The Scythian Expedition of Darius I and the Old-Persian Inscription from Phanagoreia

Gabelko Oleg L., Rung Eduard V.

The article presents a new interpretation of the fragment of Old-Persian inscription discovered at Phanagoreia in the 2016 excavation season. First editors of the document, V.D. Kuznetsov and A.B. Nikitin, concluded that the author of the text could be identified with Xerxes, and connected the appearance of the stone in Phanagoreia with a hypothetic military expedition of that king against the Greek poleis of Cimmerian Bosporus, which they dated before his invasion of mainland Greece. However, the remains of the text in lines 1 and 2 allow to attribute the inscription to Darius I and to connect its creation with the events of that king’s Scythian campaign (ca 513–512 BC). Herodotus (IV. 87), Ctesias of Cnidus (FGrHist 688 F 13. 21) and Dionysius of Byzantium (52) provide clear evidence of the erection by Darius’ order in immediate proximity to the bridge over the Thracian Bosporus of a symbolically significant complex of monumental constructions, including a cuneiform inscription. Following the rumour of the king’s defeat in Europe the citizens of Byzantium and Chalcedon destroyed those monuments with the purpose of proclaiming their own liberation from the Persian control and triumphing over the hybris that Darius had shown. The fragments of Darius’ inscription could be brought to Phanagoreia as a kind of a trophy, that had political relevance because of the foundation of this polis by the citizens of Teos in Asia Minor, who fled from the menace of enslavement by the Persians in 546 BC (Hdt. I. 168; Strab. XIV. 1. 30) and had the reasons to hate the Great King later. It is equally possible, however, that the stone was transported to the Cimmerian Bosporus merely as ship’s ballast.

Keywords: Phanagoreia, Old-Persian inscription, Darius I, Scythian campaign, Thracian Bosporus, Byzantium, Chalcedon

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