Site of Dura-Europos – University of Copenhagen

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Site of Dura–Europos

Historical & archaeological value

Dura-Europos, described as the ‘Pompeii of the Syrian desert’ is located on the Euphrates river and was founded in around 300 BC by the general Selucos Nekator, who named it Europos after the city in Macedonia where he was born. Today the site is called Dura-Europos, incorporating the Persian word for fort ‘dura’, or ḥālabiā –zālābiā or al Ṣaliḥīe, after the name of the modern Arab village nearby. The city fell to the Parthians in 100 BC and was seized by the Romans in 116 AD, becoming part of the kingdom of Palmyra during Hadrian’s reign of 117-128. In 256 AD Dura was destroyed by Persian Sassanid troops.

After its discovery in 1922, various archaeologists worked at the site throughout the 20th century, most recently a Syro-French team since 1986. Excavation has revealed significant remains of domestic, religious, and administrative buildings within city’s protective walls which enclosed an area of around 75 hectares. Dura had a clear Greek character, but it enjoyed a cosmopolitan setting as evidenced by numerous temples dedicated to Pagan, Greek and Jewish gods. These demonstrate freedom of belief and religious cohabitation in Ancient Syria. There is also an early Christian church and a synagogue containing decorated shrines. The shrines are painted with various religious scenes which reflect the influence of local Christianity and paganism on the Jewish religion in Syria at the time. In addition to its unique wall paintings, the site has produced a number of artifacts including pottery and decorative objects.

The site has been on UNESCO’s tentative list since 1999