to most of the Jewish sub-population, as well. Each of the three languages spoken by the residents of Dura--Greek, Aramaic, and Persian--are found in inscriptions from the synagogue, but the majority of the inscriptions are in Aramaic, which implies that the community itself was based upon a Syrian, possibly indigenous, population with connections to other Mesopotamian Jewish communities.49 An increase in the occurrence of Greek and Persian in the written evidence dating to the period of Roman occupation suggests that the Jewish community was also growing and adding new cultural elements to its membership.50 No Latin inscriptions have been found.51 This may mean that participation by Jews in the Roman imperial administration was minimal, if it happened at all.
The first identifiable synagogue was constructed in a converted private house, which itself dated to the Parthian period (c. 113 B.C.E.-165 C.E.), only five years after the Romans took possession of Dura.52 It held about 60-65 worshipers and displayed nothing on its exterior to signify it as a place of worship to other residents in the city.53 The renovation work on the former private home seems to have focused exclusively on the interior of the building space: a large assembly room was constructed, as well as a Torah niche.54 About 245 C.E., the building was enlarged for a second time with the addition of surrounding houses to the floor plan so that, once completed, the renovated building covered the entire width of a Dura city block.55 Two exterior walls had to be destroyed in order to expand the building's footprint, and the main entrance was relocated to a more prominent street.56 The assembly room was enlarged further to hold more than 120 members (Christopher Pierce Kelley claims it may have been the single largest public room existing at Dura), and an entry court was added to the front of the building.57 Two rows of stone benches were constructed along each wall of the assembly room. Decorated tiles, some inscribed with the names of donors and synagogue officials, covered the interior ceiling of the assembly room.58 Five years following its physical expansion, the synagogue's interior walls were richly decorated with the stunning frescoes first discovered by the modern world in the 1930s.59 Kelley has suggested that the painted scenes were completed at different stages and by a variety of artists as the community gradually accumulated the
49. Goranson, 25; Kilpatrick, 218.
50. Goranson, 25; Kilpatrick, 218; White, 218.
51. Kilpatrick, 218.
52. Gates, 172; Kelley, 57; Kilpatrick, 216; White, 93.
53. Gates, 173; Kilpatrick, 216; White, 74, 77.
54. White, 74, 77.
55. Gates, 172, 174; Kilpatrick, 216; Perkins, 29; Seager, 162; White, 77, 96-97.
56. White, 77.
57. Gates, 173; Kelley, 57; Hopkins, 140; White, 74, 77, 96-97.
58. Hopkins, 141; Matheson, 25.
59. Kilpatrick, 216.