RomanArmyTalk

Full Version: Trajan\'s First Dacian War (101 - 102 C.E.)
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
Salvete!

As some of you may know, after lots of thinking and considering I finnally decided to write a novel set during the time of Trajan's First Dacian War (101-102 C.E.). At the moment I am gatheirng as many sources as possible and attemtping to make the most of them as I want this book to be as historically accurate as possible.

What poses a slight problem for me is that I can't find many sources which give me a detailed picture of the war, save the column itself. My only problem with the column is that it was primarily a piece of propaganda and though it may give us a good idea of what the war would have been like, I don't just want solely rely upon the column for my evidence.

One of the only primary sources which I have found that mention Trajan's Dacian Wars is Cassius Dio's "Roman History" (Book LXVIII). Other historians such as Tacitus and Suetonius seem not to be concerned about more (at the time) contemporary emperors such as Trajan.

My interpretation of the war goes as follows:

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I) Traianus succeed's the Emperor Nerva in 98 C.E. whilst he is in Lower Germany. He finnally reaches Rome in 100 C.E.

The Emperor is in the knowledge that the Dacian King Decebalus is posing a threat to Rome. He had been re-fortifying Dacia and raising new armies.

II) Traianus and his generals begin to plan the campaign against Decebalus and raise two new legions, the II Traiana (cognomen “fortis” following the Dacian wars) and Legio XXX Ulpia (cognomen “Victrix” achieved after the Dacian war). (Unfortunately, I do not know where exactly were raised (I presume Italy, though I could be completely wrong). Then, the XXX Ulpia (the legion I want to follow in my novel) was then stationed in Brigetio (Pannonia Superior), though another article says they were immediately stationed in Dacia).

III) In spring 101 C.E. Traianus marches north with eleven legions ( http://www.unrv.com/five-good-emperors/dacian-wars.php ). When the legions reached the Danube they began a huge road-building program (devised by Apollodorus of Damascus) and move into Dacia through Viminacium via two pontoon bridges.

(I have read that Trajan may have split his army at this time and that XXX Ulpia would have been part of the army beginning their operations in Moesia Superior ( http://www.romanarmy.com/cms/content/view/25/114/ ) ).

IV) The Dacians do not immediately attack the Romans, they withdraw and rally under Decebalus between the Iron Gate. Traianus and his generals plan to push through the Iron Gate and move straight to the Dacian capital, Sarmizegethusa. The army makes slow progress, picking its way through the forests and deep, narrow mountain passes of Dacia, however, the engineers clear the way soon enough and the army marches to the Iron Gate.

V) The Second Battle of Tapae (101 C.E.). The battle took place duing a storm? (indicated by a figure of Jupiter hurling lighting bolts?). The Dacians attack form the high-ground but Roman auxiliary forces manage to push the Dacians back. The Dacians retreat towards the Carpathian Mountains. The Romans continue their advance, torching Dacian settlements and villages. Traianus is impressed by Decebalus’ defenses (Note the image on Trajan’s column where the emperor inspects a Dacian fortress. Within the walls are impaled heads and captures Roman battle standards).

Traianus, instead of continuing the advance and marching to Sarmizegethusa, decides to pull back to winter quarters at the Danube.

VI) Whilst the Romans re-supply for the next campaigning season the Dacians carry out an un-suspected counter-attack on an auxiliary fortress on the Danube and besiege the defenders. Word reaches Traianus and an army is sent to relieve the fort. Roman cavalry push back the Dacian army (who have Sarmatian cavalry). The auxiliary infantry fight with the Dacians once more, surrounding the baggage train and butchering the defenders. Then the legionaries finally go into battle and finish the Dacians off.

The Dacians retreat in disarray, forced to leave their dead on the field. High-ranking prisoners are captured by the Romans. Trajan hands out decorations following the victory. Though the Romans have victory the war is not over.

VII) Roman prisoners that have been taken by the Dacians are tortuered by Dacian women (this can be seen on the column. I am intending to include this event in my novel.)


VIII) Spring comes yet again and Traianus marches into Dacia. The army is split into two columns. Column ‘A’ will (perhaps) reach the Dacian capital by marching through the Teregova Keys Pass and the Iron Gate, and Column ‘B’ will march through the Vulcan pass.

IX) The Romans siege Sarmizegethusa, cutting off the food and water supply and build a ramp up to the walls. The Romans then storm the place and destroy the Dacian forces. Some refugees escape the town. Decebalus stands proudly and is forced to make peace with the Romans after being humbled by Traianus.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

This is just my interpretation and I realise that it could be very, very wrong. I do not have many sources to refer to save the column itself. There are a few other problems also.

I can't find any pages with archaeological evidence concerning the XXX Ulpia during the time of Trajan, so I don't know where they were posted. I do not know which route they took to Sarmizegethusa. I do not know who their legate was, or the general of their army group. I want to make this as accurate as possible and do not wish to go astray from what the evidence suggests, though it is limited. Does anyone know any way in which I can find these sort of things out? I've been searching everywhere. Help would be MUCH appreciated.

Grazie,


Lorenzo.
Hi Lorenzo - As you say, the column and Cassius Dio are the only sources on the war, but compared to most other Roman military campaigns, that's actually quite a lot of evidence! Everything beyond that is interpretation and comparison of one and the other, and generally your summary seems pretty good.

One minor point of pedantry, btw - Cassius Dio is not a primary source! He was writing a century later, so although he's always being sloppily quoted as a primary source on various aspects of Roman history, he's actually secondary for everything until the late second century. This doesn't help you much, but it's worth bearing in mind that even his description is potentially fallible.

There are a few books covering the campaign in detail:

Michael Schmitz' The Dacian Threat looks like a PhD monograph, but is quite thorough. It's here (partially) on Google Books. Try and order it through a library, perhaps.

Lino Rossi's Trajan's Column and the Dacian Wars (Here) is older (1971) but also worth looking at.

Julian Bennet's Trajan: optimus princeps : a life and times is I think the only full biography of the emperor and covers the wars in traditional style (Here).

Perhaps also interesting is The Dacian Stones Speak by Paul Lachlan MacKendrick (Here), which is a wider examination of Dacian history.

For commanders and legions there's not much to go on. Syme (in 'The Lower Danube under Trajan', JRS 49, 1959) suggests that C Cilnius Proculus, suffect consul in 97, was governor of Moesia Superior in 100 and one of Trajan's commanders in the Dacian wars. There's also Q Pompeius Falco, apparently legate of V Macedonia at Oescus, and A Caecilius Faustinus, governor of Moesia Inferior in 105. Governors of Danubian provinces around this period were probably placed there by Trajan, and the later ones would very likely have held active commands in the Dacian operations. There's also Pompeius Longinus, the consular (suff 90) who was perhaps the 'Longinus' placed in command of Dacia following the first war, later captured by Decabalus and committing suicide in captivity (as Dio narrates). He was also an earlier governor of Moesia Superior, I think - although he's unfortunately not the 'Longin(i)us Maximus', with the charmingly-named wife Julia Afrodisia, whose monument now stands at Densus in Romania (CIL III 01536), despite many internet claims!

Hope that helps a bit - Nathan
Quote:At the moment I am gatheirng as many sources as possible and attemtping to make the most of them as I want this book to be as historically accurate as possible.

What poses a slight problem for me is that I can't find many sources which give me a detailed picture of the war, save the column itself. My only problem with the column is that it was primarily a piece of propaganda and though it may give us a good idea of what the war would have been like, I don't just want solely rely upon the column for my evidence.

Well, unless one thinks (as some poor deluded souls still do) that the Column is a photographic record of pouting leather-clad legionaries in their (as we now know ;-) ) ) polka-dot tunics and auxiliaries in tight trousers (Coulston and I have long suspected there is a PhD waiting in the study of the depiction of buttocks on TC: it verges on the obsessional), then all the helical frieze provides is a crude narrative based around certain events illustrated by a bunch of guys in Rome who may, or may not, have had access to more-or-less accurate details of the contemporary army. Not necessarily the army that fought the war, either (cf the Adamclisi metopes). It is, however, an interesting metaphor for how time can be both linear (by progressing up the frieze) and non-linear (by examining the vertical alignments of standards across the frieze); perhaps the 'maestro' was a cosmologist ;-) ) The pedestal reliefs, as The Good Dr Coulston keeps asserting, are a different matter, and could well be detailed representations of barbarian spolia brought back and propped up for a still-life sculptural class. They, however, tell no story other than 'Pah, we won!'

Quote:I can't find any pages with archaeological evidence concerning the XXX Ulpia during the time of Trajan, so I don't know where they were posted. I do not know which route they took to Sarmizegethusa. I do not know who their legate was, or the general of their army group. I want to make this as accurate as possible and do not wish to go astray from what the evidence suggests, though it is limited. Does anyone know any way in which I can find these sort of things out? I've been searching everywhere. Help would be MUCH appreciated.

What you need is Farnum's monograph on the positioning of the legions* although more for what it doesn't tell you than what it does (and see the review here). You can't expect archaeological attestations for a newly raised legion like XXX to be abundant in time of war as they had other things to worry about, but retreating to a hiberna at the end of a campaigning season would require them to have a base from which to work, not least as we know so little about the archaeology of the contemporary legionary bases along that part of the Danube (Novae being an honourable exception). Farnum shows, as an example, Silistra to have been unoccupied at that time so far as we know (that's unoccupied in the sense of we don't know who was there if indeed there was anybody there) and if legionary occupations are not recorded in surviving historical texts, the chances that you will pick up a fleeting visit from the archaeology are, at best, slim. So, you are going to need poetic licence (terrible thing, but there you go) and can at least defend it with a disclaimer of plausibility, whichever vacant legionary base you choose. Who knows, they could even have been garrisoned out in-country in cohort-sized forts with cavalry detachments (heresy! heresy!!). Telling a good story has little to do with facts: Rosemary Sutcliff got things wrong but could still spin a good yarn; the historical novel I'm reading at the moment (no names, no pack drill, but stick to the day job would be my advice...) is stuffed full of factoids and facts and is becoming quite annoying every time some irrelevant little detail is paraded in front of me for my approval. Sometimes, less is more; you could even be coy about the name of your chosen base and nobody would care (in fact, when discoveries are made in the future, you will seem prescient without even trying).

Mike Bishop

*Farnum, Jerome H. 2005. The Positioning of the Roman Imperial Legions. BAR International Series 1458. Oxford: Archaeopress. ISBN 9781841718965
Quote:So, you are going to need poetic licence (terrible thing, but there you go) and can at least defend it with a disclaimer of plausibility, whichever vacant legionary base you choose.

Hm, poetic licence and a bit of lateral thinking - there's a big enough margin of error for avoiding unpardonable howlers...

Re XXX Ulpia - we don't actually know when this legion was raised, and it could have been after the Dacian wars. If we assume, though, that Trajan's two new legions (II and XXX) were intended to replace the two supposedly lost under Domitian, then an earlier rather than later date might be preferable, especially if Trajan was anticipating some hard campaigns ahead. Since we know that at least one of the previous legions was lost in Pannonia or thereabouts (in the Suebo-Sarmatian war of 92), that province would seem the most obvious place to install one of the new legions. The state of the Pannonian frontier at this point is pretty hazy, though - the two newer legion forts, Aquincum and Brigetio, can best be dated as a decade or so either side of 100. Of the two, Brigetio has the haziest garrison in this period, and I think XXX Ulpia is attested there at some early point. As a conjecture, maybe, I'd have the new legion raised in Germany by Trajan at the start of his reign (when he was lingering on the Rhine building forts and, perhaps, raising troops), and then sent to Brigetio around 100. A vexillation, or the whole legion, could then have been sent on the Dacian war. As far as I know, there's nothing to suggest otherwise... :wink:

- Nathan
If you speak French, Stefan's "Les guerres daciques de Domitien et de Trajan : architecture militaire, topographie, images et histoire" may be of interest. It is available online:

[url:1xxa0h5z]http://digital.casalini.it/editori/default.asp?codice_opera=06061869&progressivo=0004&tipologia=M#[/url]