Baalbek Ruins (World Heritage)

By | September 24, 2021

According to cheeroutdoor, the ruins are located northeast of Beirut. The cult site of the sun god Baal was expanded into a magnificent Jupiter sanctuary in Roman times and became one of the largest temples in the Roman Empire. The individual temples were able to compete with those on the Acropolis due to their monumentality and architecture. The roof of the Temple of Jupiter was supported by 52 columns. It was destroyed by fire in the 6th century.

Baalbek ruins: facts

Official title: Baalbek ruins
Cultural monument: originally as a place of worship for the sun god Baal; in Roman times with the sanctuary of Jupiter pilgrimage site for thousands of pilgrims; Architectural monuments such as the Temple of Venus and the temple district with the entrance hall, the hexagonal forecourt with surrounding portico (originally 30 granite columns), the 134×112 m ceremonial courtyard, the 88×48 m temple of Jupiter Heliopolitanus and the Temple of Bacchus or Small Temple
Continent: Asia
Country: Lebanon
Location: Baalbek, northeast of Beirut
Appointment: 1984
Meaning: one of the most impressive examples of the architecture of the Roman Empire

Baalbek Ruins: History

115 BC Chr. due to the Itureans colonization of the “sun city” (“Heliopolis”)
47 BC Chr. Roman garrison town Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Helipolitana
at 14 under Emperor Augustus, construction began on the temple complexes that are still in existence today
193-211 Reign of the Emperor Septimius Severus
211-17 Caracalla Imperial Era
244-49 under Emperor Philip Arabs completion of the hexagonal forecourt
306-37 under the Roman emperor Constantine the temple of Baalbek was officially closed
635 Beginning of the Umayyad rule
1176 Occupied by an army of crusaders
1260 brief occupation by the Mongols
1664 Destruction by earthquakes
1943 Excavations by the Lebanese antiquity administration
August 2006 Destruction of the ruins by air strikes in the Israeli-Lebanese conflict

Rome’s tallest pillars

Nowhere else in their empire did the Romans erect columns as high (20 m) as in the valley of the sun god Baal. Six of what were once 54 columns, connected by a mighty crossbeam – called »architrave« – with an impressive frieze, have withstood all attacks and earthquakes for 2000 years. Today they are the symbol of the most important ancient temple site on former Phoenician soil.

Meter-high rubble and later overbuildings buried this temple site for centuries. At the “instigation and expense of the German Emperor” Wilhelm II, who visited Baalbek in 1898, the first excavations of the “Imperial Archeology Commission” began around the turn of the century. They were continued by French archaeologists after the First World War, and since Lebanon’s independence, the Lebanese Antiquities Administration has been taking exemplary care of the excavation and restoration work.

The temples of Baalbek rise on a hill in the northern part of the fertile Bekaá plain. Originally there was a place of worship with a central sacrificial altar for the sun god Baal, who, according to Old Testament tradition (The Second Book of Kings, Chapter 17) was also worshiped by tribes of the people of Israel from time to time. In reference to their own sun god, the Greeks later named the place Heliopolis and enlarged the western part of the temple grounds. It was not until the Romans, under Emperor Nero, that the temple of Jupiter was completed, the roof of which was supported by those 20-meter-high Corinthian columns, six of which still tower straight up into the sky today. In order to increase the enormous effect of the entire temple complex, Emperor Antoninus Pius ordered In the 18th century, the rectangular Great Courtyard on the east side of the Temple of Jupiter was extended by a columned hall. Its sides were delimited by rooms open to the courtyard and niches for statues of gods and emperors; however, none of these statues is in their place today. In the 3rd century, under Emperor Caracalla, a hexagonal forecourt and monumental entrance gates, so-called »Propylaea«, were added to this large courtyard.

The result of this gigantic redesign made every visitor to Heliopolis freeze in awe: He entered the temple complex in the east in the glow of the rising sun, crossed the mighty Propylaea, got through a triple portal into the hexagonal forecourt, then crossed the over a hundred meters long Great Court with the burnt offering altars and the statues of the secular and divine rulers and finally reached the steps of the great temple of Jupiter. He then entered the temple, which was seven meters above the Great Court and was dedicated to the “Great Gods of Heliopolis”, via a wide flight of stairs.

The smaller Bacchus temple from the second century AD rises below the temple of Jupiter. With its thirteen meter high portal, it is still larger than the Acropolis in Athens. Its abundant Bacchanalian decorations suggest that the consumption of wine and opiates in the temple of Bacchus was part of the religious ceremonies among priests and believers.

Emperor Constantine, who made the Christian religion the state religion of the Roman Empire, had the temples closed, and his successor Theodosius built a Christian basilica in the large forecourt. After the Arab occupation, Baalbek was finally converted into a fortress. With all these changes in use, the Roman temples always served as a “welcome quarry”. But not only the conquerors contributed to the destruction of the temple complex, but also several times, most recently in 1759, severe earthquakes.

To this day, Baalbek is a superlative excavation site. And yet there is mostly devout silence over the complex. Grass and weeds grow between the ashlars of the floors after the coffered ceilings that stretched between the colonnades and temple walls have collapsed.

Baalbek Ruins (World Heritage)