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The Throne of Astarte (March 05) - Sidon

The Throne of Astarte (March 05)

Temple of Echmoun

About 3km north of Sidon, on the banks of a river called Nahr el-Awali, lie the ruins of the the Temple of Echmoun. It was dedicated to the Phoenician god of medicine and healing, the most revered in Sidon at the time and one that was later equated with the Graeco-Roman god Asclepius. According to Phoenician mythology, the goddess Astarte turned Echmoun into a god after he killed himself to escape her love. Her throne, carved in the 3rd century BC, is still standing in the temple, framed by two lion statues (see photos). The temple was an imporant pilgrimage site for over a millennium, from its construction in the 7th century BC until the early Byzantine period. Pilgrims brought offerings to ask Echmoun to heal them and bathed in waters from a nearby spring known for its healing qualities. During the Graeco-Roman period, a colonnade and a nymphaeum were constructed, the remains of which can still be seen. In the early Byzantine period, Christians continued to visit the site for its healing reputation, so a church was built, but only its exquisite mosaics have survived to this day. This is one of the few sites in Lebanon where significant Phoenician-period structures have survived intact, despite reconstruction in the Graeco-Roman and Byzantine periods. Note that this temple is on the tentative list of UNESCO awaiting its addition to the list of World Heritage Sites.

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  • Updated Jan 15, 2010
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