Opinion: Historical reenactment, the Romanian way – Modern day Dacians vs. Romans on the hills of Transylvania

The recent news about the ancient Koson silver coins stolen from Romania’s Sarmizegetusa site and recovered in the US reminded me of something I watched for the first time in Romania earlier this year, and which I greatly enjoyed: a historical reenactment. On the top of a hill in a village in Alba county, in between mountains and hills, in an area where plenty of Dacian citadel ruins are to be found, two teams, one representing the Romans, and the other, the Dacians, engaged in a staged, yet with a real feel fight. This was part of the Dacian Citadel’s Festival which takes place there every year. Ever heard of the American Civil War reenactments? It was like that, and for me, even better.

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I had no idea I would end up enjoying it that much, and that I would cheer for the Dacians. I admired their costumes and how historically correct they were. Before the reenactment, we had a chat with a historian and archeologist, who was also involved in the show, but as a Roman senator this time, thus not directly involved in the fight. He told us how everything is based on volunteering- so everyone who put up a fight on that field was there for the joy of it, for wearing the costumes, for celebrating their history.

And these people don’t only meet for the shows, they practice fighting – which is as real as it gets, even with prop weapons – on a regular basis, and in some cases real, yet small wounds appear. I can certify to that, as I have seen some blood and scratches on the hand of a Roman soldier after the reenactment battle.

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Before the battle itself, the tribes which were part of the Dacian army were presented to the public, together with their weapons and their style of fighting. The same went for the Roman legions. In total, 100 people  It was fun, a history lesson out in the open. The audience was captured – there must have been around 300 people there all around the battle field, taking pictures and cheering. I wish more Romanians attended such events. I was in awe, standing close to the Dacian group, so I got to watch them. They were all in character. Long natural beards, which they grow and keep especially for these reenactment scenes, a good fighting attitude – they were in fact protecting their citadel – they took it all seriously. The youngest of them was a 16-year old who acts as the Dacian scout in the reenactment. He’s an ace in history, we’ve been told.

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The Dacians won this battle – even if historically the Romans in the end conquered Dacia, the territory that is now Romania, and the mix of the two created the Romanian people. The whole thing made me proud so I cheered for them.

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Our historian friend told us that the volunteers who fight as Romans and Dacians were at one time so involved in the battle that they forgot whom they had agreed would win the fight, so the other team won instead. For many years I thought Romanians could not care less about their history, but yet I found at least some people do care. he event I watched was not singular, another reenactment battle was organized recently in Alba Iulia for the Roman Festival Apulum.

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When the History Museum in Alba Iulia decided to create a Roman Guard to entertain the visitors of the city’s citadel, around 30 volunteers showed up, and the Roman guard had only 12 seats, so they had to test the candidates in history and physical strength. Imagine that! A contest to volunteer for wearing Roman costumes and for bringing back history into people’s lives. It gives me hope.

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Corina Chirileasa, [email protected]

(photos: Corina Chirileasa/Romania-Insider.com, Romulus Opriscan)