Ancient historians described them as a mysterious people of barbarians who knew how to make themselves immortals. Schoolteachers taught us to love them as our ideal ancestors. “Daco-maniacs” claim they were the first great civilization of the world. Who were, in fact, the Geto-Dacians?
100 different tribes
The ancient Greeks named these “barbarians” Getians. The Romans called them Dacians. Two names for a people made of 100 tribes (Apuli, Buri, Suci, northern Dacians, Costoboci, Carpi, Calipidi, Crobyzi, Terizi, Tyragetae etc) that for centuries lived in the area between the Black Sea, the Balkans, the Tisa river and the Dniester. In fact, the very term „Geto-Dacian” is modern and artificial, a projection of the national ideology meant to present the current Romanian territory as united from ancient times. According to historian Lucian Boia, the Getians probably lived on both sides of the Danube and in Dobrogea, while the Dacians lived mostly in Transylvania. A century after Burebista, king Decebalus repeated his feat and united the Geto-Dacian tribes. Trajan conquered half of Dacia in 106 A.D., turning it into a Roman province. In 271 A.D., after Rome called back its legions, Dacia became free, but no longer prosperous, and fell under the invasions of migratory nations.
Ancestors larger than life
“The birth certificate of some nations was preserved, clearly legible, in archives. The birth certificate of the Romanian nation got bleached in time, torn here and there, full of erasures and contradictory additions. Barely legible. A frustrating situation for historians, but a vast playground for the Dacomaniacs”, say Cristian Lascu, EIC of the Romanian edition of National Geographic.
The Dacians and the Romans who conquered them are considered the ancestors of the Romanian people. Though for the past 150 years archeologists have been digging hard, trying to get to the bottom of the subject, many aspects in Dacian history remain shrouded in mystery. In the light of the most recent archeological finds and of ancient historical sources, I tried to lay down, as concisely as possible, the story of the Dacians – who they were, how they lived, what they believed in and how this people of mysterious barbarians, who supposedly knew how to make themselves immortal, faded out of history.
Dear reader – stop here for a second, please!
You should know from the very beginning this is not an exhaustive, academic paper. Author Catalin Gruia is a veteran journalist who has written and reported for the Romanian edition of National Geographic for over 10 years. What you’ll find here is a concise journalistic account of Dacian civilization.