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Explore Decebal’s Head: Romania’s Majestic Danube River Sculpture

Rock Sculpture of Decebalus at Iron Gates national park in Romania

In the mid-1990s, a Romanian businessman named Iosif Constantin Dragan commissioned a sculpture of an ancient king known as Decebalus, who ruled the country of Dacia—now known as Romania. If King Decebalus had not defended Dacia against numerous Roman incursions, modern Romania would not exist in its current state. King Decebalus has been a celebrated figure in Romania since the country’s founding in 1859—even though King Decebalus died in 106 AD.

The stern sculpture of King Decebalus, which towers over the Danube River, took approximately a decade to create. Nearly six years were devoted to blasting the rock with dynamite. During the remaining four years, a team of sculptors carefully chiseled a regal face into a slab of stone that blends seamlessly with the mountainside. The end result is a fantastical 180-foot-tall likeness of an ancient monarch with the inscription “King Decebalus—Made by Dragan.”

The sculpture of King Decebalus was built in response to a long-standing stone monument known as Tabula Traiana, which is located nearby on the Serbian side of the Danube River. The Tabula Traiana celebrates the completion of a series of roads that helped Roman troops invade Dacia.

The best way to view the rocky visage of King Decebalus is to book a Danube River boat tour. A row of food vendors lines a small marina where visitors can purchase snacks prior to boarding a boat tour. Visitors can also attempt to pull over on the side of the road to look at the King Decebalus sculpture, but the roads are quite narrow, and parking is sparse.

Viewing a stone likeness of an ancient king materialize on a mountainside as you cruise on the shimmering waters of the Danube is a surreal experience that you will not soon forget. No trip to Romania is complete without a day spent exploring the wonders of the Danube River.

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