Many people--myself included--sometimes forget how extensive the ancient Hellenic empire was. It wasn't just what is now modern Greece. It extended all the way down to, for example, Russia. Today: Kepoi.

Kepoi (Κῆποι) was an ancient Hellenic colony situated on the Taman peninsula, three kilometres to the east of Phanagoria, in the present-day Krasnodar Krai of Russia. The colony was established by the Milesians in the 6th century BC. The Milesians were the inhabitants of Miletus, a city in the Anatolia province of modern-day Turkey, near the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and at the mouth of the Meander River. Settlers from Krete moved to Miletus sometime in 16th century BC. By the 6th century BC, Miletus had become a maritime empire, and the Milesians spread out across Anatolia and even as far as the Crimea, Olbia, Ukraine founding new colonies.

In the Hellenistic period, Kepoi was controlled by the kings of the Cimmerian Bosporus, the present-day Strait of Kerch. According to Hellenic historian Diodorus Siculus, the region was governed between 480 and 438 BC by a line of kings called the Archaeanactidae, probably a ruling family, usurped by a tyrant called Spartocus (438 – 431 BC), who was a Thracian.

At first the city, of mixed population, subsisted on farming and trade with Asian Hellenes and local tribes, paying taxes to the Bosporan kings. The inhabitants prospered from the wheat trade between the 4th century BC and the 1st century AD. The city was originally 20-25 hectares. It covered a small hill and extended down the slopes to the seashore.

The archaeological finds of the city are numerous. Soviet excavations, started in 1957, yielded rich finds. They include not only Klazomenai wares, Classical and archaic Attic bowls, terracotta figurines of local manufacture (4th century BC), imported Syrian glassware and Egyptian scarabs but also the remains of a house of the mid 6th century BC, and numerous graves from several necropoleis which can be dated to the same period. Other architectural remains date to the first century AD or later.

Stemming from the 1st century are ruins of a temple in antis dedicated to Aphrodite; the terracotta ex-votos found nearby represent the Goddess and was aptly names 'Aphrodite of Taman'. The statue is about half a meter high and dates to the first half of the second century AD. It's pictured above. Also found was a head of Aphrodite from a workshop near the Pergamon school, dating to the second century BC.

The remains of houses from this century reflect the high standard of living. The foundations are of stone, the walls of brick, often imported from Sinope as were the roof tiles; there are traces of water pipes. There are also remains of baths from the first century AD and two wine-making establishments dating to the first to third century AD.

The city of Kepoi reached its peak in the 1st centuries AD, but the Huns and Goths put an end to its prosperity in the 4th century. Since the 1960's, much of Kepoi has been explored and uncovered. The rest of the site has been submerged by the Sea of Azov and is out of reach for now.