Conquest and Fall of Dacia

89 to 272 A.D.
Rome — versus — Dacians

Conquest of Dacia, 89 to 105 A.D.
Fall of Dacia, 251 to 272 A.D.

Conquest of Dacia : 89 to 105 A.D.

During the reign of Augustus, the Province of Moesia, in modern day Serbia and Bulgaria was organized from territories that had fallen to Rome after the Macedonian Wars. The region immediately north of Moesia, across the Danube river was inhabited by Dacians (a native tribe more closely related to Thracians or Scythians than Germans), who made frequent forays into Roman territory. These depredations became worse in about 85 A.D. and two years later emperor Domitian determined to campaign against the Dacians and sent five legions to the region. The Romans engaged in two battles with the Dacian chief Decebalus, the first being a defeat and the latter a victory for the Romans. The Dacians were not yet defeated but instead of continuing to fight they negotiated a favorable peace, with no particular intention of keeping to their treaty obligations.

In 101 emperor Trajan, set out with another army to bring the Dacians under control. In the process of marching on Dacia, the Romans executed a spectacular engineering feat by building an enormous stone bridge across the Danube, which was strategically critical if the Romans were to maintain their supply lines. Once on the far side of the river Trajan resumed his march. Again the Dacians were defeated, and again Decebalus agreed to terms of peace which he refused to abide by.

Trajan's second campaign into Dacia, four years later, was difficult and costly, but he persevered and eventually besieged the Dacian capital of Sarmizegethusa, cut off the water supply and when the town surrendered he razed and burned it to the ground. Decebalus killed himself, and Dacia, which corresponds roughly to modern Romania, was occupied as a Roman province.

DateBattle Summary
Battle of Tapae   Romans victory
Two battles Fought 87/88 between a Roman army under Fuscus and Julianus, and the Dacians under Decebaulus. In the earlier campaign the Romans were ambushed and beaten. In the following campaign they were more successful, but concluded a peace with Dacia before completely subduing the region.
Battle of Tapae   Romans victory
Fought 101, between the Dacians, under Decebalus, and the Romans, under Trajan. The Dacians were utterly routed, and driven across the river with heavy loss.
Battle of Sarmizegethusa   drawn battle victory
Fought winter 102, between the Dacians under Decbalus and the Romans under Trajan. Both sides suffered heavy casualties and there was no decisive victory. Decebalus however, sued for a truce, and Rome gained tolerably favorable terms.
Siege of Sarmizegethusa (Defeat of Varus ) Romans victory
The capital of Dacia was besieged in 105. After cutting off their water supplies, most of the garrison fled the city, leaving all of Dacia in the hands of the Romans.

Short Biography
Trajan Second of "Five Good Emperors." Ruled with justice and integrity. Conquered Dacia.
Decebalus Chief of Dacian tribes. Conquered by Romans but rebelled. Romans reconquered Dacia an killed Decebalus.

Story Links
Book Links
Last Advance  in  Helmet and Spear  by  Alfred J. Church
Trajan's Column  in  The Story of the Romans  by  H. A. Guerber
Trajan in  Famous Men of Rome  by  John H. Haaren & A. B. Poland
Trajan  in  Back Matter  by  books/horne/soldiers/_back.html

Fall of Dacia : 251 to 272 A.D.

Barbarian invasion
Dacia was the last major territory conquered by the Romans and one of the first provinces to be abandoned. In 251 AD a large tribe of Goths raided the region and defeated several Roman armies sent against them. In these wars, for the first time ever, a Roman Emperor (Decius) was killed by a Barbarian army. Twenty years later, after failing to effectively control the borders, the Roman legions withdrew from the entire province.

DateBattle Summary
Siege of Philippopolis (Invasion of Dacia ) Goths victory
This city was besieged, 251, by the Goths, under Cniva, and after a gallant defense, and the defeat of an attempt by Decius to relieve it, was stormed and sacked. It is said that 100,000 of the garrison and inhabitants perished in the siege and subsequent massacre.
Siege of Forum Terebronii (Invasion of Dacia ) Goths victory
Fought 251, between the Romans under Decius, and the Goths under Cuiva. The Gothic army was drawn up in three lines, and the legionaries overthrew the first two, but, in attacking the third, they became entangled in a morass, and were utterly routed. Decius and his son were slain.
Battle of Naissus   Romans victory
Fought 269 between the Imperial troops, under the Emperor Claudius Gothicus, and the invading Goths. The Romans were hard pressed, when the Gothic lines were attacked in the rear by a force of 5,000 men, which Claudius had concealed for this purpose in the neighboring mountains, and being thrown into confusion, were totally routed. Fifty thousand men are said to have fallen in the battle.

Short Biography
Decius First Roman Emperor killed during an engagement with Barbarians, at Forum Terebronii.
King Cniva Barbarian chieftain of an army of Goths that raided the Balkins in 251.

Image Links

Trajan besieging a Dacian fort
 in Helmet and Spear