Zev Radovan

Luscious grapes dangle from the hand of Autumn in this detail of a mosaic floor from the Hammath Tiberias synagogue (third to fourth century C.E.). Personifications of the four seasons form the corners of the floor mosaic, whose center contains the sun-god Helios in human form and the 12 symbols of the celestial zodiac.

Images of people and animals adorned numerous synagogue floors in this period. Apparently because these were not objects of worship, religious authorities did not find them objectionable. But mosaics discovered in Jerusalem homes dating to the Second Temple (70 C.E.) bear only geometrical patterns, reinforcing the idea that in the late Hellenistic and early Roman periods (167 B.C.E. to 132 C.E.) the second commandment was interpreted more severely.