One of the most important citadels in the history of the Dacian kingdom is the Costesti Fortress. Some historians believe that this would have been the first genuine royal residence used by Dacia’s monarchs. The fortress was built in the first century BC. After the capital was moved to Sarmisegetuza, the Dacian fortress in Costeşti - Citadel took over the role of the most important strategic defence element that protected the new capital. The fortress is built on the Grădiştea Water. The top plateau of the hill on which the fortification is raised has an altitude of 514 metres. The fortress also protected the civil settlement located at the foot of the hill, whose inhabitants could flee into the fortification, in case of danger. The defence also comprised additional elements. Successive defence systems
Outside, there was a mound whose purpose was to protect both the plateau of the hill and its upper terraces. The wave had a base 6-8 metres wide, while its current height ground measures 2 - 2.5 metres.
In antiquity, thick wooden poles were stuck in this mound, bound together with braided straw, coated with clay, which formed a palisade behind which the defenders could shelter. There is no moat. The wave of land does not fully close, and there is an entrance in the form of pillars, which exposed the flanks to the attackers. Also, the access road to the city was protected by a strong bastion. Behind the wave of land there was a stone wall, which did not completely surround the upper plateau of the hill, only the mild slopes, propitious to the attacks of the besiegers. The walls were built using the murus dacicus construction technique. In terms of the strategic role, this stone wall was inspired by the contemporary construction of the Hellenistic world.
The stone wall had a height of 3-4 metres and a thickness of 3 metres. Tree trunks were stacked on the crest of the wall, split lengthwise and facing outwards to allow the water to drain and hinder the besiegers’ attacks. These trunks were covered with packed soil to prevent them from burning. From place to place, this wall was reinforced with strongholds, whose ground floor served as storage for relief supplies and weapons, while the first floor served as a dwelling for the nobles, but also as a fighting platform. In the most exposed area, the stone wall continued with a strong defence tower.
Behind the wall there were fighting platforms, supported by limestone blocks. After these defence systems, there was a fortified gate that blocked access to a difficult slope, which led to the upper plateau. This was protected by one last defence system, a double wooden palisade, which safeguarded the two towers, including the dwelling one, which could be reached through a monumental staircase, which marked the royal residence. The defensive system was reinforced by two outer fortifications, such as the High Citadel or the defence tower on Ciocuța Hill.
The Dacian fortress was subjected to a Roman siege in 102. It was conquered after the second Dacian war, in 106, when it was destroyed, and it has not been rebuilt ever since.
credit foto: R. Mateescu. MNIT