by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) The Turkish Press site Today's Zaman reported on August 12th (2009) the discovery of an ancient synagogue in the Lycian port city of Andriake, located on the south coast of Anatolia in a region rich in archaeological sites.
The building is the first synagogue discovered in the ancient province of Lycia, but remains of other ancient synagogues in Turkey have been found in Priene on the Ionian coast, and at Sardis north of Andriake. There are numerous ancient textual references to the once-large Jewish population of the Greco-Roman Anatolian coastal towns, including of course, the writings of Saint Paul, who was a Jew from Anatolian Tarsus (further east along the coast).
The location of the apsidal synagogue was near the sea, recalling the location of synagogues of Ostia (Italy) and Thessaloniki ( Greece). The discovery may give support to arguments that favor waterside locations for ancient synagogues.
The most notable find from the synagogue is an inscribed marble relief slab of a menorah flanked by lulav, etrog and shofar. Similar inscribed plaques have been found at Priene, Sardis and eleswhere [for more see: Steven Fine and Leonard Victor Rutgers, "New Light on Judaism in Asia Minor During Late Antiquity: Two Recently Identified Inscribed Menorahs," in Jewish Studies Quarterly (1996), 2-23.]
The Today's Zaman Story is here:
Jewish temple found in ancient port city at Lycian site
A centuries-old Jewish temple has been uncovered in Antalya during the excavation of an ancient port city.
Ongoing excavations at the ancient port city of Andriake in Lycia -- located in Antalya's Demre district -- have uncovered a centuries-old Jewish temple.
Site chief Dr. Nevzat Çevik, an archaeology professor at Akdeniz University, told the Anatolia news agency that his team believes the temple is from around the third century. Located on a choice spot facing the sea, the temple was likely built following a law instituted in 212 that allowed Jews the right to become Roman citizens, Çevik said.
The find is important as it is the first archaeological trace of Jewish culture found in Lycia. “For the archaeological world, the world of science and particularly for Lycian archaeology and history, we're facing an important find here. It's the first remnant of Lycian Jewish culture we've found,” Çevik said, describing the find. “When we first discovered the temple, we weren't sure what it was, but after continuing to dig, the archaeological findings and particularly the first-quality marble slabs that we found were evidence for us that they were part of a Jewish temple.”
The finding came as a great surprise, the archaeologist said, and the team is continuing to work excitedly. “To encounter remnants of Jewish culture for the first time has caused great excitement. We're adding another layer to what we know of Lycian culture -- now that we know that there was a Jewish presence in Lycia as well, we can follow this path and better understand other finds,” he explained.
As part of the temple find, the team located a menorah and pieces inscribed with traditional Jewish symbols and figures. Çevik also noted the importance that the find would eventually have for tourism in the region.