ABSTRACT

Excavations in the late fourth-century synagogue at Huqoq in lower eastern Galilee have revealed a mosaic depicting a subject that is unparalleled in ancient synagogue art. In the view of the authors of this article, this panel (known as the Elephant Mosaic) portrays an episode of military conflict and diplomatic encounter between Jews and Greeks in the Hellenistic period. The memorialization of a non-biblical event in a late ancient synagogue indicates that Jewish knowledge of—and engagement with—the past was not circumscribed by the horizons of the biblical narrative. The article shows that the mosaic represents one localized iteration of a broad discourse of warfare that traversed the permeable boundaries between linguistic, literary, and religious traditions and between various artistic genres and media. This remarkable work thus attests to the degree to which the residents of even a modest rural village like Huqoq participated in the cosmopolitan literary and artistic trends of the broader Mediterranean world of late antiquity.

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