1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Getae

GETAE, an ancient people of Thracian origin, closely akin to the Daci (see Dacia). Their original home seems to have been the district on the right bank of the Danube between the rivers Oescus (Iskr) and Iatrus (Yantra). The view that the Getae were identical with the Goths has found distinguished supporters, but it is not generally accepted. Their name first occurs in connexion with the expedition of Darius Hystaspis (515 B.C.) against the Scythians, in the course of which they were brought under his sway, but they regained their freedom on his return to the East. During the 5th century, they appear as furnishing a contingent of cavalry to Sitalces, king of the Odrysae, in his attack on Perdiccas II., king of Macedon, but the decay of the Odrysian kingdom again left them independent. When Philip II. of Macedon in 342 reduced the Odrysae to the condition of tributaries, the Getae, fearing that their turn would come next, made overtures to the conqueror. Their king Cothelas undertook to supply Philip with soldiers, and his daughter became the wife of the Macedonian. About this time, perhaps being hard pressed by the Triballi and other tribes, the Getae crossed the Danube. Alexander the Great, before transporting his forces into Asia, decided to make his power felt by the Macedonian dependencies. His operations against the Triballi not having met with complete success, he resolved to cross the Danube and attack the Getae. The latter, unable to withstand the phalanx, abandoned their chief town, and fled to the steppes (Γετία ἡ ἔρημος, north of the Danube delta), whither Alexander was unwilling to follow them. About 326, an expedition conducted by Zopyrion, a Macedonian governor of Thrace, against the Getae, failed disastrously. In 292, Lysimachus declared war against them, alleging as an excuse that they had rendered assistance to certain barbarous Macedonian tribes. He penetrated to the plains of Bessarabia, where his retreat was cut off and he was forced to surrender. Although the people clamoured for his execution, Dromichaetes, king of the Getae, allowed him to depart unharmed, probably on payment of a large ransom, great numbers of gold coins having been found near Thorda, some of them bearing the name of Lysimachus. When the Gauls made their way into eastern Europe, they came into collision with the Getae, whom they defeated and sold in large numbers to the Athenians as slaves. From this time the Getae seem to have been usually called Daci; for their further history see Dacia.

The Getae are described by Herodotus as the most valiant and upright of the Thracian tribes; but what chiefly struck Greek inquirers was their belief in the immortality of the soul (hence they were called ἀθανατίζοντες) and their worship of Zalmoxis (or Zamolxis), whom the euhemerists of the colonies on the Euxine made a pupil of Pythagoras. They were very fond of music, and it was the custom for their ambassadors the priests to present themselves clad in white, playing the lyre and singing songs. They were experts in the use of the bow and arrows while on horseback.

See E. R. Rösler, “Die Geten und ihre Nachbarn,” in Sitzungsberichte der k. Akad. der Wissenschaften, philosophisch-historische Classe, xliv. (1863), and Romänische Studien (Leipzig, 1871); W. Tomaschek, “Die alten Thraker,” in above Sitzungsberichte, cxxviii. (Vienna, 1893); W. Bessel, De rebus Geticis (Göttingen, 1854); C. Müllenhoff in Ersch and Gruber’s Allgemeine Encyclopädie; T. Mommsen, Hist. of Rome (Eng. trans.), bk. v. ch. 7.