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The Dacians in the Alexiad

I have read the Alexiad in its English translation by Elizabeth A. S. Dawes


To my surprise, Anna Comnena mentioned Dacians in a few sentences which seemed a bit odd to me at first. The following passages looked


From Book 3 3.8.6, the Dacians at the time of Emperor Isaac Comnenus (1057 – 22 November 1059) were led by Chieftains (Δακῶν ἀρχηγέται)


Whilst she was directing the Empire, as we said, she did not devote the whole day to worldly cares but attended the prescribed services in the chapel of the martyr Thecla, which the Emperor Isaac Comnenus, her brother-in-law, had built for a reason I will now relate. At the time when the chieftains of the Dacians decided no longer to observe their treaty with the Romans and broke it treacherously, then, directly they heard of this, the Sauromate(anciently called Mysians) also decided not to remain quiet in their own territory. Formerly they dwelt on the land separated from the Roman Empire by the Ister, but now they rose in a body and migrated into our territory. The reason for this migration was the irreconcilable hatred of the Dacians for their neighbours, whom they harassed with constant raids. So the Sauromate seized the opportunity of the Ister being frozen over and by walking over it as if it were dry land, they migrated from their country to ours, and their whole tribe was dumped down within our borders and mercilessly plundered the neighbouring towns and districts.


From Book 7 7.1.1, describing events on the War with the Scyths (1087-90):

"At the approach of spring Tzelgu (the supreme commander of the Scythian

army) crossed the passes above the Danube with a mixed army of about eighty

thousand, composed of Sauromatians, Scythians, and a number from the Dacian army

(over whom the man called Solomon was leader), and plundered the towns round

about Chariopolis. And after entering Chariopolis itself and carrying off much booty,

he settled down in a place called Scotinum"


From Book 14 14.4.3 from the times of Emperor Alexios Comnenus (1 April 1081 – 15 August 1118). Translation by the same

By them the Emperor was engulfed in an immense sea of worries, for he had long grasped the fact that the Franks were dreaming of the Roman Empire; and he saw their multitude exceeding the sand and the stars in number, and then looked at the Roman forces which did not equal a fraction of theirs, even if they could all be concentrated on one spot. But on the contrary most of them were dispersed, for some were keeping guard in the valleys of Serbia and in Dalmatia; others were protecting the lands along the Ister against the inroads of the Comans and the Dacians, and many again were entrusted with the guarding of Dyrrachium so that it might not be re-taken by the Franks when he considered all this the Emperor bent his whole attention to the Franks and relegated everything else to the second place


From Book 14 14.8.6 is about events at the time of Emperor John Tzimisces (11 December 969 – 10 January 976). Translation by the same

This Haemus is a very long mountain range running along a line parallel to Mount Rhodope. The range begins at the Euxine sea, leaves the cataracts a little on one side and continues right into Illyria; there it is cut through by the Adriatic Sea, I fancy, and emerges again in the opposite continent and finishes right away in the Hercynian forests. On either side of its slopes dwell many very wealthy tribes, the Dacians and the Thracians on the northern side, and on the southern, more Thracians and the Macedonians. In olden days the Scythian nomads would cross the Haemus, before Alexiusus spear and his many battles brought them almost to extermination, and spoil the Roman territory with their large armies and especially the nearer towns, of which the chief one was the formerly renowned city of Philippopolis. But John Tzimisces converted our opponents of the Manichean heresy into our allies, as far as arms are concerned, by opposing them as redoubtable forces to these Scythian nomads, and from that time the cities had a respite from most of their incursions. However the Manicheans, being naturally free and unruly, soon acted as usual and reverted to their original nature


It seems to me that the Princes historian called various people by the name Dacians in order to convey to the reader their locations at the time of narration rather that their respective ethnic aspect. Given this realization, it let me eventually to conclude that at least the reference in Book 7, to the chieftain Solomon is to Hungarian leadership. That specific invasion and the subsequent death of the ousted King Solomon I of Hungary is also confirmed by Bernold of Saint Blasien in a brief sentence in his Chronicle for year 1087 as it follows:


"Ladislaus, king of the Hungarians sent envoys to that same conference and declared that he would persevere in his fidelity to St Peterand promised that he would assist the vassals of St Peter against the schismatics with 20,000 knights, if it became necessary. Nevertheless the aforementioned expedition was adjourned on that date by both sides. Salomon, who was formerly king of the Hungarians but who had long before been deprived of the kingship by Ladislaus and driven into exile, died courageously after an incredible slaughter of the enemy after he bravely undertook an enterprise against the king of the Greeks"




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