Romanian Postage Stamp Day - Decebal (106-2006) SI

Romanian Postage Stamp Day - Decebal (106-2006)

On the occasion of the commemoration of 1900 years since Decebal’s death, Romfilatelia, the company specialized in issuing and trading Romanian postage stamps, introduces into circulation a postage stamp issue dedicated to the great Dacian king Decebal, within the annual thematic ROMANIAN POSTAGE STAMP DAY. 

Under King Decebal (87-106 A.D.), Dacia reached its peak in its development as a state whose political unity spread over a territory delimited by Tisza, Danube and Dnestr. During that period, the expansionist tendencies of the Roman Empire, mostly motivated by the precarious economic and financial situation of the Empire, directly lead to the preparation of an incursion on the Dacian territory, particularly rich in natural and material resources.

The first confrontation, on the Dacian territory, took place during the reign of Domitian, in 87 A.D. A Roman army, composed of 5 or 6 legions, entered (probably) through the Olt Valley where, near Turnu Rosu, it was taken by surprise in a trap by Decebal’s army and defeated; the Dacians captured prisoners, numberless trophies and the flag of the 5th Legion, whose commander had been killed in battle.

After only one year, at Tapae (Transylvania’s Iron Gates, between Caransebes and Hateg) there was a new confrontation between the Dacians and the Romans, only this time the Romans won. However, due to the military problems of the imperial armies in Pannonia, a compromise peace was made in 89 A.D., following which Decebal managed, after wise negotiations, to obtain money benefits, military masters and trainers.

During the almost 12 years of peace, the Dacian state grew stronger, its centralization was accelerated, the army was well trained and equipped and an extensive civil and military engineering program was started, particularly in the region of Orastie mountains.

After his ascension to the throne, Emperor Trajan (under whom the Roman Empire reached the peak of its power and territorial expansion) concentrated, at the beginning of year 101 A.D., in Moesia Superior, 13 or 14 legions (approx. 150,000 soldiers), to occupy Decebal’s kingdom.

The Roman army led by Trajan, crossed the Danube on ship bridges at Dierna (Orsova), entering Dacia through Banat. Again, at Tapae, during the summer of that same year, an atrocious and long battle took place, which ended with the victory of the Romans. Towards the end of the year 101 A.D. large Dacian forces crossed the Danube and entered Moesia, forcing Emperor Trajan to mode towards the new war theatre open by Decebal. However, the ingenious strategic plan collapses after Decebal’s defeat in the winter and spring of year 102 A.D. In the autumn of the year 102 A.D., after a hard-bitten resistance, Decebal is forced to make peace, which was seen rather as a simple ruce. Between years 103 and 105 A.D., Trajan asked Apollodor of Damascus, the most famous construction architect and engineer of that time, to build a bridge over Danube, at Drobeta.

Starting with the second Dacian War, in the summer of the year 105 A.D., the Roman legions crossed the bridge and attacked Decebal’s army. Continuously constrained to defend himself, Decebal withdrew to Sarmizegetusa. After the conquest of the citadels that guarded access to the capital city (Blidaru, Cotesti, Piatra Rosie, Banita, Capalna, Tilisca), the Roman Empire began to besiege Sarmizegetusa.

Despite the heroic Dacian resistence, the citadel was conquered and destroyed to the ground. On this occasion, Trajan recovered the flag of the 5th Legion. A part of the defenders, including Decebal, managed to leave the citadel, trying to continue the resistance against the Romans inside the country. Followed by the Roman cavalry, in order not be captured alive, Decebal committed suicide. A part of the Dacian kingdom was transformed into a Roman province in the summer of the year 106 A.D.

Following the defeat of the Dacians, besides many prisoner, the Roman troops also appropriated the Dacian treasure, containing huge quantities of gold and silver. Due to these riches, popular parties and feasts were organized for 123 days in Rome, in honour of Trajan’s triumph over Dacia. This proves how redoubtable our Dacian ancestors were, as the Romans celebrated their defeat for such a long time.

The importance of the wars with the Dacians is illustrated in may monuments achieved by Apollodor of Damascus: Trajan’s Column – whose bas-reliefs present battle scenes of Romans against the Dacians during the two wars; Trajan’s Forum and Ulpia Traiana Basilica. 

A defining element for the personality of the last hero king of the Dacians is what the historian Dio Cassius wrote about Decebal: “He was very cunning in the matter of war and skillful, being able to choose the right time to attack the enemy and to withdraw in good time. Skillful in planning and ambush, he was courageous during battle, knowing how to neatly use a victory and to successfully manage defeat, and due to this he was for a long time a fierce adversary for the Romans.”

Three of the postage stamps of the philatelic issue (those with the face values of  Lei 0.30, Lei 0.50 and Lei 3.10) represent a personal graphic conception of the artist Octavian Penda. The postage stamp with the face value of Lei 1.20 associates the image of a Dacian helmet to the map of ancient Dacia.

Technical Details

Issue Date: 15.07.2006
Designer: Octavian Penda
Process: Offset
Colours: 4 Colours
Size: Stamp size: 48 x 33 mm, Block size: 116 x 86 mm
Values: 0.30L, 0.50L, 1.20L, 3.10L