Dura Europos | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Dura Europos

Qusur Umm Saba, Deir ez-Zor, Syria

Lucy Davidson

26 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Dura Europos

Dura Europos was a thriving ancient city in Eastern Syria occupied by a series of civilisations. What remains today are some well-preserved ruins.

History of Dura Europos

It was one of the successor states that emerged after the death of Alexander the Great, the Seleucid Greeks, who founded Dura Europos in 300BC, locating it at the mid-point between their two capitals and overlooking the Euphrates River.

Over the centuries, Dura Europos developed from a caravan settlement into more of a commercial hub. In addition, time would also see this city taken over by a succession of peoples, first the Arsacid Parthians, then the Romans in around 160AD. Dura Europos was finally destroyed in 256AD, attacked by the Sasanid Persian Empire. Remarkably, during excavations, remains of Roman soldiers were found inside the underground siege tunnels which had been dug by Persian forces intent on undermining the walls.

Part of what made the archaeological discoveries at Dura Europos so impressive was not just their good state of preservation, but their intricate and ornate decorations including frescos and wall paintings. In fact, the site was so well conserved, some have taken to calling it the Syrian Desert’s answer to Pompeii. The majority of these fascinating finds are now on show in museums including the Louvre and the National Museum of Damascus.

Dura Europos Today

Today, the impressive remains of Dura Europos illustrate its cultural and historical diversity. In addition to Greco-Roman ruins including temples, the site is home to the ruins of one of the world’s oldest known synagogues and what has been described as the earliest known church.

Visitors can explore the towering defensive walls and fortifications as well as evidence of the siege works which brought down the city. There are also great views to be had from the high cliffs above the Euphrates.

Due to the current political situation in Syria, tourists are not recommended to visit. However, there are a number of experienced tour companies, such as Nawafir Travel & Tours, which can take you round the site with an expert at the helm.

Getting to Dura Europos

From the centre of Damascus, the site is a 7 hour 15 minute drive via the M20.

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