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The Dacians (Lat. Daci, Gr. Dákai) were an Indo-European people, the ancient inhabitants of Dacia (located in the area in and around the Carpathian mountains and east of there to the Black Sea), present-day Romaniamarker and Moldovamarker, parts of Sarmatia (mostly in eastern Ukrainemarker) and Scythia Minor in southeastern Europe (Romania, Serbiamarker and Bulgariamarker). They spoke the Dacian language, believed related to Thracian, but were influenced culturally by the neighbouring Scythians and by the Celtic invaders of the 4th century BC.

The Dacians (tribe) were known as Geton (plural Getae) in Greek writings, and as Dacus (plural Daci) and also Getae in Roman documents; also as Dagae and Gaete—see the late Roman map Tabula Peutingeriana. Strabo states that the original name of the Dacians was "daoi", which could be explained with a possible Phrygian cognate "daos", meaning "wolf". This assumption may be supported by the fact that one of the Dacian standards, the Dacian Draco, had a wolf's head. Phrygii was another cognate used within the region, and in later times, some Roman auxiliaries recruited from the area were referred to as Phrygi. Their capital was not Argedava near the Danube, but Sarmizegetusa, in the Sureanu mountains, in the Romanian Western Carpathians.

Mythological foundation

Origins and ethnogenesis

The origins of the Dacians (and Thracians) remain obscure, in absence of written historical records. Evidence of proto-Thracians or Proto-Dacians in the prehistoric period depends on remains of material culture. It is generally proposed that a a proto-Dacian or proto-Thracian people developed from a mixture of indigenous peoples and Indo-European from the time of Proto-Indo-European expansion in the Early Bronze Age when the latter, around 1500 BC, conquered the indigenous peoples..We speak of proto-Thracians from which during the Iron Age(about 1000 BC) as Dacians & Thracians begin developing as we cannot identify Thracians during the Bronze age.

Identity and distribution


Archaic period

Classical period

Dacian tribes
The first mention of the 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).

The Dacian kingdom reached its maximum extent under king Burebista (ruled 82 - 44 BC). The capital of the kingdom was the city of Argedava (also called Sargedava in some historical writings) situated close to the river Danube.

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).

The Roman Emperor Trajan (ruled 97 - 117 AD) 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.

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. But 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 Romemarker. Trajan's Columnmarker in Rome was constructed to celebrate the conquest of Dacia.

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 tribes Daci Magni (Great Dacians), Costoboci and Carpi remained outside the Roman empire in what the Romans called Dacia Libera (Free Dacia).Roman Dacia was evacuated by the Romans under emperor Aurelian (ruled 271-5 AD).

Hellenistic period

Roman rule

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

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.


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.



Zalmoxis,Gebeleïzis, Darzalas, two other important gods of the Dacians and Thracians . Zibelthiurdos (also Zbelsurdos, Zibelthurdos) like Zeus it is said he too was the wielder of lightning and thunderbolts. Derzelas (also Darzalas) was a chthonic god of health and human spirit's vitality.

Extinction of ethnicity and language

See also Dacian language, Thracian language.

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. The ethnic contribution of the Thracian and Daco-Getic population, who had lived on the territory of modern Romania and Bulgaria has been long debated among the scientists during the 20th century. A 2004 genetic study has suggested that these peoples have indeed made a significant contribution to the genes of these nations.

Physical characteristics

Xenophanes described Thracians as having blue eyes and red hair. Nevertheless academic studies have concluded that Thracians had physical characteristics typical of European Mediterraneans. According to Dr. Beth Cohen, Thracians had "the same dark hair and the same facial features as the Ancient Greeks." Recent genetic analysis comparing DNA samples of ancient Thracian fossil material from southeastern Romania with individuals from modern ethnicities place Italian, Albanian and Greek individuals in closer genetic kinship with the Thracians than Romanian and Bulgarian individuals.

Famous individuals

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



Middle Ages

Early Modern usage

In Nationalism

See also


  1. Encyclopedia Britannica online, Dacia.
  2. Hoddinott, p. 27.
  3. Casson, p. 3.
  4. The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 1: The Prehistory of the Balkans, the Middle East and the Aegean World, Tenth to Eighth Centuries BC by John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, N. G. L. Hammond, and E. Sollberger,1982,page 53,"... Yet we cannot identify the Thracians at that remote period, because we do not know for certain whether the Thracian and Illyrian tribes had separated by then. It is safer to speak of Proto-Thracians from whom there developed in the Iron Age ..."
  5. Strabo, Geographia Book 7, chapter 13.
  6. 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.
  7. 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)
  8. Cardos, G., Stoian V., Miritoiu N., Comsa A., Kroll A., Voss S., Rodewald A., p. 246. "Computing the frequency of common point mutations of the present-day European population with the Thracian population has resulted that the Italian (9.2 %), the Romanian (8.9 %) and the Greek (6.8 %) have shown a bias of closer genetic kinship with the Thracian individuals than the Albanian and Bulgarian individuals (only 3.2%)."
  9. "Men make gods in their own image; those of the Ethiopians are black and snub-nosed, those of the Thracians have blue eyes and red hair." Xenophanes of Colophon: Fragments, Xenophanes, J. H. Lesher, University of Toronto Press, 2001, ISBN 0802085083, p. 90.
  10. Cohen (2000).
  11. Cardos, G., Stoian V., Miritoiu N., Comsa A., Kroll A., Voss S., Rodewald A., p. 246. " 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 Alban (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%)."
  12. Dacia: Land of Transylvania, Cornerstone of Ancient Eastern Europe by Ion Grumeza,2009,page 54,"The Greeks were so impressed with his achievements that they named him 'the first and greatest king of the kings of Thracia'"
  13. Lactanius, De mortibus persecutorum, IX, 1; XXVII, 9; FHDR: II, 4, 6.
  14. Jordanes, Getica, 176; Merobaudes, Carmina, iv, 42-43, and Panegyrici, ii, 110-115, 119-120; Gregory of Tours, ii.8; Zosimus, v.36.1; Chronica gallica 452, 100. Cited in Jones, p. 21.


  • Dacia: Land of Transylvania, Cornerstone of Ancient Eastern Europe by Ion Grumeza,2009
  • Rome's Enemies (1): Germanics and Dacians (Men at Arms Series, 129) by Peter Wilcox and Gerry Embleton,1982

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