Translated by Kirsty Bennett, Matt Canty, Francine Gardner and haiducul
In defending their country the Dacian's always took the strengths of the terrain into account, both strategically and tactically. Natural advantages were strengthened with special constructions like fortifications and even the inhabited areas were situated in places that had natural defenses. It is because of this that the whole Dacian period holds a special place in fortification building techniques, giving us the first example of terrain transformation to aid the foot soldier. Throughout history the foot soldier has changed the field to his advantage and utilized the role of defensive constructions as the best way of sealing, defending and concealing the entrances of his own lands from his enemies.
These building techniques were passed on from generation to generation. This we can deduce from the sedentary life of the Dacian's because their entire way of life was based on agriculture and from the fact that they remained in the same area for generations.
Their communities appeared during Neolithic times in the form of fortified settlements. According to the most recent archaeological research the oldest fortified community from Romania is in Turma Turcului, Cazanele Mari, where earthworks were discovered measuring approximately 1.8m wide and 1.2m deep. The archaeological research from Circea, Olt County revealed evidence of a protected earthwork, some 5000 years old, in the shape of a ‘U’ with slanting walls and 1m supports for the walls. Later fortification systems became more complicated and efficient. The depths of the earthworks were as deep as 2m to 6m and made use of the natural environment to its best effect i.e. hides, caves, hills and rivers etc.
The inhabitants of the settlements became defenders whenever there was danger and therefore needed to consolidate their strength. In addition to the initial earthworks they began to construct walls of earth of variable heights with palisades, similar to the ones discovered in Margurele and Radovaru, in Ilfov County. In open ground situations, where it was hard to defend the community, large-scale settlements, called “pinen-barat”, have been discovered on high, steep-sided hills that were difficult to scale from most sides. In some situations they used weaved canes and beams for strengthening the earthworks. Some of these earthworks were up to 10m or 15m wide and required a mobile bridge to cross from one part to another. These types of earthworks can be considered to be the precursor of trenches or “the belts” around the cities of later periods. It is interesting to note that the on the routes from which an attack would be most likely the earthworks were arranged two by two.
In the later period of the Iron Age the fortification systems developed further still. The mix between the field and the fortification had seen a lot of progress but still they usually preferred the advantages offered by high ground. The settlement of Seica Mica, Sibiu County is situated on a hill, on the Tirnava Mare river and was defended by four lines of earthworks situated on the easiest way into the settlement while the flanks were protected by only 2 lines of defense. The structural analysis of the defenses show that on the main access route they built earthworks 4m deep and 20m wide supplemented by a wall situated approximately 60m nearer the settlement. Between the wall and the settlement ranges of trenches, 3m high and 19m wide were situated at 150m intervals.
A large number of small but very powerful fortifcations were discovered in the hills of the south of Transylvania such as ones found at Piatra Craivii, Capilna, Tilisca and Costesti which in time became the centre of a Dacian state ruled by Burebista. Florus writes in the time Augustus (69BC-14AD) that: “ the Dacian's are close to the mountains”.
The settlement, or ‘dava’ in Cugir, inhabited from the 5 to 4th century BC, was situated on a hill at an elevation of 495m and measured 100m in length and 60-80m wide. The role of the city was important, both commercially and militarily. The military importance is clearly appreciated by the cities dominant position in the area. The settlement was protected by a deep chasm to the southeast, while the rest of the settlement was surrounded and protected by fortifications consisting of a powerful wall of earth and local stone. On the inside it was paved with stone from the river, to the east, to make it even stronger. At sometime during the 1st century BC to the 1st century AD the defenses were strengthened with huge stones from the river and the wall was replaced with an even stronger one.
Throughout the Dacian's continually strove to improve their settlement fortifications as other races developed new ways of attacking their communities. With every new improvement in the technique of attack, defensive techniques also evolved, with no clear imbalance on either side.