Army and society in Romanian area,
The political studies, defense and military history Institute
Dr. Mircea Dogaru
Given the situation in which, Thracian society in the Northern Balkans had adopted the 'doctrine' of the levee en masse, the army was drawn from the whole of the population. There were however men who had a professional role in defending the people. In the writings of Crito, he tells us that altogether with the clerks responsible for labor organization, there were those "arranged to take care of the defense works " Tacitus emphasizes that in battles between the Romans and the Thracians, the fortresses of the latter were guarded "by numerous guardians, soldiers or many" the presence of which, indicates to us that there was a core of permanent armed and prepared warriors. These would be the nobles, the "tarabostes" and their private guards who, as the unification of the state came about, formed the king's army. The king's army watched the fortresses in which there were garrisons under the command of a "prefect" They looked after the safety of roads, the general peace and, "the obedience towards commands"- imposed by Burebista- and finally, they were bound to interfere when outside attacks occurred. The "soldiers" and the members of the royal guard were, therefore, professional warriors specialized in handling different weapons. They were composed of both horsemen and infantry and their professional status meant they were a powerful force in the military and political balance of the region.
The riders of the treaty between Burebista and Pompeius are unknown to us, but what we do know is how, over 120 years before, the Macedonian king Perseus (179-168 BC) bought the Getae alliance for his final confrontation with the Romans. 1000 golden "stater"s were offered to the king- 10 "stater" for each horseman and 5 for each foot soldier. In the harsh times, when an army was threatened with being outnumbered or surpassed in battle techniques, the "soldiers" would be joined in battle, by what will be called after a millennia "the great army" of the land. This is the army composed of all men capable of fighting, drawn from every community. Recognized by Tacitus with a term referring to, 'the many', the term continued in use, appearing with the same meaning in official decrees and Chronicles from the Medieval period of Romanian history. Possessing various and skilled architects, "instructors" that would take care of the leaders - first chosen, then united on a value criteria from the "tarabostes"- they formed the core of the 'Royal army'. Around them the male population would fit closely due to the warrior spirit of the Dacians and the ability of these peoples to transform any tool (reaps, scythes, axes, pieces of iron taken from the ploughs, pitchforks etc.) into fierce weapons. The fact that this population used to ride to the camp place, made the historians think that the horsemen had a special place in the army. Thus, Tucidide and Ovidius, observing that "riding they came", considered that, due to the fact that "the Getae used to ride" and they were "neighbors with the Scythians, have the same costumes and they are both horse archers".
The bow was a weapon used in long-distance battles and was handled with equal skill by the infantry as well as by the horsemen. Thus Horatio's statement that the Getae, "are more skilled than anyone in throwing arrows" was very accurate. The most numerous part of the army was still the infantry, a fact proved by the report of 2,5/1 for the Getae pedestrians that opposed Alexander the Great in 335 BC. The shock element of a Dacian army was the heavy infantry composed of professional warriors who, according to Dio Chrysostomos, could only be recruited from, "those who will prove to be skilled archers", soldiers with heavy weapons "throwers of spears or stones" could be accepted.
Alongside the heavy infantry was a light infantry force, composed of commoners who rode to the meeting point and then fought on foot They formed "the light armed soldiers and those without shields" who often fought with simple pointed stakes, bludgeons, huge pitchforks, axes, scythes, knives and other tools they transformed into weapons Regarding the existence of a Getae ships, commercial and military there are no written sources but there are however, archaeological discoveries and Arrian's statement that in 335 BC, on the Danube, the boats were "many, because the inhabitants from the Istrian shores used them to fish in the river or to visit each other" proving to us that river navigation was not an unknown thing in these parts. Once Burebista's state was formed the Getae and Dacian army used the united fleet of the Greek fortresses along the Western parts of the Black Sea.
There is a considerable body of evidence to suggest that the Dacians were as well organized as Hellenistic and Roman armies. Vice kings (Deceneu, Vezina) are mentioned along with 'instructors' and commanders of fotresses and on Trajan's column 'tarabostes' are represented leading detachments of warriors. In 101-102 and 105-106 AD military action was taken against the Romans on more than one front and over considerable distance. There are also the impressive winter attacks of 85-86 and 88AD. It is well known that Florus, commenting on Titus Livius, stated that the Southern Thracians were very much acquainted not only with, "discipline" and, "Roman weapons" but with "the military flags also".
The organization of units of varying sizes according to their flags points to the existence of a permanent army alongside the levve en masse gathered around the 'draco' flag. Indications regarding numbers of units, the great units and the community army are given in the description of the conflict between Histria and the Thracian king Zoltes (around 200 BC) when, in order to protect the fortress, the Getae king Rhemaxos sends a detachment formed of 100 horsemen and then, a support unit counting 500 warriors; the total units used is this battle by the histrians reached 600.
It is likely that within the unified state that some troops came from the provinces, numbering around 40,000 warriors in total. These troops would form after Burebista's death, the army of the Free Dacians after the disappearance of the unified state. There were some very important measures taken by the Dacian king Oroles around 200 BC in order to stimulate the warrior spirit of the population and also to educate it .He had some spectacular results in this area by applying humiliating punishments to his soldiers after the failure in his campaign to repel the Bastarnae aggression.
The warriors' training and discipline were possible only through royal "commands", with the full help of the specialized "instructors" who formed the warrior class or who were "imported" from the Greek and Roman world. These methods were accompanied by the self-imposed perfection as a natural consequence of the religious education and ritual traditions. Xenophon emphasized the role of dancing in Thracian culture as a way of initiation and as a war ritual. He testified seeing the Thracians dance "armed, to the sound of flutes. They made small nimble jumps using knives at the same time". Giving everyone an example of of his skill in handling weapoms, at a feast which the Odrisian king attended , "Seuthes himself got up, let out a warrrior cry and jumped nimbly as if he was keeping from an arrow".
The leaders of the army were selected from the reigning royal family who were well prepared for military command. Concerning the ability of the Dacian leaders we are told of the virtues and diplomatic skills of Dromichaites, the leadership and organization of Burebista and the wisdom of Duras in giving up the Kingship to Decabel because, "of the belief he is much more worthy of it," Of this incident Dio Cassius wrote, "Duras, who has the kingship first, offered it knowingly to Decebal, the King of the Dacians, because he was more skilled in the ways of the war and brave: he knew when to attack and when to withdraw in time, he was an expert in setting traps, courageous in battle and he knew how to use a victory in order to get out sound from a defeat," This portrait shows the features of the ideal commander and the main characteristics of the Dacian military craft.
The skills of their commanders, the strength and complexity of the military structures and the levee en masse enabled the Dacians and the Getae to put up a successful resistance against migrating tribes or the armies of the great powers of the ancient world. In history they are remembered as a powerful people who fought against the Romans with some success and made them pay tribute.