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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
A Description of the Trajan Column
by John Hungerford Pollen

printed by George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode,
printers to Queen Victoria
London, 1874

Text and engravings are in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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The Dacians

The Dacians were a powerful race. They had learnt the art of war in their contests against Domitian, during whose reign they had not only won advantages over the legions, but had by bribery or force obtained warlike engines and Roman artificers capable of constructing these pieces, who were carefully watched in the interior of the country. Their dresses, arms, vases of gold and silver, their oppida and fortifications, in some instances the vessels in which chiefs who came over to the Romans are represented as bringing food and stores, show that they were very different from the German allies and tributaries of Rome. Evidences of such a kind abound throughout the bas-reliefs of the column. Their metallurgy seems little inferior to that of the Romans though they fight without armour; exposing their bodies, covered only with their ample linen tunics and cloaks, to the mail-clad triarii and principes, the armoured ranks of the Roman legions. They were a branch of the Getae, a people of whom it was remarked "that they stood nearest to the Greeks in their natural aptitude for civilization." The Getae were settled south of the Danube in Bulgaria and partly in Roumelia. The Dacians had crossed the Danube, and had overrun Wallachia, Transylvania, Moldavia, the Banat and parts of Hungary as far westward as the river Theiss. From the Theiss on the west they reached to the Pruth on the east, and the Carpathians on the north. They seem to have chosen as the seat of government in the second century the central mountain region of the spurs of the western Carpathians. Those mountains form an almost continuous barrier round Transylvania, and in the south-western portion of that country, on a rocky eminence, Decebalus the king fortified his capital Zarmizegethusa.

The entrance to the fertile region on which these hills look down is closed by formidable passes easily defended; by those of the Irongate, (not the Iron gates of the Danube), of the Rothenthurm, and others. The basin of the Maros was protected by these mountain barriers, and about their fertile slopes were the chief towns of the Dacians. Other rivers, affluents of the Theiss and the Danube, such as the Tisia or Temes, the Aluta, and the Schyl, also take their rise amongst these mountains. The country not only abounded in well watered pastures, on which countless herds of cattle of all kinds and flocks of sheep were fed, as is shown in  p11 various portions of the sculptures on the column; but it possessed rich mines of gold, silver, and iron. Such a country was worth conquest and annexation on account of its agricultural and mineral wealth alone, even if no political motives had intervened to add to its importance as a frontier defence to the empire.

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Page updated: 27 Nov 01