The cave of the ancient God Zamolxes, the one worshiped by the people of Dacia, can be found and visited near the small town of Polovragi, Romania. The stories and mysteries of this place are a quite fascinating piece of history mixed with legends and mythological stories. Zamolxes was the all-mighty God of the Dacians (also known in the Greek records as Getae people).
Dacians were the ancient inhabitants of Dacia, located in the area in and around the Carpathian Mountains (Europe) and east of there to the Black Sea (this area includes the present-day county of Romania, as well as parts of Ukraine, Eastern Serbia, Northern Bulgaria, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland). After the Dacian Wars (AD 101-102, 105-106), the Romans occupied a part of the Dacian region and the people of Dacia were assimilated by the conquerors.
Who was Zamolxes?
Zamolxes is the all-mighty dacian God. Ancient Greek manuscripts depict him as a human, a prophet for his people. Herodot wrote about him as a Dacian man who, around the year 1400 BC, went traveling around the world trying to learn astronomy and medicine. There is no proof of his real existence, other than some scarce ancient writings that are not exact and often contradict each other. What it is in fact known is that this Zamolxes (after his death, if he really existed) was the most important God for the people of Dacia.
Bloody sacrifice for Zamolxis
Dacians used to bring sacrifices for their God. For example, at every four years they would sacrifice a man considered one of the brave. Four Dacians would hold four long spears. Others would throw the man up so that he would fall on the spears. Before the throwing, the brave man would receive all the messages that Dacians wanted to be sent to Zamolxes. If the man survived it was considered that the God didn’t accept the sacrifice and he was put to shame for the fact that he wasn’t worthy. If he died then the Dacians would celebrate that the God was pleased with the killing and received their messages.
The cave of Zamolxes from Polovragi
A cave in the small town of Polovragi is where the legend says that it was the home of the all-mighty Dacian God. It is a mystical place where, as the legend says, the dacian priests performed many rituals. The name of Polovragi comes from the name of a plant “Polovraga”, which is extinct now, but, as to the local legends, in ancient times, it had the power to heal any disease or wound.
Zamolxes and the legend of a “shapeshifter”
The old Dacian legends are depicting Zamolxes as a very powerful God that used to change his form from a young man to an old one. Some other legends are about this God changing into a wolf, as this animal was a sacred one for the people of Dacia. The cave is 7 million years old. Above the cave there have been discovered the ruins of an old Dacian fortress. It is said that the cave served as well to get from one side of the Carpathian Mountains, to the other side, where the capital of Dacia was (Sarmisegetuza). This part of the legend might as well be true because researches found 2000 years old shoe prints on the cave’s ground. The cave was discovered 100 years ago.
The treasures and the curse
There are many stories of thousands of gold treasures buried in this cave. Tourists often say that in one of the chambers of this cave (where there is a stone that is considered by the locals to be Zamolxes’ throne) you can feel tingling in the hands.
Many locals have stories of horror about the cave. It is said that it is cursed and anyone who enters it and takes its treasures will soon die of a painful death. There are also legends of locals being terrified after their sheep herds had disappeared without a trace. Some say that around important religious holidays you can hear a chanting coming from the cave. It is said that it sounds like Romanian language but no one can actually understand the lyrics.
Where, how much, how do I get there?
The cave of Zamolxes can be found in the small town of Polovragi, Romania. There aren’t many tourists here, mainly because not many people know about it. The speleologist have managed to explore about 10 kilometers of the cave. It is not yet known for sure but the legends say that the cave is in fact a passage to the other side of the mountain.
The cave can be found at about 244 kilometers from Bucharest, the capital of Romania (3 hours by car) . From Bucuresti you must go north-west to the city of Pitesti, on the highway. From Pitesti, you must go in the direction of the Ramnicu Valcea City. From Ramnicu Valcea you take the road to Horezu, a smaller city. And from Horezu you should easily find the town of Polovragi with your GPS, map or road signs.
In Polovragi you can also visit a 17th century monastery, built in a byzantine style. From here you can go to the cave of Zamolxes, walking on the side of the Oltet river and you can admire the magnificent landscape.
Of the 10 kilometers explored of the cave, tourist have access to only 900 meters. There is a humid and hot atmosphere in the cave (about 9 degrees Celsius and 90% humidity). The entrance fee is rather low, under 2 euros. The visiting hours are from Friday to Sunday (weekend), from 11.00 AM to 5.00 PM.
On one of the cave’s walls, tourists can admire a work of a priest who took shelter here, for six months, in 1607. He drew with smoke the symbol of death. (PHOTO ABOVE)
In the cave there are many stalactites. The locals use to say that these are the tears of the Zamolxes God after the Romans conquered Dacia.
If you have more time and you haven’t got tired, at a distance of 20 minutes of walking on foot from this cave, you will find the ruins of an old Dacian fortress.