The Romans and Dacians have always had a checkered history, ever since Emperor Trajan saw the territories east of the Danube and north of Greece as a threat to the stability of the Roman Empire.
Now in Euro 2020, Roman Britons have beaten Ukraine 4-0 in Rome.
Ukraine was once part of Dacia – and as well as eyeing Dacia as a threat to the stability of the Roman Empire, Trajan knew there was also a need for more resources for the empire. Dacia became one of the main providers of grain – and especially wheat – for the Roman Empire. There was also gold and plenty of natural minerals in the region.
The Romans were adept at marking out territories to expand their lands and also ensure that its citizens were amply fed and watered, with every modern convenience ferried to all corners of the empire.
In 85 AD, the Dacians had also previously routed the Romans at the Battle of Histria, leaving the empire smarting – a feeling football fans in England know well. Histria was a Greek colony at the source of the Danube – the name Hister means Danube in Latin and “Histria” means “on the Danube”.
So in 101 AD, Emperor Trajan decided to revive the ancient enmity between Rome and Dacia and defeated the Dacian king, Decebelus, in a re-match of hostilities at the second battle of Tapae – the location of a fortified settlement which guarded the capital of Dacia, Sarmizegetusa. Trajan’s troops then went on to take the capital and impose Roman rule on Dacia.
Decebelus was no pushover, however, and in 105 AD he attacked the Roman garrisons stationed in Dacia.
Emperor Trajan in response razed Sarmizegetusa to the ground and then marched on the Parthian Empire east of Dacia, just to make sure. The Parthian Empire was situated in Ancient Iran and existed from 247 BC to 224 AD.
The Roman Empire existed from 27 BC to 476 AD and time-wise the two cultures had similar longevity, so it was a bold move on the part of Trajan to move against Parthia.
However, Trajan successfully took the capital, Ctesiphon – and installed a client ruler, Parthamaspates of Parthia, to govern on behalf of the Roman Empire.
The Romans did not leave Dacia until 275 AD, when Emperor Aurelian withdrew his army and civilian administration, but went on to establish Dacia Aureliana and the capital Serdica in Lower Moesia – south of the River Danube in the Balkans.
Whether our sporting rivalries today are based on ancient enmities embedded in our DNA is hard to establish – but like the Ancient Romans, we still display a need to win against our rivals.
Next up for the Roman Britons in Euro 2020 is Denmark – the Romans did not invade Denmark because as such it did not exist during the empire. But it is known that there was trade between Rome and distant northern civilisations and it is likely Scandinavia was among these. It might just be, however, that for hot-blooded Romans, Scandinavia was just a bit too chilly, compared to England’s green and temperate landscape.
But on Wednesday, 7 July, it will be Roman Britons Vs Early Danes – let battle commence and may the best team win!