Ancient dacians

Ancient Dacians, predecesors of the Romanians

Contemporaries with the ancient Greeks and Romans

Skilled farmers, artisans and warriors, the Dacians, ancient ancestors of the Romanians, lived in the territory of nowadays Romania, mainly in Transylvania. Their complex mythology transformed them into a famous civilization, mentioned by Herodotus and other famous historians of the time.

About the Dacians | Summary

Contemporaries with the ancient Greeks and Romans, the Dacians, ancestors of today's Romanians, were a civilization that excelled in agriculture and crafts. The Dacian’s belief in immortality has generated a complex mythology, comparable to the ancient Greek and Roman mythology, which has led, among other things, to be followers and great masters of natural medicine. Also, the werewolf myth started in the heart of Dacia, the Legend of the Great White Wolf being the first recorded mention of this fantastic character. The Dacians cult of the wolf (their totemic animal) was kept throughout their existence, placing a profound mark on their lifestyle and especially on their military strategy which made them the most powerful and respected adversary of the great Roman Empire; their resilience and bravery is immortalized on the famous Trajan’s Column in Rome.

The ancient Dacian people | concept

The Dacians, ancestors of today's Romanians were a civilization which lived in present-day Romania, in Eastern Europe, mainly in nowadays Transylvania. The Dacians broke away from the bulk of Indo-European tribes (the precursors of most European nations), and experienced demographic growth, economic development and an expansion of the network of settlements between the centuries 3-1 centuries BC.

The etymology of the name "daci" comes from the word "daos" which meant “wolf” in ancient Phrygian. The Dacians referred to themselves as “daoi” and their relation with the wolf symbolism continued throughout their existence, this particularity explaining their wolf-like battle flag.[1] [2] [3] [4]

The Dacian men were hefty with rugged features, wore beards and long hair, while the Dacian women were beautiful with stiff, severe but expressive features. The Dacian’s clothes resembled the current Romanian traditional costumes. The Dacian mythological elements are found today in the sewed traditional motifs, each model having a social and spiritual message.[5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

The Carpathian Mountains were a favorable environment for the Dacians’ economic development, primarily due to seasonal migration of livestock from the hills to the mountains (a practice called "transhumance"), the Dacians’ main occupation being sheepherding. For practicing sheepherding, the Dacians created paths through the mountains in order to reach the Carpathians’ abundant pastures. Transalpina is nowadays the most famous tourist route as the highest altitude road crossing the Carpathian Mountains; it still serves as a transhumance route, a tradition kept alive since the Dacians’ times.[10] [11] [12]

Apart from transhumance, the Dacians were known for beekeeping and for their knowledge in the usage of medicinal plants. The tradition of producing honey and collecting medicinal plants was maintained until today in the traditional Transylvanian village and ancient works from the 1’st and 2’nd century BC certify that the Dacian practitioners of natural medicine had principles similar to those of the school of Hippocrates, father of medicine.

The usage of medicinal plants was woven with the spiritual-mystical side of the Dacian people and transposed into their rich mythology. Thus, according to the supreme Dacian deity, Zalmoxe, one could not try healing the body without healing the soul. Hereby, the Dacian people showed that they understood the connection between the body and the soul, these psycho-somatic notions being probably particularly rare at that time.[13] [14]

The Dacians believed in the immortality of the soul, for them death being only a passage from the material world to the spiritual one, governed by Zamolxes. The harmonious blending with Christianity led to the conservation of some aspects and traditions; Some Dacian deities evolved into Christian characters such as St. Elijah or Romanian fairy tale characters such as Prince Charming (Făt-Frumos - son of the sun) and Ileana Cosânzeana (daughter of the moon).[15] [16] [17] [18]

For the Dacian people, the incantations combined with the medicinal plants’ effect had a major role in treating any kind of disease. The Dacian mythology, Romanian folklore’s predecessor, was strongly influenced by these beliefs, leaving behind many legendary characters as well as some superstitions and legends which still last up to this day.

The werewolf and the vampire are just two fantastic characters rooted in the Dacian mythology. The wonderful Romanian fairy tales cover philosophical themes such as cyclicality, atemporality or man's relationship with nature, most of the aspects practically being a reminiscence of Dacian myths.[19] [20]

Being artisans, the Dacians processed clay to create pottery objects, thus continuing the Cucuteni Civilization’s tradition, (5500 - 3500 BC, the oldest confirmed European civilization), whom were already using the potter's wheel. In turn, the Dacian used the potter's wheel as well, since the fifth century BC., managing to give birth to an impressive number of quality ceramic objects. The continuity of this tradition has been preserved nowadays, the Transylvania World territory comprising many important pottery centers.

The Dacian craftsmen were using complex and diverse techniques to create attractive jewelry, even mastering the gold plating technique. The Dacian gold’s purity had been recognized since ancient times, reason for which it didn’t need special purification techniques. Also, the Dacians were very skilled in processing bronze, brass and silver, proof of this being a number of artifacts found by archaeologists, which show the artistic craftsmanship and the functionality of their products.[21]

One of the main reasons for Roman Empire’s invasion of Dacia was the Dacian gold reserves. Sources indicate that the Dacian’s gold reserves revolved around the figure of 165 tones, in addition to 300 tons of silver. For an updated comparison, the Dacian gold reserve would have been among the top 25 gold reserve for the world’s nations in 2015, above countries such as Sweden, Brazil or Singapore.

Among the Dacian’s innovations we can count the "falx" a weapon similar to a sickle, smaller and shorter than the typical long swords of the time. The falx was the Dacian’s weapon of choice and it appeared on numerous monuments and coins during the second and third centuries AD, the most representations being on Trajan's Column in Rome. The falx, a weapon wielded with both hands, caused so much fear among the Roman soldiers that they had to completely redesign their armor in order to fight on equal terms with their Dacian opponents.[22] [23] [24]

The Dacian’s fortresses were called “dave” and their arrangement gives us clear indications of their defense system, embodied in the Carpathian mountain range. The discovery of stone walls, terraces and platforms that follow the contours of the almost inaccessible rocky peaks proves an old Dacian tradition in choosing their fortresses. The communion with nature was a real way of life for the Dacians and the best preserved Dacian remains can be found at Sarmizegetusa Regia, a sanctuary like construction, similar to the famous Stonehenge, located in the middle of nature.[25]

The Dacians were a military force to be reckoned with, their tactical processes ranging from battles in acute angles in order to pierce the enemy lines, to guerrilla defensive maneuvers. In addition, in the middle of the battle, the Dacians behaved with aggressiveness comparable to that of wolves, even their battle flag (called Draco) being a dragon-headed wolf. Thus, after two wars the Dacian people were conquered with great difficulty and many losses by the Roman Empire and as a result of the merging between the two nations, the Romanian people were born.[26]

The Dacian legacy is not limited to artifacts and archeological sites because their traditions and customs had a dominant role in the formation of Romanian folklore; folklore which underlines the concepts through which Transylvania World reveals and introduces as a brand an increasingly relevant  and growing niche.[27] [28]


Note: The Transylvania World concepts are an essential part of the association brand and their usage has to quote the source and reference this website. Discover the Dacian mithology on our website

Research sources:

1. Pârvan V., Getica - O protoistorie a Daciei, Editura Meridiane, Bucharest, 1982
2. Daicoviciu H., Dacii, Hyperion Publishing House, Chișinău, 1991 (source)
3. Wikipedia, Ptolemy’s Map of Dacia (source)
4. Ionescu D., Rovithis-Livaniou E., The Map of Dacia by Abraham Ortelius, 2011 (source)
5. Vulcănescu R., Mitologie Română, Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1987
6. Romulus Antonescu, Dicționar de simboluri și credințe tradiționale românești (source)
7. Eliade Mircea, De la Zalmoxis la Genghis-Khan, Humanitas Publishing House, Bucharest, 1995
8. Mihai Gramatopol, Dacia Antiqua – perspective de istoria artei și teoria culturii, Albatros Publishing House, Bucharest, 1982
9. Vasile Cucu, Orașele României, Editura Științifică, Bucharest, 1970 (source)
10. Wikipedia, Transalpina (source)
11. Transalpina (source)
12. Sebastian Munster, Nova Tabula XX, 1552 (source)
13. Patrimoniul Cultural Imaterial din România.Repertoriu I , CIMEC- Institutul de Memorie Culturală, Bucharest, 2009 (source)
14. Soporean, Dr. Biolog Iuliana Crișan, Farm. Gabriela Vlăsceanu, Fitomitologie Farmaceutică în Opera lui Mircea Eliade, Societatea Română de Istoria Farmaciei,2012 (source)
15. Wikipedia, Făt Frumos (source)
16. Wikipedia, Ileana Cosânzeana (source)
17. Conf. Univ. Dr. Claudia Costin, Etnografie și folclor,„Ștefan cel Mare” University, Suceava
18. Sorin Paliga, Mitologia tracilor, Editura Meteor Press, Bucharest, 2013
19. Vulcănescu R., Măștile populare, Editura Științifică, Bucharest, 1970
20. The Great White Wolf - Legend (source)
21. Radu Florescu, Arta Dacilor, Editura Meridiane, Bucharest, 1968
22. Paliga S., Etymologica et Anthropologica Maiora, Fundația Evenimentul, Bucharest, 2007
23. Paliga S. Etymological Lexiconof the Indigenous (Thracian) Elements in Romanian, Editura Evenimentul,Bucharest, 2006
24. Cătălin Borangic, Sorin Paliga, Note pe marginea originii și a rolului armurilor geto-dacilor în ritualurile funerare, Acta Centri Lucusiensis, 2013 (source)
25. Wikipedia, Sarmizegetusa Regia (source)
26. Dacians represented on Trajan’s Column (source)
27. Pompei Cocean, Geografia Turismului, Focul Viu Publishing House, 2004
28. Ielenicz Mihai, Comănescu Laura, România – Potențial Turistic, Editura Universitară, Bucharest, 2006

Other concepts


  • Overview of the definitions and concepts developed by Transylvania World Association and the key points of our research.
  • Official concepts

  • Transylvania (Definition, etymology, geography, history and its present state)
  • Transylvania classification into three geographical areas: Central, Political and Transylvania World with its influences
  • Carpathian Mountains (Definition, setting, the connections between legends and reality)
  • Cucuteni Civilization (Definition, geography, facts about the oldest civilization of Europe)
  • Ancient Dacians (About the ancient Dacian people, predecessors of the Romanians)
  • Vlad the Impaler (Also known as "Vlad Draculea" or "Vlad Dracula", one of the most important European leaders who stopped the islamic takeover of Europe in the Middle Ages)
  • The traditional Transylvanian village (definition and overview)
  • Household in Transylvania (About the traditional transylvanian households)
  • Mithological concepts

  • Dacian mythology (Mythology spawned on today's territory of Transylvania, where the Dacians lived, the ancestors of today's Romanians)
  • Werewolf (Incorrectly promoted as a negative character, the concept has generated from the Dacian mithology)
  • Vampire (Definition and concept; global promotion because of the Transylvanian traditions)
  • Dracula (The fantastic character also known as "Count Dracula" or "The vampire Dracula", inspired by the transylvanian traditions and the real historical character Vlad the Impaler)

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