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Russian archaeologists uncover ancient Persian stele inscribed with a message from King Darius I

Discovery in Phanagoria, the ancient Greek site near Crimea, is of "international significance"

by Sophia Kishkovsky  |  8 August 2016
Russian archaeologists uncover ancient Persian stele inscribed with a message from King Darius I
Remains of the walls of the ancient fortifications at Phanagoria
An archeological expedition sponsored by the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska has announced the discovery of a stele with a signature in the name of Persian King Darius I in the center of Phanagoria, the remains of an ancient Greek city near Crimea and the Black Sea.

Vladimir Kuznetsov, the director of the Phanagoria Historical and Archeological Museum-Preserve and of the Phanagoria expedition of the Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences described it as a landmark find that “is without exaggeration a discovery of international significance”.  Another discovery, of the ruins of ancient fortifications that researchers have preliminarily dated to “no later than” the end of the sixth century BC (destroyed earlier than the middle of the fifth century BC) “can become a phenomenon in classical archeology for the entire Mediterranean and Black Sea region”.

The writing on the marble fragment is in ancient cuneiform used only by the Persian king, according to a press release issued by Deripaska’s Volnoe Delo Foundation. Researchers estimate that around 10%-15% of the message has survived and that “the deciphered parts of the inscription make it clear that it was made on behalf of the famous king Darius I,” who lived from 550-486 BC.

Kuznetsov says that the inscription is “evidently devoted to the crushing of the Ionian revolt” and places Phanagoria “in the context of one of the most important events of ancient history, which had far-reaching consequences for the Greeks as well as the Persians, and makes is possible to trace the connections of this colony with other parts of the Greek world and analyze its significance in advancing Hellenistic civilization on the Black Sea coast.”

A report on a separate Volnoe Delo-sponsored website devoted exclusively to Phanagoria says that one of the words in the inscription is “Miletus”, the name of the ancient Greek city in Ionia that was at the forefront of the revolt against Darius. Researchers surmise that Darius put up a marble stele to mark his victory and a fragment of it was later brought by ship to Phanagoria.

Volnoe Delo’s statement notes that most of the approximately 200 Persian royal inscriptions known today were uncovered in Persepolis.

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