Baalbek was founded around 1000BCE, and developed into a Phoenician place of worship for a triad of Gods. Renamed Heliopolis by the Greeks, Baalbek remained a religious centre dedicated to a triad of Gods: Zeus, Aphrodite and Hermes, which was later translated into Jupiter, Venus and Mercury by the Romans. The latter wanted to establish a temple complex surpassing all previous efforts, and, at the height of their power, managed to do so. Interestingly, they used both Greek and Roman construction methods, while adding elements which are not seen in any other Roman temple.
Construction actually took so long, over 300 years, that some temples were never finished, because Constantine decided the Roman Empire should become Christian. This was the end of a three-God cult, a basilica was built on top of some pagan constructions, and the Arabs later added defensive walls around the complex and turned it into a citadel. Wars and earth quakes took their toll, but what remains are anyway overwhelming constructions. Walking up the stairs towards the propylaea, you feel that this place of worship was built to impress. As you go through the entrance, the Hexagonal and Great Court open up to you, while you see the Temple of Jupiter on a still higher platform.
Passing gigantic building blocks, you can discern some delicately carved stones both on the floor and still in their original place high above you. Instead of heading directly towards the Temple of Jupiter, it is worth exploring the Courts first. Once at the foot of the six remaining standing columns, you can grasp how enormous this temple must have been. From here, you can go down to the so-called Temple of Bacchus which, contrary to the Temple of Jupiter, is very well preserved and gives us a good idea how Roman temples must have looked like. In this temple, in the shadow of the Acropolis above it, you will find all walls and most columns standing, richly decorated portico, walls and ceiling.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Baalbek (Lebanon). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Baalbek. Read more about this site.