Baalbeck – Discover Lebanon Series

Baalbeck is a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude 1,170 m, situated east of the Litani River.
Baalbeck is famous for its exquisitely detailed and monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, known as Heliopolis it was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire. 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 habitants.
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.
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 or dead from his wars against the Persians. 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 as 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, meaning Sun City), 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 Itali***** 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. Justinian’s orders, for his basilica of Hagia Sophia.
Baalbeck is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival that it is the oldest and most known cultural event in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. Since 1955, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have traveled to the city of Baalbeck to attend the annual festival. Classical music, dance, theater, opera, and jazz as well as modern world music are performed each July and August in the ancient Roman Acropolis, one of the largest and well preserved Roman temples ever built.
The festivals date back to the mid 20th century with the first organizing activities being held in 1955. After one year president Camille Chamoun named it the Baalbeck International Festival, which become a governmental institution whose goal was to promote tourism and Lebanese culture. In 1966, it established a drama school for the promotion of works done by Lebanese authors. Over 40000 yearly spectators watch the festival in the unique historic setting of Baalbeck.

baalbeck_day_01Baalbeck is a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude 1,170 m, situated east of the Litani River.

Baalbeck is famous for its exquisitely detailed and monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, known as Heliopolis it was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire. 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 habitants.

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.

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 or dead from his wars against the Persians. 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 as 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, meaning Sun City), 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 Itali***** 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. Justinian’s orders, for his basilica of Hagia Sophia.

Baalbeck is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival that it is the oldest and most known cultural event in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean. Since 1955, hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have traveled to the city of Baalbeck to attend the annual festival. Classical music, dance, theater, opera, and jazz as well as modern world music are performed each July and August in the ancient Roman Acropolis, one of the largest and well preserved Roman temples ever built.

The festivals date back to the mid 20th century with the first organizing activities being held in 1955. After one year president Camille Chamoun named it the Baalbeck International Festival, which become a governmental institution whose goal was to promote tourism and Lebanese culture. In 1966, it established a drama school for the promotion of works done by Lebanese authors. Over 40000 yearly spectators watch the festival in the unique historic setting of Baalbeck.