Interesting Facts about Dacia .
♣ Dacia (dā´shə), ancient name of the European region corresponding roughly to modern Romania (including Transylvania). It was inhabited before the Christian era by a people who were called Getae by the Greeks and were called Daci by the Romans. They were a people of advanced material culture, with a tribal organization. Augustus claimed them as tributary allies but the Daci paid little heed, and Domitian, after inconclusive campaigns against them, was forced (AD 90) to pay them tribute to keep them quiet. Trajan invaded Dacia in AD 102 and again in 105. He established a large number of colonies, and Dacia became a Roman province. The Goths invaded (25070) the region, and Aurelian was obliged to concede Dacia. It was the Roman colonists in Dacia who formed the Latin-speaking nucleus that established the Romance tongue Romanian, which is still spoken in that region.
One of the major controversies regarding the complexity of the Balkan region concerns the rights over the Carpathian Basin, more specifically the land known as Transylvania, that is contended by Hungarians and Romanians. Both peoples have peculiarities that distinguish them from all their neighbours, as none of the two is culturally Slavic and by territorial continuity both together constitute a non-Slavic island that splits the Slavic realm into two separate parts. Such island is composed by two main nations which are quite different from each other, and Transylvania, the apple of discord, is in the middle of both.
Since the existing documents and historic records attest in favour of the Hungarian position, the Romanian authorities resorted to the creation of a new theory that may legitimate their rule over Transylvania, already acquired as a consequence of the dismemberment of the Austro-Hungarian Empire after the Treaty of Trianon (1920): thus the "Daco-Roman continuity" theory was framed.
This theory is very simplistic and is based on a single historical fact whose relevance has been enormously magnified in order to create an apparent link between the past and the present: the Roman occupation of Dacia.
♣The Daco-Roman Myth
The present-day Transylvania was inhabited in Roman times by the people known by Greeks as Gæta, whom Romans called Dacii, that were a Thracian people. The supporters of the Daco-Roman continuity assert that the Dacians were colonized by Romans in such a way that they adopted Latin language and became the ancestors of present-day Romanians (or even dare to say that the Dacians' language was close to Latin, which is utterly improbable). The occupation lasted about 160 years only, a period that was characterized not by an idyllic relationship between the two peoples but by violent rebellions of the Dacians against the invaders with consequent retaliation and repression. After the Romans evacuated Dacia because of the imminent Barbaric invasions, which actually happened, the hypothetical Daco-Romans were supposed to have survived for about a millennium hidden in caves and forests in Transylvania, not being noticed by the different peoples that populated the land in successive waves of immigration. Of course, there is not a single document that might prove such a theory, and from a logical viewpoint is quite unlikely that an entire people would be completely ignored by all Germanic and Eurasian settlers for such a long period.
Indeed, the Dacians have nothing or very little to do with modern Romanians and their language was not related at all with Latin ‒ there is no possible cultural or ethnic continuity between the Dacians and the Romans, and even if it was, it would be irrelevant with regards to the historic rights over Transylvania. The Vlach were not Dacians, but an Illyric people, originated in the south-western Balkans by the south-eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea ‒ namely, the present-day Albania and Slavic Macedonia.
In Roman times, the ethnic composition in the Balkans was roughly distributed as follows: Greeks in the south, Thracians in the eastern half by the Black Sea up to the Tiras River (Dniestr), Illyrians in the western half by the Adriatic Sea, and Sarmatians/Yazyg from Pannonia up to the Bosphorus, throughout all the lands of the Thracians/Dacians, with whom they coexisted. The Yazyg were direct ancestors of modern Hungarians.
There are countless proofs that utterly disavow the Daco-Roman myth. Here we intend to present some of them considering three main aspects of research: historical, religious and linguistic facts.
The Roman occupation of Dacia was bloody and relatively short-lasted if compared with other areas where Latin language did not prevail ‒ like Britain or Pannonia, lands where Romans ruled for more than three and half centuries, or like Judea, from which Romans even deported almost the whole of the original population.
The Roman presence in Dacia (106-271 c.e.) was characterized by frequent revolts of the local inhabitants, and the occupation did never achieve a complete control of the region since different Dacian tribes kept their independence in earthen fortifications that they built on mountain peaks, and others moved outside the imperial borders. Roman historians attest that the pugnacious Dacian people were hard to surrender and even women and children fought the Roman legions. In such a background it is honestly very difficult to imagine a process of assimilation of any kind. Far from adopting the invaders' language, the Dacian groups that were not subjected by them would have reverted any process of Romanization (in case that there was any) as soon as the Romans fled away from the country. Romans evacuated Dacia not only because the Gothic invasions were at the gates, but also because they had no support of the native population that perhaps would have welcomed the Goths and in such conditions the Romans were unable to keep the control of the region ‒ on the contrary, if the Dacians would have been assimilated, the Romans would have dared to afford the Germanic hosts with the support of the local inhabitants. Even with favourable conditions, such an assimilation would have been impossible in such a short period, an unique event in the history of mankind. A further fact is that the Roman rule over Dacia did never concern the whole territory, but was only partial, and withdrawal from the eastern area begun several years before the definitive evacuation. Consequently, the theory that suggests a possible Daco-Roman blend is untenable in the light of the historic events.
Perhaps archaeology may give any hint? Dacians were skilled fortress-builders and Romans excelled in building towns and roads, notwithstanding, no remains of such constructions have yet been found in Transylvania except the Roman roads. The Roman population of Dacia was not so numerous and consisted mainly in soldiers with no particular interest in colonizing or spreading the Roman culture, so they did not build important towns but only garrison strongholds. Indeed, it was the imperial policy to allow the subdued peoples to keep their own culture and language; Romanization was not an overriding issue. When the Roman emperor decided to remove his legions from Dacia in 271 c.e., the Roman soldiers and settlers were transferred to the south, in present-day Bulgaria. It is very unlikely that also the Dacian inhabitants joined them in their relocation, as they had not any good reason to do so ‒ and in such case, the non-Romanized Dacians from beyond the boundary would have repopulated the land weeping away any trace of Roman culture. Historical records and archaeological finds show overwhelming evidence that by that time and until the 12th century c.e., the Vlach people, that spoke Romanian language and had Romanian culture and religious tradition, were dwelling in another place: in southern Illyria, from where the majority of them were slowly moving towards present-day Romania through a long-lasting sojourn in Bulgaria.
Archaeological evidences show that after the Roman evacuation the Dacians did not perform any kind of continuity, they did not dwell in the former Roman towns, which seem to have been deserted. Constructions in stone or brick were no longer made, nor monuments or inscriptions of any kind, and even burial rites changed. The Dacian culture was completely different from the Roman one, and no sort of continuity through assimilation is documented after the Roman retreat. Before the definitive disengagement in 271 c.e., the Roman emperor Gallienus (253-268) ordered the withdrawal from eastern Transylvania. From the archaeological finds pertaining to this period it emerges that peoples from the neighbouring lands ‒that may be independent Dacians‒ occupied the areas left by the Romans. It is obvious that the Dacian population of Muntenia and Moldavia, being outside the empire had never been Romanized ‒ as very likely not even the subjected Dacians were. It is a fact that the towns were the heart of social, cultural, political and economic life in the Roman Empire, and it was in them that any likely assimilation might have happened. In the case of Dacia, there was no Daco-Roman urban development, but only Roman. The towns that were built in Dacia by the Romans ceased to exist as soon as they abandoned the country. Even though the Roman settlements in Dacia were inhabited by a mixed population of Roman contingent coming from many different regions of the empire, those of Italian origin were not numerous and consisted mainly of government officials ‒ whose sojourn was usually limited in time and consequently they were often replaced by other colleagues. Only very few of the inhabitants from Italy were permanent residents. The majority of the Roman settlers came from different regions of the empire (about twenty provenances are mentioned), from the most remote areas in Africa, Spain, Britain, Asia Minor, etc. The supporters of the Daco-Roman continuity myth allege that since they had different origins, they had to know Latin in order to understand each other. As a matter of fact, only part of these settlers were Romanized, and many were not at all ‒ and anyway, they were not autochthonous people but foreign occupants.
Reports from eyewitnesses attest that Romans abandoned Dacia in a great hurry because of the attacks of the Goths and mainly because of the raids carried on by the Yazyg, who are said to have made thousands of Roman prisoners and caused enormous devastations. The Yazyg ‒Jász‒ may be properly regarded as early Hungarians. The emperor, knowing that all the territories north of the Danube were lost, removed the Roman soldiers and inhabitants from Dacia to the lands by the southern shore of the river, in Moesia. Therefore, those Latin-speakers that sojourned in Dacia during the Roman occupation were foreigners, and their descendants cannot advance any claim on that country.
Of all the Balkan provinces of the empire, Dacia was the one on which the Roman rule was the shortest. Latin-derived languages did not survive after four centuries of Roman rule over Pannonia, Thrace, Illyria ‒except in some areas of the Adriatic coastland‒; how could it be preserved in Dacia, where Romans left almost no traces of themselves? In only 165 years, the only part of the native population that could have learnt the Latin language would have been people that had some important relationship with the Roman officials or wealthy traders that may have reached economic agreements with the imperial authorities. Another glaring example for comparison is Britannia, today England, on which Romans ruled for 365 years, where they left hundreds of remains, towns, roads, baths, etc. and where the Roman past is attested by a large amount of toponyms and even cultural features like the Scottish kilt. It is more than plausible that Latin was widely spoken in Britannia after more than three and a half centuries of Roman influence; notwithstanding, few years after the first Germanic invasions, no Latin-speaking people remained in the whole land of Britannia. It is true that English is of all Germanic languages the one having the largest number of words of Latin etymology, yet it is not a Romance tongue. Some common English toponyms show their origin in Roman terms like castrum, that derived into the endings ~caster/~cester/~chester of British towns (as Lancaster, Leicester, Winchester, etc.). If the Romanization of Dacia was so complete as alleged by the supporters of the Daco-Roman theory, a huge amount of archaeological finds and Latin toponyms should have remained, but there is nothing of all this. There is not even any account of any fierce fight of the supposedly Romanized Dacians against the Gothic invaders in defense of the Latin cultural values (as they had fought the Romans before). After the evacuation, Romans did not leave anything. They established the Danube as the last frontier, and built a series of fortifications along the river in order to prevent attacks from the other side. The Greek historian Procopius wrote by the middle of the 6th century c.e. about the fact that Romans renounced to any attempt of keeping any cultural influence or diffusion of their language in the lands of the Goths and other Germanic tribes, which means that a Latin-speaking people would have had possibilities of survival only within the imperial borders, that is south of the Danube.
Soon after the Romans left the country, Goths and Gepids pounced on Transylvania and ruled for a whole century, until they were defeated by the Huns in 375 c.e. The Huns built a powerful empire that lasted until 454 c.e. It is in this time that the Székely people established a permanent presence in Transylvania, as they were part of the Hun tribes that did not return back to the east. Goths and Gepids continued to live in the region and even though not any important political entity was founded, they remained the dominant population group and kept a relative control on the territory. One century later, the Avars (a people related with the Huns and Magyars) came from the east and ruled over the whole Carpathian Basin for two and a half centuries.
We have important documents written in this period, among which those of Procopius, a Greek chronicler and Jordanes, the Goth historian:
∙ Procopius wrote: "The River Ister (Danube) flows down from the mountains in the country of the Celts, who are now called Gauls; and it passes through a great extent of country which for the most part is altogether barren, though in some places it is inhabited by barbarians who live a kind of brutish life and have no dealings with other men. When it gets close to Dacia, for the first time it clearly forms the boundary between the barbarians, who hold its left bank, and the territory of the Romans, which is on the right". - Peri Ktismaton (Buildings), Book IV, 9-10. Procopius shows in an unequivocal manner that there was no Roman-like people dwelling in the lands on other side of the Danube, namely, in Dacia.
∙ Jordanes wrote: "I mean ancient Dacia, which the race of the Gepids now possess. This Gothia, which our ancestors called Dacia and now, as I have said, is called Gepidia, was then bounded on the east by the Roxolani, on the west by the Yazyg, on the north by the Sarmatians and Basternae and on the south by the river Danube. The Yazyg are separated from the Roxolani by the Aluta river only". - Getica, XII, 73-74. Not even Jordanes did mention any Romans or Romanized inhabitants in Dacia, but "Yazyg, Roxolans and Sarmatians (Alans)", namely, Hungarian ancestor tribes! Jordanes also identified the Dacians, that were known by Greeks as Gæta, with the Goths, by saying: "Then, when Burebistas was king of the Goths" - Getica, XI, 67. Burebistas was actually a king of the Dacians in 60-44 b.c.e. We cannot know how much reliable this assertion of Jordanes might be, however, it is obvious that he found a noticeable resemblance between the Dacians and his own Germanic people so as to identify each other as the same, and not between Dacians and Romans. Therefore, we may conclude that it is quite likely that Dacians joined the Goths and mixed with them.
During the Avar kingdom, in the 6th century c.e., successive waves of Slavs moved from the Russian plains to the Balkans and settled in Transylvania, leaving there some place names and the vojvoda administrative system that continued under Hungarian rule. They usually adapted the Roman toponyms to their own phonetics, nevertheless, in the lands north of the lower Danube we do not find any inherited Latin toponyms: not a single name of a Roman town or any other kind of settlement was preserved. The most obvious explanation of this is that the Slavs did not find Latin-speaking inhabitants when they migrated to these territories in the 6th-7th centuries.
In 679 c.e., Khan Asparukh of the Bulgars (another Hun-related ethnos), crossed the Danube and founded a new kingdom in present-day Bulgaria in alliance with seven Slavic tribes. The Bulgars extended their rule on both sides of the lower Danube. It was the Bulgarian kingdom that exerted its influence on Transylvania ‒that was inhabited mainly by Slavic peoples‒ until the arrival of Árpád's hosts. By the mid-9th century, Bulgarians adopted Christianity according to the Byzantine rites, the very same religion practised by the majority of Romanians, and it is indeed in Bulgaria where they acquired it. Khan Boris in 865 c.e. turned his title and name into Czar Mikhail as a sign of his conversion. Slavic (Slavonic) was established as the official liturgical language, the one inherited by the Romanian Orthodox church. When the Magyars entered the Carpathian Basin by the end of the 9th century c.e., they confronted the armies of Czar Simeon of Bulgaria, that by that time ruled over Transylvania through Slavic vassal princes. The region was predominantly populated by Slavs in that period, and not any Romanic-speaking group was present. After several battles with victories on both sides, the Bulgarians lost Transylvania that was seized by the Magyars, while Muntenia and Oltenia (both regions composing present-day Walachia) were occupied by the Besenyö (Petchenegs).
It is essential to point out that there was not a single toponym in Transylvania that might have had Latin origin when the Magyars arrived in the region. Most of the place names and river names were Slavic except some few, which were not Romance anyway.
Concerning this historical period, the supporters of the Daco-Roman myth consider it to be the background for the epic accounts of the Gesta Hungarorum, which are often quoted by them with the purpose of proving that the Vlach were the inhabitants of Transylvania before Árpád conquered the land. This literary work, that belongs to the fiction genre, mentions the dukes of Bihar, Bánát and Transylvania, who are said to be respectively a Khazar, a Slav and a Vlach. There is no trace of such characters in any contemporary document because they are completely imaginary. On the other hand, very prominent personalities that were indeed quite engaged with the Magyar conquest like Emperor Arnulf of the Franks, Kings Svatopluk and Mojmir II of Moravia, Czar Simeon of Bulgaria or Leon VI of Byzantium are not mentioned at all in the Gesta Hungarorum ‒ any trustworthy history treatise would not fail to mention them. Besides this, important battles are omitted and there are many anachronisms mainly regarding peoples that were not present in the Carpathian Basin in that period, like Cumans and Vlach. The author was an anonymous writer of the 12th century c.e. that projected the situation of his time back to three centuries earlier, and his accounts are in sharp contrast with the contemporary sources that reported the Magyar conquest as eyewitnesses. Such documents attest that the peoples involved in the events related with the Magyar conquest of the Carpathian Basin were Slovenes and other Slavic tribes, Moravians, Avars, Bulgarians, Franks and Gepids, but no Romans, Vlach or Cumans. The author of Gesta Hungarorum may have been led into confusion by Slavic accounts about the fact that the Magyars seized the Danubian Basin from the Franks, that were then called (as well as Italians) "Voloch", "Vlasi" by the Slavs ‒ hence the Hungarian translation of the toponyms containing the term "frank/franc" into "olasz[i]", and the Romany name of France, "Valshi", derived from the Slavic term.
Bulgaria was annexed to Byzantium in 1018 c.e. and remained as part of that empire for almost 170 years. It is in that time that the Vlach begin to be mentioned more often, always south of the lower Danube. In that period, the last wave of the great migration of peoples arrived in the Balkans: the Kumans, that had an intensive interaction with the Vlach. By that time the immediate neighbours across the Danube on the north shore were the Petchenegs, with whom the Kumans were traditional rivals, both peoples being of the same stock. At last, the Kumans absorbed them and the present-day Walachia came to be known as "Cumania". The Kumans were characterized by their ambiguous behaviour: while they were continuously attacking Byzantium, other Kumans were serving as mercenaries in the Byzantine army. The Kumans were on both sides or else as a third party, sometimes fighting against Bulgarians and sometimes allied with them, mainly supported by the Vlach. Also Slavic kingdoms engaged Kuman mercenaries, that frequently had to fight Kuman raiders. Many of them were also in Hungary, and became an important contingent of the Hungarian army. Their character led them to be in continuous contrast with Hungarians, and as a result they were expelled and gathered the Kuman/Vlach tribes in Bulgaria. They were later requested back in Hungary, but on their way they joined the Vlachs in the revolt that led to the independence of Walachia in 1330. Few decades later, the Kumans disappeared as an ethnic entity, being assimilated by the different nations where they inhabited and becoming an important component of the Romanian nation. Then it was the first time in history that the Vlach established themselves in territories north of the Danube.
Their arrival in Transylvania happened only in the 13th century c.e., when the Hungarian kings allowed the Vlach to settle in that land, including Vlach rulers, to protect them from the Turks that had conquered Walachia.
There is still much more to say concerning the historical facts, but as it was said in the introductory note, this is only a concise consideration. So as a conclusion of this chapter, we can say that it is enough to point out that the Yazyg presence in the Carpathian Basin is contemporary with the Thracian period, and ancient toponyms and river names show overwhelming evidence of this fact, including the name of a former Romanian capital: Jassy ‒ Jászvásár (Yazyg Market).
In the Middle Ages, the term Vlach was the only one known by all authors who wrote about the ancestors of the people today called Romanian. Consequently, the name Vlach is the most appropriate and historically correct; ʹVlachʹ and ʹRomanianʹ are thus interchangeable, because there is no mention of any other people with the same characteristics.
The supporters of the Daco-Roman myth have a quite bizarre explanation of the conversion to Christianity of the early Romanians: they assert that they became Christian around the 4th or 5th century c.e. while hidden in the caves in Transylvania! There are many inconsistencies in such theory, for example:
∙ Who passed on to them the Christian message, and how did those hypothetic missionaries find them while the rulers, warriors and settlers did not know about their existence for one thousand years? Would the conquerors neglect a potential slave working force? Could it be possible that not even one of the Goths, Gepids, Huns, Sarmatians, Avars, Slavs, Bulgars, Magyars or Kumans has ever found at least by chance one of the troglodytes? Nor any of the monks or whoever would have been going to the caves with the Gospel has ever been discovered?
∙ Why the alleged caves have still not been identified, and not any religious object, relic, image or inscription has been found in any cave or catacomb, neither on walls nor on gravestones, as in every other place where Christianity, either openly or secretly existed?
∙ There is not any Romanian church or writing or document of any kind in Transylvania previous to the 13th century c.e. Why did these Christians remain hidden even after Transylvania was under Christian Bulgaria since the 9th century c.e.? Why did they stay in such conditions until four centuries later?
∙ After the discovery of a Latin-speaking Christian people by the church authorities (because if they became Christians there must have been somebody who was sent as missionary that reached them), Transylvania would have been regarded as an outpost of Christendom in barbaric lands, and churches and monasteries would have been founded, mainly after the later 9th century c.e., when the Bulgarian rulers would have favoured such a promotion of Christianity within their domain. Why nothing of all this did happen? Would the Romanians still need to be hidden, while in Bulgaria they were free citizens and had the same religion?
∙ The liturgical language of the Romanian church has never been Latin, but Old Slavonic until the later 19th century c.e. Why would the proud descent of the Romans accept such a thing, when their own language was the official one of the church? How could they have adopted the liturgy of a people that theoretically arrived, being still heathen, one century after the Romanian's own conversion, and how did they get in touch with those peoples being hidden in caves?
∙ Since the earliest available records concerning the religious membership of the Romanians, it is clear that they have always belonged to the Eastern Slavic rites church, that since 1054 c.e. is separated from Rome and belongs to the Orthodox confession ‒ notice that Romanians are the only Latin-speaking people that is not traditionally Roman Catholic. In that period, the whole Transylvania was under the Hungarian crown. When the schism took place, Hungary remained with Rome and the king declared the Eastern Slavic church illegal in all the territories of the Hungarian domain. Therefore, why did the alleged Daco-Romans join the Orthodox church? And how did they manage not to be banished? Or else, who allowed them, as subjects of the Hungarian king, to follow a confession already declared illegal?
There is only one possible explanation for all these mysteries: Romanians were not in Transylvania in those times!
There are many other facts connected with the Romanian's religion that provide overwhelming proofs that their origin was in southern Illyria and not in present-day Romania. It is evident that the whole of the Romanian people must have been dwelling in the Slavic territory that after 1054 c.e. separated from Rome passing to the Orthodox confession. Transylvania belonged entirely to the Roman-Catholic area after the schism. Also the Slavic peoples that adopted Latin alphabet (Croatians, Slovenians, Czech, Slovaks, Polish) remained with Rome; these facts limit the territory in which the Romanian people developed to the southern Balkan area, namely present-day Greece, Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria, that is south of the lower Danube. Additional facts narrow such territory even more: When Byzantium annexed the kingdom of Bulgaria, the emperor assigned all the Vlach people to the archbishopric of Ochrida, that is in southern Albania, according to the original homeland of this people. Indeed, the whole Romanians were still under the archdiocese of Ochrida until the 18th century c.e., even when other Orthodox Slavic rites bishoprics existed much nearer to Romania. Until the later 19th century c.e., as the liturgical language was Old Slavonic, most of the priests and clergymen in Romania were Bulgarian or Serbian. These are clear evidences that show which the original land of the Romanian people was...
The supporters of the Daco-Roman myth may argue that indeed there are also Roman-Catholic Romanians, but we know with absolute certainly why and when they adopted such religion:
The first group were the Cumans, that embraced the Roman church in the 13th century c.e. in Moldavia (then called Cumania).
The second group were Romanians that, being Orthodox, were forced to accept the union with Rome in 1698 c.e. by the Habsburg monarchy that ruled over Transylvania, under strong pressure through denial of civil rights to those that refused to convert. Those were the first Romanians that joined Rome in history of religion.
To conclude this chapter, which has been exposed in a very concise manner, we can say that the religious heritage of Romanians reflects their ethnic origin and mainly their geographic homeland until at least one century after the separation of European Christendom into Roman and Orthodox, division that was sharply defined by territory and that involved entire nations. The only Balkan peoples that belonged to the Orthodox church and had Old Slavonic as liturgical language instead of Latin dwelled south of the lower Danube until the later 12th century c.e.