Universität Erfurt

Antike Kultur

Römische Itinerare (Thyssen)


Dacia, Pannonia and Moesia in Roman itineraries: A comparative Study

  • Finanzierung: Fritz Thyssen Stiftung
  • Laufzeit: 2011
  • Volumen: 1 Jahre Forschungsstipendium (24 T€)
  • Bearbeiter: Prof. Dr. Florin-Gheorghe Fodorean (Cluj/Klausenburg)


Florin Fodorean: The Topography and the Landscape of Roman Dacia.

British Archaeological Reports, International Series S2501

Oxford: Archaeopress 2013

ISBN 9781407311173. £30.00. vii+147 pages; 53 plates, 1 in colour



Florin Fodorean:

Dacia, Pannonia and Moesia in Roman itineraries: A Comparative Study



What we will try to present in this first part goes beyond a simple, super flue presentation of the history of these provinces. I think this chapter not as an introductory one, or, let’s say, because this is the custom. I am trying to see if we can establish particular physical, strategic and military features for this region. We will start our research with short descriptions of the modalities of conquest of these provinces.

Each province will be presented separately, with data regarding:

  • 1. Moment of conquest, reasons of conquest (resources, strategic motivations);
  • 2. Geographical and historical description;
  • 3. Military organization: Roman fortifications, roads, cities, other settlements.
  • 4. Dacia and its conquest – thinking like a Roman: temptation for gold and natural resources or strategic reasons?

Pannonia entered in the attention of Romans beginning with 35-33 BC. In this period, the inhabitants of these regions, the Pannonii, allies of the Dalmatians, were attacked by Romans, who conquered and occupied Siscia (Sisak). These first military actions of Romans had as purpose the occupation of new territories. The ancient sources give us information regarding this war against the Pannonii. Appian inform us that the motif of the conquest of Siscia and the valley of the river Sava was Octavian’s desire to use Siscia and the river itself as military base point in a future war against Dacians and Bastarns (Appianos, Illyriké, 22). Strabo (VII, 5, 2) mentions Siscia as a place which, due to its position, was very adequate as a military base for an action against Dacians: ‘The city Segestica, belonging to the Pannonians, is at the confluence of several rivers, all of them navigable, and is naturally fitted to be a base of operations for making war against the Dacians’. Cassius Dio (XLIX, 36, 1) suggests that Octavian had nothing to reproach to the Pannonii, because they didn’t do anything to the Romans. The expedition was organized with the purpose of instruction of soldiers. E. Nemeth (Politische und militärische Beziehungen zwischen Pannonien und Dakien in der Römerzeit, Cluj-Napoca, 2007, 132) analyzes the opinions of the specialists, which are in concordance with these two ancient sources. Some of them accepted Arrian’s version. Other saw the conquest of Siscia as an action related to Augustan propaganda. In fact, if we look closer, the true purpose was the creation of a land connection between Northern Italy and the Roman territories from Balkans, but also a pacification of the neighbouring population from the North Eastern Italy. The conquest of Siscia and of a part of the Sava valley could serve not only for the creation of a land connection between Italy and Balkans, but also as a strategic point for a future conflict with the Dacians. They were seen as a danger in this region and the Romans started, gradually, actions against them.
In 6 AD, the Pannonians, Dalmatians and other Illyrian tribes started a rebellion, crushed in 9 AD. Illyricum was dissolved and his territory was divided between the new provinces of Pannonia. Between 102 and 107 AD Trajan divided the province into Pannonia Superior (the Western part) and Pannonia Inferior (the Eastern part).


In the first months of his reign, Trajan began the preparations for a war against the Dacians. He made an inspection to the Rhine frontier, which began immediately after his adoption by Nerva and the receiving of the title Caesar. This was a partial measure to facilitate troop movements close to the Dacian kingdom. Then, he realized the next step: in the winter 88-89 AD he made another inspection of troops and fortresses along the Pannonic and Moesian Danube. He also gave order to improve the road from the right bank of the Danube. The construction of this road began with Tiberius and Trajan finished it.
In 106 AD Dacia officially became a Roman province. After two outstanding military campaigns, Trajan and his soldiers succeeded to conquer this territory. But the most difficult part just began. Organizing a province with no natural frontiers was, in my opinion, the greatest Roman achievement. Trajan took with him in this ‘adventure’ numerous specialists. Among them, Balbus, who measured all the land and calculated all, in order to offer data necessary for a good administration and organization after the conquest. The rapid organization of the province can be demonstrated by some certain facts. Further on, we will present these data. Now, I only want to point out that the main roads of Dacia were already finished around 110 AD. A Roman milestone discovered at Aiton (in the Northern part of the province, between Potaissa (Turda) and Napoca (Cluj-Napoca), dated in 108 AD, proves that the main imperial road of the province, which started from Danube, was already in use only after 2 years of Roman presence in Dacia.


The best synthesis about Pannonia and Upper Moesia remains the one published by A. Mócsy in 1974 (Pannonia and Upper Moesia. A History of the Middle Danube Provinces of the Roman Empire, London/Boston). Formally, Moesia became a Roman province around 6 AD. In the ancient geographical sources, Moesia was a region bounded to the East by the Black Sea (Pontus Euxinus), to the West by the Driva River (Drinus), to the South by the Balkans (Haemus) and Šar mountain (Scardus) and to the North by the Danube. As we saw before, Moesia was divided by Domitian in Moesia Superior and Inferior. The first conflicts known between Romans and the inhabitants of this region go back in 75 BC, when C. Scribonius Curio, proconsul of Macedonia, became victorious after a military expedition along the Danube River. After that, M. Licinius Crassus, in 29 BC, subdues the inhabitants. But only in 6 AD Moesia was organized as a province. Cassius Dio (LV, 29) offers the information about the first governor, Caecina Severus.
The conquest of Moesia and then its division in two provinces offered to the Romans the possibility of looking North, to Dacia. In short time, during Trajan, Rome controlled all the regions from the Middle Danube until the Black Sea.
We will be able to locate, in the history of these provinces, several crucial, critical moments in which they all functioned as a totum. We offer here several examples:

a. If we look closer to the ancient sources and the interpretations of the modern historians, we find that the first military actions in the future territory of Pannonia had as consequence the conquest of Siscia and the control of the Sava River. The purpose: the creation of a military base for a future war against the Dacians.

b. This particular interest regarding Dacians does not appeared suddenly. Allow us, to remember to the reader, several episodes:

  • 1. A Dacian attack over the frozen Danube in 10 BC; against them fought with success Tiberius (Cassius Dio, LIV, 36, 2). This is the first event which had as principal actors the Romans and the Dacians fighting on the territory of the future Pannonia. Such event is recorded even in Augustus’s testament Res Gestae, after the phrase which reminds us the pacification of Pannoniorum gentes (RGDA 30). From the same paragraph of Res Gestae we know that the Dacian attack was followed by Roman actions of reprisals: et postea trans Danuvium ductus exercitus meus Dacorum gentes imperia populi Romani perferre coegit;
  • 2. Another Roman expedition against Dacians, leaded by Cn. Cornelius Lentulus, is noticed by Florus (II, 28): Daci montibus inhaerent. Inde Cotisonis regis imperio, quotiens concretus gelu Danuvius iunxerat ripas, decurrere solebant et vicina populari. Visum est Caesari Augusto gentem aditu difficillimam summovere. Misso igitur Lentulo ultra ulteriorem reppulit ripam; citra praesidia constituta. Sic tum Dacia non victa, sed summota atque dilata est. So, it is clear from this passage that the Dacians, living in the mountains under the king Cotiso, robbed the neighbouring areas every time when Danube froze from one bank to another; Augustus decided to remove (of the Roman frontiers) such a dangerous people and sent Lentulus to accomplish this mission; he managed to push the Dacians on the other bank (the left bank) of the Danube and he built guard posts on this bank (the right bank, the one belonging to the Romans); in this way Dacians were not defeated, but only pushed back of the Roman frontiers. The important thing to observe is that the Romans entered very early in conflict with the Dacians during the establishment of their military bases in the future Pannonia. The Dacians didn’t like this, they looked to it as a threat, but on the other hand they didn’t stop to organize expeditions in these regions.
  • 3. An interesting observation must be reminded here: we do not know other military attacks of the Dacians in Pannonia after the one in 10 BC. All the Dacians attacks from the first century AD were directed to South, against Moesia. The presence of the Sarmatians in the Hungarian plane had an important role. Elder Pliny’s description of the relationship between Dacians and Iazyges is suggestive: the Sarmatians drove away the Dacians from the regions close to the Pannonian Danube to the mountains and the forests close to the river Pathissus (Tisa). So, the lack of new Dacians attacks against Pannonia can be attributed – besides Roman actions – to the Sarmatians.
  • 4. The first big conflict of the first century AD happened during Domitian. The Dacians, regrouped now under the rule of a new king, attacked Moesia in the winter 85-86 AD (avaritia Domitiani metuentes – Iordanes, Getica, 76). The governor of Moesia, C. Oppius Sabinus, couldn’t stop this invasion. Worst, he died in this battle. The situation was quite difficult for the Romans. Even Domitian came in Moesia. He personally accredited the praefectus praetorio, Cornelius Fuscus, with the command of the military actions against the Dacians. He solved the problems, by succeeding to remove the danger. But he committed a mistake. He tried to continue the expedition North of the Danube, where he died. This determined Domitian to come again in Moesia and to bring the legion II Adiutrix from Britain. Another consequence of this conflict was the division of Moesia in 86 AD. The new commander of the Moesian troops, L. Tettius Iulianus, conducted a military expedition in Dacia in 88 AD. He defeated Decebal at Tapae (Cassius Dio, LXVII, 10. After this, the problems for the Romans didn’t stop. A part of the army from Germania Superior has rebelled under L. Antonius Saturninus in the winter 88-89 AD. This was followed by attacks of Marcomani and Quadi. Meanwhile, the putsch ruled by Saturninus was rapidly defeated by the governor of Germania Inferior, A, Lappius Maximus. Domitian stated a campaign against Marcomani and Quadi, to punish them and to offer an example. Another problem had Domitian with the Suebi, who didn’t respect their obligations of Roman allies in the conflict between Tettius Iulianus and the Dacians (Cassius Dio, LXVII, 7, 1).  So, Domitian was facing a triple danger: a rebellion of a Roman commander; the attacks of Marcomanii and Quadi; the punishment of Suebi. Let’s remind something important here: after the conquest of Dacia, Trajan wanted to create a Roman province Marcommania, maybe for two reasons: to pacify this area and this people, who, as we will see in their history, caused enormous damages and problems to the Romans. We are sure that his plan was, after the conquest of Dacia, to pacify the Northern Europe, and, as Susan Mattern points out, he thought maybe he will succeed to get exit to the big Ocean.

Now let’s come back to our episode with Domitian and his problems. The emperor travelled from Germania Superior to Pannonia and rejected any proposals from Suebi (Cassius Dio, LXVII, 7, 1). On contrary, he initiated an expedition against them, but he failed (Cassius Dio, LXVII, 7, 2). So, this episode determined Domitian to establish a peace treatise with Decebal, who became rex amicus sociusque populi Romani. So, with this, for several years, Dacians entered in the alliance system with the Romans.


In this part of our project we will present, describe, analyze and interpret the major geographic and ethnographic sources with direct reference to these provinces. We will use all the major ancient sources: Strabo (64/63 BC – ca. AD 24), Geographica, book VII, 3, 5, 6; Augustus, Res Gestae Divi Augusti (recent publication by Alison Cooley - 2009, Res Gestae divi Augusti, edition with introduction, translation, and commentary, Cambridge University Press); Elder Pliny (AD 24 – August 25, 79), Naturalis Historia, book 4 (geography of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea, continental and northern Europe); Ptolemy (ca. AD 90 – ca. AD 168), Geographia (we can use the well known edition of Berggren, J. Lennart, and Alexander Jones. 2000. Ptolemy's Geography: An Annotated Translation of the Theoretical Chapters. Princeton and Oxford, or, more recently, the massive 1018 pages edition with Greek and German text, colour maps and a CD with geographical data, edited by Alfred Stückelberger and Gerd Graßhoff in 2006: Ptolemaios, Handbuch der Geographie, Griechisch-Deutsch, 2 volumes, Basel: Schwabe Verlag).
We will analyze some essential aspects concerning the geographical knowledge on these provinces. We will systemize our research around several ideas:

  • 1. Information in Roman literary, ethnographic or geographic sources regarding the province before its conquest. We can use a large amount of ancient sources and also several books of articles (for example G. Popa-Lisseanu, Dacia în autorii clasici. I. Autorii latini clasici şi postclasici; II. Autorii greci şi bizantini (Dacia in classical authors. I. Classic and postclassic Latin authors; II. Greek and Bzyantine authors), Bucharest, 2006; the article of Mihai Bărbulescu, Traian şi “descoperirea Daciei” (Trajan and ‘the discovery of Dacia’), in Napoca. 1880 de ani de la începutul vieţii urbane (Napoca. 1880 years from the beginning of the urban life), ed. by D. Protase and D. Brudaşcu, Cluj-Napoca, 1999, 32-39).
  • 2. Particular geographical, military and administrative features of the Middle and Lower Danube provinces.
    Pannonia became a Roman province sometime after the rebellion of Pannonians and Dalmatians, defeated in 3 years (6-9 AD) by Tiberius and Germanicus. It was, at the beginning, an imperial province of consular rank. We can suppose that its territory stretched in the North and East until the Danube. The archaeology help us here: the Roman occupation troops stationed during Augustus only in the Southern part of the province, i.e. in the area Sava-Drava (V. G. Alföldi, Das römische Pannonien. Forschungen und Ergebnisse, Das Altertum, 9, 1963, 146; E. Nemeth, Politische und militärische Beziehungen zwischen Pannonien und Dakien in der Römerzeit, Cluj-Napoca, 2007, 141). The occupation of the Northern part happened a little later. This process was organized in stages, in the period Tiberius-Claudius. An important moment was the moving of the legion XV Apollinaris at Carnuntum. Another one was the increase of the number of auxiliary troops along the ‘Amber road’. Finally, during the Flavian emperors, the whole Pannonian army was moved of the Danube frontier.
    Between 102 AD and 107 AD Trajan divided Pannonia in two provinces: Superior (the Western part) and Inferior (the Eastern part). Pannonia Superior was ruled by a consular legate. He had three legions under his control: legio I Adiutrix, legio X Gemina and legio XIV Gemina. During the development of our project, we will present data regarding these troops and their movements. Pannonia Inferior was ruled, at the beginning, by a praetorian legate, with a single legion (II Adiutrix) garrisoned at Aquincum.
    Moesia was first a single province ruled by an imperial consular. Then, after the reorganization made by Domitian in 87 AD, each new province was governed by an imperial consular legate and a procurator. Each province had two legions after the administrative reform of Domitian: in Moesia Superior legio IV Flavia and VII Claudia and in Moesia Inferior legio I Italica and XI Claudia.
    Dacia was, at the beginning, an imperial province governed by a legate. It had two legions: XIII Gemina, garrisoned in Apulum and IV Flavia, at Berzobis. After the reorganization of Hadrian, IV Flavia was moved to Singidunum and Dacia remained with a legion. Marcus Aurelius brought in Dacia, around 168 AD, a second legion, V Macedonica, garrisoned at Potaissa.
    Here we will develop these aspects regarding Dacia, Pannonia, Moesia and the movements of troops between them. It is a very interesting discussion, because in some crucial moments of their history, these provinces act, as I said before, like a unit, or, let’s put it in other way, the Roman emperors understood perfectly the geography of this region and succeeded to manoeuvre the troops to gain peace and to solve the problems with the Barbarians.
  • 3. Horizontal vs. vertical perception of space.
  • 4. ‘Knowing the unknown’: literary tradition vs. geographic realities.
  • 5. ‘Thinking small and thinking big’: between planning a fort and mapping the world. Mechanisms of applying the knowledge.


We will use a logic methodology in presenting the information from Roman itineraries. We will present each province as follows:

  • 1. Pannonia Superior and Inferior, Dacia and Moesia Superior and Inferior
  • a. Tabula Peutingeriana – settlements, vignettes, mansiones, roads, distances, physical landscape, people and regions.
  • b. Itinerarium Antonini – settlements, distances.
  • c. Ptolemy – list of settlements.
  • d. Roman milestones – location, chronology, settlements, distances.
  • e. COMPARISON: distances in these documents, settlements which appear in one document or do not appear in others. We will realize graphics, tables, we will try to date the sources, we will try to correct some distances. We will make a gazetteer of Roman places with their modern correspondent.


We will present all the main data regarding the communication infrastructure. We will analyze the mechanism of travel in this space, the official transport system (cursus publicus). We will try to discuss several aspects:

  • 1. How geographical space was organized around the infrastructure?
  • 2. Can we establish a relation between the information from milestones and the political behaviour of the Roman emperors? Of course we can. This will help us to understand the preoccupations of the emperors regarding the road infrastructure.
  • 3. Fortresses, roads and strategy in the Middle and Lower Danube provinces.
  • 4. Economy, settlements and communications. A complementary system.


Here we will try to discuss some late sources regarding these regions: Iordanes or the Cosmography of Ravenna. These sources made the connection between the IVth century AD and the VI-VIII century AD. The Cosmographia of the Anonymous from Ravenna, in five books, mentions no less than 5300 names of localities or rivers. This work had as sources, among other, Tabula and ItAnt. The researches suppose that he also consulted a map from the Vth century AD, revised by certain historians (Orosius, Iordanes, and Isidor of Sevilla). The most important thing is that he mentions the settlements in a correct topographic order. This proves that he consulted itineraria.
In Dacia he mentions the following roads:

  • 1. Porolissum-Apulum-Romula and Apulum-Sarmizegetusa-Acmonia:
    „ ... item trans fluvium Danubium sunt civitates Mysie inferioris, id est Porolissos, Certie, Largiana, Optatiana, Macedonica, Napoca, Patabissa, Salinis, Brutia, Apulon, Sacidaba, Cedonia, Caput Stenarum, Betere, Aluti, Romulas. Item iuxta ipsam Cedoniam est civitas dicitur Burticum, Blandiana, Germigera, Petris, Aquas, Sarmazege, Augmonia, Augusti”.
  • 2. Drobeta-Ad Mediam-Tibiscum and Tibiscum-Lederata:
    „In quas Dacorum patrias antiquitus plurimas fuisse civitates legimus, ex quibus aliquantas designare volumus, id est Drubetis, Medilas, Pretorich, Panonin, Gazanam, Masclunis, Tibis, qui coniungitur cum civitate Agmonia patrie Missie”.
    „Item in aliam partem sunt civitates ipsas Datias, id est Tema, Tiviscum, Gubali, Zizis, Bersovia, Arcidaba, Canonia, Potula, Bacaucis”.
  • 3. Certiae-Porolissum-Phira
    „...inter ad aliam partem sunt civitates quae dicuntur: Phira, Tirepsum, Iscina, Capora, Alincum, Ermerium, Urgum, Sturium, Congri, Porolissum, Certie” („De asemenea în altă parte sunt oraşele care se numesc: Phira, Tirepsum, Iscina, Capora, Alincum, Ermerium, Urgum, Sturium, Congri, Porolissum, Certie”).


Here we will try to establish the main moments in the history of these provinces when the Roman emperors involved personally in the administration, road construction or military events.




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Florin Fodorean, Erfurt, 2.12.2010



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