Potaissa (Turda, Cluj county)

The Roman military center of Potaissa was founded under the emperor Marcus Aurelius during the Marcomannic-Sarmatian Wars (AD 167-170). Potaissa was one of only two legionary fortresses in Dacia, serving the V Macedonian legion. A civilian center formed around the castrum and was designated a municipium in the late 2nd century and a colonia in the early 3rd century. The site was abandoned by the Romans in AD 271 and re-inhabited by a group of Gepids in the 5th century. The site was completely abandoned after this time.

Scholars from the History Museum of Turda and "Babes-Bolyai" University of Cluj have led excavations at Potaissa since the 1970's and have revealed about 15% of the fortress. The legionary fortress measures 573 x 408 meters and is positioned on a plain with a clear view of 10-20 km in all directions; it was intended to defend the Roman province of Dacia from barbarian incursions through the Apuseni Mountains. Scholars have unearthed sections of the perimeter wall, the gates, and a selection of buildings within the walls.

Vistors to the site may visit the principia (command post) and a large bathing facility. The principia is entered by means of a gate on its east side; the gate leads into a large courtyard surrounded on the south, east, and north sides by small chambers that served as housing for elite guards and storage. These chambers were preceded by a porticus. The west side consists of a series of large rooms that the legionary commander used for housing and administration.

The bath complex consists of a series of chambers used for dressing, bathing, and recreation. Hypocaust pillars, evidence of a Roman heating system, are visible in most spaces. In the early 2000's archaeologists discovered the grave of an elite Gepid woman. The grave and other finds at the site indicate that a group of Gepids made use of the robust Roman architecture for an undetermined length of time in the 5th century. Ironically, the "Gepid Princess", as scholars refer to the remains, was buried within what was one of the latrines in the bath.

There are no visible remains of the municipium/colonia.


Getting there: from Cluj-Napoca or Alba Iulia, take Route 1 to Turda and follow indications to the site.

Potaissa - plan of the castrumPotaissa - bathPotaissa - bath