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Baalbek is located in Lebanon
Location in Lebanon
Coordinates: 34°0′25″N 36°12′14″E / 34.00694°N 36.20389°E / 34.00694; 36.20389
Country  Lebanon
Governorate Beqaa Governorate
District Baalbek District
Elevation 3,839 ft (1,170 m)
Time zone EET (UTC+2)
 - Summer (DST) +3 (UTC)
Details inside Temple of Bacchus

Baalbek (Arabic: بعلبك‎) is a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude 1,170 metres (3,840 ft), situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed yet monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, then known as Heliopolis, was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire. It is Lebanon's greatest Roman treasure, and it can be counted among the wonders of the ancient world. The largest and most noble Roman temples ever built, they are also among the best preserved.

Towering high above the Beqaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. The gods worshiped here, the Triad of Jupiter, Venus and Bacchus, were grafted onto the indigenous deities of Hadad, Atargatis and a young male god of fertility. Local influences are also seen in the planning and layout of the temples, which vary from the classic Roman design.

Baalbek is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival. The town is located about 85 km (53 mi) north east of Beirut, and about 75 km (47 mi) north of Damascus. It has a population of approximately 72,000.





The history settlement in the area of Baalbek dates back approximately 9000 years, with almost continual settlement of the tell under the Temple of Jupiter.[1]

19th century Bible archaeologists wanted to connect Baalbek to the "Baalgad" mentioned in Joshua 11:17, but the assertion has seldom been taken up in modern times. In fact, this minor Phoenician city, named for the "Lord (Baal) of the Beqaa valley" lacked enough commercial or strategic importance to rate a mention in Assyrian or Egyptian records so far uncovered, according to Hélène Sader, professor of archaeology at the American University of Beirut.

Heliopolis, the City of the Sun

After Alexander the Great conquered the Near East in 334 BC, the existing settlement was named Heliopolis, Helios Greek for sun and Polis Greek for city. The city retained its religious function during Greco-Roman times, when the sanctuary of the Heliopolitan Jupiter-Baal was a pilgrimage site. Trajan's biographer records that the Emperor consulted the oracle there. Trajan inquired of the Heliopolitan Jupiter whether he would return alive from his wars against the Parthians. In reply, the god presented him with a vine shoot cut into pieces. Theodosius Macrobius, a Latin grammarian of the 5th century AD, mentioned Zeus Heliopolitanus and the temple, a place of oracular divination. Starting in the last quarter of the 1st century BC and over a period of two centuries, the Romans had built a temple complex in Baalbek consisting of three temples: Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus. On a nearby hill, they built a fourth temple dedicated to Mercury.

The city, then known as Heliopolis (there was another Heliopolis in Egypt), was made a colonia by the Roman Empire in 15 BC and a legion was stationed there. Work on the religious complex there lasted over a century and a half and was never completed. The dedication of the present temple ruins, the largest religious building in the entire Roman empire, dates from the reign of Septimus Severus, whose coins first show the two temples. The great courts of approach were not finished before the reigns of Caracalla and Philip[citation needed]. In commemoration, no doubt, of the dedication of the new sanctuaries, Severus conferred the rights of the ius Italicum on the city.

Today, only six Corinthian columns remain standing. Eight more were disassembled and shipped to Constantinople under Justinian's orders, for his basilica of Hagia Sophia.

UNESCO World Heritage Site

State Party  Lebanon
Type Cultural
Criteria i, iv
Reference 294
Region** Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1984  (8th Session)
* Name as inscribed on World Heritage List.
** Region as classified by UNESCO.

The greatest of the three temples was sacred to Jupiter Baal, ("Heliopolitan Zeus"), identified here with the sun, and was constructed during the first century AD.[2] At the time it was the largest temple in the empire[citation needed]. With it were associated a temple to Venus and a lesser temple in honor of Bacchus (though it was traditionally referred to as the "Temple of the Sun" by Neoclassical visitors, who saw it as the best-preserved Roman temple in the world - it is surrounded by forty-two columns nearly 20 meters in height). Thus three Eastern deities were worshipped in Roman guise: thundering Jove, the god of storms, stood in for Baal-Hadad, Venus for ‘Ashtart (known in English as Astarte) and Bacchus for Anatolian Dionysus. The original number of Jupiter columns was 54 columns. In the early 20th century an earthquake reduced the 9 remaining columns to six. The architrave blocks weigh up to 60 tons each, and the corner blocks over 100 tons, all of them raised to a height of ca. 19 m (62.34 ft) above the ground.[3] This was thought to have been done using Roman cranes. Roman cranes were not capable of lifting stones this heavy; however, by combining multiple cranes they may have been able to lift them to this height. If necessary they may have used the cranes to lever one side up a little at a time and use shims to hold it while they did the other side.

The Roman construction was built on top of earlier ruins and involved the creation of an immense raised plaza onto which the actual buildings were placed. The sloping terrain necessitated the creation of retaining walls on the north, south and west sides of the plaza. These walls are built of about 24 monoliths at their lowest level each weighing approximately 300 tons. The western, tallest retaining wall has a second course of monoliths containg the famous "trilithon": a row of three stones, estimated to weigh over 750 tons each.[4] A fourth, still larger stone called "the stone of the south" (Hajar el Gouble) or "the stone of the pregnant woman" (Hajar el Hibla) lies unused in a nearby quarry about 1 mile from the town (see image below).[5] - its weight, often exaggerated, is estimated at 1,069 tons.[6] An even larger stone, weighing approximately 1,322 tons (more than three and a half million pounds), lies in the second quarry across the road (see image below). Another of the Roman ruins, the Great Court, has six 20 m (65.62 ft) tall stone columns surviving, out of an original 128.

Jupiter-Baal was represented locally (on coinage) as a beardless god in long scaly drapery, holding a whip in his right hand and thunderbolts and ears of wheat in his left. Two bulls supported him. In this guise he passed into European worship in the 3rd century and 4th century AD. The icon of Helipolitan Zeus (in A.B. Cook, Zeus, i:570-576) bore busts of the seven planetary powers on the front of the pillarlike term in which he was encased. A bronze statuette of this Heliopolitan Zeus was discovered at Tortosa, Spain; another was found at Byblos in Phoenicia. A comparable iconic image is the Lady of Ephesus (see illustration) (Robert Graves, The Greek Myths I.4).

Other Emperors enriched the sanctuary of Heliopolitan Jupiter each in turn. Nero (54-68 AD) built the tower-altar opposite the Temple of Jupiter, Trajan added the forecourt to the Temple of Jupiter, with porticos of pink granite brought from Aswan in Egypt. Antoninus Pius built the Temple of Bacchus, the best preserved of the sanctuary's structures, for it was protected by the very rubble of the site's ruins. It is enriched with refined reliefs and sculpture. Septimus Severus added a pentagonal Temple of Venus, who as Aphrodite had enjoyed an early Syrian role with her consort Adonis ("Lord", the Aramaic translation of "Baal."). Emperor Philip the Arab (244-249) was the last to add a monument at Heliopolis: the hexagonal forecourt. When he was finished Heliopolis and Praeneste in Italy were the two largest sanctuaries in the Western world.

The extreme licence of the Heliopolitan worship of Aphrodite was often commented upon by early Christian writers, who competed with one another to execrate her worship. Eusebius of Caesarea, down the coast, averred that 'men and women vie with one another to honour their shameless goddess; husbands and fathers let their wives and daughters publicly prostitute themselves to please Astarte'. Constantine, making an effort to curb the Venus cult, built a basilica in Heliopolis. Theodosius I erected another, with a western apse, occupying the main court of the Jupiter temple, as was Christian practice everywhere. The vast stone blocks of its walls were taken from the temple itself. Today nothing of the Theodosian basilica remains.

Early Islamic period

Details in Temple of Jupiter

In 637 A.D Muslim army under Abu Ubaida ibn al-Jarrah captured Baalbek after defeating the Byzantine army at Battle of Yarmouk, it was still an opulent city and yielded rich plunderings. It became a bone of contention between the various Syrian dynasties and the caliphs first of Damascus, then of Egypt. The place was fortified and took on the name al-Qala‘ ("fortress"; see Alcala) but in 748 was sacked again with great slaughter. The Byzantine emperor John Tzimisces sacked the city in 975. In 1090 it passed to the Seljuks and in 1134 to Zengi; but after 1145 it remained attached to Damascus and was captured by Saladin in 1175. The Crusaders raided its valley more than once, but never took the city. Three times shaken by earthquakes in the 12th century, it was dismantled by 1260. But it revived, and most of its fine mosque and fortress architecture, still extant, belongs to the reign of Sultan Qalawun (1282) and the succeeding century, during which Abulfeda describes it as a very strong place. In 1400 Timur pillaged it.

Ottoman period

In 1517 it passed, with the rest of Syria, to the Ottoman Empire. But Ottoman jurisdiction was merely nominal in the Lebanon. Baalbek, badly shaken in an earthquake in the Near East earthquake of 1759 was really in the hands of the Metawali (see Lebanon), who retained it against other Lebanese tribes. The colossal and picturesque ruins attracted particularly intrepid Westerners since the 18th century. The English visitor, Robert Wood, with Dawson was not simply a tourist: his carefully measured drawings were engraved for The Ruins of Baalbek (1757), which provided some excellent new detail in the Corinthian order that British and European Neoclassical architects added to their vocabulary. Robert Adam, for example, based a bed[7] and one of the ceilings at Osterley House on the ceiling of the Temple of Bacchus, and the portico of St George's, Bloomsbury is based on that temple's portico.[8]

Even after Jezzar Pasha, the rebel governor of Acre province, broke the power of the Metawali in the last half of the 18th century, Baalbek was no destination for the traveller unaccompanied by an armed guard. The chaos that succeeded his death in 1804 was ended only by the Egyptian occupation (1832). With the treaty of London (1840) Baalbek became really Ottoman, the Encyclopædia Britannica (1911) reported, and since about 1864 had attracted great numbers of tourists. In November 1898, the German Emperor Wilhelm II on his way to Jerusalem, and passing by Baalbek was equally struck by the magnificence of the ruins projecting from the rubble, and the dreary condition. Within a month, the German archaeological team he dispatched was at work on the site. The campaign produced meticulously presented and illustrated series of volumes.

The layout of the temple complex of Baalbek
The Eastern Facade

2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict

On August 4, 2006, Israeli helicopter-borne soldiers supported by bombs from aircraft entered the Hikmeh Hospital in Baalbek to capture senior members of Hezbollah who were considered to be responsible for the kidnapping of the two Israeli IDF soldiers on July 13, 2006 and who were believed to be residing in the building. The fighting between the fighters and Israeli forces caused minor damage to the hospital. Several gunmen were killed and weapons and ammunition were seized from inside the hospital building. No patients were hospitalized at the time.[9][10] It has been reported that during the conflict, vibrations caused by bombs damaged the ruins. UNESCO offered help to coordinate restoration efforts.[11]

World Heritage Site

"Baalbek, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee", UNESCO reported in making Baalbek a World Heritage Site in 1984. When the Committee inscribed the site, it expressed the wish that the protected area include the entire town within the Arab walls, as well as the south-western extramural quarter between Bastan-al-Khan, the Roman site and the Mameluk mosque of Ras-al-Ain. Lebanon's representative gave assurances that the Committee's wish would be honored.

Theories about the moving the Trilithon and other megaliths

Roger Hopkins and Vince Lee have both[citation needed] theorized about how the megalithic stones were moved. They were both consulted about various megalithic moves around the world.

Roger Hopkins is a stone mason and sculptor who was consulted to do experiments in the movement of megaliths in Egypt (with Mark Lehrner) and other locations. He has suggested that the trilithon stones and 300 ton blocks were all moved with wooden rollers, demonstrating how this could be done by using steel rollers and levers to move a five to six thousand pound stone on a concrete platform by himself. He also participated in other experiments with larger stones, including some that may have been over 10 tons. These experiments required many more people. For 2 ton stones he was able to tow them with as few as 10 people at times and for faster results up to 20 people. Most experiments which have been done by Roger Hopkins and others to move stones 10 tons or more required well over 100 people.[12]

Vince Lee is an architect, explorer and author. He has suggested that these stones were moved by flipping them with levers. According to this hypothesis a row of people would use 20 levers to pry up the trilithon blocks a little at a time. Each time they pried it up someone would put additional shims under the megalithic stones. After this was repeated enough times the stone would flip over on the next side. There would be a log on the other side that the stone would fall onto so that one side would already be lifted off the ground each time making it easier for the next flip. This would require over 300 flips for each of the trilithon stones and even more for the smaller 300 ton stones to cover the 1 mile distance from the quarry. Roger Hopkins and Mark Lehner also experimented with this technique on a smaller scale in Egypt during a NOVA pyramid building experiment. They found that they could flip stones up to about 3/4 of a ton with only 4 or 5 men, and they successfully flipped stones at least 2 and a 1/2 tons with more men; however, they found this was too slow to explain how the pyramids were built in so short a time.[13]

Both Roger Hopkins and Vince Lee[citation needed] agreed that an earthen ramp would have been used to get the megaliths up the hill to the temple. They also agreed that the final placement would have involved flipping the megaliths and lowering it slowly by using sand to cushion the fall. The sand would have been placed where the trilithon stones were to be set, and when the stones were flipped into place the sand would be slowly removed.[14] Additional experiments moving megaliths with ancient technology were done at other locations some of which are listed here.


International relations

Twin towns - Sister cities

Baalbek is twinned with:

See also



  1. ^ German Archaeological Institute The urban planning and historical development of the Roman sanctuary of Baalbek [1]
  2. ^ Rowland Jr, Benjamin "The Vine-Scroll in Gandhāra", Artibus Asaie Vol. 19, No. 3/4 (1956), pp. 353-361 "It is apparent from a graffito on one of the columns of the Temple of Jupiter that that building was nearing completion in 60 A.D."
  3. ^ J. J. Coulton, “Lifting in Early Greek Architecture,” The Journal of Hellenic Studies, Vol. 94. (1974) p 16
  4. ^ Isler, Martin Sticks, Stones and Shadows University of Oklahoma Press (31 Dec 2001)ISBN 978-0-8061-3342-3 p. 236 [2]
  5. ^ Alouf, Michael M., 1944: History of Baalbek. American Press. p. 139
  6. ^ Adam, Jean-Pierre; Anthony Mathews Roman Building Routledge 1999 ISBN 978-0-415-20866-6 p.128 [3]
  7. ^ "Center for American Architecture and Design - Center 9". Retrieved 2009-05-05. 
  8. ^ "St George's Bloomsbury. (Church of England)". 2007-11-04. Retrieved 2009-07-25. 
  9. ^ "Minute by Minute:: August 2". lebanonupdates.blogspot. 2 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-02. 
  10. ^ Butters, Andrew Lee (August 2, 2006). "Behind the Battle for Baalbek: Residents in the ancient Lebanese city knew an Israeli attack was imminent".,8599,1222201,00.html?cnn=yes. Retrieved 14 September 2006. 
  11. ^ Karam, Zeina "Cleanup to Start at old sites in Lebanon" AP 4 October 2006
  12. ^ Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997) p. 200-225. ISBN 0-500-05084-8.
  13. ^ Lehner, Mark The Complete Pyramids, London: Thames and Hudson (1997) p. 209. ISBN 0-500-05084-8.
  14. ^ History Channel "Mega Movers: Ancient Mystery Moves"
  15. ^ Syaifullah, M. (October 26, 2008). "Yogyakarta dan Libanon Bentuk Kota Kembar". Tempo Interaktif.,20081026-142146,id.html. Retrieved 2010-01-25. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Asia : Middle East : Lebanon : Baalbek

Baalbek بَعلبَك is one of the most spectacular archaeological sites in Lebanon. Baalbeck or 'Heliopolis' as it was known is the site of great ancient temples built by the Phoenicians, the Romans, and other civilisations that have conquered the region and enjoyed the fertile soil of the Bekaa Valley. Some of the most celebrated temples are the ones of Bacchus, the Greek god of wine, and Jupiter, the Roman god of light, of the sky and weather.

Get in


Buses to Baalbek from Beirut leave the Cola intersection frequently and cost LL5,000. During the summer season daily tours are available from Beirut to Baalbeck from most major hotels; tour operator Nakhal has a guided coach tour several days a week for USD$70. The trip takes about two hours each way.

It is possible to travel from Homs in Syria to Baalbek by bus. Buses leave from the Karnak or Luxury coach stations in Homs and cross into Lebanon at al-Qa'a, arriving soon thereafter at Baalbek. Cost is about USD$10.


Visiting in the ruins of Baalbeck cost 12 000 L.L.

  • Temple of Bacchus (Small Temple).  edit
  • Temple of Jupiter. 1st century A.D.  edit
  • Great Court.  edit
  • Temple of Venus.  edit
  • Hexagonal Forecourt.  edit
  • Hajar al-Hubla. When you visit Baalbeck, be sure to drop by Abd an-Nabi al-Afi, the fellow who is caretaker to possibly the largest cut stone to be found anywhere on Earth (Hajar al-Hubla). He's working hard to clean up the environment a little bit, and he even offers tours of the area. Ask him to take you to the cafe up on the hill for an evening view of the valley.  edit
  • Every summer the Baalbeck International Festivals offers great peformances from local and international artists. In the past peformers ranged from Sting, Vanessa Mae and Phil Collins to plays by the celebrated Lebanese Rahbani brothers.


Do not buy antiquities here, as they are most likely fake. This is the center of the fake coin industry. Insist on a certificate of authenticity, and pay by credit card and keep your receipt. At least then you can charge back the dealer when you learn you have been deceived.


Evey summer Thers is out door shesha bars, they also serve drinks dessert dinner lunch breakfest.


Oreintal pastries are offered by Patisserie Jawhari, there you can find traditional sweet food from Lebanon, Syria and Turkey. The most famous sweet selled is called " Namoura bel Ashta" which stands for Namoura with Cream. This cream is extracted from fresh bioling milk. More pastries are found including the famous Knefe and Beqlawa.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

A city situated at the base of the western slope of the Anti-Lebanon, in a fertile region. It is the Heliopolis of the Greek and Roman writers, and is famous for the magnificent ruins of several temples—a large one with a vast courtyard; a smaller one (the Temple of the Sun); and a still smaller one, elegantly built in rococo style. The last two buildings, distinguished not only for their large proportions, but also for fine detail work, were probably constructed in the second century; and information from the seventh century indicates that the large temple was erected by Antoninus Pius. In classic literature the first mention of Heliopolis is in the third century; but coins found in the city show that it existed in the first century, when it was a Roman colony.

Its origin, however, belongs to a still earlier period, for it was the principal center of the Syrian sunworship. This is corroborated by the fact that the name "Baalbek" is found among the Syrians and the Arabians. The meaning of the second part of the name is inexplicable; but the first part suggests the old Semitic "Baal." It is doubtful whether this city is mentioned in the Old Testament. Some identify it with Baal-gad; but Baal-gad could not have lain so far north. Others think that it is Aven (Amos i. 5), because the Greek translation renders "Aven" by "On"—the usual designation of "Heliopolis." The word "On," however, borrowed from the Egyptians, can not with justification be applied to a Syrian city; and the place mentioned by Amos is undoubtedly in the neighborhood of Damascus. Baalbek is mentioned several times in Talmud and Midrash; compare Neubauer, "G. T." p. 286; compare also Solomon in Rabbinical Literature.

Bibliography: Robinson, Biblical Researches, iii. 505-527; Wood and Dawson, Ruins of Baalbec, 1757; Volney, Voyage en Syrie; Baedeker-Socin, Palestine, s.v.

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.


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