Daniel Roxin presents a documentary about Dacia, country of the ‘bravest and most just of the Thracians’ as they were described by Herodotus, in which he argues that the history of Romania has been misrepresented by historians. The film asks the question why in official and academic terms the Dacians have been dismissed as a primitive tribe which was erased from history by the Romans, and Romanians have been told they trace their lineage from Rome. It makes the point that only about 14% of the Dacians’ territory was conquered, so the opportunity for Latin to penetrate Dacia as a whole was limited, yet we are expected to believe that Latin displaced the Dacian language entirely.
But how could it be that the Dacians would forget their language and traditions, especially as they were under Roman occupation for much less time than some other parts of the empire, where those subjugated did not forget their own language? People in such places as Gaul, Palestine, Spain and Britain did not carry on using Latin after the withdrawal of the legions, yet we are expected to believe that Roman influence in Dacia was such that the entire region was permanently Latinised. A possible explanation is that Romanian was not derived from Latin but both were derived from an earlier proto-language, and are thus sister languages.
There is ample evidence that the Dacians were highly respected by classical authors, and statuary of Dacians by Roman sculptors is plentiful. However, when Romanian nationhood was being formed in the nineteenth century, a disproportionate influence was wielded by Transylvanian Catholics indoctrinated by the Vatican who emphasised the Roman aspects and marginalised the Dacians as barbarians who were exterminated by the Romans, so that they could argue present-day Romanians were descended from the Romans. They entirely ignored the historical continuity of Dacia. Despite this, many Romanian intellectuals have sought to stress the Dacian links, while the failure of some modern historians to mention the Dacian heritage throws their credibility into question.
Another line of evidence is provided by paleogenetics, studying preserved genetic material. Analysis of bone fragments from the Bronze and Iron Ages by researchers in Hamburg was compared to the DNA of modern Romanians and it found that while there were similarities with Bulgarians and Greeks, markers for Italians were in general less close. Mitochondrial DNA markers showed a close relationship between the population living in the Romanian area during the Bronze and Iron Ages and modern Romanians. Romanians are not descended from Rome as Italians belong genetically to a different group.
However there are genetic links with northern Italians. Drawing on Livy, the film argues that after the fall of Troy, which was in Thracian territory, Aeneas and his crew founded Rome; Troy had been in Anatolia, in Thracian territory, so that thus far from the Romanians being descended from Rome, Romans are descended from Thracians. This would explain the respect Romans had for the Dacians, Dio Cassius referring to war between Trajan and Decebalus (the last Dacian king) as war between two brothers. Therefore the history of Romania as generally presented is based on a false view of its origins.
Moving on to writing, it had been assumed that Sumerian was the oldest writing system, but recent evidence shows that the Tărtăria tablets from the Neolithic Turdaș–Vinča culture, which was partly settled in present-day Romania, are 1-2,000 years older than Sumerian writing. Dating of bones found with the tablets established that they were 7,500 years old, so the tablets would be as old, if not older, overturning the accepted wisdom that they were no older than 2,000 BC. Yet in the official historiography these important tablets and other artefacts have not been given their due place in the history of Romania. Is this due to neglect, or are there more sinister forces at work? Roxin promises further documentaries.