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6 Jewish Identity at the Cusp of Empires: The Jews of Dura Europos between Rome and Persia

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Chapter Summary

The synagogue of Dura Europos, an ancient city overlooking the Euphrates River in current eastern Syria, then on the hostile border between Rome and Sasanian Persia, is an excellent locus within which to investigate the nature of Jewish identity in the third century CE. This chapter draws upon the larger contexts of Jewish literary and archaeological remains from late antiquity in the exposition of the Dura Europos synagogue. The Greek and Aramaic inscriptions of the Dura synagogue fall into two groups: dedicatory inscriptions and short labels that identify characters in the various scenes. Aaron before the biblical Tabernacle on the western wall of the Dura synagogue is identified as "Aaron" in Greek, one of only three Greek image labels. The apparent excitement of Hormezd and Ardaw is memorialized and leads other Persian-speaking viewers through the viewing process.

Keywords: Dura Europos; Euphrates River; Jewish identity; late antiquity; Persia; Rome; Syria



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