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Roman provinces in Southeastern Europe (1st century AD)

Moesia ( ancient Greek Μοισία Moisia , German Mösien or Moesien ) was a region in the Balkans predominantly inhabited by Thracians in antiquity . It extended for several hundred kilometers in a west-east direction on the southern bank of the lower Danube . The area was named after the local Thracian tribe of the Moesians (or Myser ).

In 29 BC Moesia was conquered by Marcus Licinius Crassus and later converted into a Roman province . In the first century AD, the Romans divided the area into the provinces of Moesia Superior (Upper Moesia ) and Moesia Inferior (Lower Moesia ). The latter comprised the northern part of today's Bulgaria from the Danube to the Balkan Mountains and today's Romanian Dobruja . Upper Moesia is roughly congruent with Serbia south of the Danube and Kosovo . In addition, there is a narrow strip in the north of what is now the Republic of North Macedonia .

During the Roman era, Moesia was an almost constantly endangered border province that had to be defended at great expense against incursions by barbarian peoples from the north. Up to five legions and numerous auxiliary troop units were permanently stationed here. Under Emperor Trajan (98–117) the area was the starting point for the conquest of Dacia . Since the middle of the 3rd century, the Goths also oppressed the provinces on the lower Danube. After Emperor Aurelian had to give up the province of Dacia - north of the Danube - again in 274, he completely reorganized the defense of the empire on this section of the Limes . From then on there were five smaller provinces in the area of ​​Moesia, and six since Emperor Diocletian . During the final division of the empire in 395 , Moesia fell to Ostrom , which was able to hold the region until the end of the reign of Emperor Maurikios († 602).

Afterwards Bulgarians and Slavs settled there and founded the first Bulgarian Empire . In Bulgaria, the name Misija ( Bulgarian Мизия Misija ) is still used today as a synonym for northern Bulgaria, but without the area of ​​Dobruja.


Moesia comprised a wide strip of land on the southern bank of the lower Danube. It reached from Singidunum to the mouth of the river. In the north the country bordered Dacia and Scythia. To the west lay Illyria , to the southwest Dardania and Peonies . In the south, Moesia was separated from Thrace by the Haemus . In the east, including the Scythia Minor , it reached the shores of the Black Sea . Lower Moesia was largely occupied by fertile plains, Scythia Minor by also flat steppes. Upper Moesia was primarily a low mountain range. There were important mines there. Mainly iron ore, lead and silver were extracted here.

For the Greeks, the area was still part of Thrace. Relatively reliable information about the region on the lower reaches of the Danube and on the Black Sea coast (Lower Moesia and Scythia Minor) give the only sparsely surviving Greek sources. The Greeks had only vague ideas about Upper Moesia, further west. The inhabitants of the region were called Geten , whose settlement area the Greeks located on both sides of the lower Danube. In a broader sense, the Getes were seen as part of the Thracian people, divided into many tribes.

The eponymous tribe, the Mösier or Myser, settled in the area of ​​the Danube breakthrough on both sides of today's Serbian-Bulgarian border. The northern border of their country was clearly marked by the lower Danube. How far the area of ​​the Myser extended in the east and south is unknown and also hardly archaeologically ascertainable, since the neighbors were ethnically and culturally closely related Thracian-Getic peoples. To the west of the Margus River joined the territory of the Illyrian Autariats, which at the end of the 4th century BC. Were pushed south by the Celtic Skordiskern .

Under Roman rule handed Moesia far beyond the field of Mysians out and closed the residences of several other nations with one, namely the aforementioned Scordisci as well as those of Triballi , Krobyzen and Dardanians . The administration of the region was reorganized several times during the five centuries of Roman rule and the country was divided into several provinces. Upper Moesia to the west was founded in 29 BC. Incorporated into the empire. In the west, the Drinus River marked the border with Illyria. In the south, Dardania with Naissus was one of them. The formerly Peonic Scupi (today Skopje ), Roman since 148 BC. BC, was struck 6 AD Upper Moesia. In the east this reached as far as the Ciabrus River . To the east of it stretched Lower Moesia in what is now the Bulgarian Danube Plain. The chain of Haemus formed the southern border with the province of Thrace. To the northeast, the Scythia Minor, interspersed with Greek colonial cities, joined. This area on the Black Sea, which roughly corresponds to today's Dobruja, was united with Moesia by the Romans in the 1st century AD. From Singidunum to the mouth of the Black Sea, the Danube was the northern border of Moesia and at the same time also the outer border of the empire for the longest time.


Roman ships on the lower Danube, relief of the Trajan Column

Apart from the Danube as the most important natural traffic route in the east-west direction, some important trade routes have passed through Moesia since prehistoric times , making contact with the Greek coast in the south. They were later converted into solid roads by the Romans.

The most important was the route through the Morava valley from Viminatium on the Danube via Naissus , Scupi and Stobi to Thessalonice . In Naissus a path branched off, which led via Serdica into the interior of Thrace and on to the Greek cities on the Propontis . This road later developed into the Via Militaris and became one of the most important connections to the east of the Roman Empire. Several routes crossed the Haemus coming from the Danube and also led to Thrace. The Via Pontica was probably only of greater importance from Roman times . It connected the cities on the shores of the Black Sea and was, so to speak, the main road for the Scythia Minor. In Moesia, in addition to the Danube, the lower reaches of its tributaries Margus, Timacus , Oescus and Iatrus were navigable.

Cities in Moesia
Surname location origin
Abrittus Lower Mossia ( Razgrad ) thrak. Settlement /
Roman fort
Aegyssus Scythia Minor ( Tulcea ) Greek colony
Axiopolis Scythia Minor ( Cernavodă ) Greek Emporion
Scythia Minor
(near Adamclisi )
Veterans colony
Dionysopolis Scythia Minor ( Balchik ) Greek colony
Durostorum Lower Moesia ( Silistra ) Roman fort
Halmyris Scythia Minor ( Murighiol ) getic settlement
Histria Scythia Minor ( Istria ) greek colony
Horreum Margi Upper Moesia ( Ćuprija ) unknown
Kallatis Scythia Minor greek colony
Margum Upper Moesia ( Dubravica ) unknown
Marcianopolis Lower Moesia ( Dewnja ) Roman settlement colony
Dardania (near Mitrovica ) Mining settlement
Naissus Upper Moesia ( Niš ) Roman camp /
veteran colony
ad Istrum
Lower Mossia ( Nikjup ) Veterans colony
Novae Lower Moesia Roman fort
Noviodunum Scythia Minor ( Isaccea ) Greek Emporion
Roman fort
Odessos Lower Moesia ( Varna ) greek colony
Oescus Lower Moesia Roman legion camp
Ratiaria Upper Moesia (near Widin ) Roman trading
Scupi Dardarnia ( Skopje ) Veterans colony
Sexaginta Prista Lower Moesia ( Russian ) Roman fort
Singidunum Upper Moesia ( Belgrade ) Fortress d. Skordisker
Roman legion camp
Tomis Scythia Minor
( Constanța )
greek colony
Troesmis Scythia Minor
(near Măcin )
Getic fortress
Roman legion camp
Ulpiana Dardarnia
(near Pristina / Lipjan )
Mining settlement
veterans colony
Viminatium Upper Moesia ( Kostolac ) Roman legion camp


The pre-Roman population of Moesia did not build any cities. They settled in villages, many of which had to be fortified because of the constant wars and raids in the region. Among the larger fortified places, the Scordisk Singidunum on the Danube and the Naissus to the south of it stood out. These two fortresses were originally built in the 3rd century BC. Was built by immigrant Celts. On the Black Sea coast, the Scythia Minor, Greek colonists founded several cities; the most important were Tomis , Histria and Odessos (today's Varna). The oldest of these colonies emerged in the 7th century BC. Many of them reached their peak during the Roman rule.

Coin of the Greek city of Histria
Forum of Nicopolis ad Istrum, founded in 102 by Trajan

The first Roman cities emerged - as in other border provinces of the empire - in the vicinity of the large military camps. Accordingly, all of these cities were strategically located on the banks of the Danube. Not infrequently they replaced older settlement areas of the Celts or Thracians, although there was no local continuity anywhere in Moesia. So z. B. the subjugated Celts leave their high-lying oppida ; their successor settlements, laid out in the Roman style, were in the valleys that were easier to control. At the beginning of their development in the first century AD there were regular civil settlements whose inhabitants lived mainly from trade with the legions. In Upper Moesia these were Singidunum and Viminatium, in Lower Moesia Oescus and Novae . Durostorum , Troesmis and Noviodunum were added there in the 2nd century .

Naissus, which dates back to 75 BC, was the only major city in the hinterland of Upper Moesia. BC had become Roman, returned to a military camp. After the border to the Danube was brought forward, the Flavians converted the site into a veterans' colony. Between these main places there were a number of smaller settlements near Roman forts, which often also had a city-like character, e.g. B. Aquae, Timacum Minus and Aureus Mons in Upper Moesia or the Sexaginta Prista naval base in Lower Moesia.

By various emperors, especially Domitian , Trajan and Hadrian , many places that had existed for a long time were politically upgraded by receiving the status of a municipality or even being elevated to a colonia . After the conquest of Dacia, Trajan and Hadrian also founded cities in the Mösian hinterland, in which veterans of the Dacian wars were settled. B. the Dardanischen Ulpiana , Nicopolis ad Istrum , Civitas Tropaensium and Marcianopolis . After all, there were some cities in Moesia that owed their existence to mining, such as Muncipium Dardanorum.


Pre-Roman Iron Age

Moesia was founded in the first half of the 1st millennium BC. Inhabited by different peoples culturally belonging to the Thracians. Their existence is only proven by archaeological sources. Since the 7th century, some Greek colonies emerged in the Scythia Minor on the Black Sea coast. This also brought the hinterland into the focus of the Greeks. Some of the peoples who settled on the lower Danube have been documented in written sources since then. Herodotus († around 424 BC) mentions the Thracians , Geten and the nomadic Scythians who had advanced from the Pontic steppes to the mouth of the Danube. The Triballers first appear in Thucydides († 399 BC).

In the years 513/512 BC The Persian great king Dareios I crossed the Hellespont, crossed Thrace and advanced across the Danube to the north to fight the Scythians on the northern shores of the Black Sea. The war against the elusive nomads ended unsuccessfully, but the Eastern Balkans became part of the Persian Empire as a Thracian satrapy . As a commander, Darius left his general Megabazos , who could at least subdue all coastal cities. The Persian sphere of influence extended to the lower Danube and thus also included Scythia Minor and the eastern part of Moesia. As a result of the Ionian uprising and the subsequent Greco-Persian wars , the Thracians were able to regain their independence. Persian rule ended directly on the Danube as early as 498 BC. BC, in the rest of Thrace almost 20 years later.

In the second third of the 5th century BC BC the Thracian Odrysen Empire extended its influence to the lower Danube. Some of the tribes that settled there became dependent on it for some time. While the Odrysian kings Teres († around 450) and Sitalkes († 424) were able to conquer Scythia Minor and the immediately adjacent areas to the west, they were defeated several times by the Triballians who claimed their freedom. In the middle of the 4th century the Odrysian Empire fell apart again. A small Odrysian state existed as a vassal of the Macedonians and later the Romans until the 1st century AD.

After Philip II of Macedonia had conquered Thrace, he undertook in 339 BC. A successful campaign as far as the Danube in the area of ​​Lower Moesia. However, the Macedonians could not keep these areas permanently dependent, especially since Philip's son Alexander the Great concentrated after 335 on the conquest of Asia and paid less attention to the Danube countries. Zopyrion , who had been appointed governor of Thrace by Alexander or his imperial administrator Antipater , undertook a campaign in 331 to subdue the Greek colony of Olbia on the Black Sea. With 30,000 men he crossed the Danube and advanced north on the coast. However, the siege of the city failed. On the march back, the Macedonian army was wiped out by attacks by the Scythians and Geten, with whom Olbia had allied itself. Zopyrion was killed and the Macedonian rule north of the Haemus collapsed.

After Alexander's death (323 BC) Lysimachus was awarded the small satrapy of Thrace when the Alexander empire was divided up. From the north it was constantly threatened by attacks by the Geten and Scythians. Against this Lysimachus extended his rule over the Danube in several campaigns. First he subjugated 314 BC The revolting cities of Olbia and Odessos. In 312 he was also able to take Kallatis . Then he turned against his opponents among the remaining Diadochi and waged war in Asia. In the meantime, he paid little attention to the Danube border. Around 295 BC But he returned there and fought the Getic king Dromichaetes , who had built an empire on both sides of the lower Danube. 292 BC BC Lysimachus was captured by Dromichaetes during a campaign. He treated his prisoners courteously and both agreed on a lasting peace. Dromichaetes married a daughter of Lysimachus, who in turn received the Thracian lands south of the Danube back. After the death of Lysimachus in 281, however, the Hellenistic rule on the lower Danube finally came to an end.

At this time, the Celts migrating south from Central Europe appeared as a new power factor in Moesia. First the Illyrian autariats were ousted from northern Upper Moesia. In this area on the rivers Savus and Drinus, the Celtic Skordisker lived since then. BC should also hit the Romans when they advanced to the Danube. 319 BC The Celtic military leader Molistomos penetrated deep into the Illyrian-Thracian border area, later called Upper Moesia, and subjugated the Dardans, Peonians and Triballers. Over the next few decades, Celtic multitudes repeatedly crossed the Balkans. Sometimes they were looking for prey, sometimes they explored the possibilities for new settlement areas. 280 BC A large Celtic army led by Brennus, Cerethius, Akichorius and Bolgios undertook a large-scale attack on Macedonia and Greece. On their way there they again fought against the peoples of Upper Moesia and devastated the lands of the Triballians and Dardarner. 279 BC Destroyed at Delphi , the Celts withdrew to the northern Balkans. There they remained a political power factor for the next two centuries. Their settlement focus was in Pannonia , but also in large parts of Moesia and in Thrace many of their settlements could be proven archaeologically, sometimes also linguistically. For example, the fortresses Durosturum, Noviodunum, Singidunum and Ratiaria, which were important in Roman times, have Celtic predecessors.

Around 180 BC The probably Germanic Bastarnen appeared for the first time on the lower Danube. Some of them stayed in Niedermösien for at least a few years, although their main settlement area was further north. They first met the Romans as mercenaries in the army of the Macedonian king Perseus .

Roman rule until the province was divided

After the conquest of Macedonia , the areas on the lower Danube also came into the field of vision of the Romans. The current was in the 1st century BC. BC finally to the border of the Roman sphere of interest in southeastern Europe, similar to how it was in the west of the Rhine before the conquest of Gaul. Just as Gaius Julius Caesar won the Rhine border for the empire, his successor, Emperor Augustus, declared the Danube to be the northern border of the empire a generation later.

Remnants of the wall of ancient Tomis in the modern city of Constanța

In the last century of the republic the Romans tried to control the area east of Illyria and north of Macedonia by means of their alliance and clientele policy. Isolated military advances, which were usually carried out by the governors in Macedonia, were retaliatory measures for incursions by Thracian and Getic tribes into the territories of the Roman allies or even into the province of Macedonia itself. Scribonius Curio , proconsul of Macedonia, led since 75 BC . Successful war against the Dardarner and Mösier for three years. As the first Roman general he reached the lower Danube with his troops. For the submission of the Dardarner Curio was awarded a triumph , which he received in 71 BC. Celebrated. The Skordisker, Mösier and Triballer, who settled directly on the southern bank of the Danube, remained free of direct Roman rule at that time. Marcus Terentius Varro Lucullus , Scribonius' successor proconsul in Macedonia, victoriously waged war against the Bessen and some Greek cities (Apollonia, Kallatis, Tomis and Olbia) in the Scythia Minor, which with the Pontic king Mithridates VI. were allies. In this way, the Black Sea coast, which later became part of Lower Moesia, came about as early as 72 BC. Under Roman rule. Until the province was established 80 years later, the cities of the Scythia Minor were under a Praefectus orae maritimae . They retained their internal autonomy and were soon treated as allies of Rome.

Gaius Antonius Hybrida , who 62–60 BC Was proconsul in Macedonia, led several unsuccessful campaigns in Moesia and was badly beaten by the Bastarnen near Histria, with some Roman standards being lost. Around the same time, Burebista , king of a large, if short-lived, Dacian-Getic empire centered in Transylvania, began to extend his power to the areas south of the Danube. 60 or 59 BC BC he invaded the territories of the Skordisker and Mösier. And about 55 BC He started a series of campaigns which led to the conquest of the Scythia Minor with all the Greek cities located there and the lowlands to the right of the Danube (with the exception of the land of the Triballer). Between 50 and 48 BC BC Burebista advanced to Apollonia Pontica on the Thracian Black Sea coast. In the Roman civil war , the Dacer king was loosely allied with Pompey , albeit without any effective support. Nevertheless, Caesar planned a campaign against Burebista for the year 44, but this did not take place because of the murder of the dictator and was soon no longer necessary, since the Dacer king was murdered in the same year, whereupon his empire quickly fell apart and the cities allied with Rome regained their freedom.

(31 BC-14 AD)

The reason for a renewed Roman intervention in the region was the breach of Bastarnern and Dakern across the Danube in Augustan times. They had first defeated the Mösians and Triballians and then moved with them over the Haemus into the interior of Thrace against the Dentheletes , whose King Sitas had an alliance with Rome. Thereupon Emperor Augustus commissioned 29 BC The proconsul of Macedonia, Marcus Licinius Crassus, to act against the invaders. After Crassus had first expelled the opponents from Thrace, he then defeated them decisively again in Moesia , killing Deldo , the king of the Bastarns, with his own hands , whereupon they temporarily withdrew. Through this demonstration of military strength, Crassus achieved that the Mösians also asked him for peace. Then he retired south to his winter quarters. For his victories, Crassus was granted a triumph . In the following year, however, the fighting broke out again with the Bastarnen and Thracian and Getic tribes hostile to the Romans. Allies of Crassus were the Thracian tribal princes Rholes and Sitas as well as the Odrysenian Empire under Rhoemetalces I, which was already very weakened at that time . In Lower Moesia he defeated various Getic tribes and was able to expand Roman power to the mouth of the Danube.

Oescus, site of the Legio V Macedonica
Thracian horseman , tombstone from Histria, Roman imperial era

As Crassus 27 BC Went to Rome to celebrate his triumph over the Bastarnen, Upper Moesia was under direct Roman rule. The Greek cities in the Scythia Minor and the area of ​​the Rholes in western Lower Moesia retained limited autonomy as client states. Eastern Lower Moesia was called Ripa Thraciae (Thracian Shore) and was given to the client kings of the Odrysen for administration and defense. The entire newly won area was initially subordinated to the proconsular governor of Macedonia, who was represented on the Danube by an imperial legate with the rank of praetor. The administrative connection between Moesia and Macedonia lasted, with a brief interruption, until AD 44 and also affected the Thracian client states. At least two legions, including the Legio V Macedonica , and numerous auxiliary troops were stationed in Moesia to secure the new borders. There was also a newly established Danube fleet (classis moesica). It is not certain where the individual units had their camps in Augustan times.

By 6 AD at the latest, Augustus had Moesia organized as a province of its own. For this year, the sources name the first governor of the province known by name: Aulus Caecina Severus . This was involved in the suppression of the Pannonian uprising , but then had to return to Moesia, where in the year 6 he repulsed an invasion of the Sarmatians and the Dacians . After the victory in Moesia, Caecina returned to Pannonia in Anno 7, where the two leaders of the Pannonian uprising - the Dalmatian Bato and the Breuker Bato - lay in wait for him. They suddenly attacked him in his camp in the swamps, where they were put to flight. Under his command of five legions, he was nearly defeated in the Battle of the Pannonian Marshes. The high number of troops concentrated in Moesia shows, on the one hand, that the region was severely endangered by barbarian incursions and, on the other hand, that it was an important cornerstone in the strategic planning of the Romans. From here troops could be quickly moved to Pannonia in the west, just as quickly to troubled Thrace and the coasts of the Black Sea, so vexillations were often stopped to protect allied Greek cities such as Olbia, and Tyras or Chersonesos in the Crimea. If necessary, European legions could march relatively quickly from Moesia to the Parthian border in the east.

In the year 9 Gaius Poppaeus Sabinus was appointed proconsular governor. In 15 AD, Emperor Tiberius gave him responsibility for the provinces of Achaea and Macedonia, which restored joint military command over the eastern Balkans. The reason for this was probably the unrest and uprisings that shook the Thracian client states, which could be better dealt with when the neighboring provinces were united in one hand. During the reign of Emperor Tiberius, a first military road was built parallel to the Danube in Lower Moesia , possibly leading from Ratiaria to Axiopolis .

In 44, Emperor Claudius permanently separated the administration of Moesia from that of Macedonia. At the same time, Thrace was organized as a separate province, which sparked a Thracian uprising that could not be put down until a year later. The Ripa Thraciae were added to the province of Moesia, which now stretched from the mouth of the Sava to the Black Sea coast. Up until then, three legions and an unknown but high number of “auxilia” (auxiliary troops) were stationed in the extensive border region. Legion camps were Oescus and Novae in Lower Moesia and Viminatium in Upper Moesia. 44 now because of the Thracian uprising, the eighth Augusta was moved to Moesia as the fourth legion and moved into Novae quarters. As in other newly acquired provinces, the Romans made large shifts in the long-established population to consolidate their power. On the banks of the Danube, the original inhabitants were expelled from a strip of land that from then on formed a devastated security zone between the empire and the barbarian peoples.

Since there were hardly any cities in Moesia whose magistrates could be left with civil administration, the Romans allowed traditional tribal structures to continue. Wherever it seemed appropriate to them, they created such rural communities themselves. Officers were sometimes used as procurators to control the local tribal leaders. This is what happened, for example, with the Triballern, who, as civitas Triballorum , had a separate administration for a long time under Roman rule. In addition to the territories of the tribes and the cities, there were large parts of the country that were administered directly by the tax authorities as imperial domains. This also included the mines of Dardania. After all, there were extensive lands given to the legions for self-sufficiency.

Under Nero , from 61 to 66, Tiberius Plautius Silvanus Aelianus was governor of Moesia as legatus Augusti pro praetore . During his governorship he had to deal almost continuously with the restless peoples north of the Danube. Several times he led his troops to the other bank, intervened there in the wars between Dacians, Bastarnen and Sarmatians and settled thousands of people from the north in the province. Plautius Silvanus is said to have sent 64 ships loaded with grain to Rome when the population of the capital suffered hardship due to the great fire . This would be a first indication that Moesia, which was suitable for growing grain, began to play an albeit subordinate role in supplying Rome.

The Danube Limes in Moesia

In the so-called Four Emperor Year 69, the legions stationed in Moesia were also involved in the battles between the pretenders to the throne, whereby the protection of the Danube border was neglected. For the spring of this year, Tacitus testifies to a raid by the Sarmatian Roxolans in Lower Moesia. 9,000 cataphracts were involved, of which the weakened Roman troops under the governor Marcus Aponius were only able to master after some difficulties. They finally drove the heavy cavalry of the Roxolans into the swamps on the banks of the Danube, where their heavy armor was a great disadvantage, and were able to defeat them there. At the end of 69 Vespasian appointed Senator Gaius Fonteius Agrippa as the new governor in order to counter further attacks by the Sarmatians. Fonteius died in battle in 70, after which Vespasian sent Rubrius Gallus to punish and subjugate the Sarmatians. In the same year, the Legio I Italica came to Moesia to strengthen it . She moved to her camp in Novae, where she remained stationed for more than 200 years. Around the year 75 Vespasian had a new base for the Danube fleet built in Ratiaria.

The two Moesia until the evacuation of Dacia

While under the emperors Vespasian and Titus Pannonia on the central Danube was the center of attention, Domitian took the initiative right at the beginning of his rule in Moesia. In the newly founded city of Scupi he settled veterans of various legions stationed in the province. It was only at this time - around a century after the conquest - that the more intensive Romanization of the Mösian hinterland began.

In the middle of 85 strong Dacian warrior associations of the chief Decebalus invaded the province of Moesia and met the Romans completely unprepared. The governor Gaius Oppius Sabinus fell during the failed defensive battles, the Dacians looted and pillaged many settlements and forts. Emperor Domitian ordered the transfer of legions from all parts of the empire and went himself with his Praetorians to the Mösian front under the command of Cornelius Fuscus . With two successful expeditions the hosts of Decebalus could be driven back over the Danube and Domitian returned to Rome, where he celebrated his first Dakertriumph.

Fuscus remained in Moesia as commander in chief, reorganized the province and the army and prepared the campaign of revenge against the Dacians. In mid-86 he crossed the Danube. At the first encounter with the Dacian army, however, he lost the battle and his life. Almost the entire expeditionary army was destroyed. This second defeat within a short time prompted Domitian to set out again for Moesia and to move several legions to the Danube. By the end of 86, Marcus Cornelius Nigrinus fought at least two successful battles against the Dacians as the new commander in chief and governor. In the late autumn of 86 Domitian returned to Rome and renounced a triumph. And in fact the Dacian threat was not over yet. Decebalus made an alliance with the Roxolans, who were now in Wallachia and who had threatened the Roman area on the Danube since Augustan times.

Domitian reacted with further troop transfers and reorganization of the administration on the lower Danube. In autumn 86 the area was divided into the two provinces Moesia Superior (Upper Moesia ) and Moesia Inferior (Lower Moesia ). The border was drawn on the Ciabrus River. Marcianopolis was chosen as the residence for the governor of Lower Saxony.

The massing of troops now under the command of two governors as well as the expansion of the Roman positions in the hitherto less developed Lower Moesia were intended to prepare the systematic pacification of the Dacians. While Marcus Cornelius Nigrinus kept order in Moesia Inferior and expanded the Danube border against the steppe peoples, Lucius Tettius Julianus attacked in 88 from Moesia Superior from Sarmizegetusa , the Dacian power center in the Western Carpathians , without reaching its capture. In the summer of 89 the second punitive expedition against Decebalus and Sarmizegetusa started. However, the resistance was so great that the Romans had to retreat across the Danube. As a result of the attack and Roman defeat, the Quaden and Jazygen entered the war and formed a threatening Pannonian alliance against the Romans. The emperor then changed his strategy: he began peace negotiations with Decebalus, who submitted to Rome and was allowed to continue to rule as a client king. Domitian himself traveled to the Dacian hinterland and thus demonstrated the Roman claim to power on the other side of the Danube. In the last years of Domitian's reign and under Emperor Nerva (96-98), things remained quiet on the French-Dacian border. Decebalus seems to have rearmed up again, so that Dacia continued to pose a threat.

Trajan (98-117)

Like Domitian, Emperor Trajan also regarded the Danube basin as the most endangered region of the empire, and he was determined to take the military initiative. A first inspection trip to the troops there in the winter of 98/99 and orders to expand the border fortifications in Pannonia and Moesia prepared the war. Around 100, the military road between the Upper Moselle cities of Viminatium and Ratiaria, directly on the southern bank of the Danube, was expanded by Apollodor of Damascus . This enabled the Roman troops to be quickly moved along the entire French-Dacian border. The route at the Iron Gate , which was also problematic for shipping , could now be overcome quickly on foot.

Illustration of the new Danube Bridge on the Trajan Column
Tropeum Traiani (reconstruction), victory monument for the Dacian Wars, built in 108/109 AD.

Officially, the behavior of King Decebalus gave rise to war against the Dacians. He was accused of violating the provisions of the Peace Treaty of 89. In the spring of 101 Trajan began the campaign and let the Roman troops advance from Lower Moesia. At Tapae , halfway to Sarmizegetusa, there was the only major battle of the first Dacian war, from which Trajan emerged victorious. But the Dacer king had not suffered a devastating defeat and ordered a significant part of his cavalry troops to invade Lower Moesia. With this relief attack, he perhaps also hoped to win the support of the tribal people there. This forced Trajan and his troops to withdraw from Dacia and go to Lower Moesia. After the Dacians were defeated there, the emperor again attacked their heartland, where he achieved further victories that caused Decebalus to ask for peace. Trajan made peace in 102 under harsh conditions, which included extensive demilitarization of Dacia. The Romans now indirectly ruled a large part of the country beyond the lower Danube. The two Mösian provinces were thus largely secured. The emperor had bases built on the Dacian banks of the Danube. In 104/5 he had the first bridge built over the lower Danube near the Lower Moss town of Zanes and secured by a fort on the other bank. The recent masterpiece of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus facilitated the advance of the Romans in the following year during the second Dacian war.

Soon after the peace agreement with the Romans, the Dacer king Decebalus tried to rearm his country again. He tried with little success to induce the neighboring peoples to form an alliance against Rome. Trajan realized that Decebalus could not be persuaded to submit to Rome either by hard peace treaties or by military surveillance. The emperor therefore decided to smash the Dacian empire and incorporate his territory into the empire. A Dacian attack on the Jazygen, allied with Rome at that time, gave the emperor and senate the opportunity to go to war again. Trajan had gathered 14 legions in Pannonia and Moesia for this purpose. That was almost half of the legions established in the Roman Empire at the time. Even before the emperor arrived on the theater of war, Decebalus had to realize that he could not win the war. In his desperate situation he sent an agent to Trajan, who was still in Moesia, to have him murdered. But this project also failed. In the first half of 106 the whole of Dacia was finally occupied by the Roman troops and organized as a province in the same year. The emperor had the Tropaeum Traiani , a monumental monument to victory, built in Lower Mossia near the modern town of Adamclisi .

The new frontiers of the empire in southeast Europe after the Dacer Wars

The expansion of the empire to the north had multiple effects on the Mösian provinces. For the time being, they were no longer part of the endangered border regions. Some of the legions and auxiliary troops stationed in the Mosse camps for a long time were transferred to Dacia. The IV. Flavia Felix had participated in the Dacian Wars from Singidunum and was stationed in Sarmizegetusa after the end of the war, but Hadrian moved it back to its old location in 119. The Danube remained the empire's main line of defense in south-eastern Europe. The Legio VII Claudia, which had been involved in the construction of the Donausstrasse during the Dacer Wars, kept its old location in Viminatium in Upper Moss. The I. Italica remained stationed in Novae, Lower Saxony. Traces of their vexillations were found down to the Danube Delta and even in the Crimea. The V. Macedonica had their camp in Oescus until the beginning of the 2nd century. After the Dacian Wars she was moved downstream to Troesmis, where she was stationed until 161. The XI. At the same time Claudia was sent to Durostorum to also secure the endangered steppe border. The Oescus camp also remained a military base, although it is unclear whether it was occupied by a legion, individual cohorts or auxiliary troops after the Dacian Wars. Wallachia, where Dacians, Geten and Roxolanan lived side by side, united Trajan with Lower Moesia. To protect this area, which is endangered by the steppe peoples, some forts north of the Danube were built as advanced posts for the Durostorum and Troesmis legion camps. The emperor concluded an alliance agreement with the Roxolans, which also included the payment of subsidies.

The Roman state relied on the cities as the lowest administrative units to rule over its vast territory. They were responsible for collecting taxes, the lower courts and also the recruiting of new soldiers. In Moesia this form of rule was hardly possible in the 1st century AD, since the country, apart from the Black Sea coast, was poor in cities. Trajan tried to promote the internal expansion of the empire by founding cities or the legal upgrading of existing settlements. The Mösian provinces formed a focus. Newly established cities in eastern Lower Mösia were Civitas Tropäum and Nicopolis ad Istrum. Both were founded in memory of the victory over the Dacians and were used to settle veterans from this war. They each had a large hinterland that was subordinated to them to rule. Another founding of Trajan was Troesmis in the Scythia Minor. This city went back to an old Getic fortress, in the place of which a legionary camp was built in 107. Marcianopolis in northeastern Thrace was a settlement colony of no military importance. The town, which flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, soon became an important regional administrative center. The city and its territory were later defeated to Lower Moesia and the seat of the governor moved there. Perhaps already under Trajan, possibly only under his successor Hadrian, the Dardarnische central place Ulpiana was founded as a city. Ratiaria got the status of a colony after the Dacian Wars.

For his campaign against Parthia, Trajan 113 withdrew many troops from the Danube provinces. 117 but the emperor in the east received news of revolts in Dacia and Lower Mossia, where the Roxolans rebelled. At the same time, the Jazygens, formerly allied with Rome, rose. Even before his death (August 117), Trajan ordered some legions and auxiliary troops to march back to the lower Danube. The defense of the Danube provinces was then one of the first challenges facing the new emperor Hadrian , who was still in Syria when he came to power. There he also learned of the death of the Dacian governor Quadratus Bassus († 118), who had the high command in the endangered region. Hadrian got the situation in Dacia under control again, but decided to give up the new areas north of the Danube, which had become Lower Moesia. Between Sexaginta Prista and Troesmis, apart from a few bridgeheads, the border was moved back to the river. The western part of Wallachia that remained to the Romans (roughly today's Oltenia) was separated from Lower Moesia and organized as a separate province of Dacia Inferior . In 136 the border between Upper and Lower Moesia was moved westward to the Almus river. Finally, the Roxolans allowed Hadrian to move them into a new alliance. Hadrian's policy was aimed at securing peace and the imperial borders. Apart from the beginning of his rule, there were no further barbarian incursions on the Mösian Danube borders at that time. The emperor had the border fortifications reinforced and continued the course of his predecessor in terms of promoting the cities. Viminatium and Singidunum were raised by him to municipia . The peace lasted on the Danube under Hadrian's successor Antoninus Pius († 161). As a result of these decades of rest, the legions and auxiliary troops stationed in Moesia remained at their assigned locations all the time and the recruiting of new recruits took place mainly from the provincials in the vicinity. In this way, contact with the civilian population intensified, which in turn contributed to their Romanization.

At the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius († 180), the Mösian provinces were affected by incursions by the tribes to the east and north of the Danube with the Marcomanni at their head. The toughest battles of the Marcomannic Wars nonetheless took place in Pannonia and Dacia. 170 overrun Teutons and Jazygen Dacia and then advanced to Lower Moesia. Almost simultaneously, the Sarmatian Costoboci crossed the lower Danube. They devastated Lower Moesia and Thrace and came on their raid as far as Eleusis near Athens. The deep incursion of the barbarians caused the emperor to once again station troops in Macedonia and Greece, because the main line of defense in Moesia was obviously not strong enough to secure the Balkan provinces. In the further course of the Marcomann Wars, Viminatium was one of the starting points for the Roman counter-attacks in the Pannonian plain.

The ruins of Abrittus, Lower Moesia

In the first third of the 3rd century the Goths appeared as a new force in the region north of the Black Sea. In connection with the Carps they attacked 238 Histria in the Scythia Minor. After looting the city and extorting annual money, they left again. When, ten years later, Emperor Philip Arab stopped paying the annual tribute after victories over the Carps, 250 Goths invaded Dacia, Thrace, Moesia and Illyria with several army groups.

Decius (249-251)

In the meantime the Danube regions had proclaimed one of their commanders, Gaius Mesius Decius , to be emperor. This began an era in Roman history in which the so-called Illyriciani , military leaders from the Balkan provinces, made up most of the emperors. During this time, the troops stationed in south-east Europe were the most important factor in the struggle for rule in the empire. At the same time, Moesia and Pannonia were often the areas in which the military conflicts over the imperial throne took place.

Decius, the first of the Illyrian emperors, suffered several defeats against the Goths and finally fell on French soil in 251 at the Battle of Abrittus . The next emperor Trebonianus Gallus again granted the Goths annual money, but was overthrown by Aemilianus , who in turn stopped paying. Again the Goths attacked Thrace and Moesia, but this time they were defeated. After another change of emperors they advanced to Thessaloniki in 254 . Meanwhile Moesia and large parts of the Balkans were permanently war zones and many cities there were strongly fortified; the flat land, however, could no longer be protected from pillage and devastation. From 255 the Goths started to attack from the sea. With their fleet they initially operated in the eastern part of the Black Sea. In 257 they crossed the Bosporus for the first time . In 268, a large Gothic-Herulian armada, supported by land forces, again moved against Byzantium , then crossed the Hellespont and sacked the Peloponnese . From there the Goths moved north towards Macedonia and Moesia. Emperor Claudius II defeated the attackers in the battle of Naissus and assumed the honorary title Gothicus . When his successor Aurelian had won more victories, the situation on the Danube front stabilized for some time. Of course, it also contributed to the fact that the emperor, despite his successes, gave up the province of Dacia north of the river and practically left the Goths to settle. Thus Upper Moesia was again directly on the outer border of the empire.

From Aurelian to Valens

Roman provinces in the Balkans since the end of the 3rd century

The constant defensive battles that had to be fought on French soil against various barbarian peoples led to the decline of the urban culture, which was not so strongly developed in any case, in the 3rd century. The population of the cities declined, the settlement area was reduced and surrounded by fortifications for protection. Soldiers now lived in these fortified towns with their families. In addition to the defense of the place, their task was also to order the land, so that the civil and military sectors merged ever closer together. Since the end of the 3rd century, larger groups of barbaric peoples were allowed to settle south of the Danube on Reichsboden. Many of these settlers were Goths or belonged to other Germanic tribes. Until the time of Constantine, immigrants were mostly subject to war, to whom the Romans could dictate the conditions for settlement. When the military situation for Rome deteriorated in the second half of the 4th century, undefeated groups were also allowed to settle within the imperial borders. The Roman authorities concluded treaties (Latin foedus ) with their leaders, which regulated the allocation of land to the immigrants and their rights and obligations towards the state. Many of the newly settled Germanic tribes were used as militiamen in the border guard. Even the Emperor Licinius had accepted larger Gothic contingents in his army in the Balkans.

Castra Martis near Kula , Bulgaria, 1st century AD, renovated under Aurelian

After Dacia had been evacuated by the Romans in 274, the military and civil administration of Moesia was reformed by Aurelian and adapted to the new situation. At the same time, the Romanized population from the abandoned Dacian provinces had to be settled in Moesia. This was the last time that the Roman element was decisively strengthened in the region, while in the following two centuries the influx consisted almost exclusively of foreign immigrants. With the settlers from Dacia, the Legio V Macedonica came back to Moesia. She was stationed in Oescus. The Legio XIII Gemina was moved to Ratiaria. To better control the Danube border, Aurelian and his immediate successors had five new, smaller provinces formed instead of the two old ones. Mosia I (capital Viminatium) and Dacia Ripensis with the capital Ratiaria to the east of it emerged in the Upper Mösian area . The west of the former Lower Moesia also joined this new province. Dardania was organized as a separate province in the Upper Mösian inland . Dacia Mediterranea (capital Serdica) joined to the east of the Angrus River . In addition to Upper and Lower Saxony areas, parts of Thrace were added to this new province. The larger eastern part of Lower Moesia was reorganized as Moesia II . Under Emperor Diocletian, the Scythia Minor with the capital Tomis was divided as an independent province. Since that time, the provinces in Moesia were divided into two different dioceses : Moesia I, Dardania, Dacia Ripensis and Dacia Mediterranea together with Praevalitana on the Adriatic made up the diocese of Dacia; Moesia II and Scythia Minor came to the Diocese of Thrace. In 277, Emperor Probus was able to defeat the Goths on the lower Danube. It is known from coin finds that he assumed the honorary title Gothicus Maximus. The Emperor allowed the Bastarnen, who invaded with the Goths, to settle in Thrace.


In the following decades there were no major attacks by the Goths; instead, at the time of Emperor Diocletian , the Sarmatians were again the greatest threat to the Mösian lands. There Diocletian was able to win the fight for rule in the empire after his soldiers at Nicomedia had proclaimed him emperor. In the spring of 285 he met the army of Emperor Carinus advancing from the west in Upper Moesia . Carinus was able to win several meetings and was ultimately not defeated in a battle on the Margus River, but then - probably at Diocletian's instigation - murdered by his soldiers. In the autumn of the same year Diocletian reappeared on the Danube, where he had to repel attacks by the Sarmatians on Pannonia and Moesia. He was only able to achieve partial success, so that the danger posed by the steppe peoples for the Danube border was not averted. When Diocletian raised his friend and comrade in arms Maximian to Augustus with equal rights for the western part of the empire, he kept the Mösian provinces under his own control, while his colleague seems to have been responsible, at least temporarily, for the neighboring Pannonia. In 289 Diocletian fought again on the Danube and accepted the title of Sarmaticus Maximus . When he installed the system of tetrarchy in 293 , he appointed Galerius , who came from Upper Moesia, to be his Caesar for the eastern part of the empire. In this and the following year Diocletian stayed on the Danube and again waged war against the Sarmatians, whom he was able to defeat decisively this time. In 295/296 Diocletian marched against the Carps; then he transferred the leadership of the army on the Danube to his Caesar Galerius, who was able to achieve further victories here up to 302. To secure these successes in the long term, the border was reinforced. The new defense line called Ripa Sarmatica from Onagrinum north of Singidunum to Dierna at the Iron Gate was based on a number of new forts across the river. Downstream garrisons such as Bononia, Sexaginta Prista or Dinogetia were expanded, towns were fortified and new military roads were laid. More troops than ever before were stationed in the Mösian provinces to monitor the border. Among them were about a dozen of the legions, admittedly greatly reduced by Diocletian's reforms, as well as mounted cohorts and units of the fleet. Diocletian was able to restore security on the lower Danube with a high level of personnel and financial expenditure.

After Diocletian's abdication, Galerius remained in charge of the provinces on the lower Danube as Senior Emperor until 308. He mostly resided in Thessaloniki or Sirmium. But he also had an extensive palace built in his Upper Mossian homeland. The facility called Felix Romuliana formed the economic center for the administration of the extensive imperial estates in the region. Possibly, like Diocletian's palace, it was also intended as a retirement home, but was never used as such until Galerius died in 311. Moesia was hardly affected by the persecution of Christians under Diocletian and Galerius, simply because there were very few Christian communities in the region at the turn of the 4th century. The new religion only gained ground here during the reign of Constantine and his successors.

In 308 the Danube countries were placed under Licinius, who had been appointed Augustus of the West at the Imperial Conference of Carnuntum . In the following year he led a victorious campaign against the Sarmatians. After the death of Galerius Licinius shared the eastern half of the empire with Maximinus Daia . He kept the Balkans and the Danube provinces as a separate domain. Having become the sole ruler of the East through the death of Maximinus, Licinius got into a dispute with Constantine , who ruled the West, in 314 . The fighting of the following civil war took place in the Danube countries. Licinius was defeated first in Pannonia and in October 314 in Thrace. A peace treaty was then concluded in which he had to cede the diocese of Dacia with Upper Moesia and Dardania as well as the dioceses of Pannonia and Macedonia to Constantine. In the Balkans he only had Thrace and Lower Moesia. Constantine thus controlled most of the troops stationed on the Danube, which had almost always played the decisive role in the inner Roman power struggles of the past decades. After ten years of peace between the two emperors, Constantine attacked his adversary again in 324. He defeated Licinius in the battle of Adrianople and was henceforth sole ruler of the empire. When Constantine founded his new capital on the Bosporus in 330, the Mösian provinces with their fortresses and the troops stationed there formed the first line of defense for the new center of the empire.

Building on Diocletian's successes in securing the border, Emperor Constantine went on the offensive against the Goths and Sarmatians in the early 330s. Like Trajan 200 years earlier, he had a bridge built over the lower Danube, this time at Oescus in Lower Moesia. Across the river, he occupied large parts of what is now Wallachia. Similar to the Sarmatian Limes in Pannonia, upstream defense systems were built there. In 332, a contract was signed with the Visigothic Terwingen, located north of the Danube, through which they also undertook to provide arms aid for the emperor. This enabled peace on the borders of Moesia to be maintained for more than two decades. After the death of Constantine the Great, his sons Constantine II, Constans and Constantius II divided the rule of the empire among themselves in 337 or 338 in Viminatium and assumed the title of Augustus. The Mösischen Lands were first under Constans († 340); after his death, the remaining brothers divided the Balkans among themselves. Thrace and Lower Moesia came to Constantius II († 361), the ruler of the East who resided in Constantinople.

Led by their mission bishop Wulfila , a group of Christian Goths crossed the lower Danube in 348 fleeing persecution by their pagan tribesmen. The Romans allowed them to settle near Nicopolis in Lower Moesia. There the Gothic warriors were also used to defend the border. This group, the so-called Gothi minores , stayed permanently in Moesia and did not take part in the later migrations of the other Goths in the Balkans and to the west.

In the year 350 Constantius had to accept the usurpation of Magnentius in the west because at that time he was fighting against the Persians on the eastern border. With the help of the army master Vetranio , however, he was able to bring Pannonia and Upper Moesia, where the battle-tested Danube Army was stationed, under his control. In the following civil wars with Magnentius (351) and Julian Apostata (361) the Danube troops were badly decimated, which in parts led to the exposure of the northern border threatened by the barbarians. Julian, who was engaged in a Persian campaign during his brief sole rule, did nothing to stabilize the situation on the Danube again.

The Goths in Moesia and Thrace (376)

Only the brothers Valentinian I (364–375) and Valens tried again to expand the Danube Limes. Valens also waged war north of the Danube against the Terwingian Goths under Athanaric , because they had been involved in a usurpation against him. At that time he had his headquarters in Marcianopolis, which was then the capital of Moesia II . In the spring of 367 the Romans advanced from Moesia to Dacia. In 369 Athanaric asked for peace, which was granted to him. The status quo achieved in this way was called into question a few years later when the Huns invaded Dacia in 375 and destroyed the Goths. Those Terwingian Goths, who did not want to submit to the Huns, moved in 376 under the leadership of Fritigern across the Danube to Lower Moesia and Thrace. Even their formal submission was to be assigned to them by Emperor Valens settlement areas. Supply difficulties and conflicts with the commanders of the Roman troops in Lower Moesia soon led to open war . The Terwingen had meanwhile received influx from the Greutungen. This Gothic sub-tribe had also fled the Huns from the Pontic steppe. The Gothic troops plundered in Lower Moesia, and in particular in the area of ​​Marcianiopolis, before they crossed the Haemus and turned to Thrace. Before Adrianople the Gothic advance came to a halt and they moved north again. In 377, the Romans were able to slaughter the Goths at Ad Salicas in Lower Moesia. In the losing battles neither side could gain the upper hand. Since the Romans lacked troops, the Goths and the Alans allied with them were able to stay unmolested in Lower Moesia and Thrace in the following months.

In the summer of 378 Valens hurried from the east to Thrace and before Adrianople there was a battle on August 9 , in which the Romans were defeated by the Goths and the emperor himself was killed. It then took almost four years before the new Emperor of the East Theodosius I got the situation under control. In 382 he was able to reach a contractual agreement with the Goths. They were now settled as federates in Thrace and Lower Moesia. Apart from the fact that this treaty is often seen as a turning point for the entire Roman Empire due to the unusually favorable conditions for the federates, it resulted in serious changes for the Mösian provinces. The border defense on the Danube had to be left to the Gothic federates in many places due to the lack of regular troops. The region's economy was badly affected by the destruction of the Gothic War. In particular, the large estates of the local upper class and the imperial domains, which until then had formed the backbone of the Mösian economy, did not recover from this blow. The population and settlement area of ​​most of the cities decreased and it appears that the Romanized population became a minority in the region. This trend continued in the decades that followed, as new groups of barbaric immigrants from the north came across the Danube.

The spread of Christianity

Julius the Veteran , Christian martyr in the time of Diocletian († 304)

The first written reports and also archaeological sources about Christians in Moesia date from the end of the 3rd century. From this time graves with Christian symbols have been handed down in Singidunum and Viminatium. In the Roman martyrs there are a number of reports about Christians who perished during the persecution of the Christians by Diocletian, for example Nicander, Marcianus and Iulius in Durostorum, Dasius in Axiopolis, Hermylos and Stratonikos as well as Florus and Laurus in Ulpiana. To what extent larger communities already existed in the region at this time is unknown. The first bishops in Mösian cities are only recorded for the years after the Milan Edict of Tolerance . 325 are mentioned in the files of the first council of Nicaea Tomis, Markianopolis and Scupi as bishoprics. By the middle of the 4th century at the latest, Christian communities were founded in all the cities of the Mösian countries. At the Synod of Serdica in 343 , the Mösischen bishops formed a relatively large group because of their proximity to the meeting place. The remains of early Christian churches from the time before the Hun invasion in the 440s were discovered in almost all cities on the lower Danube and on the Black Sea coast, as well as in the interior: In Ulpiana, Remesiana, Naissus, Serdica and Markianopolis.

In the christological disputes of the 4th and 5th centuries, most of the region's bishops professed the Arian doctrine, to which the Goths also adhered under their missionary bishop Wulfila. In his succession was also Auxentius of Durostorum . In 343 in Serdica, Bishop Ursacius of Singidunum was one of the leaders of the Arian party. Even in the 5th century, the Catholic tendency had not yet established itself in Moesia. Dorotheus of Markianopolis was a faithful follower of Nestorius and the Antiochene School at the Council of Ephesus in 431 .

Many Christian communities in Moesia perished after the attacks of the Huns after 440. But the destruction was not general or long-term. Despite the collapse of the church organization and the flight of the bishops, church life did not die out completely. In the synodal files and diocesan registers of the 5th century, places north of the Haemus are still mentioned. In the wake of the Byzantine conquests, the rebuilding of church structures began in the 6th century under Emperor Justinian. Justinian designated the newly founded city of Iustiniana Prima as the center of ecclesiastical administration and archbishopric for the Mösischen lands . At the end of the 6th century most of the Mösian dioceses were again destroyed by the attacks of the Avars and Slavs. The missionary work of the Serbs and Bulgarians since the 9th century could therefore hardly rely on the ancient Christian tradition of the region.

From the division of the empire to the end of Roman rule

The Balkan provinces and the Danube border around 400

Although Theodosius had made allies of the Goths under Alaric , who led the troops of the federates, the emperor could not restore the security of the Danube countries. The Huns attacked Dacia in 394 and drove more Goths across the border into Roman territory. In the same year they crossed the Danube themselves and plundered Moesia.

When Theodosius died in 395, his two sons became emperors: Honorius in the west and Arcadius († 408) in the east. The dividing line between the two parts of the empire was drawn this time in such a way that all the Mösian provinces fell into the eastern half. After the change of government, the Goths leader Alaric had hoped to receive command not only over the federates but also over parts of the imperial legions, i.e. to rise to the rank of army master. When this hope was disappointed, Alaric took advantage of the discontent of his Gothic subordinates and was proclaimed king by them. The Visigoths then marched from Lower Moesia for several years, plundering the entire Balkan peninsula and reaching the Peloponnese.

Only with the help of the experienced Western Roman general Stilicho could the Visigoths be persuaded to withdraw from Greece, of course without their army being decisively defeated. Therefore, the Eastern Roman leadership decided to offer them settlement land in Illyria and Upper Moesia and to make Alaric a Magister militum per Illyricum . In the following years, most of the Visigoths stayed in Upper Moesia, from where they undertook military campaigns to Italy. In 408, Alaric and most of his tribesmen finally moved on to Italy. As a result, the Praetorian prefect Anthemius was able to bring the Danube borders east of Sirmium back under Roman control. After a Hunnic invasion had been repulsed in 409 , Anthemius attached importance to the reinforcement of the Danube fleet. In previous wars, this had proven to be the most suitable instrument in the fight against the barbarians, whose very agile troops were best to be stopped on rivers that were secured by military means.

Notitia Dignitatum , painted shields of units thatwere stationedaround 400 in Moesia II and Scythia Minor

Around 430 the empire of the Huns, which had arisen a few decades earlier, stabilized. Pannonia, ceded by Westrom, became his center of power. The Huns now constantly threatened the Eastern Roman borders in the Balkans. Emperor Theodosius II († 450) paid high tributes to the steppe warriors every year, but around 434 there was a short war with King Ruas . After his death, his successors Bleda and Attila renewed the contract with the emperor. The Eastern Roman legation met with the envoy of the Huns in a field at the gates of the Upper Moss town of Margum and was dictated by the conditions: surrender of all prisoners, freedom of trade in the Roman border provinces and an annual tribute of 700 pounds of gold. Nevertheless, the Huns began to attack the cities on the Danube in 441. They laid Sirmium, Singidunum, Viminatium, Naissus and many smaller places in rubble and ashes. During the second conquest of Naissus in 447, the Huns even used siege engines. The historian Priskos , who was on his way to Attila as the emperor's envoy, reported that the important city had been completely abandoned after this attack. Attila demanded that the Romans clear the area south of the Danube from Sirmium in the west to Novae in the east over a width of five days. With this, large parts of the Mösian lands were lost to the empire, and Oststrom had no control over the Danube for about a century, even if the claim to these areas was not given up.

The devastation wrought by the Huns in the 440s marked a deep turning point for the region. The urban culture had largely been destroyed, state and church administration no longer existed and most of the long-established population had disappeared - killed or driven out. Even if the Mösian lands were to be under Roman rule again in the 6th century, the old economic, political and settlement structures were irreversibly lost.

The Hunnic empire disintegrated shortly after the death of Attila († 453), the subjugated peoples made themselves independent and some of them settled in Moesia with or without the permission of East Stream. The Ostrogoths dominated there at first, but besides them the Gepids and Heruli also settled. Under their King Theodoric , who nominally operated as master of the Eastern Roman Emperor Zenon (474–491), the Ostrogoths devastated the entire Balkans in 474–488 and then turned to Italy. The power vacuum created in this way was used by the Gepids, who now brought parts of Pannonia and Upper Moesia under their control. In 504 Theodoric sent troops from Italy to recapture Pannonia for the Ostrogoths. The Gepids were defeated the following year and driven to Dacia.

Emperor Anastasius assessed the advance of the Ostrogoths as a hostile act and an open conflict ensued. However, the Eastern Roman troops were defeated on the Margus River in Upper Moesia. In 510 a peace treaty was signed that stipulated that Upper Moesia and the Pannonian Bassiana would remain with Ostrom, while the Pannonian lands and Sirmium became Ostrogothic. In 512 a group of Herulers was allowed to settle as federates at Singidunum. The disintegration of the Ostrogoth Empire, which began with the death of Theodoric († 526), ​​made it possible for the Gepids to rebuild an empire in the Pannonian region that also included Sirmium and parts of Upper Moesia.

The Diana Fort near Zanes, founded around 100 AD under Emperor Trajan and completely rebuilt under Emperor Justinian I.

During the reign of Emperor Justinian , many positions on the Mösian Danube border could be regained. A permanent security was not successful, however, because the bulk of the Eastern Roman troops were tied up on the Persian border and in Italy during the Gothic War (535–553). Another reason was that the composition of the Mösian population had changed profoundly in the 150 years before. Romans and townspeople who felt attached to the empire had become a minority. The country was shaped by Germanic, especially Gothic, settlers. There were also groups of different steppe peoples, especially remnants of the Huns. Against this ethnic background, it proved difficult to re-establish the Roman administration in Moesia. Nevertheless, Justinian started an extensive construction program in the reclaimed areas. The historian Prokop noted the reconstruction of dozens of cities and forts not only on the Danube border, but also on the Black Sea coast or in Dardania. Some forts and cities, including Iustiniana Prima, were new constructions with no predecessors. Justinian's intensive building activity in the Mösian provinces was probably determined less by nostalgic feelings of home - he himself came from Upper Moesia - than by strategic considerations. The emperor was undoubtedly aware that the renovatio imperii could only succeed in the west if the Danube border was stabilized. But this was only partially possible during Justinian's lifetime. While Ostrom benefited from the weakness of the Gepids, who were oppressed by the Lombards from 549 and later by the Avars , Slavic tribes penetrated for the first time into the interior of the Balkan Peninsula via Lower Moesia. It was only at the gates of Constantinople in 559 that Justinian's general Belisarius was able to stop an attack by the Avars, who had overcome the weakly occupied Danube border all too easily. In 567, however, Emperor Justin II was able to regain Sirmium after the end of the Gepid Empire and temporarily restore Roman rule on the Upper Moselle bank of the Danube.

Under their Great Khan Baian , the Avars and the Slavs who were dependent on them went on the offensive against the Byzantine Empire around 580. In 582 they were able to take the important city of Sirmium after a long siege. Baian established his manor there. After this break in the defense line on the Danube, Emperor Tiberius II was forced to pay tribute to the Avars, but could not buy a lasting peace with it. In 584 the Avars continued the war and the tenaciously defended Singidunum fell into their hands. In this and the following year the Romans also lost Viminatium, Ratiaria, Bononia and Augustae. This meant the complete dissolution of the military system in Moesia I and Dacia Ripensis. The ecclesiastical organization of these provinces was also largely destroyed. However, since the Avars did not leave any occupation troops behind, but instead advanced into the interior of Thrace with their army, the Roman population on the Upper Moselle bank of the Danube was able to continue to live in their cities and repair their defenses. In 585 another Avar army crossed the Danube at Durostorum and advanced through Lower Moesia to Thrace. Marcianopolis also fell victim to this attack, which was completely destroyed and then probably abandoned by the population. Since the emperor Maurikios, who came to the throne in 583 , was bound in the east by the war with the Persians, his military leaders Komentiolos and Priskos had to defend the Balkan provinces on his behalf, for which only a few troops were available to them. Both suffered defeats against the Avars and Slavs at the end of the 580s. They only managed to maintain a few permanent places on the Danube and inland. The still intact Danube fleet was of crucial importance for supplying the isolated Mösian cities and bringing reinforcements. In Singidunum and other places, new fortified shipyards were built at this time.

After emperor Maurikios made peace with the Persians in 591, he was able to concentrate his military power in the Balkans. He intended to smash the Avar Empire and regain the Danube provinces. In 592 his troops recaptured Singidunum, which had evidently been reoccupied by Avars. At the same time, smaller units pursued Slavic looters in Moesia and re-established and secured the main connecting roads between the Roman cities south of the Danube. Priskos defeated the Slavs and Avars several times in 593 before he pursued them across the Danube to what is now Wallachia, where he could inflict further defeats on them. Because he withdrew to winter quarters in Odessos against the orders of the emperor, the Slavs were able to cross the Danube again at the turn of the year 593/594. During their raids they came to Scupi, which is far south. Priskos was then replaced as commander-in-chief of Petros , a brother of the emperor. Nevertheless, both Priskos and Komentiolos were still active as commanders of their own units in the Balkans. In 594 Petros was able to repel the Slavs with a victory at Marcianopolis and pursue them north across the Danube. In the winter of 597/598 the Avars besieged Tomis, which was held by Priskos, and in the spring they defeated Komentiolos at Iatrus Castle on the Danube. In the following year the tide turned in favor of the Romans, who, under the leadership of the Priskos, advanced into Pannonia and defeated the Avars in their heartland. In 601, Petros also advanced to Pannonia and won several battles. When his brother again ordered the soldiers to winter north of the Danube in 602, Petros, unlike Priskos nine years earlier, made no move to disregard this order. The result was a mutiny which, despite Petros' attempts to appease, degenerated into a revolt that led to the overthrow of Maurikios.


Because the new emperor Phocas was initially concerned with securing his rule in Constantinople, the hard-won successes in the Balkans were soon lost again. Under Emperor Heraclius (610–614), southeast Europe was almost completely bared from troops because they were needed on the Persian front. This encouraged the Slavs and Avars to come up with new ideas from 612 onwards. Within a few years, Eastern Roman rule was now eliminated in large parts of the Balkans. In 613 Novaes was destroyed, in 615 Naissus and Serdika were conquered and Justiniana Prima burned down. Even if some cities were able to hold their own against the Avar and Slavic storms for a long time thanks to their sea and river connections with Constantinople, the collapse in the second decade of the 7th century meant the final end of the Roman provinces in the Mösian lands. Since the middle of the 6th century, they had only existed on paper and in the hierarchy of offices of the court than as functioning administrative units. After 620 the permanent settlement of the Slavs in the Balkans began. Nevertheless, some cities along the Danube and its tributaries in Moesia partially retained their Roman character until the invasion of the Proto-Bulgarians in 679 and were still under Byzantine rule up to this point.

See also


  • Jan Benes: Auxilia Romana in Moesia atque in Dacia. On the questions of the Roman defense system in the Lower Danube region and the adjacent areas . Academy, Prague 1978.
  • Sven Conrad: The grave steles from Moesia Inferior: Investigations into chronology, typology and iconography. Casa Libri, Leipzig 2004, ISBN 3-00-012056-4 .
  • Jenő Fitz : The career of the governors in the Roman province of Moesia Inferior. Böhlau, Weimar 1966.
  • Gerda von Bülow: The Limes on the lower Danube from Diocletian to Heraklios. Lectures at the International Conference, Svištov, Bulgaria (September 1-5, 1998) . Nous, Sofia 1999, ISBN 954-90387-2-6 .
  • Gergana Kabakchieva: The early Roman military history of the province of Moesia on the Lower Danube . In: Gesellschaft Pro Vindonissa (Ed.): Annual Report 2000 . Vindonissa Museum, Brugg 2001, ISBN 3-907549-12-0 , pp. 3–8. (also as a pdf of the ETH library )
  • Boris Gerov: Contributions to the history of the Roman provinces of Moesia and Thrace. 3rd volumes. Hakkert, Amsterdam 1980, 1997 and 1998, ISBN 90-256-0725-X (Vol. 1), ISBN 90-256-0990-0 (Vol. 2) and ISBN 90-256-1058-7 .
  • Miroslava Mirkovic: Moesia Superior. A province on the middle Danube. Zabern, Mainz 2007, ISBN 978-3-8053-3782-3 . ( Special volume Ancient World, Orbis provinciarum ).
  • András Mócsy : Pannonia and Upper Moesia. A history of the middle Danube provinces of the Roman empire. Routledge & Kegan Paul, London a. a. 1974, ISBN 0-7100-7714-9 (The provinces of the Roman Empire) .
  • András Mócsy: Society and Romanization in the Roman Province of Moesia Superior. Hakkert, Amsterdam 1970.
  • Andrew Graham Poulter: Moesia Inferior and the Lower Danube. Domitian to Heraclius. Phil. Diss. University of London 1983.
  • Arthur Stein : The Legates of Moesien. = Moesia helytartói . Harrassowitz et al., Leipzig a. a. 1940, ( Dissertationes Pannonicae ex Instituto numismatico et archaeologico Universitatis de Petro Pázmány nominatae Budapestinensis provenientes Series 2, 11, ISSN  0200-4143 ), (Reprint: Magyar nemzeti Múzeum, Budapest 1966).
  • Erich Swoboda : Research on the Upper Moesian Limes. Hölder-Pichler-Tempsky, Vienna et al. 1939 ( Academy of Sciences, Writings of the Balkan Commission, Antiquarian Department 10, ISSN  1012-571X ).

Web links


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