The Carpathian-Danube region, modern day Romania, was settled about 2000 BC by migratory Indo-Europeans who intermingled with native Neolithic peoples to form the Thracians.
When Ionians and Dorians settled on the western shore of the Black Sea in the 7th century BC, the Thracians' descendants came into contact with the Greek world. To the Greeks, the Dacian people were known as the Getae, but later the Romans would call them the Daci.
The Dacians had attained a considerable degree of civilization when they first became known to the Romans. A Dacian Kingdom was in existence at least as early as the beginning of the 2nd century BC under a king Oroles. In the late 2nd Century BC, conflicts with the Bastarnae and alliances with the Scordisci and Dardani in Illyricum and Pannonia against Rome had greatly weakened the resources of the Dacians.
Later, under King Boerebista, who came to power around 70 BC, the Dacian army was completely reorganized and he raised the moral standard of the people. The limits of the kingdom were extended forming a Dacian empire; the Bastarnae and Boii were conquered, and several Greek cities on the Euxine fell into his hands. The Dacians appeared so formidable that Caesar contemplated an expedition against them, which was prevented by his death in 44 BC.
About the same time Boerebista himself was murdered, and the kingdom was divided into four or five parts under separate rulers. With the rise of Augustus and Roman conquests in the Balkans, the Dacians recognized Roman supremacy. They were by no means subdued, however, and took every opportunity to cross the frozen Danube and ravage the province of Moesia.
King Decebalus came to power in the late 1st Century AD and re-centralized Dacian government. In 85 AD he invaded Roman Moesia with a considerable army and enjoyed some early victories. The Romans, during the reign of Emperor Domitian eventually repulsed the invasion and pushed deep into Dacian territory. Defeats in the west to the German tribe, the Marcomanni, forced Domitian to sue for peace with Dacia and they were left with relative independence provided they pay annual tributes to Rome.
The Emperor Trajan, seeking to put an end to this arrangement, resolved to crush the Dacians once and for all. He launched a campaign in 101 AD resulting in victories at Tapae in 101 and Hulpe in 102 AD. With the occupation of the Dacian capital Sarmizegethusa and the surrounding country, Trajan was satisfied with Dacian subservience and the expedition came to a close.
Decebalus was not yet defeated, however, and in 105 AD the Dacians retook their capital and again ravaged Moesia. Trajan responded with a second campaign from 105 to 107 AD. This campaign resulted in a successful two pronged assault on Sarmizegethusa, the destruction of the Dacian army and the suicide of King Decebalus. With Trajan's conquests, the Roman frontier was extended to the Carpathians and the Dniester, pushing the borders of the Roman Empire to its greatest extent.
In 129 AD, under Hadrian, Dacia was divided into Dacia Superior and Inferior, the former comprising Transylvania, the latter Little Walachia. The Roman hold on the country was still tenuous, however. Conscious of the difficulty of retaining it, Hadrian contemplated its abandonment and was only deterred by consideration for the safety of the numerous Roman settlers.
In an attempt to bring greater governmental authority to the province, Marcus Aurelius divided it into three provinces (tres Daciae): Porolissensis, Apulensis and Maluensis. The tres Daciae had a common capital, Sarmizegethusa, and a common government, which discussed provincial affairs, formulated complaints and controlled taxation; but in other respects they were practically independent provinces, each under an ordinary procurator, subordinate to a governor of consular rank.
Located on the eastern and northern frontier of the Empire, Dacia was under constant threat from migratory Germanic and Sarmatian tribes. Roman control of the native populations was kept in check due only to a constant military presence. Dacia was a permanent garrison of Legio V Macedonia, which later in 185 AD, was awarded the title Pia Fidelis (loyal and faithful) by Emperor Commodus. Legio XIII Gemina was also garrisoned in Dacia and both Legions were involved in Trajan's original conquest of the region. By the mid 3rd century AD, the province was untenable for Rome and was left to the Goths by Aurelian in 270 AD. Later still, Constantine brought it back symbolically under Roman rule through allied Visigoths, but it was never again garrisoned by Roman legions.
The main occupation of the Dacian people was that of agriculture. The Dacians cultivated cereals, fruit trees, wheat and vines. They also raised large herds of cattle and sheep and were known for apiculture (beekeeping). Dacian horses were also highly respected and sought after for military use. The local deposits of iron were first exploited around the 8th century BC, and gold and silver were found in great quantities in the Western Carpathians. After Trajan's conquest, he brought back to Rome over 165 tons of gold and 330 tons of silver. Salt and timber were additional exports of Dacia.
Tribes of Dacia
The Dacians were related to the Thracians although mixed with Germanics, Sarmatians and later Romans, all living in an area covered largely by modern Romania, including Transylvania and the Banat. Aside from the Daci, from whence Dacia was given its name, the most well known tribes were:
- The Apuli who lived in central Transylvania;
- The Buridavenses in northern Moldavia;
- The Costoboci in northern and north-eastern Dacia, reaching the territory of modern Ukraine and Moldova;
- The Carpi were east of the Carpathians and west of the Dnestr River. The name of the Carpathian Mountains derives, probably, from the name of this tribe;
- The Calipizi between the Dnestr and the Bug rivers;
- The Crobobizi and the Trizi in Dobruja;
- The Tyragetae near the mouth of the river Tyras (Dnestr);
- The Suci near the mouth of the river Olt.
Dacia was also a home to several migratory peoples like the Sarmatian Alanni and Roloxani, and the Germanic Bastarnae and Goths.
The province was subject to a complex Romanization process and its basic element was the adoption of the Latin language. The Romanians are today the only descendants of the Eastern Roman stock; therefore, the Romanian language is one of the major heirs of the Latin language, together with French, Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.