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By László Réthy

Published first in the 1886 Annual of the Hungarian Archaeological and Ethnographical Society Budapest

In the first centuries of our era, all the countries surround- ing the Mediterranean were subject to the Roman Empire. From Britannia, down the length of the Rhine and Danube to the Black Sea, from the Armenian Highlands to the Tigris and Euphrates, from the Nile to the Atlas Mountains - all were known as "Roman".

With Roman rule, the Latin language extended all over the Empire. The state documents were written in Latin, which also was the language of the army, and in the provinces Celtic, Illyrian, Phrygian, Semitic and Hamitic peoples left inscrip- tions in the Latin tongue, indicating that for public life the Latin official and literary language held universal sway.

With the expansion of Roman power, the Roman race also spread into the provinces, and from the original Roman parent-tongue new branches evolved: in Iberia the Spanish and Portuguese twin languages, in Gaul Provencal and modern French and in Helvetia Rhaeto-Roman or Romansch.

Many believe that the universal use of Latin brought about the romanisation, i.e. the formation of the new Roman peoples in the conquered barbarian territories, and from this conclude that new Roman peoples sprang up, or could have sprung up in all parts of the Empire, and that the eastern provinces were just as suitable for romanisation as Gaul or Iberia, and if in these territories the romanisation has died out, they attribute this to the barbarian invasions of the fifth century, which swept away the Roman elements, which ranged till Aquincum, Bregetium, Napoca and Potaissa, therefore they believe that the extent of the Roman family of languages is much more restricted today than it was at the time of the Roman Empire. That this belief is erroneous, has not to date been duly emphasised.

Those who are familiar with the Romance languages, and are aware of the relation between them and Latin, will agree with us in that: latinisation and romanisation are two funda- mentally different concepts, which should not be confused.

The Latin official language which was spoken and written throughout the provinces was not the language of daily life, and the Romance language did not develop from it, but from the "lingua rustica", the common people's language of Italy. In order for this to have happened, Italian ethnic elements must have settled in the provinces carrying with them their language (lingua rustica) which penetrated the local dialects, thence evolving new languages, new "lingua rustica's".

But the spread of the Italian elements could not keep pace with the rapid expansion of the Empire and only extended to the area surrounding Italy. They spread radially to Hispania, Gaul and to the Alps. The coasts of the Adriatic, to Dalmatia and Albania, everywhere maintaining contact with Italy, which sustained the romanised dialects of these provinces.

Into the further provinces the Italian elements did not penetrate. Thus along the Rhine and the Danube there was no romanisation, neither can we think of it in Pannonia, Dacia, Moesia and further to the east in Asia nor the coast of Africa.

The Egyptian, Celt, Briton, Bregetian, Phoenician or Do- lichian who erected altars to his local gods, commemorating his ancestral benefactors, still remained an Egyptian, Celt or Briton who thought in his own language. He was only thinly washed by the official and literary Latin, which never became a factor in his national development.

Those emperors and empresses who originated -in Car- thage, Syria, Thracia, etc. (Seprimius Severos, Caracalla, Julia Domna, Opelius Macrinus, Antoninus Elagabalus, Philippus Odenathus, Claudius, Aurelianus, Probus, Diocletianus) were latin-speaking Phoenicians, Syrians, Palmyrans, Arabs, or Illyrians but not Romans.

The role of the Latin languages the Roman Empire was exactly the same as the latin of the Middle Ages. In fact it then covered a greater area than in Roman times. The Holy Roman Empire, the English royal court and officials, Swedish, Polish, Czech, Hungarian states and all Christian literature used the Latin language but this did not affect the ethnographical con- dition of Europe. Latin was the language of the state and the cultured classes, but it was not an ethnographical factor.

During Roman times the imperial boundaries and the extent of the Latin language did not coincide with the full extent of romanisation. Where the legions and fleets stood guard: in long rows on the Rhine and Danube, in the East, in Africa, there were the Roman borders on foreign soil the Roman eagles represented a boundary of joint institutions and interests, only behind which many nationalities peacefully co- existed. This was an analogous situation to that maintained by the British in Bombay, Calcutta, Hong Kong, Shanghai. Defensive positions.

The last conquest of romanisation was Dacia. This was the furthest removed from Italy of the European colonies. Could the romanisation reach this far? Bearing in mind the afore- going discussion, we are forced to conclude in the negative. Let us survey the picture of Roman Dacia.

In A.D. 127 the Emperor Trajan declared war on the Dacian King Decebalus, whose troops had been disturbing the Danubian frontier. Following a war of some year's duration, Dacia became a Roman province.

What people occupied Dacia at this time?

The literary sources name the ruling class Dacians, who were a member of the Thracian-Phrygian family of peoples which lived on the eastern half of the Balkan Peninsula and maintained a connection through Transylvania with the Sar- matians of South Russia and the Jaziges who occupied the area between the Danube and the Theiss. Further members of this family of nations included the Alans of the Trans-Crimea, the Ossetes (Irones) who lived in the Caucasus, the Armenians, Phrygians, Lydians and Bythinians (of Asia Minor). These peoples were all related to the Iranian stock and thus differed from the Illyrians who occupied the Peninsula's Western half prior to the Iranian Thracian-Dacian-Scythian group, in the era of the aryan influx. They also differed in language from this latter group.[4]

At the time of Trajan the Thracian-Dacian-Scythian Na- tional group was in a process of dissolution. The Slavs had broken their barriers. In South Russia the Slavs had reached the Black Sea, other groups had reached Transylvania, even as far as Orsova on the Danube. This can be deduced from Transylvania's Roman period topography. The river names "Czerna" "Berzovia" could only have come from the Slav: the one means "black" and the other, "swift", in all Slavic dialects.

The Dacian element was strongest on the Rumanian Plains, and this is borne out by the numerous place names ter- minating in "Dava", found there during the Roman period.

It seems certain that by the time of Trajan's conquest, a numerically strong Slavic population lived in Dacia, and was supplanting the indigenous Dacians.

By his conquests Trajan extended the frontiers of the Empire to the Carpathian Mountains. A "vallum" was erected on the Russian Plains between the river Pruth and the sea, later being extended from the Pruth to the Dniester.

Numerous colonies were founded in the new province, mostly superseding older local settlements. However, some were established in previously unsettled areas, mining dis- tricts.[5]

The colonies in Transylvania comprised: Napoca (Kolozs- vár), Pataissa (Torda), Sarmizegethusa (Vásarhely), Apulum (Gyulafehérvár), Alburnus Major (Abrudbánya, Verespatak), Ampelum (Zalatna) Salinea, Brucla (Marosújvár, Nagyenyed), Porolissum (Mojgrad), Largiana (Zutor), Resculum (Sebesvár- alja), Optatiana (Magyargorbó), Cedoniae (Szeben).

In the Danube Valley: Ad Mediam (Mehadia), Tsierna (Orsova), Berzovia.

The pattern of Roman life in Dacia resembled that in other parts of the Empire. A cultured, civilized way of life; cities of stone, amphitheatres, baths, aquaducts and temples.

The population however was not of Italian origin to the slightest degree.

For Italians, Dacia was a distant land with an unpleasant climate. Also, by this period Italy was an exhausted land that had no surplus population.

From literary and palaeographic sources it is known that the Roman population of Dacia comprised peoples from all over the Empire, although mainly from Asia Minor, and if Italian elements were present, they were only a very insig- nificant minority.

According to Eutropius (Vlll. 3) "Traianus victa Dacia ex toto orbe romano infinitas eo copias hominum transtulerat ad agros et colendas."3

What Eutropius states in general, is confirmed in detail by inscriptions. From these we know that the Roman colonists of Dacia were mainly of Semitic origin, i.e. Syrians, Palmyrans, Bythinians, Commageneites and Galatians. There also were Celts, Greeks and, as miners Pyrusteans from South-Dalmatia.

This multi-lingual population was scattered over the Dacian and Slavic area. Most of them understood Latin or Greek, but at home they spoke the language of their respective country of origin, and lived according to their native civiliza- tion .

Let us analyze the ethnographic situation of these colonists in the light of the inscription-derived information.

The provincial capital, Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegethusa exhibits various national groups: one part of the population probably was of native Dacian (Slavic?) origin. One inscription mentions a Dacian name (C.I.L. 1385), "Bovipal " which seems to belong to the Scythian and Jazig languages which had names ending in "pala" or "pal". A native origin seems indi- cated also by the religious monuments: "I.O.M. Terrae Daciae, Dii Deae Daciarum, Genus Daciarum" (C.I.L. 1351, 1063, 993).[6]

Greeks also lived in Sarmizegethusa, as attested by a Latin- Greek inscription (C.l.L. 1422). Also indicating Greek colonists is a mithras altar dedicated by one Anicetus (C.I.L. 1436) and the temple to Aesculapius and Hygiea (C.I.L. 1417) a).

However, most of the population of Sarmizegethusa was of Syrian origin, as evidenced by the numerous Mithras monu- ments, and other at Varhely is inscribed the name "MALAG- BEL", a god of Syrian-Phoenician derivation.

Another monument, in the museum at Deva lists a number of Semita gods, "MALAGBEL", "BEBELLAHAMON", "BENEFAL and MANAVAT".

To the north of the capital lays the colony of Germisara (Algyógy). This also was occupied by people from Asia Minor, but Galatians, not Semites. This is proven by the presence of a "Collegium Galatarum".

Near Germisara was Apulum (Gyulafehérvár). The name is analogous to Apulia, but it was not settled by Apulians. The population comprised Greeks, Palmyrans, Syrians, Paphlago- nians, Celts, people from the Alps and from Emesa in Syria.

An inscription (C.l.L. 1108) mentions the sun god of the Palmyrans, Hierobolus by name. The cult of the Emesians is commemorated by a number of monuments (C.I.L. 1030- 1138), and the Paphlagonians with their god Abonutichos by two inscriptions (C.I.L. 1021, 1022).

In the district of Apulum, where today lie Alvincz, Maros- németi, Déva and Nagyenyed, the ethnographic picture is very varied.

In Alvincz are traces of Greeks (Ephemeridis 412) and at Marosnémeti and Déva, Syrians who sacrificed to Jupiter Heliopolitanus (C .1. L . 1353-54) between Nagyenyed and Gyulafehérvár another Syrian nation the Delicheians left a monument of their god Jupiter Dolicheius (Ephemeridis 400). They are also mentioned on an inscription found at Maros Portus (Ephem. 401).

Past Apulum in the mountains, the mining towns of Arn- pelum, Saliane and Alburnus Major were the more important settlements where Pyrustan and Dalmatian miners operated the salt and gold mines. (C.l.L. III. Tabulae Ceratae and inscrip- tion 1323.) Besides them, the mining towns were occupied by Greeks, Dolicheans, Commageneites (both Semitic people) and Bythinians (C.I.L. 1301, 1324). An inscription mentions two priests of the Dolicheans and Commageneites, Addebar, Semei and Oceanus Socratis.

Thus it can be seen that the heart of Dacia was occupied by a very diverse population. To the north the situation was similar.

In Potaissa (Torda) we again find Greeks, Syrians and Palmyrans. An inscription mentions the goddess Isis Myrionyma who was worshipped by the Greeks, whilst the Syrians raised an altar to the God Aziz the companion of the sun-god, who was a figure of the cult of Emesa in Syria (C.I.L. 875, 1138). Here in Potaissa was also found a monument to the Numerus Palmyrenorum, an army unit of Syrian origin, thus containing numerous Syrian personal names. (Torma, revidirte und neue Inschriften zu C.l.L. 111. Wien 1881 4.p.)

Equally, or more mixed was the population of Napoca (Kolozsvár), the capital of Northen Dacia. The inhabitants included Galatians from Tavia (C.I.L. 860), Dolicheans (Ephemerides 373), Carians (C.I.L. 859), and other Asiatics. A name-list of the latter is extant (C.I.L. 870). In 235 they had a collegium, headed by a "Spirarcha".

The stele called "NOMINA ASIANORUM" (Zoilianus scripsit) includes typical non-Roman names such as Tattario, Oizo, Hyius, Zoilus Zoilianus, Eptala, Suri, Tzinto, Greca, Ermes, Asclepiodate, etc.

Towards the Carpathians the settlements thin out but in the vicinity of Marosvásárhely, between Mikháza and Demény- háza, there was found an inscription concerning a ship-hiring Collegium, the business of which extended all over Dacia. This Collegium was not Italian either, the cult of Adrastea named in the inscription (C.I.L. 944) indicates Asians from Mysia and Phrygia.

Towards the lower Danube the "Colonia Zernensium" and "Berzovia" take their names from Slavic inhabitants. The cult of Jupiter Cerneunus indicates an unbroken occupation by the native inhabitants.

Near Karansebes we again find Dolicheans and Palmyrans. One inscription is dedicated to Jupiter Dolicheus (Ephem. 443), and another commemorates in Latin and Palmyrene language, an optio names Flavius Guras. This was offered by Aelius Habibis, the priest of the local Palmyrans. This monu- ment highlights the close contact between the Asiatics in Dacia an(l how much, in spite of romanization they remained Asians at heart. The stone is inscribed in Latin, but underneath it lists the donors rank and name (Guru Ben, Jaddai optio) in Pal- myran characters.

The army s composition was as heterogeneous as the colonies. The legions in Trajan's time and even more so later, were made up from the most diverse peoples from all over the known world. The Dacian Garrison was also like this: the soldiers included Illyrians, Pannonians, Spaniards, Britons, Numidians, Egyptians and men from the Alps.

Upon such an ethnographic basis, a new Roman nation, such as in Gaul or Spain, could not form in Dacia. If a new language had evolved, it would more likely have been Semitic than Roman. But whatever language would have formed in Dacia this should have left a trace in today's language, because languages retain, in fossilised form, an in- dication of what various tongues they had evolved from.

The theory that a new people and language had evolved in Dacia has to be abandoned. Ethnologically it is an invalid assumption because Roman life in Dacia was very shortlived and its people later dispersed in the other Balkan provinces or returned to Asia.

In the 3rd century Dacia was threatened by the Goths. These people had come from the Baltic, and traversing Lithuania and Poland, eventually arrived in the Crimea, sur- rounding Dacia in the process. The Huns followed the Goths preceded by displaced German elements who thus were forced to invade Dacia.

The situation in Dacia soon became untenable. Aurelian withdrew the settlers and garrison, resettling them in Moesia which henceforth was renamed Dacia Aureliana.

According to Flavius Vopiscus, Sextus, Rufus and Eutropius, the entire Roman population was evacuated. Eutropius states (IX. 15): "Provinciam Daciam intermisit vastato omni Illyrico et Moesia desperans eam posse retineri abductosque Romanos ex urbibus et agris Daciae in media Moesiae collocavit appellavitque eam Daciam, quae nunc in duas Moesias dividit et est in dextera Danubio in mare fluenti, cum antea fuerit in laeva. [5]

With the age of Aurelian the one and a half century (107-260) story of Roman Dacia comes to an end. Minting ceased in 257.

The last Latin inscriptions date from 257-260, and even numismatic remains do not go beyond Aurelian.

The Roman civilization was destroyed. The very names of cities were lost, as there was no one living in Dacia to re- member. The mines were abandoned by the Pyrusteans. It was only in the 18th cent. that the "tabula ceratas" hidden by the Greek and Dalmatian miners at Alburnus Major against a better time, were discovered. The better times never came.

According to the literary and archaeological sources, to the best of knowledge Dacia completely ceased to be Roman. The Danube again became the frontier of the Empire. Viminatium (Kosztolacz), Egeta (Palanka), Bononia (Viddin), Ratiaria (Arcar), Durostorum (Silistria), became the stations of the legions guarding the border.

That any Romans remained in Dacia after the time of Aurelian is an impossibility. The peasantry of the Roman period continued to inhabit the land, as they did during the German period. This population, however was Slavic. This can be seen from the fact that the names of Dacian towns completely disappeared but the names of Rivers of Slavic origin continued, and flourished down to modern times.

The Rumanian nationalistic studies to establish the origin of the Rumanian language in Dacia can thus be seen to be based on erroneous assumptions. No Rumanian language was born in Dacia; it could only have originated in an area of romanisation, and in this area this only happened in Dal- matia. Thus the birth-place of the Rumanian language is Dal- matia. The whole character of the language points at an Illyrian origin and it indicates the Roman history of Dalmatia.

(Translated by GEORGE VASS)

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