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Open map of LebanonFlag of LebanonLebanon / Cities and Towns /
Baalbek
Arabic: ba¢lbak
Other spellings: Ba'labakk





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Baalbek

Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, Lebanon.
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Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, Lebanon. Baalbek, Lebanon. Photo: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, Lebanon.
The Great Court at Baalbek, Lebanon.

Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, Lebanon.
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Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, Lebanon.
Photo: Karam al-Ghossein.


Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, Lebanon.
Baalbek, Lebanon.

Baalbek, Lebanon.
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Detail from the Temple of Bacchus at Baalbek, Lebanon. Photo: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.

Town in eastern Lebanon with 30,000 inhabitants (2003), in the Bekaa valley at 1,150 metres above sea level. The town lies between the two rivers Litani and Asi.
Baalbek has its name from Phoenician, meaning "City of Baal," indicating that it was a major cult centre for the god Baal, among the most important in Canaanite and Phoenician religions.
The economy of modern Baalbek is based on local administration and agriculture, for which the town serves as a administrative and commercial centre. In recent years, tourism has been revived, but is still of limited importance.
Baalbek is the main town of eastern Lebanon, and is well-connected by rail and road to the main urban centres of both Lebanon and Syria.
The ruins of Baalbek are impressive, with temples built in Roman times. Although dedicated to Roman deities, these gods were equated with gods of Canaanite and Phoenician religions.
The greatest structure here is the Temple of Jupiter, the largest temple ever built in the Roman Empire, with a size of 49 by 88 metres. It originally had 58 columns, 23 metres high, of which only the 6 in front still stand.
The Temple of Bacchus is beautifully preserved, and although lain out on a smaller scale, still impressive with its 36 by 70 metres. It had 42 columns, of which all still stand.
There is a third temple, round in shape and dedicated to Venus, with a diametre of 14 metres. Of this, only a few columns and fragments of the wall still stand.

History
The early history up until around 330 BCE is unrecorded. It seems clear that it had a very ancient oracle.
Around 320 BCE: Comes under Macedonian control, and is renamed Heliopolis, probably after the Egyptian town with the same name.
15: Heliopolis becomes a Roman colony.
637 CE: Conquered by Arab Muslims, who looted rich treasures from the place.
— The town is fortified and named al-Qala.
748: Sacked by local tribes.
975: Sacked by Byzantine troops.
1400: Pillaged by the Turkic troops of Timur Lenk.
16th century: While officially becoming part of the Ottoman Empire, local tribal leaders exercise full control of Baalbek and the surrounding region.
1759: A heavy earthquake destroys much of the town's ancient buildings.
1840: Effective Ottoman control is established over Baalbek and other Lebanese towns.
1898: German-led excavations start in Baalbek, unearthing the two major Roman temples over the next 5 years.
1984: Baalbek is made a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.




By Tore Kjeilen