The Road Network

Judging from the milestone erected at Ajtony in 109 or 110 A.D., the construction of military roads began immediately after Dacia's occupation and was probably completed by the time of the province's reorganization, in 118. The Tabula Peutingeriana, a map drawn in the mid-200s, indicates the roads and distances between the settlements, most of them military camps. The concordance of ancient and modern place-names is often difficult to establish, for only a few traces of the road network have been discovered so far.

The Tabula traces roads leading from the two bridges on the Danube and from Dierna to Apulum and the northern borders of Dacia. The roads from Lederata and Dierna merged at Tibiscum, then proceeded through Sarmizegethusa to Apulum; before Apulum, a road branched off to head down the Maros valley toward Pannonia. A third road from the Danube, not marked in the Tabula, linked the Drobeta bridge to Sarmizegethusa by way of the Vulkán pass in the Carpathians. Another road, linking Drobeta and Apulum, headed east to the Olt River, then north along the fortified {1-74.} line before crossing the Vöröstorony pass and reaching the capital. Certain sections of this road are still clearly visible along the Olt. The Tabula indicates only one road running north from Apulum; it leads to Porolissum.

The road network in the Tabula connected strategically important river crossings with the provincial capital and the northern frontier. Since the army had left eastern Dacia by the time the map was drawn, there is little information on roads in that region. The Geographus Ravennas, which is based on the Tabula Peutingeriana and other early maps, does indicate a road in eastern Transylvania which linked Porolissum to the Black Sea; this may be part of the otherwise untraced highway to Barbaricum that was opened by Emperor Trajan.[27]27. Aurelius Victor, Epitomae de Caesaribus 13, 3.

However, another road into Barbaricum, the link between Dacia and Pannonia Inferior, is well-known. It forked off the Tibiscum-Apulum road at the mouth of the Sztrigy and ran west along the Maros valley, soon reaching the westernmost defence installation in the valley at Micia (Vecel). It continued beyond the borders of Dacia, following the Maros to its junction with the Tisza, then crossing the plain between the Tisza and the Danube in the direction of Pannonia Inferior. The path along the river is not mapped, but evidence of the road and its military defence is offered by bricks bearing military seals (as well as traces of buildings that await archaeological study) found in the neighbourhood of Arad (Aradul Nou) and at Bulcs (Bulci), Nagyszentmiklós (Sînnicolaul Mare), and Németcsanád (Cenadul German). The discovery in the Danube-Tisza area of a 50-kilometre stretch of earthworks, some 5–6 metres high, demonstrates conclusively that a road ran across the Barbaricum to link the provinces of Dacia and Pannonia Inferior. This section runs from the Baja district towards Szeged, and it is still visible in the vicinity of Csávoly, Mélykút, Tompa, and Kelebia; its path is clearly an extension of the road along the Maros. The road facilitated westward travel and communication between Dacia and Pannonia.

{1-75.} The date of construction of the Roman road along the Maros has yet to be ascertained. This highway linked Apulum and central Dacia with Pannonia Inferior. It gave access, by way of the Danube River and its parallel limes road, to the empire's western provinces, and to southern Pannonia and Dalmatia by way of the Maros, Tisza, Danube, Drava, and Sava rivers. Beyond that lay the link, through the commercial hub of Aquileia, with the so-called Amber Road connecting northern Italy and the North Sea. The flow of commerce along the Maros valley road is shown by the spread of numerous southern Pannonian products in Dacia, particularly its Transylvanian region, and by the merchants' trading posts. The Maros valley facilitated not only road traffic but, since pre-Roman times, river traffic as well; this is attested by the reference to a shipmasters' association (collegium nautarum) in Apulum[28]28. CIL III, 1209. as well as by a sailor's tombstone at Micia.

Since the road crossed Jazyge-inhabited areas, it had to be provided with military protection. Of this, little evidence survives, but finds in the Maros valley of bricks produced in the legions' brickworks indicate that the road and the stations along it were constructed by legion detachments. The stretch between the Danube and the Tisza was presumably guarded by the army of Pannonia Inferior. The road took a southwesterly turn at Baja, and probably crossed the Danube near the military camp at Lugio (Dunaszekcső).

The finds of military significance along the Maros have a bearing on the questions of Dacia's southwestern border and the status of the Banat. There is broad agreement on the tracing — if not on the relevant dates — of much of Dacia's frontier. However, there was no need for a continuous line of camps and earthworks in the more mountainous stretches, and thus opinions differ as to the precise extent of the province in certain areas, notably the Banat, which lies between the Danube, Tisza, and Maros rivers.

According to one interpretation, the military finds along the Maros testify to a fortified frontier, and thus the Banat must have {1-76.} been part of the Roman province of Dacia. On the other hand, archaeological finds in the Banat do not support this hypothesis, for they reveal traces of military camps only in the eastern part, north of Lederata, along the road to Tibiscum. If the Banat had been part of the empire, there would have been lines of camps along the Tisza and the Maros, yet there is no sign of such fortification; the finds along the Maros are remnants of Roman military outposts that protected the highway. Roman finds do not automatically indicate that a territory was ruled by Rome: whether as booty or through trade, many Roman objects reached Pannonia's northern approaches, inhabited by Marcomanni and Quadi, as well as Sarmatian Barbaricum, yet no one claims that these areas belonged to the empire. In any case, there are no significant Roman traces in the western Banat; the few inscribed fragments found along the Maros and in the Banat (as well as in the region between the Danube and the Tisza) could easily have come from construction material brought from Dacia in the Middle Ages. The fact that the Maros road does not figure in the Tabula also indicates that it fell beyond the boundaries of the empire.

A related, contentious issue is the identity of the Banat's inhabitants. If all Banat had been part of Dacia, then no Sarmatians could have lived there prior to 271, when the Romans relinquished the province. Because of this assumption, Sarmatian finds are generally dated from the end of the 3rd century or later. However, several archaeological excavations indicate the presence of Sarmatians well before that date; the finds include enamelled brooches traded by the Romans to the Sarmatians. The frequency of Sarmatian finds increases as one moves from the southeastern part of the Banat towards the Tisza and its junction with the Maros. They clearly attest to the presence of Sarmatian Jazyges and indicate that — at least after the reorganization of 118 — the westerly, and major part of the Banat was in the hands not of Romans but of Sarmatians.

{1-77.} There has also been speculation that other roads, in addition to the Apulum-Lugio link, connected Porolissum in Dacia with Aquincum in Pannonia Inferior. Yet no trace remains, and it is unlikely that they ever existed. The highway that ran along the Maros valley and through the Danube-Tisza triangle gave the Romans easy access and rendered unnecessary the construction across Sarmatian territory of another road; the latter would have been much longer, more vulnerable to attack, and — given the multiple river crossings, forests, and marshes — difficult to build. It is, of course, entirely possible that there existed a rough path across the region, used by the Sarmatians.

The peaceable period that followed the reorganization of 118 favoured Dacia's economic development. For almost two decades, no major wars erupted in the region. Sources make only vague references to a Dacian menace during Antoninus Pius' reign (138–161). The danger came from the so-called free Dacians, who originally inhabited, or had fled to territories north and east of the province, as well as from the Carpi and the Costoboci. The absence of detailed information of the battles suggests that a major war was not anticipated at the time. In a biography of Antoninus Pius[29]29. SHA, vita Pii 5, 4. there is brief mention that the Emperor, aided by his governors and legates, defeated the Germans, the Dacians, and other peoples, including Jewish rebels. The Dacian war can be dated by the addition, in 157, of the triumphal epithet 'Dacicus' to the Emperor's name. And indeed, in 156–158, two excellent soldiers, Statius Priscus and Macrinius Vindex, were serving as governors in Dacia Superior and Dacia Porolissensis, respectively. The armies in the two provinces were evidently not strong enough to repel the attacks, for they had to be reinforced with Moorish auxiliary troops from Africa. Although evidence of the war can be found only in Dacia Superior, reinforcements were sent to Dacia Inferior as well. The turbulence on the middle and lower reaches of the Danube was but a prelude to the long war that was to engulf the region a few years later.