Darius I stele found in ancient town of Phanagoria in Russia

Oleg Deripaska Volnoe Delo Foundation and the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology have discovered fragments of a marble stele carrying an inscription of the ancient Persian King Darius I.

Found in the antique town of Phanagoria, in the Krasnodar region of Southern Russia, the stele is assessed to date back to the first half of the 5th century B.C. Archeologists doing excavations in the area say the find has good chances of becoming a world sensation.

The stele with a signature in the name of Persian King Darius I was unearthed in the center of Phanagoria, the remains of an ancient Greek city near Crimea and the Black Sea during an archeological expedition that has been supported by Volnoe Delo Foundation since 2004.


The decoded inscriptions on the stele state someone made them in the name of the Persian King Darius I who lived from 550-486 B.C. The stele has an inscription in the ancient Persian language. The approximate assessment dates the find to the first half of the 5th century B.C. The text contains a word unregistered before and roughly interpreted as the place named Miletus, one of the biggest cities in Ionia, a region known as Asia Minor now. Miletus stood at the head of the so-called Ionian uprising of Greek city states against Darius I. It was suppressed in 494 B.C.

Fragments of a building dated 5th century with Roman holes
Fragments of a building dated 5th century with Roman holes

Archaeologists believe the king put up a marble stele in the city after his victory over the Greeks. The monument had a text on it, reporting on the king’s triumph. Later on, a fragment of the overturned and broken stele got to Phanagoria – quite possibly, as ballast on a ship that called into the Phanagoria port, since there is no natural stone of the kind on the Taman peninsula.

At present, the stele is undergoing scrutiny at the restoration laboratory of the Phanagoria Research and Cultural Center. The find has good chances of becoming a world sensation.

Darius I, a Persian ruler from the Achaemenian dynasty considerably expanded the territory of his country with the aid of wars against the Getae, Thrace, Lemnos, Imbros, and Macedonia. He was buried in the mausoleum built on the cliffs at Naqsh-e Rustam near Persepolis on his order and decorated with sculptures.


Apart from the stele, the archeologists have found in the acropolis the remainders of ancient fortress walls, which in itself is an important even in classical archeology.

Vladimir Kuznetsov, Doctor of historical sciences and the head of the Phanagorian expedition:

“The inscription on the stele made in the name of King Darius I is evidently devoted to the crushing of the Ionian revolt. The discovery 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”

Volnoe Delo Foundation, one of Russia’s biggest privately-held charity funds run by a businessman and industrialist Oleg Deripaska, has supported research activities in the 2550-year-old city of Phanagoria since 2004. The Foundation has allocated over $10 million to Phanagoria fieldwork over the past 12 years. Now Phanagoria is one of the best equipped archeological expeditions in Russia with its own scientific and cultural center, up-to-date equipment for above-ground and underwater excavation and diverse team of specialists involved in the fieldwork.

Among the recent discoveries made at Phanagoria are remains of a palace of Mithradates VI dated the 1st century B.C., an ancient naval ram used by the army of Mithradates VI, a tomb with a stepped ceiling, an oldest temple unearthed on the Russian territory dating back to the 5th century B.C. and number of submerged objects e.g. ancient city’s streets covered with sand, Phanagoria’s port structures, ship debris.

Excavation works cover several areas that include the 2,500-square-metre acropolis at the centre of the ancient city, the eastern necropolis, an ancient cemetery that served as a burial place from the very founding of the city, and a submerged part of the city. What makes the expedition unique is the mix of diversified specialists working together. Apart from archeologists and historians, there are anthropologists, soil scientists, paleozoologists, numismatists and other researchers. A complex approach to the study of Phanagoria’s cultural relics helps to restore the residents’ way of living, religious beliefs, economic cooperation, as well as their roles in military conflicts.

About Phanagoria

Phanagoria is one of the main antiquity monuments on Russian soil. Founded in the mid-sixth century B.C. by Greek colonists, the city has long been one of the two capitals of the Bosporan Kingdom, an ancient state located in eastern Crimea and the Taman Peninsula. Phanagoria was the major economic and cultural center of the Black Sea region, one of the biggest Greek cities, the first capital of the Great Bulgaria, one of the main cities of Khazar Kaganate. It is also one of the ancient centers of Christianity. Saint Andrew was believed to preach in Phanagoria. The city boasts the largest Jewish community in the Black Sea region: the first synagogue in Russia was built in Phanagoria in 16th century A.D.

In the 9-10th centuries the residents abandoned the city for reasons still unknown. Phanagoria is surrounded by Russia’s largest necropolis covering an area of over 300 hectares. The total volume of the cultural layers is 2.5 million cubic meters of soil; the layer’s depth is up to seven meters. No single building has been erected in the city since ancient times, which has helped preserve the ruins and the historical artifacts. Regular archeological expeditions have being held in Phanagoria since late 1930s. As of now, only two percent of the city’s territory has been studied. Phanagoria is located in the Temryuksky District in the Krasnodar region.

About Volnoe Delo Oleg Deripaska Foundation

Oleg Deripaska’s Volnoe Delo Foundation (http://volnoe-delo.ru/en) is one of the largest charity organizations and was founded by the Russian industrialist and businessman, Oleg Deripaska. The Foundation supports a wide range of initiatives, with a particular focus on Russian education and science. It helps to support the country’s cultural and historic heritage, contributes to the preservation of the spiritual values, and assists healthcare projects and solves crucial social problems.


Download the HeritageDaily mobile application on iOS and Android

More on this topic

Markus Milligan
Markus Milliganhttps://www.heritagedaily.com
Markus Milligan - Markus is a journalist and the Managing Editor at HeritageDaily. His background is in archaeology and computer science, having written over 7,000 articles across several online publications. Markus is a member of the Association of British Science Writers (ABSW).



Popular stories