Porolissum - Introduction (Salaj county)

Porolissum is one of the largest and best-preserved archaeological sites in all of Romania. It initially served as the primary military base in the hierachy of the Roman defensive network in northern Dacia with secondary fortresses located at Tihǎu, Romita, Romanaşi and Buciumi. The city is set upon the summit and slopes of Pomet Hill (avg. 470 meters above sea level) on the eastern side of a mountain pass that allowed communication between the Transylvanian region of the Carpathian Mountains and the Pannonian Plain. In addition to protecting a major corridor into northern Dacia, the location of Porolissum affords a commanding view of a 20 mile stretch of the Roman limes and offers a line of vision toward one of the most important native Dacian sites, Simleu Silvaniei (ancient Dacidava), some 16 miles to the west.


Porolissum was rediscovered in the 19th century by Hungarian and Romanian scholars, yet serious fieldwork did not begin until the late 1970’s. In the last 40 years, Romanian archaeologists have assembled a large body of knowledge about the city. The main access road from the west, leading up Pomet Hill, was lined with a customs house, a market place, and two temples – one dedicated to Liber Pater and another dedicated to Jupiter Dolichenus. The general plan of the stone fortress is known, but the complex is still largely unexcavated. To the south of the military complex, an amphitheater has been fully excavated. Houses and sections of the urban road network have been excavated to the east of the military complex. A large public square with a bath complex, shops and other buildings has been revealed to the southeast of the fortresss. Finally, the foundations of an aqueduct are visible one mile to the southwest of Pomet Hill along the slope of a hill where a natural spring still exists.


History: By about 3000 B.C. indigenous Geto-Dacian tribes inhabited Magura Hill, a volcanic mass located within a mile of Porolissum to the north. Its steep slopes provided a natural defense for the Geto-Dacian tribes who settled upon the hill between the third and first millennia B.C. Recent excavations near Zalău, five miles west of Porolissum, have revealed an important Geto-Dacian presence in the form of settlements, burials and sporadic finds that date as early as the Eneolithic period. Simleu Silvaniei, whose chronology also extends back to the third millenium B.C., was clearly the largest native settlement in the region. To date, there is no evidence for a native Dacian settlement on Pomet Hill where Porolissum is set.


Founded in A.D. 106, the original Roman military center at Porolissum was served by 3500-5500 auxilia soldiers. During the earliest phase of occupation, the cohorts appear to have been grouped into a series of wooden fortresses on Pomet Hill, Citera Hill and the Magura Hill. A massive defensive system surrounded the city in a series of concentric rings consisting of earthen mounds, ditches and wooden palisades. After several decades, the soldiers were consolidated into the large stone fortress, which still dominates Pomet Hill. This event may have coincided with Hadrian’s reorganization of Dacia and the establishment of Porolissum as the capital of Dacia Porolissensis and was certainly no later than the construction the stone amphitheater in A.D. 157.


The later second and early third centuries A.D. witnessed further political, demographic and urban developments. The city was renamed municipium Septimium Porolissensis, implying that Porolissum was granted the status of municipium during the reign of Septimius Severus or his son Carcalla. Historical evidence and the remains of a bronze equestrian statue recovered in the city, suggest that Caracalla visited Porolissum in A.D. 214. The renaming of the city coincided with major building projects, including repairs on the fortress, the amphitheater, temples, and the public square with bath complex.


Scholars are not certain about the fate of the fortress and city after emperor Aurelian withdrew Roman administration from Dacia in A.D. 271. One theory suggests that native Dacians or Gepids inhabited the robust Roman architecture through the 5th century. The lack of artifacts from systematic excavations dating to the late 3rd century and afterwards leads some scholars to believe that the site was simply abandoned and decayed over time.


Getting there: from Zalau, take route 191C in the direction of Creaca, turn into Moigrad; from Jibou, take route 108A to Creaca and then 191C toward Zalau, turning into Moigrad; from Cluj, take route E81 toward Zalau, turn onto route 108A at Romanasi in the direction of Creaca then the 191C toward Zalau, turning into Moigrad. From the beginning of Moigrad, follow the road up hill for about 3 km to Porolissum. 


Plan of PorolissumPorolissum - area of santuary to Liber Pater and BelPorolissum - overview of road with public buildingsPorolissum - Temple of Jupiter DolichenusPorolissum - house