"Baalbek - Heliopolis" Top 5 Page for this destination Baalbeck by MM212
Baalbeck Travel Guide: 144 reviews and 504 photos
At the edge of the fertile Beqaa Valley and the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains lies the Acropolis of Baalbek, the most magnificent temple complex ever built by Rome. Known as Heliopolis in the Graeco-Roman world, Baalbek quickly became a centre of Roman religion in the Levant and was used to lure the newly conquered people into the sphere of Roman politics and religion. The unparallelled grandeur and unmatched extravagance were a testament to the significance of this region to the Roman Empire.
The site chosen for this lavish construction had been of importance to paganism since at least the 1st millennium BC. It was used in the worship of Semitic gods, particularly Baal (also known as Haddad) who gave the city its name. After the arrival of Alexander the Great and the Hellenisation of the region, the city was renamed Heliopolis – City of the Sun. During this time, foundations were laid for the construction of a great Greek temple dedicated to Zeus, the Ancient Greek god equated with Baal, but the Romans conquered the Eastern Mediterranean before it was erected and instead built their largest temple dedicated to Jupiter. The construction of other temples, dedicated to Bacchus, Mercury, Venus, and others soon followed re-establishing Heliopolis as a major pilgrimage site in the Levant. As Christianity later swept the empire, Roman attempts to extinguish paganism resulted in the first of many waves of destruction to befall the temples of Baalbek. The arrival of Islam, numerous earthquakes and several foreign invasions, in particular by Tamerlane in 1400, led to further destruction, but along the passage of time the Moslems, who restored the city's Semitic name, had turned the Acropolis into a fortified castle and, thus, inadvertently preserved significant sections of its architecture. It was not until the second half of the 19th century that Baalbek regained international attention and the focus of archaeologists who worked hard to restore the ancient ruins of Baalbek.
The size of the Acropolis, its temples, and their state of preservation make Baalbek one of the best Roman cities around.
Nowadays, Baalbek is a thriving town with a majority Shiite population. Its association with Hizbollah has tainted the city with a darker repution, yet it remains an important tourist destination and home to celebrated international summer festivals. From a tourist perspective, the Acropolis is the most important monument to visit, though there are a few other notable historic monuments of interest.
Lebanon itinerary in March 2005:
Beirut - Beqaa Valley - Baalbek - Aanjar - Liban Nord (northern Lebanon) - El Arz - Tripoli - Mont Liban - Byblos - Tyre - Sidon
Lebanon itinerary in November 2005:
Beirut - Liban Nord (northern Lebanon) - Tripoli - Beqaa Valley - Baalbek - Aanjar - Mont Liban - Byblos
Lebanon & Syria itinerary in Dec 2009/Jan 2010:
Beirut - Liban Nord - Tripoli - Byblos - Beqaa Valley - Aanjar - Damascus - Baalbek - Mont Liban - Tyre - Sidon
- Pros:Impressive, beautiful, with very few tourists
- Cons:Nearly 2 hours from Beirut
- In a nutshell:The most impressive site in Lebanon
One of the astonishing facts about the Temple of Jupiter is that it sits on top of the largest building stones ever used... more travel advice
Beyond the impressive archaeological ruins and few historic buildings, Baalbek seems to have little to offer the visitor... more travel advice
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