{1-144.} The Onetime Inhabitants of Transylvania

There is no written record beyond 270 of the population of the province of Dacia. Without exception, the names of onetime Roman towns, settlements, and fortresses fell into oblivion; not one language or early medieval written record handed them down to the Middle Ages. What remained was a prehistoric heritage of unknown linguistic origin: the names of several great rivers — Temes, Maros, Körös, Szamos, Olt. The river names Ampelus/Ompoly and Tierna/Cserna also date from the pre-Roman period.

As far as is known, the regular circulation of currency — indicative of soldiers' pay — ended in the fortified border camps of northern, northeastern and eastern Dacia with the coins of Philippus Arabs or Decius, and, in the castellum of Micia (Vecel), which guarded the province's western approaches along the Maros River, with the coins of Valerianus (260). The Dacian coins engraved PROV[INCIA] DACIA were minted from 246 to 257 and served to pay soldiers during this period. As late as 268, more than a few people in the province's interior buried their coins in the hope that peaceful times would return; this is attested by the hoards discovered at Apulum in 1902 and 1963, and at Galacs in Krassó-Severin. Their miscalculation may well have cost them their lives.

So far, there has been little systematic excavation of the burial grounds at Roman castella in Transylvania, and thus the date of the last burials is not known. What is evident is that the Goths found no use for these border fortifications, most of which lack any sign of Gothic presence. There are, in the province's interior, 3rd century Roman or Romano-Dacian burial grounds with traces of ritual cremation, but the unearthed objects all date from before 270. The most recent urn grave, uncovered at Radnót, contained a Severina Augusta coin and could not have been dug much later than 269–71.

{1-145.} Among urban cemeteries, the sections that have been unearthed so far at Potaissa (Torda) extend in time to the reign of Gordianus III; by the 5th century, eastern Barbarians were burying their dead on the site of the destroyed principia (headquarters) of the legio-castrum. In the cemeteries of Napoca (Kolozsvár, Petőfi Street, etc.), numerous 'late-Roman' sarcophagi of eastern, Hellenistic origin, grave pits lined with stone slabs, and coffins made of 'tegula' (roof-bricks) — the last with no grave furniture — date back to the 3rd century; some of these may date from after 270. The most important site is at Apulum (Gyulafehérvár), where graves of earth, brick, and stone, found in three separate cemeteries, bear the mark of the 'imperial' burial customs prevalent in the 2nd and 3rd centuries; these graves date from before the 270s. Under the Tetrarchy, a new 'burial culture' emerged and became common from Scythia Minor (Dobrudja) to Britain, along the Rhine and the Danubian limes. Its distinctive features were the setting of graves on an east-west axis; official emblems (cruciform fibulae with bulb-shaped ends, belts), worn by men, that signified various compulsory functions; and women's jewellery that reflected typically 'provincial' affluence. There is no trace of this culture in Transylvania or elsewhere on the 'barbarian' side of the Danube.

The cruciform fibula with bulb-shaped ends was prescribed and awarded as a badge by the late-Roman state to its own subjects. The only 'classic' bulb-shaped fibula, dating {1-146.} from the 4th century, that was discovered in a certified excavation in Transylvania came to light at Obrázsa, on the banks of the Székás, a small tributary of the Küküllő River; a coin minted under Crispus puts the date of that village site to some time after 317. In that period, some of these fibulae came into the possession of neighbouring barbarians, as testified by finds in the graves and sites of Gepids, Sarmatians, Vandals, and Quads. There is little doubt that these fibulae were obtained as booty, and the find at Obrázsa is probably of the same provenance, for in the village's Roman-period graveyard, dating from the 2nd–3rd century, there are no late-Roman graves dating from the 4th century (that is, from the period of the Tetrarchy).

Apulum is the only Transylvanian town where a few finds — women's ornaments and one or two coins (Constantine the Great and Constantinopolis) — are of late-Roman character. They came to light, allegedly in graves, in the course of excavations on the site of the legate's palace. Since the ornaments — and the way they were worn, with several bracelets on one arm — are characteristic of the Roman provinces, it can be surmised that the graves held the remains of women carried off by the Goths.

The sole village graveyard that was still in use in the 4th century — a unique quality confirmed in the process of analysis — is the 1st burial site at Baráthely. The graves, containing cremated remains, are undoubtedly of the Roman provincial type; in Pannonia, the most recent graves of this type, judging by Probus' coins (276–282), date from the late 290s. The chronology of the close to 350 graves in the cemetery is difficult to establish. Most of them were dug on a north-south axis, but they occasionally overlap, indicating that the burial ground dates back to the period of Roman rule. Later arrivals who practised cremation and laid out their dead on an east-west axis made free use of this old burial ground. If the three identifiable coins found on the site actually came from graves, they indicate that the earlier burial ground fell into disuse in ca. 353 (coin minted under Constantius II), while the more recent was in use from after 338 (Caesar Constantius II) and to the time of Valens' coinage in 373. The people who used the burial ground were extremely poor; the only objects found in the graves were a few iron and bronze fibulae. The remains of houses and trenches within the burial ground yielded objects associated with the Goths: combs made of bone, with a rounded back, clasps, fibulae, as well as agricultural implements that had been hidden: iron plates for spades, sickles, and carriage fittings. Most of the pottery discovered in the graves (?), in the houses (?), and on the surface (?) is a product {1-147.} of the Gothic Marosszentanna culture; the rest consists of 4th-century provincial products from the southern bank of the Danube, examples of which turn up on almost all the sites and burial grounds of the Marosszentanna-Cherniakhov culture. There are no appreciable finds that reflect the indigenous population's material civilization in the 4th century. If the people who used this burial ground were still present in the second half of the 4th century, they must have constituted a closed and isolated village community that clung to its pagan traditions; this is indicated by the practice of cremation, the large number of animal bones, and the remnants of sacrificial meat in the graves.

Two centuries' worth of archaeological research in Transylvania has failed to produce conclusive evidence that a significant part of Dacia's 'Roman' population survived Roman evacuation. The finds in Dacia that originated with natives or colonists and evoke imperial Rome can be dated between 107 and 270, and obviously they also date the sites and the burial grounds where they turned up. So far, no authenticated trace has been found in Transylvania of the 'late-Roman' culture that emerged in the Tetrarchy period, and thus of the survival of isolated local communities. To be sure, a few urban burial grounds continued to be used for a time after the evacuation of the province, and it is likely that prisoners captured by the Barbarians lived in some of the ruined towns, but this flickering flame is but a reflection of Gothic domination. The only trace of the continuing presence — for an indeterminate time — of elements of the pre-270 population was found at Baráthely, on the south bank of the Nagy-Küküllő River, and it presents a rather forlorn picture: the people who buried their dead there after 270 were exploited and, in material terms, reduced to slavery by the Goths. In Dacia's Gothic period, their village disappeared and their burial ground fell into disuse.