Dacian fortresses
from the area of Sarmizegetusa

by Ioan Glodariu

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Sarmizegetusa Regia

Over a period of more than 150 years (the 1st. century BC - the 1st. century AD) Dacia disposed of a genuine defense system, containing more than 90 defense works, of various types: fortified settlements, fortresses and earth works.

As for the defense works of pre-Roman Dacia, those from the southwestern area of the nowadays Transylvania represent a particular group. Built in the southern side of the middle basin of the Mures river - in that part of the Meridional Carpathians that form the Sureanu Massif - they permitted a continuous control of the ways of access to the capital city of the Dacian kingdom, Sarmizegetusa. [...] In this area of the capital city of the Dacian kingdom, the vestiges of the Dacian dwelling make up a unique ensemble, in which the elements of the autohtonic civilisation mould extremely well with those that have been borrowed from the Greco-Roman classical world.

The archaeological excavations effectuated at Sarmizegetusa - which is situated on the western side of the Sureanu Mountain - revealed rural Dacian dwellings in the vicinity of the quasi-urban ones, proving a preoccupation for the urban and the territorial arrangement, as well as the existence of some economical functioning that belong to the similar centres (Fetele Albe, Ceata, Sarmizegetusa-Gradistea de Munte); on this occasion there were discovered defence works proper that had been set on fire by the Romans, on the occasion of their victory, obtained by Trajan in 106, which thus concluded the second military campaign against the Dacian King, Decebalus.

The defence works proper can be divided into three categories: fortresses that were built in the proximity of the civilian centres (Costesti-Cetatuie, Varful lui Hulpe and Sarmizegetusa - the latter two on the area of the present-day locality of Gradistea de Munte) fortresses that do not have civilian centres around them - they have been built strictly from military reasons (Costesti-Blidaru, Luncani-Piatra Rosie) and the imposing defence wall from Cioclovina-Ponorici. This one is built of wood and unshaped stones; it is more than 2,5 km. long and it has immense bulwarks of 40 to 80 meters in diameter, as well as oblique and perpendicular walls which are to the main wall and have the role of braking up the enemy's front of attack. The whole wall reveals the traditional Dacian technique, but the bulwarks and the perpendicular walls betray elements that have been borrowed from the Hellenistic world.

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Last update: March 24 1999 ; webdesign: Cornelia Calin