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King Decebalu and his Adversaries in the Roman Wars

Young Decebalu's bust in the Vatican Collection




Table of Contents, Cuprins:

 King Decebalu of the Dacians

 Decebalus and Pacorus, Parthian King, a Friend




Appolodorus of Damascus and the Bridge over Danube



King Decebalu of the Dacians

Duras, 1st century AD was a Dacian[1] king. Preceded by the Great King Burebista and followed by Decebalus The Great (originally named Diurpaneus)

In 85 and 86 A.D., king Duras ordered attacks into Roman province of Moesia, south of the Danube. The attacks were lead by Decebalus. Emperor Domitian personally advanced into the province with legions and relief supplies, reorganized it, and planned the next campaign season an attack into Dacia that did not turn out well and suffered a major defeat when ambushed by the forces of Diurpaneus. In about 87 A.D. king Duras knowingly offered the kingship to Diurpaneus as a recognition of his diplomatic, military and leadership skills.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Dacia: Landscape, Colonization and Romanization by Ioana A Oltean, 2007, page 47, "Kings Coson (who minted his own coins) and Duras..."


Decebalus (Born Diurpaneus) his name means "strong as ten (men)" (cf. Sanskrit daśabala). In Dacian Language was Decebalu.


 Dio Cassius describe Decebalus as follow: "At this time the Romans became involved in a very serious war with the Dacians, whose king was then Decebalus.

This man was shrewd in his understanding of warfare and shrewd also in the waging of war; he judged well when to attack and chose the right moment to retreat; he was an expert in ambuscades and a master in pitched battles; and he knew not only how to follow up a victory well, but also how to manage well a defeat. Hence he showed himself a worthy antagonist of the Romans for a long time. 

I call the people Dacians, the names used by the natives themselves as well as by the Romans, though I am not ignorant that some Greek writers refer to them as Getae, whether that is the right form or not; for the Getae of whom I myself know are those that live beyond the Haemus range, along the Ister. 


Giant Terra Sigilata Bowl from Grădiştea Muncelului, after Ist.Rom., pl.51 (Copyright Academia Română) with the inscription Decebalus per Scorilo.

On the top of Orastie Mountains, well guarded by the natural towers and waves of the highs, there is over 2000 years old complex of fortifications of which remarkable is the Sarmizegetusa fortress from Gradistea Muncelului, a political and military center of the Dacians. The ruins show pieces of that was one the jewel and pride of the old Dacian State.

The fortress, a quadrilateral formed by massive stone blocks, was constructed on five terraces, on an area of almost 3 ha. In the fortress the roads were paved with stones. Near the ruins of the fortress there are the ruins of some constructions, probable with religious character: The big quadrilateral Sanctuary and the little round Sanctuary. The stones from the little sanctuary are put in a certain order, symbolizing the sun rays, having of course, a role of a calendar. The ruins of a temple and a guard tower, fragments of ceramics, fire places, tools and installations of spring water collection, are proofs of the life on this place.

Some inscriptions discovered on the stone blocks of the sanctuaries, coins, arms as well as a ceramic vessel with the stamp "Decebalus per Scorilo" ("Decebal son of Scorilo") have given to the researchers the possibility to consider that this settlement existed in the times when in Dacia was ruled by Burebista and next Decebal.


After the defeat of the Dacians the fortress was conquered by the Romans, which established here a military garrison, from which we can see the ruins of a building and of a bath.




A capable strategist, diplomat and politician, King Decebalus united the Getai, or Daci, once more under his rule (87-106 AD). He introduced a centralized administrative system, which led to the development of the most well-organized barbarian states in the first century AD. The fledgling Dacian state became a menace to Roman authority as Decebalus mobilized the tribes in a raid against the Roman garrisons of Moesia Inferior in 87 AD to reconquer lost territories.

 Oppius Sabinus, the Roman governor, along with his entire legion, were slain. He later repelled the Roman counter-offensive led by Cornelius Fuscus, capturing the Roman eagle. The line of victories ended at Tapae, where the Roman army of Tettius Iulianus finally defeated the army of Decebalus. The Roman Emperor Domitian was forced however to conclude a peace treaty with the Dacians in 89 AD. Dacia became a “client kingdom” and received Roman war machines, engineers and even financial assistance to improve the Dacian fortresses.

When Marcus Ulpius Traianus became emperor in 98 AD, he decided to eliminate the Dacian kingdom. Apart from desire for vengeance, the new ruler needed to secure his flank along the Istros and gain the rich gold and salt mines of the Apuseni mountains.


Decebalus became a legend to the entire Roman world and ceramics depicting him committing suicide became very popular in the Roman Empire. 

The vessels were produced by one of the most famous ceramist of the Roman world,  L. Cosius.  We see here one of his terra sigilata with the scene of Decebalus suicide with bear  (106-119) from La Graufeseneque, Gallia (Millau, Aveyron, France)

"The Legend of Decebalus", L. De Ligt et al. (eds.), Roman Rule and Civic Life: Local and Regional Perspectives (Proceedings of the Fourth Workshop ... Impact of Empire, Leiden 2003), Amsterdam: Gieben 2004, 153-75, 431-


La Graufesenque, Millau (Aveyron, France)

View from the archaeological site of site of La Graufesenque towards the high plateau overlooking the valley of the Tarn. La Graufesenque is the most important producer of Gaulish sigillata during the first century AD.

C. Bruun (B.) seeks to recover the memory of Decebalus.

While the Romans considered the Dacian king a "wicked barbarian" (p. 174), in the Danube region, he would have been remembered as a hero. B. thoroughly combs the meager sources regarding the king, but, to this reviewer, the suggestion of an anti-Roman "Decebalus legend" rests on thin evidence.



Portret from Trajan's Column in Rome

or "The Brave" (originally named Diurpaneus)[1] was a king of Dacia (ruled the Dacians 87–106)[2] and is famous for fighting three wars and negotiating two interregnums of peace[2] without being eliminated[3] against the Roman Empire under two emperors.[1] In the later short peace (end of 102-105) granted by Trajan, Decebalus continued to act as an independent king,[4] rather than a conquered client and repeatedly annoyed or infuriated the Romans.

Consequently, the Legions under Trajan's orders went on the offensive again in 105 AD, reducing the Dacian capital Sarmizegetusa in 106.[4] After that, Decebalus committed suicide.



[edit] Recent history preceding

After the death of Great King Burebista, Dacia split into four then five smaller states. The situation lasted until Diurpaneus managed to consolidate the core of Dacia around Sarmizegetusa, in today's Hunedoara county. Though not yet king, he reorganized the Dacian army, which in 85 began minor raids upon the heavily fortified Roman province of Moesia, located south of the Danube under Dacian king Duras.

In 86, the Duras ordered a more vigorous attack south into Roman province of Moesia. Emperor Domitian personally advanced into the province with legions and relief supplies, reorganized it, and planned an attack into Dacia the next campaign season. It did not turn out well.

[edit] War against Emperor Domitian

In 87, Emperor Domitian sent his prefect of the Praetorian Guards, Cornelius Fuscus, to punish the Dacians. His four or five legions suffered a major defeat when ambushed by the forces of Diurpaneus.[1] Two Roman legions (among which was the V Alaudae) were ambushed and defeated at a mountain pass the Romans called Tapae (widely know as the Iron Gates along what is the modern Romania-Serbia border). Fuscus was killed. Diurpaneus dubbed himself Decebalus, meaning "with the strength of ten [men]"[5] or simply "The Brave,"[1] and was crowned king.

[edit] Enemy's eye view

Regarding the Domitian wars Dio Cassius described Decebalus as follows:

At this time the Romans became involved in a very serious war with the Dacians, whose king was then Decebalus. This man was shrewd in his understanding of warfare and shrewd also in the waging of war; he judged well when to attack and chose the right moment to retreat; he was an expert in ambuscades and a master in pitched battles; and he knew not only how to follow up a victory well, but also how to manage well a defeat. Hence he showed himself a worthy antagonist of the Romans for a long time. I call the people Dacians, the names used by the natives themselves as well as by the Romans, though I am not ignorant that some Greek writers refer to them as Getae, whether that is the right form or not; for the Getae of whom I myself know are those that live beyond the Haemus range, along the Ister.[6]

In 88, Tettius Iulianus commanded another Roman army under Domitian against the Dacians, who defeated the Romans at the Second Battle of Tapae. Since German revolts along the Rhine were requiring augmented military force in Moesia, the Romans were compelled to pay large sums in tribute to the Dacians for maintaining peace. This humiliating situation lasted until Trajan became Emperor in 98. Immediately he began preparations for wars that would expand the Roman Empire to its maximum extent.

[edit] Wars against Emperor Trajan

[edit] First war (101-102)

Decebalus was defeated by the Romans when they invaded Dacia beginning March 25, 101 AD,[7] again in the fortifications of Tapae. After accepting harsh peace conditions including losses in territory,[3] he was left as a client king under a Roman protectorate and a small local garrison.

[edit] Second war (105-106) - The fall of Dacia

Three years later, Decebalus destroyed the small Roman garrison in Dacia, and the Romans were forced again to send reinforcements, and this time Trajan decided to definitively conquer Dacia.

After a long siege of the Dacian Capital, Sarmizegetusa and a few skirmishes in the greater region, the Romans conquered Dacia. Decebalus managed to escape with his family.

[edit] Death of Decebalus

Decebalus' suicidal death, from Trajan's Column

Hunted, having his army defeated and finally cornered by Roman detachments seeking his head, rather than being captured to be exhibited and humiliated at Rome, Decebalus committed suicide by slashing his own throat, as depicted on Trajan's Column (spiral 22, panel b).

It is likely, however, that in the process of dying, Decebalus was captured by a Roman cavalry scout named Tiberius Claudius Maximus from Legio VII Claudia as is claimed on the funerary stele discovered at Gramini in Greece. His head and right hand were then taken to Trajan in "Ranisstorium" (an unidentified Dacian village, perhaps Piatra Craiului) by Claudius Maximus when he was decorated by the emperor, and the trophy sent to Rome where it was thrown on the Gemonian stairs.[8] Tiberius Claudius Maximus' tomb cites two occasions where the legionary was decorated for his part in the Dacian wars, one of which being the acquisition and recovery of Decebalus' head.[9]

[edit] Legacy of Decebalus

Decebalus is considered a national hero in Romania and has been portrayed in numerous literary works, movies (e.g. Dacii, directed by Sergiu Nicolaescu), sculptures, etc. His first known portrait has been preserved on Trajan's Column, the commemorative stone column completed in 113. Trajan's Column depicts the key moments of the last two wars between Dacia and the Roman Empire in carved bas relief. During the 1990s, a team of sculptors carved a 40-meter tall statue of Decebalus from a stone outcrop near the city of Orşova, Romania.

[edit] See also

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ a b c d "De Imperatoribus Romanis" (Assorted Imperial Battle Descriptions). An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2007-11-08. "Battle of Sarmizegetusa (Sarmizegetuza), A.D. 105. During Trajan's reign one of the most important Roman successes was the victory over the Dacians. The first important confrontation between the Romans and the Dacians took place in the year 87 and was initiated by Domitian. The praetorian prefect Cornelius led five or six legions across the Danube on a bridge of ships and advanced towards Banat (in Romania). The Romans were surprised by a Dacian attack at Tapae (near the village of Bucova, in Romania). Legion V Alaude was crushed and Cornelius Fuscus was killed. The victorious general was originally known as Diurpaneus (see Manea, p.109), but after this victory he was called Decebalus (the brave one)."
  2. ^ a b "De Imperatoribus Romanis". Retrieved 2007-11-08. "In the year 88, the Romans resumed the offensive. The Roman troops were now led by the general Tettius Iulianus. The battle took place again at Tapae but this time the Romans defeated the Dacians. For fear of falling into a trap, Iulianus abandoned his plans of conquering Sarmizegetuza and, at the same time, Decebalus asked for peace. At first, Domitian refused this request, but after he was defeated in a war in Pannonia against the Marcomanni (a Germanic tribe), the emperor was obliged to accept the peace."
  3. ^ a b "De Imperatoribus Romanis". Retrieved 2007-11-08. "Although the Dacians had been defeated, the emperor postponed the final siege for the conquering of Sarmizegetuza because his armies needed reorganization. Trajan imposed on the Dacians very hard peace conditions: Decebalus had to renounce claim to some regions of his kingdom, including Banat, Tara Hategului, Oltenia, and Muntenia in the area south-west of Transylvania. He had also to surrender all the Roman deserters and all his war machines. At Rome, Trajan was received as a winner and he took the name of Dacicus, a title that appears on his coinage of this period. At the beginning of the year 103 A.D., there were minted coins with the inscription: IMP NERVA TRAIANVS AVG GER DACICVS."
  4. ^ a b "De Imperatoribus Romanis". Retrieved 2007-11-08. "However, during the years 103-105, Decebalus did not respect the peace conditions imposed by Trajan and the emperor then decided to destroy completely the Dacian kingdom and to conquer Sarmizegetuza."
  5. ^ "Decebalus" means "strong as ten [men]" (cf. Sanskrit daśabala); Dece- being derived from Proto-Indo-European *dekm- ('ten') and -balus from PIE *bel-, 'strong'. Cf. Proto-Albanian *dek(a)t-, from PIE *dekm- (Demiraj, 1999).
  6. ^ Dio Cassius*.html
  7. ^ "Battle of Sarmizegetusa (Sarmizegetuza), A.D. 105". "Because the Dacians represented an obstacle against Roman expansion in the east, in the year 101 the emperor Trajan decided to begin a new campaign against them. The first war began on 25 March 101 and the Roman troops, consisting of four principal legions (X Gemina, XI Claudia, II Traiana Fortis, and XXX Ulpia Victrix), defeated the Dacians."
  8. ^ M Spiedel - JRS 60 page 142-153
  9. ^ "Julian Bennett -Traian

[edit] References

Dacian Falax 



Domitian and Decebalus


 Bust of Domitian, Capitoline Museum, Rome

Titus Flavius Caesar Domitianus Augustus, 14 September, 81 –18 September, 96 

Domitian strengthened the economy by revaluing the Roman coinage, expanded the border defenses of the Empire, and initiated a massive building program to restore the damaged city of Rome. Significant wars were fought in Britain, where his general Agricola attempted to conquer Caledonia (Scotland), and in Dacia, where Domitian was unable to procure a decisive victory against king Decebalus.


Cassius Dio,Roman History,Epitome of Book LXVII

6 At this time the Romans became involved in a very serious war with the Dacians, whose king was then Decebalus. This man was shrewd in his understanding of warfare and shrewd also in the waging of war; he judged well when to attack and chose the right moment to retreat; he was an expert in ambuscades and a master in pitched battles; and he knew not only how to follow up a victory well, but also how to manage well a defeat. Hence he showed himself a worthy antagonist of the Romans for a long time. 2 I call the people Dacians, the names used by the natives themselves as well as by the Romans, though I am not ignorant that some Greek writers refer to them as Getae, whether that is the right form or not; for the Getae of whom I myself know are those that live beyond the Haemus range, along the Ister. 3 Domitian, then, made an expedition against this people, but did not take an active part in the conflict. Instead, he remained in one of the cities of Moesia, indulging in riotous living, as was his wont. For he was not only indolent of body and p331timorous of spirit, but also most profligate and lewd towards women and boys alike. He therefore sent others to conduct the war and for the most part got the worst of it.

5 Decebalus, the king of the Dacians, was making overtures to Domitian, promising him peace; but Domitian sent Fuscus against him with a large force. On learning of this Decebalus sent to him an embassy anew with the insulting proposal to make peace with the emperor, on condition that every Roman should elect to pay two obols to Decebalus each year; otherwise, he declared, he would make war and inflict great ills upon the Romans.

6 Dio . . . Book LXVI . . . . When the soldiers who had made the campaign with Fuscus asked Domitian to lead them.

7  1 Domitian, wishing to requite the Quadi and the Marcomani because they had not assisted him against the Dacians, entered Pannonia with the intention of making war upon them; and he put to death the second group of envoys which had been sent by the enemy to propose terms of peace.

6  4 The same emperor, having been defeated, laid the blame on his commanders. For, though he claimed for himself all the successes, none of which was due to him, yet he blamed others for the reverses, nothing that they had been incurred in consequence of the orders issued by him. p333Indeed, he hated those who succeeded and blamed those who met with reverses.

7  2 Domitian, having been defeated by the Marcomani, took to flight, and hastily sending messages to Decebalus, king of the Dacians, induced him to make a truce, though he himself had hitherto refused to grant one in response to the frequent requests of Decebalus. And so Decebalus accepted his overtures, for he had suffered grievous hardships; yet he did not wish to hold a conference with Domitian personally, but instead sent Diegis with the men, to give him the arms and a few captives, who, he pretended, were the only ones that he had. 3 When this had been done, Domitian placed a diadem on the head of Diegis, just as if he had truly conquered and could give the Dacians anyone he pleased to be their king. To the soldiers he granted honours and money. And, just as if he had won a victory, he sent to Rome, among other things, envoys from Decebalus and also a letter from the king, as he claimed, though rumour declared that he had forged it. 4 He graced the festival that followed with many exhibits appropriate to a triumph, though they came from no booty that he had captured; on the contrary, the truce had cost him something besides his losses, for he had given large sums of money to Decebalus on the spot as well as artisans of every trade pertaining to both peace and war, and had promised to keep on giving large sums in the future. The exhibits which he displayed really came from the store of imperial furniture, which he at all times treated as p335captured spoils, inasmuch as he had enslaved even the empire itself.

8 So many honours were voted to him that almost the whole world (so far as it was under his dominion) was filled with his images and statues constructed of both silver and gold. He also gave a very costly spectacle, in regard to which we have noted nothing that was worthy of historic record except that maidens contended in the foot-race. After this, in the course of holding what purported to be triumphal celebrations, he arranged numerous contests. 2 In the Circus, for example, he exhibited battles of infantry against infantry and again battles between cavalry, and in a new place he produced a naval battle. At this last event practically all the combatants and many of the spectators as well perished. 3 For, though a heavy rain and violent storm came up suddenly, he nevertheless permitted no one to leave the spectacle; and though he himself changed his clothing to thick woollen cloaks, he would not allow the others to change their attire, so that not a few fell sick and died. 4 By way, no doubt, of consoling the people for this, he provided for them at public expense a dinner lasting all night. Often he would conduct the games also at night, and sometimes he would pit dwarfs and women against each other.

9 At this time, then, he feasted the populace as described; and on another occasion he entertained the foremost men among the senators and knights in the following fashion. He prepared a room that was pitch black on every side, ceiling, walls and floor, and had made ready bare couches of the same colour resting on the uncovered floor; then he invited p337in his guests alone at night without their attendants. 2 And first he set beside each of them a slab shaped like a gravestone, bearing the guest's name and also a small lamp, such as hang in tombs. Next comely naked boys, likewise painted black, entered like phantoms, and after encircling the guests in an awe-inspiring dance took up their stations at their feet. 3 After this all the things that are commonly offered at the sacrifices to departed spirits were likewise set before the guests, all of them black and in dishes of a similar colour. Consequently, every single one of the guests feared and trembled and was kept in constant expectation of having his throat cut the next moment, the more so as on the part of everybody but Domitian there was dead silence, as if they were already in the realms of the dead, and the emperor himself conversed only upon topics relating to death and slaughter. 4 Finally he dismissed them; but he had first removed their slaves, who had stood in the vestibule, and now gave his guests in charge of other slaves, whom they did not know, to be conveyed either in carriages or litters, and by this procedure he filled them with far greater fear. And scarcely had each guest reached his home and was beginning to get his breath again, as one might say, when word was brought him that a messenger from the Augustus had come. 5 While they were accordingly expecting to perish this time in any case, one person brought in the slab, which was of silver, and then others in turn brought in various articles, including the dishes that had been set before them at the dinner, which were constructed of very costly material; and last of all came that particular boy p339who had been each guest's familiar spirit, now washed and adorned. Thus, after having passed the entire night in terror, they received the gifts.

6 Thus was the triumphal celebration, or, as the crowd put it, such was the funeral banquet that Domitian held for those who had died in Dacia and in Rome. Even at this time, too, he slew some of the foremost men. And in the case of a certain man who buried the body of one of the victims, he deprived him of his property because it was on his estate that the victim had died.

10 Other events worth recording that took place in the Dacian War are as follows. Julianus, who was appointed by the emperor to conduct the war, made many excellent regulations, one being his order that the soldiers should inscribe their own names as well as those of their centurions upon their shields, in order that those of their number who should perform any particularly good or base deed might be more readily recognized. 2 He encountered the enemy at Tapae, and slew great numbers of them. One of them, Vezinas, who ranked next to Decebalus, finding that he could not get away alive, fell down purposely, as if dead; in this manner he escaped notice and fled during the night. 3 Decebalus, fearing that the Romans, now that they had conquered, would proceed against his royal residence, cut down the trees that were on the site and put armour on the trunks, in order that the Romans might take them for soldiers and so be frightened and withdraw; and this actually happened.

Domitian's Dacian War

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Battle of Tapae (87 AD)
Part of the Dacian Wars
LocationTransylvania, Romania
ResultDacian victory
DaciaRoman Empire
DecebalusCornelius Fuscus
unknown5 or 6 legions
Casualties and losses
Battle of Tapae (88 AD)
Part of the Dacian Wars
LocationTransylvania, Romania
ResultRoman victory, peace
DaciaRoman Empire
DecebalusTettius Iulianus
unknownaround 4 legions
Casualties and losses

The two first battles of Tapae were fought in 87 and 88 AD between the Roman army and the Dacians. They were a consequence of Roman Emperor Domitian's campaign to protect the Roman province of Moesia, nearly two decades before the regional conquest during the Dacian Wars in Trajan's reign. Background

In 86, the Dacian king Duras ordered his troops to attack the Roman province of Moesia on the southern course of the Danube river.

After this attack, the Roman emperor Domitian personally arrived in Moesia, reorganized the province into Moesia Inferior and Moesia Superior, and planned a future attack into Dacia. The battle of 87

Domitian, started a strong offensive against Dacia in 87, ordering General Cornelius Fuscus to attack. Therefore, in the summer of 87, Fuscus along with five or six legions crosses the Danube.

They encountered the Dacian army at Tapae, where the Romans were ambushed, suffering a great defeat. Almost all of the soldiers from Legio V Alaudae were killed, the Dacians captured their flags and war machines, and general Cornelius Fuscus himself was killed in battle.

After this victory, the Dacian king Diurpaneus received the name of Decebalus, meaning the brave or the most powerful.

The battle of 88

The Roman offensive continued the following year, with general Tettius Iulianus having now taking command. The Roman army entered Dacia following the same route Cornelius Fuscus did in the previous year. The battle took place mainly in the same area, at Tapae, this time the outcome being a Roman victory. Because of the difficult road to Sarmizegetusa, the capital of Dacia, and because of several defeats suffered by Domitian in Pannonia, the Roman offensive halted and Decebalus sued for peace.


Following the peace of 89, Decebalus becomes a client king of Rome, receiving money, craftsmen and war machines from the Roman Empire, to defend the empire's borders. Some historians believe this unfavorable peace for the Romans might have been the cause for Domitian's assassination in September 96.[1]

Decebalus, the king of the Dacians, instead of using the money as Rome intended, decided to built new citadels in the mountains, in important strategic points, and to reinforce the existing ones. This was one of the reasons for the Roman attack of 101, under Emperor Trajan.[2]

Notes and references

  1. ^ "De Imperatoribus Romanis" (Assorted Imperial Battle Descriptions). An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2007-11-08. "In the year 88, the Romans resumed the offensive. The Roman troops were now led by the general Tettius Iulianus. The battle took place again at Tapae but this time the Romans defeated the Dacians. For fear of falling into a trap, Iulianus abandoned his plans of conquering Sarmizegetuza and, at the same time, Decebalus asked for peace. At first, Domitian refused this request, but after he was defeated in a war in Pannonia against the Marcomanni (a Germanic tribe), the emperor was obliged to accept the peace."
  2. ^ "De Imperatoribus Romanis" (Assorted Imperial Battle Descriptions). An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. Retrieved 2007-11-08. "Battle of Sarmizegetusa (Sarmizegetuza), A.D. 105. During Trajan's reign one of the most important Roman successes was the victory over the Dacians. The first important confrontation between the Romans and the Dacians took place in the year 87 and was initiated by Domitian. The praetorian prefect Cornelius Fuscus led five or six legions across the Danube on a bridge of ships and advanced towards Banat (in Romania). The Romans were surprised by a Dacian attack at Tapae (near the village of Bucova, in Romania). Legion V Alaude was crushed and Cornelius Fuscus was killed. The victorious general was originally known as Diurpaneus (see Manea, p.109), but after this victory he was called Decebalus (the brave one)."

See also

Dacian Helmets

Dacian helmet design was influenced heavily from the East. The more wealthy soldiers often wore Phrygian style helmets. These were characterized by a foreward facing knobby projection at the top. Their allies, the Sarmatians, were fond of dome-shaped helmets formed from several strips of metal welded together. Presumably, this helmet could also have been worn by the Dacians. The helmets above are depicted on the the base of Trajan's Column.

Related Reference
Check out the journal, Acta Terrae Septemcastrensis. Often discussing Dacian finds (including helmets), this Romanian publication includes many English language articles. Free PDFs are on their website!






 Trajan (Marcus Ulpius Traianus)

Reign: 28 January 98—8 August 117


Dio Cassius would say, "let us not forget that Trajan was a true-born Thracian."

The fights between Trajan and Decebalus were fratricidal wars, and the Thracians were Dacians.

  File:Traianus Glyptothek Munich 336.jpg  In 96 Domitian’s reign came to an end with his death in a palace coup. The reign of Nerva (AD 96-8) marked the beginning of the period known at the “Five Good Emperors”. Nerva chose a soldier, Marcus Ulpius Traianus (AD 98-117), as his heir. Trajan was a provincial, born in Italica in Spain to an Italian father and a Spanish mother of Thracian descent, and had made a career in the military. It was the support of the army that was key to his selection. Trajan was a very aggressive emperor and carried the boundaries of the empire to their greatest extent. Such was the respect that the Romans felt for Trajan that during the next two hundred years the senators always hailed each new emperor by saying: "Reign fortunately as Augustus, and virtuously as Trajan!.“ On October 29-th, 97 the already "acting-Emperor" Trajan, after completing victorious campaigns against Germanic tribes, became enraged at "the opened contempt which Dacians fostered upon Romans" (as says the Roman historian Pliny the Younger), deciding therefore to "beef up" his forces in Moesia Inferior. He ordered a new Roman military camp built near Barbosi-Galatzi, consolidated all the old Pontic fortifications up to the Tyros (Nister) River and moreover, disposed the completion of the ancient highway along the Southern Danube shore as far as the  Cazane mountain defile, this last action is confirmed by so-called "Tabula Trajana" inscription)

 Trajan (A.D. 98-117)

Herbert W. Benario

Emory University

Introduction and Sources

"During a happy period of more than fourscore years, the public administration was conducted by the virtue and abilities of Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, and the two Antonines. It is the design of this and of the two succeeding chapters to describe the prosperous condition of their empire, and afterwards, from the death of Marcus Antoninus, to deduce the most important circumstances of its decline and fall, a revolution which will ever be remembered and is still felt by the nations of the earth." [[1]]

This is perhaps the most important and best known of all Edward Gibbon's famous dicta about his vast subject, and particularly that period which he admired the most. It was a concatenation of chance and events which brought to the first position of the principate five men, each very different from the others, who each, in his own way, brought integrity and a sense of public duty to his tasks. Nerva's tenure was brief, as many no doubt had expected and hoped it would be, and perhaps his greatest achievement was to choose Trajan as his adoptive son and intended successor. It was a splendid choice. Trajan was one of Rome's most admirable figures, a man who merited the renown which he enjoyed in his lifetime and in subsequent generations.

The sources for the man and his principate are disappointingly skimpy. There is no contemporaneous historian who can illuminate the period. Tacitus speaks only occasionally of Trajan, there is no biography by Suetonius, nor even one by the author of the late and largely fraudulent Historia Augusta. (However, a modern version of what such a life might have been like has been composed by A. Birley, entirely based upon ancient evidence. It is very useful.) Pliny the Younger tells us the most, in his Panegyricus, his long address of thanks to the emperor upon assuming the consulship in late 100, and in his letters. Pliny was a wordy and congenial man, who reveals a great deal about his senatorial peers and their relations with the emperor, above all, of course, his own. The most important part is the tenth book of his Epistulae, which contains the correspondence between him, while serving in Bithynia, and the emperor, to whom he referred all manner of problems, important as well as trivial. Best known are the pair (96,97) dealing with the Christians and what was to be done with them. These would be extraordinarily valuable if we could be sure that the imperial replies stemmed directly from Trajan, but that is more than one can claim. The imperial chancellery had developed greatly in previous decades and might pen these communications after only the most general directions from the emperor. The letters are nonetheless unique in the insight they offer into the emperor's mind. [[2]]

Cassius Dio, who wrote in the decade of the 230s, wrote a long imperial history which has survived only in abbreviated form in book LXVIII for the Trajanic period. [[3]] The rhetorician Dio of Prusa, a contemporary of the emperor, offers little of value. Fourth-century epitomators, Aurelius Victor and Eutropius, offer some useful material. Inscriptions, coins, papyri, and legal texts are of major importance. Since Trajan was a builder of many significant projects, archaeology contributes mightily to our understanding of the man.

Early Life and Career

The patria of the Ulpii was Italica, in Spanish Baetica [[4]], where their ancestors had settled late in the third century B.C. This indicates that the Italian origin was paramount, yet it has recently been cogently argued that the family's ancestry was local, with Trajan senior actually a Traius who was adopted into the family of the Ulpii.[[4a]] Trajan's father was the first member of the family to pursue a senatorial career; it proved to be a very successful one. Born probably about the year 30, he perhaps commanded a legion under Corbulo in the early sixties and then was legate of legio X Fretensis under Vespasian, governor of Judaea. Success in the Jewish War was rewarded by the governorship of an unknown province and then a consulate in 70. He was thereafter adlected by the emperor in patricios and sent to govern Baetica. Then followed the governorship of one of the major military provinces, Syria, where he prevented a Parthian threat of invasion, and in 79/80 he was proconsul of Asia, one of the two provinces (the other was Africa) which capped a senatorial career. His public service now effectively over, he lived on in honor and distinction, in all likelihood seeing his son emperor. He probably died before 100. He was deified in 113 and his titulature read divus Traianus pater. Since his son was also the adoptive son of Nerva, the emperor had officially two fathers, a unique circumstance. [[5]]

The son was born in Italica on September 18, 53; his mother was Marcia, who had given birth to a daughter, Ulpia Marciana, five years before the birth of the son. In the mid seventies, he was a legionary legate under his father in Syria. He then married a lady from Nemausus (Nimes) in Gallia Narbonensis, Pompeia Plotina, was quaestor about 78 and praetor about 84. In 86, he became one of the child Hadrian's guardians. He was then appointed legate of legio VII Gemina in Hispania Tarraconensis, from which he marched at Domitian's orders in 89 to crush the uprising of Antonius Saturninus along the Rhine. He next fought in Domitian's war against the Germans along Rhine and Danube and was rewarded with an ordinary consulship in 91. Soon followed the governorship of Moesia inferior and then that of Germania superior, with his headquarters at Moguntiacum (Mainz), whither Hadrian brought him the news in autumn 97 that he had been adopted by the emperor Nerva, as co-ruler and intended successor. Already recipient of the title imperator and possessor of the tribunician power, when Nerva died on January 27, 98, Trajan became emperor in a smooth transition of power which marked the next three quarters of a century.

Early Years through the Dacian Wars

Trajan did not return immediately to Rome. He chose to stay in his German province and settle affairs on that frontier. He showed that he approved Domitian's arrangements, with the establishment of two provinces, their large military garrisons, and the beginnings of the limes. [[6]] Those who might have wished for a renewed war of conquest against the Germans were disappointed. The historian Tacitus may well have been one of these. [[7]]

Trajan then visited the crucial Danube provinces of Pannonia and Moesia, where the Dacian king Decebalus had caused much difficulty for the Romans and had inflicted a heavy defeat upon a Roman army about a decade before. Domitian had established a modus vivendi with Decebalus, essentially buying his good behavior, but the latter had then continued his activities hostile to Rome. Trajan clearly thought that this corner of empire would require his personal attention and a lasting and satisfactory solution. [[8]]

Trajan spent the year 100 in Rome, seeing to the honors and deification of his predecessor, establishing good and sensitive relations with the senate, in sharp contrast with Domitian's "war against the senate." [[9]] Yet his policies essentially continued Domitian's; he was no less master of the state and the ultimate authority over individuals, but his good nature and respect for those who had until recently been his peers if not his superiors won him great favor. [[10]] He was called optimus by the people and that word began to appear among his titulature, although it had not been decreed by the senate. Yet his thoughts were ever on the Danube. Preparations for a great campaign were under way, particularly with transfers of legions and their attendant auxiliaries from Germany and Britain and other provinces and the establishment of two new ones, II Traiana and XXX Ulpia, which brought the total muster to 30, the highest number yet reached in the empire's history.

In 101 the emperor took the field. The war was one which required all his military abilities and all the engineering and discipline for which the Roman army was renowned. Trajan was fortunate to have Apollodorus of Damascus in his service, who built a roadway through the Iron Gates by cantilevering it from the sheer face of the rock so that the army seemingly marched on water. He was also to build a great bridge across the Danube, with 60 stone piers (traces of this bridge still survive). When Trajan was ready to move he moved with great speed, probably driving into the heart of Dacian territory with two columns, until, in 102, Decebalus chose to capitulate. He prostrated himself before Trajan and swore obedience; he was to become a client king. Trajan returned to Rome and added the title Dacicus to his titulature.

Decebalus, however, once left to his own devices, undertook to challenge Rome again, by raids across the Danube into Roman territory and by attempting to stir up some of the tribes north of the river against her. Trajan took the field again in 106, intending this time to finish the job of Decebalus' subjugation. It was a brutal struggle, with some of the characteristics of a war of extirpation, until the Dacian king, driven from his capital of Sarmizegethusa and hunted like an animal, chose to commit suicide rather than to be paraded in a Roman triumph and then be put to death.

The war was over. It had taxed Roman resources, with 11 legions involved, but the rewards were great. Trajan celebrated a great triumph, which lasted 123 days and entertained the populace with a vast display of gladiators and animals. The land was established as a province, the first on the north side of the Danube. Much of the native population which had survived warfare was killed or enslaved, their place taken by immigrants from other parts of the empire. The vast wealth of Dacian mines came to Rome as war booty, enabling Trajan to support an extensive building program almost everywhere, but above all in Italy and in Rome. In the capital, Apollodorus designed and built in the huge forum already under construction a sculpted column, precisely 100 Roman feet high, with 23 spiral bands filled with 2500 figures, which depicted, like a scroll being unwound, the history of both Dacian wars. It was, and still is, one of the great achievements of imperial "propaganda." [[11]] In southern Dacia, at Adamklissi, a large tropaeum was built on a hill, visible from a great distance, as a tangible statement of Rome's domination. Its effect was similar to that of Augustus' monument at La Turbie above Monaco; both were constant reminders for the inhabitants who gazed at it that they had once been free and were now subjects of a greater power. [[12]]

Administration and Social Policy

The chief feature of Trajan's administration was his good relations with the senate, which allowed him to accomplish whatever he wished without general opposition. His auctoritas was more important than his imperium. At the very beginning of Trajan's reign, the historian Tacitus, in the biography of his father-in-law Agricola, spoke of the newly won compatibility of one-man rule and individual liberty established by Nerva and expanded by Trajan (Agr. 3.1, primo statim beatissimi saeculi ortu Nerva Caesar res olim dissociabiles miscuerit, principatum ac libertatem, augeatque cotidie felicitatem temporum Nerva Traianus,….) [13] At the end of the work, Tacitus comments, when speaking of Agricola's death, that he had forecast the principate of Trajan but had died too soon to see it (Agr. 44.5, ei non licuit durare in hanc beatissimi saeculi lucem ac principem Traianum videre, quod augurio votisque apud nostras aures ominabatur,….) Whether one believes that principate and liberty had truly been made compatible or not, this evidently was the belief of the aristocracy of Rome. Trajan, by character and actions, contributed to this belief, and he undertook to reward his associates with high office and significant promotions. During his principate, he himself held only 6 consulates, while arranging for third consulates for several of his friends. Vespasian had been consul 9 times, Titus 8, Domitian 17! In the history of the empire there were only 12 or 13 privati who reached the eminence of third consulates. Agrippa had been the first, L. Vitellius the second. Under Trajan there were 3: Sex. Iulius Frontinus (100), T. Vestricius Spurinna (100), and L. Licinius Sura (107). There were also 10 who held second consulships: L. Iulius Ursus Servianus (102), M.' Laberius Maximus (103), Q. Glitius Atilius Agricola (103), P. Metilius Sabinus Nepos (103?), Sex. Attius Suburanus Aemilianus (104), Ti. Iulius Candidus Marius Celsus (105), C. Antius A. Iulius Quadratus (105), Q. Sosius Senecio (107), A. Cornelius Palma Frontonianus (109), and L. Publilius Celsus (113). These men were essentially his close associates from pre-imperial days and his prime military commanders in the Dacian wars.

One major administrative innovation can be credited to Trajan. This was the introduction of curatores who, as representatives of the central government, assumed financial control of local communities, both in Italy and the provinces. Pliny in Bithynia is the best known of these imperial officials. The inexorable shift from freedmen to equestrians in the imperial ministries continued, to culminate under Hadrian, [[14]] and he devoted much attention and considerable state resources to the expansion of the alimentary system, which purposed to support orphans throughout Italy. [[15]] The splendid arch at Beneventum represents Trajan as a civilian emperor, with scenes of ordinary life and numerous children depicted, which underscored the prosperity of Italy. [[16]]

The satirist Juvenal, a contemporary of the emperor, in one of his best known judgments, laments that the citizen of Rome, once master of the world, is now content only with "bread and circuses."

Nam qui dabat olim / imperium, fasces, legiones, omnia, nunc se / continet, atque duas tantum res anxius optat, / panem et circenses. (X 78-81)

Trajan certainly took advantage of that mood, indeed exacerbated it, by improving the reliabilty of the grain supply (the harbor at Ostia and the distribution system as exemplified in the Mercati in Rome). [[17]] Fronto did not entirely approve, if indeed he approved at all. [[18]] The plebs esteemed the emperor for the glory he had brought Rome, for the great wealth he had won which he turned to public uses, and for his personality and manner. Though emperor, he prided himself upon being civilis, a term which indicated comportment suitable for a Roman citizen. [[19]]

There was only one major addition to the Rome's empire other than Dacia in the first decade and a half of Trajan's reign. This was the province of Arabia, which followed upon the absorption of the Nabataean kingdom (105-106). [[20]]

Building Projects

Trajan had significant effect upon the infrastructure of both Rome and Italy. His greatest monument in the city, if the single word "monument" can effectively describe the complex, was the forum which bore his name, much the largest, and the last, of the series known as the "imperial fora." Excavation for a new forum had already begun under Domitian, but it was Apollodorus who designed and built the whole. Enormous in its extent, the Basilica Ulpia was the centerpiece, the largest wood roofed building in the Roman world. In the open courtyard before it was an equestrian statue of Trajan, behind it was the column; there were libraries, one for Latin scrolls, the other for Greek, on each side. A significant omission was a temple; this circumstance was later rectified by Hadrian, who built a large temple to the deified Trajan and Plotina.

The column was both a history in stone and the intended mausoleum for the emperor, whose ashes were indeed placed in the column base. An inscription over the doorway, somewhat cryptic because part of the text has disappeared, reads as follows:

Senatus populusque Romanus imp. Caesari divi Nervae f. Nervae Traiano Aug. Germ. Dacico pontif. Maximo trib. pot. XVII imp. VI p.p. ad declarandum quantae altitudinis mons et locus tant[is oper]ibus sit egestus

(Smallwood 378)

On the north side of the forum, built into the slopes of the Quirinal hill, were the Markets of Trajan, which served as a shopping mall and the headquarters of the annona, the agency responsible for the receipt and distribution of grain. [[21]]

On the Esquiline hill was constructed the first of the huge imperial baths, using a large part of Nero'sDomus Aurea as its foundations. On the other side of the river a new aqueduct was constructed, which drew its water from Lake Bracciano and ran some 60 kilometers to the heights of the Janiculum Hill. It was dedicated in 109. A section of its channel survives in the basement of the American Academy in Rome. [[22]]

The arch in Beneventum is the most significant monument elsewhere in Italy. It was dedicated in 114, to mark the beginning of the new Via Traiana, which offered an easier route to Brundisium than that of the ancient Via Appia. [[23]]

Trajan devoted much attention to the construction and improvement of harbors. His new hexagonal harbor at Ostia at last made that port the most significant in Italy, supplanting Puteoli, so that henceforth the grain ships docked there and their cargo was shipped by barge up the Tiber to Rome. Terracina benefited as well from harbor improvements, and the Via Appia now ran directly through the city along a new route, with some 130 Roman feet of sheer cliff being cut away so that the highway could bend along the coast. Ancona on the Adriatic Sea became the major harbor on that coast for central Italy in 114-115, and Trajan's activity was commemorated by an arch. The inscription reports that the senate and people dedicated it to the providentissimo principi quod accessum Italiae hoc etiam addito ex pecunia sua portu tutiorem navigantibus reddiderit (Smallwood 387). Centumcellae, the modern Civitavecchia, also profited from a new harbor. The emperor enjoyed staying there, and on at least one occasion summoned his consilium there. [[24]]

Elsewhere in the empire the great bridge at Alcantara in Spain, spanning the Tagus River, still in use, [[25]] testifies to the significant attention the emperor gave to the improvement of communication throughout his entire domain.

Family Relations; the Women

After the death of his father, Trajan had no close male relatives. His life was as closely linked with his wife and female relations as that of any of his predecessors; these women played enormously important roles in the empire's public life, and received honors perhaps unparalleled. His wife, Pompeia Plotina, is reported to have said, when she entered the imperial palace in Rome for the first time, that she hoped she would leave it the same person she was when she entered. [[26]] She received the title Augusta no later than 105. She survived Trajan, dying probably in 121, and was honored by Hadrian with a temple, which she shared with her husband, in the great forum which the latter had built.

His sister Marciana, five years his elder, and he shared a close affection. She received the title Augusta, along with Plotina, in 105 and was deified in 112 upon her death. Her daughter Matidia became Augusta upon her mother's death, and in her turn was deified in 119. Both women received substantial monuments in the Campus Martius, there being basilicas of each and a temple of divae Matidiae. Hadrian was responsible for these buildings, which were located near the later temple of the deified Hadrian, not far from the column of Marcus Aurelius. [[27]]

Matidia's daughter, Sabina, was married to Hadrian in the year 100. The union survived almost to the end of Hadrian's subsequent principate, in spite of the mutual loathing that they had for each other. Sabina was Trajan's great niece, and thereby furnished Hadrian a crucial link to Trajan.

The women played public roles as significant as any of their predecessors. They traveled with the emperor on public business and were involved in major decisions. They were honored throughout the empire, on monuments as well as in inscriptions. Plotina, Marciana, and Matidia, for example, were all honored on the arch at Ancona along with Trajan. [[28]]

The Parthian War

In 113, Trajan began preparations for a decisive war against Parthia. He had been a "civilian" emperor for seven years, since his victory over the Dacians, and may well have yearned for a last, great military achievement, which would rival that of Alexander the Great. Yet there was a significant cause for war in the Realpolitik of Roman-Parthian relations, since the Parthians had placed a candidate of their choice upon the throne of Armenia without consultation and approval of Rome. When Trajan departed Rome for Antioch, in a leisurely tour of the eastern empire while his army was being mustered, he probably intended to destroy at last Parthia's capabilities to rival Rome's power and to reduce her to the status of a province (or provinces). It was a great enterprise, marked by initial success but ultimate disappointment and failure.

In 114 he attacked the enemy through Armenia and then, over three more years, turned east and south, passing through Mesopotamia and taking Babylon and the capital of Ctesiphon. He then is said to have reached the Persian Gulf and to have lamented that he was too old to go further in Alexander's footsteps. In early 116 he received the title Parthicus.

The territories, however, which had been handily won, were much more difficult to hold. Uprisings among the conquered peoples, and particularly among the Jews in Palestine and the Diaspora, caused him to gradually resign Roman rule over these newly-established provinces as he returned westward. The revolts were brutally suppressed. In mid 117, Trajan, now a sick man, was slowly returning to Italy, having left Hadrian in command in the east, when he died in Selinus of Cilicia on August 9, having designated Hadrian as his successor while on his death bed. Rumor had it that Plotina and Matidia were responsible for the choice, made when the emperor was already dead. Be that as it may, there was no realistic rival to Hadrian, linked by blood and marriage to Trajan and now in command of the empire's largest military forces. Hadrian received notification of his designation on August 11, and that day marked his dies imperii. Among Hadrian's first acts was to give up all of Trajan's eastern conquests.

Trajan's honors and reputation

Hadrian saw to it that Trajan received all customary honors: the late emperor was declared a divus, his victories were commemorated in a great triumph, and his ashes were placed in the base of his column. Trajan's reputation remained unimpaired, in spite of the ultimate failure of his last campaigns. Early in his principate, he had unofficially been honored with the title optimus, "the best," which long described him even before it became, in 114, part of his official titulature. His correspondence with Pliny enables posterity to gain an intimate sense of the emperor in action. His concern for justice and the well-being of his subjects is underscored by his comment to Pliny, when faced with the question of the Christians, that they were not to be sought out, "nor is it appropriate to our age." [[29]] At the onset of his principate, Tacitus called Trajan's accession the beginning of a beatissimum saeculum, [[30]] and so it remained in the public mind. Admired by the people, respected by the senatorial aristocracy, he faced no internal difficulties, with no rival nor opposition. His powers were as extensive as Domitian's had been, but his use and display of these powers were very different from those of his predecessor, who had claimed to be deus et dominus. Not claiming to be a god, he was recognized in the official iconography of sculpture as Jupiter's viceregent on earth, so depicted on the attic reliefs of the Beneventan arch. [[31]] The passage of time increased Trajan's aura rather than diminished it. In the late fourth century, when the Roman Empire had dramatically changed in character from what it had been in Trajan's time, each new emperor was hailed with the prayer, felicior Augusto, melior Traiano, "may he be luckier than Augustus and better than Trajan." [[32]] That reputation has essentially survived into the present day. 



  Hadrian, or ADRIAN (in full CAESAR TRAIANUS HADRIANUS AUGUSTUS) was (until AD 117) PUBLIUS AELIUS HADRIANUS (b. Jan. 24, AD 76, Italica, Baetica [now in Spain]--d. July 10, 138, Baiae [Baia], near Naples [Italy]).
The family of Hadrian came from southern Spain but he bears the stamp of education in cosmopolitan Rome.
When Trajan was consul in 91, Hadrian began to follow the traditional career of a Roman senator, advancing through a conventional series of posts. In 101 Hadrian was quaestor  and “Comes expeditiones Dacicae” and in 102 served as Trajan's companion in the Emperor's first war in Dacia on the Danube. In 105 Hadrian became tribune of the plebs and, exceptionally, advanced to the praetorship in 106. No less exceptional than the speed of promotion was Hadrian's service as praetor while in the field with the emperor during the second Dacian war. In 107 he was briefly governor of Lower Pannonia.

Hadrian was involved in the wars against the Dacians (as legate of the V Macedonica) and reputedly won awards from Trajan for his successes. Hadrian's military skill is not well attested due to a lack of military action during his reign; however, his keen interest and knowledge of the army and his demonstrated skill of leadership show possible strategic talent.

From well before his reign, Hadrian displayed a keen interest in architecture, but it seems that his eagerness was not always well received. For example, Apollodorus of Damascus, famed architect of the Forum of Trajan, dismissed his designs. When Trajan, predecessor to Hadrian, consulted Apollodorus about an architectural problem, Hadrian interrupted to give advice, to which Apollodorus replied, "Go away and draw your pumpkins. You know nothing about these problems." "Pumpkins" refers to Hadrian's drawings of domes like the Serapeum in his villa. It is rumoured that once Hadrian succeeded Trajan to become emperor, he had Apollodorus exiled and later put to death.


Appolodorus of Damascus Bridge over the Danube





  Apollodorus of Damascus was a Greek engineer, architect, designer and sculptor active at the end of the 1st century and the beginning of the  2nd century. He was born in Damascus, the Roman province of Syria and was a favorite of Trajan, for whom he constructed Trajan's Bridge over the Danube for the 105 campaign in Dacia. He also designed the Forum Trajanum and Trajan's Column within the city of Rome.  Apollodorus also designed the triumphal arches at Beneventum and Ancona. He is also widely credited as the architect of the Pantheon.
Trajan's Column, in the centre of the Forum, is celebrated as being the first triumphal monument of its kind. On the accession of Hadrian, whom he had offended by ridiculing his performances as architect and artist, Apollodorus was banished and, shortly afterwards, being charged with imaginary crimes, put to death (Dio Cassius lxix. 4 ) 

Trajan's bridge
's Bridge was the first bridge built on the lower Danube river, east from the Iron Gates, near what is now the city of Drobeta-Turnu Severin, Romania. The bridge was built to provide supplies for the Roman legions that were fighting in Dacia.

The Danube is 800 meters wide at the location of the bridge. The bridge extended past the river banks for a total length of 1135 meters. It was 15 meters wide and 19 meters above the water. Each end of the bridge was guarded by a Roman castrum: crossing could be made only by walking through the castrum.

The engineer, Apollodorus of Damascus, used wooden arches set on twenty masonry pillars (made with bricks, mortar and pozzolana cement) that spanned 52-meters each. However, the way it was built — in such a short time (103-105) — is still a mystery and it is thought that the course of the Danube may have been diverted during the construction.

A memorial plaque that commemorates Trajan's victory against the Dacians is located on the Serbian side facing Romania.

The bridge was destroyed by Aurelian, after the Roman Empire withdrew its troops from Dacia. It was for more than a thousand years the longest bridge that had ever been built.

The twenty pillars could still be seen in the year 1856, when the level of the Danube hit a record low. In 1906 the International Commission of the Danube decided to destroy two of the pillars that were obstructing navigation. In 19321982 only 12 were mapped by archeologists, as probably four were swept away by water in the meantime. Nowadays, only the first pillars can be seen on the banks of the Danube. there were 16 remaining pillars underwater, but in

Last updated: 08-04-2005 19:07:21
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Trajan 98-117 CE Æ Sestertius Struck 103-111 (33mm, 25.15 g)
Obv: Laureate Bust right, drapery on far shoulder. IMP CAES NERVAE TRAIANO AVG GER DAC PM TRP COS V PP Rev: The Danube standing left, placing knee on Dacia, whom he forces to the ground. CNG Electronic Auction 120, Lot# 131 Ex:Tony Hardy Collection.This may refer to the spanning of the Danube by a bridge. The Danube was a natural barrier protecting Dacia. Once crossed and fortified, the Danube became in essence a Roman ally.



Decebalus and Pacorus, Parthian King

Decebalus and Pacorus Parthian King 


The successor of Volagases I. was Pacorus, whom most writers on Parthian history have regarded as his son.  We know absolutely nothing of this Pacorus except that he gave encouragement to a person who pretended to be Nero; that he enlarged and beautified Ctesiphon; that he held friendly communications with Decebalus, the great Dacian chief, who was successively the adversary of Domitian and Trajan; and that he sold the sovereignty of Osrhoene at a high price to the Edessene prince who was contemporary with him.  The communication with the Dacian chief was most likely earlier.


 The Dacians, in one of those incursions into Moesia which they made during the first years of Domitian, took captive a certain Callidromus, a Greek, if we may judge by his name, slave to a Roman of some rank, named Liberius Maximus.


This prisoner Decebalus (we are told) sent as a present to Pacorus, in whose service and favor he remained for a number of years. This circumstance, insignificant enough in itself, acquires an interest from the indication which it gives of intercommunication between the enemies of Rome, even when they were separated by vast spaces, and might have been thought to have been wholly ignorant of each other's existence.


Decebalus can scarcely have been drawn to Pacorus by any other attraction than that which always subsists between enemies of any great dominant power. He must have looked to the Parthian monarch as a friend who might make a diversion on his behalf upon occasion; and that monarch, by accepting his gift, must be considered to have shown a willingness to accept this kind of relation. 



  Sellwood Type 73

PDC 5557Pacorus II (c. A.D. 78 - 105)

AR Tetradrachm, 14.11 g

Mint/ Seleucia, A.D. 77/78, month unknown

Obv/ beardless bare-headed bust left wearing diadem with loop at the top and two ends visible; behind head broken-bar Α

Rev/ king enthroned left receiving diadem from Tyche with scepter; Greek legend [ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ Β]ΑΣΙΛΕΩ[Ν] / ΑΡΣΑ[ΚΟΥ] ΠΑΚΟΡ[ΟΥ] / ΔΙΚΑΙΟ[Υ] / ΕΠΙΦΑ[ΝΟΥΣ ΦΙΛΕΛΛΗΝΟΣ] with date ΘΠΤ = 389 Seleucid Era above the diadem; Month in exergue off flan

Photo/ by permission Classical Numismatic Group

- Sellwood 73.2





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