The Dacians

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Introduction

The Dacians took over the Getic area of Thrace, north of the Danube (roughly corresponding to modern Rumania), and gave the Romans a lot of trouble in the 1st and 2nd centuries AD..

metope XX.metope XXXIVmetope XVIII

 

 

 

Above, left to right: Metopes XX, XXXIV, XVIII from Adamklissi (Tropaeum Traiani).  From: Ian Richmond, Trajan's Army on Trajan's Column, British School at Rome, 1982, Plates 20-21

History

Figure 1 (left); Figure 2 (right)

(These  pictures from Duncan Head's Slingshot article) Left:Roman legionary and Dacian, from Adamklissi. Russell Robinson, "Armour...." plate 477.

Right: Auxiliary and two Dacians, metope XXVII from Adamklissi. Rossi, p60.

 

A Dacian falxman, by Daniella Carlsson

 

Pictures

 Plate B from Rome's Enemies: Germans and Dacians (text from page 35). 

 

Legionary infantry engage Dacian warriors during the first Trajanic campaign, early 2nd century AD.

Page 75 from Warriors of Rome, Michael Simkins and James Field, Blandford Press, London, 1988.

  An infantryman from the eastern legions attempts to save the life of a trooper from a cohors equitata during Trajan's second Dacian campaign, AD 105.   From: Page 111, Warriors of Rome

czechdacians.jpg (52035 bytes)

Picture of the Dacians,  by a Czech artist.  Other pictures (not of Dacians!) by the same artist are on the Society of Ancients web site. (reproduced with permission from Tony Barr).

Two Dacian nobles and a falxLeft: Three  pictures from Duncan Head's Slingshot article)

Figure 3: Dacian noble with cap and single-handed falx from Trajan's column. Rossi, pl23.

Figure 4: Sword from Birdoswald. Russell Robinson, '' Hadrianis Wall", p35.

Figure 5: Mourning Dacian chief, symbolising the defeat of Dacia, from a denarius of Trajan. Rossi, p40.

Below:3 Illustrations by Angus McBride of Dacians from Tim Newark, Ancient Celts, Military Book Club, New York , 1998.  (Thanks to Daniella Carlsson for supplying these three  images)

 

 

Page 26

 

From  Imperial Rome at War page 16

 

Dacip234.gif (54057 bytes) Roman soldier and two Dacian warriors. Plate 123 from M Oppermann, Thraker

Dacian Arms and Armour

(text from pp18-21, Rome's Enemies: Germans and Dacians)

Below: iron Falx blades, I Daci items 679, 460-462, lengths 22.5, 35, 30, and 24.4 cm respectively.

falxblade.jpg (32014 bytes)falxblades.jpg (19191 bytes)

Below: Dacian swords.

wierdsword.jpg (12162 bytes)

Above: 40cm long iron sword, MNIR inv No 16 114,  Item 99 from I Daci

longsword.jpg (17502 bytes)

Above: iron sword, 112.4cm long, MNIR Inv No 32055,  Item 94 from I Daci

 

Above: Iron and bronze Celtic helmet from Ciumesti, MNIR inv 69676, Item 105 from I Daci

Shields

Dacians attack a Roman soldier with falxes Right: Dacians attack a Roman. P 319, North-Eastern Bulgaria - Antiquity and Modernity: Proceedings of Papers, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Press, Sofia 1985

Helmets

Dacian arms and armour on a Roman monument in the British MuseumBody Armour

Left: Author's photo of a relief in the British Musuem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dacian shields and standards, from various Roman bas-reliefs Rome's Enemies: Germans and Dacians, page 17

Helmets from Dacia and Asia.  ( Rome's Enemies: Germans and Dacians, page 17

Dacian Costume

Peter Conolly's picture of Roman cavalry moping up after a battle againt Dacians wearing colourful clothing and shields, c. 88 AD

Peter Conolly's picture of Dacians fighting Roman legionaries

DBM Army List (Book 2)

52. DACIAN 60 BC - 106 AD

Cold. Ag 1. WW, Rv, H(S), Wd, 0, V, BUA.
C-in-C - Irr Wb (S) @ 15AP or Irr Cv (1) @ 15AP or Irr Wb (F)  @13AP 1
Sub-general - Irr Wb (S) @ 15AP or Irr LH (0) @ 15AP or Irr Wb (F) @13AP 0-2
Cavalry - Irr LH (0) @ 5AP 2-5
Javelinmen - Irr Wb (F) @ 3AP 36-92
Falxmen - Irr Bd (F) @ 5AP 6-10
Archers - Irr Ps (0) @ 2AP or Irr Bw (1) @ 3AP 10-20
Skirmishers - Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 0-15
Bastarnae ally-general - Irr Bd (F) @ 15AP or Irr Cv (0) @ 17AP *1
Bastarnae cavalry - Irr Cv (0) @ 7AP 0-2
Bastarnae javelinmen supporting Bastarnae cavalry - Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 1 per Bastarnae Cv
Bastarnae warriors - Irr Bd (F) @ 5AP *6-16
Iazyges allies - List: Siracae, lazyges, Later Rhoxolani Sarmatians (Bk 2 p25)

Dacia was always a source of raids into the lands south of the Danube, but became a greater menace under two ambitious kings, Burebistas and Decebalus. This list covers armies from the accession of the former until the death of the latter. Although Julius Caesar was planning a campaign against the Dacians at the time of his death in 44 BC, the first serious Roman punitive expedition was by Domitian in 85 AD, repeated equally disastrously in 87 AD. A minor success was scored in 88 AD, but raiding continued, necessitating two major wars under Trajan in 101 - 102 AD and 105 - 106 AD, ending in annexation. Remnant tribes continue to appear long after 106 AD as Carpi and "tattooed Geloni". The part of the army that made most impression on Roman minds were the Dacians and Bastarnae armed wi the falx, a murderous curved blade on a long haft swung two-handed and probably identical to the Thracian rhomphaia.  The minima marked * apply if more than 5 elements of Bastarnae are used.

DBM 2.1 List

#52 DACIAN 60 BC - 106 AD AND CARPI 106 - 380 AD

Cold. Ag 1. WW, Rv, H(S), Wd, O, V, RGo, BUA. {H(S) & Wd are compulsory}

C-in-c - Irr Wb (S) @ 15AP, Irr Wb (F) @ 13AP or Irr Cv (I) @ 15AP 1
Sub-general - Irr Wb (S) @ 15, Irr Wb (F) @ 13AP or Irr LH (O) @ 15AP 0-2
Cavalry - Irr LH (O) @ 5AP 2-5
Javelinmen - Irr Wb (F) @ 3AP 36-100
Falxmen - Irr Bd (F) @5AP 6-10
Archers - Irr Ps (O) @ 2AP or Irr Bw (I) @ 3 AP 10-20
Skirmishers - Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 0-15
Only Dacians before 107 AD:
Bastarnae ally-general - Irr Bd (F) @ 10AP or Irr Cv (O) @ 12AP *1
Bastarnae cavalry - Irr Cv (O) @ 7AP 0-2
Bastarnae javalinmen supporting Bastarnae cavalry - Irr Ps (S) @ 3AP 1 per Bastarnae Cv
Bastarnae warriors - Irr Bd (F) @ 5AP *6-16
Captured Roman artillery - Reg Art (O) @ 8AP 0-1
Iazyges allies - List: Siracae, Iazyges, Later Rhoxolani Sarmatians (Bk 2)

Note: for an excellent description of the DBM Dacian army, tactics, and composition, go to http://www.geocities.com/sheldon_white/Dacians.htm -  Sheldon White's advice on how to use a Dacian army, with example armies.

WAHAB Dacian list (variation of Barbarian list)

The Dacians were a fierce warrior nation that lived in the region of modern day Yugoslavia and Hungry. Although Roman writers depicted them as uncivilised reavers, this was, as with Roman descriptions of many of the Barbarian nations, far from being the truth. In fact the Dacians enjoyed an advanced and extremely succesful lifestyle, although this did not stop them raiding into Roman territory when the mood took them. Finally these raids proved too much for the Romans, who mounted a series of punitive expeditions against the Dacians (not all of which were succesful), finally culminating in the Roman Emperor Trajan's invasion and annexation of Dacia by 106 AD.

The vast majority of Dacians fought on foot in typical barbarian fashion. A large number, however, fought with a unique weapon called the falx. This was a ferociuous double-handed weapon that consisted of a scythed blade mounted on the end of a stout wooden handle. Wielded by a strong Dacian warrior it was perfectly capable of taking an opponents head or limb off with a single blow!

The following special rules apply to a Dacian army.

1. Dacian warriors and light infantry may replace their swords with 'halbards' (actually the dreaded 'falx') at a cost of 2 points per model.
2. Dacian armies may not include chariots.

 

Links

Dacian chieftanLeft: http://www.histomin.com/lineilf/pgilfanc.htm - Nicely painted Dacian figurine

http://www.dacia.org/ - another "We, the Dacians" site, but some great pictures and information about Dacian archaeology
http://www.dr-savescu.com/Dacian_Virtual_Museum/dacian_virtual_museum.html - A terrific virtual Dacian museum
Dacian history from a Rumanian perspective
Photograph of a Geto-Dacian helmet
Dacian history (from the Rumanian government site)
Dacia Regia - Dacian history from Romania
Romanian Map of Thrace and the Thracians
http://www.dr-savescu.com/history/daci1_e.html - another nationlistic version of Dacian history
Three Dacian battle reports at the Firefall site
http://www.artsednet.getty.edu/ArtsEdNet/Images/Trajan/cold4.html - very clear Dacian images from Trajan’s column
http://www.artsednet.getty.edu/ArtsEdNet/Images/Trajan/columnd4.html likewise
http://lancomp.starnets.ro/eclipse-travel/eclipsa/quote1.htm - quote from Dragan "We the Thracians" (always good for a laugh - the Thracians invaded Rome first, you know)
http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/6183/ancients/barb-tribal-var.html - WAHB Dacian list
http://www.ukans.edu/history/index/europe/ancient_rome/E/Gazetteer/Place s/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/Trajans_Column/home.html - Lacus Curtius’ pictures and links to Dacians and Trajan’s column
http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/AHSHofelt/scenario.htm Civilisation II "Trajan’s Conquest" scenario
http://www.arts.demon.co.uk/newline/ancients.html - Newline Designs Dacians & Thracians
http://www.usd.edu/~clehmann/pir/dacia.htm - The Roman province of Dacia
http://www.geocities.com/sheldon_white/Dacians.htm Sheldon White's advice on how to use a Dacian army, with example armies.
Dacian fortresses from the area of Sarmizegetusa short, mostly text
Dacian / Gallic army This mishmash of Keltic figures gets used as Dacians, Gauls, and occasionally Ancient Brits.
Dacian & Bastarne Pictures 6mm Dacian figures
Dacian Costume Plates from Thomas Hope's Costumes of the Ancients
Three Dacian battle reports at the Firefall site
http://www.artsednet.getty.edu/ArtsEdNet/Images/Trajan/cold4.html - very clear Dacian images from Trajan’s column
http://www.artsednet.getty.edu/ArtsEdNet/Images/Trajan/columnd4.html likewise
http://lancomp.starnets.ro/eclipse-travel/eclipsa/quote1.htm - quote from Dragan "We the Thracians"
http://www.geocities.com/Area51/Cavern/6183/ancients/barb-tribal-var.html - WAHB Dacian list http://www.ukans.edu/history/index/europe/ancient_rome/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/Trajans_Column/home.html Lacus Curtius’ pictures and links to Dacians and Trajan’s column http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/AHSHofelt/scenario.htm Civilisation II "Trajan’s Conquest" scenario
http://www.arts.demon.co.uk/newline/ancients.html - Newline Designs Dacians & Thracians
http://cheiron.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~trajan/index.html   - Trajan's column ( a sculpture site, but lots of pictures)


Bibliography

Barry Cunlife, Rome and the Barbarians, Bodley Head, London, 1975

Vladimir Dumitrescu & Alexandru Vulpe, Dacia Before Dromichaites, Bucharest, 1988

Warriors of Rome, Michael Simkins and James Field, Blandford Press, London, 1988.

The Ancient Iron Sword Rhomphaia, in North-Eastern Bulgaria - Antiquity and Modernity: Proceedings of Papers, Bulgarian Academy of Sciences Press, Sofia 1985

Andy Gittins,The Dacians, in Slingshot issues 74, pp 70-72; 75 pp 38-40; and 77 pp 22-23

Chronological History of Rumania, C C Giurescu, Bucharest 1972

Tim Newark, Ancient Celts, Military Book Club, New York , 1998.

M Oppermann, Thraker

Rome's Enemies: Germans and Dacians, by Peter Wilcox and G A Embleton, Osprey Men-at-Arms Series 129, London, 1987
Note: This book is reviewed by Jan Coulston in Slingshot 111, January 1984, pp 13-15

Kurt W. Treptow (Ed), A History of Rumania, Centre for Rumania Studies, Iasi, 1995

I Daci

Imperial Rome at war

Video:
The Roman Army at War
, BBC Time Watch, 1998 - This fantastic video covers the Roman invasions of Dacia as seen on Trajan's column.  Trajan's column is examined in exquisite detail. The Dacians can be seen quite clearly.  They show how a reconstructed Dacian falx and how it was made. There are scenes from Roman re-enactment societies and battles with 25mm figurines.

Ancient Warriors Volume Three: Classical Warriors, Discovery Channel, 1994 - Includes three programmes: the Spartans  (Spartan Hoplite at Thermopylae), the Macedonians (Alexander at Tyre), and the Romans (the Dacian wars).  The Greek and Macedonian programmes include some fabulous computer animations showing how the phalanx operated.  The Roman programme includes an interesting view from inside a testudo, and a virtual Roman camp.  All programmes feature re-enactors in full costume.  The Dacians are portrayed as worthy opponents of the Romans, and there are some interesting views of the terrain (whether it is the real thing I don't know).  However, the BBC did it better.  Volume 1 in the series is called Barbarian Warriors, and Volume 2 is entitled Soldiers of the East.

The Relationship of the Dacians to the Thracians: a discussion from the DBM List

Message From: "Head, Duncan"
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 08:23:33 +0100
Subject: RE: DBM Thracians

> Christopher Webber <thracian@pnc.com.au> supported Nick Wade’s point: [NW] Why could Thracians armed with Rhomphia not be classified as irr Bd(F)? I would have thought they would be very effective against foot and would suit an impetuous classification. Maybe the others could become Wb(F) to match their loony two-handed-chopper mates... hmmm, sounds very much like the Dacian list!!

[CW from here, I think:]

> Precisely my point - the Dacians took over Thrace, were descended from the Thracians, and spoke the same language as the Getae, a Thracian tribe. Note that very few Dacian Bd are allowed, though - you have to use Bastarnae (who were eventually thrown out up by the Thracians) instead.   Yet there is no transition allowed - suddenly the Thracians become Dacians   without the Thracians ever being like Dacians.

[DH:] Without objecting to the Bd (F) classification itself, I would be strongly against any arguments from assumed Dacian parallels. The Thracians don’t "become" Dacians: I think the whole premise is slightly misleading from an army list viewpoint. The Dacians spoke a Thracian dialect, true, and are said by some classical authors to be the same as the Thracian Getai; perhaps they were originally one of several tribes in the Getic group. But they live, originally, up in the Carpathian mountains, in a very different environment from the better-known Getai horse-archers of the Danube valley and the Moldavian steppe. Just because they spoke the same (probably in fact "a similar") language doesn’t mean they fought the same. I see no reason to assume that the existing Thracian list covers the Dacians at all before the Dacian list starts, since the proto-Dacians are so far out of the range of our sources. The Dacians did not "take over Thrace", either: they took over (parts of) the area north of the Danube which hardly anyone ever calls Thrace, even if it was occupied partly by Thracian-speakers.

There are so many different influences on the Dacians - Celtic and even Germanic neighbours, for a start - that it is unsafe to assume that their warfare ever followed the southern Thracian model, let alone posit any "transitional phase" between one and the other. We know virtually nothing of Dacian warfare before Decebalus: even starting the list, as it does, with Burebista in the 1st century BC could be regarded as rash. Even if there was a transition from a "Thracian Ax" style to a "Dacian Wb and Bd" style, it could well have taken place after the end of the DBM Thracian list.

yours negatively,

Duncan


 

Message From: "Steve O’Brien"
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 13:40:01 -0400
Subject: DBM Thracians

Hello Duncan:

You responded to the Thracian list suggestions with:

[DH:] Without objecting to the Bd (F) classification itself, I would be strongly against any arguments from assumed Dacian parallels. The Thracians don’t "become" Dacians: I think the whole premise is slightly misleading from an army list viewpoint.

Do you see the Dacians as being part of a larger ethno-linguistic group which includes the Thracians? Little is known of the Dacian language but toponyms suggest dialectical differences from their trans-Danuabian relatives.

>The Dacians spoke a Thracian dialect, true, and are said by some classical authors to be the same as the Thracian Getai; perhaps they were originally one of several tribes in the Getic group. But they live, originally, up in the Carpathian mountains, in a very different environment from the better-known Getai horse-archers of the Danube valley and the Moldavian steppe.

Yet the classical authors consider them Thracians and the classical authors seem to be the animating genies of the army lists.

>Just because they spoke the same (probably in fact "a similar") language doesn’t mean they fought the same.

Yet in other lists, ethno-linguistic identity has been the motive for just such an assumption while differences are predicated upon historical evidence.

>I see no reason to assume that the existing Thracian list covers the Dacians at all before the Dacian list starts, since the proto-Dacians are so far out of the range of our sources. The Dacians did not "take over Thrace", either: they took over (parts of) the area north of the Danube which hardly anyone ever calls Thrace, even if it was occupied partly by Thracian-speakers.

This seems to contradict the fact, mentioned above, that the Greeks considered the (Dacian) Getes to be Thracians and these were a trans-Danubian tribe. How is this area (north of the Danube) designated by ancients?

>There are so many different influences on the Dacians - Celtic and even Germanic neighbours, for a start - that it is unsafe to assume that their warfare ever followed the southern Thracian model, let alone posit any "transitional phase" between one and the other.

This is also true of the Thracians, who interacted with but fended off Illyrians, Kelts, and even Greeks, for the most part.

>We know virtually nothing of Dacian warfare before Decebalus: even starting the list, as it does, with Burebista in the 1st century BC could be regarded as rash. Even if there was a transition from a "Thracian Ax" style to a "Dacian Wb and Bd" style, it could well have taken place after the end of the DBM Thracian list.

This seems as speculative as positing a unified warfare model. As you point out, the Getes were heavily Skythicized by their proximity to the steppe environment and influence of its nomads. We could expect mountain tribes to be different, just as in the case of the Thracian hilltribes in the Rhodope and other mountainous regions south of the Danube. Does it seem incredible that both have horse tribes in the plains and nasty hill tribes in the uplands?

So we can count unifying Dacio-Thracian factors language and culture. After all, their mutual adoption of the rhomphaia/falx suggests that whatever distinguished them from each other must have been a pretty permeable barrier. What we have differentiating them is that one group was recorded largely by Greek historians in the fifth-fourth century BC and the latter by Roman historians many centuries later.

The Greeks dealt primarily with the heavily hellenised branches on the Mediterranean and Euxine littoral while the Romans delt with their uncivilized country cousins to the north. Who would the north Thracians (e.g. Triballi) have more closely resembled?

The Romans attempted to reduce them while the Greeks were content to trade with them and hire them for mercenaries. Do evaluations of the records take these very different perspectives into account?

Added to this might be the fact that the record of brilliant Thracian victories were conspicuous in their absent. And countered with fact that they maintained their territorial integrity in the face of significant and continual threats from Celts, Illyrians, Macedonians, etc for many centuries. Moreover, they resisted or accommodated pressures from neighboring empires (Persian & Macedonian) easily as well as the (militarily) more powerful Greek states.

yours negatively,
Duncan

But positively in the spirit of open discussion,

Steve O’Brien


Message From: Luke and Keiko Ueda-Sarson
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 99 12:37:09 +1200
Subject: Re: DBM Thracians

>>I see no reason to assume that the existing Thracian list covers the Dacians at all before the Dacian list

>>starts, since the proto-Dacians are so far out of the range of our sources. The Dacians did not "take over Thrace", either: they took over (parts of) the area north of the Danube which hardly anyone ever calls Thrace, even if it was occupied partly by Thracian-speakers.

>This seems to contradict the fact, mentioned above, that the Greeks considered the (Dacian) Getes to be Thracians and these were a trans-Danubian tribe. How is this area (north of the Danube) designated by ancients?

If I can weigh-in here (although wade-in may be more appropriate), what ‘fact’ that the Greeks considered the Dacian Getes to be Thracians? If we are talking about Greeks from ‘Greek’ times rather than Greeks under Roman imperial rule (as I suspect you are from you comments below), then this is silly, since Dacia didn’t exist as such, so the Getes can’t ‘be’ Dacian at all, let alone have it established as a ‘fact’. Thracian maybe, but not dacian.

As to what the area is called, it’s usually called Skythia by ancient authors. Lots of people call it different tings of course, often under classicizing influenece - such as Zosimus, for instance, and many later writers.

>So we can count unifying Dacio-Thracian factors language and culture. After all, their mutual adoption of the rhomphaia/falx suggests that whatever distinguished them from each other must have been a pretty permeable barrier. What we have differentiating them is that one group

I think that’s a leap of faith there. It could well be right, but it could well be wrong.

>was recorded largely by Greek historians in the fifth-fourth century BC and the latter by Roman historians many centuries later.The Greeks dealt primarily with the heavily hellenised branches on the Mediterranean and Euxine littoral while the Romans delt with their uncivilized country cousins to the north. Who would the north Thracians (e.g. Triballi) have more closely resembled? The Romans attempted to reduce them while the Greeks were content to trade with them and hire them for mercenaries. Do evaluations of the records take these very different perspectives into account?

And are such different perspectives are likley to hugely influence how authors describe their weapons, etc?

Which is what we are on about here - the lists. When I was talking to PB about extending the Dacian list to the 4th century AD, what we wanted to know was ‘Did the Carpi fight like the Dacians of the 1st century in DBM terms with some Bd (F) etc, or not?’; the answer of course is we don’t know, but since a list really was required (the Carpi being mentioned in Roman triumphal awards around the start of the 4th century just as much as Goths, with lost of major campaigns being undertaken against them), we had to make a guess as to which list would be most suitable, and plumped for the Dacians anyway.

Cheers, Luke


Message From: Jeremy Morgan
Date: Tue, 15 Jun 1999 10:07:18 +0100
Subject: RE: DBM Thracians

> -----Original Message-----

> From: owner-dbm-list@lists.Stanford.EDU

On Behalf Of Steve O’Brien

snip

No, Luke. That one’s perspective of a people depends on whether one faces them as a friend or a foe. A Roman general who’s just been whipped by the Dacians is LIKELY to tell his handlers in Rome that they’re the fiercest thing since the passive paraphrastic. On the other hand, a Greek who has just hired some Thracian mercenaries is likely to complain that they’re expensive, lazy, and smelly. Historians continually make allowances for this when interpreting sources. Don’t they?

For evidence that they don’t, read the Skythian list. Then examine the battles between them and the Persians. Then have a good laugh and go off for a beer. 
Regards
Jer


The Dacians - in Rumanian, but some nice pictures

The Dacian virtual museum - well worth a visit!

 

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