Hershel Shanks

Synagogue at Ostia. A Roman road, foreground, leads to the partially restored remains of the fourth-century A.D. synagogue at Ostia, just 12 miles from Rome.

The synagogue is seen here from the east. It consists of an outer entranceway with a large central door and two smaller side doors; an inner four-columned gateway leading into the prayer hall, and a semicircular structure behind and to the left of the four-columned gateway. The semicircular structure was a Torah shrine, a repository for the sacred scroll containing the text of the Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible.

Remains of a first-century A.D. synagogue have been discovered beneath the fourth century structure, confirming the existence of a sizable Jewish community at Ostia throughout the imperial period.