Visit Romanian monuments. A heritage of Daco-Roman Empire

If you think you’ll ever visit Romania, you will not go wrong at all. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world with one of the most various forms of reliefs. In the same time its history is very fascinating. Romania have a long and different history, but one of the most important part of it is based on the Daco- Romanian Empire.

In a.d. 101—102 and a.d. 105—106 the armies of the Roman empire led by em­peror Trajan waged war against the Dacians headed by their dauntless king Decebalus. Military experience and supe­riority in the number of soldiers and weapons were decisive factors in secur­ing the victory of the Romans. To facili­tate the passage of the armies north of the Danube, a wooden bridge support­ed on stone piers with monumental portals at both ends was built at Pontes- Drobeta by the famous Apollodorus of Damascus, who also designed and super­vised Trajan’s forum and Column in Rome. After it was conquered Dacia became a Roman province and was po­werfully marked by the forms of civi­lization and culture the new masters imposed all over its territory. For seve­ral centuries, the Roman artistic forms were massively introduced on the terri­tory of the former Dacian kingdom. Roman works of art were brought from the rest of the empire or produced on the spot However many of them were the result of syntheses achieved with the participation of the local artistic tradi­tions. Art on the territory of Dacia was gradually transformed so as to become a new Daco-Roman art.

As a matter of fact, the influence of Roman art in Dacia was of long standing and had started during the reign of emperor Augustus when Dobrudja pas­sed under the direct military supervi­sion of the Roman empire. After it was annexed, Dobrudja (Scythia Minor) became a gate through which the Ro­man civilization and culture entered Da­cia, a fact also facilitated by the rela­tions already established between the Geto-Dacian tribes and the Greek cities situated on the shores of the Black Sea. After the conquest of Dacia the Romans first organized the means of communica­tion building numerous roads which were defended by military ccstra. By erecting castra and fortified cities, the Romans changed Dacia into a huge building site. They built an impressive number of edifices in a very brief period of time.

Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacia, the capital of the new province of Da­cia, was founded in a.d. 108—110 on a rectangular plan — 600 by 540 metres —dans, public meeting places called basili­cas. The city also had public baths (ther­mae) and a very important religious institution, the so-called Aedes augusta- hum, housed in a monumental building, of which, unfortunately, only ruins are still extant. An amphitheatre seating 500 completed the architectural complex of Ulpia Trajana, a city which can be considered to be a model of the main Roman architectural achievements on the territory of Dacia. On a smaller scale Apulum (Alba lulia), Porolissum (Moi- grad, Sălaj County), Napoca (Cluj), Po- taissa (Turda) and others, reveal the Ro­mans’ clear outlook on town planning as well as their competence in using building materials and ornament. Using with great skill both large-sized blocks of dressed stone and rough hewn irre­gular ones, sometimes alternating stone and brick, the Romans introduced into Dacia several characteristic architectonic programmes. Of large proportions at times, military cities in fact, the Roman castra were fortified enclosures inside which stood barracks, praetoriums, basilicas. Particularly representative are the castra of Drobeta, Troesmis (Turcoaia. Tulcea County), Arutela (Bivolari, Vilcea County), Tibiscum (Jupa, Caras Severin County), etc. Monumental thermae were to be found at Histria, Ulpia Traiana, Drobeta and Tomi, decorated with mosaic pavements and walls faced with marble.

Besides the wide dwelling places within the city precincts, we should also mention the so-called villa rustica, coun­try residences of the nobility, sometimes very large indeed and with numerous outhouses. Very often stone or bronze statues decorated the public squares or public buildings as well as some dwelling houses and inner courts (the atrium). An expressive bronze head of a statue representing emperor Trajanus Decius was discovered at Ulpia Trajana; at Porolissum archaeologists excavated frag­ments from an invaluable equestrian bronze statue representing emperor Caracalla, while the stone statue of a still unidentified emperor — probably Hadri- anus — was discovered at Apulum. Sta­tues of divinities too must have been numerous ; the most important find to date is the monumental statue of Zeus found at Apulum. The god is seated on a throne, in imitation probably of the classical prototype created by Phidias cian knight, as also funerary reliefs and steles, the most valuable of which are housed today In the museums of Dro- beta—Turnu Severm and Constanţa. It is a fact that some of the stone or bronze statues had been imported yet others were produced by local masters. The mention of sculptor Claud ius Satur mus of UlpiaTrajanais significant in this respect at Olympia. It is obvious that the statue was carefully executed by an expert sculptor. There are other works of art of genuine artistic value which deserve to be mentioned: Fortuna and Pontos, a divinity with a serpent’s head, the altar of the two Nemesis (all of them found at Tomi), the statue of Hecate (discovered at Ocna Mureş), Venus Pu­dica, a bronze statue discovered at Pota- issa, numerous reliefs describing sacri­fices to Mithras, or featuring the Thracs.

Photo of Histria: Residential District


There is no doubt that the most im­portant achievement of Roman monu­mental sculpture on the territory of Dacia is the triumphal monument Tro- paeum Trajani erected at Adamclisi by emperor Trajan in a.d. 109 to comme­morate the victory of the imperial ar­mies over the coalition of the Dacians m a.d. 107—102 m winter. The aspect of the monument is very simple: a plat­form provided with steps over which rises a cylindrical base of large dimenensions with a roof made of stone slabs in the shape of fish scales. The roof is crowned by an octogonal prism over which rises the usual emblem of a trium­phal trophy. The triumphal monument of Adamclisi had a core made of broken stones and mortar, faced with stone blocks quarried from Celeni. a stone quarry near by. Its monumental size (30 meters in diameter, 42.40 meters high) makes it visible from a great dis­tance, a real landmark for anybody to see. The cylindrical plinth was surround­ed by a band of metopes decorated with reliefs representing scenes from the war. Dacians (male and female), Roman army units, battle scenes. The execution of the metopes points to a provincial master, but the sincere ex­pressiveness of the representations ma­kes up for their clumsiness. Together with the reliefs on Trajan’s Column in Rome, the metopes on the triumphal monument of Adamclisi are some of the most important documents that call up the dramatic confrontation between Dacians and Romans. 1 Some of the monumental arts that deserve special mention besides sculp­ture are mosaic pavements. In the 19th century mosaics were discovered at Ul- pia Trajana describing scenes from the Iliad. Only photographs of them have been preserved today but. they are enough to show that mosaics seem to have been some of the most representa­tive works of opus musivum in the Ro­man period. Mosaic pavements were also discovered at Apulum and small fragments at Histria and Tomis.

Photo of Histria: Ruins of Therme

ruinele de la therme

Ornamental arts are amply illustrated by numerous archaeological finds. Bron­ze statuettes and appliqué, gold and silver jewelry attest the development of the goldmiths’ and silversmiths’ craft in close association with ceramics. The ceramics of the epoch includes a large quantity of Greek and Roman vessels.

It is particularly significant that a local production was created after the mo­dels of imported vessels, frequently ab­sorbing traditional elements of form and ornament. At the same time autoch­tonous pottery was very rich, the ves­sels being produced according to the Geto-Dacian tradition as the old mo­dels persisted in the territories which had not been annexed by the Romans.

In Moldavia where the tribes of the Carps had managed to remain free, the pottery of the epoch is fine indeed : harmonious, expressive proportions and a smooth, carefully finished surface, are qualities resulting from the technique used in making them, i.e. the rapid wheel. Jugs of various types, tall or flat demonstrates the permanence of cer­tain forms of life connected with autoch­tonous realities and helps define the role the Geto-Dacian population played in the formation of the Romanian peo­ple : at the same time it shows the part it played in conveying a fund of artistic elements which were to be turned to good account in the art which developed in the rural milieus.

Ancient historiography attached too much importance to the decision em­peror Aurelian made in a.d. 271 to withdraw the Roman administrative bo­dies from Dacia south of the Danube. The withdrawal of both administration and military garrisons was not tanta­mount to abandoning the vast and rich Dacian territory, where most of the population went on living and empire still controlled the territories north of the Danube, and the economic exchanges were frequent enough, proof thereof the numerous money treasures discovered south and north of the Car­pathians. The interest of the empire in the Danubian border and in the control of the entire  area materialized during the reign of Diocletian in  a  sustained activity  aimed at reconstrutting the fortresses and castra in Dobrudja which was still in the posses­sion of Rome and constituted a perma­nent centre from which the Latin mate­rial and spiritual culture spread all over the Carpatho-Danubian area. Thanks to Diocletian the castra of Troesmis, Axiopolis, Noviodunum, Aegyssus were re­constructed, the citadel of Dinogetia was built and most of the city of Tomi was thus gaining a permanent ascendancy over the Pontic cities

 Photo with the Temple of Adamclisi


Bibliography: Vasile Dragut, Romanian Art- Prehistory, Antiquity, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Baroque, Meridiane Publishing House

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