Capidava fortress, the vigilant eye on the Danube


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Ruins of Capidava fortress stand still on the right bank of the Danube in Constanta county. The fortified quadrangle-shaped settlement is a true tourist attraction in Dobrogea region, next to Histria and Harsova. It can be reached through the road from Harsova (E61) or the road from Cernavoda (Fete?ti-Cernavoda).

Not much was left from the former important Geto-Dacian strategic point, which later on, after the Roman conquest, became a civil and military center. However, tourists can still see the impressive precinct wall, the fortified settlement gate with a tower and the track of the tower horseshoes-shaped foundations. In the south the defensive wall and late fort can also be admired, as well as the path of the protecting ditching. Inside the fortified settlement one can look at several buildings built around a private square, fitted with porches, as well as access paths and sewerage canals. Out of eight dolia (doliare opus) – a general term for rough pottery artifacts, brick ones, tile ones, sewerage pipes – only three were left.capidava_-_cetatea_Capidava

Capidava name has the characteristic Dacian ending, the suffix –dava meaning “settlement, village, town”. The fortified settlement played an important role in the Roman defensive system belonging to the series of camps and fortifications raised during the reign of Emperor Trajan, in the early 2nd century, as part of the measures to organize the Danubian limes. The place is very suitable for fortifications, providing a large surveillance area: a massive rock standing between the foot of the slope going down from the NE and the Danube. So, the massif had a strategic advantage, namely a natural moat starting from the Danube, turning around it on the NE side, almost up to the east corner of the fortified settlement. Moreover, the shape of the massif entailed the shape and orientation of the camp. All in all, the strategic location gave the fortress a special statute and made it hard to conquer, as it practically functioned as a natural bulwark which used to keep a good watch on one of the most important passing ditches of the Danube River.

During summers, when it is drought and the waters of the river are going down, strange rocks can be seen rising from the river’s waters like some fangs ready to tear apart any boat that dared to disturb them. The rows of rocks are laying until the half of the river’s width hindering the navigation. A local legend says that those cliffs are not just mere rocks standing on the bottom of the water, but they are parts of an ancient “Stone Bridge” that would have existed during Romans’ times.

Historians say that Capidava stood unbroken almost half of millennium until the sixth century when, due to the destructions caused by some migrant populations, has been eventually abandoned. Yet, in the 10th century, Capidava’s story was resumed after the settlement has been taken over by the Byzantines, but its revival was a short one and lasted only 50 more years. The fortress was again abandoned after the violent smash caused by the Pechenegs, an eastern Slavic people, in 1036.

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