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Daco-Roman Continuity

Hungarian historians, like Benedek Jancsó, who dedicated his life to the intensive study of the theory of Daco-Roman continuity, consider that the territories of Dacia included Krassó-Szörény, Hunyad, Alsófehér and Kolozs Counties, the southern part of Szolnok-Doboka County, Torda-Aranyos and Nagyküküll_ Counties, - thus, the southwestern and central part of Transylvania. (Its influence and impact could be felt also in neighbouring areas.) According to Jancsó, it never included the Székely territories east of the Hargita Mountains and north of the Feketeügy (Râul Negru) River. Moldavia, Bukovina, Máramaros, and Szatmár, Bihar, Zaránd counties never belonged to Dacia. North and East of the above mentioned territory there were mainly uninhabited lands, not or only loosely connected to the Dacian state [13].

Dacia was attacked by the Romans for the first time in 101 A.D. Traian, crossing the Danube through the Vaskapu (the Iron Gate) of Hunyad County, marched and attacked the Dacian capital, Sarmizegetusa, with his legions. The contemporary centre of King Decebal was found near Várhely, a small village in Hunyad County. One of the Roman leaders, Lusius, crossed the Danube at Orsova and invaded Sarmizegetusa through the Volcano Pass. Decebal asked for peace.

Under the terms and conditions of the peace treaty, Decebal became vassal of the Roman emperor. Traian left a Roman garrison in Sarmizegetusa and returned to Rome with honor and glory. The leader of the garrison was Longinus, who was mentioned by us while discussing the Roman Orthodox Temple of Demsus.

Decebal, however, did not intend to honor the peace treaty. He used the time of peace to rebuild the devastated fortresses and fortifications. He also attacked the Jazygians who were allied with Traian. Decebal also welcomed to Dacia Roman deserters (there were Christians among them) and sent some of them to Rome with the commission to kill Traian. He arrested and held in captivity Longinus, Traian's personal representative. He sent his emissaries to Rome with the message that he will not let Longinus free, unless he gets back the occupied territories plus reimbursements for his military expenses. Longinus poisoned himself in captivity, and the Roman Senate declared Decebal an enemy.

Traian personally lead his legions against Decebal in 105 A.D. Sarmizegetusa was taken and occupied by the Romans. Decebal was captured while trying to escape. (According to the legends, he tried to escape to the north, and fell upon his sword at Kolozsvár.) Traian finished the full conquest of Dacia in 106 A.D. and returned to Rome.

Dacia was made a Roman province; it was named Dacia Traiana after its conqueror. According to Roman historians like Dio Cassus and Eutropius, Traian killed off the whole male population in Dacia. He replaced them with new settlers of all nationalities from the whole Roman Empire. The Roman inscriptions in Transylvania, that originated in later centuries, suggest that in addition to the new dwellers, Dacia had Dacians as well as other nationalities living in its territories.

Historical sources tell us that Dacians, living outside the province, raided several times the flourishing new provinces. Between 180 and 190 A.D. Governor Sabinianus made twelve thousand free Dacians settle down with the aim of pacifying them. These Dacians got back to their Fatherland after one hundred years of exile. This was the first time they had contact with the Roman administration, therefore the Romanization could not have taken place before this time, if ever.

The Roman armed forces stationed in Dacia were multinational [14]. Only the commanders and civil servants were from Italy. The newly settled people were not purely native Latin speakers [15]. [Compare the situation in India. After a long period of British rule, only the upper and middle classes learned the English language. The vast majority of the inhabitants of the Indian Subcontinent, or any other colony for that matter, never really mastered it (translator's note)]. Writings, inscriptions, archaeological findings prove that they were urban, miner and merchant people, from Syria to Gaul, who could not speak Latin or spoke it badly [16]; on the inscriptions which were not made by the Roman authorities, names of Oriental Gods abound [17]. These people should have been Romanized before they, intermarrying with the native population, could have been the ancestors of a Neo-Latin people, (the Rumanians). Thus, there were not many native Latin speakers among the settlers. (The number of native Latin speakers radically dropped in Italy too. Therefore, Traian had to issue an order, to stop the dangerous outflow of settlers from Italy.)

Believers of the Continuity Theory are frequently referring to the Latinizing impact of the Roman legions and merchants stationed in Dacia. Participating in the Latinization of Dacia, members of the legions should have been natives from Italy. The legionaries were Roman citizens, but they were recruited from the western and other primarily multinational, non-Latin provinces.

Only two Roman legions were stationed in Dacia, approximately twelve thousand people. Compared to the alleged large population in the territory, they would not have been successful in the Latinization, even if they had been native Latins from Italy and had no other duties to perform. Only the officers were from Rome in the auxiliary troops; approximately 500-1000 people, who did not live in cities. Since they were stationed along the borders in fortified camps, which were mainly uninhabited areas, they did not have anybody to Latinize. There were only a few Romans among the merchants, therefore they could not have taken part in the Latinization.

The Roman legions had to give up Dacia in 271 A.D. due to the relentless attacks of barbarians. It was robbed and plundered by the Goths, the Sarmatians and other people allied with each other. Emperor Aurelian[1]"...Being convinced that the province with its diminished population could not be kept under control, gave it up and withdrew his troops under organized circumstances. In 271 the army's still remaining units were withdrawn and the population was transferred into Moesia" [18].

From our point of view, it is important to know that along with the withdrawal in 271, historiography commemorates two Dacias, Dacia Traiana and Dacia Aureliana. The first included part of present day Transylvania and Oltenia. The second was situated south of the Danube, bounded by the Skopje-Sofia-Ni[sinvcircumflex] triangle. We have to emphasize this, because Rumanian historians, according to their own interest, usually keep silent about Dacia Aureliana.

The giving up and evacuation of Dacia, as well as the transfer of the people was fairly well organized. Naturally, the action did not happen overnight. A significant part of the civil population had already left the province. It is possible that the evacuation was not complete, although there are no reliable data to support this assumption. The number of those who did not leave was most probably insignificant[19].

The Roman reign in Dacia lasted only about 170 years. Later, Dacia became booty of the barbarian peoples. Six hundred dark years followed in this era. It is certain, however, that Transylvania was subject to the rule of the Goths until the beginning of the 5th century. As we can see, Aurelian let them conquer Dacia in 271. Their empire, where Christianity also spread, was destroyed by the attacks of the Huns. Even the Goths became divided into two parts: Western and Eastern Goths. The Huns conquered Transylvania with their devastating attacks, but after the collapse of their empire the area became the property of the Gepids, later the Longobards.

In the second half of the 6th century Dacia was conquered by the Avars. Their empire existed until the end of the 8th century A.D. Charlemagne, outstanding member of the Carolingian dynasty, defeated them in several battles in the year of 791 and conquered their territory to the Tisza River. The invading Hungarians found a considerable number of Avars, who remained there after the collapse of their empire; they intermarried with the Hungarians. The Avars have left a large number of tombs in which rich material relics were found.

In the 6th century A.D. a new people, different from the other nationalities, started to emerge in greater and greater numbers from the north and the north-east from the Sarmata lowlands to the middle, eastern and southern part of Europe. They were the Slavs. They were peaceful settlers, who earned their living from a primitive form of agriculture. People of the Great Migration would rather have treated them with consideration than harm them. They were considered servants, and their only task was to provide plenty agricultural produce for the country. Their number increased considerably, and they encroached on even larger and larger territories. In the 5th and 6th centuries, they were present not just in the Balkan Peninsula but in Central and Eastern Europe also. To Transylvania, the Slavs started to move probably during the Avar rule in the 6th century. They have absorbed those small ethnic groups who remained there after the devastations of the Great Migration. We have sources about every single ethnic group who lived in Transylvania after the Roman withdrawal in 271. We do not know, however, what happened to the Dacians and the Celts. Accordingly, the remaining fragments of the Dacians could have blended into the people following each other during the years, the same way as the Eastern Celts vanished without a trace.

In the 9th century, only Slavic people lived in small numbers in Transylvania. The conquering Hungarians could have found only Slavs in the area. This Slavic population lived without any organized state, under the leadership of the head of the clan; gathered around earthworks which served for some sort of defense. The origin of these earthworks can hardly be viewed as Dacian. Especially those, which were dug up recently by the Rumanian historians in that part of Székely land which did not even belong to the territories of Dacia. It is probable that Southern Transylvania and several parts of the Great Plain were subject to Bulgarian rule when the Hungarians arrived. Considering the reports of the Hungarian chronicles concerning the beginning of the 11th century, it is possible that the Bulgarian reign survived until the first decade of the new millennium. It seems that the Hungarians did not have to share the political power, making an allowance for the small Bulgarian territory, with any other people. At the beginning of the 10th century only the Hungarians had political organizations in the Carpatian Basin although this organization was based on the confederation of tribes [20].

We have to stress the fact that there already were some Christians among the Roman conquerors of Dacia, as well as the settlers they transferred here. Christianity was spreading rapidly. In the middle of the 2nd century A.D., even the farthest provinces of the Roman Empire had Christian congregations [21]. Christians must have appeared in Dacia. They did not only care for their religion, but they carried on some missionary activities for the sake of spreading Christianity. There could have been some Christians among them who had been converted to Christianity directly by the apostles and became Latin Christians.

Around the 3rd century, there were several one-time Roman soldiers among the Christian martyrs [22]. This was also professed by Tertulianus Quintus Septimus Florens (152-222 A.D.), a North African Christian Church leader. According to him, Christianity penetrated into the territory along the left bank of the Danube before the Roman legions' withdrawal. This is also believed by D. Pippidi, Rumanian historian (and on the basis of his opinions by several other Romanian historians) [23].

Nicolae Stoicescu, the Rumanian historian mentioned above, stated [24], that the religious freedom of the Christians was not acknowledged at the time of the Roman withdrawal from Dacia Traiana (it was refused recognition until 313 A.D.). Thus, the withdrawal of the Roman administration made the spread of Christianity easier in the former province. This may be correct; however, the following circumstances should be considered:

- If spreading in Dacia, Christianity could not have many followers at the very beginning;

- presumably, the Dacians were not Christians. The new religion could hardly, only as an underground movement, spread before 271 due to the pursuit of the contemporary pagan Roman administration;

-the conversion and exercise of Christianity must have been considered secondary in a situation of endless attacks of the free Dacians;

- after the withdrawal of Dacia Traiana's population to the territories south of the Danube in 271, there had been so few Christians left, that they could not have remained a considerable factor in the survival and propagation of Christianity. (The Christians, considering themselves really Romanized, must have been among those who were most willing to leave the province when the Roman administration left it;)

- after the withdrawal of the legions and the population, Aurelian left Dacia to the Goths. We have very little data about their reign regarding whether Christian religion could have existed in Dacia Traiana;

- the "late Roman" culture does not have any authentic marks in Transylvania referring to an isolated, local population from the era of tetrarchy.[2] Traces of the people living here for an uncertain time can only be found in Baráthely, on the southern banks of the river Nagy-Küküll_. Therefore, there was not anyone the new religion could have spread among.

If Christianity had still existed in Dacia, what kind of cultic places would have borne witness to it? As we have already mentioned, we do not know much about the history of Transylvania for six hundred years, until the Magyar conquest of Hungary. It is probable that during the Peoples' Migration, the population living in Transylvania after the Roman withdrawal was decimated and those who survived were assimilated to other peoples.

This is proven by the destiny of the contemporary Dacian capital, Sarmizegetusa (Gr_di_te, Hungarian: Várhely). The city where the palace of the Augustanians, the forum, several baths, a temple, sanctuaries, public and private buildings were located, totally perished. In 279 A.D. it was entirely uninhabited. Its stones were carried away for building of houses and the nearby castle. Such a collapse could have happened on the whole territory of Dacia.

What is the significance of the fact that writers of the Clergy, who mentioned so much data about a Christian religious life in the territories south of the Danube, did not write anything about such things in the regions north of the river? Rumanian historians assume that people lived more undisturbed in the mountains, but how did they do it without priests, bishops and clerical organizations?

As shown above, no remains of Christian Churches or Christian cultic places were found in Dacia Traiana from the time of the Roman occupation. During the 2nd and 3rd Centuries the majority of the Dacian population - people in the villages - were still pagan.

If Christians lived in former Dacia Traiana, they could have performed the conversions of the yet non-Christian Daco-Romans and barbarians who settled there. In the early Christian communities every member could preach and the member in question could be his or her own "doctor". [25] It may be asked: why was it then necessary to send missionaries to this territory?

Stoicescu (1980, p. 149) assumes that the withdrawal of the Roman administration in 271 made the spread of Christianity more easy - there was no one who persecuted the believers of the new faith and the cult of the Roman emperor disappeared. Cultic places could have been built freely - however, there are no material remains to show that this would have been the case.

Stoicescu refers to Auxentius Durostorenis, (p. 150): "the bishop named Ulfila[3] was preaching in the Gothic and the Latin languages". Stoicescu then quotes Moga (Transilvania, 74,3, 1943, p. 15) who asked: "To whom could this bishop preach in the Latin language if not to the Romanized and Christianized Dacians?"

The answer to this question is as follows: Ulfila preached in the Latin language in the Roman Empire, south of the lower Danube. The quotation from the text written by Auxentius Durostorensis is incomplete and therefore misleadning. Reading the entire text, it appears that Ulfila preached for the Goths north of the Danube for seven years; then a persecution of Christians started and the bishop was forced, with part of his congregation, to flee to the Roman Empire - there, he preached for thirty-three years, of course, in Latin, the language of the liturgy among the Roman population (see also Du Nay & Du Nay, 1997, p. 35). Stoicescu assumes (p. 149) that the Christianization of the Daco-Romans who remained north of the Danube was partly achieved by missionaries coming from the south. He mentions, however, the opinion of P.P. Panaitescu, who believed that their aim were the conversion of barbarians, not that of the already Christian Daco-Romans. Panaitescu also asserted that their Christianity was a natural consequence of the continuity of the Empire in the 4th-6th Centuries north of the Danube [27]. Let us take some points into consideration:

- During the time of the Roman administration, between 106 and 271 A.D. - as we have already mentioned - there were only a few Christians in Dacia Traiana. Their religion could hardly spread. If Christianity did expand it was only moderately successful.

- When the Romans evacuated Dacia Traiana, the first to leave the province must have been the Christian believers among the settlers. The spread of Christianity slowed down, was forced back or even stopped.

- If the Daco-Romans, living north of the Danube were converted to Christianity by the Romans then they would live there as devoted Christians. Why didn't their own preachers convert the barbarians to Christianity? Again; who converted the Rumanians to Christianity in Dacia Traiana ? This question is not new. It was discussed by Petru Maior[4] who believed that Christianity had been brought by the colonuses, and, consequently, there was no need of missionaries, apostles etc. That is why the exact date of conversion is unclear; it is not linked to anybody's name.

This is contradicted by the fact that the official religion in Dacia Traiana was the worship of the emperor, besides the cult of Jupiter and Mars, and already in the mid-second century, the Mithras-cult became widespread,[5] which was an alien, non-Roman cult. One may add, that the territory between the Adria and the Black Sea, and the Balkan territory south of the Danube was intensively Romanized, much more than Dacia Traiana. By the 5th century Illiricum[6] and Moesia were the most advanced provinces as regards the organization of the Christian Church.

The fundamental notions of the Christian faith in the Rumanian language are of Latin origin: biseric_ < latin basilica, Dumnezeu < Domine Deus, înger < angelus, etc. Stoicescu asserts (150) that this proves that the Daco-Romans were Christianized in the period "in which the Rumanian people was formed". However, these words are not specific to Dacia Traiana but were also used by the Christians living south of the Danube.

Stoicescu (150) mentions that Dobruja remained for a longer time under Roman rule and was thus exposed to an earlier and more intense Christianization as compared to the other Rumanian provinces. He mentions that a bishopric existed in Tomis[7] (today's Constan_a) in the 4th - 6th centuries. This was by A. Ghimpu-Bol_acov called "the first metropolitan seat [mitropolie] [8] of our country" [29] Stoicescu mentions several discoveries of contemporary basilicas, inscriptions of a Christian character, tombs and crypts in this area. However, Dobruja is located south of the Danube - the point is that such remains of a Christian religious life were not found in Dacia Traiana.

Stoicescu also mentions a number of archaeological discoveries of an ancient Christian character also from the territory of former Dacia Traiana, which would prove the presence of the Christian religion there already in the 4th century. These are, for example, a gem found in Torda (Turda), an ex-voto bearing the monogram of Christ and the inscription "Ego Zenovius votum posui", found at the village Biertan (see below), - both in Transylvania ; as well as Christian cemeteries of the Ciumbrud-Blandiana B type from the 9th-10th centuries, also in Transylvania.

We do not dispute the results of archaeological research, as we do not dispute the existence of the discovered Christian tombs. We cannot accept, however, the theories put forward by Stoicescu (and others), that the Romanian people were converted to Christianity on the territory north of the Danube, including Dacia Traiana. The difference in this respect between Dobruja and the territories north of the lower Danube is striking: in Dobruja, there are remains of several Christian churches, crypts built on tombs of Christian martyrs from the 3rd century, more than 200 inscriptions of a Christian character, many of them on sarcophags from the 4th-7th centuries, etc. All these provide material proof for the statement that in Dobruja, intensive religious, Christian life - clerical organizations, monasteries and episcopacies - must have existed beginning with the 4th century.

If the ancestors of the Rumanians, who adopted Christianity already in the 3rd - 4th centuries, had lived in that period in the territory of Dacia Traiana, there should be similar material remains also there. Christian people of this time could not live, not even temporarily, without buildings and places, such as chapels, meeting-houses, temples etc., serving their worship.

However, nothing of this kind exists north of the lower Danube, as shown also by M. P_curariu, the above mentioned professor of theology. He listed six relics in his reference book (p. 29-30) but was unable to find any cultic place or any other trace of early Christian organizations in Transylvania.

The above mentioned striking difference between the territories north, respectively south of the lower Danube regarding early Christian churches etc. have been discussed by Rumanian historians. The fact that in the south, - in Dobruja and in Moesia - there were churches and episcopacies in an early period caused several historians to assume that such buildings must have existed also among the Daco-Romans living in the North. This is, however, a dangerous reasoning, writes Auner Carol, historian of the Church. This is because it can be asked: how it is possible that parallel to the strong documentation about the existence of the churches in the neighborhood territories, intensive investigations, going on for decades, could not find similar contructions in the territories north of the lower Danube?

It is well known that emperor Justinian raised the Episcopacy of his birthplace, Tauresium, to the archbishopric rank with the name Prima Justiniana. In his second documentary he listed all the episcopacies posted under this archbishopric. In this document, one castle and two fortresses located on the northern shore of the lower Danube are described, but no episcopacy, nor any cultic place, or other religious organization is mentioned north of the river. This completes the picture given by the archeological finds mentioned above.

A few remarks about the ex voto, with the inscription "Ego Zenovius votum posui" (I, Zenovius made this donation) considered by Stoicescu as one of the most significant proofs of the existence of a Daco-Roman Christian community in Southern Transylvania in the 4th century: It was found in the vicinity of Berethalom (Biertan). On the basis of the letters used and the initials, style scientists determined that it originated from the 4th century. Stoicescu (1980, p. 153):

"The fact, that the inscription is in the Latin language proves that its owner was a Daco-Roman, who talked to his contemporary companions in a language which they understood. At the same time, it is an undeniable proof of the Daco-Roman Continuity Theory, as well as a conclusive proof of the ancient age of Daco-Roman Christianity". (Stoicescu, 1980, p. 153).

As shown above, finds of such objects, in the absence of cult places etc., are not sufficient to prove the existence of Christians and even less that of a Latin-speaking population in the area in question.

The Rumanian language is of Latin origin and the religious terms show that the ancestors of the Rumanians were Christianized in an environment where Latin was the language of liturgy. This must have occurred at an early age, before the Slavic contact.

The Latin form of Christianity was first introduced by the archbishopric of Prima Justiniana, which exercised decisive influence on the life of the Latin-speaking population of the Balkans in the 5th century. However, the scattered, therefore hardly organizable population could not resist the Slav conquests in the 6th-7th centuries. The native people assimilated into the Slavonic culture, and even the shepherd people of the mountains could not keep themselves from the Slavic influence.

This was the Ancient Rumanian or Common Rumanian population. This people, who originally spoke a uniform language (român_ comun_), started to migrate in different directions after about 1000 A.D. Some of them migrated to the west, and settled down on the territory of Istria, surrounding the Monte Maggiore. They are the Istro- Rumanians. Others went to the South. Their descendants, the today's Arumanians, or Cincars, live mainly in Macedonia, while the Megleno-Rumanians settled down in Thessaloniki and its surrounding areas.

Another branch of this Ancient Rumanian population moved to the North. They crossed the Balkan Mountains and settled down in the woodlands of the Danube and its northern tributaries, such as the Arge_, the Ialomi_a and the Dâmbovi_a. These territories were very suitable for shepherd life. Consequences of the migrations are that we cannot find any Roman cultic places neither on the Istrian Peninsula nor in Macedonia or the surrounding territories of Thessaloniki.

We have to agree with Ferenc Levárdy, who wrote the following (about the Carpathian basin) [32]:

"The devastations of the migrating peoples, following one after another, wiped out almost every mark of Roman life. Only ruins demonstrate the one-time flourishing Christian life. Due to serious ordeals of the war events, we can hardly talk about any continuity of life. According to the short stories of Saint Jerome,[9] the Carpathian Basin was far and wide blackmailed, robbed, devastated by Goths, Sarmatas, Kvads, Alans, Huns, Vandals, Markomanns. Temples were ruined and the martyrs' bodies were thrown out; the whole Roman world was crumbling! Most of the time the ones who just recently arrived likely camped among the hewn stone ruins (ruin continuity)."

Naturally, there are some exceptions. During the times of Constantine the Great, an early Christian basilica was raised in Pannonia at Fenékpuszta. It even survived the times when the old Germanic peoples escaping the Huns evacuated Pannonia. The other example is the Transylvanian early Christian temple from the 4th century at Demsus, if it had been a temple at all.

Returning to the question of the migrations of the Rumanians, we can state that they brought their religion with them from the Balkans. An old Rumanian anonymous chronicle [33] tells us that the first conquest of the Vlachs happened in the 7th century from the southern part of the Danube through Oltenia under the reign of the Basarab Dynasty. (We note that the founder of this dynasty, Basarab, was born at the end of the 13th century.) The impact of the Roman Rite Archbishopric, the Prima Justiniana was completely swept away, without a mark, by the Slav invasion. The archbishopric's role was overtaken by an orthodox metropolite, subaltern of the Patriarch, who was residing in Ohrida. Therefore, when they migrated and settled down in Hungary, more specifically in Transylvania, which then was an organic part of the country, the Rumanians had been wholehearted believers of the Eastern Church for centuries.


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