SARMIZEGETUSA  REGIA  -   GRADISTEA MUNCELULUI
(comuna Orastioara de Sus)
Dealul Gradistii, the place where the Sarmizegetusa ruins, the capital of the Dacian state, were found, is situated to the North –East end of Lunca Gradistii at 17 km from Costesti village and 7 km from Gradistea de Munte village centre, at the confluence of Valea Alba and Valea Godeanului streams representing a “foot” of Muncel. The settlement of Sarmizegetusa consist of three main parts: the fortress, sacred zone and “districts” of civil constructions, the latter being located to the East and West from the first two ones.
All the terraces where the civil constructions were erected, are anthropogenic, but only the terraces of the sacred zone are supported and protected as they had been erected using the murus Dacicus technique, some of them were 12-14m high during the Ancient times. The largest terraces were tens of metres long and 20-30m wide (the largest was 200m long and 50m wide at average). So that for their arrangement, it was necessary to excavate, consolidate and compact thousand hundreds cubic meters of earth and rocks.
The fortress was erected on the only site of the zone which configuration was complying with the fortification concept of the Dacian architects and namely, around the 1000m high small hill towering both the West “district” of the capital and the sacred zone. Today, only a part of it can be seen, but this part was adjusted by the Romans after they settled down on Dealul Gradistii.
The fortress walls surrounded the said small hill following the ground configuration. On its slope, even in the native rock, there was arranged a horizontal bed of about 3m wide and the wall was erected from it using the already known technique- murus Dacicus. The wall started at the base of the third terrace, went up the West side along the height, bypassed the peak to the North and East and returned by South. Inside the fortress there are three floored anthropogenic terraces where there were found only the remains of some wood sheds. It is very likely that on the artificially levelled top of the small hill there was a watching tower. Several tens of metres outside the South wall of the fortress, around the Dacian –Roman wars from the beginning of the IInd century p. Chr., there was erected a double palisade provided with a beam which was meant to protect a tank made of wood and placed near the said wall.
According to the tough peace conditions imposed by the Romans after the war of 101-102, the Dacians were forced to dismantle a part of the yard wall. We cannot say how extended the works were, but certainly they were carried out, considering that a Roman draft of troops remained at Sarmizegetusa exactly to monitor the compliance with this onerous peace stipulation. Around the start up of the second Dacian –Roman war from the beginning of the IInd century p.Chr., of course after the Roman draft left, the Dacians re-erected the fortress walls using the old route.
The civil constructions included dwellings, workshops, water pipes, drains, paved roads, stairs, barns. The dwelling plan was different: rectangular (with two-three rooms grouped together or disposed in line) polygonal or circular. The rectangular constructions had wooden walls built on stone foundations (often limestone) and the fire place was only in one of them the others being used as precincts. There were situations when such constructions had two floors. The polygonal constructions had earth walls supported by poles, they were provided with a covered porch and sometimes they were storey houses; the circular constructions walls were also made of earth. The roof of all these constructions was made of tiles of wood. The inventory – particularly of those fired during the wars from the beginning of the IInd century p. Chr., - was extremely rich and diverse: ceramics, including the pots painted with geometric, vegetal and animal models, iron tools, many construction materials made of the same metal, coins, items of current use.
Within the civilian zone of the settlement there were also a big metallurgic workshop, two smithy workshops. The two smithy workshops were on the VIII terrace (above the sanctuaries) and on another terrace of the East “ district” of the settlement. They included iron lens - almost a ton of such iron lens were found near the second one, tens of smithy tools, parts to be worked and finished parts.
Along the present route of the wall, from the West gate and South gate, beneath the wall there was found a Roman forgery workshop and beneath it, there was found a Dacian monetary workshop. Here there were made imitations of the Republican Roman coins and also of Imperial ones.
Although there has not been found any trace of a workshop, it is certain that glass was also manufactured at Sarmizegetusa Regia.
Both the civil districts and the sacred zone were provided with fired clay pipes for drinking water catching and supply as well as rainfall water drains. As for the latter, there are visible traces of the drainage channels made of limestone in the sacred zone. A wooden water tank where water was supplied also by a fired clay pipe and which was meant to transport water from the source, was erected to the South of the fortress walls, about the Dacian –Roman wars from the beginning of the IInd century p.Chr.
Near the Tau, on a terrace there is a market, the agora of the Ancient town.
The constructions dedicated to religious cult were built up considering the significance of Sarmizegetusa. Thus, during the period of Burebista – Decebal eleven sanctuaries were erected on two large terraces situated to the North –East of the fortress: nine rectangular ones and two circular, one of them being under construction when the wars of the beginning of the IInd century started up. The sanctuaries are grouped on two large terraces situated to the North –East from the fortress. Both terraces are supported by walls constructed using the murus Dacicus technique. As for their chronology, it is to be noted that most of those made of andesite belong to the reign of the last Dacian king. Getting into the sacred zone by the present road, to its right there is a quadrilateral sanctuary on pillars and in the middle, it has seven limestone plinths which supported the wooden columns. The entry to the sanctuary was provided, from the Northern side, by a short wall built in the Dacian wall manner. For this sanctuary, like for other similar ones, with pillars on the edge it seems that the latter were delimiting the sacred space. The sanctuary was almost completely destroyed by the Romans. The plinths mentioned are from another older sanctuary which was also rectangular and had 60 wooden columns supported by such limestone plinths. Each of these plinths was erected on a semi- arched foundations made of clay and stone, and it was dug in the terrace fill. It is certain that this sanctuary was running by the half part of the I century p.Chr., and then it was removes and in its place, there was erected the above one. The entry to the 60 columns sanctuary was provided on the short South – West side, also along the wall, which upper part was closed by a ramp. From the lower terrace, there was a limestone paved stairs taking to the ramp. Along the long sides of the sanctuary there were found traces of some massive wooden pillars of its wall frame. The roof could be made only of wood tiles. Beneath this sanctuary, there were found the vestiges of another wood construction, but instead of being supported by plinths, it was supported by limestone blocks, usually four such blocks disposed in a cross pattern. When this first construction was functioning, the terrace was supported by three walls on the South –West, South –East and North-East sides. A rectangular tower was attached to the wall from the South-West side (the side from the valley), at its middle, and this tower was dismantled once the terrace for the 60 column construction was built. The terrace walls were, in their turn, raised at each base.
To the left of the road, above this terrace, there was a smaller one where 15 limestone plinths arranged in three lines, were found and they belonged also to a sanctuary which appearance and structure of the Ancient times could not be redone because it was destroyed by the Romans. It is sure that both this sanctuary and the one placed beneath it were provided with installations for water supplied from the source still existing in the sacred zone.
Beyond the stream, there was a pentagonal construction made of limestone slabs put on edge and North of it, there was the big circular andesite sanctuary. The sanctuary with a diameter of almost 30m was provided – from outside to inside- with a border consisting of 104 massive andesite blocks; attached to it there were 30 groups of 6 narrow pillar each separated from a larger and shorter one, spaced and made of the same stone. At approximately 3.65 m inside there was another “circle”, consisting of 84 massive wood pillars. The said circle is divided in four equal segments of limestone thresholds, but each segment includes a different number of wood pillars; 18,19,22 and 23. Out of centre, in the same circle, there was another apsis construction consisting also of wood pillars. Certainly, the apsis construction was provided with a massive clay earth wall and there are significant indications showing the presence of a similar wall in the circular “room” of wood pillars. The sanctuary floor was made of consolidated clay and on top of it, in the “ circular” room, there was found the stone structure of a fireplace. The entry to the sanctuary supported also by a wall erected based on the Dacian technique, is situated to the East. As the wall ends in front of the andesite border, it is obvious that the access was not possible without a wood ramp, higher than the andesite pillars, provided with steps made of wood, to get down on it. Along the North –East – South –West axis, along the four thresholds of the circular “room”, but outside the sanctuary, and to the North –East of it, there were found the vestiges of a rectangular finished limestone paving. The facetted roof of the sanctuary was supported by the pillars of the circular “room” and by some others placed on the outer border. The components of this sanctuary inspired different calendar calculations which, have proved to be unrealistic so far.
On the edge of the terrace oriented to the valley, there still can be seen the retaining wall forming an obtuse angle and a tower was attached right to the sanctuary. It continues forming at least one right angle on the South -West segment of the terrace.
North of the big circular sanctuary there is another one with the same shape (12.50m diameter), but with a different plan: a circle of andesite pillars arranged in 11 groups of 8 narrow pillars and one group of 7 pillars and one of 6 pillars respectively; the groups are separated by short and wide pillars. Inside there another construction with wood pillars, but the traces of the 8 ones found do not allow the reconstitution of its plan. It is sure that the sanctuary had a tile roof, and the entry was similar to the other circular sanctuary and was South –West oriented.
To the West from the small circular sanctuary there was a rectangular one (12x9.20m) with andesite pillars and inside with 18 columns made also of andesite (there are only 16 in place). At the sanctuary corners there are four massive andesite blocks, each of them having a median profile; on top of them there were placed either other blocks, carved and provided with median slots, or wood pillars meant to support, besides the upper part of the columns, the wood tile roof. The sanctuary was placed near its South –West corner, being supported by a usual wall which platform could be accessed from the East side, too; inside the sanctuary, in front of the wall there was a limestone threshold to support the wood platform that crossed over the andesite pillars.
To the West of it, there exists another sanctuary surrounded by andesite pillars, but it was dismantled by the Romans to such extent that it cannot be rebuilt any longer.
Instead, the wall of the sanctuary entry was relatively well preserved, it is paved with limestone slabs. Unlike the cases of the other sanctuaries, the entry- wall – penetrates the andesite pillar enclosure.
The Northern zone of the terrace was drained through two channels dug in the limestone; one branch was going East while the other one was going North. Within the sectors from the West side of the terrace, where the channel was closer to the ground surface, its “U” shape carved sections were covered by limestone slabs; at places where it was more hollowed, the upper part also consisted of “U” shaped parts. It is also to be noted that in the sanctuary with andesite pillars and columns the channel route is winding to avoid to place it beneath the columns which indicate that there existed a concept and a unitary plan for both constructions, if not for all, as there is a similar relation with the andesite altar, too.
To the West side of the Northern sector of this terrace and North –West of the road paved with limestone slabs taking to the terrace there were erected two massive terrace walls attached to one another. They supported the terrace above and in front of them and attached to it, too, there was probably a “lining” of parallelopipedic blocks. To one of the corners of these blocks there were carved two or three Greek letters. As the “lining” was partly dismantled by the Romans and partly it caved, many blocks were given a different destination, during the Roman times as well, and the meaning of the inscriptions carved in them cannot be reconstituted.
On the terrace above- terrace X- two other sanctuaries were found. At the lower level, there existed a rectangular sanctuary (it was 37.50m long, but its width is not known) with limestone pillars placed on limestone slabs and with limestone columns. It was dismantled by the Dacians, the terrace was raised a little and the big sanctuary constructions started on it. It consisted on six lines of 10 columns each; each column had a base wider than the column and beneath the base, there a plinth made of the same rock (more than 2m diameter); the column diameter was around 1m. The sanctuary -37.50 x 31.50m – had not been finished when the conflicts with Trajan started up. Some of its elements were placed either as such or adjusted, in the Roman constructions: fortress wall, bathroom, upper terrace fill. To the West from the sanctuary there was the retaining wall of the upper terrace and in the space in between, there were probably precincts of the constructions destined to religious cult itself.
The edifices of Sarmizegetusa Regia, sanctuaries, districts of dwellings and workshops were destroyed further to the Dacian –Roman wars from the beginning of the II century.
After the 106 conquest, at Sarmizegetusa Regia, there remained a draft of troops of Flavia Felix Legion IV which would withdraw from there after 117 and after that, from archaeological point of view, the zone was no longer inhabited.
The contemporary sources remind the fabulous wealth captured after Dacia conquest and which were the supporting means for the construction of Trajan Forum at Rome.