Look at this picture. You would be forgiven if you thought it features a seahorse, one of those long-snouted tiny aquatic creatures also called a hippocampus. It is actually the logo of the Romanian presidency of the EU Council, which started on January 1st and will run until the end of June 2019.
Actually, as Romanian nationalists would inform you, it is a “Dacian wolf”, or a “Dacian dragon”, symbol of a mythical (and almost mystical) identity, with roots in the distant past.
When I started writing my book “Dacopatia și alte rătăciri românești” (“Dacopathy and other Romanian oddities“, Humanitas, Bucharest, 2015), a book about the cultural identity of today’s Romania, little did I expect that such a symbol would be officially chosen in order to inject Romania into foreigners’ minds. Dacopathy, a term I coined to indicate a fixation with the Dacians, the inhabitants, in the Antiquity, of most of present-day Romania, is an obsession with a fictional glorious past that was encouraged by the national-communist regime of the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, and which sprang out of control after 1989, being even hacked and backed by the Orthodox church. (Some go as far as to say that the Dacians were Orthodox Christians even before the birth of Christ, or that Jesus himself had been of Dacian extraction.)
After the fall of Communism and the dismantling of the USSR and of Yugoslavia, many Estern-European and Balkan nations were flooded by an exotic array of national beliefs with a mystical and messianic tinge.
The Romanian collective psyche focused itself on a national obsession with the Dacians, those tribes from the Antiquity conquered by emperor Trajan’s legions and which, assimilated by the Romans and adopting their language, were the ancestors of today’s Romanians, in the same way in which, let’s say, the Gauls are the ancestors of the French… but Romanians would not accept so little. The obsession with the Dacians slowly became a national craze. The Dacians are said to have been a perfect race, almost more than human. They seem to have invented everything, and we are told that a world conspiracy is now trying to hide and bury the real historical facts.
So the new Romanian national ideology, tacitly encouraged by the ruling Social-Democrat party (PSD) says the Dacians were perfect and pure superheroes and that this fact is obscured today by Western powers, by the Vatican and the Jews (yes, Soros again, of course) jealous of Romania’s past splendor, for there is no doubt that Dacians and Romanians are the same thing. After all, even the national car (manufactured as a Renault subsidiary) is called Dacia since Ceausescu’s time.
Hence the term I coined: “Dacopathy”, an obsession with the Dacians. In its extreme forms, the dacopath religion pushes its faithful to amazing distortions of the reality. Those afflicted by dacopathy pretend that Romanian is an Adamic language, from which have sprung up all other languages. The Romans themselves spoke just a Dacian dialect. In support of their aberrations, Dacopaths bring in the Roman tradition, made famous by the poet Virgil in the Aeneid, according to which the Romans were descendants of Trojan refugees, who fled to Italy from Anatolia after the destruction of their city, Troy, by the Greeks. We know the story behind the Aeneid: the Roman emperor Augustus needed a legend as a justification for the incorporation of the Greek lands into the Roman Empire. The idea was: the Greeks have exterminated our Trojan ancestors; Eneas then fled from Troy to Italy and created the Roman race, and today, with the submission of Greece, we, Romans, are taking a just revenge.
But for the Romanian Dacopaths, the Trojans were simply Thracians, hence Dacians, so that Rome was built by proto-Romanians, by some Dacians, whose flag was this wolf or dragon that was supposed to scare the enemies, because, being carried on a long stick by horsemen, it was generating a frightening howl when wind blew through it, scaring away the enemies.
Of course, this is but another romantic fantasy. In the Antiquity, soldiers of all armies had horrors and monsters on their flags and shields, from the Iberians in today’s Spain, from where hailed Emperor Trajan who crushed the Dacians, to the semi-human Scythians and Sarmatians in the East, the almond-eye warriors who drank mare milk and the blood of their enemies.
Moreover, the model of that Dacian wolf, or dragon-head, is of a clear Scythian influence, as any honest archaeologist would acknowledge.
Then again, what would be so frightening in a bagpipe with a wolf’s head? Can we believe that the Roman legionaries, the equivalent of today’s US special forces SEAL, who had fought African cannibals, ghosts in the Caucasus, and head-hunters who shouted in tongues with no vowels, were afraid of a dog-headed flag supposed to be howling and roaring?
Here is a presentation in French of my book “Dacopathy and other Romanian oddities“, Humanitas, Bucharest, 2015).