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Location: Beqaa Valley  Map

Baalbek Archaeological Site (بعلبك)

Baalbek Archaeological Site (بعلبك)








History of Baalbek Archaeological Site

Baalbek Archaeological Site (بعلبك)

Baalbek Archaeological Site is an ancient city situated in the Beqaa Valley of Beqaa Governorate of Lebanon. It was first settled around 9000 BC. After conquest of the region by the Macedonians the city became part of the Hellenistic World. At the time the city became known as Heliopolis or "Sun city". Ancient god Baalbek who was thought to be the chief protector of the city was associated with Greek god of sun Helios. It reached the peak of its power under Roman rule. Romans constructed magnificent temples dedicated to triad of gods including Bacchus, Jupiter and Venus. Particularly Temple of Jupiter became the prominent feature of the town. It reached a height of 22 meters. It stood on a podium that measures 48 by 88 meters with a height of 13 meters above ground level. Enormous stones that supported the temple itself measure up to 800 tons each. Without a doubt it is one of the most significant structures of the ancient World. Ancient city was re- discovered in 1898. German Archaeological Mission removed later structures to uncover ancient city that laid below.



City `s history
Despite the fact that the area was inhabited from ancient times, no information about the city was found until the conquest of Phenicia by Alexander the Great in 332 BC. already at that time the city was the largest religious center where Baal (hence the name) and Dionysus were worshiped. The Greeks identified Baal with Zeus, then with Helium - the god of the Sun. When, after the death of Alexander, Phenicia went to Ptolemy, he renamed the city “Heliopolis” (dr. Greek Ἡλίου πόλις).

In 200 BC the Phoenician Heliopolis was conquered by Antiochus the Great.

During the reign of Emperor Octavian Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD) Heliopolis was turned into a Roman colony (Julia Augusta Felix); in the 1st – 3rd centuries many Roman churches were built here.

In the 7th century, Baalbek was conquered by the Arabs.

Since the 9th century, the Turks began to penetrate the region. Baalbek became a part of such Turkic states as the state of Tulunids (9th century), Ishkhids (10th century), Seljuks (11th century), Mamluks of Egypt (13th century), Timurids (15th century), Ottoman Empire (from the 16th century)

In 1759, a strong earthquake almost completely destroyed the already almost empty city.

Already in the 16th century in Europe it became known that there were grandiose ruins, which became a must-see destination for European travelers in the 19th century. Flaubert, Twain and Bunin left descriptions of their impressions of Baalbek. Full-scale excavations were begun by German scientists in 1898 and lasted five years. After the First World War, the French were engaged in clearing the site.

In Iliopol, the great martyr Barbara was born, under the emperor Maximinus (305-311), in a noble pagan family.

In Baalbek, a grandiose temple ensemble was preserved in ruins, consisting of propylaea, richly decorated with carvings of courtyards (in one of them the remains of a large altar building are open), the Big Temple (the so-called Temple of Jupiter), the well-preserved Small Temple (the so-called temple Bacchus or Mercury) and a round temple (the so-called Temple of Venus) with a four-column portico.

In the XIII century, the territory of the ensemble was turned into a fortress (the remains of walls and towers were preserved). To the east of the propylaea are the ruins of the Great Mosque and the minaret.

The Temple of Jupiter is a large structure: some base blocks weigh 800-1000 tons. To a certain extent, this structure surpasses the Cheops pyramid, the largest granite block of which (a stone above the entrance to the king’s chamber) weighs 90 tons. The largest block in Baalbek, called the “South Stone” (from the ancient Arabic name “Gayyar al-Qibli”), which was never taken out of the quarry, but by all indications was intentionally prepared to complete the platform, reaches a weight of 1,050 tons. (In 2014, after excavations near the South Stone, a block weighing about 1,650-1,670 tons was discovered.)

The main mystery of Baalbek is the terrace on which the temple of Jupiter stands. In its masonry there are three plates - Baalbek Trilithon - weighing about 800 tons (according to one ancient legend, these blocks lay here forever and were considered sacred). These blocks are located at a height of 7 meters.




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