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The synagogue was not merely a repository for the confluence of Mesopotamian architectural and artistic ideals which defined the city's superficial style of religious expression, however. Characteristics of the paintings have suggested to researchers that, not only was this particular Jewish community highly literate in the local modes of expression as outlined above, it was also quite familiar with imperial Roman motifs, as well. The Romans had been at Dura in an official capacity at least 80 years before the second renovation and redecoration of the synagogue, but both Hellenistic and Roman culture had been aggressively active in the area much longer. It is no surprise, then, that there are also heavy Roman artistic and narrative influences in our frescoes.116 This is even more understandable when one considers the prominence of Roman public art throughout the empire during this period, even at an outpost like Dura, and the fact that Jewish artistic expression did not have a living figural tradition from which the artists could draw inspiration.117 The synagogue artists based their work on popular and widespread Roman techniques of representation which would have been easily understood by a body of people at home in an eastern part of the world overrun for centuries with Hellenistic and Roman cultural practices.118 They clearly took their inspirations from circulating Roman issue coins, Roman monuments and sculpture erected in the area, as well as Roman painting itself.119 In the Exodus scene in the synagogue at Dura, for example, Moses is shown leading the Israelites out of Egypt by marching through a Roman triumphal arch, an example of which had been erected at Dura by the emperor Trajan around 116 C.E.120 Also, the scene of "Esther and Mordecai at the Court of King Ahasuerus" depicts a typical Roman triumphal procession that the Jews would have seen on the coins of Septimius Severus in circulation at the time.121 The artists had used typical Roman conventions, the meanings of which would have been easily understood by anyone living in an urban city such as Dura, to illustrate an historic Jewish victory.122 Likewise, in the scene of Moses and the burning bush, the Jewish hero is shown standing in the exact pose used in Roman heroic statuary to symbolize virtue.123 He is also wearing a white toga with a purple stripe, a Roman mark of importance and power, and standing barefoot, a typical Roman indication that he is standing on sacred ground.124 There were other Graeco-Roman influences, as well. The depiction of Pharaoh's daughter in the river, for example, may have been inspired by local representations of Aphrodite, and Moses himself took on the attributes of the Greek hero Herakles in the Exodus scene,


116. Moon, 587.
117. Moon, 589, 591.
118. Ibid. 119. Moon, 590, 608-609.
120. Moon, 590.
121. Moon, 594-595. This motif was also found in the temple to Hadad at Dura.
122. Ibid.
123. Moon, 592.
124. Moon, 592-593.

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