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Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains

   The Dacian fortresses represent the fusion of techniques and concepts of military architecture from inside and outside the classical world, to create a unique style. The Geto-Dacian kingdoms of the late Ist millennium B.C. attained an exceptionally high cultural and socio-economic level, and this is symbolized by this group of fortresses. The hill-fort and its evolved successor, the oppidum, were characteristic of the Late Iron Age in Europe. The Dacian fortresses are outstanding examples of this type of defended site.

   Built in "murus dacicus" style, the six Dacian Fortresses of the Orastie Mountains, in Romania, were constructed in the Ist centuries B.C. and A.D. as protection against Roman conquest.
Their extensive and well preserved remains present a picture of a vigorous and innovative ancient civilisation. Today, treasure-hunters sometimes search the area, as Romania lacks legislation in this domain.
The six fortresses - Sarmizegetusa Regia, Costesti-Cetatuie, Costesti-Blidaru, Luncani-Piatra Rosie, Banita and Capalna - that formed the defensive system of Decebalus were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

   Sarmizegetusa Regia was the most important Dacian military, religious and political centre. Erected on top of a 1,200 meters high mountain , the fortress was the core of the strategic defensive system in the Orastie Mountains (in present-day Romania), comprising six citadels.
   The fortress, a quadrilateral formed by massive stone blocks (murus dacicus), was constructed on five terraces, on an area of almost 30,000 m². Sarmizegetusa also had a sacred precinct - the famous Circular Calendar Sanctuary - one of the most important and largest circular and rectangular Dacian sanctuaries.
   The civilians lived around the fortress, down the mountain on man-made terraces. Dacian nobility had running water, brought through ceramic pipes in their residences. The archaeological inventory found at the site shows that Dacian society had a high standard of living.
  The Dacian capital reached its acme under King Decebal who fought two wars against the Emperor Trajan of the Roman Empire. In 101-102 A.D. the first war successfully repelled the Roman invaders. The second war stroke in 105-106 A.D., culminating with the Battle of Sarmizegetusa and the defeat of the Dacians. The Roman conquerors established a military garrison there. Later, the capital of the Roman Provence of Dacia was named after the Dacian capital - Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa, established 40 km away from the ruined Dacian capital.


   Costesti – Cetatuie (Costesti Fortress) is part of UNESCO Heritage and was built at the end of the IInd century B.C., beginning of the Ist century B.C. The civil settlement sprawled along the Gradiste River-Valley. The fortress city is situated on the upper plateau of the hill at 514 meters altitude.
   Burebista (predecessor ruler of the Dacians) sets at Costesti the first capital city of the Dacian State. Around it, four temples were built. Each temple is distinguished by a specific type of vibration.
   The constructors of  the fortress used the Hellenistic technique combined with the domestic style (murus dacicus). The south and the east walls, which were built in the Hellenistic technique, had a double role: defense and supportive structure for the upper terraces.
   The fortress defensive systems were composed of reinforced earth waves with palisades, walls and watch towers. Inside the fortress, on the hill, there are two dwelling-towers and a monumental staircase with a rain water drainage system.


   Costesti - Blidaru Fortress was built in the Ist century B.C. atop Blidadu hill, at an altitude of 750 meters, near the village of Costesti, Hunedoara County.

    Blidaru is the most strongly fortified complex area of this region, with a surface of 6000 square meters and is one of the six Dacian fortresses of Orastie Mountains.

   The fortification was built in two phases and includes two enclosures joined together and six watch towers. The first enclosure, at the top of the plateau, has a trapezoidal shape and was equipped with four towers placed at the corners. Inside there is a house tower. Later, the second precinct was built in a pentagonal shape.

   Blidaru is the only citadel that could not be conquered by the Romans. Dacian soldiers inside the fortress resisted until they have exhausted their food and water resources.

   Besides the defensive role, here was a solgers` training base in the art of war. Avoiding the direct phisical conflicts and avoiding the loss of lives on both sides were the main goals of the techniques learned here. Thus, military physical training is combined with the spiritual one, by activating the internal capacities.

   The discovery of a quadrangle temple, near the city, demonstrates once again that the complex Dacian`s  preparing transmitted to their solgers, by applying military strategies along with remotely methods of accessing information.


   The Dacian Fortress Luncani – The Red Stone (Piatra Rosie) from Gradistea Mountain controls the access through the valley. The Red Stone is located on the hill of the same name at an altitude of 823 meters. The Plateau where the fortress was built is surrounded by precipices, the only access being from the east. The city functioned between the Ist B.C. and the Ist A.D. centuries, when it was destroyed by the Romans. The fortress was built in stone and had a double fortification.

   The intitial citadel was a quadrangle with sides of 102 x 45 meters, eith walls built in the Dacian style (murus Dacicus). It had four towers arranged on the corners, and a fifth one in the Eastern midpoint, which served as a gateway. Here passed a large road paved with stone slabs, flanked by three watchtowers. Inside the enclosure there was a wooden building whose foundations of stone were fully preserved. The construction was plastered with clay rods, composed of two rooms. Moreover, there is a tank dug into the rock for the water supplies of the garrison. Upon entering the first enclosure there is a large limestone stair, 2.5 meters wide, which was bordered by a railing.

   On the east coast of the hill, there is a second enclosure composed of stone walls, built later, in the Ist century A.D. Inside this second enclosure was found the ancient route of a road paved with stone. The sides of the two enclosures were joined through the west side of the first enclosure, built from stone walls and earth. The wall thickness was 1.5-2 meters. Inside the enclosure were several terraces specially designed for habitation. Following the archaeological investigations here has been discovered an iron sword of Celtic origin, the shell of a parade shield med of rod iron with reliefs representing a bull in the medallion, a bronze chandelier with three arms and a bronze bust representing – probably – the Goddess Bendis.

   Near the fortress there are traces of two sanctuaries, consisting of alignments of stone column bases (plinths).


   The Dacian Fortress of Banita was discovered between 1961-1962, after systematic excavations made in that area. Access is allowed only on the north side, because of the very steep and isolated rock slopes.

   During the excavations there were discovered two defensive large walls, built in the murus dacicus style.

   The fortress dates back to Burebista, king of the Dacians in 82 B.C., founder of the Dacian State. It was rebuilt during the reign of Decebal (King of Dacia 87-106 A.D.) and destroyed during the Dacian-Roman wars (101-102 A.D.). The construction assembly had military purposes, including inside walls, weapons, fighting platforms and defense waves, its main task being to block the access to Sarmizegetusa Regia.

   Banita Dacian ruins are part of the UNESCO World Heritage in Romania.


   Capalna Fortress was part of the fortifications chain that protected Sarmizegetusa Regia, the administrative center of Dacia. Most likely it was built during the reign of Burebista and was the residence of a Dacian nobleman. 

   The Fortress of Capalna still had a relatively short life, about 50 years. Romans besieged it in both of the Dacian wars. After the first war, 101-102, it has lost some of the walls due to the conditions in which peace was concluded. Before the second Dacian War, 105 -106, the Dacians rushed to reinforce the city, raising walls that were forced to tear down only 3 years after. The outcome of this last Dacian War was fatal for the city, which, consumed by flames, was completely destroyed.

   There is no written record of the pre-Roman times to tell the history of this city, and the most distant notes date from the Middle Ages, when it seems that these Dacian ruins were used as an observation post.

   Even if there was not found any written evidence, the archaeological excavations have unearthed pottery worked both manually and on the potter`s wheel, decorated with geometric figures, bronze vessels, precious stones, silver, iron and bronze tools. Also, here were found Roman coins featuring an enormous amount of information about the life of the inhabitants of the city.