Dura-Europos

From Academic Kids

Dura-Europos was a Hellenistic and Roman walled city built on an escarpment 90 meters above the banks of the river Euphrates. It is located near the village of Salhiy, in today's Syria.

It was founded by the Seleucids in the late 4th century BCE on the intersection of an east-west trade route and the trade route along the Euphrates. It later became a frontier fortress of the Parthian Empire. It was captured by the Romans in 165 A.D and abandoned after a Sassanian siege in 256-257. After it was abandoned, it was covered by sand and mud and disappeared from sight.

Although the existence of Dura-Europos was long known through literary sources, it was not rediscovered until British troops under Capt. Murphy made the first discovery during the Arab rebellion in the aftermath of World War I when, on March 30, 1920, a soldier digging a trench uncovered brilliantly fresh wall-paintings. The American archeologist James Breasted, then at Baghdad, was alerted. Major excavations were carried out in the 1920s and 1930s by French and American teams: the first archaeology on the site, undertaken by Franz Cumont and published in 1922 - 23, identified the site with Dura-Europos, and uncovered a temple, before renewed hostilities in the area closed it to archaeology. Later, renewed campaigns directed by Michael Rostovtzeff funded by Yale University continued until 1937, when funds ran out with only part of the excavations published. World War II intervened. Since 1986 excavations have resumed.

Dura-Europos was a cosmopolitan society, controlled by a tolerant pagan Macedonian aristocracy descended from the original settlers. In the course of its excavation over a hundred parchment and papyrus fragments and many inscriptions have revealed texts in Greek and Latin (the latter including a sator square), Palmyrene, Hebrew, Hatrian, Safaitic, and Pahlavi. The excavations revealed temples to Greek, Roman and Palmyrene gods. There were mithraea, as one would expect in a military city. There was also a Jewish synagogue (see Dura-Europos synagogue) and the earliest identified Christian church (see Dura-Europos house church). The world's oldest preserved synagogue was dated by an Aramaic inscription to 244 CE; it was preserved, ironically, when it had to be infilled with earth to strengthen the city's fortifications against a Parthian assault in 256 CE. It was uncovered in 1935 by Clark Hopkins, who found that it contains a forecourt and house of assembly with frescoed walls depicting people and animals, and a Torah shrine in the western wall facing Jerusalem. The large-scale pictorial art in the synagogue helps to dispel narrow interpretations of historically prohibited visual images. The second commandment prohibiting "graven images" was not being extended by Dura-Europos' Jews to all pictorial representations.

Among fragments of text, in 1933 was unearthed a fragmentary text from an unknown Greek harmony of the gospel accounts, comparable to Tatian's Diatessaron but independent of it [1] (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/dura.html).

Not the least of the finds were astonishingly well-preserved arms and armour belonging to the Roman garrison at the time of the final Parthian siege in 256. Finds included painted wooden shields and complete horse armours, preserved by the very finality of the destruction of the city that journalists have called "the Pompeii of the desert".

Hellenistic Dura-Europos

The new city, commemorating the birthplace of Alexander's successor Seleucus I, was founded in 303 BCE to control the river crossing on the route between his newly-founded cities of Antioch and Seleucia on the Tigris: "Fort Europos." Its rebuilding as a great city, with rectangular blocks defined by cross-streets ranged round a large central agora, was formally laid out in the 2nd century BCE.

External links

nl:Dura Europus

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