Adamklissi Tropaeum Traiani

Adamklissi – ancient Tropaeum Traiani was the Geto-Dacian settlement south of Dobrudja – Dobrogea, midway on the route between Constanţa and Silistra (Bulgaria) at an important crossroads. Nowadays the Tropaeum Traiani archaeological site is located near the modern village of Adamclisi, 70 km south-west of present Constanta.

The Adamklissi Monument was built in 108 AD to commemorate Emperor Trajan’s victory over Dacians and Sarmatians in 102 AD in then southern part of the Late Roman province of Scythia Minor, at the intersection of the ancient roads that linked Aegyssus (Tulcea) in the northern part of the province with the Moesia Inferior (later known as Moesia Secunda) in the south. From the east to west the spot of the Adamklisi settlement and the monument controlled the road from Callatis on the shore of Pontus Euxinus to the limes at Sucidava fort. After the Roman conquest of Dacia at the beginning of the 2nd century Emperor Trajan changed the settlement into a statio and a vicus sprang up nearby. The circular drum, nearly 30 meters in diameter representing a tropaeum or a trophy had served to honor and commemorate the Roman soldiers who fell during the campaigns in Dacia in 101-102 and 105-106. The development of a Geto-Dacian state in Transylvania within the context of multiple ethnicities on the Lower and Middle Danube is widely discussed by scholars and usage of new archaeological discoveries to clarify narratives of the wars of 84–89, 101–102, and 105–106 is evaluated. Interpretations of scenes on Trajan’s Column and the metopes of the Adamklissi monument remain controversial.

‘About 65 kilometers inland from Constanţa lies the site of one of the pivotal battles of Trajan’s war against the Dacians near the present-day Romanian town of Adamclisi.  After his victory in A.D. 102, Trajan built a fortress called Civitas Tropaensium on the battlefield.  The area was later colonized by legionary veterans and became an important commercial, administrative and military center’.

Adamklissi was mentioned in only three sources of the late antiquity, and the site was identified by excavations at the turn of the century. The life of the Adamklisi site in the 2d and 3rd century is known particularly through inscriptions reused as building material for the 4th-6th century fortress. In the beginning the Adamklisi site was populated by Dacians and veterans of Roman military units from the lower Danube. In 115-116 the inhabitants, under the name of Traianenses Tropaeenses, dedicated a statue to the emperor Trajan. A millianium (118 AD), discovered south of the site indicates that early in his reign the emperor Hadrian ordered the repair of the imperial road passing through the settlement. Under Antoninus Pius a powerful detachment of Legio XI Claudia settled here. The Adamklisi site became a municipium shortly before 170 (the year of the invasion of the Costoboks) during the reign of Emperor Marcus Aurelius. In the course of the 3d century the fortress was repaired under Septimius Severus, Severus Alexander and Gordian, but later the site gradually lost its importance and was destroyed by the Goths at the end of the 3rd century. Rebuilt from the foundations by emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius (313-16) after the general victory over the barbarians, the Tropaeensium civitas existed until the late 6th century when it was destroyed by the Avaro-Slavians.

The visible ruins of the Adamklissi belong to the 4th-6th century. The circuit wall enclosed an irregularly shaped plateau of some 10 ha and was provided with horseshoe-shaped defensive towers (a single one was rectangular). Three gates have been unearthed: two on the east and west sides and a smaller one on the southern side. The main street (ca. 300 m long), lined on both sides with porticos, linked the eastern and western gates. Under its pavement lay one of the aqueducts and a drain. A large basilica forensis (4th c.) stood near the center of the fortress, south of the main street. On both sides of the same street, excavations have brought to light the ruins of four Christian basilicas (4th-6th c.), three of them with crypts, and one with an elegant baptistery. A cemetery basilica stood on the hill N of the fortress.

On a high plateau (ca 2 km E of the Adamclisi site) was the triumphal monument erected by Trajan (109 AD) to commemorate his victory over the Dacians and their allies. The only remnant of it preserved in situ is the nucleus (in opus coementicium) with seven steps and the first (incomplete) row of regularly cut stone blocks. The relief-carved stones, once dressing the Adamclisi monument, as well as the tropaion are exhibited nearby. The monument ca. 40 m high, consisted of a cylindrical structure with diameter equal to the height with a conical roof of scale-like stone plates. Two superposed hexagonal bases supported the tropaion (over 10 m high). A row of 54 metopes (48 are preserved) were placed between two richly adorned friezes. The metopes were separated by pillars, also carved in relief. The sculptures of the metopes illustrated episodes in the battles against the Dacians and their allies. The cylindrical structure was crowned by 26 crenellations (22 are preserved in place) each showing a prisoner in relief carved, bound to the trunk of a tree. The same inscription was engraved on two opposite facades of the upper hexagonal base, and states that the monument was dedicated to Mars Ultor, in honor of Trajan’s victory over the Dacians and their allies.

To Mars, the avenger, Caesar the emperor, son of divine Nerva, Nerva Trajan, Augustus, who defeated the Germans, the Dacians, great priest, for the 13th time tribune of the plebeians, proclaimed emperor by the army for the 6th time, elected consul for the 5th time, father of our homeland, after defeating the Dacian and the Sarmatian armies.”

The remains of a square altar (12 x 12 m; 6 m high) are ca. 200 m east of the Adamclisi triumphal monument. Some 3800 names of soldiers who died in battle are inscribed on its walls. About 50 m north of the same monument, an earthen mound covered a circular mausoleum (40 m in diameter), probably the tomb of the commander killed in battle and listed first on the altar. Both the altar and the mausoleum seem to be contemporary with the triumphal monument.