During the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian,
the Jews once again tried to get free of Roman rule. But like the First
Jewish Revolt, this revolt failed as well. In addition, Hadrian
hated the Jews. Hadrian was really into anything Greek, including Greek
religion, and he considered Judaism (and probably Christianity)
to be a dirty superstition. When it was over, Hadrian not only brought
Israel back under Roman rule, he destroyed the Second Temple, and he
forced many of the Jews to leave Jerusalem and Israel and settle elsewhere
in the Roman or Parthian
empires. This is known as the Diaspora (die-ASS-pour-ah), like dispersion,
because it scattered the Jews. It has a lot in common with the Babylonian
Captivity. As a result, there got to be fewer Jews in Israel, and
a lot more Jews in Babylon, Alexandria, Rome, and other big cities of
the Roman and Parthian empires.
Synagogue at Capernaum
Here are some examples of synagogues
that were built by the Jews of the Diaspora around the Roman
and Parthian Empires.
This one is in Capernaum (ka-pear-NOW-um), in Israel, and dates to
the fourth century AD, but the ruins of
an earlier 1st c. AD synagogue lie beneath it and have recently been
This is a wall-painting (a fresco)
from the synagogue of Dura-Europos, which
was mainly a Parthian
town though sometimes captured by the Romans.
It was painted in the third century AD. Later
it was buried under a big dirt wall that Roman soldiers built to defend
Dura-Europos against the Sassanid
invaders. That preserved the painting so we can see it today. The painting
shows the story of Esther from the Bible.
Can you see Esther all the way on the right? Haman is on the horse.
Why would the story of Esther be especially important to Diaspora Jews
living in the Parthian empire?