“The man is, before anything else, the woman’s son” (Vasile Pârvan)
Cătălin aka Burebista
The Dacian was not only composed of fierce warriors who amazed the ancient world with their faith and courage, but also the feminine half who bore the absence of the men in battle with strength and patience.
If historical sources for the Dacians are scarce, then those covering their women are practically non existent. Names are rarely mentioned. A rare exception is a coin discovered in Transylvania that has the name 'ZINA' (the lady?) written on it. She was possibly a queen or due to the date the wife of Burebista.
Despite the lack of written evidence, the role of women in Dacian society must have been important to judge by the carvings on Trajans column that illustrate women's faces.
For years Trajan had been celebrating his victory against the Dacians through various feasts, important buildings, or through different art monuments. Of course the artists working at these monuments were impressed not only by the Dacian men, but by their women too. The Column shows us the Dacian women in different moments: they appear as thin, determined, proud and harsh women, with graceful features, oval faces, wide foreheads, expressive eyes, straight noses, beautiful lips, long hair parted in the middle of the head covering their temples, leaving the years uncovered and tied up in a loop on their nape, all covered with a kerchief. If after 2 millenniums their grace has not faded nor is it too hard to imagine how beautiful they were in the real life!
Their clothes consisted of shirts tightly tied up at the necks, resembling a 'ia' with large and long/short sleeves, a skirt reaching the ground and possibly a cloak. for their feet they had 'opinci' (peasant sandals) made of leather in the summer and fur in the winter.
Their jewelry was very varied and showed good taste. Bronze or silver necklaces, skillfully made decorated their necks. Their hands were full of thick, silver threads and chains knitted and with their extremities shaped as snake heads. On their fingers they wore spiraled or simple rings . Their hairpins had various shapes but the most popular were those in the shape of a shield or a spoon placed on the spring. Earrings that have been found are in the shape of a thin circle with a small and fine pendant at one end . All these jewels were discovered by archaeologists with a great number of very colorful glass beads which, show us how stylish the Dacian women were.
These women’s lives can be studied with the help of the scenes from Trajan’s Column and the Adamclisi monument. Here the Dacian woman is pictured carrying a small child in her arms and others by the hand, sometimes even carrying a child in a trough on her head. In all the pictures however, they are caring and affectionate mothers for their children.
Their daily routine and essential occupations can only be guessed, mainly through examining the whole of Dacian society. Without any doubt a great part of the farming and raising animals was done by the women. Beside those, they were skilled in various crafts such as spinning, weaving, cutting and in some pottery skills.
Their pottery is the most important discovery we have relating to them. The pottery and the wheel of pottery were highly used, but the most of the ceramics were hand made by the women in various shapes in order to be used at home. The women’s tendency to make everything beautiful means that this strand of Dacian pottery is beautifully ornamented with curved lines, incisions or buttons lain on the pot. Their great affection for their babies made them mould small pots and dolls for them.
Using and analyzing archaeological, linguistic and ethnographical evidence as well as anthropological ones we can clearly emphasize the importance of the woman’s role in the Dacian society.
She was the mistress of the house that she kept up with abnegation and steadiness, even when the man was missing. Morale was kept very by the Dacian women and they were cared for the children’s education. They were perfect housewives. The women knew how to cook broth mixing vegetables and tasty, nourishing roots, venison and fish. They also baked flat cakes made of millet and wheat. They even knew how to pickle. The Thracian-Dacians were the inventors of many fermented aliments; the cheese is their invention, as well as the sour bran. Moreover it is now been discovered that the “braga” which, was thought to have been invented by the people of the Orient is actually a Thracian drink. Beer and wine were made in the Dacian homes long before other peoples could taste them. The number of Dacian houses discovered and the objects found in them are very complex, showing us that these people had a great constructive imagination .However, the evidence about the Dacian wood civilization is mostly lost, so we are forced to imagine their homes as they were.
The Dacian cuisine was simple, but perfectly harmonized nutritionally. The Dacian women did use fried fats, did not use the meat too much nor did they use salt excessively. They preferred to boil food or to serve it raw. In the ancient literature we have descriptions of Dacian feasts in which, the main food was the vegetables, the roots, fruit and dairy produce. Keeping food over winter was no secret for the Dacian women, neither was the apiculture; the bees from this region were a species adapted to the temperate climate and hence, very productive . All of this again emphasizes the importance of women in the Dacian society.
The place in which the women carried out their activities was the home, around the family. The houses were quadrilateral, oval, round or polygon in shape. Some of them had stone foundations made out of shaped stones or pieces of rock. The walls were made of long pieces of wood covered with clay and painted in different colors or of long pieces of wood stuck into the earth, gathered by a wattle, covered with clay and then painted. At the entrance, the threshold and the wooden door, iron spikes were often set in different carved patterns : flowers, vegetation, geometrical shapes. The houses had one floor with one or several rooms and a porch. The roofs were made out of tiles, shingle or thatch. Around the houses there were holes for storing food - they had burned walls- it is also thought that some granaries were placed near the houses. Food and drink were stored in large jars buried in the ground.
This is the world of the Dacian woman and there is no doubt that they helped at its building sometimes ultimately influencing it, but always individualizing it.
Dacain history illustrates the courage, dignity, patriotism and the good sense of its men but also the affection and care of the Dacian mothers. Dacian women were responsible for the survival of the Dacian way of life even after the Roman conquest and after various migratory peoples. These women, mothers, sisters and daughters carried on the Dacian civilization and way of life when the men’s weapons could no longer keep away the vicious torrents of the attackers and in doing so they avenged those who died defending Sarmizegetusa.