PART 2 – Ch.XII.10

(The principal prehistoric divinities of Dacia)





XII. 10. Rhea or the Great Mother venerated under the name of Dacia, Terra Dacia

             and Dacia Augusta.


Rhea or the Great Mother officially appears, on the historical monuments of the Roman epoch, as an ancient ethnic divinity of Dacia.

In the beginning she had been worshipped there, and also in other Pelasgian lands, under the name of Rhea.

In the mountainous parts of ancient Dacia, some villages called Rea and Reieni exist even today, names which attest that the heights from the vicinity of these villages had once been consecrated to Rhea, the supreme telluric divinity of the Pelasgian world [1].


[1. Rea, village in the valley of Hateg, on the territory of ancient Roman Sarmizegetusa.

There are three known villages called Reieni, all situated in mountainous regions: one in Mehedinti district, near Ponoare, another in Banat, SE of Caransebes, and the third in Biharia, near Crisul-negru, west of Tartaroia mountain].


But in later times Rhea appears venerated at north of the Lower Danube under the name of Dachia, Dacia and Terra Dacia, as a national divinity, as the personification of the earth of this country.


Following primitive Pelasgian ideas, Rhea or the Great Mother, considered as a national divinity, benevolent and protective, had various geographical epithets with the various Pelasgian tribes, after the cities, the lands and the mountains where her most renowned sanctuaries and simulacra were located.

She was worshipped in Phrygia under the name of thea Phrygia or Phrygia Mater (Arnobius, lib. II. 73; C. I. L. II. nr. 179; Strabo, lib. X. e. 12), and on the territory of Troy she was venerated as Mater Iliaca (Prudent, c. Symm. I. 629, at Goehler, De Matris magnae cultu. p.31).

She also had the epithet of Plachiana mater, after the Pelasgian city Placia near the Hellespont, in Mysia (Pausanias, lib. V. 13. 4) and Pessinountia, after the big city Pessinus of Phrygia (Strabo, lib. X. 3. 13).


Under the name of Dacia, Rhea or the Great Mother appears worshipped at north of the Lower Istru during the times of Roman domination.

On one of the Roman inscriptions discovered at Deva, she is mentioned as a divinity with the name of TERRA DACIA, and her place of honor is immediately after Jupiter Optimus Maximus and before Genius Populi Romani (C.I.L.III nr. 1351).

We also know about another important inscription from the time of M. Antoninus Pius, relevant to the cult of the Great Mother under the name of “Dacia”:

On the day of 4 April, the tribune of the legion XIII Gemina, inaugurated at Apulum (Alba – Julia) an altar or sanctuary dedicated to the national religion of Dacia.

Leading the divinities was Jupiter Optimus Maximus, then the commonly mentioned Dii et deae immortales, and finally DACIA (C. I. L. III. nr. 1063). This entire inscription refers to the particular cult of the divinities worshipped in Dacia. Jupiter Optimus Maximus of this inscription is Zeus aristos megistos of Dacia. And the epithet of “immortales” is a characteristic title of the Homeric divinities, or eastern Pelasgian.

That this divinity called “Dacia” and “Terra Dacia”, represented Rhea or Magna Mater in the public cult, can be ascertained also by the fact that the sanctuary at Alba, dedicated to Jupiter Optimus Maximus and to the goddess Dacia, was consecrated on the 4th of April, which, according to the Julian Faste (C. I. L. I. p.390) corresponds to the first day of the great feast days of the Mother of gods, with prayers, processions and games which lasted for seven days.


In regard to the iconic representation of the Great Mother called “Dacia” or “Terra Dacia”, she appears figured on a coin of the emperor Trajan (112ad), wearing the national Dacian cap on her head. Her seat is a rock. She holds in her right hand ears of wheat and in her left hand an imperial scepter decorated on top with the figure of a vulture (aquila) (Cf. Juvenal, Sat. X. 43; Suetonius, Galba, 1; This was not a military ensign, as mistakenly supposed by Eckhel – VI. 428 – the ensigns of the legions had another form and arrangement. The specimens from Trajan’s Column prove this). Near her there are two children, one of whom offers her ears of wheat, while the other offers a grape, attributes of the Great Mother as goddess of agriculture and viticulture, indicating at the same time the fertility of the soil of Dacia (Eckhel, Doctrina numorum. Vol. VI. p.428; Boliac, Buciumul, An I, p.112-113).

This coin is very important, as we see the divinity DACIA represented even during the time of Trajan in official form, with political honors and telluric attributes, enthroned on the Carpathians with the imperial scepter in hand as Terra Mater (Macrobius, Sat. I. 12; Preller-Jordan, R. M. I. 399), as a protective divinity of this country, and as “Mother” of its inhabitants, who, under the form of the two children (Dacia superior et inferior) bring her the first produce of their crops.


It is very probable that during the last fierce war between the Romans and the Dacians, at the assault of Sarmizegetusa, the divinity DACIA had been invoked by the Romans.

Various consecrations of Roman public monuments in honor of this divinity, her figuring on the coins of the empire in an imposing attitude and with sovereign telluric attributes, appear as an official confirmation of a solemn occasion when this divinity had been invoked.


In the wars which they fought with enemy peoples, the Romans, following an ancient religious custom before the principal assault on their capitals and fortresses, invoked during a certain religious ceremony the protective divinities of the enemy fortress and people, with the following consecrated formula: “If there is a god, or a goddess, under whose guardianship the citadel and the people (the name of the respective locality is said) is, but especially you, who have received under your protection this city and this people, I pray to you, I worship you, and I ask forgiveness from you, so that you shall abandon this people and this city (again the topical name), you shall leave their places, their temples, their religious ceremonies and their city, and you shall leave them, you shall inspire fear in their souls, terror and oblivion, and after you’ve deserted them and left them without help, you shall come to Rome, to me and mine; I pray that our places, temples, and religious ceremonies will please you more, and that our city will be more grateful to you, so that we might know and understand that you are now my leaders, the leaders of the Roman people, and of my soldiers (Macrobius, Sat. III. 9), and if you shall do so, I swear that I shall raise temples for you and I shall decree games in your honor”.

After this prayer the victims were immolated, then the dictator or emperor recited a new formula, with which he cursed all the enemy cities and armies, ending with the following words “So I ask you Tellus Mater”, touching the ground with his hand, “and you Jupiter”, lifting his hands skywards.

As Macrobius tells us (Sat. III. 9), in the old Annals of Rome were mentioned a number of enemy cities and armies of the Gauls, Spaniards, Africans, Maurs and other nations, against whom these formulae of invoking and cursing had been used.


On this coin the legend DACIA AVGVST is around the central figure, and underneath is the legend PROVINCIA S.C. On other coins it is DACIA AVGVSTA or AVGVSTI (Koeleseri, Auraria Romano-Dacica, p.13; Griselini, Geschichte d. Temesw. Banats, II. Tab. VI).

On the reverse of another coin, minted in Dacia during the time of the emperor Filip the Arab, the divinity DACIA, protector of the province, is represented with her head covered with the national Dacian cap. The goddess holds in her right hand the curved Dacian sword, as symbol of her warring power. (The Great Mother was considered as a warring divinity also by the Pelasgians of Cappadocia – Strabo, XII. 2. 3 – and by the Trojans – Virgil, Aen. X. 252). On the same side of the figure can be seen a military standard thrust into the ground, with the number V of the Macedonian legion, and at ground level a vulture with a ring (crown?) in its beak, looking towards the face of the goddess, symbolizing probably a characteristic attribute of her as supreme mountainous divinity, and as Mater ferarum. In her left hand she holds another military standard with the number XIII of the Gemina legion, and on the lower part of the coin there is a walking lion, the classical and indispensable attribute of the Mother of gods. Underneath is the year II of the Dacian era, which corresponds to the year 1001 of Rome, or 248 of the Christian era.

The divinity “Dacia

(After Boliac, Buciumul, 1863, p.184)


This coin is even more significant, because it shows the national divinity of Dacia as guardian of the two Roman legions, as mentioned in the solemn invoking formula.

The cult of the Great Mother under the name of “Dacia” at north of the Lower Istru was not a creation of the Roman administration. It was much older.

We do not find in Roman epigraphy and in any other religious cult of the Roman provinces, for example, Pannonia, Dalmatia, Mesia, Thrace, Greece, or even Italy, any other example of personification of the respective Province as a divinity.


Finally, we must still add that on the back side of a coin, probably from the time of Domitian, the divinity was represented as a sad woman, sitting near a trophy, and having the inscription of DAKIA (Eckhel, Doctrina numorum veterum, II. p.4).

As Saturn was called Dokius Caeli filius in ancient legends, similarly his sister and wife Rhea appears worshipped in the public cult of the Province under the name of Dachia, Dacia, Terra Dacia and Dacia Augusta.

She was one of the most important topical divinities of Eastern Europe.