Through the national road DN3 Constanta-Ostrov we can be reached Adamclisi (Constanta County) where is located the ancient city and the triumphant monument - Tropaeum Traiani. Together with the museum located in the middle of the village, this is one of the largest and most important archaeological and museum complexes in Romania.
The ancient city
The ancient city of Tropaeum Traiani (Adamclisi town, Constanța county) is one of the most important economic, political and religious centre of Roman Dobrogea (of Lower Moesia and Scythia Minor), the specialist research performed here for more than 120 years revealing lots of historical, archaeological and architectural information, made public in scientific and informative works.
The first excavations were conducted, between 1891-1909, by Grigore Tocilescu (manager of the National Antiquities Museum) but his research work was continued by other great archaeologists as: V. Parvan, G .Murnu, P. Nicorescu, I. Barnea and (nowadays) Al. Barnea.
The City of Adamclisi is located in the south-west of the village, at about 600 m from it and 1500 m form the triumphal monument, in Urluia valley, and it was built at the orders of Emperor Trajan for the families of veterans who participated in the Dacian wars (and is considered to be the largest civil settlement on the territory of Roman Dobrogea). According to archaeological discoveries, before this roman city was built, on this area was built a Getic town. The new fortification evolved demographically by being constantly populated with Greek and Roman origin people. Thus, before the year 170, there is a thriving urban settlement, to which the Emperor Marcus Aurelius conferred the title of municipium, which was administrated by a senate and which benefited from numerous magistrates, namely from a group of priests of the official cult.
At the beginning of the 4th century A.D., the city was rebuilt from the ground, according to an inscription dated back to the year 316 A.D., by the Emperor Constantine the Great. The devastation previously caused by the Goths was removed by building a massive defensive wall. The fortified city was created after building several walls, which were identified by the archaeologists, some of which are still covered by the archaeological scraps. The current enclosure wall had several construction phases, namely: a pre-Constantine phase from the end of the 3dr century A.D. and a Constantine phase which was built according to the irregular shape of the plateau, having a thickness of 2.60 to 3.70 m and a length of approximately 1200 m. Two U-shaped towers guarded the two main gates (east and west), also marking the end of the main street (via principalis). The west gate had a massive dome shaped as a bow (with a width of 4.40 m). The east gate had a folded closing system, fastened with an iron bar (with a width of 4 m). Other two gates, the northern and southern ones, were framed by massive rectangular towers. All gates, especially the western one, assured the connection with the imperial road that crossed the Roman Dobrogea from north to south. The city had running water pluming, sanitation system and public baths. In the second half of the fourth century, in the south-eastern part of the city, there was added a fortified enclosure. Via principalis, built from east to west, had a length of 300 m and a width of 14 m, being paved with large stone slabs. It had a 7m wide carriageway, with side porticos for pedestrian traffic. In the middle of the street there is a sewer pipe for the rain water and inside of it there was the tile pipeline for carrying drinking water.
A last period of prosperity was recorded at the late fifth century up to the second half of the sixth century, when the city, besides being an important civic centre, was an important religious centre. A proof of the religious role, played by the city as the episcopal centre of Dobrogea, is the multitude of basilicas built in the city, five inside the city and two in its outskirts. The latter ones were built on the northern side of the city, not far from the western gate. The first had two functions (as burial ground and then as a parish). The second basilica functioned in the second half of the fourth century as cemeterial church, and in the second half of the same century and especially towards the end of the fifth century it became a parish church. The fact that the churches had both forms of organization is explained by the expansion of the Christian communities of the city, being also necessary to perform ceremonies outside the city walls.
Inside the fortress, the five basilicas are the following: the "marble" one, the cistern basilica, the forensis basilica, the basilica with transept and A-shaped or the simple basilica. The "marble" basilica is located near the west gate at the entrance to the city. The name comes from the present marble architectural elements (columns, colonnades, column heads with imposta, Cancelli plates). It was considered as Tropaeum Episcopal Church and it had near the atrium, a baptysterium (three rooms connected by a narrow corridor), which was used for the celebration of the baptism. A room located in the northwest of the building seems to have been the Bishop’s house and others located east of the apse seems to have formed a pastophorium.
Cistern Basilica, located to farther more to the east and parallel to via principalis, in the south, received this name by after being built on the foundations of a former water tank. Its appearance is complemented by fragments of columns, colonnades, canopy heads and several other monuments scattered around it. Forensis Basilica, a secular church, is one of the most imposing buildings of the city, being built in the third century A.D. and reconstructed in the fourth century. Up to now, there have been preserved two rows of the 18 columns which divided the interior of the church in three parts, and later one of these areas (the northern one) had been transformed into a chapel, sometime during the fifth century. Also on the east side there it was built an apse. It had an economic, administrative and legal role.
The transept basilica or the T-shaped basilica is the largest of those five churches (33.80 x 10.70 m), being provided with a baptysterium. The presence of two basilicas with baptysterium inside the city might suggest the existence of two Orthodox Christian communities, namely of an orthodox one and a heretical one or maybe there is a chronological gap between the two of them. The A-shaped or the simple basilica is positioned on the northern side of via principalis, having a rectangular shape, organized into three chambers. The building was equipped with crypt. On its walls there is a blue paint text and inside there were buried several Christian martyrs. The building seems to have been built in the fifth century A.D.
The severe destruction of the Tropaeum city took place after the Slavic and Avar invasion of 586 A.D., at it is proven by all the archaeological excavations conducted within the fortress, this fact corresponding to a quasi-final layer damaged by a fire. The same attack also affected other important centres of that era as Ratiaria, Durostorum Zaldapa, Markianopolis etc., as the literary and archaeological sources inform us. In the seventh century, there were some scattered and weak signed of life in the city. The city loses its urban character, showing strong rural features. From the archaeological perspective, the first discrete records on a possible "repopulation", specific to the early Middle ages, of the interior area of the former city (especially near the northern and the southern gates, namely along the southwest enclosure) or of the nearby outskirts belong to the IX-XI centuries. A phenomenon found in many places of the city is the possible dismantling of the enclosure gates and of some important buildings of the city. This state of affairs appears to have happened in the early medieval period, when the limestone blocks were reused for various constructions, mainly military buildings. The evidence of an early medieval habitation of the settlements around the Roman-Byzantine fortress consists in the discovery of specific of pottery fragments on the delimiting slopes of the plateau. A possible necropolis near the city is suggested by the accidental discovery more than three decades ago, of an inhumation tomb, on a private property of the built area of the village Adamclisi, located at about 1.5 km straight from the southern side of the Roman-Byzantine enclosure. The archaeological finds of the early medieval fortress belong to the tenth century and the first decades of the eleventh century A.D.
The triumphal monument Tropaeum Traiani.
Northeast of the village, about 1.5 km of the side road that starts from DN3, east of the village, can be found the triumphal monument. The location is no chosen by accident, dominating for dozen kilometres, the surroundings due to the landscape. The monument, like many of the antiquity creations, did not serve primarily to the delight the eye and of the artistic feelings of the viewers, but its goal was mainly to impress the local population and to always transmit an important message (with a precise social function) representing a symbol of Rome and also one of the most important monument erected by Rome in the empire. Both the nature of the scenes depicted on the monument, as well as comparison with other monuments with the same character, more or less contemporary, and especially with Trajan's Column, allowed us to understand that it is not a "diary" of the campaign, but an artistic expression in the service of imperial propaganda.
The building material (limestone) corresponds to the stone extracted from the surrounding area. There were also discovered the stone quarries (four in number) from where the Romans extracted the stones, those being located in the Enigea valley, approximately 4 km away from Adamclisi and approximately 1.5 km from the town of Deleni.
As its original image, the monument represented a giant drum, overlapped by a truncated cone, covered with stone slabs with the shape of fish scales and on top there were two hexagonal prisms of different sizes. The latter served as pedestal of the statue, symbol of the military victories - Tropaeum-. The entire monument had a height and a diameter of 40 meters.
Around the monument there can identified nine lines of circumferential steps, a massive cylinder (stereobatul) covered with six rows of polished stone blocks that make up a paramentum, a sculptural complex consisting of three rows of decorative overlaid elements namely the lower frieze, a succession of metopes flanked by pilasters and the upper frieze. The lower one has vegetal decorations, representing curled acanthus leaves and stalks having in the middle a wolf's head. Above and below the acanthus volutes there are two lines made up of some small protrusions (ove) and others more elongated ones depicted as regularly alternating lenticels. Birds are carved on some areas of the lower frieze between the upper line and volutes.
The second component of the complex consists of metopes which are arranged in circular series. These are massive rectangular prism stones, outer surfaces being carved with valuable figurative scenes inspired by the Dacian-Roman wars. They are of inestimable importance for restoring valuable historical scenes of the Istro-Pontic territory in the late first and second century A.D. The arrangement of the metopes seems to follow a certain order, like "telling the story" of events occurred in the Lower Danube region. Thus the first 27 metopes tell the story of the first battles fought on southern plains of Dobrogea having three stages namely: the attack and the cavalry battle, than the battle fought near the chariots and the last depicting the surrender of the civil population and of the resulted prisoners in front of the Emperor Trajan. The next series of metopes are also grouped into three stages namely the march to the great battle, the great battle and the acclamation. These events occurred at Adamclisi, the last part of them presenting the Emperor Trajan inspecting the Roman troops. Initially there were a total of 54 metopes (grouped into six scenes of nine pieces each), which unfortunately were not fully preserved until today). They were separated by pilasters that were carved in two manners: some with vertical grooves and others with haulms, being equally distributed. There are carved Roman horsemen wearing armours (breastplates, helmets, hauberks, oval shields) and armed with spears, scenes from the battles, their "barbarian" allies (with clothes and details specific to their ethnicity). The Roman army is always illustrated superior to its enemies, both as soldiers (including bearing banners and army musicians) and officers, but officials and even the Emperor Trajan (who wears a tunic and a cape (paenula), but also a Greek breastplate and he sometimes holds in one of his hands the commander stick or a papyrus with military data) in several scenes illustrating the attacks planning or the councils of confidence. Not least there are depicted some iconographic elements of the wealth of Dobrogea region and clothing items of the local population. The cornice of the monument is made of blocks of stone decorated with the twisted rope. Above them were placed crenels (namely the relief representation of prisoners leaning on trees and with their hands bounded) and parapet blocks (festooned attic).
The roof has a truncated cone shape and consists of 1,000 stone slabs, carved as fish scales, arranged in 19 or 20 overlapping rows. They are of different decreasing sizes, along the roof that goes up to the two overlapping hexagonal base. Both constitute a solid base for the colossal trophy at the top of the monument. On the north and south, at the upper base, there is an inscription in Latin, which was reconstituted as follows: "To Mars, the avenger, the Emperor Caesar, son of the divine Nerva, Nerva Traian, emperor, conqueror of the German and Dacian tribes, high priest, with the power of plebeian tribune for the thirteenth time, proclaimed emperor by the army for the sixth time, elected consul for the fifth time, father of the motherland, who after defeating the Dacian and Sarmatian army ... ". Also in the upper part of the monument there can also be identified above the pillars of the upper hexagonal base a frieze where are presented lances, spears, curved swords, bows and arrows (the weapons captured by the Roman army from their enemies). Above the frieze there is another cornice, then the pedestal is built on hexagonal rows.
The statue of the trophy consists of five drums overlapping up to a height of 4 meters, plus trophy itself which is 5 meters high. It expresses opulence and massiveness, characteristic elements of the Roman imperial authority. The male character of the trophy wears roman clothes and is armed with roman military equipment, accompanied by breastplates (originally there were spears) on which is carved the Medusa image and in the centre of the cuirass there is a large acanthus flower, a horseman galloping, an eagle or a vulture with open wings and a sword in its sheath. The equipment includes towards the bottom a lorica and two cnemidae. At the feet of the main character there are three prisoners (two seated women and a standing man with his hands tied behind his back). The presence of these characters symbolizes the submission of the native population after battles fought in Moesia Inferior, this being the subject of the event commemorated by raising this triumphal monument. But the trophy itself was a cenotaph and had profound funeral significance, its shape indicating its role.
The Triumphal Monument of Adamclisi is one of the most significant monuments of the Roman provincial art, not only in Romania, but also of the entire Imperial Roman world.
The shrine and the mausoleum
On the same site, 250 meters west-northwest of the monument, there is located the funeral shrine dedicated to the approximately 3,800 soldiers killed on the battlefield. It had the prismatic shape of a base built in steps and which was covered by a tiles and stones roof. Pilasters framed the vast areas where were carved the names and ranks of the roman soldiers, grouped on their units (and as members of combat units there were mentioned Praetorians, Legionnaires, Missicii and auxiliary personnel). Only fragments of the frieze, architrave and pilasters ornaments have been preserved, (a vegetal chandelier, a garland, a haulm). It also has been preserved a dedicated inscription: " In memoriam fortissimorum virorum qui pugnantes pro republica, bello dacico, morte accubuerunt" (in memory of the valiant men, who fighting for their country, in the war against Dacians found their death"). The Roman general who was killed in the military confrontation seems to have had his home in Naples.
About 100 meters from the monument there is a mound of earth (2.50 m high and with a diameter of about 20 m) within which the specialized archaeological excavations have revealed the presence of a stone and wood infrastructure that seems to belong to a mausoleum. The funeral building had a square shape and was supported by a solid foundation of six stone steps. There had been identified four concentric rings made of stone and mortar in a different manner, the first of which was built according to the opus quadratum technique and three according to the opus coementicium technique. The funerary building had in its central area a tomb (tumulus), probably belonging to an important Roman officer, where should have been a cremation urn with the remains the praefectus castrorum. Also, form the site were recovered architectural fragments and stone plates on which were engraved Latin inscriptions.
The two monuments were erected after the battle of 102 A.D. was finished. They preceded the trophy which was built between 106-109 (between December 10th 108 and December 10th 109).
The building was inaugurated in 1977 and contains the archaeological remains and the accidental discoveries made in the city of Tropaeum Traiani, on the monument site (original pieces) and in the immediate or remote vicinity. Ceramic collections are present, collections, architectural pieces, jewelry collections, etc. There are also exhibited metopes, the lower and upper frieze, pilasters, battlements and parapet blocks of the festooned attic, the trophy’s colossal statue, inscriptions and weapons depicted on the frieze, remains of the walls of the cenotaph shrine, fragments of the pedestal of the trophy’s statue on which are carved the image of Medusa and cnemide, a fish scale stand, a fish scale of truncated cone roof. There are also the 48 original metopes (from the initial 54 ones) in disposed according to the events of the winter of 101-102 A.D. There is a rich epigraphic material (as noted in the inscription of the pedestal of the statue which indicated in 116 Traianenses Tropaienses as residents of the village) dedication inscription original form a triumphal monument, funerary stelae (reused overtime as building materials) of which can be noted the one dedicated to L. Fufidius Lucianus whose function within the city administration reveals that in 170 A.D. the city was declared municipium or others similar objects that point out the presence of veterans of Legio V Macedonia or indications of merchants from Syria, Palestine, Greece, etc.), bas-reliefs (with representations of a Thanatos Tropaeum), fragments of aqueducts, column heads with imposta, other architectural fragments, common or luxury Roman pottery, tools, jewellery (rock rings, fibulae, appliqués, bells), keys etc. Last but not least it must be mentioned the presence of a very small trophy that represent at a much smaller scale the colossal statue / trophy which was discovered near the eastern gate of the city, a true emblem of the city in the first half of the fourth century AD .
The chronological exhibition of the museum ends with ceramic artefacts specific to the 9th-13th centuries recovered from graves and tombs.