Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos

Cover of the catalogue, which features part of a decorated shield with the figure of a lion and the title of the volume.
  • edited by: Jennifer Y. Chi, Sebastian Heath
  • contributors: Glen Bowersock, Gaelle Coqueugniot, Jean Gascou, Sebastian Heath, Pierre Leriche, Thelma K. Thomas
  • 2011
  • Princeton University Press
  • ISBN: 9780691154688

Exhibition: Edge of Empires: Pagans, Jews, and Christians at Roman Dura-Europos
Dates: September 23, 2011 – January 8, 2012

Strategically located high above the Euphrates River between Syria and Mesopotamia, the city of Dura-Europos was founded around 300 BCE by one of the Macedonian generals who succeeded Alexander the Great. Within a century, the Near Eastern Parthians overtook and controlled the city until the Roman emperor Lucius Verus captured it in 164 CE. Dura-Europos then thrived as a critical stronghold along the Roman imperial frontier until 256 CE, when the Sasanian Persians destroyed it. By the time of its demise, Dura-Europos was a city positioned at the commercial, political, and cultural intersections of the Mediterranean and Near Eastern worlds. Edge of Empires vividly illustrates the international and pluralistic character of Dura-Europos, highlighting objects that demonstrate the coexistence of multiple religions such as polytheistic cults, Judaism, and Christianity; the great variety of languages spoken by its population; and its role as an international military garrison.

This beautifully illustrated volume is the accompanying catalogue for an exhibition at New York University's Institute for the Study of the Ancient World. It features an introduction by Glen Bowersock and essays by leading scholars such as Gaelle Coqueugniot, Jean Gascou, Sebastian Heath, Pierre Leriche, and Thelma K. Thomas. The book also includes a map of the region and a detailed site plan of Dura-Europos, as well as excavation photos, a checklist of objects in the exhibition, and a selected bibliography.


"These chapters are fascinating, highly readable and well-illustrated throughout and the archival photos from digs at Dura-Europos in the 1930s are beautiful and atmospheric. For those of us unlucky enough not to get to the exhibition, Edge of Empires is a thoroughly satisfying summary of life in an extraordinary ancient town which endured for over five hundred years, and from which much can be learned, not least concerning the inter-action between Jews, Christians and pagans there."Rabbi Dr. Charles H. Middleburgh, Middleburgh Blog

"Edge of Empires serves as an excellent introduction to the current state of research on community and identity at Dura-Europos, as well as a useful starting point for those interested in approaching the scholarship (much in French) of Dura as a whole."—Robyn Le Blanc, Tijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie

"The contributors to this volume are to be commended for putting together a highly readable and informative account of everyday life in a Roman frontier town that was often imperiled by foreign conquest."Grant Havers, European Legacy

Edge of Empires, photograph © Bruce M. White, 2016