In September 2017 we had the pleasure of attending an archaeological festival dedicated to Dorin Alicu, a Romanian archaeologist who devoted his career to investigation of the ruins of Ulpia Traiana Sarmizegetus (full name: Colonia Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetus). It was the capital and largest city of Dacia Felix, a region of the Roman Empire. The city was founded at the camp site of the Roman legion (Legio V Macedonica) for veterans of the Dacian wars. 40 km from this place archaeologists discovered an earlier capital of Sarmizegetusa Regia – the sacred city of Dacians. The discovery of a much older city founded by the ancient inhabitants of Romania has caused a great deal of confusion in archeology. Gradually, it led to a major reorganization of the knowledge of Romania’s ancient history and culture. It was discovered, for example, that the former capital had a complex clay canalisation system. The city was destroyed by the Romans in 106 AD.
The festival took place in the Roman Sarmizegetus. The programme included presentations of the equipment of ancient Roman and Dacian soldiers, military maneuvers, gladiator fights, and a reenactement of the so called ‘battles for the freedom of Dacia’. There was also a presentation of the customs, games and entertainment characteristic of the Romans and Dacians. There were also craftsmen who presented their skills and products. We tried a Roman speciality: olives with honey!
One of the most interesting elements of the event was the reconstruction of Dacian Draco, a mythical creature in the form of a dragon with wolf-like jaws and snake body. It was the standard ensign of the ancient Dacian troops. Typically, Dacian Draco’s head would be mounted on a pole and build in such a way that the gusts of wind would come through his mouth and make ghastly sounds which were supposed to raise the morale of the Dacians and scare away the enemies. The festival reconstruction of Dacian Draco was accompanied by an atmospheric night procession with torches.