by Sivia Messeri

The Dacians
The history of a nation before the Roman conquest

The end of the Dacian people is described in the spirals of the Trajan Column, in the scenes of the battles that, from 101 to 107 A.D., were eventually to make Dacia one of the many provinces of the Roman Empire. What, however, was the history of this kingdom, whose borders corresponded with the Romania of today, before it finally disappeared? How did these people live? Historians in fact tell us that they formed a far more important clan than the great Indo-European family of the Tracians. The exhibition on the Dacians (Florence, Palazzo Strozzi until June 29th) gives us more than one answer. Here we can see over 800 exhibits, many of which have never been out of Romania before, set out along an itinerary that starts out with finds dating from the 12th century B.C. from the tomb of Prince Cotys and the treasure of Lupu. The Carpathian mines and the gold-streaked sand from the rivers have always led people to believe that the Dacians owned fabulous treasures. It is thought that the booty of the Emperor Trajan, after his conquest of Dacia, included over 150 tons of gold and 300 of silver.

Gold helmet found in a princes' tomb,
possibly produced in a Greek workshop in the 4th century B.C.
Legends apart, today we have the extremely beautiful pieces found in various princely tombs: the splendid gilded silver helmet and the gilded jambes from Agighiol, the decorative gold applications in the shapes of animals from Craiova and the embossed coronet from Peretu. Other finds testify to the Dacians' relationships with other populations: the funeral rite furnishings are similar to those traditionally used among the Scythians; their ability in working metals comes from the Illyrians, while Celtic influences can be seen in the helmet, topped by a bird with outspread wings, and the mysterious menhir with human features, both from Ciumesti.

Bronze statuette of a boar
They were not just amazingly skilled in the art of goldsmithery; the fine curved blades of their scythes, plough blades, rakes and hoes, utensils that they once used to farm the land and harvest its fruits are extremely touching and, apart from their ethnic and geographical affinities, tell a history that belongs to us all. The Dacians
Florence, Palazzo Strozzi until June 29th 1997
Hours: daily from 9.30am to 7pm, Fridays and Saturdays until 11pm. FAN

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