69 HIRUNDO 2008
Pattern of Continuity in Geto-Dacian Foreign Policy
Following the death of Alexander the Great, the ancient world was affected by prolonged political turmoil as many states emerging after 323 BC, both within and withoutAlexander’s former Empire, sought to impose their regional hegemony at each other’s expense in an attempt to restore stability.
In the context of such discourse in power politics, the Geto-Dacian state emerged and sought to assert tself in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic region under the rule of Burebista in the 1st century BC. Despite odern claims that Burebista’s achievements were without precedent in the history of Geto-Dacia,1
this paper will attempt to place the rule of Burebista in the context of a long tradition of Geto-Dacian oreign policy of assertion and interaction with the Hellenistic οιкоυμένη (oikoumene the perceived reek world as opposed to barbarian lands).
In order to do this, we will need to analyze Burebista’s political and economic goals in order o determine whether his rule conformed to an established pattern. Unfortunately, such a project is irreparably lawed because no Geto-Dacian written accounts (if there were any) have survived; all that as been passed on to us in terms of literary “evidence” are approximately four hundred Geto-Dacian
words that are still in use in the Romanian language. As a result, scholars are forced to appeal exclusively and with caution) to Greek and Roman written sources if they are to construct a generally coherent istory of the Geto-Dacians.
Archeological evidence, on the other hand, is more available, providing a priceless parallel account, especially for the earlier centuries.
Before discussing Burebista’s foreign policy, it must first be determined how the Greco-Roman world perceived the people living north of the Danube. The first literary attestation of the Getae homes from Herodotus, who writes in his ’Iστoρίης Απóδειξις (Histories Apodeixis literally Display of inquiry):“the Getae […] are the most courageous and upright Thracian tribe.”2 This passage is critical
because, while identifying the Getae as socio-culturally interrelated with the Thracians, it also singles them out as a distinct cultural entity. Centuries later, Strabo also identifies the Getae as “a tribe with the ame tongue as the Thracians.”3 However, Herodotus does not make any reference to the Dacians, a term hich only appears for the first time in Julius Caesar’s account of the GallicWar. He identifies as “Dacians” he peoples living in the intra-Carpathian space when he writes that “the breadth of the Hercynian forest […] begins at the frontiers of the Helvetii, Nemetes and Rauraci, and extends in a right line long the river Danube to the territories of the Dacians.”4 This distinction has raised questions con-
1Crişan, 7 and Tudor, 93.
2Hdt. 4. 93.
3 Strab. 7.3.10.
4 Caes. Bel. Gal. 6.25.
Geto-Paul Vădan Dacian Foreign Policy 70
5 Strab. 7. 3. 13.
6 Justin. 32. 3.
7 Cass. Dio, Roman History, 51. 24-27.
8 Sue. Aug. 21.
9 Aug. Res Gestae, 30.
10 Silius Italicus, Punica, 1. 320-325.
11 Strab. 7.3.12.
12 Dueck, 7-8.
13 Ibid. 10-11.
cerning the perceived differences between the Getae and the Dacians as later authors tried to make sense f Caesar’s claim. From Strabo’s point of view they were culturally inter-related, since “the language f the Dacians is the same as that of the Getae;”5 an opinion supported by Justin’s Epitome of the Philippic
History of Trogus Pompeius where the Dacians are identified as “descendants of the Getae.”6 infortunately, other ancient sources do not provide more clarity on this topic. For example, he accounts of the retaliation campaigns of Licinius Crassus north of the Danube in 29-28 BC present he difficulty ancient authors themselves had to deal with when discussing potential similarities between he Getae and the Dacians. Cassius Dio, writing sometime between the end of the second century
and the beginning of the third centuryAD, mentions the Getae as the allies of the Bastarnae invading Roman lands south of the Danube.7 Yet Suetonius argues that Augustus put a stop to the incursions of the Dacian forces,”8 a version corroborated by Augustus himself who proudly declares in his Res Gestae
that “when an army of Dacians crossed to this side of the Danube, it was defeated and routed under my auspices.”9 Granted, Cassius Dio wrote more than a century after both Suetonius andAugustus, but the distinguished first centuryAD politician Silius Italicus says of Hannibal in his Punica that he “shot from his bow arrows soaked with viper venom […] which he constantly [took] out from his perfidious
quiver, as a Dacian does from the war-torn lands of the Getae.”10
For the purposes of this paper it is sufficient to point out that the distinction between the Getae and the Dacians was hopelessly unclear even
in the eyes of ancient writers, although they perceived a certain level of uniformity.
The only clearer explanation of Caesar’s claim is provided by Strabo, writing between 63 BC and 21 AD. He writes that in the 20s BC “Augustus Caesar sent an expedition against [the Getae].”
However, he specifies that “there is also another division of the country which has endured from early times, for some people are called Dacians, whereas others are called Getae,” explaining that any difference is merely geographical; the Getae being “those who incline towards the Pontus and the east”, while the Dacians “those who incline in the opposite direction towards Germany and the sources of the Ister.”11 To provide clarity, this paper will refer to the peoples living in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space as Geto-Dacians.
The main literary source for the reign of Burebista is Strabo’s qpt Geographikar. Strabo came from a prominent family which had held high office at the courts of the Pontic kings Mithradates V Euergetes and VI Eupator, and who later transferred its allegiance to Rome when its victory over Pontus seemed very probable; for their services they were later offered Roman citizenship by Pompey.12 This
leads us to believe that Strabo had access to detailed information about the events taking place during is lifetime (64 BC - 24 AD) or a little earlier. He received and promoted an encyclopedic education, was surrounded by the most enlightened minds of the day, such as Boethius,Aristodemus, Diodotus and Xenarchus, and was fortunate enough to travel to the most prominent centers of knowledge of that time: Alexandria and Rome.13 The fact that he was surrounded by a highly academic environment and that his family’s history was intimately connected to some of the events presented in his work makes Strabo a
generally reliable source for Burebista’s reign and for other accounts as well, although the familial connection might create biases at some points in his narrative.
71 HIRUNDO 2008
14 Strab. 7.3.11.
15 Jordanes. Getica. 11.67.
16 Crişan ,45 and Rădulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 639.
17Winks and Matern-Parkes, 210.
18 Jordanes. Getica. 11.67.
19 Jordanes. Getica. 11.39.
20 Crişan, 70.
21 Crişan, 43.
22 Strab. 7.3.13.
23 Strab. 7.3.11.
Judging from his actions, Strabo presents Burebista as a determined leader whose campaigns and rule was so successful that he felt obliged to place emphasis on the importance of his reign by writing:
On setting himself in authority over the tribe, [Burebista] restored the people, who
had been reduced to an evil plight by numerous wars, and raised them to such a
height through training, sobriety, and obedience to his commands that within only
a few years he had established a great empire and subordinated to the Getae most of the neighboring peoples.14
Unfortunately, none of the extant sources specify the date of Burebista’s ascendancy to the throne, with the exception of Jordanes who identifies him as a contemporary of Sulla, placing the beginning of his reign at around 82 BC.15 Eager historians from the 50s and 60s such as Rădulescu and Crişan accept this
date in light of no other clear information.16 However, the simple fact that Jordanes wrote in the sixth century AD must at least raise suspicion with regard to the accuracy of his text. In fact, Jordanes’work
has been recently catalogued by historians as nothing more than “the result of the Goths’ growing awareness
or creation of themselves as a people”17 in the context of late antiquity. Just to show Josephus’ confusion
concerning Geto-Dacian history, it is enough to quote him that “when Burebista was king of the
Goths, Deceneos came to Gothia at the time when Sulla ruled the Romans.”18 Even if we overlook his
awkward identification of the Getae and the Goths as the same people, it suffices to point out that earlier
in his work he claims that “[the Goths/Getae?] had a learned man Zeutha, and after him Deceneos;
and the third was Zalmoxis.”19 This chronology is completely wrong, since all other ancient sources mentioning
both Deceneos and Zalmoxis, whom we will discuss in detail later in the paper, agree that they
lived centuries apart. Also, Zeutha is not mentioned by any other ancient author; Jordanes might have
used a source now lost to us.
While sources (again) do not offer enough information about the position of the territory originally
controlled by Burebista, historians are nevertheless relatively certain that Burebista exercised his
power from the OrăştieMountains in south-western Transylvania. Ion Crisan, for example, points to the
most impressive fortifications on the Geto-Dacian territory present in this area at that time, as being a
center which continued to dominate Dacian politics long after Burebista’s demise.20 Also, Radulescu,
Glodariu and Vulpe believe this position demanded that Burebista’s initial campaigns be undertaken in
north–western Transylvania in preparation for future campaigns in the East.
Indeed, military might has played a crucial role in the political consolidation of all of Geto-
Dacia. The name ‘Burebista’ itself denotes military prowess, with definitions ranging from “the brilliant
one” to “powerful” and even to “well-known.”21 Strabo suggests that Burebista “could send forth an expedition
of two hundred thousand men.”22 Even if we dismiss this number as exaggerated, it does indicate
that his army was a formidable fighting force. In fact, Burebista’s first mentioned campaign,
undertaken against the Celtic tribes situated in the west of Transylvania, was so successful that “[he] actually
caused the complete disappearance of the Boii […] and also of the Taurisci.”23
Geto-Paul Vădan Dacian Foreign Policy 72
24 Strab, 7.3.5.
25 Strab. 7.3.11.
26 Rădulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 637.
27 Chantraine, s.v. ”sqbasileus.”
28 Drews, 128.
29 Liddell and Scott, s.v. “sqbasileus.”
30 Babeş, Spatiul Carpato-Dunarean, 517, 520.
31 Justin. 24.4.
32 The ‘Dying Gaul’ series of statues are a vivid reminder of this event: Gates, 282.
33 Strab. 7.5.2.
34 The fact that Burebista headed towards the east, whileAriovistus went to face Caesar has raised questions among historians:Macrea,
Burebista’s consolidation of his Geto-Dacian conquests was also facilitated by his strong affiliation
with Deceneos, the religious leader of the Geto-Dacians as successor of the semi-legendary
Zalmoxis, who controlled the sacred mountain Cogaeonum in the Orăştie Mountains in south-western
Transylvania. The location of this important religious center has also been interpreted by historians as
further evidence for Burebista’s Transylvanian origin.24 Deceneos accordingly played a significant role
“to help [Burebista] secure the complete obedience of his tribe,”25 an achievement not described in detail
but which resulted in “the Getae and Dacians [attaining] very great power.” Trogus Pompeius also
mentions “the progress made by the Dacians because of sqβασιλεύς (basileus) Burobostes,” a name interpreted
by scholars such as Vladimir Iliescu to be an equivalent of Burebista.26 Strabo describes his
rule as an ’áρχη („~ƒarche‚), a term whose meaning was generally used since the time of Homer to describe
sovereignty, power and authority. Burebista’s undisputed control led Strabo to also call him a basileus;
according to the Dictionaire Etymologique, at the time of Homer the word had meant “high-born leader”,
sometimes even “king”.27 However, by the fourth century, following historical developments during
the Classical period and the Greeks’ contacts with monarchs such as Amyntas in Macedon, Amasis in
Egypt and Cyrus in Persia, sqbasileus came to possess very strong regal connotations.28 Thus, by the time
of Burebista, the term came to denote monarchy, kingship and sole rule according to the model of
Alexander and his Diadochoi (Successors).29
Archeological evidence presents a sharp contrast between western Transylvania, containing
Celtic ware dating from the third to the second centuries BC, and the typically Dacian culture present
in the central area at that time.30 If we believe Trogus Pompeius that “after having subdued the Pannonians,
[the Celts] carried on various wars with their neighbors for many years,”31 then we have a
clearer picture concerning the relations between the Geto-Dacians and the Celts in Transylvania. As
part of Brennus’ formidable force which had invaded and terrorized the Greek Peninsula andAsiaMinor
in the third to second centuries BC,32 the Celts must have been a serious threat whose advance was
eventually stopped by the local authorities, of whom we know regrettably little.
According to Strabo, Burebista’s advance in Transylvania was so successful that he conquered
all the territory east of the Tisza River, the perceived border between the Celtic and Dacian lands, and
advanced even beyond this point. According to the Greek author, “this country was laid waste by the
Dacians when they subdued the Boii and Taurisci, Celtic tribes under the rule of Critasirus. [The Dacians]
alleged that the country was theirs, although it was separated from theirs by the River Parisus.”33
Thus, no other force remained in western Transylvania, at least not for the moment, which could threaten
Burebista’s regional authority or distract him from future campaigns in the East. Some historians such
asMacrea and Jullian have even suggested, based on geographical analogies, a possible alliance between
Burebista and the Suebian leader Ariovistus,34 but there simply is not enough evidence to corroborate
73 HIRUNDO 2008
35Radulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 642 and Crişan, 86.
36 Crişan, 7.
37 Radulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 635.
38 Tudor, 93.
39 Diod. 19.73.
40 Diod. 19.73.
41 Diod. 19.105.
42 Vulpe, Istoria si Civilizatia, 461.
44 He tells of how Lysimachus, marching south of the Haemus to faceAntigonos, met Seuthes at the pass over the HaemusMountains:
Diod. 19. 73.
Therefore, Burebista’s campaign in north-western Transylvania must be regarded as a counteroffensive
against an invading force. Buried Celtic jewelry and other expensive objects and remains of
destruction in Celtic settlements have allowed historians to date Burebista’s campaign to the 60s BC;
after this date Celtic presence and influence seems to have ceased.35 Because of his military success,
1970s and 1980s communist historiography hailed Burebista as “unquestionably one of the leading figures
and heroes of the first half of the first century BC” and as “one of the greatest men of genius that
Antiquity had ever produced.”36 While such claims with nationalistic undertones must be rejected, we
can nevertheless agree with contemporary historians such as Vulpe, Glodariu and Rădulescu that Burebista’s
initial campaigns were the first stage of a policy of consolidation in order to secure his position
in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space.37
Gheorghe Tudor sees Burebista’s actions as a unique effort whose success led to the creation
of “the first centralized and independent state in the multi-millenary history of the Romanian people.”38
Omitting again the nationalistic flavor of such comments, it must be pointed out that Burebista’s actions
are not without precedent. The first detailed literary attestation of a centralized Geto-Dacian polity on
the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic political stage appears in the context of a major revolt of the poleis on
the western bank of the Pontus Euxinus against Lysimachus, the self-proclaimed “king of Thrace”.According
to Diodorus Siculus the uprising took place in 313 BC, ten years after the death of Alexander
the Great and two hundred and fifty years before Burebista. He gives us an account of how Odessos,
Istros, Tomis and Dionysopolis expelled the Macedonian garrisons at the instigation of Callatis39 and
claimed qαυτονομίαq(autonomia, independence, self-governing), taking advantage of the distraction
caused by the Third War of the Diadochoi (315-311 BC) in which Lysimachus also participated. The
Greeks were supposedly assisted by “the Thracians and Scythians whose lands bordered upon their
own.”40 The conclusion of the conflict in 311 BC betweenAntigonos and Kassander, Ptolemy and Lysimachus
obliged them all to agree, among other things, “that the Greeks be autonomous.” However,
“they did not abide by these agreements.”41Whether the revolt was successful or not is less relevant than
the fact pointed out byA. Vulpe that this event created a precedent regarding Geto-Greek diplomatic relations.
His argument is based on the claim that the Thracians assisting the Greeks were actually Getae.
He admits that Diodorus’ text does not mention the Getae anywhere with regard to this episode, but he
appeals to the cultural closeness between the Getae and the Thracians to prove his point, given that the
dominant population living both east and west of the Danube River crossing the Dobrogea region was
Getic.42 Helen Lund, who presents more recent conclusions based on excavation of Getic sites in Dobrogea,
corroborates Vulpe’s theory.43 Furthermore, Diodorus Siculus makes a clear distinction between
the Thracians assisting the Greeks living north of the Haemus Mountains and the Odrysian Kingdom
of Seuthes the Thracian to the south of the mountain range.44
Later events suggest that the revolt led by Callatis did not succeed in bringing stability to the
Black Sea region. Twenty years after the Greek revolt and subsequent peace agreement, sources attest
a punitive expedition of Lysimachus to the north of Thrace against Dromichaetes, whom Diodorus SicuGeto-
Paul Vădan Dacian Foreign Policy 74
45 Diod. 21.11.
46 Diod. 21.12.
47 Strab. 7.3.14.
48 Paus. 1.9.6.
49 Strabo. 7.3.8. and Paus. 1.9.6.
50 Diod. 21.11.
51 Diod. 21.11.
52 Vulpe. Istoria si Civilizatia. 462.
53 Loeb, 15-17.
54 Lund, 43.
55 Vulpe. Istoria si Civilizatia. 464, 468.
56 Ibid. 491.
lus identifies as the basileus of “the Thracians [who had] capturedAgathocles, the king’s son, but [who
then] sent him home with gifts;”45 in the next paragraph he specifies that the ‘Thracians’ are actually
Getae.46 This event is also attested by Strabo, who argues that Lysimachus “not only ran the risk but actually
was captured alive.”47 Pausanias offers an integrated version of the events surrounding
Dromichaetes.While he initially agrees with Diodorus that “Agathocles […] was taken prisoner by the
Getae,” he also accepts Strabo’s suggestion that these events took place during a single campaign, since
“[Agathocles] was serving with [Lysimachus] then for the first time,” not excluding the possibility, on
the other hand, that the expedition might have ended instead with the capture of Lysimachus.48
However, for the purposes of this paper, it is important to point out that all accounts of the conflict
between Lysimachus and Dromichaetes agree that it was in fact theMacedonian monarch who initiated
the hostilities.49 Even Diodorus agrees that the hostility of the Getae came “in the hope of
recovering […] that part of their territory which Lysimachus had seized.”50 Accepting Diodorus’more
detailed version makes sense in the historical context of the expedition. Although none of the sources
give details concerning the capture of Agathocles, Diodorus does say that his release resulted from the
Getae’s loss of hope for victory against Lysimachus, “since almost all the most powerful kings were now
in agreement, and were in military alliance one with another.”51 The reference here is aimed at the end
of the FourthWar of the Diadochoi, placing the campaign of Lysimachus after the battle of Ipsos in 301
BC,52 a generally accepted inference since he was in Asia Minor before that time; the Loeb translation
of Diodorus dates these events between 294 and 292 BC.53
Dromichaetes must have responded to Lysimachus’ aggressive policy in the area over the
decades, which likely had disruptive consequences for commercial relations between the Getae and the
Greeks, leading Helen Lund to conclude that “the [Greek] cities found themselves the object of competition
between Macedonian and Getic ‘protectors’.”54 Archeological data is indeed able to demonstrate
the importance of commerce in Dromichaetes’ time by providing a model of the nature and
development of trade in the region. The extensive character of trade goods is evidence that the closeness
between the Getae and the Greek colonies facilitated communication and exchange between the two
civilizations as early as the seventh century, soon after the Milesian colonies were founded. Archeologists
have revealed that Greek pottery was the most sought-after product. Its popularity among the natives
encouraged imports from many locations in the Greek world, as is attested by many examples of
amphorae from Chios, Lesbos, Heraclea and especially Thasos.
That Dobrogea was a critical node of interaction is showed by the process of distribution of
Greek products, first appearing (obviously) in Dobrogea, then in Moldova and then even across the
Carpathians.55 One of the most important outcomes of extensive trade between the Getae and the Greeks
was the introduction of the potter’s wheel on the territory of the Geto-Dacians around the sixth century
BC. It was initially believed that this was a consequence of the Celtic invasions of Transylvania during
the fourth century BC, but many earlier examples of Getic imitations of Greek pottery disprove this
hypothesis.56As a matter of fact, by the time of Dromichaetes wheel-made Geto-Dacian pottery imitating
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57 Berciu. Băstinasii. 121.
58 Lund, 44.
59 Delev, 389.
60 Diod. 21.12.
61 Lund’s conclusion is supported by Pippidi also: Lund, 49.
62 Dickey, 78-79.
63 Diod. 21.12.
64 Lund, 48.
65 Paus. 1.9.6.
66 Memnon, FGrHist III B 434 F 5, quoted by Vulpe, 462.
67 Strab. 7.3.8.
68 Liddell and Scott, s.v. “philiaq.”
69 Vulpe. Istoria si Civilizatia. 463.
Greek styles such as the kantharos, lekythos, amphora and krater replaced earlier hand-made lower-quality
pottery as the dominant style.57
Based on this evidence it may be inferred that Dromichaetes took advantage of Lysimachus’
departure from Thrace and sought to consolidate his position in the area, most importantly to re-establish
direct commercial contact with the Greek poleis at the expense of the belligerent Macedonian
monarch.58 This leads one to the conclusion that the Getae were fully aware of and involved in events
taking place in Thrace at that time. P. Delev goes so far as to suggest that Dromichaetes’ actions were
partly encouraged by Antigonid agents working against Lysimachus who later retracted their support
once peace was concluded in 301 BC.59Although the analogy is tempting, it remains improbable given
the lack of clear evidence.
After ambushing Lysimachus somewhere north of the Danube, Diodorus continues,
“Dromichaetes […] kissed him and even called him ‘father’,” and then, while at dinner, he “obtained
the return of the districts that Lysimachus had seized, placed a diadem on his head, and sent him on his
way.”60 This fragment has led historians to believe that “Lysimachus [had to] abandon theWest Pontic
cities to Getic control.61 The term pater (father) is used in Diodorus’ text as denoting kinship and suggesting
“exceptionally kind address to those who had previously been unfortunate, [revealing] the kindness
which was about to befall them.”62 Dromichaetes is presented as a shrewd politician who, realizing
the opportunity at hand, sought an understanding which would bring regional stability, lest “other kings,
possibly more to be feared than their predecessor, would assume the authority of Lysimachus.”63 This
has led Lund to conclude that Dromichaetes was well aware that eliminating Lysimachus would have
destabilized relations among the Diadochoi, making Demetrius, Lysimachus’ rival, “undesirably
strong.”64 This presumed alliance was sealed by the symbolic placing of a diadem on Lysimachus’ head
and his swearing that “for the future he would endeavor to aid [Dromichaetes] as a friend and not to fall
short in returning kindness for kindness,” then giving his own daughter in marriage to Dromichaetes.65
Memnon mentions that prisoners were nevertheless kept by the Getae as a precaution, suggesting realist
The same kinship relationship is mentioned by Strabo who writes that the two kings concluded
peace “and made a compact of friendship, and then [Dromichaetes] released [Lysimachus].”67
The use here of φιλοĩς (philois) denotes friendship between states while showing affectionate regard between
equals.68 Therefore, whether one gives credence to Diodorus’ description of Lysimachus’ capture
or judges it as being too moralistic, what is significant is the fact that Dromichaetes is portrayed by
Greek literary sources as acting in accordance with the Hellenistic model of a monarch. He also appears
to have detailed knowledge of the subtleties of Hellenistic diplomacy, being considered by ancient
sources as an active participant in events taking place in Thrace around 300 BC. Finally, the description
of Dromichaetes as sqbasileus—a term already explained in detail—by both Diodorus and Strabo
has been interpreted as evidence for the first mention of a centralized political force of the Getae.69
Geto-Paul Vădan Dacian Foreign Policy 76
70 Vulpe, 463.
71 Pippidi. Contributii la Istoria Veche a Romaniei. 170-171.
72 Babeş. Spaţiul Carpato-Dunărean în Secolele III-II a.Chr. 504.
73 Pippidi. Străinii de peste Mări. 228-229.
74 Pippidi. Contributii la Istoria Veche a Romaniei. 190-191.
75 Pippidi. Străinii de peste Mări. 225, 227.
76 His own unsupported opinion is that Zalmodegikos “must have been” a sqbasileus: Pippidi, Contribuţii la Istoria Veche a României,
77 Glodariu, 16-17.
78 Ibid. 56-57.
Unfortunately, due to the lack of crucial evidence we are left in the dark about the fate of
Dromichaetes or of his political organization after the 290’s BC. This silence raises the supposition that
he was ultimately unsuccessful in decisively imposing his authority over theWestern Black Sea region.
Whatever the case, A. Vulpe has argued that it is improbable that Dromichaetes was a victim of the
Celts in the context of their invasion of the Greek mainland in the 280’s and 270’s, given that there is
no evidence that the invaders ever advanced north of the Odrysian kingdom.70 Despite this, there is evidence
of continuity of interaction between the Greek poleis and the Getae along the same lines of
Dromichaetes’ “protectorate” of the latter over the former. Two invaluable inscriptions have been found
among the ruins of Istros. The first inscription (ISM I 8), from the third century BC, was dedicated in
honour of Diodoros of Thrasycles, Proclitos of Pherecles and Clearchos ofAristomachos who “on being
sent to Zalmodegikos, concerning the soldiers, […] managed to bring back the hostages, sixty in all, by
convincing Zalmodegikos to hand back her proceeds.”71 Judging from the etymology of the name, it is
generally accepted that Zalmodegikos was a Getic leader. Also, judging from the fact that he had such
influence over Istros suggests that he belonged to a powerful military formation situated somewhere in
west or north-west Dobrogea;72 of course this also suggests that the Greeks did not dispose of a powerful
The second inscription (ISMI 15) dates from around the second century BC, and it too praises
the success ofAgathokles in trying to ‘convince’ – a euphemistic term used in Hellenistic decrees to describe
a bribe – a certain Thracian called Zoltes to abstain from plundering the Istrian hinterlands with
his army.73 The inscription further tells us that “later, the Thracians breaking the oaths and the agreement
and plundering the hinterland of the polis, […] he convinced basileus Rhemaxos to send one hundred
horsemen for the defense of the polis.” After they did not prove enough, Agathokles convinced Rhemaxos
“to [further] send six hundred horsemen to the polis, who, being victorious in battle, defeated
Zoltes.”74 The description of Rhemaxos as basileus,75 a title awarded neither to Zalmodegikos nor to
Zoltes despite Pippidi’s suppositions,76 suggests that the Greeks were clearly able to discern between regional
warlords and more powerful and better organized Getic Hellenistic-like polities in the Western
Black Sea region under the leadership of basilei such as Rhemaxos and Dromichaetes. Therefore, there
is evidence for Geto-Dacian continuity of a “Pontic policy” with the Greek poleis having a decisive
factor in asserting regional hegemony; efforts which would be hampered in the first half of the 1st century
with the arrivals of Mithridates VI Eupator and of Rome in Dobrogea.
That commercial and financial interest continued to influence politics in the Dobrogea region
during the third and second centuries is proven by the seminal work of Ioan Glodariu. Trade continued
to grow in the Black Sea region, especially the wine and oil markets, which were dominated in turn by
Sinope, Rhodes and then Thasos. Pottery, however, experienced a sharp decline because of competition
from Geto-Dacian potters whose skill almost rivaled that of the Greeks.77 Exports on the other hand, dealt
generally with raw materials such as wood, leather, honey, silver from the Apuseni Mountains, and
above all salt, a resource which was in high demand in the Balkan Peninsula, as its own reserves were
insignificant.78After Roman involvement in the East, there seems to have been considerable demand for
salt in Italy as well, eventually turning the Geto-Dacian salt mines into the northern counterpart of the
77 HIRUNDO 2008
79 Gramatopol, 37.
80 Glodariu, 66.
81 Ibid. 67-68.
82 Chiţescu, 24.
83 Glodariu, 47.
84 Ibid. 14.
85 Babeş, Spaţiul Carpato-Dunărean în Secolele III-II a.Chr, 505.
86 It has actually been suggested that it was the hugely profitable salt trade that brought about the adoption of Greek and later Roman
coins; it was especially used for leather treatment in the smelting of armour: Gramatopol, 25, 50.
87 Tudor, 93. Blavatskaia, 7. Vulpe, Glodariu and Rădulescu, Burebista, 635. Pippidi, Străinii de peste Mări, 282.
88 Plut. Marius, 31.
Egyptian granaries supplying Rome.79
According to archeological evidence, actual trade took place through strategically-positioned
trade posts throughout the Geto-Dacian territory. For example, we have Brad and Poiana, the most important
settlement in Moldova, situated on the Siret River which pours in the Danube Delta, allowing
for a direct trade route east of the Carpathians.80 Another settlement on the Danube was Zimnicea, an
intermediary between the southern and northern regions. Other sites worth mentioning are Popeşti, in
the area of modern-day Bucharest, and those in the Bran Pass at Cetăţeni connecting Transylvania to the
This trade network was very effective and very profitable, if we believe extensive numismatic
evidence, but it relied on the volatile political situation in the Dobrogea region.We have thousands
of Greek andMacedonian coins which penetrated Dobrogea and then spread both south and north of the
Carpathians, especially in the above-mentioned settlements of Poiana, Zimnicea, Popeşti and Cetăţeni
and more particularly at the salt mines;82 about 2900 tetradrachms were issued by Thasos alone.83As a
matter of fact, Greek influence was so significant that Geto-Dacians used the model of Greek andMacedonian
coins to launch their own issues on the market, with regional variations, as early as the fourth
century BC. Dies found at Tilişca, the most important numismatic center situated in the Orăştie Mountains,
attest this.84 The most famous example is that of a Getic leader of the 3rd century BC from northern
Dobrogea who actually inscribed on his coins “ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ ΜΟΣΚΩΝΟΣ.” Some historians have
been persuaded that this shows superior political conscience from the Getae,85 and although the suggestion
is tempting, there is not enough information to be able to know for sure whether this Moskon
actually understood the full significance of the word bsqasileus. It does suggest, however, an active Geto-
Dacian interest in maintaining both cultural and economic relations with the Greeks. Therefore, one
may argue that, seeing the opportunities of adopting the most popular coin in the Balkan region, the
Geto-Dacians took this decision for pragmatic economic reasons in light of the great reach of the Greek
Therefore, Burebista’s subsequent interest in the Western Pontic poleis was fueled by their
economic and strategic potential, which had attracted the attention of the Geto-Dacians for centuries and
which proved to be an essential element in the consolidation of a state. Writing in the 1960s, T.
Blavatskaia saw Burebista’s re-orientation towards the east as proof of an attempt to create a powerful
anti-Roman front. However, there is no clear evidence to support such a claim. On the other hand, we
must agree with Pippidi, who sees Burebista’s actions towards the Greek poleis on the western bank of
the Pontus Euxinus as a continuation of the centuries-old aspirations of previous Getic regional rulers
to control the economic and strategic aspects of these cities.87
By the time Burebista made his appearance in Mikra Skythia, as Strabo calls Dobrogea, the
region was the scene of endemic conflict between the advancing power of Rome andMithridates VI Eupator.
The expansive policies of a reformed Pontic Kingdom led Marius to warn Mithridates “either to
be greater than the Romans or to obey them,”88 following the integration of the Western Pontic Greek
Geto-Paul Vădan Dacian Foreign Policy 78
89 Boatwright, Gargola, Talbert, 214.
90 The fact that Strabo (7.6) mentions that Varro Lucullus took the statue ofApollo fromApollonia in order to take it to Rome has been
interpreted by historians as proof that the city fell after hard fighting and plundering: Pippidi, Străinii de peste Mări, 277.
91 The text was supposedly put up in the agora and at Rome also, in the temple of Concord: Pippidi, Străinii de peste Mări, 279.
92 Cass. Dio, Roman History, 38.10. Livy also mentions the unsuccessful campaign of Hybrida: Liv. Periochae, 103.59.
93 Cass. Dio, 51.26.
94 Radulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 646.
95 Tudor, 84, 92.
96 Tudor, 92.
colonies into the Pontic system of alliances. As in the case of Geto-Dacian perception of these poleis,
the Pontic Kingdom deemed them as critical in its successful expansion and assertion in Thrace due to
their commercial and economic potential and to their strategic position.89 Inevitably, war broke out between
the two states by 89 BC. The Romans moved against the Pontic monarch in a series of campaigns,
first led by Sulla (87-85 BC) and then by Terentius Varro Lucullus (74-67 BC), with a clear
plan to drive Mithridates out of Europe across the Bosporus straights. To do this, Lucullus followed a
plan of seizingMithridates’Pontic possessions. It appears thatApollonia was the first polis to fall under
Roman authority after putting up steadfast resistance. Following Apollonia’s conquest and subsequent
destruction as punishment, Mesambria, Odessos, Dionysopolis, Callatis, Tomis and Istros yielded one
by one to Roman power.90
An inscription unearthed at Callatis describes a treaty between the Greek colony and Rome.
The presented clauses of neutrality, mutual help and the possibility of amending the treaty only with mutual
consent led scholars to conclude that the submission of the Pontic cities was ratified through a foedus
treaty;91 the fact that it was concluded on a basis of equality suggests that Rome recognized the
economic and strategic importance of the conquered cities and sought to conciliate them. Despite this,
in 62-61 BC a massive revolt of theWestern Pontic cities against Roman authority took place. This was
probably caused by the governor of Macedonia Antonius Hybrida, who, Cassius Dio reports,
“had inflicted many injuries upon the subject territory as well as upon that which
was in alliance with Rome, and had suffered many disasters in return [after] taking
away their plunder from them.When he tried the same tactics on the allies inMoesia,
he was defeated near the city of the Istrians by the Bastarnian Scythians who
came to their aid; and thereupon he ran away.”92
We later find out from the same author that it was the Getae who actually led the revolt, seizing the battle
standards of Hybrida and placing them in a strong fortress called Genucla.93 Vasile Pârvan suggested
that Burebista himself might have commanded the Greco-Getic-Scythian force against the Romans,
given that his western campaign was by then supposedly finished.94 However, his name is not specifically
mentioned by any literary source, a detail which has prompted some historians to disbelieve this
claim, and further argue that he might have needed more time to re-organize his army after the campaign
in Transylvania. The military historian Colonel Gheorghe Tudor supports Blavatskaia’s claim of an anti-
Roman front by arguing that support for the Greek cause from Burebista was actually possible if we believe
Strabo’s affirmation that he could muster a considerable fighting force. Tudor claims that even if
he did not personally lead the attack, Burebista could send the troops dislocated south of the Carpathians
who were already preparing for the eastern campaign.95 Although it is an attractive theory, it rests
solely on the supposition that such eastern assistance was meant as no more than a reconnaissance force
in Dobrogea after 61 BC.96 But since the actual eastern campaign would take place only six years later,
this is very unlikely.
Returning to Burebista, the incorporation of the Pontic colonies into the Dacian Kingdom
79 HIRUNDO 2008
97 Radulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 647.
98 Dion Chrys. Orationes. 36.4.
99 Unfortunately, the only secondary source mentioning the inscription does not provide the text itself: Pippidi, Străinii de peste Mări,
100 Pippidi. Străinii de peste Mări. 284-285.
101 Pippidi. Străinii de peste Mări. 283.
102 Radulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 647.
103 Crişan, 48.
suggests that he was fully aware of the socio-political conditions affecting Dobrogea, while taking advantage
of the retreat ofMithridates and of the setbacks suffered by Rome after the Greek revolt, in order
to impose his authority over the Greeks.97 Recalling a visit to Mikra Skythia€in 96 AD, Dion Chrysostomos
describes Burebista’s conquest when writing that “[Olbia] does not have a size fitting to its former
glory because of the many barbarian conquests […] No more than one hundred and fifty years ago,
the Getae took both [Olbia] and other poleis situated on the left shore of the Pontus Euxinus, up to
Apollonia.”98 This has helped historians date Burebista’s campaign to somewhere around the 50s BC.
Further information provided by fragmentary decrees has not only confirmed this date, but has
also given some details about the Greeks’wars supposedly against Burebista. For example, a fragmentary
inscription (IGB I 323) from Mesambria mentions three στρατεγοί (strategoi, generals) who took
part in the war against Burebista, without naming other disasters.99 Furthermore, a decree dating from
around 50 BC was found at Istros in honour ofAristagoras ofApaturios for his services to the community
“following the disaster afflicting the city, when the polis was without walls and its people were
again in danger along with their wives and children.” Aristagoras is portrayed “negotiating with skill
with the βαρβάροι (barbaroi, meaning “foreigners” but also the derogatory term “barbarians”) who
ruled the land, and in other occasions giving citizens the necessary amount for ransom;”100 the hostility
of the Greeks towards their conquerors may explain the use of sqbarbaroi in this context. Therefore, historians
have conjectured that, while some poleis such as Olbia, Istros and Mesambria initially resisted
Burebista and ended up partially destroyed, the others, namely Tomis, Callatis, Odessos, Dionysopolis
andApollonia submitted to his will without a fight.101 Due to lack of precise evidence, archeologists unfortunately
can not tell for certain in what order the Greek cities fell under Burebista’s control.102
The campaign of incorporation undertaken by Burebista on the Pontic left shore must have
ended by 48 BC, the accepted date for the issuing of the Decree in honour of Acornion of Dionysopolis
(IGB I2 13); it informs us that “Burebista had recently become the greatest king of Thrace, ruling over
the whole territory on this side of the [Danube] and on the other.”103 This inscription found on the territory
of present-day Bulgaria is the most important source for the policy of Burebista as King of Dacia,
presenting an unprecedented level of political discourse. The text itself speaks of the great deeds of
Acornion who, on being sent to Burebista, “went to him, became his best friend, talking to him and advising
him with respect to the most important questions, winning the king’s goodwill for the benefit of
the city.”104 It is possible to connect the ‘goodwill’ of Burebista towards the Dionysopolitans with their
voluntary submission to his authority. In this case, one may argue that the citizens of Dionysopolis had
plans of their own and took advantage of the coming of Burebista in their own efforts “to contribute to
the good of the country in all possible ways.”105 Such policy seems to have been dictated by the realization
of the complicated position Dionysopolis was in, being caught in the middle of a power struggle
between the major powers in the region at the time: Dacia and Rome.
The fact that prior to the acclamation of Acornion, Dionysos the eponymous god of the city
“had no priest at all,” has been interpreted by Pippidi as evidence for a precarious economic situation
Geto-Paul Vădan Dacian Foreign Policy 80
106 Pippidi. Străinii de peste Mări. 281.
107 Crişan, 48.
108 Liddell and Scott, s.v. “philiaq” and “megistan”.
109 R…dulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 651.
110 Hdt. 5.7.
111 Sanie, 93.
112 Jones, 50-51.
113 Crişan, 48.
114 Radulescu, Glodariu, Vulpe, Burebista, 649.
in Dionysopolis. This might have originated from long years spent under costly foreign domination.106
As the treaty itself shows, a prominent figure such asAcornion was needed to finance excessive expenses
under the administration of Hybrida: “while [Caius]Antonius was spending the winter there, he (again)
took the crown of the god (becoming a priest), beautifully and magnificently carried out processions and
sacrifices and gave the people plenty of meat.”107 Therefore, it is reasonable to infer that by approaching
Burebista the Dionysopolitans sought to gain a better economic deal.
It does not follow, however, that Burebista was not aware of or that he did not understand
such diplomatic discourse. To provide clarity, we must look at the epigraphic evidence provided by the
decree. The term basileus having already been discussed, the next striking element is the construction
’εν τή μεγίστη φιλίαq. Crişan translates this as “best friend;” the literal translation would actually be “into
the greatest friendship.” However, the connotations of this construction are much more encompassing.
Taking the dative case, its more precise meaning has been translated as “being accepted in the family
circle as a sign of the highest regard by superiors towards their dependents.”108 As a result, it may be
safely argued that the Greeks perceived Burebista as being familiar with the subtleties of Hellenistic
diplomatic language, since such a title was often used at the Hellenistic courts.109
The prominence of Dionysopolis is worth looking into in detail because it reveals more about
diplomatic relations between Burebista and the city than we might expect at first glance. Representations
either of Dionysos or of figures prominent in his cult found on jewelry, pottery, coins, or other decorative
material such as bone unearthed in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space suggest the
prominence of the god in Thracian religion. Furthermore, Herodotus tells us that “the only deities [the
Thracians] worship areAres, Dionysos andArtemis.”110 This has been interpreted as mutual recognition
of the Greek and Geto-Dacian pantheons through association; Artemis, for example, was equated with
Bendis.111 Therefore, it may be inferred that Dionysos provided the channel for a privileged kinship relationship
between Acornion, as priest of Dionysos, and Burebista, given the prominence of Dionysos
in both Greek and Geto-Dacian religion. This is not unusual since such a relationship was characteristic
of the interaction between poleis and monarchs during the Hellenistic period.112
Based on this information, we can only infer why Burebista chose Acornion as his diplomat,
since the decree does not disclose his reasons for such a decision. What the inscription does tell us,
however, is that “on being sent by King Burebista as ambassador to Cnaeius Pompeius, son of Cnaeius,
emperor of the Romans and meeting him in Macedonia near Heraclea Lyncestis, [Acornion] fulfilled
the tasks assigned to him by the king, winning for [Burebista] the Romans’ goodwill and conducting negotiations
for his homeland.”113 Obviously, the decree serves to glorify Acornion, but the fact that Burebista
nevertheless appointed him as his intermediary suggests that the fact that Acornion was Greek
and that he was from a town which had rebelled against Rome influenced the King’s decision. In that
case, one may argue that Acornion’s Greek pedigree was probably meant to smooth relations between
Burebista, a relatively unknown yet powerful individual from the Roman perspective, and Pompey.
The aims of this diplomatic mission must be studied as a result of Burebista’s Pontic campaign.
It is not so much the fact that he sought international recognition of his conquests114 – which was
81 HIRUNDO 2008
115 Liddell and Scott, s.v. “foedus”.
116 From 1101 in the 90’s, 3672 in the 80’s and 1342 coins in the 70’s, the number dropped to 408 in the 60’s and 562 in the 50’s BC:
117 Liddell and Scott, s.v. “qautokrator.”
118 Crişan, 49.
119 App. BC. 2.63. Caes. Civ. 3.72.
120 App. BC. 2.51.
121 Chiţescu, 10.
122 Glodariu, 59.
123 Hoards have been found from the northernmost point of Transylvania to the south-easternmost point of Dobrogea: Chiţescu, 13.
clearly welcome – as much as an attempt to conciliate the Romans. The right of conquest was a generally
accepted concept throughout the Hellenistic world, but when Burebista decided to incorporate into
his Dacian Kingdom poleis which were tied to Rome through a foedus treaty, he automatically declared
war on Rome; a foedus agreement once enacted was valid in perpetuity, no matter what the political circumstances.
115 From the point of view of Dionysopolis, it also sought conciliation with Rome, since it
had revolted against its authority. Numismatic evidence further attests the idea that Burebista’s expansion
was not favourably regarded. The number of coins entering the Dacian Kingdom dramatically decreased
to about 33% of its initial number during the 60s and especially in the 50s BC.116
In theory, however, Pompey did not have the authority to grant such a pardon. Yet the designation
of Pompey as qαυτοκράτορα (autokratora) in the Decree to Acornion suggests that, both in Burebista’s
and in the Dionysopolitans’ eyes, he indeed could. The term was used to identify an absolute
ruler, authors using it as a synonym for ‘dictator’ and ‘imperator’. Most importantly, Plutarch, writing
the life of Pompey, used qαυτοκράτωρ (autokrator) to present him specifically as “the Emperor.”117 We
also know for a fact that, following his short-lived victory over Caesar at Dyrrhachium on the 7th of June,
his soldiers hailed him as “imperator,” which was later translated into Greek as autokrator.118 This is further
corroborated by Caesar and Appian who mockingly observed that “Pompey sent letters to all the
kings and cities magnifying his victory” before the battle at Pharsalus took place “and he expected that
Caesar’s army would come over to him directly.”119
Unfortunately, the decree does not specifically mention what Burebista offered Pompey in
exchange for “the Romans’ goodwill.” Appian reproduces one of Pompey’s speeches to his troops in
which he proudly says that “we may say that all the nations of the East and around the Euxine Sea, both
Greek and Barbarian, stand with us; and kings, who are friends of the Roman people or of myself, are
supplying us soldiers, arms, provisions, and other implements of war.”120 Therefore, it may be argued
that Burebista offered Pompey military assistance against Caesar in the CivilWar, since by that time Burebista’s
kingdom had reached its maximum limits, reaching and controlling the western bank of the
Cooperation between Pompey and Burebista is further suggested by the discovery of coins
representing Juba, a Numidian king in friendly terms with Pompey, in four hoards of Republican denarii
on the territory of the Dacian Kingdom.121 It must be pointed out, however, that Burebista had no choice
but to attempt an alliance with Pompey. Beside his recent victory over Caesar, Pompey controlled the
territories next to Dacia and also the trade routes into the Black Sea which he made safe from pirates.
An alliance with the victorious Roman general would have contributed to the development of trade between
Dacia and the Greco-Roman world,122 given that an eventual increase of the number of denarii
entering into Dacia depended, as mentioned earlier, on the diplomatic relations with Rome; the Republican
denarius replaced Greek money as the dominant currency throughout the entire Geto-Dacian
territory by the 1st century BC.123
For a short period of time it looked as though Burebista’s gamble would pay off and his diplomatic
schemes come to fruition. Unfortunately for him, Pompey was defeated by Caesar on the 9th of
Geto-Paul Vădan Dacian Foreign Policy 82
124 App. 2.110. Sue. Div. Iul, 44. Strab. 7.3.5.
125 Ibid. 3.25.
126 Strab. 7.3.11.
127 Petolescu, Radulescu, De la Burebista la Cucerirea Romană, 655.
128 Sue. Aug, 63.
129 Plut, Anthony, 5.
130 Chiţescu, 10.
131 Strab. 7.3.12.
132 Pothecary, 246.
August 48 BC at Pharsalus.We do not know whether Burebista’s supposed help actually reached Pompey
or not, just as we are left in the dark concerning whether Burebista participated in the battle itself
or not. However, with Pompey out of the way, a confrontation between Burebista and Caesar was inevitable
since the former had become the latter’s personal enemy by supporting Pompey. On this note,
Appian writes that Caesar “conceived the idea of a long campaign against the Getae and the Parthians.
The Getae, a hardy, warlike, and neighboring nation, were to be attacked first,” a claim supported by
both Suetonius and Strabo.124 Caesar, Appian continues, also “sent across the Adriatic in advance sixteen
legions of foot and ten thousand horsemen.”We later learn from the sameAppian that this contingent
was appropriated after 44 BC by Marcus Antonius for his personal aims against Octavian on the
pretext that “the Getae, learning of Caesar’s death, had made an incursion intoMacedonia and were ravaging
As a matter of fact, the death of Burebista corresponded with the death of Caesar, following
a coup d’état which reduced his kingdom into four, then five parts. Strabo adds that “such divisions, to
be sure, are only temporary and vary with the times.”126 Due to Burebista’s keen understanding of the
subtleties of Hellenistic diplomatic language, the Geto-Dacians continued to play an active role on the
international political scene. However, the fragmentation of his kingdom has led some scholars to suggest
that Burebista’s model was not viable, as the regional character of the Geto-Dacian territory was
too powerful.127 The implication of such a conclusion is that the suggested policy of consolidation and
assertion was nothing but an isolated and individual effort, not a segment of an entire process defining
centuries of Geto-Dacian policy in the Carpathian-Danubian-Pontic space. Later events, however, prove
We learn from Suetonius that during the Civil War between Octavian and Marcus Antonius
which had erupted soon after Caesar’s death, “Marcus Antonius writes that Augustus first betrothed
Julia to his own son Antony, and later to Cotiso, king of the Getae, at the same time requesting in turn
the hand of the king’s daughter for himself.”128 Even if this was just one of many ways in which MarcusAntonius
sought to taint the image of Octavian, it is significant that the Geto-Dacians still play a role
in the political discourse of the time. Furthermore, Plutarch writes in the biography ofMarcusAntonius
that on the eve of the battle of Actium a commander by the name of Canidius “advised Antony to send
Cleopatra away, to withdraw into Thrace or Macedonia, and there to decide the issue by a land battle.
For Dicomes the king of the Getae promised to come to their aid with a large force.”129 Based on numismatic
evidence, there is reason to give credence to Plutarch’s claim given that out of a total of 1260
denarii dated between 39 and 31 BC no less than one thousand of them have been identified as actual
part of Marcus Antonius’ own coin issues for the legions.130
Strabo further argues that even after fragmentation, the Getae “are capable, even today, of
sending forth an army of forty thousand men.”131 Although the expression “even today” has been interpreted
by Susan Pothecary to mark the beginning of Pompey’s reorganization after Mithridates’ defeat,
132 in this case it definitely marks the death of Burebista, since he died much later than Pompey.
Therefore, disintegration of the Dacian Kingdom does not seem to have affected the pattern of active
implication in Greco-Roman affairs as a way to gain regional stability. On the contrary, it shows conti83
133 Cass. Dio, 51.24.
134 Ibid. 51.26.
135 Aug. Res Gestae, 30. Sue. Aug, 21.
136 Cassius Dio mentions that he would have gained such a prestigious glory if he had been in supreme command: Cass. Dio, 51.24.
137Wells, 15, 56.
138 Cass. Dio. 51.24.
nuity as Geto-Dacian regional kings sought alliances with prominent figures such as Octavian andMarcus
Antonius, who could in turn provide security and privileges.
Cassius Dio provides more information about the Geto-Dacians in the aftermath of Octavian’s
victory in the Civil War. While discussing the retaliation campaign of Licinius Crassus against a supposedly
invading army of Dacians and Bastarnae, he points out that “the Bastarnae [urged] him not to
pursue them, since they had done the Romans no harm.”133 This incident may suggest that the “barbarian”
invaders consciously tried to avoid a confrontation with Rome, being fully aware of the diplomatic
implications of such an act. On that note, it may be argued that Crassus’ campaigns were actually aimed
at avenging the shameful defeat of Antonius Hybrida and to recover his lost standards. Cassius Dio relates
that “after this success he gave no respite to the rest of the Getae […], he advanced against Genucla
[…] because he heard that the lost standards […] were kept there.”134 This episode is mentioned
neither by Suetonius nor Augustus, who actually writes in his Res Gestae that “when an army of Dacians
crossed to this side of the Danube, it was defeated and routed under my auspices [and I] forced
the Dacian peoples to submit to the orders of the Roman people.”135 This omission has been interpreted
as a check on the growing prestige and influence of Crassus, given that he had gained spolia opima
while in Thrace,136 in an attempt by Octavian to avoid another Civil War with Crassus as contender to
the title of Princeps.137 Most importantly, however, Cassius Dio specifically mentions that “[Crassus]
completed [the enemy’s] destruction with the help of Roles, the king of a tribe of the Getae.” As a reward
for his assistance, “Roles visited Octavian, [being] treated as a friend and ally.”138 This last observation
offers clear insight into what a king of a small polity could hope for on the international
political stage in the aftermath of the transition from the Hellenistic Age to the Roman Empire. At the
same time, it also shows how such regional kings could be manipulated and drawn into the political
games of those aspiring to or possessing the supreme office of Princeps. Roles is an example of such a
leader who adapted quickly to the new diplomatic language, which depended on personal loyalty to the
Emperor, thus assuring his continued existence within the Roman κόσμος (kosmos, world, universe)‚.
In conclusion, Burebista’s foreign policy operated on a grander scale than earlier Geto-Dacian
leaders, but nevertheless adhered to the same patterns of consolidation within the Hellenistic oikoumeneu
defined through economic and diplomatic interaction with the western Pontic Greek cities. However,
this tradition did not end with Burebista’s demise, but continued under later Geo-Dacian rulers, providing
them with the premises needed to adapt to the changing political environment in the Mediterranean
world after the rise of Augustus as Princeps.
Geto-Dacian Foreign Policy
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