Saturday, December 16
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Lebanon's greatest Roman treasure counted among the wonders of the ancient world. The largest and most noble Roman temples ever built, and well best preserved.
Towering high above the Bekaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. The Greeks identified the god of Baalbeck with the sun god and the city was called Heliopolis or City of the Sun. The temple was never built; some huge construction from the Hellenistic project can still be seen. The temple complex of Baalbeck is made up of the Jupiter Temple and the Bacchus Temple adjacent to it. A short distance away is the circular structure known as the Temple of Venus.

Just a day trip away from Beirut (86 kilometers), Baalbeck is one of Lebanon’s oldest cities and one of the most important Roman sites in the Middle East. Considered to be Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure, Baalbeck is counted among the wonders of the ancient world. Located in the Bekaa Valley and originally named after Baal, the Phoenician God of rain and sun, the impressive classical ruins are entirely of Roman design.

For centuries, the temples of Baalbeck lay under meters of rubble, obscured by mediaeval fortifications. The monuments have also suffered from war, theft and earthquakes over the years. Restoration work began as far back as 1898 and in 1922, research and restoration was intensified.

Visitors today can only see the remnants of the great Temple of Jupiter, but this is a marvel in itself, leaving visitors to wonder at the immensity of the project and the great workmanship that went into it, still evident in several smaller structures that have remained intact.

Baalbeck is one of the largest and noblest temple complexes ever built by the Romans. In its time, Alexander the Great, Pompey, Julius Caesar, Hadrian and Carcalla all played a role in its construction.

The complex comprises two main temples, The Temple of Jupiter and Temple of Bacchus, with their porticos, two courtyards and an enclosure that was later built by the Arabs.

The Temple of Jupiter was begun in the last quarter of the 1st century BC and was completed around AD 60, in the final years of Nero’s reign. The complex of the Great Temple as it is now known has four sections – the monumental entrance or Propylaea, the Hexagonal Court, The Great Court and The Temple itself.

The Temple sits on a high platform at the top of a monumental staircase. Visitors are greeted by six of the original 54 colossal Corinthian columns spiraling 22 meters into the sky. The columns are joined by an entablature decorated with a frieze of bulls and lions’ heads connected by garlands.

The nearby Temple of Bacchus, though smaller than the Great Temple, is a wonderfully preserved structure, constructed during the first half of the 2nd century AD. The temple’s outer portico features intricately carved stone columns and thirty-three steps lead up to the entrance, while the entire structure sits on a platform five meters high. The entrance through the lofty monumental gate and the ornate interior constitute one of the most breathtaking sights in Baalbeck.

Southeast of the acropolis, outside the main area is a tiny, exquisite Temple of Venus, a gem-like circular building with fluted columns. Built in the 3rd century AD, its design, size and orientation towards the Great Temple set it apart from the other Baalbeck temples. The remains of a fourth temple dedicated to Mercury are located close by.

These fabulous Hellenistic-Roman period ruins, that took three centuries to build, are the venue for the world-famous drama, music and dance performances at the Baalbeck Festival.


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