Dura Europos Synagogue at Dura Europos, Syria

The Dura Europos Synagogue is believed to be the world's oldest Jewish synagogue, dating back as early as 244. The synagogue was preserved in 256 during a Sassanian assault upon the city when the synagogue was filled with earth and was rediscovered in 1935 by Clark Hopkins. Following its rediscovery, the painted walls and roof of the synagogue were transported to the National Museum in Damascus [1].


Dura Europos Founded in 303 B.C.E., Dura Europos ("Fort Europos") is located along a cliffside overlooking the Euphrates river in a remote part of modern-day Syria along the Deir-ez-Zor to Abu Kemal road. During the second century B.C.E., Dura Europos was a cosmopolitan city located along a major crossroads and home to the world's oldest synagogue and church, as well as temples to Greek, Roman, and Palmyrene gods. Dura Europos was abandoned after a seige in 256-257 which forced the residents to fill the Dura Europos synagogue with earth to construct a fort, and the abandoned city was eventually covered by shifting sands. Following World War I, the British Troops led by Captain Murphy stumbled upon the buried city of Dura Europos when a soldier digging a trench discovered a hoard of frescoes. Franz Cumont led and published the research from the first excavation in 1922-1923 and Michael Rostovtzeff continued the excavations in 1937 until World War II began. Excavations began again in 1986, leading to remarkably well-preserved finds which have dubbed Dura Europos "the Pompeii of the desert" [2].

Dura Europos, Syria

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