The depression area of Caransebes was inhabited from the oldest of times;
this fact is attested by numerous archaeological findings:
- The discovery of silex tools, dating from the superior Paleolithic (about 35000 - 10000 B.C.);
- Ancient Neolithic settlements (the Starcevo - Cris culture) dating from the VI-V millennia B.C.;
- The Neolithic settlement of great size belonging to the Vinca culture, in the Balta Sarata area, settlement also marked for the determining of the Neolithic Chronology from south-west Romania (about 4800 - 4600 B.C.);
- The settlement belonging to the middle age of bronze (about 1600 - 1200 B.C.);
- The bronze deposit containing 172 pieces found on Dealul Mare (1100 - 1000 B.C.);
- The discoveries from the first age of iron (Hallstatt);
- Tetra drachma coins made by the Dacians (the 4th century B.C.).
For the first time in history in A.D. 101 the importance of Banat is signalled in the course of the Dacian Wars, from a fragment kept from the remarks of Emperor Traian. During the Roman Dacia, six kilometres from the actual hearth, the roman Tibiscum (Jupa) fort was found, built in A.D. 106. It is possible that on the territory of Caransebes there was a roman settlement, too. At Tibiscum fragments of Dacian ceramics and Dacian tumulus were discovered (I –II century A.D.).
The name of Tibiscum appears to be of thraco - dacian origin, meaning “swampy place”. From this place the roman troops, led by Traian, went to Tapae (which is probably localized in the area of the Zeicani train station, after the Bucova village), where the Emperor Traian defeated the Dacians (Dio Cassius – Roman History).
After the occupation of Banat and Oltenia by the Romans and after the peace agreement between the Romans and the Dacians (102 A.D.), along with the organizing of the province, the bases for the military garrison of Tibiscum are put, through the construction of a small fort made of earth, followed by a bigger fort. On the right side of the Timis River they also build another fort, which remains there until the year 170 A.D. At Tibiscum several roman legions were placed: Cohors I Sagittariorum, Numerus Palmyrenorum, both was brought from Syria, Cohors I Vindelicorum, from Raetia and Numerus Maurorum, from North Africa.
In A.D.118-119, the Dacia province is put under the exceptional command of Quintus Marcius Turbo. The Ulpia Traiana Augusta Dacica Sarmizegetusa Colony erects two statues, one at Sarmisegetusa and the other at Tibiscum, for the bravery he had against the enemies who wanted to conquer Dacia. In A.D.170 Tibiscum is destroyed by the marcomans or by their allies, the free Dacians. The roman defense in Banat falls and the Marcomanian war lasts until A.D. 180.
During the rule of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211) imposing monuments are built at Tibiscum. It is possible that the civilian settlement near the military fort received the rank of town, and so the roman town Tibiscum joins the other 11 roman cities in Dacia.
After the retreat of the roman administration to the south of the Danube (in A.D. 275, during of the rule of Aurelian), the remaining locals continue their lives, evidenced through the reconstruction of some buildings and the discovery of important monetary treasures.
Between the years 306-337, under the rule of Emperor Constantine the Great, the area north to the Danube is again controlled by the Romans. After 313, at the same time with the making of Christianity the official religion in the Roman Empire, at Tibiscum develops an important ecclesiastical centre.
The Huns, the first nomad population of Turkic origin, invade Europe in 375 and occupy our lands for a short time. Together with the death of Attila (453) the Hun conglomerate is disbanded, so that in the time of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527-565), both banks of the Danube were under Byzantine rule.
In A.D. 558 the Avars, a tribe of nomad shepherds of Turkish origin, are mentioned in our area, led by Bayan (558-605), and in 559 the Kutrigurs, nomad people related to the Huns, led by Zabergan, allied with the Slavs and the Bulgarians, entered our lands. Because they represented a permanent threat to the Byzantine Empire, in the year 593, the generals Petru and Priscus lead a victorious expedition against the Slav and Avar tribes.
In the year 602 the Danubian defence lines fall, through the mass migration of the Slavs to the south of the Danube.
The first archaeological findings from the Caransebes area, which mention the existence of some settlements of the local sedentary population, different from those of Slavs or Avars, date from the 8th and the 9th century in the Potoc area and on the Romanilor Street.
A diploma released by Emperor Basil II the Bulgarohton of Byzantium (976-1025), in 1020, mentioned an “Episcopal Roman camp” in Dibiskos, perhaps old Tibiscum from the Romans’ time, and the neo-Latin population who lives to the North and South of the Danube appears under the name of Wallachians.
The 11th century is a period of unrest and penetration of the migratory populations, especially the Hungarians which succeed to dominate the zone around Caransebes, including it inside the Banat of Severin, for in the 12th century the centre was transferred from Tibiscum to Caransebes. Now, we pass from the ancient settlement to the new medieval town, which will develop around the fortress.
The King Ladislau IV visits the fortress in the year 1289 and returns here in 1290, when on the 29th of April in a document the name of Caransebes is mentioned. This is considered to be the first documentary certification of the city. Caransebes is called Opidum (burg), like in the registers of the papal taxes between the 1332 and 1337. After I. Bartolomei, the first mention about Caransebes was made in a consignation of papal taxes from the 12th century.
In the 14th century the fortress, the city and the Romanian district appear under the name of Sebes. In fact Caran and Sebes were two distinct settlements on a side and on the other of the Timis River.
The name of “Caran” is, probably, of Celtic origin and means “stone place”, and “Sebes” is the name of a river, word of Dacian origin.
Another hypothesis is that the name of our city was Sebes and Caran (Cauran, Caravan, Cavaran) was added, imposed by the necessity to distinguish it from other cities with the same name in the country, Caran being situated 14 km north on the place where the Constantin Daicoviciu (former Cavaran) commune is today.
Another opinion is that the name of the city comes from “kara” – black – in the language of the migratory peoples from Asia and “sebes” – meaning fast – in Hungarian.
The name of the city in the complete form of “Caransebes” is encountered in the chancellery documents beginning with 1370 (in districtu Karansebesus).
The castellans of the fortress were remembered in the documents of that period, so that in 1318, Petru, the ruler of the Sebes County is mentioned in a document signed by King Carol Robert, and in 1325 appears as castellan Szeri Posa.
Caransebes, a compact Romanian living area, was an important settlement, because in the year 1352 it is remembered as the capital of the Sebes province, and from the year 1360, as the capital of the Banat of Severin and administrative, political and military centre of the eight autonomous Romanian districts of Banat. We can remark that the term “banat” was the name given to the provinces in which the Wallachian-Bulgarian State with the capital at Tarnovo was divided, and “severin” comes from “sever”, which means North in Slav.
The community meetings from here illustrate the power of the Romanian nobles and the local autonomy, from which Romanians benefited in the institutional cadre imposed by the angevine royalty. But Caransebes wasn’t only the residence of the district where these meetings took place, but also the primary centre where the common judge forum of the eight districts met. The day of meeting was Thursday and it remained, from the Dark Age till today, the market day of Caransebes.
The first lord of Caransebes, remembered in 1360, was called Sturza or Sturzo.
We must say that until Ioan Popa, in 1688, the leaders of the city were, almost all, Romanian and we mention among those: Stefan Dan (1457), Nicolae Lazar (1494), Stefan Stoica (1498), Matei Lazar (1515), Petru Racovita (1535), Pavel Bucosnita (1561), Nicolae Florea (1581), Ion Iosiga (1593), Nicolae Moise (1599), Mihai Voevod Vaida (1601), Todor (1627), Lugojan (1635), Simion (1648), Florea (1654). The Hungarian chronicler Szamoskozy wrote, before 1598, about the Romanian noble Stefan Iosiga, who became chancellor of Ardeal that he is from the Romanian town Caransebes – “ex Karan-Sebesso Valachorum oppido”.
In 1369, the first meeting of the Romanians from Banat is testified, when the “community of the lords and other Romanians in the Sebes district”, like “all the rich and poor from the fortress of Sebes” demands to the governor Benedict Himfy the absolution of a new tax.
There are documents that attest, in 1365, John V, on his way to Buda, is received with great feast in Caransebes, and in 1419, King Sigismund visits the city several times, coming back in 1428 and 1429. On the 9th of July 1424, in a diploma, King Sigismund tells about “castro nostro Sebesiensi”.
Vlad Dracul together with the Turkish devastates Caransebes in the year 1432.
Ioan of Hunedoara stops at Caransebes on the 18th of October 1447 and on the 29th of October 1453, when he gives the citizens, for their devoted services, half of the Racovita area, situated at the northern boundary of the city.
Politically, Caransebes has a great role in the defence of the rights of the Romanian population in the hill and mountain area of Banat against Hungarian royalty and nobility. Military, the army of the districts always was in the front of the battles against the Turkish.
The King Vladisav II recognizes the privileges of the city on the 17th of January 1497, and in the next year the city receives the sword rights.
In the 16th century, reference dates are the visits in the city of Ioan Zapolya, Laiota Basarab (1545), Radu Ilie Haidaul (1552), the Italian engineer Alessandro Cavalini da Urbino (who repairs the fortification - 1552), the Italian chronicler Giovan Andrea Gromo (1564-1565, who leaves behind beautiful writings about the area, the traditions and the locals) and Mihai Viteazu (1600), who sends a diploma from the fortress of Caransebes.
On the 16th of June 1531, John Zapolya, prince of Transylvania (1510-1526) and King of Hungary (1526-1540), reconfirms to the inhabitants of Caransebes the rights given by Sigismund of Luxemburg, and on the 5th of February 1532 he accords the exemption of any tribute to the inhabitants.
An Italian, G. P. Campani, writes in the year 1584 that “Lugoj and Caransebes are in Wallachia”, remembering the Romanian character of the area. Three decades after G. A. Gromo, two reports of the Jesuit order confirm that the localities Caransebes and Lugoj are a Romanian province.
In the year 1536, the Banat of Lugoj – Caransebes was constituted, and from 1541, the city gets under the dominance of the princes of Ardeal.
Under the reign of King John II Sigismund Zapolya (1559-1571), Caransebes was made a royal city, having the same rights as Buda and Timisoara.
In 1582 the city is plagued, and in that time Stefan Herce and Efrem Zacan participated to the translation and the printing of the “Palia de la Orastie”.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Caransebes had an agitated history because of the Austrian-Turkish Wars, the town being by turn occupied by on or the other of the nations in war. From 1603, when Caransebes is visited by the chronicler Szamoskozy Istvan, dates a description of it. In the same year, the general Basta calls Caransebes “civitas”.
In 1658 the city gets under ottoman domination (for 30 years), and in 1660, the city is visited by the Turkish chronicler Evlia Celebi (Evlya Chelebi), who makes a beautiful and documented description of it.
In 1688, the armies of the Emperor Leopold I, led by general Veterani free the city and the general orders engineer Visconti to refortify the fortress after the Old Italian system, and in 1693 the same general gives the city some rights known under the name of the “Reglementarea”. General Veterani dies in August 1695 in the battle at Lugoj between the Austrians and the Turkish.
Between 1699 and 1701, count Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli sets his residence at Caransebes for the demolition of the nearby fortresses and for the establishing of the border line after the Karlowitz peace treaty (1699). This Italian officer in the Austrian Army described, for the first time, the ancient ruins from Tibiscum, also remembering the popular inscription dedicated to the empress Cornelia Salonina by the “ordo municipii”. This is the only dated epigraphically description of the title of “municipium” which the city had.
In 1700, Caransebes is again plagued. In a document from 1717, it is attested that the city has 400 houses.
From 1718, Banat, due to the Passarowitz peace treaty, passes under Hapsburg domination.
In 1738, another war between the Austrians and the Ottomans begins and the imperial troops stand in Caransebes. The Turkish devastate the fortress, and in 1741, the peace conference for the establishing of the border lines between the two empires is held here.
Through an imperial decree from 1762 the Empress Maria Theresa sets up the military units for the guarding of the borders, and so, in the year 1768, the Romanian-Banat Border Regiment nr.13 is established. From its founding, the regiment had quite a few names: the Border Regiment nr.72 (1769), the Romanian - Illyrian Border Infantry Regiment (1775), the Wallachian - Illyrian Border Regiment nr.13 (1798), the Wallachian - Banat Border Regiment nr.13 (1838), and finally, the Romanian - Banat Border Regiment nr.13 (1849).
In its organization it had many stages, before it finally contained: the Bistra Valley, from the Marga commune until Caransebes, the Timis - Cerna passage (with the adjacent valleys), from Orsova until the Svinita commune, Craina Banateana and the Almaj Valley, from the Prigor commune until the Lapusnicul Mare commune. From a military point of view, in the peace time, regiment was organized in 12 companies, who had a variable number of border guard communes (a total of 96).
During the 104 years in which the regiment functioned, it gave 25 generals, over 200 superior officers, a great number of inferior officers and sub officers. Over 40 boarder guards followed the superior courses. For the courageous actions, the flag of the regiment, officers and sub officer and also boarder guards were recompensed with the following orders and medals: 10 of gold, 31 of silver 1st class and 36 of silver 2nd class. On one of the straps of the flag of the regiment there was written: “The courage of Romus, let it be over us”. This strap is exposed at the History Museum in Vienna.
20 years after the disbanding of the Nasaud regiment, in 1871, the border regiment of Caransebes is also disbanded, because of a new form of governing, the Austro-Hungarian dualism, but also because of the reduction of the Turkish danger.
Through the law from 8 July 1871 in the organization of the communes the military administration was replaced by the civil administration. At the same time the 43rd Infantry Regiment Caesar-King was founded, a regiment which was under the direct command of Emperor Franz Joseph.
In 1872, the city is raised to the rank of town.
On the 12th of March 1873, the first meeting of the Town Council took place, Ioan Brancovici being chosen mayor. The administrative, economic and financial measures taken, like the making of the Severin County with the residence at Caransebes, finished the process of forming the civil administration in the former military border region.
Having the laws from 1871 and 1873 as a basis the Fortune Community was organized. The forming of it was made for the collective administration of the received domain – half from the forestry and alpine domain of the state – as a refunding of the services of the local border guards; the other half passed into the proprietary of the Austro-Hungarian state, being nationalized after the Union of 1918. The papers of definitive dividing were signed on 28 January 1880.
The new institution received a territory of 251,919 jugars (1 jugar = 0.5775 ha). This vast forest domain wasn’t distributed among communes, like in other border regions, but was commonly administered. In the General Meeting of 19 December 1879, the chosen representatives of the communes chose general Traian Doda as the president of the Fortune Community.
The Fortune Community was an institution of great solidarity, the community of over 30,000 Romanian families, free peasants, through laws and traditions, freely admitted to buildings in the border area, being a permanent obstacle of the denationalization actions.
In June 1900, the metropolitan bishop of Romania visits the city, being received very well. Under the mandate of the mayor Constantin Burdea, in the year 1903, the beautiful building of the town hall was built.
In October 1905, our great historian, Nicolae Iorga is hosted in Caransebes.
On the 24th of October 1916, the general Ioan Dragalina, hero of our national unity, dies in Bucharest because he was wounded in the Jiu Valley.
On the 25th of October 1918, in a great enthusiasm, the National Romanian Council from Caransebes was elected. Together with many inhabitants of Caransebes, they were the greatest delegation from Banat that took part in the Great Union of 1st December 1918 in Alba-Iulia.
Banat was entirely occupied by the Serbian army, after the armistice of Belgrade (signed in October 1918). In January 1919, the Serbians retreated from our area, their place being taken by the French Army. From 28 July 1919, the whole Banat entered under the Romanian administration, being gradually occupied by Romanian troops until the 20th of August 1919 and, after the decisions of the Paris Peace Conference from August 1919, the territorial delimitation between Serbia and the Kingdom of Romania was made.
The statue of the Emperor Franz Josef stood on the plinth in the park until April 1919, when a Romanian tied it to the saddle of his horse, toppling it over. It was taken into the courtyard of the Fortune Community, and in 1936, it was melted and its bronze was used in the founding of the statue of general Dragalina.
In the interwar time the city, being an important road and railway knot, had a fast development, becoming from a border locality, with a limited number of inhabitants (in the period of Austro-Hungarian domination), a flourishing city, which is mostly based on commerce, small craftsmen and the nearby agricultural area.
In the year 1950, the old territorial division was abandoned and for two years Caransebes was the residence of the Severin region. Between the years 1950 and 1968 it was the residence of the department with the same name.
During the communist regime, the city was disfavoured, mostly because of the establishing of the residence of the Caras-Severin County at Resita, although, from most points of view, Caransebes should have had this position.
In the year 1995 Caransebes was declared town.
The history of the area, with its archaeological and ethnographical heritage, can be better known by visiting the County Museum of Ethnography and of the Border Regiment situated in the Gen. Ioan Dragalina Plaza, in the former barracks of the border guards from the regiment in Caransebes, building which was built in the style of theresian baroque in 1754. The museum has over 48,000 pieces belonging to the archaeology, ethnographical history, art, documents and old books collections.