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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2021

The Murals of the Synagogue at Dura Europos as an Expression of Roman Koine

From the book Principles of Decoration in the Roman World

  • Eric M. Moormann


The figurative decorations of the synagogue in Dura Europos have aroused questions about their significance and reading strategy. They have been seen as expressions of different Jewish currents in Late Antiquity. In many contributions, detailed analyses are provided, which may be correct as such but tend to leave out the greater context, such as the interplay with the architecture, the connection with the cultural koine of the world outside Dura, and the international Jewish community. The question of what the murals represent often overshadows the question of how adequate affects were achieved. In this paper it is argued that an integrated view, that is, a connection of the scenes with the Greco-Roman world of images, does greater justice to the paintings and solves the problem of their isolation as a unique case of religious decoration. Without reflecting a purely theological programme, the decorations match perfectly the room’s shape and function, demarcating religious space, and thus enhance the prestige of the Jewish community at large. They constitute sacred decor, but at the same time make the synagogue a place of memory, connecting with Roman traditions in public and private decoration that display decorative narratives.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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