Biblical Archaeology Review 22:2, March/April 1996

In Search of the Jewish Diaspora

A first-century synagogue in Crimea?

By Robert S. MacLennan

We have been looking for an ancient Roman Period synagogue, dating from the first to third century C.E., in the former Soviet Union. Sound crazy?

If your answer is “yes,” you won’t be the first to be surprised that a thriving, diverse Jewish community lived in the Crimea when this area was part of the Roman Empire and Bosporos Kingdom nearly 2,000 years ago.

In 1993, Andy Overman, Doug Edwards and I made a research trip to the former Soviet Union, concentrating on the area north of the Black Sea.a One of our first stops was at Kerch, near the ancient Greek city of Panticapaeum on what is known today as the Cimmerian Bosporos, a narrow strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov to the north. In the years before the turn of the era, Panticapaeum was the capital of an important Bosporos kingdom. The city is mentioned by name in Strabo’s first-century Geography.1

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