Militarism in the wall paintings of the Dura-Europos synagogue: a new perspective on Jewish life on the Roman frontier.
The city of Dura-Europos, situated on the border of the Roman and Sassanian Empires, was home to a major Roman garrison in the third century C.E. Its synagogue was decorated with wall paintings, many of which contain imagery relating to warfare. Since the synagogue's rediscovery in the 1930s, scholars have largely ignored the potential impact of Dura's militaristic atmosphere on the iconography of the wall paintings. This article posits that the designers of the synagogue paintings incorporated many aspects of contemporary military life into their representations of biblical stories. It also supports the idea that Jews served in the Roman army, and that such Jews could have been living in Dura-Europos and worshipping at the synagogue.
The city of Dura-Europos was founded circa 300 B.C.E. by the Hellenistic king Seleucus Nikator. (2) Originally known just as Europos, it was located on the Euphrates River in modern-day Syria, and changed hands several times. In 113 B.C.E. it came under the control of the Parthian Empire. The Ro-mans conquered the city in 165 C.E. and established a military garrison there, at which time it became known as Dura, or "fortress." (3) The rival Sassanian Empire captured and destroyed the city in 256 or 257, following a siege in which the Romans carried out a massive fortification project. As part of this effort to defend Dura, the street and buildings adjacent to the western city wall were filled with dirt and rubble. Although this artificial embankment failed to save the city, it did help to preserve some of its buildings--among them a synagogue with a series of wall paintings depicting biblical scenes--for their rediscovery by archaeologists nearly 1,700 years later.
One of the many houses of worship in Dura, the synagogue consisted of a cluster of dwelling-rooms leading into a colonnaded courtyard and a House of Assembly, which was the primary meeting space for the congregation and the site of the wall paintings (Fig. 1). (4) Converted from a private residence into a synagogue in the second half of the second century C.E., the building underwent a major expansion in the mid-third century. (5) While the original House of Assembly could fit approximately sixty-five people, the enlarged room seated more than 120 (6) and may have been the largest room in all of Dura. (7) The walls were painted over a number of years and were completed circa 250. Today twenty-eight panels survive, about half the original number. (8) The Torah niche, located on the western wall, was immediately visible to people entering the House of Assembly from one of the two doors on the opposite side. (9) There is little documentation regarding the Jewish community at Dura. Scholars have generally assumed that most of the Jews were traders who provided the Roman army with supplies (10) although Rosenfeld and Potchebutzky have suggesred that some Durene Jews actively participated in the military. (11) There may also have been a significant number of transient Jews in the city. (12)
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
The discovery of the long-buried synagogue paintings in 1932 shocked scholars for a number of reasons. Up to that time, little or no figurative art had been found in ancient synagogues and it was assumed that the second commandment forbade Jews from displaying "graven images" in their places of worship. (13) Even more earth-shattering was the realization that the Dura synagogue paintings--the product of a military outpost in the middle of the desert, seemingly far from any major cultural center--represent the earliest known continuous biblical narrative cycle in the world. The oldest known Christian cycles of comparable complexity date to the fifth century. (14) In accordance with the mixed cultural heritage of Dura-Europos as a whole, the paintings combine the visual traditions of the Roman Empire, the Hellenistic world, and the Parthian and Sassanian Empires. A number of the images bear a striking resemblance to paintings and statues found in other parts of Duna. (15)
Numerous scholarly debates concerning the paintings have arisen since their discovery. One discourse centers around whether the paintings have a common origin, such as a more prominent synagogue or an illustrated Pentateuch, and whether this hypothetical set of illustrations had an influence on later Christian art. Kurt Weitzmann and Herbert Kessler have analyzed the paintings in terms of their relationship to Christian imagery, thereby contributing to the phenomenon Margaret Olin calls "Early Christian Synagogues." (16) Another series of studies evaluates the degree to which the paintings accept or reject the iconography of Roman, Hellenistic, and Iranian artistic traditions. (17) Other scholars ask whether there is a programmatic intent behind the panels, and how this may affect our understanding of Jewish communities in the Near East in Late Antiquity. (18)
One issue regarding the wall paintings that has received little attention, however, is if and how the militarism of Dura-Europos influenced their iconography. Ben Zion Rosenfeld and Rivka Potchebutzky have examined the relationship between the Jewish community and the military garrison at Dura, but they are largely silent on the subject of art in the synagogue. (19) In the surviving paintings, there is only one panel that clearly depicts a scene of war: that of the Battle of Eben-Ezer, described in Book I of Samuel. However, there are numerous images that refer to warfare indirectly, such as those showing men in armor, acts of violence, and scenes of carnage and destruction. The prevalence of such imagery could signify the Durene Jews' awareness of the danger of living on the border between two powerful empires. They may have witnessed real-life carnage and likely heard tales of battles that took place close to home. They lived in close proximity to the garrison and probably saw soldiers on a daily basis. (20) It is also possible that some of the Jews living in Dura were active participants in the Roman army. Scholars accept that other temples in the city, such as the mithraeum and the Temple of Bel, served the spiritual needs of Roman soldiers. But they rarely ask whether the synagogue could have served a similar purpose.
Representation of Warfare in the Eben-Ezer Panel
The synagogue painters display a detailed knowledge of contemporary equipment and fighting techniques, which comes through most clearly in the Battle of Eben-Ezer panel (Fig. 2). (21) The arms and armor illustrated here correspond well" to what was actually used at Dura. (22) Nearly all of the foot soldiers wear breeches, boots, belts, and long-sleeved iron scale shirts that may represent lorica squamata (Figs. 2-3), which conforms to third-century Roman military practice. A "remarkable quantity" of fragments from iron mail and scale armor has been uncovered at Dura, confirming their use by the Romans and possibly by the Persians as well (Fig. 4). (23) Little remains of the fabric that made up army uniforms, but Roman soldiers portrayed on third-and fourth-century tombstones and in the Julius Terentius fresco in the Temple of Bel are shown wearing breeches, much like the Eben-Ezer warriors. (24)
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Most of the combatants in the Eben-Ezer scene fight bare-headed, a practice that may also have been true to life. Although helmets have been found at Dura, they were not necessarily worn by Roman soldiers even during the heat of battle. There were no helmets near the bodies of several Roman soldiers in Tower 19, for example, though this may have been due to the environment in which they were fighting. (25) Three of the soldiers who have captured the Ark in the Eben-Ezer scene are wearing some kind of headdress, which "has been interpreted as a medieval-style mail coif." (26) However, there is no evidence that mail hoods were used at Dura. Instead, the headgear may represent cloth head coverings of the type found at the site, which were proble ably meant to be worn underneath helmets as padding and to prevent chafing around the neck.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
The swords used by the soldiers in the Eben-Ezer panel are also comparable to those that have been excavated at Dura. The spatha, a long two-edged slashing sword, was the weapon of choice for Roman soldiers on the eastern frontier at this time, as opposed to the shorter gladius, which was primarily a stabbing weapon. (27) The synagogue artists had an understanding of the correct way to handle this sword: soldiers at the bottom and top of the scene are shown raising their long swords high in the air, in preparation for a slashing motion that will be the death blow for their opponents (Fig. 3).
Kraeling suggests that the shields represented in the Eben-Ezer panel are "made of leather stretched on wooden frames" and compares them to the shields used by Roman soldiers on the Arch of Septimius Severus. (28) James, who describes the Eben-Ezer shields as hexagonal, does not see any precise model for this type of shield among those found at Dura. He divides the shields excavated at the site into four types, the most common of which was an oval shield with a longer vertical axis, its center covered by a metal boss. The second type was also oval, but with a longer horizontal axis. The third type, which was the "traditional armament of the legionary" known as the scutum, (29) was rectangular or semicylindrical in shape. The fourth type was rectangular and consisted of "rough wooden sticks woven through a single sheet of rawhide" (Fig. 5), unlike the first three types which were made primarily out of wooden planks. (30) James wonders whether hexagonal shields actually existed in Dura in the third century or were "drawn from depictions of an earlier age." (31) Hexagonal shields are found in earlier Roman works such as Trajan's Column and were apparently used by Roman auxiliary infantry and cavalry.32 We may question, however, whether the Eben-Ezer shields are as "hexagonal" as James makes them out to be. Upon closer inspection, the shields may be viewed as rectangular scutum that bulge out slightly in the middle, or as a variation of the wood and rawhide shield type (Figs. 2-3). While the latter shields tended to have an inverted chevron pattern, (33) the Eben-Ezer shields display horizontal bands, and some of them also appear to have bosses in the center.
[FIGURE 5 OMITTED]
The Eben-Ezer panel is one of the most graphic scenes in the synagogue, if not all of Dura. Half a dozen pairs or triads of soldiers are engaged in fights to the death above and below the horsemen: one soldier collapses to the ground in a fetal position, another wounded man raises both hands to the heavens, and others are shown in the act of slaughtering their opponents (Figs. 2-3). The central duel between the two horsemen is also full of movement and tension. The black horse leaps up to meet the white horse, which is on a slightly higher plane. The horseman on the right leans forward in the moment before colliding with his opponent, and the empty space between their lanceheads makes up the center-point of the scene. It is still unclear who will be the winner and who the loser. (34) The confrontation between the horsemen--both of whom wear Persian dress, in stark contrast to the surrounding soldiers--may be based on Iranian hunting and combat scenes. (35)
According to Kraeling, the synagogue painters did not care about making a distinction between the Israelites and Philistines because their paintings did not belong to "a national art." This lack of differentiation, which "probably would have [been] avoided" in Roman and Sassanian art, "was not a matter of concern" for Jewish artists. (36) However, this explanation seems to underes-timate the ability and intentions of the Jewish painters. It also assumes that Durene Jews did not identify with the city or empire in which they were living. There could be another reason for the virtually identical portrayals of the two armies: the artists may have been expressing, either consciously or unconsciously, the similarities between the contemporary armies of the Romans and the Sassanians. James suspects that "the Sasanians were using armour effectively indistinguishable from that of the Roman defenders." (37) The Persians used iron mail and probably wore scale armor as well, like the Romans. Soldiers posted on the frontiers of the Roman Empire were "in the forefront of change," (38) constantly exposed to alternative fighting techniques, armor, and weaponry. For example, an intact third-century Sassanian helmet found at Dura closely resembles Roman helmets of the fourth century, leading James to conclude that the Romans adopted this piece of technology from their eastern counterparts shortly after the destruction of Dura.39 Other archeological finds, such as the armor, artillery, and rawhide shields, are of indeterminate origin and could have been used by either or both sides. Many soldiers at Dura were native Syrians--Palmyrenes, Hatrenes, Durenes, and so on--who may have served in both the Roman army and the Parthian or Sassanian army at different times in their lives, due in part to the region's rapidly shifting balance of power. (40) There was thus great fluidity among the armies in terms of manpower, ideas, appearance, and equipment.
In the Battle of Eben-Ezer, as described in I Samuel 4:1-11, the Philistines defeat the Israelites and capture the Ark of the Covenant. It may seem strange that the Durene Jews would choose to represent this moment of Jewish defeat until we look at the adjacent panel on the western side of the synagogue, that of the Ark in the Land of the Philistines (Fig. 6). (41) In this scene, which comes from I Samuel 5:1-6:12, the Philistines place the Ark in the temple of their god Dagon, only to find that Dagon's statue is toppled over twice in a row. Fearful of the power of the Israelite's God, the Philistines place the Ark on a cart drawn by a pair of oxen and let the animals choose their path. The oxen are inexorably drawn to the land of the Israelites, thereby returning the Ark to its rightful owners. The Battle of Eben-Ezer, which by itself is a scene of defeat, is not meant to be viewed alone. Rather, when taken together with this other panel, it symbolizes the ultimate triumph of the Jewish people and the supremacy of their God over the gods of their enemies.
Representations of Warfare in Other Panels
As we have said, the Eben-Ezer scene is far from the only panel in the synagogue to contain militaristic imagery. In the panel showing Exodus and the Crossing of the Red Sea, (42) for example, several columns of soldiers carry oval shields and what appear to be pikes or spears. Their bodies are largely hidden behind the shields and only the tops of their heads are visible. (43) The bearded figure of Moses, which appears twice and is several times larger than the other figures in the panel, carries a club-like staff and has been compared to contemporary images of Hercules found at Dura and Palmyra (Fig. 7). Although not dressed in a military uniform, he is portrayed as the physically powerful leader of the Israelite army. (44) Next to Moses, nude Egyptian soldiers are shown drowning in the Red Sea. Moon believes that their otherwise unaccountable nudity signifies their non-Jewishness, (45) but it could instead recall the act of stripping armor from a dead enemy on the field of war.
[FIGURE 6 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 7 OMITTED]
The decision to portray the departing Israelites with shields and weapons is an interesting one. There has long been a debate about whether the former slaves left Egypt armed or defenseless. Much of this disagreement stems from the translation of the Hebrew word hamu.shim, used to describe the Israelites in Exodus 13:18. The Septuagint translates this word as "in the fifth generation." (46) leading some Hellenistic Jewish writers to "deplore the utter defenselessness of the departing Israelites," (47) while the Vulgate and rabbinic texts such as the Targum Onkelos interpret the word to mean "armed." (48) The militaristic connotation of the term--which is derived from the Hebrew word hamesh, or five--may have its basis in the girding of the sword about the fifth rib, the use of five kinds of weapons ("the bow, spear, shield, javelin and sword"), the existence of five ranks of officers, or the division of the Israelite army into groups of fifty; while other sources interpret it to mean the number of generations after the Jews' arrival in Egypt, or the five pillars of the Jewish community: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron. (49) The synagogue painters portrayed the Israelites as a well-organized and heavily armed body of troops, which suggests that they did not rely on the Septuagint or Hellenistic Jewish writings for this illustration--and, perhaps, that they were influenced by their proximity to the garrison.
The Exodus scene further demonstrates the painters' familiarity with military life. The oval shields held by the Israelites, which have a longer vertical axis and a round boss in the center, are reminiscent of the most common shield type found at Dura. The clustering of the soldiers resembles an actual military formation such as the phalanx. (50) The militarism of the scene is emphasized by the fact that this army appears not once but twice, on opposite sides of the recurring figure of Moses and the drowning Egyptians. Their second appearance is better preserved than the first and reveals that, like the Eben-Ezer foot soldiers, they wear breeches and shirts of mail or scale armor, along with boots and peaked caps or helmets. They stand below twelve white-and-pink-robed figures carrying square placards or standards on poles (Fig. 7). Kraeling, who identifies these men as the twelve Elders of Israel, notes the similarity between these objects and the vexillum, (51) a square piece of decorated cloth attached to a pole that had great symbolic value for the Roman legions. (52) Vexilla were clearly being used by the army in Dura-Europos at this time. The contemporary Terentius fresco in the Temple of Bel depicts a red vexillum which Rostovtzeff attributes to the XXth Palmyrene cohort (Fig. 8); (53) and the post of vexiilarius, or vexillum-bearer, appears in the cohort's roster. (54) The representation of vexilla-like objects in the synagogue may thus establish a parallel between the Jewish army at the time of Exodus and the contemporary Roman army stationed at Dura.
[FIGURE 8 OMITTED]
[FIGURE 9 OMITTED]
One panel on the north wall of the synagogue contains a scene which has many interpretations (Fig. 9). (55) At different times, Kraeling has identified it as part of the Destruction and Restoration of National Life panel from Ezekiel and as Nebuchadnezzar killing Jehoiakim, as described by midrashic sources; (56) Goodenough suggests it is the decapitation of the prophet Ezekiel; Wischnitzer-Bernstein believes it illustrates the slaying of Amasa by Joab; (57) and Weitzmann and Kessler claim it represents an enforced sacrifice and the slaying of an army commander by Mattathias, as described in I Maccabees. (58) On the left side of the panel, a man in military garb pushes or pulls another man away from an altar. On the right, a figure in Persian dress prepares to head someone while four soldiers watch in the background. The figure being executed has been overpainted and is difficult to make out.
The soldiers in this scene are dressed very differently from those in the Eben-Ezer panel. They appear to be wearing cuirasses and crested helmets, which James describes as "clich s drawn from the Hellenistic artistic traditions" (59) and which Kraeling associates with Roman military deities. (60) Although there is disagreement about the significance of their uniform, it is clearly more Roman than Persian. The soldier on the left wears a long-sleeved garment under a breast plate with a cloak pinned over one shoulder, greaves and boots, a leather kilt, and a crested helmet with an outward-turning rim. The four soldiers on the other side of the altar also wear crested helmets and leather kilts, and at least two of them wear scaled body armor.
As compared to the Eben-Ezer warriors, the soldiers in this scene are possibly higher-ranking officers dressed in a more formal type of uniform. Their dress is similar to that of the three military deities shown in the upper left-hand corner of the Julius Terentius fresco (Fig. 8). Although this image is significantly degraded, the deities appear to be wearing Greco-Roman uniforms consisting of kilts, belts, boots, cuirasses, and cloaks draped over their shoulders. They also hold staffs, and at least one has a shield. The deities are bare-limbed, as was common among soldiers of the late republic and early empire. (61) The helmets depicted in the synagogue panel resemble those worn by warriors on several painted Roman shields found at Dura; (62) and the man who is about to behead his victim holds a spatha high in the air, in a manner resembling that of the soldier on the bottom of the Eben-Ezer panel (Figs. 3, 9). This sword displays a circular pommel, a feature found on some swords excavated at the site. (63)
According to one of Kraeling's hypotheses, this panel is an illustration of I Kings 2:28-34, in which Solomon commands Benaiah, the captain of his army, to kill Joab for betrayal and murder, even though Joab had taken refuge at the tent of the Lord (64) In this interpretation, the men in Roman military uniforms would represent soldiers in Solomon's army. Kraeling also mentions the possibility that the scene is derived from Ezekiel 9:1-6. (65) In this case, the soldiers are the six angelic executioners whom Ezekiel sees standing beside the bronze altar of the Temple. The Lord tells one of these men to mark the foreheads of those who lament the sins of Jerusalem, while the others are directed to kill all who are not marked. There may be no way to fully resolve the identification of the scene, but these interpretations suggest that either Solomon's army or the Lord's executioners are being portrayed in the guise of Roman soldiers.
Other Militaristic Images in the Synagogue Panels
In addition to scenes depicting warfare and men in armor, there are several panels in the synagogue that convey militaristic themes in a more subtle manner. For example, a painting on the western wall shows Moses causing water to flow from the well of Beer; (66) the water separates into twelve streams which flow towards an equal number of tents on either side of Moses. In front of each tent stands a man, presumably representative of one of the twelve tribes of Israel (Fig. 10). According to Kraeling, these tents "are of a type commonly used for military purposes" and resemble those seen on the Column of Aurelian. (67) Like Roman military tents, they are longitudinal structures with gabled roofs and are tethered to the ground by ropes (Fig. 11). These enclosures are strikingly different from the pyramidal, teepee-like tent appearing above the Torah shrine in the scene representing the binding of Isaac, or Akedah, from Genesis 22:1-24. (68) The inclusion of army tents around the figure of Moses striking the well with his staff reinforces the image of Moses as military commander, as seen in the Exodus panel.
[FIGURE 10 OMITTED]
In the panel depicting Ezekiel in the Valley of the Dry Bones, the valley contains not dry bones but fleshy body parts--heads, arms, legs, and so on (Fig. 12). (69) Kraeling wonders if this was done to "avoid offending worshipers," (70) but surely the inclusion of severed heads and limbs would have been just as offensive, if not more so. The biblical emphasis on the dryness of the bones in the valley makes it surprising that they are minimally portrayed, with only a handful of ribs appearing in the bottom center of the panel. According to the Book of Ezekiel, the valley is "full of bones ... and they were very dry" (Ezekiel 37:1-2); God tells Ezekiel to say to them, "0 dry bones, hear the word of the Lord" (Ezekiel 37:4); and when Ezekiel prophesies to the bones, he hears "a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone" (Ezekiel 37:7), after which they are covered by sinews and skin. (71) Since a large part of the miracle consists of the reassembly of dry bones, we may wonder why virtually none are portrayed in the panel. The answer may lie in the artists' desire to make the scene resemble a battlefield, a sight that would probably have been familiar to the inhabitants of a military garrison on the Roman frontier. The severed heads, arms, and legs strewn on the ground recall images of carnage.
[FIGURE 11 OMITTED]
Similarly, the panel showing the Ark in the Land of the Philistines is a scene of pillage. (72) Objects from the Temple of Dagon, including the statue of the god, are scattered on the ground in violent disarray, much like the body parts in the Ezekiel scene (Fig. 6). (73) Ruined temples and other buildings would have been another common sight on the eastern Roman frontier.74 The appearance of crenellated, fortress-like walls in the fragmentary scene of Hannah and the child Samuel at Shiloh, the Exodus panel, the Consecration of the Tabernacle, and Pharaoh and the Infancy of Moses may reflect a more subtle intrusion of militaristic imagery into the sacred space of the synagogue. (75)
[FIGURE 12 OMITTED]
Accompanying these scenes of warfare and destruction are images that recall military triumph. In the Purim panel, (76) Mordecai is portrayed as a triumphant warrior riding on a white horse led by his vanquished enemy, Haman (Fig. 13). This image is reminiscent of a Persian-style hunt scene in the mithraeum that shows Mithras on a white horse (Fig. 14). Like Mordecai, this figure displays a quiver full of arrows, a cape that blows in the wind, a Phrygian cap, and Iranian garb; and his torso is shown frontally even though he is sitting astride the horse. (77) According to Kraeling, the image of Mordecai has its basis in Iranian triumph imagery such as the Sassanian bas-reliefs of Naqsh-i-Rajab, in which the victorious ruler is shown on horseback, often accompanied by Victories or angels. (78) Walter Moon, on the other hand, compares it to an adventus in the Greco-Roman style. (79) Kraeling believes that Haman appears in the guise of a stable-boy, (80) while Dalia Tawil suggests that he is modeled after a Roman charioteer, (81) Although the prototypes for the scene are a matter of debate, the message of victory is undeniable. The synagogue painters also made more subtle references to military triumph by including miniature Nike figures in the panels showing the Exodus from Egypt, what is believed to be Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon, and the Consecration of the Tabernacle. (82)
[FIGURE 13 OMITTED]
Rosenfeld and Potchebutzky describe several other images that may reflect the influence of military iconography on the synagogue. The rows of "button-like disks, each with a circle in the centre," which appear in the image of the cande-labrum in the synagogue's Torah shrine and in the door reveals of the entrances to the House of Assembly, bear a resemblance to the standards used by the Roman army, (83) Additionally, the sign of Capricorn and the image of the centaur may have been used to decorate some of the synagogue's ceiling tiles because the former was the emblem for the Legion IV Scythica, which was stationed in Dura, and the latter was used by the Legions I Parthica and II Parthica, which may have retreated to Dun in times of distress. (84)
Active Participation Or Passive Observation: Did Jews Serve in the Roman Army?
We will probably never know how many Jews were in the Roman army in Late Antiquity, due in part to the lack of documentation and the probability that many of them assumed Greek or Latin names. (85) Jews are known to have made up an important part of Persian, Hellenic, and Egyptian armies, among others. (86) Evidence for their existence in the Roman army is not as forthcoming, but it is certain that some Jews did serve. In Jewish Antiquities (17.2), Josephus refers to a Jewish Babylonian nobleman and military commander, Zamaris, who joined the Roman army along with five hundred horse archers and one hundred of his kinsmen in the first century B.C.E.87 In the first century C.E., an Alexandrian Jew known as Tiberius Julius Alexander helped Titus quell the uprising in Judaea and became one of the highest ranking officers in the eastern army; (88) and some Jews appear to have supported the Romans during the Jewish revolt. (89) An imperial soldier and Syrian Jew called Matrhaius received Roman citizenship in 68 C.E., and several Jews are known to have served in high military positions in the third century. (90) A late-second-century decree of Septimius Severus, as recorded by Ulpian, allowed Jews to enter public office and excused them from performing "liturgies" that would "transgress their religion." (91) Scholars acknowledge that auxiliary units on the frontier included Jews. (92) The Sassanian king Shapur I, conqueror of Dura-Europos, encountered a Roman force of seventy-thousand men that included soldiers from Judaea. (93) The Midrash Genesis Rabbah speaks of a Roman officer during the time of Hadrian who appears to have been a follower of R. Joshua, (94) and the fourth-century Christian writer Sulpicius Severus refers to Jews in the imperial forces. (95)
[FIGURE 14 OMITTED]
An inscription from the fourth-century northern Italian tomb of Flavia Optata may provide evidence of a Jewish regiment that fought for the Romans. The coffin's inscription states:
ELAVIA OPTATA MILI DE NUM REGI EME SIV DE R V SI QUIS POS OVIT ME ARC VOLU AP ENFE R VI AUR LIB VNA. (96)
Some scholars read the second and third lines as Num(erus) Regi Emes(enorum) Iud(a)eoru(m), interpreting this to mean that Flavia was the daughter or wife of a soldier in a royal regiment of Jews from Emesa in Syria: "Flavia Optata (wife/daughter?) of a soldier from the troop of the Royal Emesene Jews. If anyone after my death wishes to open the tomb, he shall pay to the resources of the treasury one pound of gold." (97) According to Applebaum, the fact that there was a synagogue in the vicus of the Emesan fort increases the likelihood that this cohort "had Jews in its ranks." (98)
It is also possible that some Jews were conscripted into the Roman army. Josephus states that "Jews who [were] Roman citizens and observe[d] Jewish rites" in Ephesus were excused from military service in 49 B.C.E., (99) indicating that Ephesian Jews had been obligated to serve before this time and that Jews who were not citizens could still be drafted. In the first century C.E., Tiberius sent four thousand Roman Jews to Sardinia to suppress brigandage. (100) According to Applebaum, Jews were never generally exempted from military service during the imperial period. Following the Zealot movement in Judaea and the resultant Diaspora, there were few Jewish communities left in Palestine from which manpower could be drawn; but in places like Asia Minor and Syria, Jewish populations were still large enough to allow for the possibility of conscription. (101) Scholars disagree about how often conscription, or dilectus, was used by the Roman army, however. While some posit that it was implemented only "in emergencies, when preparations were being made for wars," others claim that volunteers were usually in short supply and that the draft "remained the norm throughout the Empire." (102)
It should also be noted that Jews who joined the Roman army would not necessarily have been required to fight. As the Digest of Justinian makes clear, there was a large variety of positions available in the military, including "surveyors, the medical sergeant, medical orderlies and dressers, ditchers, farriers, the architects, pilots, shipwrights, artillerymen, glassfitters, smiths, arrowsmiths, coppersmiths, helmet-makers, wagon-makers, roof-tile-makers, swordcutlers, water engineers, trumpet-makers, horn-makers, bow-makers, plumbers, blacksmiths, stonecutters, limeburners, woodcutters, and charcoal-burners." (103) Thus, there were many opportunities for employment in the Roman army that did not entail combat. (104)
The participation of Jews in the Roman army evidently continued until the fourth and early fifth centuries, when the rise of the Church and antisemitism made it increasingly difficult for them to take part in affairs of the state. A series of imperial edicts passed in the early fifth century barred Jews from serving in the military in various provinces of the empire. (105) Jews were completely banned from the Roman army and civil service in 418 C.E., as stated in the Codex Theodosianus (16.8.24), which suggests that there were enough Jews in the army up to this time to be a source of concern for the Christian emperor. (106)
Diversity and Religious Toleration in the Roman Army
According to Andrew Schoenfeld, "When the issue of Jewish service in the Roman Army is addressed, it is not without a certain degree of skepticism, and Roman Jews in imperial service are often cast in the light of 'renegades' or apostates." (107) We must therefore ask the question, could Jews have served in the Roman army without sacrificing their beliefs and losing their Jewish identity? In the case of Dura-Europos in the third century, the answer seems to be yes.
Many soldiers in the Dura garrison worshipped gods outside of the traditional Roman pantheon. A large number of the soldiers were from Syria, and some were probably from Dura itself. (108) There is definite evidence for the presence of soldiers in the Temple of Bel, the mithraeum, and a few other pagan temples throughout the city. (109) As I. P. Haynes states, the survival of religious belief from soldiers' homelands "is striking and may indicate that other aspects of cultural tradition for which there is less evidence were similarly preserved." (110) The Terentius fresco in the Temple of Bel, also known as the Temple of the Palmyrene Gods, is one of the most notable signs of Dura's atmosphere of religious tolerance (Fig. 8). The Terentius painting is so called after the figure labeled in Latin as "Julius Terentius, tribune," who is shown offering incense to a group of deities the Palmyrene Gods (111)--and to the Tyches, or female personifications, of Palmyra and Dura. Behind Terentius are rows of soldiers in "camp dress" attire--long-sleeved, belted tunics and trousers with cloaks draped around one shoulder. One of these men, who reaches out to the standard on the other side of the altar, is labeled in Greek "Themes, son of Mocimus." Both of the named men are known to have served in the cohors XX Palmyrenorum, so it is assumed that the painting shows a sacrifice by soldiers of that unit to the deities of its city of origin. A dipinto from the Temple of Azzanothkona depicts a similarly dressed officer sacrificing to the Palmyrene deity Iarhibol. These paintings provide visual evidence that soldiers' native religious traditions were compatible with their service in the Roman army.
The Feriale Duranum, a list of Roman imperial holy days with prescribed offerings and practices, was discovered at Dura in the early 1930s. Dated to 225-27 CE., the calendar was almost certainly used by the cohors XX Palmyrenorum. (112) Although scholars acknowledge that the Feriale was an attempt to Romanize the eastern forces and standardize religious practices, they disagree as to the success of this attempt and the extent to which it was enforced. According to Arthur Nock, there was "no general obligation to perform specific acts of worship on [the] occasions" of the holy days listed in the calendar. Nor is there evidence that the soldiers actually carried out any of the prescribed sacrifices or rituals, and as Nock asks, "Why should it? Apart from agrarian rituals which the farmer must perform on his land, and family observances of the days belonging to the dead, the official rituals of the feriae publicae ... were performed in Rome and Rome alone." (113) Similarly, Bradford Welles states that the observance of Roman holidays "did not require positive acts of worship but only abstention from ordinary business." (114) In the late second century, Septimius Severus decreed that Jews who served in public office should not be required to perform liturgies that would "transgress their religion." (115) Indeed, there are few or no signs that soldiers who did not engage in Roman religious activities were punished in any way at Dura. (116)
It has been assumed that Jews could not have served in the army in part because their religion prohibited them from worshipping the semidivine Roman emperor and the Roman gods. But as we have seen, the soldiers at Dura were probably not forced to actively participate in Roman religious practices or to give up their own beliefs. Nor would the oath of allegiance required of all recruits have compromised the Jews' monotheistic sensibilities. According to the fourth-century Roman writer Servius Honoracus, newly-minted soldiers merely had to swear that they "would act on behalf of the Republic, and that they would not leave until after they had served their time." (117)
Although we will probably never know for certain whether there were Jews in the Roman army at Dura, much less whether such individuals frequented the synagogue, the paintings reveal that military themes, mediated through biblical stories, had a strong influence on the Jewish community. The citizens of Dura were exposed to the sights and sounds of the army on a daily basis, and their existence in a frontier town between the warring powers of Rome and Persia was precarious at best. This familiarity with warfare and instability probably influenced the designers of the synagogue's panels. They chose to represent many biblical stories with themes of violence and destruction, and they played up the military aspect even in scenes that were not directly related to warfare. There is a good chance that the panels' creators were supportive of the Roman army, since they iconographically associated Israelite warriors with Roman soldiers by putting vexilla in the hands of the Elders and by dressing figures that may represent Solomon's army or holy executioners in legionary uniforms. The paintings convey the idea that those who worshipped the true God would be triumphant in battle, which would have been an attractive prospect to soldiers garrisoned in the city. Thus, like the pagan temples at Dura, the synagogue could well have been a place of hope and spiritual guidance for some members of the Roman army.
Botterweck, G. Johannes, et al. Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament. Translated by David Green. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1974.
Brettler, Marc and Michael Poliakoff. "Rabbi Simeon ben Lakish at the Gladiator's Banquet: Rabbinic Observations on the Roman Arena." The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 83, No. 1 (1990): 93-98.
Chyutin, Michael. Architecture and Utopia in the Temple Area. Translated by Richard Flantz. New York: T & T Clark, 2006.
The Classic Midrash: Tannaitic Commentaries on the Bible. Translated by Reuven Hammer. New York: Paulist Press, 1995.
Colledge, Malcolm. Parthian Art. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1977.
Collins, John. "The Zeal of Phinehas: The Bible and the Legitimation of Violence." journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 122, No. 1 (2003): 3-21.
Elsner, Jag. "Archaeologies and Agendas: Reflections on Late Ancient Jewish Art and Early Christian Art." The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 93 (2003): 114-128.
Elsner, Jas. "Cultural Resistance and the Visual Image: The Case of Dura Europos." Classical Philology, Vol. 96, No. 3 (2001): 269-304.
Finkelstein, Louis. "Maimonides and the Tannaitic Midrashim." The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 25, No. 4 (1935): 469-517.
Garte, Edna. "The Theme of Resurrection in the Dura-Europos Synagogue Paintings." The Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, Vol. 64, No. 1 (1973): 1-15.
Goldman, Bernard. "The Question of a Judaic Aesthetic in Ancient Synagogue Art." The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 19, No. 3 (1961): 295-304.
Guggenheimer, Heinrich. The Jerusalem Talmud. First Order: Zeraim Tractate Berakhot. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2000.
Hachlili, Rachel. Ancient Jewish Art and Archaeology in the Diaspora. Leiden: Brill, 1998.
Hachlili, Rachel. "The Zodiac in Ancient Jewish Art: Representation and Significance." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 228 (1977): 61-77.
Hobbs, T. R. A Time for War: A Study of Warfare in the Old Testament. Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, 1989.
Hopkins, Clark. The Discovery of Dura Europos. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.
Horowitz, Elliott. "The Rite to be Reckless: On the Perpetration and Interpretation of Purim Violence." Poetics Today, Vol. 15, No. 1 (1994): 9-54.
James, Simon. "Evidence from Dura Europos for the Origins of Late Roman Helmets." Syria, Vol. 63 (1986): 107-134.
Kalmin, Richard. Jewish Babylonia Between Persia and Roman Palestine. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Kang, Sa-Moon. Divine War in the Old Testament and in the Ancient Near East. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1989.
Klawans, Jonathan. "Pure Violence: Sacrifice and Defilement in Ancient Israel." The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 94, No. 2 (2001): 133-155.
Levey, Geoffrey. "Judaism and the Obligation to Die for the State." AJS Review, Vol.. 12, No. 2 (1987): 175-203.
Levit-Tawil, Dalia. "The Enthroned King Ahasuerus at Dura in Light of the Iconography of Kingship in Iran." Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 250 (1983): 57-78.
Magness, Jodi. "Heaven on Earth: Helios and the Zodiac Cycle in Ancient Palestinian Synagogues." Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 59 (2005): 1-52.
May, Herbert G. "Synagogues in Palestine." The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 7, No. 1 (1944): 1-20.
McIntyre, James, and I.A. Richmond. " Tents of the Roman Army and Leather from Birdoswald." Trans. Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, New Series (1934): 62-90.
Miller, Patrick, Jr. The Divine Warrior in Early Israel. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973.
Moss, Joshua. Midrash and Legend: Historical Anecdotes in the Tannaitic Midrashim. New Jersey: Gorgias Press, 2003.
Nathanson, Barbara G. "Jews, Christians, and the Gallus Revolt in Fourth-Century Palestine." The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 49, No. 1 (1986): 26-36.
Neusner, Jacob. "Judaism at Dura-Europos." History of Religions, Vol. 4, No. 1 (1964): 81-102.
Rackman, Emanuel. "Violence and the Value of Life. The Halakhic View," in Violence and the Value of Life in Jewish Tradition. Jerusalem: Oz Veshalom Publications, 1984.
Radin, Max. The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans. Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1915.
Randall, Albert. Theologies of War and Peace Among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1998.
The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars (AD 226-363): A Documentary History, ed. Michael Dodgeon and Samuel Lieu. London: Rout-ledge, 1991.
Roth, Jonathan. "Jewish Military Forces in the Roman Service." 23 November 2004. <http://www.josephus.yorku.ca/Roth%20Jewish%20Forces.pdf> (1 July 2008).
Rouwhorst, "Jewish Liturgical Traditions in Early Syriac Christianity." Vigiliae Christtanae Vol. 51, No. 1 (1997): 72-93.
Rutgers, Leonard V. "Archaeological Evidence for the Interaction of Jews and Non Jews in Late Antiquity." American Journal of Archaeology, Vol. 96, No. 1 (1992): 101-118.
Steinsaltz, Adin. The Essential Talmud. New York: Basic Books, 2006.
Weitzman, Steven. "From Feasts into Mourning: The Violence of Early Jewish Festivals." The Journal of Religion, Vol. 79, No. 4 (1999): 545-565.
Wharton, Annabelle. "Good and Bad Images from the Synagogue of Dura Europos: Contexts, Subtexts, Intertexts" in Eva Hoffman, ed., Late Antique and Medieval Art of the Mediterranean World. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
(1.) I would like to thank Dr. Thelma Thomas of NYU's Institute of Fine Arts and Dr. Steven Fine of Yeshiva University for their encouragement.
(2.) Marie-Henriette Gates, "Dura-Europos: A Fortress of Syro-Mesopotamian Art," The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol. 47, No. 3 (1984): 166-67.
(3.) Gates, "Dura-Europos: A Fortress," p. 167. Beginning in the late second century, legionary vexillations and auxiliary cohorts--most notably the cohors XX Palmyrenorum--were stationed in Dura. See Nigel Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution in the Near East? Dura-Europos as a Case Study," in David Kennedy, ed., The Roman Army in the East (Ann Arbor: Cushing-Malloy Inc., 1996), p. 212. The total number of legionaries and auxiliaries living there in the third century has been estimated at 3,000-5,000 men, making up a significant percentage of Duds total population of 10,000-20,000 (Simon James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment. Final Report 7 of The Excavations at Dura-Europos [London: British Museum Press, 2004], p. 19; and Pollard, "The Roman Army arfotal Institution," p. 212. Also see G. It Watson, The Roman Soldier [Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1969J, p. 25, for an analysis of the composition of the cohort). The city appears to have served as regional headquarters and an administrative center for the Roman army in the Middle Euphrates region. By the 240s, Dura had become the residence of the dux ripae, an equestrian post commanding forces in Syria Coele, which faced Persian Mesopotamia and was "a likely main axis of invasion" (James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 16-20).
(4.) For a reconstruction of the synagogue's layout, see Carl Kraeling, The Synagogue: Final Report 8, Part I of The Excavations at Dura-Europos, edited by A. R. Bellinger, F. E. Brown, A. Perkins, and C. B. Welles (Ktav Publishing House, Inc., 1979), Plan VI. The edition of Kraeling's book used in this article is a reprint of the 1956 version and was published by Kray.
(5.) Gates,"Dura-Europos: A Fortress," pp. 172-74. Kraeling believes the synagogue was established between 165 and 200 C.E. (Kraeling, The Synagogue, pp. 326-27). For a description of the appearance and decoration of the synagogue before its enlargement, see Ann Perkins, The Art of Dura-Europos (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), p. 56; and Kraeling, The Synagogue, pp. 34-38.
(6.) Gates, " Dura-Europos: A Fortress," p. 173.
(7.) Christopher Kelley, "Who Did the Iconoclasm in the Dura Synagogue?" Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research, No. 295 (1994): 57.
(8.) Gates, "Dura-Europos: A Fortress," pp. 172-75.
(9.) It is believed that the larger, more centrally located door was used by men, while the smaller door at the south end of the wall was used by women. The worshippers were probably separated by sex (Andrew Seager, "The Architecture of the Dura and Sardis Synagogues," in Joseph Gutmann, ed., The Dura-Europos Synagogue: A Re-evaluation [1932-1992]) (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1992), pp. 86-87; Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 20). In the earlier version of the synagogue, women may have been relegated to a space outside of the assembly room (Seager, "The Architecture of the Dura and Sardis Synagogues," p. 87).
(10.) Gates, "Dura-Europos: A Fortress," p. 620; Gutmann, "Programmatic Painting in the Dura Synagogue," in The Dura-Europos Synagogue: A Re-evaluation, p. 140.
(11.) Ben Zion Rosenfeld and Rivka Potchebutzky, "The Civilian-Military Community in the Two Phases of the Synagogue at Dura Europos: A New Approach," Levant, Vol. 41, No. 2 (2009): 195-222.
(12.) According to Christopher Kelley, Dura was the "lonely midpoint" between the large Jewish communities of Antioch and Babylon. It was situated along the route to Palmyra, Damascus, Galilee, and Tiberias, the seat of the Jewish Patriarch at this time; and there was a steady stream of contact between Jews in Babylon and Palestine (Kelley, "Who Did the Iconoclasm in the Dura Synagogue?" p. 57). The synagogue appears to have contained rooms to lodge visitors (Seager, "The Architecture of the Dura and Sardis Synagogues," p. 82; Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 10). The graffiti and dipinti found on the walls of the synagogue provide some clues as to the identities of the worshippers: there are twenty-two inscriptions in Aramaic, nineteen in Greek, twelve in Middle Persian, and three in Parthian script (Kraeling, The Synagogue, pp. 261, 277, 283; Kelley, "Who Did the Iconoclasm in the Dura Synagogue?" p. 60). Also see Rosenfeld, "The Civilian-Military Community," pp. 203-220, for an analysis of the Jews' origins and cultural identity.
(13.) For an analysis of scholarship on Jewish art in the early twentieth century, see Steven Fine, Art and Judaism in the Greco-Roman World: Toward a New Jewish Archaeology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 1-53; and Margaret Olin, "'Early Christian Synagogues' and 'Jewish Art Historians': The Discovery of the Synagogue of Dura-Europos," Marburger Jahrbuch fur Kunstwissenschaft, No. 27 (2000): 7-28. Eleazar Sukenik was one of the first scholars to provide a pivotal assessment of the Dura-Europos synagogue, as well as of the Beth Alpha synagogue and other ancient Jewish temples throughout Palestine and Greece. Among Sukenik's works are The Ancient Synagogue of Beth Alpha: An Account of the Excavations Conducted on Behalf of the Hebrew University (Jerusalem: Jerusalem University Press, 1932), Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece (London: Oxford University Press, 1934), and, most important in the context of this article, The Synagogue of Dura-Europos and Its Frescoes (Jerusalem: Bilalik Institute, 1947).
(14.) Joseph Gutmann, "The Dura Europos Synagogue Paintings and Their Influence on Later Christian and Jewish Art," Artibus et Historiae, Vol. 9, No. 17 (1988): 25.
(15.) According to Warren Moon, for example, there is a similarity between the eagles on the thrones of Solomon, David, and Ahasuerus, as depicted in the synagogue, and eagle statues found at Dura, some of which belonged to the military (Moon, "Nudity and Narrative: Observations on the Frescoes from the Dura Synagogue," Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 60, No. 4 : 606-67). Others have observed that the illustration of the fallen idol of Dagon resembles a statue of Adonis located in a temple across the street from the synagogue (Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 103). The figure of Queen Esther in the Purim panel has been compared to images of Tyche found in Dura and throughout the Greco-Roman world (Moon, "Nudity and Narrative," p. 608; Michael Avi-Yonah, "Goodenough's Evaluation of the Dura Paintings: A Critique," in The Dura-Europos Synagogue: A Re-evaluation, p. 123). Another similarity that, to the best of my knowledge, has not yet been observed by scholars is the resemblance between King Ahasuerus in the Purim panel (identified in Kraeling as Panel WC 2, Mordecai and Esther) and one of the priests in the nearby mithraeum (see the figure on the right side of the mithraeum niche in Perkins, The Art of Dura-Europas, Plate 15). Both figures have Phrygian caps that are slanted in the same direction, wear Iranian garb, and sit enthroned with their left arm bent towards their body and their right arm extended away.
(16.) O1in, "'Early Christian Synagogues,'" p. 9.
(17.) Warren Moon and Richard Brilliant, for example, emphasize the Greco-Romanness of the synagogue paintings, while Dalia Tawil and M. Rostovtzeff suggest that they have more in common with Parthian and Sassanian art.
(18.) Joseph Gutmann identifies three positions scholars have taken on this issue. One group, which includes M. Rostovtzeff, believes that there is no unifying idea and that the panels related to specific liturgical readings, helping the congregation to "visualize some of the episodes as they were being read" in the synagogue. Goodenough and others suggest that a single unified theological theme runs through the paintings, which he identifies as the mystical ascent of the soul and the hope of triumph over death. The third group, which includes du Mesnil du Buisson and Carl Kraeling, sees multiple themes and layers of meaning in the paintings (Gutmann, "Programmatic Painting in the Dura Synagogue, pp. 137-39). While Kraeling analyzes the visual program primarily in the context of Talmudic, midrashic, and targumic writings, Goodenough believes that the images also draw on Hellenistic Jewish literature, in particular the writings of Philo and Jewish mystical writings.
(19.) The authors mention that this subject warrants further discussion (Rosenfeld, "The Civilian-Military Community," pp. 195, 217).
(20.) Although a wall appears to have separated the garrison in the northwestern part of Dura from the rest of the town, soldiers and civilians lived in close proximity to one another (Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution,'" pp. 212-213; James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 17-18). Some soldiers married local women, and veterans are known to have settled in the community (Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution,'" pp. 212-220). The soldiers were not confined to the garrison, as many were stationed in cowers along the city walls and at the gates. There are also indications that they were billeted in private houses in the residential quarter, including near the synagogue (James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 18; Rosenfeld, "The Civilian-Military Community," p. 197).
(21.) Panel NB I in Kraeling, The Synagogue.
(22.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 41.
(23.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 111. The Romans may have adopted scale armor from the Sarmatians, an Iranian people who were recruited into the Roman army in the second century C.E. The Sarmatians and their horses are depicted as fully covered in scaled armor on Trajan's Column, although it is unlikely that they and their horses actually wore this armor from top to toe (Graham Webster, The Roman Imperial Army of the First and Second Centuries A.D. [London: Adam & Charles Black, 1969], p. 152). Scale armor for horses, including some remarkably well-preserved examples, has also been found at Dura (James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 114; Webster, The Roman Imperial Army, pp. 152-53).
(24.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 41-45. According to James, standard Roman military dress at this time consisted of breeches, footwear, a tunic, a military belt, a sword on a baldric, a cloak and brooch, and various accessories (p. 58). For a reconstruction of the appearance of Roman soldiers at Dura, with and without armor, see James, Plates 11-13.
(25.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 102. James suggests that the soldiers removed their helmets in the tower because "the design of contemporary Roman helmets did not allow the head to be thrown back very far which would make it impossible to fight in the crouching position which the low mine gallery demanded. ..." (p. 102). However, it is also possible "that some Roman soldiers at Dura may sometimes or routinely have dispensed with their helmets, perhaps for cultural or practical reasons," such as "the risk of heat exhaustion" (p. 256).
(26.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 102.
(27.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 140.
(29.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 166-67.
(30.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 159.
(31.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 160.
(32.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 167.
(33.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 185-87.
(34.) Jonathan Goldstein suggests that the man on the black horse symbolizes "the more disliked power" of Rome, while the man on the white horse represents the "more benevolent Persia," though he provides little evidence for this view (Goldstein, Semites, Iranians, Greeks, and Romans: Studies in their Interactions [Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1990J, p. 103). Alternatively, Rachel Wischnitzer-Bernstein believes that the man on the white horse looks more aggressive than the rider on the black horse, suggesting that the former represents the victorious Philistines ("The Samuel Cycle in the Wall Decoration of the Synagogue at Dura-Europos," Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research, Vol. 11 : 88).
(35.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, pp. 96-97.
(36.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 97.
(37.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 115.
(38.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 115.
(39.) Simon James, "Military Equipment from the Yale/French Academy Excavations at Dura-Europos, 1928-1936," in Pierre Leriche and Mathilde Gelin, eds., Doura-Europos: Etudes IV, 1991-1993 (Beirut: IFAPO, 1997), p. 225.
(40.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 242-44. According to James, both armies "incorporated enormous cultural and ethnic diversity, including many communities (from Armenia to Hatra, Dura itself and Palmyra) which engaged with both sides or changed imperial master, sometimes more than once" (p. 244).
(41.) Panel WB 4 in Kraeling.
(42.) Panel WA 3 in Kraeling.
(43.) Perkins notes a discrepancy in the number of soldiers in this panel: "there are only thirty legs and more than twice as many heads" (Perkins, The Art of Duro-Europas, pp. 59-60).
(44.) It should be noted that Josephus frequently portrays Moses in a military capacity. As Louis Feldman observes in Jews and Gentiles in the Ancient World: Attitudes and Interactions from Alexander to Justinian (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), pp. 266-67, Josephus applies the term "general" or "leader" to Moses fifteen times in Jewish Antiquities (2.241, 258; 3.2, 11, 12, 28, 47, 65, 67, 78, 102, 105; 4.82, 194, 329) and once in Against Apion (2.158). Additionally, Moses addresses his followers as "comrades-in-arms" in Jewish Antiquities (4.177).
(45.) Moon,"Nudity and Narrative," p. 597.
(46.) Septuaginta; id est, Vetus Testamentum Graece luxta LXX Interpretes, edited by Alfred Rahlfs (Stuttgart: Privilegierte Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1935), p. 108. For the English translation, see The Septuagint with Apocrypha, Greek and English, translated by Sir Lancelot Brenton (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986), p. 87.
(47.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 81; Joseph Gutmann, "The Illustrated Midrash in the Dura Synagogue Paintings: A New Dimension for the Study of Judaism," in Proceedings of the American Academy foriewish Research, Vol. 50 (1983): 102-03. In Eusebius' Praeparatio evangelica (ed. E.H. Gifford, 1903), for example, the Jewish chronographer Demetrius and tragic poet Ezekiel describe the departing Israelites as unarmed (Book IX, Chapter 29).
(48.) The Bible in Aramaic Based on Old Manuscripts and Printed Texts, Vol. I: The Pentateuch According to Targum Onkelos, edited by Alexander Sperber (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959), Exodus 13:18; Biblia Sacra: luxta Vulgatam Versionem (Stuttgart: Wurttembergische Bibelanstalt, 1969), p. 95. For the English translation of the Targum, see Israel Drazin's Targum Onkelos to Exodus, based on the A. Sperber and A. Berliner editions (Denver: Center for Judaic Studies, University of Denver, 1990), p. 136. Also see Gutmann, "The Illustrated Midrash in the Dura Synagogue Paintings," pp. 102-03. A number of medieval manuscripts, such as the Ripon. Bible (Rome: Vatican Library, Ms. 5729, folio 82) and the Rylands Haggadah (Manchester: The John Rylands University Library, Ms. 6, folio 19), also depict armed Israelites leaving Egypt. Gutmann doubts that these illustrations were influenced by the Dura synagogue paintings or its assumed prototype, however, and suggests that they instead relied on the Vulgate's description: "et armati ascenderunt filii Israel de terra Aegypti" (Vulgate Exodus 13:18, as cited in Gutmann, "The Illustrated Midrash in the Dura Synagogue Paintings," p. 102).
(49.) Ancient Jewish texts that discuss this term include Jacob Lauterbach, ed., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Ishmael: A Critical Edition on the Basis of the Manuscripts and Early Editions with an English Translation, Introduction and Notes (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1933), Vol. 1,174:70-175:74; and Exodus Rabbah 20:19, in M. A. Mirkin, ed., Midrash Rabbah (Tel Aviv: Hotsa'at 'Yavneh, 1956). For further analysis, see Menahem Kasher, Encyclopedia of Biblical Interpretation: A Millennial Anthology, Volume VIII: Exodus, trans. Harry Freedman (New York: American Biblical Encyclopedia Society, 1970), p. 120. Also see Louis Ginzberg, The Legends of the Jews, trans. Henrietta Szold (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1946), Vol. III, p. 15, and Vol. VI, pp. 4-5.
(50.) Arthur Nock sees a similarity between the Terentius fresco from the Temple of Bel and the Exodus panel, suggesting that the two groups of Roman soldiers behind the tribunal Terentius "correspond to the four columns of Israelites in the Exodus scene" (Nock, "The Roman Army and the Roman Religious Year," The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 45, No. 4 : 199).
(51.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 83. M. Rostovtzeff describes the functions of the vexillum as follows: "The most ancient standard of the Roman army was the vexillum. A vexillum was displayed when the Roman People was summoned to vote in the comitia centuriata or to perform its military duties. It was also the vexillum, the standard of the commander of a Roman army, which was displayed over the commander's tent as a signal of battle. As the standard of the Roman emperors the vexillum, held by a vexillarius, appears frequently on coins and some reliefs near the emperor when he is represented as performing some official act in the presence of his army (allocution, sacrifice, reception of ambassadors, etc.). Several units of the Roman army in Republican and Imperial times had the vexillum as their official standard (Rostovtzeff, "Vexillum and Victory," The Journal of Roman Studies, Vol. 32, Parts 1 and 2 : 93). See p. 95 for a discussion of the vexillum portrayed in the Terentius fresco.
(52.) Webster, The Roman Imperial Army, pp. 139-40.
(53.) Rostovtzeff,"Vexillum and Victory," p. 101.
(54.) Bradford Welles, .et al., The Parchments and Papyri: Final Report 5, Part I of The Excavations at Dura-Europos, ed. Ann Perkins (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959), PP. 33.
(55.) Identified in Kraeling as Panel NC 1, Ezekiel, The Destruction and Restoration of National Life, Section C.
(56.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, pp. 194-202.
(57.) Rachel Wischnitzer-Bernstein, "The Conception of the Resurrection in the Ezekiel Panel of the Dura Synagogue," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 60, No. 1 (1941): 51-53.
(58.) Kurt Weitzmann and Herbert Kessler, The Frescoes of the Dura Synagogue and Christian Art (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1990), pp. 120-21.
(59.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 43-44.
(60.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 196.
(61.) During the mid-to-late second century, in what is known as the Antonine Revolution, there was a rapid transition from uniforms that left legs and arms exposed to uniforms consisting of long-sleeved tunics and breeches (James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 246). The tribune Terentius and his troops wear this more contemporary "camp dress" uniform, which consisted of "a belted, long-sleeved tunic over dark breeches, a sword on a shoulder-belt and a cloak, mostly brownish," although Terentius' cloak is white (p. 39). Breeches appear to have been used by Roman soldiers by the early third century (58). The cloak, known as the sagum and originating in Gaul, was in use by the middle imperial period and could function as a hood in bad weather and shade in hot weather (pp. 62, 247). This shift in uniform was largely the result of the Roman army's exposure to the colder climate of Northern Europe and increased contact with that region's barbarian tribes.
(62.) See James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, Plates 6, 7, and 9.
(63.) James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, pp. 140-146.
(64.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 198.
(65.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 199.
(66.) Identified in Kraeling as Panel WB I, The Wilderness Encampment and the Miraculous Well of Bder.
(67.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 119.
(68.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 120. For an analysis of Jewish images of Isaac's binding in antiquity, see Robin Jensen, "The Offering of Isaac in Jewish and Christian Tradition: Image and Text," Biblical Interpretation,Voi. 2, No. 1 (1994): 91-109.
(69.) Identified in Kraeling as Panel NC L Ezekiel, The Destruction and Restoration of National Life, Section A. Rachel Wischnitzer-Bernstein notes that there are "two triads of male bodies" and eight skulls in this panel, i.e., fourteen dead in all, which corresponds to the number of resurrected figures in the adjacent panel. She suggests that the central group of those being resurrected is symbolic of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel ("The Conception of the Resurrection in the Ezekiel Panel of the Dura Synagogue; 47-50).
(70.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 192.
(71.) Translation comes from The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977).
(72.) Panel WB 4 in Kraeling.
(73.) For an identification and list of the objects strewn on the ground, see Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 101-102.
(74.) For example, a letter from Aurelian, ca. 272 C.E., as recorded in the Scriptores Historiae Augustae, states that the "Temple of the Sun at Palmyra ... has been pillaged by the eagle-bearers of the Third Legion, along with the standard-bearers, the dragon-bearer, and the buglers and trumpeters" (Aurel. 31.5-10).
(75.) In Kraeling, Panels NB 2, WA 3, WB 2, and WC 4, respectively.
(76.) Identified in Kraeling as Panel WC 2, Mordecai and Esther.
(77.) Perkins, The Art of Dura-Europas, pp. 50-51, Figure 16. A similar figure of a man riding a white horse has been found in House M7 W in Dura (Perkins, The Art of DuroEuropas, Figure 26).
(78.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 152.
(79.) Moon,"Nudity and Narrative," p. 590.
(80.) Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 156.
(81.) Dalia Tawil, "The Purim Panel in the Light of Parthian and Sasanian Art," Journal of Near Eastern Studies, Vol. 38, No. 2 (1979): 105.
(82.) In Kraeling, Panels WA 3, WB 3, and WB 2, respectively.
(83.) Rosenfeld, "The Civilian-Military Community," pp. 207-14.
(84.) Rosenfeld, "The Civilian-Military Community," pp. 215-16. For the Capricorn symbol in Dura, see James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 19; and Kraeling, The Synagogue, Plate IX, Figure 2. Other ceiling tiles may also have had a military significance. Kraeling has noted the similarity between a flower design on one of the synagogue's ceiling tiles and a rosette that appears on the lower-left hand corner of the Terentius fresco in Dura's Temple of Bel. He does not believe the resemblance is meaningful, however, claiming that while the flower "serves as the emblem of the city of Duran" in the pagan temple, it probably had only "ornamental significance" in the synagogue (Kraeling, The Synagogue, p. 46). Such a statement implies that the Jews of Dura had fewer patriotic tendencies than their neighbors an assumption which may be unwarranted. It is even possible that the flower has some connection to the Rosaliae Signorum, a military festival in which army standards were decorated with wreaths of roses and paraded through camp. As Nock observes, the appearance of "roses ... in the decoration of pilasters flanking a vexillurn on a sculptured relief at Corbridge ... makes it very likely that the Rosaliae signorum was observed" at that location (Nock, "The Roman Army and the Roman Religious Year," p. 202). We may ask whether the rosette in the Dura synagogue had a similar significance.
(85.) Margaret Williams, ed., The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans: A Diasporart Sourcebook (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), p. 95. As Williams states, "Diasporan Jews in general did not use Hebrew names and those who were totally assimilated, as members of the public services by definition will have been, tended not to advertise their Jewishness. The few who can be detected show that Jews operated at all levels of the army and the civil service" (p. 95). For an analysis of names used in Dura-Europos, see Welles, The Parchments and Papyri, pp. 37-38, 45, 59-65; for a list of names of soldiers in the Dura garrison, see Welles, 304-385; and for a list of Hebrew names used in the ancient world, see Williams, The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans, pp. 107, 113, 207-08.
(86.) Andrew Schoenfeld, "Sons of Israel in Caesar's Service: Jewish Soldiers in the Roman Military," Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies, Vol. 24, No. 3 (2006):117.
(87.) Por an analysis of the story of Zamaris, see James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 245; and Shimon Applebaum, "Jews and Service in the Roman Army," in Roman Frontier Studies 1967: The Proceedings of the Seventh International Congress Held at Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1971), p. 181.
(88.) Josephus, Jewish Antiquities (20.100); Josephus, The Jewish War (5.43-6); Tacitus, Annals (15.28.3). For an analysis of Tiberius Alexander, see Schoenfeld, "Sons of Israel in Caesar's Service," p. 116. According to Schoenfeld, historians have largely failed to recognize the participation of Jews in the Roman military (p. 116).
(89.) In The Jewish War, for example, Josephus says that the inhabitants of Sepphoris wanted peace with the Romans, and admitted Vespasian and his soldiers into their city (3.31-32). Also see S. Safrai, "The Relations Between the Roman Army and the Jews of Bretz Israel After the Destruction of the Second Temple," in Roman Frontier Studies 1967, pp. 224-230, for a discussion of interactions between Jews and Romans soldiers.
(90.) For Matthaius's citizenship, see the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum (XVI, Diploma no. 8). Inscription no. 209 in the Corpus Inscriptionurn Iudaicarum I (Rome, 1936) refers to a Jewish centurion in Rome in the third or fourth century C.E. A third-century synagogue inscription from Pannonia speaks of a Jewish guard-post superintendent (David Noy, et al., eds., Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis, Vol. 1: Eastern Europe, [Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), pp. 9-10). A fourth-century epitaph from Moesia was dedicated by a Jew who was probably an officer in the Roman army (Noy, Inscriptiones, pp. 32-33). Also see Schoenfeld, "Sons of Israel in Caesar's Service," pp. 118-122, and Aryeh Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt (Tubingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1985), pp. 77-80, for an analysis of Jewish participation in the Roman military.
(91.) Digest 18.104.22.168, as cited by Amnon Linder in The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1987), p. 104.
(92.) Schoenfeld, "Sons of Israel in Caesar's Service," p. 123; A. Kasher, The Jews in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, p. 78.
(93.) Inscription from The Kaabah of Zoroaster (KZ), lines 19-23, as cited in James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment, p. 253.
(94.) Midrash Bereshit Rabba: Critical Edition with Notes and Commentary, edited by J. Theodor and Ch. Albeck (Jerusalem: Wahrmann Books, 1965), LXXXII.8. For an English translation, see Midrash Rabbah: Genesis Vol. 2, LXXXII.8, translated by H. Freedman and Maurice Simon (London: Soncino Press, 1983); also see Applebaum, "Jews and Service in the Roman Army," p. 182. According to the midrash, this "apostate" Roman officer rebuked two of R. Joshua's disciples for their failure to correctly answer three questions about certain biblical texts, telling them, "Your teacher Joshua did not expound it thus" (Freedman, Midrash Bereshit Rabba, pp. 757-58).
(95.) Sulpicius Severus, Chronicles (2.3.6). See Applebaum, "Jews and Service in the Roman Army," p. 182, for an analysis.
(96.) David Noy and Hanswulf Bloedhorn, eds., Inscriptiones Judaicae Orientis, Vol. III: Syria and Cyprus (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2004), p. 68; Michael Speidel, "Raising New Units for the Late Roman Army: 'Auxilia Palatina,'" Dumbarton Oaks Papers, Vol. 50 (1996): 164.
(97.) Translation comes from David Nay, ed., Jewish Inscriptions of Western Europe, Vol. I: Italy (Excluding the City of Rome), Spain and Gaul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), p. 8. Also see Williams, The Jews Among the Greeks and Romans, p. 97; and Applebaum, "Jews and Service in the Roman Army," pp. 182-83.
(98.) Applebaum, "Jews and Service in the Roman Army," p. 183. Michael Speidel, however, disagrees with this interpretation. He reads the phrase EME SIV DE R V as "emi(t)sib(i) de r(e)v(iri)," which means "she bought it [the coffin] for herself from her husband's money" (Speidel, "Raising New Units for the Late Roman Army," p. 164).
(99.) Josephus, Jewish Antiquities (14.228).
(100.) Josephus, Jewish Antiquities (18.81); and Tiberius XXXVI in Suetonius, Vol. 1: The Lives of the Caesars, trans. J. C. Rolfe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913), p. 345. Also see Applebaum, "Jews and Service in the Roman Army," p. 181.
(101.) Applebaum, "Jews and Service in the Roman Army," p. 181.
(102.) Pat Southern, The Roman Army: A Social and Institutional History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 132.
(103.) Digest 50.6.7, as cited in Watson, The Roman Soldier, p. 76.
(104.) Rosenfeld and Potchebutzky note that one member of the synagogue is described in an inscription as an apothecary, a term which may have referred to someone "who was in charge of a military archive" (Rosenfeld, "The Civilian-Military Community," p. 202). Additionally, standard bearers in the Scythica IV Legion often served as clerks, in addition to their role in the military command: and "the large number of scribes documented in Dura has led to the assumption that every centurion was accompanied by at least one scribe-clerk who most likely was also a standard bearer" (p. 217).
(105.) Schoenteld, "Sons of Israel in Caesar's Service," pp. 124-25.
(106.) Williams, The Jews among the Greeks and Romans, pp. 95, 105-06; Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation, p. 281. The Codex states: "As for those ... who are subject to the perversity of this nation and are proven to have entered the Military Service, we decree that their military belt shall be undone without any hesitation, and that they shall not derive any help or protection from their former merits" (Codex Theodosianus 16.8.24, as cited in Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation, p. 281). Solomon Grayzel notes that Jerome, in his commentary on Isaiah 3:2 in the Patrologia Latina, XXIV, col. 59, taunts the Jews for no longer being able to bear arms. According to Grayzel, "there were Jews serving in the Roman armies to the end of the 4th century, though they were excused from serving if they so desired. The number of such soldiers, or men serving the military in noncombatant posts, alarmed the Church, and it made efforts to exclude them" (Grayzel, "The Jews and Roman Law," The Jewish Quarterly Review, Vol. 59, No. 2 [1964 97).
(107.) Schoenfeld, "Sons of Israel in Caesar's Service," p. 116.
(108.) Kelley, "Who Did the Iconoclasm in the Dun Synagogue?" p. 60; James, The Arms, Armour, and Other Military Equipment p. 263; Benjamin Isaac, The Limits of Empire: The Roman Army in the East (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), p. 150.
(109.) The Temple of Bel and the Temple of Azzanathkona, for example, contain images of Roman soldiers making offerings to the gods (Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution," p. 223), and the latter temple was used by the Palmyrene cohort as their headquarters in the third century (Welles, The Parchments and Papyri, p. 25). The Temple of the Gadde contains a dedication by soldiers from the cohort (Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution," p. 223); and inscriptions in the mithraeum name a body of Palmyrene archers, which existed in the earliest stages of Roman occupation (Welles, The Parchments and Papyri, p. 24). Soldiers from two Syrian legions built the second phase of the mithraeurn in 209-211 (Welles, The Parchments and Papyri, p. 25). The cults of Mithras and Jupiter Dolichenus had "well-known ties to the Roman army" (Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution," pp. 221-23), and many Christians are known to have served in the third century (Nock, "The Roman Army and the Roman Religious Year," p. 224).
(110.) I P. Haynes, "The Romanisation of Religion in the 'Auxilia' of the Roman Imperial Army from Augustus to Septimius Severus," Britannia, Vol. 24 (1993): 157. Similarly, Lucinda Dirven writes that "the Palmyrene soldiers adopted facets of the religion of the army and simultaneously held on to their own religious traditions. Material from Dura amply demonstrates that these two aspects of religious practice coexisted peacefully" (Dirven, The Palrnyrenes of Dura-Europos: A Study of Religious Interaction in Roman Syria [Leiden: Brill, 1999J, p. 184).
(111.) I. P. Haynes identifies these gods as the "Palmyrene Triad, Bel, Yarhibol, and Aglibol" ("The Romanisation of Religion," p. 151). According to Pollard, this honoring of the Palmyrene deities "would point to some degree of religious solidarity between soldiers and civilians" (Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution," p. 221). Pollard also notes, however, that there is disagreement about the identity of these three figures, who some claim are imperial Roman statues (Pollard, "The Roman Army as 'Total Institution,'" p. 221).
(112.) Nock, "The Roman Army and the Roman Religious Year," p. 187.
(113.) Nock, "The Roman Army and the Roman Religious Year," pp. 189-91.
(114.) Welles, The Parchments and Papyri, p. 195.
(115.) Digest 22.214.171.124, as cited in Linder, The Jews in Roman Imperial Legislation, p. 104.
(116.) Nock, "The Roman Army and the Roman Religious Year," p. 212.
(117.) Servius, ad Aen. (8.1), as cited in Watson, The Roman Soldiers p. 49.
Stefanie Weisman Independent Scholar
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2012|
|Previous Article:||Women's studies.|
|Next Article:||"The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man": historical fabrication and an Anti-Zionist myth.|