|previous article in this issue||next article in this issue|
Document Details :
Title: From Bosporus ... to Bosporus
Subtitle: A New Interpretation and Historical Context of the Old Persian Inscription from Phanagoreia
Author(s): RUNG, Eduard , GABELKO, Oleg
Journal: Iranica Antiqua
Volume: 54 Date: 2019
The article offers a new interpretation of the fragment of an Old Persian inscription discovered during the Phanagoreia excavation in 2016. The first publishers of the document, V.D. Kuznetsov and A.B. Nikitin, concluded that Xerxes should be identified as the author of the text, and connected the appearance of the stone in Phanagoreia with a hypothetical military expedition by that king against the Greek poleis of the Cimmerian Bosporus, supposedly carried out before the invasion of Balkan Greece. Nevertheless, the remnants of the text in the extant lines 1 and 2 give stronger grounds for attributing the inscription to Darius I and for connecting its creation with that king’s Scythian campaign (ca 513–512 B.C.). The evidence provided by Herodotus (4.87), Ctesias of Cnidus (FGrHist 688 F 13.21) and Dionysius of Byzantium (52) testifies to the erection on Darius’ orders of a complex of monumental constructions in the immediate proximity of the bridge over the Thracian Bosporus, and those constructions included a cuneiform inscription that clearly had symbolic significance. On hearing rumours of the king’s failures in Europe the citizens of Byzantium and Chalcedon destroyed these monuments for the purpose of proclaiming their own liberation from Persian control and put to shame the ὕβρις that Darius had displayed – thus, as a consequence, bringing punishment upon themselves (Hdt. 5.26; Ctes. FGrHist 688 F 13.21; Polyaen. 7.11.5; Dion. Byz. 14). A fragment of Darius’ inscription might have been brought to Phanagoreia as a kind of trophy, where it would have political significance because that polis was founded by citizens of Teos in Asia Minor who fled the threat of enslavement by the Persians in 546 B.C. (Hdt. 1.168; Strabo. 14.1.30) and had every reason to persist in their hatred of the Great King. It cannot, however, be ruled out that the stone found its way to the Cimmerian Bosporus as a simple piece of ship’s ballast.