Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Where to go when you visit Lebanon - Site I: Baalbek

Every now and then I will post a small paragraph and pictures about a place in Lebanon that I recommend for tourists (next year?) to visit.

I will start with the famous Baalbek ruins, where the special Baalbek International Festival happens every summer, with an exception this summer 2006 due to the war between Israel and Hezbollah.


Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek, Source: National Geographic
Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek, Source: National Geographic

Description: The Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek, Lebanon, was the largest Roman temple ever constructed. Although much of the temple was destroyed under the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius, 6 of its original 54 columns still stand today.

First established as a holy site by the Phoenicians, Baalbek, once known as Heliopolis, became a Roman colony in 47 B.C. There the Romans constructed three temples in honor of the gods Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. The complex that includes the well-preserved ruins of these temples is a major archaeological site in Lebanon.
Source: NationalGeographic.com

Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek, Source: National Geographic
Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek, Source: National Geographic

Description: The Temple of Bacchus, which many historians consider the best-preserved Roman temple of its size, is part of Baalbek's immense semiruins. Its peristyle of forty-two unfluted Corinthian columns (nineteen still standing) embraces sturdily preserved exterior walls. The approach to the cella or worship room proclaims grandeur with its powerful scale...The inner side walls of the nave are divided into bays by projected Corinthian half-columns to produce a series of superimposed niches, round-headed below, angled (pedimented) above, the latter originally with statues. The temple was roofed with cedar trusses."

"The temple, however, is but a single aspect of the vast complex. Baalbek is unequaled for boldness of concept and skill in utilizing Herculean masonry."
— G. E. Kidder Smith. Looking at Architecture. p34.