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  • Writer's picturepeter clings

The mystery surrounding the lack of written accounts about the Dacians and early Romanians

Updated: Jul 13, 2021

I was incited to read the excellent book 'The Swerve: How The World Became Modern' by Stephen Greenblatt by the Romanian blogger Zaiafet (at

I have read the book not expecting to find more that some interesting stories about a book collector wandering from place to place in Europe to find the next big read. But in fact, I have discovered traces of the very traumatic end of the Roman Empire, and responses to how and who did collapse the Empire

A little bit of a history reminder. Christianity was made legal to practice in the Roman Empire during the reign of Emperor Constantine the Great with the Edict of Milan in 313 AD. The most famous event that crystallized the faith as an universal one happened during his reign at the city of Nicaea in 325 AD

There was a period of transition between the legalization of the religion and its adoption as the official (the only) religion of the state. The period of transition ended with the life of Emperor Julian the Apostate 2 generation later in 361 AD

That emperor was the last one who tried to strike a balance between the majority of the populous (especially in the country side and the military) and the ever more assertive Christian clergy who were in the business of converting all to the new faith even against will. Unfortunately, he died young while campaigning against the Persians in the Middle East

The next emperor Jovian made Christianity official and even assisted the newly established Theocracy in erasing the Roman legacy. He personally order the destruction of the Library of Antioch where tens of thousands of manuscripts containing the legacy of the Graeco Roman culture was hosted in a hard copy form. In the next years, all the libraries throughout the Roman Empire were shut down and manuscripts burned systematically just as the Nazis and the Communists did much later too, all in an attempt to erase the past

The wealth of the Roman culture was erased towards the end of the 4th century, together with the best of the military and cultural elites of the Empire. Meanwhile the barbarians who were kept in balance up to that point by talented people such as Emperor Julian suddenly found an easy pray in the disarmed Empire, and did the rest of the job of erasing it. The Gothic invasion virtually pulverized a little army that the Roman Theocracy managed to muster against them at the battle of Adrianople in 378 AD. That event left the Romans defenceless against future invasions for the next while. It took the Empire centuries to recover from that blow and to retake the initiative but only for a little while during the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Justinian I

Fast forward in the West, the little of the Roman cultural legacy that survive the purge and the following torments of time did that through the network of Benedictine monasteries in which reading in Latin was kept mandatory. Eventually, talented people such as Petrarch

found pleasure and purpose in popularizing some of the old works from the Roman times and by doing that he reignited the interest in the Roman culture for many of his followers including the main character of the mentioned book, by his name Poggio Bracciolini. That was the beginning of the Renaissance or the rediscovery of the ancient Roman legacy

In the lands inhabited by the Romanians, the Renaissance was never a thing. Even if the cultural legacy of the past might have survive in the form of manuscripts written in Latin, that language was not officially censored by the Theocracy of the East. The Slavonic was the one used in the Monasteries well up to the modern times. The life time of a manuscript written on parchment or other media used in antiquity was of a few centuries so even if not burned, such a book decays in time on its own. It took the work of may anonymous monk scribes to recopy them over and over again for the Roman legacy to survive until the arrival of the Printing for the content to make it in the public domain

None of the condition were provided by the proto-Romanians to pass on the Roman / Dacian written legacy. Even if it may have existed at some point in time it could not have survived. The very little written legacy that currently the Romanian Archive contains should be therefore read as the result of generations of the past not caring about such one. Maybe there is wisdom there that is worth contemplating about

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