Dura Europos

Dura Europos

This important archaeological site in eastern Syria has been called the "Pompeii of the Desert." Abandoned and filled with sand following a siege in 256, the ancient city contains the oldest surviving house-church and synagogue ever found.

Verity Cridland

Quick Facts

Go Historic ID
Dura Europos
archaeological site
ruined settlement
religious building
Hellenistic Period


303 BCE

Dura Europos Founded by Seleucids

150 BCE

Dura is rebuilt as a great Hellenistic city, with a rectangular grid of streets arranged around a large central agora. Its location on a major crossroads makes it a very cosmopolitan city, as evidenced by inscriptions in many languages and the religious b

165 CE

Romans capture Dura Europos

230 CE

The house-church and synagogue of Dura Europos are constructed and decorated with murals.

256 CE

A Sassanian siege brings the history of Dura to an end. In a last-ditch attempt to save the city, the synagogue is filled in to make a fortress, ensuring its preservation. Following the siege, the city is abandoned. It is soon covered in shifting sands an


Archaeological excavations are carried out by French and American teams.

30 Mar 1920

During the Arab rebellion in the aftermath of World War I, a British soldier digging a trench uncovers beautifully preserved frescoes. The American archeologist James Henry Breasted, then at Baghdad, is alerted.


Franz Cumont publishes the first archaeological reports on the site, identifying it as Dura-Europos. A temple is uncovered before renewed hostilities in the area close it to archaeology.


Excavations at Dura Europos


Excavations resume at Dura Europos.


  1. Chi, Jennifer Y. (ed.), Sebastian Heath (ed.), and Glen Bowersock (introduction). Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos. Princeton University Press, 2011.
  2. Brody, Lisa R. (ed.) and Gail L. Hoffman (ed.). Dura-Europos: Crossroads of Antiquity. Mcmullen Museum Of Art, Boston College, 2011.
  3. Hopkins, Clark and Bernard Goldman (ed.). The Discovery of Dura-Europos. Yale University Press, 1979.
  4. James, Simon. Excavations at Dura-Europos conducted by Yale University and the French Academy of Inscriptions and . Oxbow Books, 2010.
  5. Hopkins, Susan M.. My Dura-Europos: The Letters of Susan M. Hopkins, 1927-1935. Wayne State University Press, 2011.
  6. Kraeling, Carl H.. The Synagogue . .
  7. Weitzmann, Kurt. The Frescoes of the Dura Synagogue and Christian Art . Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1990.
  8. James, Simon. Excavations at Dura Europos: Final Report VII: Arms and Armour and other Military Equipment . .