The Medieval World, C. 400–1300

Early Jewish and Christian Art

What was Dura Europos?

Dura Europos was an ancient trading town established in the third century B.C.E. and abandoned by 256 C.E. in modern day Syria. After being long forgotten, the settlement was rediscovered by British soldiers in the early twentieth century. The site features Greco-Roman temples dedicated to Greek gods such as Zeus and Artemis, as well as temples decorated with images of ancient Near Eastern deities such as the Persian God, Mithras, and a variation on the Sumerian moon goddess, Nana. Also found here was one of the earliest known Jewish synagogues and a Christian house church. (Both early Christians and early Jews built their churches and synagogues in private houses.) The Dura Europos synagogue was large and richly decorated with interior wall paintings emphasizing green and yellow color schemes, and featured a niche for Torah scrolls. The house church was built in 246 C.E. and contained one of the earliest known baptismal fonts. The walls were decorated with images from both the Old and New Testament, including an image of Christ walking on water. The Dura Europos site preserves evidence of a rich melting pot of ancient cultures and gives scholars insights into the visual culture of Early Jews and Christians of the ancient world.


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