Across Transylvania’s mountains you will find the ruins of the Dacian fortresses whose fame lives for over 2 millennia. They were built in the 1st century BC and AD and formed a complex defensive system designed to protect the Dacians against the Roman’s attacks. Six of them are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list: Sarmizegetusa Regia (the pre-Roman Dacian capital), Costeşti-Cetăţuie, Costeşti-Blidaru, Luncani Piatra Roşie, Băniţa and Căpâlna.
The capital of the Dacian kingdom, Sarmizegetusa, was built on terraces, as the area allowed only small spaces for constructions. It is considered the biggest and most important craft centre in Dacia. It comprised the religious temples, as well as workshops for smith crafting and producing bronze and furnaces for smelting iron ore. It is said that here functioned the largest workshops for working metals in the south-east of Europe. Water was a problem, as there were only three springs around Sarmizegetusa. The ingenious Dacians had to build clay basins and pipes and wooden chutes which even nowadays excite the admiration of the engineers. The workshops, religious sanctuaries and houses in the fortress spread on more than 100 terraces centred on the sacred area.
The sanctuaries in Sarmizegetusa arouse the curiosity of both visitors and specialists. It is thought that these monuments have special astronomical significance. The solar disk, also known as the “andesite sun”, was also an instrument used for a very meticulous astronomic calculation. Everything proves that the Dacians had very precise reasons for placing these sanctuaries, which served them not only in invoking their gods, but also in orienting in time and space. With the help of the shadows projected on the stone blocks and some calculations, they would determine details about the solstice and the equinox, the meridians, the length of the tropical year and the sun’s zenith distance. After conquering Dacia and discovering its capital, the Romans were so impressed that they decided to build nearby a replica of this citadel, which they named Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetusa. The magnificent aspect of the Dacian fortress at the moment of the Roman conquest determined the archaeologists to consider the complex of buildings that spread on a length of 6km as a proto-urban site or even a city.
The Dacian fortress from Costeşti-Cetăţuie is placed on the Cetăţuia hill. It had a strategic importance, as it was leading the way to Sarmizegetusa. For this reasons, the Dacians built three other fortresses (Ciocuța, Dâlma-Brăiței and Cetățuia Înaltă) to protect the access to it from its western and southern sides. Part of an ample defence system, the fortress in Costeşti-Cetăţuie was built in the 2nd and 1st centuries BC and became the first capital of the Dacian kingdom under the rule of Burebista.
The fortress from Costeşti-Blidaru is the most important component of the defensive assembly in the Orăștie Mountains. It presented an impressive system of exterior fortifications, comprised of eight watch towers. It was built after the reign of Burebista, in the 2nd half of the 1st century BC and is considered a masterpiece of the Dacian military architecture. The Greek architects who contributed to its building brought several architectural innovations.
At Luncani- Piatra Roşie, the Dacians built a fortress on a plateau surrounded from three sides by deep chasms, the only access way being from the eastern side. The fortress was also part of the system of Dacian fortresses designed to protect the capital of the Dacian kingdom ruled by Burebista by a possible attack from the north.
The fortress from Banița impressed through the 2m thick and 115m long wall, erected in the “murus Dacicus” technique. The entrance in the fortress was made through a gate and a monumental staircase with stone stairs and marginal walls acting as a balustrade.
The fortification system in Capâlna, still visible on the field, was composed of a trench, two ramparts, each with an interior trench, an enclosure wall and a dwelling tower.
How to get there:
The Dacian fortresses of the Orăștie Mountains are situated in the western part of the country (Transylvania region), in the surroundings of the town of Hunedoara.