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Dacian-themed mural on a Communist-era apartment block in Orăștie

Protochronism (anglicized from the Romanian: Protocronism, from the Ancient Greek term for first in time) is a Romanian term describing the tendency to ascribe an idealized past to the country as a whole. While particularly prevalent during the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, its origin in Romanian scholarship dates back more than a century.

The term refers to perceived aggrandizing of Dacian and earlier roots of today's Romanians. This phenomenon is also pejoratively labelled Dacomania or sometimes Thracomania, while its proponents prefer Dacology and Thracology, respectively.


The term typically refers to a tendency to ascribe a unique quality to the Dacians and their civilization.[1] Protochronists attempt to prove either that Dacians had a major part to play in ancient history, or that they had an ascendency or primacy over other cultures. Most typically this involves particular focus on Ancient Rome, which, in a complete reversal of the city's founding myth, is seen as created by Dacian migrants.[2] Protochronists also use the Tărtăria tablets as proof that writing originated with proto-Dacian peoples, and the belief that the Dacian language survived into the Middle Ages.[2]

An additional — but not universal — feature is the attempted connection between the supposed monotheism of the Zalmoxis religion and Christianity,[3] in the belief that Dacians easily adopted and subsequently influenced the development of Christianity. Also, Christianity is argued to have been preached to the Daco-Romans by Saint Andrew, who is considered as the founder of modern-day Romanian Orthodoxy. It is the official church stance, being found in history textbooks used in Romanian Orthodox seminaries and theology institutes.[4]


These ideas have been explained as part of an inferiority complex present in Romanian nationalism,[5] one which also manifested itself in works not connected with Protochronism, mainly as a rejection of the idea that Romania only became culturally significant when it became a colony of Rome, and subject to an influx of Latin settlers who would have completely wiped out Dacian identity.[6]

Protochronism most likely originated with the views professed in the 1870s by Bogdan Petriceicu Hasdeu,[7] in the main points of the dispute between him and the conservative Junimea. For example, Hasdeu's Etymologicum magnum Romaniae not only claimed that Dacians gave Rome many of her Emperors (an idea supported in recent times by Iosif Constantin Drăgan),[8] but also that the ruling dynasties of early medieval Wallachia and Moldavia were descendants of a caste of Dacians established with King Burebista.[9] Other advocates of the idea before World War I included the amateur archaeologist Cezar Bolliac,[10] as well as Teohari Antonescu and Nicolae Densușianu. The latter constructed an intricate and unsupported theory that Dacia was the center of European prehistory.[11] In his book Dacia Preistorică ("Prehistoric Dacia"), he devised a complete parallel to Romanian official history, which included among the Dacians such diverse figures as members of the Asen dynasty, and Horea.[11]

After World War I and throughout Greater Romania's existence, the ideology increased its appeal. The Iron Guard flirted with the concept, making considerable parallels between its beliefs and those attributed to Zalmoxis.[12] Mircea Eliade was notably preoccupied with Zalmoxianism arguing in favor of its structural links with Christianity;[13] his theory on Dacian history, viewing Romanization as a limited phenomenon, is celebrated by contemporary partisans of Protochronism.[14]

The Romanian archaeology school led by Vasile Pârvan investigated scores of previously ignored Dacian sites, which indirectly contributed to the idea's appeal at the time.[15]

In 1974 Edgar Papu published in the mainstream cultural monthly Secolul XX an essay titled "The Romanian Protochronism", arguing for Romanian chronological priority for some European achievements.[16] The idea was promptly adopted by the nationalist Ceaușescu regime, which subsequently encouraged and amplified a cultural and historical discourse claiming the prevalence of autochthony over any foreign influence.[17] Ceauşescu's ideologues developed a unique ideological model after the 1974 11th Congress of the Communist Party of Romania, when they attached Protochronism to official Marxism, arguing that the Dacians had produced a permanent and "unorganized State".[18] The Dacians had been favored by several communist generations as autochthonous insurgents against an "Imperialist" Rome;[19] however, Ceauşescu's was an interpretation with a distinct motivation, making a connection with the opinions of previous protochronists.[20]

The regime started a partnership with Italian resident, former Iron Guardist and millionaire Iosif Constantin Drăgan, who continued championing the Dacian cause even after the fall of Ceaușescu.[21] Critics regard this continued support as the expression of an economic nationalist course, amalgamating provincial frustrations and persistent nationalist rhetoric, as autarky and cultural isolation of the late Ceauşescu's regime came along with an increase in protochronistic messages.[22]

No longer backed by a totalitarian state structure after the 1989 Revolution, the interpretation still enjoys popularity in several circles.[23] The main representative of current Protochronism was Drăgan, until his death in 2008, but he has been seconded by the New York City-based physician Napoleon Săvescu. Together, they issued the magazine Noi, Dacii ("We Dacians") and organized a yearly "International Congress of Dacology".[24]

Dacian script

A fragment of a vase collected by Mihail Dimitriu at the site of Poiana, Galați (Piroboridava), Romania illustrating the use of Greek and Latin letters by a Dacian potter (source: Dacia journal, 1933)

Dacian alphabet is a term used in Romanian Protochronism for claims of a supposed alphabet of the Dacians prior to the conquest of Dacia and its absorption into the Roman Empire. Its existence was first proposed in the late 19th century by Romanian nationalists. In the opinion of Sorin Olteanu, a modern expert at the Vasile Pârvan Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest, "[Dacian script] is pure fabrication [...] purely and simply Dacian writing does not exist", adding that many scholars believe that the use of writing may have been subject to a religious taboo among the Dacians.[25]

Some Romanian writers writing at the end of the 19th century and later identified as protochronists, particularly the Romanian poet and journalist Cezar Bolliac, an enthusiastic amateur archeologist,[26] claimed to have discovered a Dacian alphabet.

Such views were immediately criticized for archeological[27] and linguistic[28][29] reasons. Alexandru Odobescu, criticized some of Bolliac's conclusions.[30] In 1871 Odobescu, along with Henric Trenk, inventoried the Fundul Peșterii cave, one of the Ialomiței caves (See the Romanian Wikipedia article) near Buzău. Odobescu was the first to be fascinated by its writings, which were later dated to the 3rd or 4th century.[31] It is known that the ancient Dacians used the Greek and Latin alphabets,[32] though possibly not as early as in neighbouring Thrace where the Ezerovo ring in Greek script has been dated to the 5th century BC. A vase fragment from the La Tène period indicates visual knowledge of the Greek alphabet[33] during the La Tène period prior to the Roman invasion.

Arguments for a Dacian script have been revived by some writers. In 2002, the controversial[34] Romanian historian, Viorica Enăchiuc, stated that the Codex Rohonczi is written in a Dacian alphabet.[35] The equally controversial[36] linguist Aurora Petan (2005) claims that some Sinaia lead plates could contain unique Dacian scripts.[37]


  1. Boia, p.160-161
  2. 2.0 2.1 Boia, p.149-151
  3. Boia, p.169
  4. Lavinia Stan, Lucian Turcescu, Religion and Politics in Post-Communist Romania, Oxford University Press, 2007, p.48
  5. Verdery, p.177
  6. Boia, p.85, 127-147
  7. Boia, 138-139, 140, 147; Verdery, p.326
  8. Boia, p.268
  9. Boia, p.82
  10. Boia, p.139-140
  11. 11.0 11.1 Boia, p.147-148
  12. Boia, p.320
  13. Boia, p.152; Eliade, "Zalmoxis, The Vanishing God", in Slavic Review, Vol. 33, No. 4 (December 1974), p.807-809
  14. Boia, p.152; Șimonca
  15. Boia, p.145-146
  16. Boia, p.122-123; Martin
  17. Boia, p.117-126
  18. Boia, p.120
  19. Boia, p.154-155, 156
  20. Boia, p.155-157; 330-331
  21. Verdary, p.343
  22. Boia, p.338
  23. Babeș; Boia, p.356
  24. "Ca și cînd precedentele reuniuni n-ar fi fost de ajuns, dacologii bat cîmpii in centrul Capitalei", in Evenimentul Zilei, 22 June 2002
  25. [1] "Este un bun prilej să demontăm un alt mit drag tracomanilor, anume cel al 'scrierii dacice' si al vechimii ei 'imemorabile'. 'Scrierea dacă' este pură inventie. Nu este nici măcar vorba de incertitudini, de chestiuni de interpretare (din ce punct de vedere privim) s.a.m.d., ci pur si simplu nu există nici o scriere dacă [...] Asa cum cred multi dintre învătati, este foarte posibil ca la daci, întocmai ca si la celti până la un anumit moment, scrierea să fi fost supusă unui tabu religios.
  26. Măndescu, Dragos. "DESCOPERIREA SITULUI ARHEOLOGIC DE LA ZIMNICEA ȘI PRIMA ETAPĂ A CERCETĂRII SALE: 'EXPLORAȚIUNILE' LUI CEZAR BOLLIAC (1845, 1858?, 1869, 1871-1873)" (PDF). Museul Judetean Teleorman (in Romanian). Retrieved January 9, 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Boia, p.92
  28. Hovelacque, Abel (1877). The science of language: linguistics, philology, etymology. Chapmanand Hall. p. 292. Retrieved January 9, 2011. The Rumanian writer Eajden... fancies he has lighted upon the old Dacian alphabet, in an alphabet surviving till the last century amongst the Szeklers of Transylvania. But he has altogether overlooked the preliminary question, to what group of languages Dacian may belong.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Le Moyen âge (in French). Champion. 1888. p. 258. La théorie d'un alphabet dace est une fable; les caractères cyrilliques sont d'origine slave, non roumaine. Ce n'est que depuis le XV^ siècle que le peuple roumain les a admis dans son idiome national. line feed character in |quote= at position 11 (help) <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Oisteanu, Andrei (April 30, 2008). "Scriitorii romani si narcoticele (1) De la Scavinski la Odobescu". 22 Revista Grupului Pentru Dialog Social (in Romanian). Retrieved January 9, 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. Popescu, Florentin. "Les ermitages des Monts de Buzau". Le site des monuments rupestres (in French). Retrieved January 9, 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. Daicoviciu, Hadrian (1972). Dacii. Editura Enciclopedică Română.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Dacia.Recherches et découvertes archéologiques en Roumanie. vol 3-4 (in French). 1933. p. 342. Retrieved January 9, 2011. On ne possède malheureusement pas de plus grand fragment pour établir s'il s'agit d'une inscription en langue latine ou grecque, éventullement gète,, ou plutôt d'une ornementation grossière en forme d'alphabet , oeuvre probable d'un potier illetré. Ce tesson présente dans tous les cas un grand intérêt au point de vue de l'influence méridionale sur les artisans de notre station de Poiana, à la fin de l'époque Latène, à laquelle il appartient. Même s'il ne s'agit que d'un jeu d'imitation de quelque potier gète, sa connaissance approximative des lettres grecques ou romaines prouve que les relations entre les Gètes de la Moldavie et le monde gréco-romain d'outre Danube étaient devenues extrêmement étroites à la veille de la directe expansion romaine en Dacie. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  34. Ungareanu, Dan (May 6, 2003). "Nu trageti in ambulanta". Oservator Cultural (in Romanian). Retrieved January 8, 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Enăchiuc, Vioroca (2002). Rohonczi Codex: descifrare, transcriere si traducere (Déchiffrement, transcription et traduction) (in Romanian and French). Editura Alcor. ISBN 973-8160-07-3. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. Olteanu, Sorin. "Raspuns Petan". Thraco-Daco-Moesian Languages Project (in Romanian). Retrieved January 9, 2011. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. Petan, Aurora. "A possible Dacian royal archive on lead plates". Antiquity. Retrieved January 8, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


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