Stare policy and individual destinies.

Recruitment and retirment in Moesian and Dacian provinces.

Politica de stat şi destine personale.

Recrutare şi lăsare la vatră în provinciile daco-moesice

Proiect CNCS PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2020-0383

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The study of the Roman army has emphasised multiple dimensions, on account of the fact that the soldiers represented one of the most active categories in terms of the epigraphic record. In the last decades, the discovery of an impressive number of military diplomas shifted the dynamics of Roman military studies: from general military history or the history of several units, to the analysis of the soldier as an individual, and the role of the soldiers in provincial society or, more generally, in the daily life of the provinces. Recruitment was an issue which constantly preoccupied the scholars, as did provincial army composition ethnicity (Kraft 1951; Forni 1953; M. P. Speidel 1984, 1992). However, historians pay less attention to the enlistment and the historical events that can arguably be related to these moments. D. Dana and F. Matei-Popescu (2009) identified some important recruitment moments in the case of Dacian soldiers following only the evidence of military diplomas. An important step in the research of this phenomenon was acknowledging that Dacians represented an important segment of the local population of Dacia and Moesia Inferior. Thus, some of the moments identified by these authors concern the re-organization of the province of Moesia, the Dacian wars, the expedition in Judaea or the reform of the imperial guards. It is worth noting that the observations were made only in the case of auxiliary units, fleets or imperial guards and not for the legions. The observations of F. Matei-Popescu (Matei-Popescu 2010), as well as my own (together with the colleague I. Dumitrache — Mihailescu-Bîrliba, Dumitrache 2012) on the legio V Macedonica of Troesmis confirmed that one moment of enlistment was a war (the expeditio in Judaea under Hadrian) and identified a new one (the Parthian expedition of Trajan). However, the phenomenon of recruitment in the Lower Danube provinces (Dacia and Moesia Inferior) is far from being completely explored, both at the informational level and at the hermeneutical one. At the same time, the recruitment period is mostly known from the date of retirement: the moment of honesta missio provides not only data about the personal destiny of the soldier, but can offer a larger perspective on the mobility vectors of the soldiers.

Our project aims to broaden the perspective of the relationship between the moments of recruitment in the above-mentioned provinces and the history of these provinces and of the Roman Empire. Moreover, the periods of enlistment can reveal information not only for the Daciae and Moesiae, but also for the military history of other provinces and can provide an image of the Roman state’s policy of recruitment. The texts also indicate the particularities of the provincial recruitment in relation with the state policy. We intend to study not only the military diplomas, but all the epigraphic sources that contain direct or indirect information on enlistment.

To ensure meaningful results, the project relies on different approaches. In addition to identifying and interpreting the recruitment moments (the chronological perspective), we propose a spatial perspective concerning the main cities, towns or villages from where the soldiers were enlisted and the mobility vectors of the soldiers in all their complexity (the province or the provinces of their service or missions, their home return). In this way, some sources enable us to reconstitute individual stories from the beginning of the military service until retirement. The project likewise relies on a comparative approach. This will be achieved from two main points of view. Firstly, a comparative analysis of recruitments will be carried out with respect to the legions, on the one hand, and the auxiliary units, imperial fleets and imperial guards, on the other. Secondly, we will address the necessity of a selective comparison with the same processes in other provinces, in order to identify common features of recruitment. The main aim of the project is to identify, describe and interpret the way in which recruitment in the Lower Danube provinces was integrated in the wider pattern of Roman enlistment policies, and the particularities of these regions in this process.


O1. The detailed analysis of the state of art concerning soldiers’ enlistment, mobility, and retirement. An approach such as the one presented in these pages is necessary and will represent an original historiographic contribution, highlighting the dynamics in this scientific domain and the nuances of the aspects addressed; we will re-evaluate, if possible, the archaeological context of the finds. O2. The analysis of literary sources on the project’s main issues. Even if the information is scarce, collecting, highlighting and synthesizing this information will be useful not only for the project, but also new as historiographical achievement; O3. The analysis of epigraphic sources on recruitment and retirement in Moesia Superior. The military diplomas and the stone inscriptions will be investigated; we will identify the soldiers originating from the province or in the case of military diplomas, the discovery place (if known) will show us if they returned home. The analysis will take into account the legions, then the auxilia, the imperial fleets and the imperial guards. In the case of the legions, many soldiers, being citizens, did not preserve their native names or, being descendants of colonists, never had it; however, the mention of the origo make them inhabitants of these provinces. O4. The analysis of epigraphic sources on recruitment and retirement in Moesia Inferior. The same type of approach as in Moesia Superior will be followed. In the particular case of Moesia Inferior, all the inscriptions mentioning Thracian names or ethnonyms (like Thracus or Bessus) without any supplementary information should be carefully analysed and separately integrated in our corpus, because there are individuals who could have originated from Thracia. O5. The analysis of epigraphic and papyrological sources on recruitment and retirement in Dacia. On one hand, the main sources will be the military diplomas, which provide precise data on recruitment and retirement, as well on the retiring place. On the other hand, it is important to analyse the other sources related to recruitment and retirement periods: stone inscriptions, papyri (in a small number) and the ostraca of Egypt (where there are most likely Dacians recruited between the two Dacian wars). Like in the other cases, a separate analysis on the main units (legions, auxilia, etc.) will be followed. All the objectives O3–O5 will furnish original results. Our project, as detailed above, relies on historical sources, but if archaeological investigations will be necessary in the case of novel data, the expertise of several of the team members (I. C. Opriș, L. Bîrliba, I. Piso, R. Varga, F. Matei-Popescu) will solve this issue. O6. The setting of the main recruitment periods for each province and the setting of common periods of enlistments. We will identify the periods of regular recruitments and those generated by war, crises and other situations. Each main identified period will be explained. One of the meaningful and original results will be to know if there are recruitment periods common to both legions and other units. O7. The setting of the mobility vectors of the recruits. Firstly, we will set the main recruitment regions in the analysed provinces. It is already known from sources that Nicopolis ad Istrum, for instance, represents in the Severan era an important territory for the enlistments in the fleet and in the praetorian cohorts. We shall follow not only the provinces where they accomplished their service, but if possible, their mobility in other provinces and of course, their way back home. Of course, the local recruitments will constitute the subject of separate and original studies (for the history of these provinces). Thus, new mobility vectors will be put into the scientific circuits, followed by interactive maps of spatial analysis (In QGis) illustrating them. O8. The analysis of the retirement moments at shortly after. The approach consists in setting the place of retirement and the life of the veterans in the period following the honesta missio. A lot of studies following the individual destinies of militaries will be achieved. Another important and original aspect is the linguistic dynamics in the case of veterans: apart from their native language, did they know only Latin or did they learn other languages (the native languages of the provinces where they served, for example)? They certainly preserved their ethnic identity, but their linguistic identity could have changed. A study of this type has not yet been achieved. O9. The achievement of the synthesis, considering the accomplishment of the previous achievements. The main issue will follow the particularities of the recruitment policy in each province related to the enlistment policy of the Roman Empire. Another important and original issue will emphasize if the Moesian and Dacian provinces can represent together a model of recruitment within the Roman Empire.


1) the prosopographic analysis (trying to establish not only the origin family and region, but also the historical circumstances of the individuals’ mobility). In this respect, Prof. Birliba and some project members from Iaşi and Bucharest have completed an investigation of this kind for the families of Troesmis, but also for individual fates of soldiers from Moesia Inferior. The same model was proposed for the elite in Dacia by Ioan Piso (Fasti provinciae Daciae I. Die senatorischen Amtsträger, (Habelt Verlag) Bonn 1993; Fasti provinciae Daciae II. Die ritterlichen Amtsträger, (Habelt Verlag) Bonn 2013;

2) the epigraphic investigation, in order to analyse the link between the periods of recruitment and retirement and the life of veterans shortly after their honesta missio. In this respect, the previous studies for Lower Moesia of the team members (Mihailescu-Bîrliba 2019; Pázsint 2019) are relevant.

3) the investigation of literary and papyrological sources regarding the ancient authors’ opinion regarding recruitment, mobility and retirement of provincial soldiers;

4) the linguistic investigation. The analysis of soldiers’ mobility correlated to their epigraphic habit will provide meaningful results concerning their linguistic transformation.

5) the archaeological investigation, if necessary; this method will be applied if relevant archaeological finds will be discovered;

6) the spatial analysis, in order to realize the interactive maps of mobility;

7) also, the global method used for our analysis is novel, because it combines several methods, already applied in various fields, in an interdisciplinary approach. In this way, our project has an exploratory character, because is trying to propose a model of recruitment policy in the Lower Danube provinces of the Roman Empire and to emphasize the role of the natives of these provinces in the Roman army. Several milestones will be achieved: the analysis of the recruitment and moments in all researched provinces, the setting of mobility vectors and maps of spatial analysis on enlistment territories and on soldiers’ mobility, and whether a pattern of recruitment can be ascertained from these three provinces.



The project director, Prof. Dr Lucrețiu Bîrliba (“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi) ) has not only led three major projects in the field of acculturation and Romanization, cultural interaction (see section B3), and his expertise is adequate for a project developed around the scientific exploration of the phenomena of recruitment and retirement in Moesian and Dacian provinces.

Prof. Dr Ioan Piso (Center of Roman Studies, “Babeş-Bolyai” University Cluj-Napoca) is a  highly internationally appreciated epigraphist, with vast expertise in any epigraphic investigation, and in prosopographic analysis and beyond any doubt in Roman army studies (2019).

Dr. Florian Matei-Popescu (Institute of Archaeology, Bucharest) is a scholar internationally recognized for his works in Roman army studies. His expertise will be necessary and useful in all the main issues of the project. 
Assoc. Prof. Marius Alexianu (“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi) has achieved notable results in the analysis of linguistic situation in the Danubian provinces and the analysis of literary source (Alexianu 2019; Alexianu, Matei-Popescu 2019). His expertise will be useful in observing the linguistic dynamics of the recruits and his philological formation will be useful in analysis of literary texts. 
Assoc. Prof. Dr Ioan-Carol Opriș (University of Bucharest) has published several studies on Roman army, related to his archaeological research in Capidava (2019). He will take part in the analysis of epigraphic information 
Postdoctoral researcher Dr Rada Varga (Center of Roman Studies, “Babeş-Bolyai” University Cluj-Napoca)  is a young scholar whose research is focused on population studies. Her PhD thesis (Peregrini in Roman Dacia, Cluj-Napoca 2014), as well her research project Romans 1 by 1, the edited books at international publishing houses (2018) and the her personal researches in the camp of Războieni recommend her to assume the task of analyse mobility vectors in the studied provinces. 
Asoc. Prof. Dr Roxana-Gabriela Curcă (“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi)  has published her PhD thesis on the bilingualism and the ethnic interferences in the Roman province Moesia inferior (2011). Her scientific approach makes use of linguistic tools in order to observe the interferences between natives and Roman soldiers in the Lower Danube provinces (2019). In the project, she will study not only the way the military has an influence on the language particularities of Moesia inferior, but also the onomastic interferences at the epigraphic level in this province. 
Postdoctoral researcher Dr Iulia Dumitrache (“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi) dedicated her PhD thesis on the literary, epigraphic and papyrological sources on garum and salsamenta and valuable studies on occupational epigraphy (2018). She is prepared to assume the task of interpreting the historical data concerning the economic insertion of veterans in Moesia inferior. 
Postdoctoral researcher Ana Odochiciuc (Honcu) (“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi) has published studies on public and private initiative (including the militaries) in the building phenomenon of Dacia and Moesia Inferior(2019). 
Postdoctoral researcher Anamária-Izabella Pázsint (“Babeș-Bolyai” University Cluj-Napoca) has published a valuable preliminary study on the veterans’ insertion in the daily life of Moesia Inferior (2019). 
PhD candidate Casian Gămănuț (“Alexandru Ioan Cuza” University of Iaşi) focuses his PhD thesis on military from Dacia in African provinces, under the supervision of the project’s leader, Prof. Lucrețiu Bîrliba.




Articles in Web of Science-Journals 

  1. Ioan-Carol Opriș, An anonymous statio of Classis Flavia Moesica and laterFlaviana. All we know for now about Roman Rasova, Journal of Ancient History and Archaeology8.2, 2021, 47-64.

Articles in ERIH+ journals

  1. Lucrețiu Mihailescu-Bîrliba, The Bessi at Mihai Bravu (Moesia Inferior). An Overview, Studia Academica Shumenensia 7, 2020 (2021), 159-171.

Articles and book chapters published by international publishing houses

  1. Lucrețiu Mihailescu-Bîrliba, Quelques remarques sur la population de Topolog et de Mihai Bravu (nord de la Mésie Inférieure), in G. R. Tsetskhladze, A. Avram, J. Hargrave (eds.), The Greeks and Romans in the Black Sea and the Importance of the Pontic Region for the Graeco-Roman World (7th century BC-5th century AD): 20 Years On (1997-2017). Proceedings of the Sixth International Congress on Black Sea Antiquities (Constanţa – 18-22 September 2017), Archaeopress, Oxford, 258-266.
  2. Lucrețiu Mihailescu-Bîrliba, Antonio Ibba, Vicus Bad[—]: la contribution de l’épigraphie à la reconstruction du tissu socio-culturel d’un village de la Mésie Inférieure (Ier-IIIe siècle ap. J.-C), in F. Mitthof, C. Cenati, L. Zerbini (eds)., Ad ripam fluminis Danuvi. Papers of the 3rd International Conference on Roman Danubian Provinces, Vienna, 11th-14th November 2015, Holzhausen Verlag, Viena 2021, 15-38.

Articles and book chapters published in CNCS A-ranked publishing houses

  1. Rada Varga, Annamária-Izabella Pázsint, Labour Migration in the Roman  World: The Case of Craftsmen, in V. Cojocaru, A.-I. Pázsint (eds.)Migration and Identity in Eurasia: From the Ancient Times to Middle Ages, Mega Publishing House, Cluj-Napoca 2021, 115-139.

Prof. Dr. Lucretiu Birliba “Al. I. Cuza” University Iasi Faculty of History Department of Ancient Studies and Archaeology Bd. Carol I 11, 700506 Iasi tel. : 0040-232-201615; fax: 0040-232-201156



Prof. univ. dr. Lucreţiu Bîrliba

  • Facultatea de Istorie, Universitatea “Alexandru Ioan Cuza” din Iaşi
    Bd. Carol I, nr 11, 700506 – Iaşi, România
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