Urme ale Centuriaţiei la Sarmizegetusa şi în teritoriul său (I)

Traces of roman centuriation at Sarmizegetusa and in its territory

 Autor: Alexandru Diaconescu

Cuvinte cheie: roman, colonizare, Sarmizegetusa, teritoriu, centuriatio

Keywords: roman, colonization, Sarmizegetusa, territory, centuriatio


Articolul pune în evidenţă existenţa urmelor împărţirii iniţiale a pământului către coloniştii romani în teritoriul coloniei Dacica Sarmizegetusa. În prima parte (I.) autorul discută loturile de pe locul viitoarei colonii traianice şi din imediata sa vecinătate (în partea de vest a Ţării Haţegului). Mai departe, urme ale unor centurii (de 710 x 710 m) au fost de asemenea identificate în doi pagi ai coloniei, Aquae şi Micia. În partea a doua (II.) autorul va discuta centuriaţia oraşelor romane de la Apulum. Metoda folosită constă în principal din analiza drumurilor şi haturilor actuale, vizibile pe hărţile Google Earth. Au fost reţinute ca romane numai acele aliniamente care corespund celor constatate prin săpături arheologice şi care au formă şi dimensiuni specifice acestei civilizaţii, fiind eliminate numeroasele hotărnicii medievale şi moderne. În urma acestui demers poate fi mai bine apreciată amploarea şi intensitatea procesului de colonizare a noii provincii.


The present paper deals with the centuriation of colonia Dacica Sarmizegetusa and some of its pagi. This first part of the work concerns the colony itself, then pagus Aquensis, in the valley of Strei, and pagus Miciensis, in the valley of Mureş. The second part will deal with the towns of Apulum, in the middle Mureş valley, and will be published later.

Previous works (such as I.A. Oltean, Dacia. Landscape, colonisation and romanisation, London – New York, 2007) already remarked some traces of centuriation east of the ancient Roman colony of Sarmizegetusa and certain rectangular features in the area of Micia, which might have been of Roman origin. The author proposes to identify ancient allotments in modern country roads and boundaries, registered by maps and air photos, especially on Google Earth satellite imagines, which provide not only a perfect vertical view, but also allow detailed measurements of all features on the ground. Obviously most of the detectable features are of Mediaeval or Modern origin. Roman ones can be distinguished by several criteria: square – or almost square shape -, most of recent limitations being oblong rectangles (e.g. some 200 x 1 600 m); dimensions corresponding to Roman standards (Fig. 1-2; e.g. 710 x 710 m a centuria); an orientation similar to the one identified by archaeological excavations.

The Trajanic colony was not founded immediately after the victory against Dacians, achieved in AD 106, but after the war with the Iazyges (from the Pannonian plain), which lasted throughout AD 107. Thus the most probable date for the town’s foundation stretches somewhere between AD 108 and 110, when the known founder of the colony, D. Terentius Scaurianus, is attested at the head of the recently formed Dacian province. A military occupation previous to the town’s foundation is attested by several indirect data, but the exact location of the fort (or forts) is still questionable. In any case the timber structures, identified under the stone buildings of the Trajanic colony (especially in the central area), were proven to be of civilian character (a forum-macellum complex and an insula south of it (Figs. 5-6). In the author’s opinion the military establishment, previous to the foundation of the colony, is to be found north of the town, an area which was not assigned to the colonists, and where the amphitheater and several temples were later built (Fig. 15). Here certain wall alignments of some buildings (such as the sanctuary of Aesculapius and Hygeia, the so called “schola gladiatorum” and the tabernae behind the “Great Temple”) reproduce the initial military road system. Some are parallel to the east-west road from Tibiscum to Drobeta; others follow the alignment of the main imperial road leading towards north-east, to Apulum.

The allotments corresponding to the timber colony are rather well documented through archaeological excavations. Judging after the structures found in the central zone (only its northern half is illustrated here; Fig. 5-6), south of decumanus maximus the plots were 71 m long (corresponding to the length of a jugerum) and 40 – 45 m large. It follows that there must have been two additional decumani south of decumanus maximus. In the field east of the town both decumanus maximus and the other two decumani are visible, proving that the timber structures correspond to the first centuriation and by no means could they belong to a military camp. The houses identified so far suggest that the initial number of colonists was between 800 and 1 000 families.

Still under Trajan the timber forum was replaced by a larger stone one, and at least south of decumanus maximus the road system was reorganized, both cardines and decumani being repositioned (Figs. 7-8). On the occasion the houses of the first insula to the south were removed, the place being designed for the new macellum. The reorganization was bigger then that, and probably at this point two additional rows of insulae were added to the west of the initial precinct, placing the forum and cardo maximus in the eastern half of the town. Outside the town precinct, besides the three decumani mentioned above, there are several modern roads and boundaries, which have the same orientation as the roads of the Roman colony. This enables us to reconstruct with great certitude the centuriation of ager Sarmizegetusanus. Thus in the immediate vicinity of the town two centuriae of agricultural use could be identified (Figs. 9-10). They must have been assigned to the veteran officers and other privileged colonists.

The other lots can be detected in the plain east of Măgura Delineştilor hill, in the vicinity of the village called Ostrov (Figs. 11-13). Here the alignments follow the old military east-west road. Two of the most obvious features are 710 m apart, which pleads for a Roman origin of this partition. The reconstruction of the allotment system allows tracing at least six centuriae of 710 x 710 m, which – combined with the other two centuriae in the immediate vicinity of the town – gives a number of at least 800 lots, corresponding to the minimum of colonial families estimated above.

Pagus Aquensis was a suburb of Sarmizegetusa, under the jurisdiction of a praefectus who was at the same time decurio of the colony. It is situated in the Strei valley, some 35 km (24.000 passus) from Sarmizegetusa, and was among other things a well known bath resort. Surrounding the Roman pools and the hot water springs there is a square road structure of 710 x 710 m, with subdivisions at 213 x 213 m (6 x 6 actus), at 355 (ten actus) and at 426 (six actus), which fit to well the Roman allotment not to be of antique origin (Figs. 16-17).

The centuriation of pagus Miciensis is somehow similar, but not identical. This unit enjoyed a bigger autonomy, being led by two magistri. Besides the pagus of the Trajanic colony, inhabited by a corps of cives Romani, there was an auxiliary camp (occupied by three units) and the adjacent vicus, that emerged in the immediate vicinity of the fortress and which was inhabited by merchants, craftsmen and other industrious people. The author identifies the farming land of the pagani west of the auxiliary fortress, where at least a half of centuria can be identified (Figs. 18-19).

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