Hershel Shanks

The synagogue of Ostia, Italy, located at the mouth of the Tiber River, is here reconstructed to its fourth-century appearance, although the original building on the site is dated to the mid-first century C.E. The stepped niche to the right of the main hall once housed the ark that held the Torah scrolls.

Ancient synagogues from places like Ostia or the Anatolian city of Sardis attest to Judaism’s wide dispersion throughout the Mediterranean world. In the first century C.E., up to ten percent of the population of the Roman world outside Judea may have been Jewish.