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Burebista was king of the Dacians, in the first century BC. Intoducing religious and political reforms among his people, he managed to form a powerful kingdom, feared even by the Romans[1].


The Beginning

The writer Jordanes (VI century BC) indicates the year 82 BC as the beginning reign of Burebista, but historians Constantin C. Giurescu and Dinu C. Giurescu based on archaeological discoveries believe that the coming to power of Burebista would have occurred between 70 and 60 BC[2]. It is unknown how Burebista expanded authority over other tribes and unions of Geto-Dacian tribes, the fact is that peacefully or by force of arms he managed to unite the Geto-Dacians. This is attested by the disappearance of local monetary issues, which means that the kings of local tribes unions have accepted the authority of Burebista. According to the estimation made by Strabo, the Burebista's army would have numbered about 200 000 people, a number considered by some historians as exaggerated[3], but others would not exclude that it may be real[4].

The Reform

According to the historian and geographer Strabo (c. 63 BC.-c. 19 AD), when Burebista became king, Dacians were tired of wars, and he imposed a reform that regulated the moral and religious life the Geto-Dacian people, rised them through exercise, abstaining from wine and obedience to his commands. Following these reforms, the kingdom soon became powerful and conquered new vast territories[5]. In all these actions Burebista had been advised and helped by the Great Priest Deceneu, which Burebista granted him the title of viceroy, according to Jordanes[6].

Politico-Military Actions

According to Strabo, Burebista "boldly crossed the Danube ... robbing Thrace - until Macedonia and Illyria". Dacian king undertake such incursions to get rich booty, but also to give preventive strikes to the Romans to curb their offensive actions. It seems that as a result of such incursions proconsul of Macedonia, Scribonius C. Curio, in the year 74 BC, he pursued the Getae and their allies Scordisci across the Danube, but according to Florus "Curio advanced into Dacia, but was terrified of the dark forest there." Reading the stories of Florus historians have concluded that the Romans had managed to reach the right bank of Danube (in today Banat region). Shortly thereafter, around the years 72-71 BC as a result of the battles from Dobrudja, the Roman armies conquered the Greek cities on the Black Sea, but they rebelled in 61 BC helped also by Bastarnae and banished the Romans. It is assumed that Burebista was involved in this uprising as a result of the good relations he had with the city Dionysopolis (today Balchik, Bulgaria), as evidenced by the inscription found here. The inscription shows the good relations between the two sides mentioning Acornion who went as an ambassador to Argedava[7].

By the year 60 BC, Burebista stretched his rule by defeating neighboring tribes, situated between the Middle Danube and the Western Carpathians and also the tribes from the east of the Carpathians untill south of the Lower Danube [8]. He defeated the Celts in the north-west of Dacia, and oxen led by Critasiros, and also the Taurians, and then abandoned the alliance with scordisci placed between the Morava and Drina Rivers devastating them. Extent of the territory inhabited by the Dacians is attested by archeological discoveries which have revealed Dacian pottery in southwestern Slovakia (Bratislava, Devin), the Pannonian Danube (Budapest, Taban-Gellérthegy) or near pouring of Sava River into the Danube (at Gomolava), but also in other places [9]. After victories in the west and after stabilizing the situation in that part, by the year 55 BC, according to Greek historian Dion Chrysostom (40-120 AD) Getae have extended their dominion over the cities of the Pontus Euxin (Black Sea) [10] : Olbia (at the mouth of the Bug), Tyras (at the mouth of the Dnister), Histria, Tomis, Callatis Dionysopolis, Odessa, Mesembria and Apollonia. From existing sources is known that submission of the cities of Olbia and Mesembria was made using the force. Following the conquests, the Dacian Empire reached up in the East to the mouth of the Bug River, and in South to the Haemus Mountains (Balkans). Becoming a great force and having the vast expanse of territory inhabited by Dacians, in the the Dionysopolitan decree made in honor of Acornion, king Burebista was called "the first and greatest of the kings of Thrace", who possessed all the territory on this side the (Danube) river and beyond" [11].

After his ally, King of Pontus, Mitriade was defeated by the Romans (72-71 BC), Burebista looked to Pompey who appeared to win power struggle broke out in 48 BC at Rome. Using Acornion as an ambassador he offered his support to Pompey. Because Pompey lost the battle against Caesar, Burebista draws its hostility to the latter. Moreover, Caesar prepared to attack Dacia, but his assassination in 44 BC prevented this. Later Burebista is also assassinated, and according to Strabo, the state is divided into four parts, and later under Augustus in the five political entities"[12] [13]. Originally the capital of Dacia was Argedava, so far unidentified city, but later Burebista built a new one Sarmizegetusa[14].

Ancient Sources

From the historian and geographer Strabo (63 Bc-19 AD) we got concentrated about Burebista the most important aspects of his reign: Buerebista, the Getae, taking the leadership of his people, raised them from the endless wars, and he brought them to the right way by abstinence and sobriety, and obedience to the Commandments, so that, in a few years, founded a great power, and Getae subjugated almost all its neighbors; moreover was of great peril for Romans, because they crossed the Danube without care for anyone, and loot Thrace till Macedonia and Illyria, and the Celts who mixed with the Thracians and Illyrians were destroyed completely, and also the Boii ruled by King Critasiros, and the Teurisci were wiped off from the face of the earth[15].

An important source, contemporary with Burebista, which gives us information about the Geto-Dacian king, is the decree of the Dionysopolis city, witch recognized Acornion's outstanding achievements in his city job. The decree of the year 48 BC consist of a Greek inscription discovered in Balchik (formerly Dionysopolis) which speaks about Burebista as "the first and greatest of the kings of Thrace and ruler of all lands west of the Danube and beyond". Acornion was an ambassador at the Dacian kings court ever since Burebista's father. Acornion managed to obtain their support for the city Dionysopolis. Moreover, Burebista entitled to treat in his name an alliance with Pompey, who was in conflict with Caesar to gain power in Rome.

External Links


  1. Magazin Istoric nr.7/ 1980, Grigore C, Tocilescu, „Burebista în conştiinţa românilor”, p.4
  2. Giurescu & Giurescu, „Istoria românilor din cele mai vechi timpuri până astăzi, p.43
  3. Şerban Papacostea, „Istoria românilor”, p.39-40
  4. Giurescu & Giurescu, „Istoria românilor din cele mai vechi timpuri până astăzi, p.44
  5. Magazin Istoric, nr.7/ 1980, Mihai Gramatopol, „Mare om politic, mare diplomat”, p.19-20
  6. C. Daicoviciu, „Istoria Românilor” (1960), p.287
  7. Şerban Papacostea, „Istoria românilor”, p.39
  8. C. Daicoviciu, „Istoria României” (1960), p.282
  9. Şerban Papacostea, „Istoria românilor”, p.39-40
  10. Magazin Istoric, nr.7/ 1980, Mihai Gramatopol, „Mare om politic, mare diplomat”, p.20
  11. Şerban Papacostea, „Istoria românilor”, p.40
  12. Magazin Istoric, nr.2/ 1990, Radu Florescu, „De la Burebista la regatul lui Decebal, p.36
  13. Şerban Papacostea, „Istoria românilor”, p.40
  14. Magazin Istoric, nr.2/ 1990, Radu Florescu, „De la Burebista la regatul lui Decebal, p.35
  15. Giurescu & Giurescu, „Istoria românilor din cele mai vechi timpuri până astăzi, p.43
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