Historical Monument presentation:
The Fort at Costeşti - Cetăţuie
Code LMI HD-I-s-A-03178
COSTEŞTI village; ORÃŞTIOARA DE SUS commune, Hunedoara County
1st c. B.C. – 2nd c. A.D., Latène
The oldest fort in the Orăştie Mountains, built on the Cetăţuie hill at Costeşti (Hunedoara County), the centre of a powerful tribal union on the Middle Mureş River Valley, this fortification represented, according to the majority of historians and archaeologists, the capital of Burebista’s kingdom. The valley, wide up to this point, suddenly narrows down and the Cetăţuie height dominates the area and has the advantage of a very good view towards the Mureş River. It is possible that, apart from strategic and economic reasons, the choice for building the fort on this location was also determined by the proximity to the Dacian “sacred mountain” at Sarmizegetusa.
In those times the high priest, along with other priests of the Dacian gods, resided on this sacred mountain, and the vast works of fortification in the area, started by Burebista, demonstrate that the king intended to move the capital to Sarmizegetusa.
At Costești - Cetățuie the first phase of fortification consisted of a ditch on the western, southern and eastern slopes, built in order to deny access from the high ground that connects the fort to the Ciocuţa peak. At the same time, on the plateau’s lower terrace an earth rampart was built, on which were raised two rows of poles connected by vertical and horizontal beams. These formed a sort of wooden cassettes filled up with compacted earth, which enhanced the ditch’s height and efficiency.
Later on, on the leaner southern and eastern slopes, four stone towers were built. These towers’ masonry imitates the Hellenistic one and was often called murus Dacicus. The limestone blocks, smoothened on five sides, were set one besides the other, in two parallel rows. The space between the rows was filled up with earth and small stones, all very well compacted. In order to reduce the filling’s pressure on the stone blocks before it settled, wooden beams connected the latter in certain places and were fixed in sockets dug in the stone blocks.
Probably in the same period two smaller towers were raised in the northern part, on either side of the ancient road. The tower on the eastern terrace was built using limestone blocks for its lower courses, while the upper part was made of wood and the entrance was on the southern side.
Sometime later a defence wall was built to connect three of the towers, and it was reinforced by seven internal buttresses. Inside the defended space, at the plateau’s northern and southern extremities, two monumental buildings called tower-dwellings were raised. Their lower part, approximately 2m high, was made of stone, and above it the wall, made of flamed bricks bound with earth, continued over 3m. The first tower a visitor encounters, tower no. 2, had its entrance on the N side, and access to the upper floor was through an internal wooden staircase. Access to the tower itself was gained through a monumental, 3m wide stone staircase, flanked on both sides by stone gullies, whose lower part still preserves the gate sockets. The staircase was probably covered by a shingles roof. In the case of the other tower-dwelling, no. 1, one notices the base of an external stone staircase.
The roof was made up of massive tiles with a groove, similar to Greek tiles, and was set on a wooden skeleton. It is supposed that the ground floor was used as a warehouse and the living space, which supposedly housed Dacian kings, was on the upper floor. Inside the fortification were discovered barracks and the stone bases of the poles of a wooden watchtower.
In the defended area two water reservoirs were dug, one on the eastern side, and the other on the western one.
Because the first rampart was severely damaged during and after the first Dacian-Roman War fought by Emperor Trajan in 101-102, it was repaired before the start of the second war using red earth from the burnt down buildings in the area. In this last phase, access was gained through the rampart “in pincers”, in front of Tower no. 2.
Another important category of monuments built here by the Dacians are four temples. Three of them are found outside the fortification and one of them inside, all of them rectangular and with wooden columns. The temple inside the defended space was dismantled by the Dacians around the beginning of the second Dacian-Roman War, and part of the plinths were used to consolidate the base of the fortification’s rampart.
The fortification was finally destroyed during the second Dacian-Roman War, in 105-106.
View the embedded image gallery online at:
Raport de monitorizare a Cetăților Dacice din Munții Orăștiei, 2012
Direcţia Judeţeană pentru Cultură şi Patrimoniul Naţional Hunedoara
Muzeul Civilizației Dacice și Romane Deva