Conflicts along the flumen danuuius: Trajan’s excursions into Dacia

Dacia, now largely part of Romania (and some of Hungary and Serbia) was the scene of some of the most dramatic expansion of the Roman Empire, already at that point a huge empire spanning western Europe. Trajan, born in a Roman colony in the south part of Spain, and considered to be one of the ‘five good emperors’, built a pontoon bridge crossing the Danube, and used it to hugely expand Rome’s empire. The campaign was commemorated with Trajan’s Column in Rome.

In my research I found it quite interesting to discover how much further back the roots of the conflict went, and they went back to Julius Caesar and the Roman civil war. Caesar had planned to attack the Dacians in retaliation for assisting his enemy Gnaeus Pompey.

Later, when Octavian fought with Mark Antony, the Dacians offered to side with Mark Antony in exchange for ‘requests’, so after his victory in the battle of Actium in 31BC. So in 29BC he sent punitive expeditions across the Danube to quell the Dacian threat, and for about a hundred years the Dacian threat remained quelled.

The Dacians badly raided Roman lands in Moesia (northern Bulgaria, Serbia and parts of Macedonia) in AD 85, even to the extent of killing the governor of the province, former Consul Oppius Sabinus. So the emperor at the time, Domitian, sent an army to fight them, and lost. He sued for peace, and got a treaty so unfavourable to the Romans that some scholars think that it may have been a serious contributing factor to his execution several years later.

The history of these conflicts between peoples and empires across the mighty Danube is one of frequent betrayals and political intrigue, and I look forward to reading and writing and simply learning more about them in my future studies.

Multumesc si pa! Thanks and goodbye!

Tom Rushton, 1st year BA Classics