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The Getae were a formidable regional power during the 1st century BCE who lived in a series of fortified settlements known as "Davas" supported by a series of outlying farms and villages. From the early to middle 1st century BCE, they were ruled by a powerful and ambitious king named Burebista, whom also presided over and promoted a henotheistic cult around the prophet-god Zalmoxis, who was reputed to be a man whom lived centuries ago.
Who were the Getae?Edit
The Getae were thought to have lived on the banks of the Danube in the south of what is now present-day Romania, and were associated with the Thracians of Thrace (present-day Bulgaria) and the Dacians (who lived around the Carpathian mountains). The relationship between these three cultures however remains unclear to our day, and there are many theories over who they were exactly. One school states that they were a separate tribe and possibly a different culture, while others insist that the Thracians, Getae and Dacians were the one and the same people, or more likely the subsidiaries of a larger tribal or cultural confederation. More fantastic speculation has identified the Getae with Indo-Iranian migrants from Central Asia or even India!
Whatever the case, Herodotus confirms that the Getae were established on the western shore of the Euxine Sea (or the "Black Sea") by the late 6th century BCE, and were making a name for themselves as highly proficient mercenary cavalry units for Greeks and Persians alike. They were in contact with the Greek colonies of the Black Sea (and Hellenic influence), with the Scythians in the northeast, some fierce Germanic tribes and the Dacians in the west (beyond the eastern Carpathian range mountains) with the Thracians in the south. Herodotus maintained that they were known as a Thracian tribe, sharing numerous cutural similarities, yet exhibiting strong religious and linguistic differences in comparison to the Thracians.
Politics and societyEdit
- "This same people, when it lightens and thunders, aim their arrows at the sky, uttering threats against the god; and they do not believe that there is any god but their own."
— Herodotus, Histories (4.94)
Prior to their ascension under Burebitsa, Getic society was never truly united into a single coherent polity, and lived mostly as tribes clustered around oppida-esque settlements (identifiable by the suffix -dava or -dawa). They had been part of the powerful Odrysian confederacy, but eventually found the chance to assert their autonomy once more when the confederacy fell apart into 3 smaller kingdoms in the 4th century BCE. Other tribal components of the main Getae nation include the Carpi, who dwelled east of the Carpathian Mountains (which may have been named for the them) in Moldavia and Wallachia. After the Roman conquest of the Dacian Kingdom in 106 CE, the Carpi would remain outside of Roman rule, and later join forces with the newly-arrived Germanic Goths in the early Third Century CE. There was also the Costoboci, found south of the Carpathian Mountains, whom are believed to have absorbed foreign Celtic and Sarmatian influences, or indeed, may have been composed of mixed Dacian and Celtic ancestry. And there were the Agathyrsi, found in Transylvania, who were believed to be the Thracianized descendants of formerly Scythian nomads whom settled in the region and became farmers.
Getic society was divided into two main social castes: the nobles were called the Tarabostes, whom wore felt caps as to designate their higher social-status, while the lower class of people were recorded as the Comati. There was also a third caste (and indeed among other Thracian nations) consisting of a tribal priesthood called Ctistae or Polistai, who according to Strabo were said to lead celibate lives. The Ctistae may have been to the Getae what the Druids were to the Celts.
Although the Getic tribes may have engaged in agriculture and trade, gold and silver mining were important industries in Getae society until their conquest by the Romans under the Emperor Trajan in 106 CE. Indeed, artefacts excavated from the soil of their former homes indicates that they could produce these precious metals in substantial amounts, which probably attracted the attention of Trajan, thus resulting in their downfall.
Military tactics and historyEdit
The getic people are not known as well as their possible descendants, the Dacians, which were famous under the trajanic wars; during the first century A.D. they became one of the fiercest opponents to the romans in the east, and influenced the legionary armour and equipments.
The amy was more macedonian influenced, but still organised along the classic class division between the commoners (komati, wearing no cap), the nobles (tarabostes), and the priests (), and relied upon local strongholds, roughly similar to the gallic oppida system. The whole army was organised upon this stratification.
The Getic army was renowned during persian rule, for its horsemen. Some of them were nobles, but the majority were mounted commoners. This cavalry was linked to the large danubian plains of what is now albania and romania. Amongst the "komati", peasant levies, most of them fightning with their sica (a short falx) and a bunch of javelins, were the "Epilektoi" or chosen warriors, some were poorely equipped, using only a deadly romphaia, other using greek, celtic, and thracian equipents, including mask-helmets, phrygian style helmets, thureos, and a specific scale armor. A phalanx tactic was also used by spearmen against lysimachos forces. The Taraboste nobles were given a recoignisable red soft cap, or scythian cap, but in campaign, more probably a tall bronze helmet similar to those golden one found in Sarmizegetusa, to accomodate their top-knot. They were versatile mounted archer-spearmen, using swords and axes at close range. Mounted archers were probably of scythian descent. In a while, this was a quite unusual and versatile army, which could be really effective with smart tactics...
, was taught by Greek philosophers such as Pythogoras and from Egyptian priests, before returning to his Thracian homeland and preaching the belief in spiritual immortality. Most Thracian kingdoms, however, believed in the traditional pantheon featuring the storm-god Gebeliezis (though Zalmoxis is thought have sometimes been equated with Gebeliezis).