of the third and second centuries BC from Transylvania revealed a pattern of co-existence and fusion between the bearers of La Tène culture and indigenous Dacians. These were domestic dwellings with a mixture of Celtic and Dacian pottery and several graves of the Celtic type containing vessels of Dacian type.[142] There are some seventy Celtic sites in Transylvania but in most, if not all of these sites (they are usually cemeteries; there were very few settlements) the finds show that the native population imitated Celtic art forms that took their fancy, but remained obstinately and fundamentally Dacian in their culture [146].

The Celtic Helmet from Satu Mare, Romania (northern Dacia), an Iron Age raven totem helmet, dated around 4th century BC. A similar helmet is depicted on the Thraco-Celtic Gundestrup cauldron, being worn by one of the mounted warriors (detail tagged here). See also an illustration of Brennos wearing a similar helmet.

Around 150 BC, La Tène material disappears from the area. This coincides with the ancient writings which mention the rise of the Dacian authority. It ended the Celtic domination and it is possible Celts were thrust out of Dacia. Alternatively, some scholars have proposed that the Transylvanian Celts remained but merged into the local culture and thus ceased to be distinctive.[142][146]

Archaeological discoveries in the settlements and the fortifications of the Dacians in the period of their kingdoms (1st century BC and 1st century AD) i.e. some imported Celtic vessels others made by Dacian potters imitating Celtic prototypes show that relations between the Dacians and the Celts from the regions north and west of Dacia continued.[147]

In present-day Slovakia, archaeology revealed evidences for mixed Celtic-Dacian populations on the Nitra and Hron river basins.[148]

After Dacians subdued the Celtic tribes, the remaining Cotini stayed in the mountains of Central Slovakia where they took up mining and the working of metals. Together with the original domestic population, they created Puchov culture that spread into central and northern Slovakia, including Spis, and penetrated northeastern Moravia and southern Poland. Along the Bodorog River in Zemplin they created Celtic-Dacian settlements which were known for the production of painted ceramics[148].

Relations with Greeks

Relations with Macedonians

Greek and Roman chroniclers record the defeat and capture of Lysimachus in the 3rd century BC by the Getae (Dacians) ruled by Dromihete, their military strategy, and the release of Lysimachus following a debate in the assembly of the Getae.

Relations with Persians

Herodotus says:”before [Darius] reached the Danube, the first people he subdued were the Getae who believed that they never die” However, it is possible that the Persian expedition and the subsequent occupation may have altered the way in which the Getae expressed the immortality belief. The formative influence of thirty years of Achaemenid presence may be detected in the emergence of an explicit iconography of the “Royal Hunt” that influenced Dacian and Thracian metalworkers and of the hawking practiced by their upper-class.[149]

Relations with Scythians

Agathyrsi Transylvania

The Scythians arrival in Carpathians is dated 700 BC [150]. The Agathyrsi of Transylvania had been mentioned by Herodotus (fifth century BC ) who regards them as not a Scythian people, but as closely related to the Scythians. In other respects their customs approach nearly to those of the Thracians [151] This is to say that Agathyrsi were completely denationalized at the time of Herodotus, absorbed by the native Thracians [152], [150].

The opinion that Agathyrsi were almost certainly Thracians, results also from the gloss preserved by Stephen of Byzantium who explains that the Greeks called the Trausi the Agathyrsi and we know that the Trausi lived in the Rhodope Mountains. Certain details from their way of life, such as tattooing, for example also suggest that the Agathyrsi were Thracians. Their place was later taken by the Dacians. [153] That the Dacians were of Thracian stock is not in doubt, and it is quite safe to assume that this new name also encompassed the Agathyrsi, and perhaps other neighboring Thracian people as well, as a result of some political upheaval. [153]

Scythia Minor

Relations with Sarmatians

Relations with Germanic tribes

Map showing the Dacian-speaking Carpi place in invading Roman Dacia in 250-1 AD, under the Gothic leader Kniva

The Goths (confederation of east German people) arrived in the southern Ukraine no later than 230[154]. During the next decade a large section of them moved down the Black Sea coast and occupied much of the territory north of the lower Danube [154]. The Goths' advancement towards North of the Black Sea involved a competing against the indigenous populations of the Dacian-speaking Carpi besides competing against the indigenous Iranian-speaking Sarmatians and against Roman garrison forces [155]. The Carpi, often called “Free Dacians” continued to dominate the anti-Roman coalition consisting of themselves, Taifali, Astringi, Vandals, Peucini and Goths until 248, when the Goths assumed the hegemony of the loose coalition[156]. The first lands taken over by the Thervingi Goths were in Moldavia, and only during the fourth century did they move in strength down to the Danubian plain[157]. Free Dacians Carpi found themselves squeezed between the advancing Goths and the Roman province of Dacia[154]. In 275 AD, Aurelian surrendered the Dacian territory to the Carpi and the Goths [158]. Over time, Gothic power in the region grew directly at the Carpi’s expense. The Germanic-speaking Goths replaced native Dacian-speakers as the dominant force around the Carpathian system. [159]. Large numbers of Carpi, but not all of them, were admitted into the Roman empire in the twenty-five years or so after 290 AD [160]. Despite the evacuation of the Carpi around 300 AD, substantial elements of the old indigenous populations (Dacians, Sarmatians and others) remained in place under Gothic domination [161]. The Goths, either the Greuthungi or Thervingi never settled all Dacia [157].

There is some reason for thinking that Dacians were not reduced to slavery but that the Goths learned to respect the superior civilization of their neighbours and that the native inhabitants and the new settlers gradually became united into one people. If this were so, we can understand how it came to pass that, as we have already seen, the Gothic historian of the sixth century could reckon the heroes and sages of ancient Dacia among the ancestral glories of his own nation. [162]. Goths mingled at some extent with the native inhabitants but they were different peoples [163].

In the 330 the Gothic Thervingi contemplated moving to the Middle Danubian region and from 370 relocated with their fellow Gothic Greuthungi to new homes in the Roman Empire [160]. The Ostrogoths were still more isolated, but even the Visigoths preferred to live among their own kind. As a result, the Goths settled in pockets. Finally, although Roman towns continued on a reduced level, there is no question as to their survival[157].

In 336 AD, Constantine took the title Dacicus Maximus (“The great victory over Dacians) ; that implies at least partial reconquest of the Trajan Dacia [164]. In an inscription of 337, Constantin was commemorated officially as Germanicus Maximus, Sarmaticus, Gothicus Maximus and Dacicus Maximus meaning he had defeated the Germans, Sarmatians, Goths and Dacians [165].

One historical source refers to “Carpo-Dacians” north of the Danube after 378, when the Thervingi who dominated the Carpathian region had already left and there is no sign that all Chernyakhov culture settlements and cemeteries came to a grinding halt at that date. Alongside this world of the Goths ‘proper’ as it were, also existed many communities descended from the older indigenous populations of the region. They had certainly been subdued by the Goths and may well have paid various kinds of tributes but were probably largely autonomous [166].

Dacian kingdoms

Dacian kingdom during the reign of Burebista, 82 BC

Dacian states arose as an unstable tribal confederacy that included the Getae, the Daci, the Buri, and the Carpi (cf. Bichir 1976, Shchukin 1989[145]) and that was united only periodically by the leadership of Dacian kings such as Burebista and Decebal. This union comprised the military-political and ideological-religious domains.[145] The following are some of the attested Dacian kingdoms:

The kingdom of Cothelas (4th century BC) one of the Getae was an area near the Black Sea, between northern Thrace and the Danube today Bulgaria.[167]

The kingdom of Rubobostes[168] (2nd century BC) was a region in Transylvania.

Gaius Scribonius Curio (proconsul 75-3 BC) campaigned successfully against the Dardani and the Moesi, becoming the first Roman general to reach the river Danube with his army.[169] His successor, Marcus Licinius Lucullus (brother of the famous Lucius Lucullus), campaigned against the Thracian Bessi tribe and the Moesi, ravaging the whole of Moesia, the region between the Haemus (Balkan) mountain range and the Danube. In 72 BC, his troops occupied the Greek coastal cities of Scythia Minor (modern Dobruja region, Romania/Bulgaria), which had sided with Rome's Hellenistic arch-enemy, king Mithridates VI of Pontus, in the Third Mithridatic War (73-63 BC).[170] Greek geographer Strabo claimed that the Dacians and Getae once had been able to muster a combined army of 200,000 men during Strabo's era (i.e. the time of Roman emperor Augustus, sole rule 30 BC - 14 AD).[171]

The kingdom of Burebista

  • The Dacian kingdom reached its maximum extent under king Burebista (ruled 82 - 44 BC). The capital of the kingdom was possibly the city of Argedava (also called Sargedava in some historical writings) situated close to the river Danube. The kingdom of Burebista extended south of the Danube in what is today Bulgaria that the Greeks believed their king was the greatest of all Thracians.[172]
  • During his reign, Burebista transferred Geto-Dacians capital from Argedava to Sarmizegetusa [173],[174]. For at least one and a half century, Sarmizegethusa was the Dacians' capital and reached its acme under King Decebal.
  • Burebista annexed the Greek cities (55-48 BC).[175]
  • Augustus wanted to avenge the defeat of C. Antonius at Histria (Sinoe) 32 years before and to recover the lost standards. These were held in a powerful fortress called Genucla (Isaccea, near modern Tulcea, Rom., in the Danube delta region), controlled by Zyraxes, the local Getan petty king.[176] The man selected for the task was Marcus Licinius Crassus, grandson of Crassus the triumvir and an experienced general at 33 years of age, who was appointed proconsul of Macedonia in 29 BC.[177]

The kingdom of Decebalus 87 – 106.[178]

By the year A.D. 100, more than 400,000 square kilometers/154,400 square miles were dominated by the Dacians who numbered two million[179]

Decebalus was the last king of the Dacians and despite his fierce resistance against the Romans, faced defeat and committed suicide rather than being marched through Rome as a captured foreign leader.

Conflict with Rome

The Burebista's Dacian state was powerful enough to threaten Rome and Caesar contemplated war campaigns against Dacians [180] Yet, the Dacian formidable power under Burebista that gathered no less than 200,000 warriors lasted only until his death, 44 BC. The subsequent division of Dacia continued for about 100 years until the reign of Scorylo / Scorillo, period of only singular attacks on the Roman Empire’s border with some local significance.[181]

The unifying actions of the King Scorylo / Scorillo (27 BC - AD 14) and of the last King Decebalus (ruled 87 AD–106 AD) might have been perceived as dangerous by Rome, despite the fact that now Dacian army could gather only some 40,000 soldiers.[181] In Romans’ eyes, the situation at the border with Dacia became out of control since Emperor Domitian who ruled between 81 to 96 AD tried desperately to deal with the danger through war campaigns. But the outcome of the Roman Empire’s disastrous campaigns into Dacia AD 86 and AD 88 pushed Domitian to settle the situation through diplomacy[181].

The Roman Emperor Trajan (ruled 97 - 117 AD) opted for a different approach and decided to conquer the Dacian kingdom, partly in order to seize its vast gold mines. But it took him two major wars (the Dacian Wars), one in 101-102 AD and the other one in 105-106 AD.

Only fragmentary details survive of the Dacian war: a single sentence of Trajan’s own Dacica: little more of the Getica written by his doctor, T. Statilius Crito: nothing whatsoever of the poem proposed by Caninius Rufus (if it was ever written), Dio Chrysostom’s Getica or Appian’s Dacica. Nonetheless, a reasonable account can be pieced together. [182]

In the first war, Trajan invaded Dacia by crossing the river Danube by means of a boat-bridge and inflicted a crushing defeat on the Dacians at the Second Battle of Tapae (101 AD). The Dacian king, Decebalus, was forced to sue for peace. Trajan and Decebalus then concluded a peace which was highly favourable to the Romans. The peace agreement required the Dacians to cede some territory to the Romans and to demolish their fortifications. Decebalus' foreign policy was also restricted, as he was prohibited from entering into alliances with other tribes.

However, both Trajan and Decebalus considered this peace only a temporary truce, and readied themselves for renewed war. Trajan had Greek engineer Apollodorus of Damascus construct a stone bridge over the Danube river, while Decebalus secretly plotted alliances against the Romans. In 105, Trajan crossed the Danube river and besieged Decebalus' capital, Sarmizegetusa, but the siege failed because of Decebalus' allied tribes. However, Trajan was an optimist. He returned with a newly constituted army and took Sarmizegetusa by assault. Decebalus fled into the mountains hoping to assemble a new army, but he was cornered by pursuing Roman cavalry troopers and committed suicide. The Romans took his head and right hand to Trajan, who had them displayed in the Forum at Rome. Trajan's Column in Rome was constructed to celebrate the conquest of Dacia.

The death of Decebalus (Trajan’s Column, Scene CXLV)

The Roman people hailed Trajan's triumph in Dacia with the longest and most expensive celebration in their history. [183] For his triumph, Trajan gave a 123 day festival ludi of celebration in which approximately 11,000 animals were slaughtered and 11,000 gladiators fought in combats comparable to Emperor Titus's celebration from AD 70 who gave a 100 day festival involving 3,000 gladiators and 5,000-9,000 wild animals). [184][185]

Roman rule

A large part of Dacia then became a Roman province with a newly-built capital at Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa (40 km away from the site of Old Sarmizegetusa, now razed to the ground). The name of Dacians' homeland, Dacia, became the name of a Roman province, and the name Dacians was used to designate peoples of varying ancestry in the region[186].

Roman Dacia,[187] also Dacia Traiana[188] or Dacia Felix,[189] was a province of the Roman Empire (106-271/275 AD).[187][188][190] Its territory consisted of eastern and southeastern Transylvania, the Banat, and Oltenia (regions of modern Romania).[189] Dacia was from the very beginning organized as an imperial province and remained so throughout the Roman occupation.[191] It was one of the empire’s Latin provinces; official epigraphs attest that the language of administration was Latin.[192] Historians’ estimates of the population of Roman Dacia range from 650,000 to 1,200,000.[193]

Dacians that remained outside the Roman empire after Dacian wars of AD 101-106 had been named Dakoi prosoroi (Latin meaning Daci limitanei) ‘neighbouring Dacians’.[18] Modern historians use the generic name ‘’Free Dacians “[194] or Independent Dacians[195],[196]

The tribes Daci Magni (Great Dacians), Costoboci ( The Costoboci are generally considered Dacian subtribes[186]) and Carpi remained outside the Roman empire in what the Romans called Dacia Libera (Free Dacia).

By the early third century the ‘Free Dacians’ as they were earlier known, were significantly troublesome group, then identified as the Carpi [194]. After reviewing the available evidence, Bichir argues that the Carpi were the most powerful of the Dacian tribes who had become the principal enemy of the Romans in the region[197].

Roman Dacia, Moesia Inferior, Moesia Superior and other Roman provinces

In 214 AD, Caracalla campaigns against Free Dacians [198]. Also, in 236 AD there are recorded campaigns against the Dacians [199].

Roman Dacia was evacuated by the Romans under emperor Aurelian (ruled 271-5 AD). Lucius Domitius Aurelianus (Aurelian) made this decision on account of barbarian pressures on the Empire there (Carpi, Visigoths, Sarmatians, Asding Vandals) - the lines of defense needed to be shortened, and Dacia was deemed not important enough to Rome to remain militarized with the current resources available.

Roman authority of Thracia rested mainly with the legions stationed in Moesia. The rural nature of Thracia's populations, and distance from Roman authority, certainly inspired the presence of local troops to support Moesia's legions. Over the next few centuries, the province was periodically and increasingly attacked by migrating Germanic tribes. The reign of Justinian saw the construction of over 100 legionary fortresses to supplement the defense.

Thracians in Moesia and Dacia were Romanized while those within the Byzantine empire were their Hellenized descendants that had mingled with the Greeks.

After the Aurelian Retreat

Dacia was never a uniformly Romanized area. Post-Aurelianic Dacia fell into three divisions: the area along the river, usually under some type of Roman administration even if in a highly barbarized form; the zone beyond this area, from which Roman military personnel had withdrawn, leaving a sizable population behind that was heavily Romanized; and finally what is now the northern parts of Moldavia, Crisana, and Maramures. This final area was always peripheral to the Roman province, not militarily occupied but nonetheless controlled by the Rome and part of the Roman economic sphere. Here lived the Carpi, often called “Free Dacians” [157].

Aurelian retreat was a purely military decision to withdraw the Roman troops to defend the Danube. The inhabitants of the old province of Dacia displayed no awareness of impeding disaster. There were no sudden flights and destruction of property. [158] It is not possible to discern how many civilians followed the army out of Dacia; it is clear that there was no mass emigration, since there is evidence of continuity of settlement in Dacian villages and farms; the evacuation may not at first have been intended to be a permanent measure [158]. The Roman left the province, but they didn’t consider they lost it [158].Aurelian didn’t abandon Dobrogea at all. It continued as part of Roman Empire for over 350 years. [200].

As recently as AD 300, the tetrarchic emperors had resettled tens of thousands of Dacian Carpi inside the empire, dispersing them in communities the length of the Danube, from Hungary to Black Sea [201].


Dacian tarabostes (nobleman) - (Hermitage Museum)
Comati on Trajan's Column, Rome

Dacians were divided into two classes: the aristocracy (tarabostes) and the common people (comati). The aristocracy alone had the right to cover their heads and wore a felt hat. The second class, who comprised the rank and file of the army, the peasants and artisans, might have been called capillati (in Latin). Their appearance and clothing can be seen on Trajan's Column.


Dacian tools: compasses, chisels, knives, etc.

The chief occupations of Dacians were agriculture, apiculture, viticulture, livestock, ceramics and metal working. They also worked the gold and silver mines of Transylvania. They carried on a considerable outside trade, as is shown by the number of foreign coins found in the country (see also Decebalus Treasure). At Pecica, Arad had been found a Dacian atelier with equipment for minting coins along with evidence of bronze-, silver-, and iron working that suggests a broad-spectrum of metal-smithing[202]. Nevertheless evidence for the mass production of iron is found on many Dacian sites, indicating guild-like specialization[202].

Dacian ceramic manufacturing traditions continue from the pre-Roman to the Roman period, both in provincial and unoccupied Dacia and well into the fourth and even early fifth centuries [203]

On the northernmost frontier of ‘free Dacia’, coin circulation steadily grew in the first and second centuries with a decline in the third and a rise again in the fourth century – the same frequency pattern as observed for the Banat region to the southwest. What is remarkable is the extent and increase in coin circulation even after Roman withdrawal from Dacia and as far north as Transcarpathia [204].


Geto-Dacian Koson. Mid 1st century BC

The first coins produced by the Geto-Dacians were imitations of silver coins of the Macedonian kings Philip II and Alexander III (the Great). Early in the 1st century BC, the Dacians replaced these with silver denarii of the Roman Republic, both official coins of Rome exported to Dacia and locally made imitations of them.

The Roman province Dacia is represented on Roman Sestertius (coin) as a woman seated on a rock, holding aquila, a small child on her knee holding ears of grain, and a small child seated before her holding grapes.


Dacians had developed the Murus dacicus (double-skinned ashlar-masonry with rubble fill and tie beams[202]) characteristic to their complexes of fortified cities, like their capital Sarmizegetusa in what is today Hunedoara County, Romania. This type of wall has been discovered not only in the Dacian citadel of the Orastie mountains, but also in those at Breaza near Fagaras, Tilisca near Sibiu, Capalna in the Sebes valley, Banita not far from Petrosani and Piatra Craivii to the north of Alba Iulia [205]

The degree of their urban development can be seen on Trajan's Column and in the account of how Sarmizegetusa was defeated by the Romans. The Romans identified and destroyed the water aqueducts or pipelines of the Dacian capital, only thus being able to end the long siege of Sarmizegetusa.

Material Culture

According to archaeological findings, the cradle of the Dacian culture is considered to be north of the Danube towards the Carpathian mountains, in the modern-day historical Romanian province of Muntenia. It is identified as an evolution of the Iron Age Basarabi culture. The earlier Iron Age Basarabi in the northern lower Danube connects to the iron-using Ferigile-Birsesti group. This is an archaeological manifestation of the historical Getae who, along with Agathyrsae are one of a number of tribal formations recorded by Herodotus [206]

Specific Dacian material culture includes: wheel-turned pottery that is generally plain but with distinctive elite wares, massive silver dress fibulae (clasped pin fasteners) precious metal plate, ashlar-masonry, fortifications, upland sanctuaries with horsehoe-shaped precincts, decorated clay heart altars on settlement sites [202]

There are difficulties correlating funerary monuments chronologically with Dacian settlements, a small number of inhumations are known, along with cremation pits and isolated rich burials as at Cugir [202]

From the point of view of archaeology free Dacians are attested by the Puchov culture (in which there are Celtic elements) and Lipiţa culture to the east of the Carpathians[207]. Lipiţa culture has a Dacian –North Thracian origin [208] [209]. This North Thracian population was dominated by strong Celtic influences or had simply absorbed Celtic ethnic components [210]. Lipiţa culture has been linked to the Dacian tribe of Costoboci [211], [212].

In Roman Dacia, Dacian burial ritual continued under Roman occupation and into the post-Roman period[213].


The Dacians are generally considered to have been Thracian speakers, representing a cultural continuity from earlier Iron Age communities[74]. Some historians and linguists consider Dacian language to be a dialect of, or the same language as Thracian [135] [214]. The vocalism and consonantism differentiate the Dacian and the Thracian languages [215]. Others consider that Dacian and Illyrian form regional varieties (dialects) of a common language. (Note: Thracians inhabited modern southern Bulgaria and northern Greece. Illyrians lived in modern Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Croatia.)

The ancient languages of these people had already gone extinct and their cultural influence was highly reduced due to the repeated barbaric invasions of the Balkans by Celts, Huns, Goths, and Sarmatians, accompanied by persistent Hellenization, Romanisation and later Slavicisation. Therefore, in the study of the toponomy of Dacia one must take account of the fact, that some place-names were taken by the Slavs from still unromanised Dacians[216].

A number of Dacian words are preserved in ancient sources, amounting to about 1150 anthroponyms and 900 toponyms, and in Discorides some of the rich plant lore of the Dacians is preserved along with the names of 42 medicinal plants[217].


Detail of the main fresco of the Aleksandrovo kurgan. The figure is identified with Zalmoxis.

Dacian religion was considered by the classic sources as a key source of authority suggesting to some that Dacia was a predominantly theocratic state led by priest-kings. However, the layout of Dacians capital Sarmizegethusa indicates the possibility of co-rulership with separate high king and high priest [145] Ancient sources recorded the names of several Dacian high priests (Deceneus, Comosicus and Vezina) and various orders of priests: “god-worshipers”, “smoke-walkers” and “founders” [145]. Both Hellenistic and Oriental influences are discernable in the religious background alongside chthonic and solar motifs [145]

According to Herodotus History (book 4) account of the story of Zalmoxis (or Zamolxis), the Getae (speaking the same language as the Dacians, according to Strabo) believed in the immortality of the soul, and regarded death as merely a change of country. Their chief priest held a prominent position as the representative of the supreme deity, Zalmoxis, who is called also Gebeleizis by some among them [218]

Historian and geographer Strabo about the high priest Decaeneus[219]:

"a man who not only had wandered through Egypt, but also had thoroughly learned certain prognostics through which he would pretend to tell the divine will; and within a short time he was set up as god (as I said when relating the story of Zamolxis)"

Votive stele representing Bendis wearing a Dacian cap (British Museum)

The Goth Jordanes in his Getica (The origin and deeds of the Goths), gives an account of Dicineus (Deceneus), the highest priest of King Burebista, and considered Dacians a nation related to the Goths.

Besides Zalmoxis, the Dacians believed in other deities such as Gebeleizis god of storm and lightning, (maybe related with Thracian god Zibelthiurdos).[220] He was represented as a handsome man, sometimes wearing a beard. The lightning and thunder were his manifestations. Later Gebeleizis was equated with Zalmoxis as the same god.

According to Herodotus, fifth century BC, Gebeleizis (*Zebeleizis / Gebeleizis who is only mentioned by Herodotus [221] ) is just another name of Zalmoxis [222][223].

Another important deity was Bendis, goddess of the moon and the hunt.[224] By a decree of the oracle of Dodona, which required the Athenians to grant land for a shrine or temple her cult was introduced into Attica by immigrant Thracian residents,[225] and, though Thracian and Athenian processions remained separate, both cult and festival became so popular that in Plato's time (c. 429-13 BCE) its festivities were naturalized as an official ceremonial of the city-state, called the Bendideia.[226]

Known Dacian theonyms include Zalmoxis,Gebeleïzis and Darzalas.[227][228] Gebeleizis is probably cognate to the Thracian god Zibelthiurdos (also Zbelsurdos, Zibelthurdos), wielder of lightning and thunderbolts. Derzelas (also Darzalas) was a chthonic god of health and human spirit's vitality.

The pagan religion survived longer than in other parts of the empire; Christianity made little headway in Dacia until the fifth century [158]


Permanent contacts with the Graeco-Roman world brought the use of the Greek and later of the Latin alphabet [229] It is also certainly not the case that writing with Greek and Latin letters and knowledge of Greek and Latin were known in all the settlements scattered throughout Dacia, but there is no doubt about the existence of such knowledge in some circles of Dacian society. [230] However, the most revealing discoveries concerning the use of the writing by the Dacians occurred in the citadels on the Sebes mountains [229]. Some groups of letters from the Sarmisegetuza’s blocks might express personal names which can not now be read because the wall is ruined and because it is impossible to restore the original order of the blocks in the wall [231].


A fragment of a vase collected by Mihail Dimitriu at the site of Poiana, Galaţi (Piroboridava), Romania illustrating the use of Greek and Latin letters by a Dacian potter (source: Dacia journal, 1933)

Fragments of pottery with different "inscriptions" with Latin and Greek letters incised before and after firing have been discovered also in the settlement at Ocnita – Valcea [232] An inscription carries the word Basileus (Βασιλεύς in Greek meaning king) and seems to have written before the vessel was hardened by fire. [233] Other inscriptions contain the name of the king which was completed by experts in the form of Thiemarcus [233] and Latin groups of letters (BVR, REB) [234] The inscription BUR indicates the name of the tribe or union of tribes, the Buridavensi Dacians who lived at Buridava and who were mentioned by Ptolemy in the second century AD under the name of Buridavensioi.[235]


Gold Dacian jewels

The Dacian gold bracelets depict the cultural and aesthetic sense of the Dacians. They were made from a gold ore mixed with very small quantity of silver using techniques that are considered by archaeologists technologically very advanced for that period of time.[citation needed]

Coif getic detaliu MNIR.JPG


The typical Dacian dress of both men and women can be seen on Trajan's column.[137]

Dacian women cf. Trajan Column and Robert de Spallart


Dio Chrysostom wrote up the Dacians as natural philosophers.[236] The Dacians knew about writing.[237][238][239]


The history of Dacian warfare spans from ca. 10th century BC up to the 2nd century AD in the region defined by Ancient Greek and Latin historians as Dacia. It concerns the armed conflicts of the Dacian tribes and their kingdoms in the Balkans. Apart from conflicts between Dacians and neighboring nations and tribes, numerous wars were recorded among Dacian tribes too.


The weapon most associated with the Dacian forces that fought against Trajan’s army during his invasions in Dacia was the falx, a single-edged scythe-like weapon. The falx was able to inflict horrible wounds on opponents, easily disabling or killing even the heavily armored Roman legionaries that they faced during Dacian wars. This weapon, more so than any other single factor, forced the Roman army to adopt previously unused or modified equipment to suit the conditions on the Dacian battlefield[240]

Troop types and organization

Famous individuals

Statue of King Decebalus, Deva, Romania, Romania

This is a list of several important Dacian individuals or those of partly Dacian origin.

  • Zalmoxis, a semi-legendary social and religious reformer, eventually deified by the Getae and Dacians and regarded as the only true god.
  • Zoltes
  • Burebista was a king of Dacia between 70 BC - 44 BC who united under his rule Thracians in a large territory, from today's Moravia in the West, to the Southern Bug river (Ukraine) in the East, and from Northern Carpathians to Southern Dionysopolis.The Greeks considered him the first and greatest king of Thrace.[172]
  • Decebalus, a king of Dacia ultimately defeated by the forces of Trajan.
  • Diegis, was a Dacian chief, general and brother of Decebalus, and his representative at the peace negotiations held with Domitian (89 C.E.).
  • Galerius, Roman Emperor who affirmed his Dacian roots to such an extent that "he had avowed himself the enemy of the Roman name; and he proposed that the empire should be called, not the Roman, but the Dacian empire"[241]
  • Flavius Aetius, often called "the last of the Romans", Dacian[242] and Roman origin



In 2004, it had been performed a study of mtDNA polymorphism on the skeletal remains of some old Thracian populations from South East of Romania dating from the Bronze Age and Iron Age. MtDNA have been compared with several modern mtDNA sequences from 5 European present-day populations. The results reflect an evident genetic similarity between the old Thracian individuals and the modern populations from SE of Europe [243]. The Thracian individuals have shown informative point mutations in 7np (nucleotide position) the Romanian, Greek and Albanian individuals in 7np, and the Bulgarian individuals in only 5 np out of 12 most informative nucleotide positions presented in the study[243]. As concerns the frequency of point mutations in the 12 nucleotide positions, the Italian individuals show the highest mutation frequency with 12.5%, followed by the Thracian individuals with 8.3%, the Albanian individuals with 7.5 % the Romanian and Greek individuals with 6.25% and the Bulgarian individuals with only 4.6%[243]. Computing the frequency of common point mutations of the present-day European population with the Thracian population has resulted that the Italian (7.9%), the Albanian (6.3%) and the Greek (5.8%) have shown a bias of closer genetic kinship with the Thracian individuals than the Romanian and Bulgarian individuals (only 4.2%)[243]. Also, the study concluded that so far it can just supposed that the old Thracian populations would have been able contribute to the foundation of the Romanian modern genetic pool. More mtDNA sequences from Thracian individuals are needed in order to perform a complex objective statistical analysis [243].

Middle Ages

Early Modern usage

In art

In nationalism

See also


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  2. ^ a b c d Strabo 20 AD, VII 3,12.
  3. ^ Husovská (1998) 13
  4. ^ Encyclopedia Britannica online, Dacia.
  5. ^ Millar, Cotton & Rogers 2004, p. 189: Appian's Roman History (Praef. 4/14-15): "the Getae over the Danube, whom they call Dacians".
  6. ^ a b c d Unesco & Fol 1996, p. 223.
  7. ^ Nandris & 1976 i.e. Strabo and Trogus Pompeius "Daci quoque suboles Getarum sunt", p. 730.
  8. ^ a b Crossland 1982, p. 837.
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  10. ^ Zumpt 1852, p. 140 & 175.
  11. ^ a b c d e Van Den Gheyn S.J., Joseph (1885) 170
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  13. ^ Bunbury 1879, p. 150.
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  16. ^ Bunbury 1979, p. 151.
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  18. ^ a b Garašanin, Benac (1973) 243
  19. ^ Dioscorides’s book (known in English by its Latin title De Materia Medica ‘Regarding Medical Materials’) has all the Dacian name of the plants preceded by Δάκοι Dakoi i.e. Δάκοι Dakoi προποδιλα Latin Daci propodila "Dacians propodila"
  20. ^ Tomaschek (1883) 397
  21. ^ Parvan & Vulpe R. Vulpe A., p. 158.
  22. ^ Gibbon (2008) 313 "...Aurelian calls these soldiers Hiberi, Riparienses, Castriani, and Dacisci " conform to "Vopiscus in Historia Augusta XXVI 38"
  23. ^ Mulvin (2002)59 "...A tombstone inscription from Aquincum reads M. Secundi Genalis domo Cl. Agrip /pina/ negotiat. Dacisco. This is of a second century date and suggests the presence of some Dacian traders in Pannonia..."
  24. ^ Petolescu 2000, p. 163 "...patri incom[pa-] rabili, decep [to] a Daciscis in bel- loproclio ...".
  25. ^ Groh & 2000 "...CIL V 3372 inscription at Verona Papirio Marcellino, decepto a Daciscis in bello proelio..", p. 43.
  26. ^ Kephart & 1949 The Persians knew that the Dahae and the other Massagetae were kin of the inhabitants of Scythia west of the Caspian Sea, p. 28.
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  220. ^ Tomashek,Die Alten Thrakern, II, page 62
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  223. ^ Paliga & 1994 440.
  224. ^ BENDIS : Thracian goddess of the moon & hunting ; mythology ; pictures
  225. ^ Extensive discussion of whether the date is 429 or 413 BCE was reviewed and newly analyzed in Christopher Planeaux, "The Date of Bendis' Entry into Attica" The Classical Journal 96.2 (December 2000:165-192. Planeaux offers a reconstruction of the inscription mentioninmg the first introduction, p
  226. ^ Fifth-century fragmentary inscriptions that record formal descrees regarding formal aspects of the Bendis cult, are reproduced in Planeaux 2000:170f
  227. ^ Hdt. 4.94,Their belief in their immortality is as follows: they believe that they do not die, but that one who perishes goes to the deity Salmoxis, or Gebeleïzis, as some of them call him.
  228. ^ Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities (1898),(Zalmoxis) or Zamolxis (Zamolxis). Said to have been so called from the bear's skin (zalmos) in which he was clothed as soon as he was born. He was, according to the story current among the Greeks on the Hellespont, a Getan, who had been a slave to Pythagoras in Samos, but was manumitted, and acquired not only great wealth, but large stores of knowledge from Pythagoras, and from the Egyptians, whom he visited in the course of his travels. He returned among the Getae, introducing the civilization and the religious ideas which he had gained, especially regarding the immortality of the soul. Herodotus, however, suspects that he was an indigenous Getan divinity ( Herod.iv. 95)
  229. ^ a b Applebaum & 1976 94.
  230. ^ Glodariu & 1976 101.
  231. ^ Applebaum & 1976 95.
  232. ^ Glodariu & 1976 128.
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  234. ^ MacKenzie & 1986 26.
  235. ^ MacKenzie & 1986 66.
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  237. ^ Turnock 1988, p. 42.
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  239. ^ Millar & 1981 275.
  240. ^ Schmitz (2005) 30
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