Sarmizegetusa Regia (also Sarmisegetusa, Sarmisegethusa, Sarmisegethuza, Ζαρμιζεγεθούσα (Zarmizegethousa), Ζερμιζεγεθούση (Zermizegethouse)) was the capital and the most important military, religious and political center of the Dacians. Erected on top of a 1,200 meter high mountain, the fortress was the core of the strategic defensive system in the Orăştie Mountains (in present-day Romania), comprising six citadels. Sarmizegetusa Regia was the capital of Dacia prior to the wars with the Roman Empire.
It should not be confused with Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa, the Roman capital of Dacia built by Roman Emperor Traian, which was not the Dacian capital, located some 40 km away. Sarmizegetusa Ulpia was discovered earlier, was known already in the early 1900s, and initially confused with the Dacian capital. This inevitably led to inaccuracies regarding Dacian wars and Dacians military system based solely on insufficient information.
Several hypotheses have been advanced to explain the origin of the name Sarmizegetusa. The most important are the following:
‘The citadel built of the palisades on mountain peak’ from ZERMI (*gher-mi, mountain peak, top cf. *gher ‘stone’, ‘high’) and ZEGE-T (*geg(h)t);
‘City of warm river’ from ZARMI ‘warm’ (derived from Sanskrit gharma ‘warm’) and ZEGET ‘flow’ (derived from Sanskrit sarj, bactrien harez; sarjana, harezâna ‘flow’), the city being named after the nearby river Sargetia;
‘The palace that illuminates the world of life’ from “ZARMYA” ‘palace’ (Sanskrit harmya ‘palace’), ZEGETH ‘world of life’ (Sanskrit jagat, jigat ‘go’, ‘mobility / world of life’) and “USA” ‘illuminaing’ (‘enlightening’, ‘burning’);
Sarmizegetusa Regia contained a citadel and living areas with dwellings and workshops, but it also contained a sacred zone.
The fortress, a quadrilateral formed by massive stone blocks (murus dacicus), was constructed on five terraces, on an area of almost 30,000 m².
The sacred zone — among the most important and largest circular and rectangular Dacian sanctuaries – includes a number of rectangular temples, the basis of their supporting columns still visible in regular arrays. Perhaps the most enigmatic construction at the site is the large circular sanctuary. It consisted of a “D” – shaped setting of timber posts, surrounded by a timber circle, which was surrounded by a low stone kerb. The layout of the timber settings bears a broad resemblance to the stone monument at the Stonehenge in England.
The “Andesite Sun” from the site seems to have been used as a sundial. This idea is supported by known influences on Dacian culture from Hellenistic Greece, influences which may have included ideas about geometry and astronomy.
The civilians lived down from the fortress, in settlements built on artificial terraces, such as the one at Feţele Albe. Dacian nobility had flowing water, brought through ceramic pipes, in their residences.
The archaeological inventory found at the site shows that Dacian society had a very high standard of living.Towards the end of his reign, Burebista transferred Geto-Dacians capital from Argedava to Sarmizegetusa. For at least one and a half century, Sarmizegethusa was the Dacians’ capital and reached its acme under King Decebal. Archaeological findings in this area have thrown new light on the political, economic and scientific apogee of Dacian culture, the latter testified by the solar calendar. Burebista and Decebalus creatively assimilated the technological achievements of Greek and Roman culture, out of which Decebalus was in process of making a Dacian classical age when Traian’s legions struck the final blow. And, these show that Dacian’s god Zalmoxis and his chief priest had an important role in Dacian society.
The site yields two important finds:
One is a medical kit, contained in a brassbound wooden box with an iron handle. It contained a scalpel, tweezers, powdered pumice and miniature pots for pharmaceuticals.
The other important find was a huge vase twenty-four inches (0.6 meter) high and forty-one inches (1 meter) across. It is stamped in mirror-writing, in the Roman alphabet, DECEBAL PER SCORILO i.e. Decebalus, son (cf. Latin puer) of Scorilus.
Also, there had been found 400 iron tools, made with the meter-long tongs, hammers, and anvils found in the smithies north of the sanctuary: scythes, sickles, hoes, rakes, picks, pruning hooks, knives, plowshares, and carpenters’ tools. Finds include weapons, too i.e. daggers, curved Dacian scimitars, spear points, shield-bosses.
Sarmisegetusa’s walls were partly dismantled at the end of First Dacian war in AD 102, when Dacia was invaded by the Emperor Traian of the Roman Empire. The Dacians rebuilt them. The Romans systematically destroyed them again in 106 and deported the inhabitants.The Roman conquerors established a military garrison at Sarmisegetusa Regia. Later, the capital of Roman Dacia was established 40 km from the ruined Dacian capital, and was named after it – Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa.
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