Sarmizegetusa was the capital of ancient Dacia in what is now Romania. Actually the name refers to two settlements near each other, one Dacian and the other Roman. Both were found high in the mountains near the present day cities of Deva and Hunedoara, in Hunedoara province in the east of the country.
Sarmizegetusa Regia was the capital of the great Dacian kings Burebista (king from c. 60 BC to 44 BC) and Decebalus (died c. AD 105). The city is distinguished by its geometric layout, with a quadrilateral central fortress, and outside circular and rectangular sacred areas, and roads and houses. The fortifications in the area were build in the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD as protection against the Romans and possibly other Dacians, and the city is surrounded by forts in the mountains.
Near the fortified city is the sacred area, which contains a number of religious sites. One circular space, which bears a resemblance to Stonehenge in England, comprises a wooden horseshoe shape surrounded by a stone circle with a fireplace facing the direction of sunrise on the winter solstice. Also in the vicinity of Sarmizegetusa are other sacred sites, including a sanctuary containing rounded limestone pedestals topped with sixty wood columns. Many of these structures seemed to have astronomical or astrological purposes, and it is believed that the Dacians may have worshipped the sun. The ruined city is on UNESCO's World Heritage List as a prime example of Iron Age civilisation.
The fortress high in the Carpathian mountains was one of the last places in Dacia to hold out against the Roman emperor Trajan as he pushed the frontiers of the Roman empire to their furthest extent. King Decebalus had tried to reunite the Dacian people, who had fragmented since the death of King Burebista, but this only made Trajan more determined to conquer the region. The emperor attacked in AD 101 and was able to declare Dacia a Roman province in AD 106.
Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa was established by the Romans sometime between AD 105 and 110 as the capital of Roman Dacia. The Roman city had an area of 32 hectares, and a population of 25 000 - 30 000 people, with all the typical features of Roman town, such as baths, temples and aqueducts. It was quartered by two roads, the Cardo Maximus running north-south, and the Decumanus Maximus running east-west. Where they met was the Forum, site of the main public buildings. It contained a basilica housing a meeting hall, the tribunal where judges sat, the prison, and administrative offices. The city also boasted a 5000-capacity amphitheatre, where the main attraction was gladiatorial combat.
The Romans abandoned Sarmizegetusa and Dacia as a whole in AD 270, when the pressure of marauding tribes from the North began to outweigh the importance of the region's natural resources.
The ruins of Sarmizegetusa can be explored today by tourists, and there are rumours of a royal fortune hidden somewhere in the mountains. The mountains of Dacia were important to the Romans for their gold and silver mines, but it seems highly unlikely such a treasure could last almost 2000 years. On the other hand, perhaps it is merely very well hidden.
"Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa". http://w1.520.telia.com/~u52013469/uts.html (February 26, 2003).
"Geto-Dacian Spirituality". http://bendis.ebony.ro/dacia3.html (February 26, 2003).
"Dacia". http://www.usd.edu/~clehmann/pir/dacia.htm (February 26, 2003).
An excellent picture of Sarmizegetusa Regia can be seen at: http://www.math.bme.hu/~poti/sarmis2.jpg