Consolidation and Organization

'Universa Dacia devicta est';[17]17. AÉ 1934/2. the troublesome Dacians were definitively subdued by Trajan in the late summer of 106. Following the triumphal parade in Rome, the head of the Dacian king Decebalus was put on public display on the Gemonia steps, and celebratory games were staged in the Colosseum; commemorative coins were struck bearing the words DACIA CAPTA. The former kingdom's territory was occupied by Roman troops. Most of the Dacian royal treasure has been buried in the bed of a brook called Sargetia (Sztrigy), but a Dacian nobleman, Bikilis, betrayed the secret to the Romans. Part of loot was distributed among Trajan's commanders and soldiers, and Roman citizens; another part paid for the cost of the games, which lasted for 123 days, and for gilding the statues at Rome's new forum. Yet another, substantial part of the treasure was donated by the grateful emperor to the shrine of Jupiter Casios at Pelusion, in Asia Minor. Even so, the Romans did not get all of the Dacian kings' treasure, for in the mid-1500s, some 40,000 Lysimacian gold pieces (weighing 340 kg) were discovered in the bed of the Sztrigy brook, near the onetime Dacian capital; the find came into the ownership of György Fráter, and then of Giovanni Castaldo.

The Dacian campaigns were the first occasion when Roman armies crossed the empire's fortified frontier (which stretched from the North Sea to the Black Sea) with the objective of annihilating an enemy and permanently occupying its territory. The plan entailed turning the Dacian lands into a Roman province, but subsequently there would be much debate over the necessity of preserving this status.

{1-62.} The organization of the province proceeded at a rapid pace under its first governor, D. Terentius Scaurianus, legatus Augusti pro praetore. Coins, minted in 112, and bearing the inscription DACIA AUGUSTI PROVINCIA, indicate that the task was completed while he was in office. The early, key measures taken by Scaurianus included a population census, a land survey, the marking of frontiers, the organization of military defences, and the construction of a secure road network to link the military camps.

By the beginning of the 2nd century, the empire's European provinces had a limes, a fortified boundary. Legions and auxiliary units were deployed along fluvial borders (the Rhine and the Danube); elsewhere, such as in Raetia and southern Germania, arrow-straight, defensive earthworks were constructed, even over hilly terrain. But Dacia's mountains and rivers generally did not facilitate either method. It took some ten years before an adequate defensive line of military camps was completed across the mountains, passes, and rivers. The camps on the province's perimeter also marked the limits of the empire. Their location was affected by foreign policy considerations, i.e., defence against possible attack from the new province's neighbours. These included independent Dacians tribes, Sarmatian Jazyges to the west, and Sarmatian Roxolani to the east. More archaeological investigation is required to uncover the early history of the fortified line, particularly in the eastern Banat, Oltenia, and Wallachia. After the Dacian wars, some of the land north of the Danube — eastern Oltenia, Wallachia, perhaps even south Moldavia — was under the supervision of the Romans' Lower Moesian army, and not their Dacian army. Thus, for example, the area (later part of Dacia) that stretched from Turnu Severin to the Olt and the southern flank of the Carpathians was garrisoned by the Lower Moesian army in the period between the end of the war and the final administrative delineation (118 A.D.). Contrary to the earlier assumption that the Banat was supervised by the Upper Moesian army, it is now known that until 118–119, a {1-63.} Dacian legion, IIII Flavia, was stationed at Bersovia (Zsidovin, Berzovia), which means that in the early years of the province, eastern Banat was under the supervision of the Dacian army. The other legion in the occupying army was the XIII Gemina. Since we know that at a later date it was stationed at Apulum (Gyulafehérvár, Alba Iulia), it is likely this 6,000-strong legion, the core of the province's defence force, was based from the start at that central Transylvanian location. A future excavation at its castrum may reveal some details of this legion's early history.

Thus in the early years of the province of Dacia, at least two legions were stationed there. This meant, in Roman practice, that the governor of Dacia was nominated from among the senators who had previously served in the highest public office, that of consul.

Apart from the legions, the military protectors of the province included a large number of auxiliary units, each of them normally numbering 500 or 1000 armed men. At first, the camps' perimeter defences consisted — as in other provinces — of earthworks and palisades. The defensive structure was completed by the 120s. The construction of the camps and of the connecting roads proceeded simultaneously. The army began to build roads as soon as the province's organization got under way, for the easy movement of reinforcements was particularly important in a territory that reached deep into the Barbaricum. In northern Transylvania, the road between Potaissa (Torda, Turda) and Napoca (Kolozsvár, Cluj-Napoca) was completed by 109–110 A.D., according to the epigraph on a milestone unearthed at Ajtony (Aiton). Communication with the more central part of the empire was assured by the stone bridge at Drobeta (Turnu-Severin), erected in the interval between the two campaigns, and, farther west, by a pontoon bridge at Lederata (Palanka).

Veterans of the Dacian wars were settled by Trajan in the province's principal town, Colonia Dacica (the former Sarmizegethusa). In order to repopulate the region, Trajan — in the {1-64.} words of Eutropius, a historian in late Antiquity — moved large numbers of people from all corners of the empire into Dacia. The resettlement is evoked by a coin minted at the time of the province's official foundation: the obverse bears a female figure, personifying Dacia, holding children on her lap.

The province of Dacia was barely established when, in 107–108, war broke out on its western border. All that is known is that the governor of Lower Pannonia (and future emperor), Hadrian, waged war on the Sarmatian Jazyges (located between the Danube and the Tisza and east of the Tisza), even though they had been allied with the Romans during the Dacian wars.[19]19. SHA, vita Hadriani 3, 9. The Sarmatians' unrest may well been provoked by the fact that 'even Trajan would not return to them' a territory, the eastern Banat, which had been occupied by Decebalus between the two Dacian campaigns' wars.[20]20. Cassius Dion, LXVIII, 10, 3-4. It is possible that there was a further source of tensions: the creation of a Dacian province meant that the Jazyges, who were spreading out east of the Tisza, found themselves surrounded by the empire, in the east as well the south and the west. An altar, found at Versec (Vrsac, Yugoslavia), indicates that units from western Dacia also fought in the war; raised in 106–108 by the II Hispanorum cohort, it is dedicated to Trajan and bears an epigraph to Mars U(ltor) or V(ictor).[21]21. CIL III, 6273.

There followed a peaceful period during which the province seemed secure. Soldiers who had completed their service in Dacian auxiliary units were demobilized in 110; although the governor appointed in 112 was once again a career soldier, Trajan's friend C. Avidius Nigrinus, two years later detachments of the Dacian army were commandeered for the Parthian War. The peace was of short duration. In the wake of Trajan's death in 117, the Dacian region became the stage for the first great test of strength between the empire and the neighbouring peoples. Two tribes of the Sarmatians, the Jazyges and the Roxolani, attacked Upper and Lower Moesia, and the war spilled over into Dacia. The death of Quadratus Bassus, {1-65.} a veteran of the Dacian wars who had just been appointed governor of Dacia, added to the Romans' difficulties. The causes of war included the Roxolani's resentment at a reduction in Roman financial aid, the Jazyges' territorial claims, and the fact that the new province separated the two related tribes' territories on the Lower Danube. Hadrian visited Moesia and Dacia; in the latter province, 'fearing that the Barbarians, who had captured the defences of the bridge [at Drobeta] with little effort, would manage to cross into Moesia, he ordered that the superstructure of the bridge be torn down'.[22]22. Cassius Dion, LXVIII, 13, 6. The Jazyges were dealt with more severely. Hadrian took the unusual step of putting a mere knight, the excellent soldier Q. Marcius Turbo, in charge of both Lower Pannonia and Dacia; a coordinated attack from two directions crushed the Jazyges. It was during Turbo's and his successor's governorship that the organization of the province was completed. When, in 119, Turbo was named praefectus praetorio and left Dacia, the inhabitants of Sarmizegethusa honoured him with an epigraph expressing their gratitude.[23]23. CIL III, 1462, 1551.

The Sarmatian War of 116–118 showed that Dacia contributed little to the security of provinces south of the Danube. The new province could not prevent attacks on the empire by Jazyges from the west, through the Banat, and by the Roxolani from the east, across Wallachia. On the Oltenian Plain, which favoured the attackers' cavalry, the two tribes could execute a pincer movement and cut off the province's Transylvanian territory; and, by way of the bridge at Drobeta, they could also threaten Moesia. The elimination of Decebalus rid the Romans of the danger presented by a unified Dacian realm, but it also deprived them of a useful buffer against the Sarmatian tribes. The latter had gained strength, and threatened not only the empire's frontier along the Danube in Upper and Lower Moesia, but also the Dacian province's borders with Oltenia and the Banat, where there were no natural defences. Since the Sarmatians relied on mounted warfare, the province's mountain {1-66.} regions were less vulnerable; but if Jazyges and Roxolani allied themselves with the tribes of free Dacians, Celts, and Germans in the north, a concentrated attack might be launched along the entire length of the lower Danubian fortified frontier and Dacia's frontiers against the empire and the province. By incorporating Dacia, the empire had greatly extended its frontiers, and it needed greater vigilance as well as more troops to defend the latter than had been required for the shorter, Danube frontier. Perhaps this is why Hadrian, whose strategic outlook was primarily defensive, considered the option of relinquishing Dacia at the beginning of his reign.[24]24. Eutropius, Breviarium... VIII, 6,2. Such a move would have been a realistic strategy, and, in fact, Hadrian had readily surrendered other territories that had been won by his predecessor at great military cost: he 'evacuated areas beyond the Tigris and Euphrates'.[25]25. SHA, vita Hadriani, 5. In the end, moved by Turbo's success or the advice of friends, he changed his mind about giving up Dacia and, instead, reorganized the province's defences. In order to consolidate the Danubian limes against the Sarmatians, the IIII Flavia legion was transferred back from the Banat to its earlier, more easily defended base behind the Danube at Singidunum (Belgrade).

In sum, it appears that the role played by Dacia in the defence of the empire and Italia was not as great as claimed by some historians. The province jutted into Barbaricum, and its geographical situation did not allow the local Roman forces to forestall attacks against the empire's possessions south of the Danube. Beyond the defence of the province, these forces could only join in retaliatory action after the attacks had occurred. Instead of being assigned independent operations, the Dacian army was put to effective use only as a reinforcement for other provincial forces. At the time of the wars against the Marcomanni, in the late 2nd century, the Dacian army could not even defend its own province; it had to be reinforced with an additional legion, which then remained in Dacia.

{1-67.} In its peripheral provinces, Rome took pains to establish defensive lines that would clearly indicate to the peoples of Barbaricum the border of the empire, and which would facilitate terrestrial or fluvial communication between the fortified posts. It may seem anomalous, then, that Rome did not to stand on its shorter and more defensible, Danubian frontier, but maintained a province with long, vulnerable, borders, along many parts of which communication was difficult between the fortified posts; the defence of Dacia was far more costly than that of other provinces. On the other hand, once the decision was taken at the end of the Dacian Wars to establish a province, considerations of prestige came into play and militated against a subsequent withdrawal — as did, presumably, Transylvania's gold deposits, particularly in the early years.