Goddesses in the Synagogue?

in Journal for the Study of Judaism
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This note deals with two panels of the west wall of the Dura synagogue, the details of which were interpreted by some scholars as probably connected to depictions of goddesses. Close investigation of these details, however, does not substantiate this view. The images, both in themselves and as parts of a larger composition, need not be interpreted as displaying conscious allusions to pagan female divinities.

Goddesses in the Synagogue?

in Journal for the Study of Judaism




For a detailed description see KraelingThe Synagogue169-78. See further Erwin R. Goodenough Jewish Symbols in the Greco-Roman Period 13 vols. (New York: Pantheon 1956-1968) 9:197-226 (the figures for this paper are taken from Goodenough’s volume 11 figs. 336 and 338); Kurt Weitzmann and Herbert L. Kessler The Frescoes of the Dura Synagogue and Christian Art (Washington: Dumbarton Oaks 1990) 26-34.


GoodenoughJewish Symbols9:200-203.


See e.g. Mary Boyce“Anāhīd,” Encyclopaedia Iranica 1 (1983): 1003-9; William W. MalandraAn Introduction to Ancient Iranian Religion (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 1983) 117-20; Albert de JongTraditions of the Magi: Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin Literature (Leiden: Brill 1997) 268-84.


GoodenoughJewish Symbols9:203-26.


See e.g. Susan B. DowneyTerracotta Figurines and Plaques from Dura-Europos (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press2003); Jennifer A. BairdThe Inner Lives of Ancient Houses: An Archaeology of Dura-Europos (Oxford: Oxford University Press 2014) 179-80. The Aphrodite from the “House of the Roman Scribe” is published by P. V. C. Baur “The Fragment of a Painting of Aphrodite” in The Excavations at Dura-Europos Conducted by Yale University and the French Academy of Inscriptions and Letters. Preliminary Reports: Sixth Season of Work ed. Michael I. Rostovtzeff et al. (New Haven: Yale University Press 1936) 279-82; pl. xliii.


Weitzmann and KesslerThe Frescoes30; similarly Moon “Nudity and Narrative” 596.


See KraelingThe Synagogue151-64.


KraelingThe Synagogue160; similarly du Mesnil du Buisson Les peintures 118.


Cf. e.g. Lucinda DirvenThe Palmyrenes of Dura-Europos: A Study of Religious Interaction in Roman Syria (Leiden: Brill1999) esp. 99-127; or H. J. W. DrijversCults and Beliefs at Edessa (Leiden: Brill 1980).


GoodenoughJewish Symbols9:179. On the figure of Tyche see e.g. the collected papers in Susan B. Matheson ed. An Obsession with Fortune: Tyche in Greek and Roman Art (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery 1994).


GoodenoughJewish Symbols9:186.


Cf. e.g. RostovtzeffDura-Europos62-69; Nigel Pollard Soldiers Cities and Civilians in Roman Syria (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press 2000) 142-47; Ted Kaizer “Religion in the Roman East” in A Companion to Roman Religion ed. Jörg Rüpke (Malden: Blackwell 2007) 446-56 esp. 454-55; Kaizer “Religion and Language in Dura-Europos” in From Hellenism to Islam: Cultural and Linguistic Change in the Roman Near East ed. Hannah M. Cotton et al. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009) 235-53.


See e.g. Peter Calmeyer“Mauerkrone,” Reallexikon der Assyriologie vii/7-8 (1990): 595a-96b.


See e.g.Catalogue of the Cabinet of Coins Belonging to Yale College Deposited in the College Library (New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor1863) 59-61; Aurelie Daems “The Iconography of Pre-Islamic Women in Iran” Iranica Antiqua36 (2001): 1-150.


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