While the history of the Romanian people begins with the Romans conquering Dacia and occupying it for well over a century, and while the Roman influence was definitely critical in the formation of the Romanian language, culture and, ultimately, population, it would be a mistake not to acknowledge the important role played by the Dacians too. And what better place to not only acknowledge but also honor and celebrate the Dacian heritage but Alba Iulia, called Apulum by the Romans, one of the most prominent cities of the Roman province of Dacia.
Dacian Citadels Festival
The “Dacian Citadels Festival” is a relatively recent event, the first edition having been organized in 2006. It is scheduled each year shortly before the “Sanziene” (mid-June), another holiday that some etymologists claim to be rooted in Roman traditions – in this case, a celebration of Diana, virgin goddess of the moon and hunt. The festival comprises miscellaneous activities, ranging from open-air classes for Dacian crafts to cooking and crafts fairs, arms and weapons exhibitions, Dacian workshops, and riding demonstrations. However, by far the greatest attraction of these festivals is the reenactment of battles between the Romans and the Dacians, complete with authentic looking costumes, weaponry and rituals. In fact, the fame of the festival has already reached beyond the borders of Romania so that the groups of „actors” competing in these playful reenactments actually come not only from cities such as Alba Iulia, Cluj-Napoca or Zalau, but also from Bulgaria and Poland.
To make it more fun, the reenactments are staged as competitions between the five former Dacian citadels of Alba County – Cetatea de Balta, Cricau/Piatra Craivei, Cugir, Ighiu, and Capalna/Sasciori – each of them represented by a group of young men carefully selected for the task. The young men compete not only to prove they are worthy descendants of the Dacians and Romans, but also to secure for their citadel the honor of hosting the next edition of the festival, which is an excellent opportunity to promote their town as tourist destination. In addition to witnessing history in the making – or rather, re-making – those who choose to attend the “Dacian Citadels Festival” also get to try their hand at archery, get a taste of Dacian gastronomy, enjoy a good story around a bonfire, go to live music concerts or, if so inclined, go for a hike on the Piatra Craivii mountain, considered a cradle of Dacian spirituality and legendary home to giants long gone.
Apulum Roman Festival
The Romans are also celebrated separately in the “Apulum Roman Festival”, which takes place in Alba-Iulia at the end of April. The event is a lively lesson in history, allowing visitors to discover in detail various military artifacts, battle strategies, and weaponry, all of it presented in demonstrative battles. For the sake of authenticity, the “Dacians” are equipped with pikes, lances, and curved shields and swords, whereas the “Romans legionaries” are equipped with helmets, swords, pikes, armors, and escutcheons. The city of Alba Iulia actually maintains, since 2012, a permanent Roman Guard, a small-scale dramatic re-creation of the XIII “Gemina” Legion made of 12 warriors – 1 centurion, 2 standard bearers and 9 private foot soldiers – which can be seen in all its glory at the “Apulum Roman Festival”.
Photos: The Roman Festival © Romulus Opriscan