City of ancient Syria, now in Lebanon, 60 km/36 mi northeast of Beirut. It was originally a centre of Baal worship. The Greeks identified Baal with Helios, the Sun, and renamed Baalbek Heliopolis. Its ruins, including Roman temples, survive, notably the Temple of Jupiter Heliopolitanus and the Temple of Bacchus, built in the 2nd century AD, which is still almost intact.
Baalbek was made a Roman colony under Julius Caesar. In the 2nd century AD it was renowned for an oracle, which the emperor Trajan is said to have consulted before embarking upon his second Parthian war. The Temple of Jupiter was built by Antoninus Pius. Theodosius the Great converted it into a Christian church. During subsequent wars the Arabs used it as a fortress, traces of which are still visible. In 1400 the city was completely sacked by Tamerlane.
The columns of the entrance to the Temple of Jupiter measure 27 m/89 ft in height and 7 m/23 ft in circumference. Six columns are all that remain of the 54 which surrounded the statue of the god, and the ground is strewn with the ruins of the building. A smaller temple, the Temple of Bacchus, stands to the south of this, and is larger than the Parthenon at Athens. It is almost entirely preserved, with eight columns on each front and 15 on each flank. Both temples are Corinthian and of limestone. Other ruins include the round Temple of Venus which is well-preserved and may be considered as one of the finest products of Roman architecture. Nearby is the largest cut stone in the world, 18 m/59 ft by 5 m/16 ft by 4 m/13 ft, weighing about 1,500 tonnes.
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