This is the latest in the Pen and Sword Armies of the Past series, written by Gabriele Esposito, looking at the Thracian and Dacian tribes from 500BC to AD150. Along with the Illyrians and the passing Celts, the most important Balkan tribes of antiquity.
The bulk of the text is devoted to the military history of these tribes, or more accurately, tribal federations.
The Thracians largely occupied the southeast corner of the Balkan peninsula, across modern-day Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria. This is a strategically important position and therefore prey to powerful empires. Firstly the Persians, then Greeks and finally the Romans. All these empires struggled to effectively control the warlike Thracians, particularly in the mountainous areas of Thrace. They also provided mercenary contingents for all these powers. When the tribes combined, they could be a formidable threat. In 429BC, the Odrysian Thracian Kingdom assembled an army of 150,000 warriors and successfully invaded Macedonia as allies of Athens during the Peloponnesian War. It is worth considering what a state of this size could have done if they had remained united. Fortunately for their neighbours, this level of unity was rare.
|Thracian 28mm infantry in typical geometrical patterned cloaks.|
The Thracians eventually became part of the Roman Empire, although not without regular revolts.
The Dacians became a distinct people from the Thracians around 700BC, centred largely on modern-day Romania. They came under pressure from the Scythians and then the Celts, and finally the Romans. The Dacians had incorporated either by conquest or allied with other tribes in the region. Most notably the Bastanae and the Sarmatians. The latter provided cavalry, both light horse archers and heavily armoured shock cavalry.
|Sarmatian nobles in 28mm|
|Dacian Warband in 28mm|
|Dacians v Romans|