Gabi Laron/Courtesy Zeev Weiss

Four steeds pull the chariot bearing the sun god Helios, represented by a disk with rays emanating from it. The depiction appears, surprisingly, as part of an elaborate mosaic floor uncovered in an ancient synagogue at Sepphoris, in the Galilee, and featured recently in our pages. In the mosaic, Helios is surrounded by the 12 signs of the zodiac. Sepphoris was not unique; Helios (usually shown with very human features) and the zodiac appear in at least seven synagogues from about 400 to 500 C.E. but rarely elsewhere. Author Lucille Roussin ponders why such blatantly pagan symbols would appear so frequently in ancient synagogues.