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The main site of Baalbeck is composed of two temples (Jupiter and Bacchus), two courts and a surrounding wall built under the Roman reign. Outside the main site stands the temple of Venus.
Temple of Bacchus
This Temple at a World Heritage Site is considered one of the best maintained and sustained Roman structure remnants in the world. The Temple and its decorations served as a dominant and authoritative model of neoclassical architecture.
It is the best preserved of the three temples of Baalbeck and was built during the 2nd century. Smaller than the temple of Jupiter with dimensions of 69m long x 36m wide x 31m high but still a very impressive structure.
The sanctuary was constructed next to the courtyard ahead the larger temple of Jupiter Baal. Out of the 42 Corinthian columns initially built, only 19 remain standing in an upright position reaching 19 meters high. It is believed that the storm God Ba’al was worshiped and honored in this temple.
The Temple has carvings and inscriptions that are very refined and have survived from antiquity. On the interior, you can find the main body of the Temple that measured around 98ft, a sanctuary measuring around 36ft and fronted by 13 steps raised on a 5ft platform.
The temple has a reputation for its extraordinary and monumental dimensions, lavishly ornamented stone work and overwhelming gate with Bacchic designs. The ornamental stone descriptions incorporate rows of lions and bulls, which were logos symbolically associated with the two deities.
Temple of Jupiter
Also called ‘Roman Heliopolis’, the Temple of Jupiter was dedicated to the community that shared the belief of zues and it is situated in Heliopolis of Roman Phoenicia (which is Baalbeck of Lebanon today). It is reached by an impressive stairway, and was the major building in a holy complex that still partly stands.
There are only six columns remaining today, about twenty meters high each and two-meters wide and they give a clear idea of the original enormous size of the whole sanctuary. Given its measurements that are approximately 88 x 48 m, it is believed to be one of the largest temples of the Roman world.
It is apparently believed that the Temple of Jupiter was constructed on top of an earlier Phoenician temple employing the same infrastructure and foundation. Situated at an altitude of about 1100 meters and on the east side of the Roman Empire, It took several stages to complete the construction of the Temple.
Although it was nearing completion under Nero’s reign (54 to 68 AD), the Temple hadn’t been inaugurated until the 3rd century along with the other two temples. During the Byzantine era, it was referred to as the ‘Trilithon’ because of the three gigantic stones in its foundation, and referred to as ‘Great temple’ when taken together with the forecourt and Great Court.
Temple of Venus
Around 200 meters southwest the ‘Temple of Jupiter’ lies the ‘Temple of Venus’ that was constructed in the third Century AD. The Temple is much smaller in size and dimensions that the other two and is built on a platform that takes the shape of a horse shoe. It is also called the circular temple given its circular shape.
It is separated from the temple of Jupiter with a colonnaded street and is the last temple ever built in the province. The architect responsible for the building of this sanctuary wanted to portray to the public opinion that he was the best and most skilled for the job and he triumphed.
The characteristics and features of this temple set it apart from all the other Baalbeck Temples and helped in distinguishing it as the Temple of Fortune of Baalbeck. Later amid the Byzantine Era, The Temple was transformed into a church and devoted to Saint Barbara, who is seen as the Saint of Baalbeck up till the current day.
Close to the Temple of Venus, visitors can find the remnants of the ‘Temple of Muses’, which date back to the beginning of the 1st Century AD.