"Zamolxis" by Alexandru Busuioceanu,
translated and ajusted Codruta aka Padure
For the ancient world, Dacia was a land surrounded by the Carpathians, a country of the fierce warriors and blessed by Zamolxis and until its conquest by Trajan, a rough and mysterious place. No one really knew who were the people living in those mountains. Everybody called them "Dacians" or "Getae"...and the Greeks thought they were "the most brave and just among the Thracians"-and said that Ares (who was at the beginning the god of blizzards) or Mars, had been born among the Dacians. They knew however, that this might be only a legend; another mighty god ruled this people's destiny. The Dacians worshiped Zamolxis. Plato himself said that Zamolxis made the Dacians immortal.
This people-Dacians or Getae-and their country were simply unknown to other ancient peoples. The Greeks approached them only as far as the coasts of the Black Sea and never ventured inland. The Romans knew only the Dacian warriors. The Danube was feared by ancient peoples. It was a hyperborean boundary, once passed they would reach the land guarded by the Dacian stars-“Getici sidera pigra poli”. Martial (40-104 A.D) described in his poems images from this land that would inspire fear and mystery. During this period Domitian suffered military setbacks in this area. It was a land of hard winters with the wild Peuce and the rustling Hister :
"Hiberna quamvis Arctos et rudis Peuce
Et ungularum pulsibus calens Hister”
The ferocity of the Getae warrior and the feared Danube which, he rode across even when its waters were frozen, were known by all European peoples. It was in the writings of poets and in the ancient books which, told the story of that barbarian, fierce country, hostile to the Romans. Lucan, a Hispanic had also a story about "the barbarian Cone, where the Hister, through one thousand openings, lost his Sarmatian waves into the sea and flooded the Island of Peuce", about the wild people that lived on the Black Sea shores and about the feared and famous Getae bow. In one single place, Pharsala, the name of the Dacian, of the Iberian and of the Getae are one, in the same line: "Hinc Dacus premet inde Getes ocurrat Hiberis". This line was analyzed by Isidor of Sevilla and he thought that Spain was going to be invaded by Getae. And as we will see further on, this interpretation of the line was correct. The whole world was invaded by Getae, not only Spain. The whole world was going to be re-created all over again by the Getae.
The true history of the Getae , the history of the Getic myth is not yet written. It is a bigger and more important history than that of the pure facts we call historical facts. The fact is consumed, it doesn't serve you but to tell a story. The myth is immortal and even if it has unusual and unthinkable hidden forms it is there, influencing the future. The Getic idea is one of the most obsessing and strong ideas in the ancient imagination. For the Romans that lived in the first century AD, who thought that the end of the world was near, the feared Danube was, surely the one which would unchain the chaos. Another Hispanic, the most popular actually, Seneca, wrote a grand piece of art about the "fatal day" when the Danube would let its waters grow and reach the sky and then, in one abrupt whirl "will cover a great surface with land and fortresses" This writing of Seneca's would turn out to be prophetic. It would come true, but not through the waters of the Danube, but through the Goths' rage and violence which,-a strange thing-with the name of the Getae and with their history suddenly transformed in their Gothic history, with their god, Zamolxe- would overthrow the ancient world and would reach as far as Spain. It was the thing Lucan feared most and Isidor of Sevilla never doubted. How can you doubt the reality when the reality itself takes care of revealing the myth which Isidor, with all his Histories and Etymologies had been looking for without rest.The secret of the Getae was, even in Seneca's time, impenetrable. The philosopher could speak with a little knowledge about the Danube river which, surrounded the country and about the Greek fortresses on the Black Sea shores. Everything else was mystery, except the fierce Getic arrow and of course the poisonous plants that Medeea used in her witchcraft. Seneca was however convinced that that country was very rich in gems and this was another part of witchcraft. The gems were thought to have important magical powers. This was all Seneca knew and no one had more knowledge about this mysterious land. The Danube kept her secrets well locked. The people hid in the mountains-“Daci, montibus in haerent”-the woods were dark and all the land was covered with dangers.
The Dacian forest. The terrifying Dacian forest. It was the shelter of those people and it was the source of the Dacian myths, that still exist in Romania and that are still invoked in folk songs by the words "foaie verde" (green leaf). The Romans scarcely knew these forests, they usually took a roundabout way. There were some cases in which, legions or famous generals died in one of these terrifying forests. When this happened, the shadows of the Dacian forests reached Rome, poems and songs were written about it and everybody feared the disasters that happened there. In 74 BC Caius Scribonius Curio, who had beaten the Dardani in Thrace, wanted to conquer the Dacians too and with this purpose he reached the Danube. He was so frightened of the woods he saw, that he returned, giving up his plans: Curio Dacia tenus venit, sed tenebras saltuum expavit-Curio returned from Dacia, frightened of its (forests') darkness, says Florus.
Later Rome was overwhelmed with emotion at Cornelius Fuscus' death who had buried himself and his legion in the cursed Dacian forest. Martial wrote in Fuscus' epitaph:
"Here lies Fuscus...
The gravestone does not fear hostile threats anymore
The victorious shadow of the general rules triumphantly the obedient forest".
The poem was more than tragic. The general had died without a victory, without any trace of him or his legion. Terrifying, the forest hadn't moved: it lay still, silent and dark, full of its secrets. For the ancient people there wasn't only myth in all this, but something magical too, which had its source in the genius of that people and which, protected it hiding the reality. The forest was the dark place in which the secret was born. This strange people, which worshiped his god on solitary cliffs, had sciences so secret, so powerful that even today historians can't really separate the myth from true facts. That god, although solar, was hidden. No one knows neither his face nor his altars.
Following some magical rules, in those times people did not paint the divine person, but the thing that opposed it: the dragon with a wolf's head which, served and protected the land but also fought up in the skies, rebelling against Zamolxe. The Dacians made him their flag, worshiped him but they also threw arrows at him when thunderstorms broke loose. This dragon, this "draco" has been adopted by some Roman military units too and it was worshiped in some parts of Italy. It is also interesting that the Goths' apostle, Wulfila, Cappadoccian -Thracian, for that matter-had acquired his name in Dacia where, he preached, his Gothic name meaning "wolf". Such names could have a secret meaning to the people in that country. The god of this people hide himself in everything that was connected to his cult and his name. They called him Zamolxes or Zamolxis and later in an inscription, Jupiter Optimus Maximus Paternus Aepilofius.
The last of his names betrays him: "the god from the rock". He was a shrewd god; he had gotten out of Dacia, substituted himself for another god and he was worshiped among foreigners. This way of hiding himself from the world in a name, of drawing things in a double way (even if sometimes the words are Greek or Roman) it is another form of Dacian mystery: Zamolxe-Gebeleizis, Danubius-Hister, Carpathus-Caucasus, Decebalus-Diurppaneus, Dacian-Dai-Getae. A lot of speculations could be made on this issue, not necessarily etymological. Such speculations could lead one to the proposition that the Dacians had a special thing for hiding their own personality and the things in their country; they also had the power of casting on the foreigners the magic of names which hides the true nature of one. The same way guides us to the myth. Everything that belongs to that country and that we know from different historical sources we have to doubt. We have to show criticism in order to separate the two strands of the Dacian and Getic world, not enough observed by the historians-the practical approach that belonged mainly to the Romans because of the frequent wars and the archaeological evidence and the other hand, of myths, highly popular among Greeks and then adopted by Romans. The myth frequently took the place of reality. The Dacians and the Danube belong to the real world. The other one is the world of the Getae with the sacred Hister, the Caucasian mountains, the wild Peruce ,the Danube Delta with one thousand openings and the calm stars of the Getic pole.