Built in the 1st centuries B.C. and A.D. under Dacian rule, these fortresses show an unusual fusion of military and religious architectural techniques and concepts from the classical world and the late European Iron Age. The six defensive works, the nucleus of the Dacian Kingdom, were conquered by the Romans at the beginning of the 2nd century A.D.; their extensive and well-preserved remains stand in spectacular natural surroundings and give a dramatic picture of a vigorous and innovative civilization.
Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains
Justification for Inscription
Criterion (ii): The Dacian fortresses represent the fusion of techniques and concepts of military architecture from inside and outside the classical world to create a unique style. Criterion (iii):The Geto-Dacian kingdoms of the late 1st millennium BC attained an exceptionally high cultural and socio-economic level, and this is symbolized by this group of fortresses. Criterion (iv): The hill-fort and its evolved successor, the oppidum, were characteristic of the Late Iron Age in Europe, and the Dacian fortresses are outstanding examples of this type of defended site.
The Geto-Dacian kingdoms of the late 1st millennium BC attained an exceptionally high cultural and socio-economic level, and this is symbolized by this group of fortresses, which represent the fusion of techniques and concepts of military architecture from inside and outside the classical world to create a unique style.
The civilization of the Getes and Dacians can be distinguished in the Thracian world long before Herodotus first referred to them in the 7th century BC. The Getes inhabited the Danube plain and the Dacians the central and western part of the region between the Carpathians and the Danube. It was a typical Iron Age culture, practising agriculture, stock-raising, fishing and metal-working, as well as trade with the Graeco-Roman world. When Greek colonies were established along the northern shores of the Black Sea, the Geto-Dacian rulers established close links with them and extended their protection.
The system developed by the Dacians to defend their capital, Sarmizegetusa Regia, was composed of three distinct fortified elements: the oldest is represented by fortified sites on dominant physical features, which consisted of palisaded banks and ditches. The second group is that of fortresses. The final category is that of linear defences, which blocked access from certain routes and linked two or more fortresses.
There are three components of Sarmizegetusa, the capital of Dacia: the fortress, the sacred area, and the civilian quarter. The Grădiştea plateau is dominated by the fortress, which was the centre of secular and spiritual government. The sacred area is situated to the east of the fortress. Access is by means of a paved path on the west and a monumental stone stairway on the east.
Costeşti-Cetăţuie, a small plateau on a hill overlooking the left bank of the river Apa Oraşului, was terraced to form a strong fortress. Its fortifications were laid out in three concentric bands, erected in successive stages of the fortress's life. The ramparts are constructed from stone, wood and rammed earth, a different technique being used for each enceinte. A number of towers survive.
Costeşti-Blidaru is the strongest and most spectacular of the fortresses erected to defend Sarmizegetusa. It is rectilinear in plan and is located on the levelled summit of a small hill. There are two enclosures. The walls have corner bastions, through one of which access is gained to the interior, where there are the remains of a square building that would have housed the garrison. A second enclosure, also rectangular in plan, was added later, extending the fortress to the entire summit of the hill.
The Luncani Piatra Roşie fortress consists of two fortified enclosures on the eastern slope of a rocky massif. The earlier and smaller of the two has corner bastions. In the interior there is an apsidal timber-framed barrack block with two rooms. To the north and outside the defences there were two buildings on the site of an earlier sanctuary. The second enceinte dates from the late 1st century AD.
The Băniţa fortress was constructed on a steep conical hill in the Jiu valley. The only side on which the summit was accessible was on the north, and this was defended by a strong stone wall in murus dacicus style. The fortress itself was entered through a gate leading to a monumental limestone stairway with andesite balustrades. The plateau above has three terraces at different levels.
The Căpâlna fortress was constructed at the summit of a steep hill which was terraced and surrounded by ramparts following the natural contours. There is an imposing square structure built using the murus dacicus technique. The enceinte was entered by a fortified gateway on the south-east, close to the military building. There was originally another entrance in the north-east, but this was blocked between the construction of the fortress and the Roman conquest in AD 106. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC
The civilization of the Getes (Getae) and Dacians can be distinguished in the Thracian world long before Herodotus first referred to them in the 7th century BC. The Getes inhabited the Danube plain and the Dacians the central and western part of the region between the Carpathians and the Danube. Their close cultural and linguistic links are emphasized by several ancient authors.
Theirs was a typical Iron Age culture, practising agriculture, stock-raising, fishing, and metal-working, as well as trade with the Greco-Roman world, shown by finds of luxury goods and coinage. When Greek colonies such as Histria, Tomis, Odessos, etc were established along the northern shores of the Black Sea in the 7th century BC, the Geto- Dacian rulers established close links with them and extended their protection. This cultural interchange had a profound effect on societies in the region. The other major cultural influence, adopted by the warrior aristocracy, came from the Scythians who inhabited the regions to the north and east.
During their expansion that began in the 4th century Celtic peoples settled in modern Transylvania and established a hegemony over the region because of their superior weaponry. However, their influence waned from the mid 3rd century BC onwards. A new Geto-Dacian form of territorial organization appeared in the early 2nd century BC, at the same time as important technological developments (wheelmade pottery, iron ploughshares, use of stone for building). It was based on the dava, the central place of a tribal territory; these contained many sacred sites (temenoi) and other forms of cult centre.
The process whereby the earlier fragmented tribal structure became centralized is not understood, but there is abundant evidence that the Geto-Dacian civilization flourished from the 1st century BC onwards, thanks to the intelligence and pragmatism of its rulers and of its priests. A Hellenistic form of kingdom was evolved by Burebişta (82-44 BC), supported by a warrior aristocracy and with its heart in the Orašţie Mountains around the sacred mountain Kogaionon where the sacred city was built, Sarmizegetusa Regia. It became master of the entire Black Sea coast, absorbing the Greek colonies.
After the death of Burebişta his kingdom was divided up into smaller territories, but Sarmizegetusa retained its primacy; it became in effect the first (and only) true town in Dacia. The Dacian rulers became increasingly involved in the internal politics of the Roman Empire, and suffered accordingly from punitive expeditions. The lower Danube frontier (limes) was constantly the scene of cross-border raids and minor campaigns. This entered a new phase in AD 86, which marked the beginning of a series of Roman-Dacian wars.
In the spring of 101 the Roman Emperor Trajan, having secured his Rhine frontier, took the offensive against the Dacians. Decebalus unified the Dacian kingdoms and concentrated his forces in the Orašţie Mountains, where he submitted to Trajan. An uneasy distribution of territory ensued, broken in 105 when Decebalus seized the Roman governor Longinus. This time he could not hold the Dacians together against the powerful Roman army. His capital and his fortresses were overwhelmed and Decebalus himself committed suicide to avoid capture. This campaign is graphically depicted in the reliefs running round Trajan's Column in Rome.
Dacia became a Roman Imperial province, and its fortresses were slighted. New Roman towns were created, but none of them on the site of the Dacian settlements, with the exception of Sarmizegetusa, which was given the resounding Roman name Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa. Dacia was to remain part of the Roman Empire until 274, when the Emperor Aurelian abandoned it in the face of irresistible pressure from the Goths. Source: Advisory Body Evaluation