Today Romania was known during Roman times as Dacia. In 106, during Emperor Trajan’s reign, a part of it was included in the Roman Empire, becoming “Provincia Dacia Felix”, called this way given its beauty and richness. It was the last province to be added to the Roman Empire and one of the firsts to leave, in 271.
For transforming Dacia into a province traditional Roman methods were employed, including the creation of urban infrastructure such as Roman baths, forums and temples, the establishment of Roman roads and the creation of colonies.
Step in the footprints of Romans and let yourself enchanted by the beauty of Dacia Felix !
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Tropaeum Traiani (Adamclisi)
The name of the village Adamclisi (population: 2,150) means “church of man” and it comes from the Turkish mistaking an Ancient Roman monument for a church. The monument was Tropaeum Traiani (Trajan’s Trophy). It was inaugurated in 109 AD, after three years of construction, celebrating the Roman victory over the Dacians after the war of 101-102.
The main part of the monument is a 4-metre tall stone tambour (drum-shaped structure) and the trophy on top of it. Today, 48 (out of 54), original metope – decorative bas-reliefs on the monument walls depicting major events of Trajan’s military campaign – are exhibited in the Archaeological Museum at Adamclisi.
To the East, there is a funerary tumulus (the tomb of a Roman commander) and the West of the Tropaeum there is an altar dedicated to the Roman soldiers fallen during the battles.
Close to the monument there was the Municipium Tropaeum Traiani, a home to retired soldiers, Roman traders and local Dacians, until the Avars arrival in 587 AD. Four city gates, the main road (Via Principalis), the remains of six basilicas have been found as well as countryside villas (villae rusticae) situated in the rural territory of Tropaeum Traiani. Constantine the Great re-fortified the municipality, after it was partly destroyed in 170 AD.
For this reason, an inscription dedicated to Constantine the Great and Licinius was placed at the Estern Gate of the city. Along with it the city gate was also decorated with a 2 metres tall trophy, similar to the one exhibited on the top of the monument. Both, the small trophy discovered at the Eastern Gate of the city and the original pieces of the trophy on top of the monument, are now on display at the Archaeological Museum, situated in the centre of Adamclisi village.
In 106 AD the Roman XIII Gemina Legion built the biggest fort of its time in Dacia (480 x 430 metres) and remained there until 275 AD. The fort took the name Apulum from the nearby Dacian settlement Apulon. Alba Iulia is fascinating because of its urban duality. Built in stone outside the fortress under emperors Hadrian and Antoninus Pius, the first settlement Apulum I became Municipium Aurelium Apulense under Marcus Aurelius. Emperor Commodus (180–192 AD) made it Colonia Aurelia Apulensis.
Emperor Septimius Severus (193–211 AD) built the second city, Apulum II, south of the fortress, where service stores for the soldiers were, known as Municipium Septimum Apulense. Between these two cities, archaeologists discovered the Dealul Furcilor-Podei necropolis and the Statia de Salvare necropolis.
Roman coins, ceramics, marble votive statues, remains of the Nemesis and Mars Sanctuary and an ancient Mitra temple have been discovered here. The ancient Alba was a copy of Rome, just smaller. The Southern Gate of the Roman fortress, the double-gate Porta principalis dextra near the Praetorium consularis Daciarium Trium (the headquarters of the Roman governor) are very impressive. See also the Bethlen Bulwark of the medieval fortress (16th–17th century) and St Eugene Bulwark of the Vauban-style Habsburg Citadel built in 1714–1738 on the site of the Roman camp. Stroll around the tree-lined paths of the Habsburg Citadel, admire the beautiful Roman Catholic Cathedral (13th century) built on the site of an 11th-century Romanesque church. It dates back to Prince Gelu (Latin: Iulius), who ruled Alba in the 10th century. He lent his name to modern Alba Iulia.
See also the Orthodox Cathedral of Reunification, where Romanian King Ferdinand and Queen Marie were symbolically crowned on 15 Oct. 1922. See the Princely Palace where Prince Michael the Brave resided 1599 – 1601. Admire the Batthyaneum Library from 1780, the Apor Palace (17th century), and stop at the Union Hall, where the National Assembly signed Romanian Unification Act on 1 Oct. 1918.
According to Eusebius of Caesarea, the Pompeii of Romania, awarded the European Heritage Label, was founded by Greek settlers from Miletus between late 657 and early 656 BC, and according to Scymnus of Chios, in 630 BC. It existed until the 7th century AD. Along with Tomis (6th century BC; today Constanta) and the Dorian colony Callatis, it was the most important Greek colony on the Black Sea coast. When Romans took over Histria in the 1st century BC, these three cities got ‘civitates liberae’ or ‘stipendiariae’ status, allowing them to keep their Greek institutions.
The building of new baths (ca. 30 AD) marks the arrival of the Romanss. Around 170 AD, Histria was heavily destroyed by the invading Goths. It never fully recovered, but it was prosperous through the Byzantine times. An earthquake or another Avar invasion may have put an end to the city’s existence. It is also possible that Histria’s inhabitants left due to the loss of their harbour and moved to Tomis, now Constanta. Ancient Histria was situated on a peninsula directly on the Black Sea. The ancient coastline has since changed due to the Danube’s sedimentary deposits.
Histria’s ruins, some up to 7.5 metres tall, demonstrate the importance of the city. See the Main Gate and the Main Square of the late Roman town, Aphrodite’s Temple, Temple of Zeus (Jupiter), Pilaster and the Rhemaxos Basilica, the tabernae (shops) in the commercial district, two Roman thermae (baths), the Episcopal Basilica, the sacred area and the towers. Rich collections of votive, funerary and decorative reliefs, Greek and Roman ceramics, architectural elements, sculptures, jewellery and cult objects are on display in the local Histria Museum. A total of 430,000 items is kept at the Museum of National History and Archaeology (Constanta).
Rosia Montana, a small mountain commune named after the river Rosia, meaning “the Rosia of the mountains”, is located at an altitude of 800 metres in the South Apuseni Mountains of the Western Transylvania. Being part of the Golden Quadrilateral, it is famous for its richness in mineral resources, especially gold. It was the goldmines that attracted Emperor Trajan here after his decisive victory over Dacians (106 AD). Roman miners, colonists from the Illyrian South Dalmatia, who worked at Alburnus Maior, dug out ca. 110 tons of gold and an unknown amount of silver. Until 271 AD, these treasures were shipped from Alburnus Maior via the Mures to the Danube and then to Rome.
Rosia Montana is famous for several Roman underground galleries, which are partly open to the public. The local mining museum, Muzeul Mineritului, shows artefacts and mining practice from antique to modern times and has a 400-metre long Roman mining tunnel (1.90 metres high, 1.10 metres wide) that follows natural gold deposit.
The most important discovery was that of 25 Roman wax tablets in these galleries (1822 and 1850). The oldest one dates back to 6 Feb 131 AD.
These Transylvanian wax tablets are rare examples of the Ancient Roman everyday justice, social and economic life. One tablet is a miner’s work contract.
An old village building (No. 325) has been restored and houses a free-of-charge mining exhibition Aurul Apusenilor. Every year in August, Rosia Montana is the venue for FanFest, which celebrates the natural and cultural heritage of the area and for the Miner’s Day.
Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa (Sarmizegetusa, Romania)
The new capital Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa developed from the fort (castrum) of IV Flavia Felix Legion, in a strategically important location ‒ near the Iron Gates of Transylvania. Sarmizegetusa was founded as a Roman colonia with the name Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa. To the existing 33 hectares of the walled intra muros, rectangular urban area (500 x 600 metres), 50-80 hectars extra muros were added for public monuments, houses, tombs and temples. It was the capital of Dacia province for couple years until the Legion XIII Gemina and the governor moved to Apulum (today Alba Iulia), with a population of 25,000 inhabitants, at its highest development, a lot more than the 1,300 inhabitants who live now in the modern-day village.
The amphitheatre, built under Emperor Antoninus Pius (ca. 138-161 AD) could accommodate 5,000-6,000 spectators. After 271-275 AD, when Romans left Dacia, the oval building was blocked with funeral monuments and architectural pieces brought from the city, making it a fortress for the defenders. Most impressive are the temples of Liber Pater and Nemesis Goddess, the sanctuary of Asclepius and Hygeia and the Great Temple (43.6 x 34 metres). Two glassblowing workshops were discovered here. The procurator of Dacia ruled from Praetorium Procuratoris. When you pass the granary (horreum) and the new excavations at the Northern Gate, you arrive at the Forum Vetus (Old Forum) with a monumental entrance gate, Tetrapilum (quadruple triumphal arch).
The Archaeological Museum has a new exhibition where there are displayed pieces discovered in archaeological excavations combined with experimental archaeology like reconstruction of Roman military equipment or other major themes from ancient city life.