Now a ruin, but once the centre of a great civilisation that made even the Romans tremble. Sarmizegetusa was the capital of the Ancient Dacian Empire, both the administrative and spiritual heart of the Dacians, the Romanian forefathers.
The Dacians were a noble people, many historians will say. Herodotus the Greek, father of modern day History, called them the bravest and noblest of the Thracians; They were cousins of the well-known Celts, both spiritual and warlike people.
The empire was centered around the Carpathians, but their influence spread much further. Due to their complex society and the belief that their souls were immortal, they were appealing in diplomacy and feared on the battlefield. There were a lot of instances where the Dacians interfered in other nations’ politics.
Burebista, the strongest of the Dacian kings, tried to help Pompey to become Emperor of Rome, but unfortunately failed and turned the wrath of Rome towards its neighbour. This happened after Burebista moved the capital, from Argedava – from the plains – where it was difficult to defend it, to Orastie Mountains. He built a capital complex like no other.
But let’s leave the story of the Dacian king and focus on the capital.
Behold the capital!
The new capital, Sarmizegetusa was composed of 6 citadel complexes, 1200 m high in the mountains. They were spread on a mountain pass that protected the road from the agricultural fields in the south to the gold rich mountains in the north. This site is a UNESCO heritage site with much energy and mystery to be discovered.
Due to close connection with the Romans and Greeks, the architecture was influenced a lot; the complex had fortresses, sacred zones – very similar to Stonehenge, sundials and artificial terraces. This meant that in the capital there was a high standard of living. Only the tarabostes (the nobles, the people that were allowed to cover their hair) lived here; they were accompanied by military leaders and spiritual leaders.
The complex was besieged by Romans in the wars of the beginning of the second century AD. Trajan, one of the last great figures of Roman Emperors, conquered part of Dacia around 106 AD, ending almost one and a half centuries of struggle between the two nations. The defences were thorned down and were lost in time. Only the new capital, meant to guard the safety of the Dacian gold, kept the legacy of Sarmizegetusa Regia. It was called the Roman conqueror Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa (a crown jewel of the conquest). To understand how important this conquest was (for the gold resources and for keeping at bay an enemy that was bold enough to interfere in Roman affairs), imagine that the Roman military strength was 3 times more numerous than that of the Dacians. And the Romans had superior technology and professional armies.
About the complex all was lost, due to time and to the awkward political situation of the area. The ancestry of the people wasn’t liked by the Cumans, Hungarians or Austrians that held these lands. So, only at the beginning of the 19th century (some 1800 years later) the first excavations were made. And after the unification of Romania, in 1924 the site was excavated extensively, uncovering many artifacts and complex irrigation and plumbing systems.
The best part of the Capital city of Sarmizegetusa Regia is not the physical aspect, but the energy of the past. You can almost feel the heart of the extinct empire, still beating.
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