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carrying not a staff but a club (canonical iconography for Heracles that had been firmly established during Greece's early Classical period).125 Even the smallest decorative ornament was borrowed from Graeco-Roman sources: marble patterns, theater masks, and animals.126

If we look more closely at the frescoes, however, we notice that the synagogue's artists, though they could read the nuances fluently, did not use Roman motifs to celebrate pagan ideology. Instead it is quite clear that they used these paintings to reject it. For example, the triumphal arch featured in the exodus scene mentioned above appears at first glance to symbolize for the community the Israelites' eventual success after leaving Egypt. But the artist may have placed it in the painting as a combined symbol of the oppression that the Jews had suffered under the Egyptians and now under the Romans.127 There are even greater clues which have led modern scholars to believe that the Jewish community at Dura opposed Roman imperial culture (in their paintings, at least) and may have had a peculiarly interesting view of the Severan emperors. The "Closed Temple" scene had always been thought to have been a depiction of the temple in Jerusalem. Warren G. Moon points out, though, that the entrance to this temple is decorated with, among other things, a possible Mithras bull, a statue of Mars, and three naked figures.128 Mithras was, of course, the deity worshiped heavily by Roman military forces, and Mars was the Roman god of war. Why would the synagogue artists associate these symbols with their most sacred spot? For Moon, the answer is perfectly obvious: the building was not a representation of the Jewish temple at all, but of a pagan one. The scene immediately to the right illustrates the Ark's destruction of pagan idols at the Temple of Dagon, causing Moon to theorize that the "Closed Temple" was in fact meant to represent that building.129 But as with the possible double meaning of the triumphal arch in the exodus scene, this one too, with its Roman elements decorating the doors of the temple, may have also signified the inevitable divine destruction of Roman idols.130 The nudity of the male figures bolsters Moon's claim even further. Throughout the paintings, the artists differentiate between Jews and non-Jews quite clearly by using nudity to signify to the congregation that a figure is not Jewish. Pharaoh's daughter, for example, rises out of the river naked, and the Egyptians portrayed in the exodus


125. Moon, 592, 595, 597.
126. Kelley, 59; Moon, 603.
127. Moon, 598.
128. Moon, 601-603.
129. Moon, 603.
130. Ibid.

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