Infobox Settlement
official_name = Baalbek
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native_name = بعلبك
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pushpin_map_caption =Location in Lebanon
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subdivision_name = Flag|Lebanon
subdivision_type1 = Governorate
subdivision_name1 = Beqaa Governorate
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subdivision_name2 = Baalbek District
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Baalbek ( _ar. بعلبك) is a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude 1,170 m (3,850 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, known as Heliopolis was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire.

Baalbek is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival. The town is located about 85 km north east of Beirut, and about 75 km north of Damascus. It has population of approximately 72.000.



The history of Baalbeck dates back around 5000 years. Excavations near the Jupiter temple have revealed the existence of ancient human habitation dating to the Early Bronze Age (2900-2300 BC). The Phoenicians settled in Baalbeck as early as 2000 BC and built their first temple dedicated to the God Baal, the Sun God, from which the city got its name.

19th century Bible archaeologists wanted to connect Baalbeck to the "Baalgad" mentioned in "Joshua" 11:17, but the assertion has not 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. Nevertheless, it must have been the site of an oracle from earliest times, for oracles are not lightly founded, and retained such a function during Roman times.

Heliopolis, the City of the Sun

The city retained its religious function during 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 Baalbeck 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. 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.

Infobox World Heritage Site
WHS = Baalbek

State Party = LBN
Type = Cultural
Criteria = i, iv
ID = 294
Region = Arab States
Year = 1984
Session = 8th
Link =

The greatest of the three temples was sacred to Jupiter Baal, ("Heliopolitan Zeus"), identified here with the sun, and - constructed between the first century BC and 62 AD - was the largest temple in the empire. 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 earliest 20th century an earthquake reduced the 10 left columns to six .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 to 400 tons. The western, tallest retaining wall has a second course of monoliths containg the famous "trilithon"; a row of three stones, estimated of the weight of these stones are about 750 tons each. [ Alouf, Michael M., 1944: History of Baalbek. American Press. p. 129 ] 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. Had it been freed from the quarry, it would have been the largest stone ever moved, larger than the famous unfinished obelisk in Aswan. Another of the Roman ruins, the Great Court, has six 20 m-tall stone columns surviving, out of an original 128.

"These stones represent the largest cut-stones from the ancient world. The unfinished stone is estimated to weigh 1500 tons."

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."). Christian writers 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'. 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, and Constantine, making an effort to curb the Venus cult, built a basilica. 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

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 booty. 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. Baalbeck, badly shaken in an earthquake in 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 Baalbeck" (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 [] 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 [] .

Even after Jezzar Pasha, the rebel governor of Acre province, broke the power of the Metawali in the last half of the 18th century, Baalbeck was no destination for the traveller unaccompanied by an armed guard. The anarchy that succeeded his death in 1804 was ended only by the Egyptian occupation (1832). With the treaty of London (1840) Baalbeck became really Ottoman, the "Encyclopaedia 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 Baalbeck 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.

World Heritage Site

"Baalbeck, 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.

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.cite news
last =
first = Nahla
coauthors =
title = Minute by Minute:: August 2
work =
pages =
publisher = lebanonupdates.blogspot
date = 2 August 2006
url =
accessdate =2006-08-02
] [cite web
title=Behind the Battle for Baalbek: Residents in the ancient Lebanese city knew an Israeli attack was imminent
first=Andrew Lee
accessdaymonth=14 September
] It has been reported that during the conflict, vibrations caused by bombs damaged the ruins. UNESCO offered help to coordinate restoration efforts. [Karam, Zeina

"Cleanup to Start at old sites in Lebanon"AP
4 October 2006


ister cities

* Bari, Italy
* L'Aquila, Italy
* Thrace, Greece



External links

* [ The monuments of Baalbek in panorama photography]
* [ Lebanon, the Cedars' Land: Baalbeck]
* [,36.203921&spn=0.003313,0.006781 Google Maps satellite view]
* [ UNESCO World Heritage Review describing Baalbek]
* [ Baalbeck International Festival - music, from traditional Arabic to rock]
* [ Ba'albek, Lebanon. Home of the largest cut-stone from prehistory]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Baalbek — بعلبك Bacchustempel Staat …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Baalbek — (ar) بعلبك   Ba labakk …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Baalbek — • Town in Syria; also called Heliopolis Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Baalbek     Baalbek     † …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • BAALBEK — Anciennement Héliopolis, Baalbek, ville du Liban, est située au pied du versant occidental de l’Anti Liban, en bordure de la riche plaine de la Beqaa, où coule l’Oronte dans son cours supérieur. Là se trouvait le célèbre sanctuaire de Jupiter, ou …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Baalbek — Baalbek,   Balbek, Stadt in Libanon, in der Beka, 1 200 m über dem Meeresspiegel, etwa 20 000 Einwohner; Sitz eines melchitischen Erzbischofs und eines maronitischen Bischofs.   Stadtbild:   Von den Tempelanlagen der Römer (1. 3. Jahrhundert)… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Baalbek — (d.i. Sonnenstadt), Stadt in Syrien am OAbhange des Libanon, mit Sonnentempel, der nach Einführung des Christenthums in eine Kirche verwandelt wurde u. jetzt noch in prächtigen Ruinen vorhanden ist. Besser erhalten ist der südlich von dem großen… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Baalbek — (griech. Heliopolis, »Sonnenstadt«), einst eine der prachtvollsten Städte Syriens, jetzt ein Ort von 2000 Einw., Sitz eines Kaimakams, 1150 m ü. M., in der Talebene El Bekaa (dem alten Kölesyrien), am Fuße des Antilibanos gelegen und berühmt… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Baalbek — (Balbek), grch. Heliopŏlis, Ort am Fuße des Antilibanon, 5000 E.; einst große Stadt; Tempelruinen …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Baalbek — Baalbek, d.h. Stadt des Baal, daher bei den Griechen und Römern Heliopolis (Sonnenstadt) genannt, in Syrien Paschalik Akra, zwischen dem Libanon und Antilibanon im Thal des Flusses Kasmia, einst von sehr großer Ausdehnung, wie die Ruinen bezeugen …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Baalbek — [bäl′bek΄] town in NE Lebanon: site of ruins of HELIOPOLIS: pop. 14,000 …   English World dictionary

  • Baalbek — Baalbek …   Wikipedia Español

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