« Baal Baalbek Baasha »


BAALBEK, bɑ̄l´´bek´: A city of Cœle-Syria, celebrated for its magnificence in the first centuries of the Christian era, and famous ever since for its ruins.

Location and History.

It is situated on a plain near the foot of the Anti-Lebanus range, about forty miles northwest of Damascus, and 3,800 feet above sea-evel. Its earlier name was Baalbek, ” City of Baal,” changed under the Seleucidæ to Heliopolis. In Egypt there was a Heliopolis (also called On; see On), and the plausible supposition has been offered that these two places were of common origin. In proof, the saying of the author of De dea Syria, that in the great temple of Heliopolis an antique idol was worshiped which had been brought from Egypt, is quoted, and also the statement of Macrobius in his Saturnalia, that the statue of Jupiter Heliopolitanus came from Egypt. Supporting this is the judgment of C. A. Rich, quoted below, that the substructure of the ruins at Baalbek is Egyptian, at least in part. It was only after Baalbek was made a Roman colony, under the name Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Heliopolitana, that it became a place of importance. It can not be identified satisfactorily with any Bible locality. It is mentioned by Josephus (Ant., XIV, iii, 2), Pliny (Hist. nat., v, 22), and Ptolemy; and coins of the city have been found of almost all the emperors from Nerva to Gallienus.

The Ruins.

Baalbek contains ruins of three temples: of the sun, of Jupiter, and a small one of Venus; also of a Christian basilica. The first is attributed to Antoninus Pius (138-161) by John Malala (c. 52rr 600); only six columns and their entablature and the substructure remain. The walls of the temple of Jupiter are standing, but the roof is gone. C. A. Rich, who examined the ruins in 1894, says (American Architect, xlvii, 1895, pp. 3 sqq.) that the substructure of the whole, at least in part, is Egyptian, while the 393beveled masonry under the peristyle of the temple of the sun is Phenician. The Germans, who have in hand the examination of Baalbek, have made out that a great altar, thought at first to be cut from the living rock and pieced out with masonry, but subsequently discovered to be wholly of masonry, is the center of the entire group. This was surrounded by a series of walls built up so as to allow the superposition of a platform level with the base of the altar, forming the floor of the great court. On the east, west, and north sides, these walls were employed to make passages and chambers beneath the platform. To the east of the platform was a hexagonal court, giving access to the great court, while to the west was the great temple of the sun. The temple of Jupiter is to the south of the west end of the great court, distant about fifty feet from the south wall of the latter. Around this court on three sides, also around the hexagonal court, was carried a lofty peristyle on a stylobate of three steps. Four sides of the hexagonal court held chapels, the other two sides being given to the entrances to the courts. The north and south sides of the great court held each three chapels and two niches, most richly elaborated, the east, side having two, one on each side of the entrance. On the floor of the great court on the north and the south sides of the altar were two large basins, unfinished, two and a half feet deep, with walls paneled on the outside, the panels decorated with genii and festooned flowers. Clear traces of a Christian basilica have been found on the great platform, the great altar being the center, while the line of the eastern wall of the temple of the sun is conterminous with the west wall of the basilica. The floor of the latter was seven and a half feet above the court pavement, thus preserving intact the great altar, which was built over.

The Great Stones.

Of the temple of the sun the two most marked features, long known, were the six great columns with their entablature and the three megaliths at the west end, two of the latter measuring sixty three feet long by thirteen square, and sixty-four feet long by fourteen square. Another stone still lies in the. quarry near-by cut out from the rock, and measures sixty-nine and a quarter feet long by fourteen square. The columns, of which there were originally fifty-eight, nineteen at each side and ten at each end, were seventy-five feet in height with a diameter of seven and a quarter feet, and the entablature was fourteen feet in height, These columns supported the roof. The use of the megaliths was only recently discovered. It now appears that they were carried around the south side of the base of the temple, and it is possible that they will be found on the other sides as well. It appears that the temple was built on an artificial mound of earth, and that the great stones were employed to sustain this mass. The order of architecture is the Corinthian, with all the elaboration to which that style so easily lends itself. The floor area of the temple of the sun was approximately 290 feet by 160.

The temple of Jupiter, also of the Corinthian order, 227 by 117 feet, was surrounded by a peristyle of forty-two plain columns, while ten fluted ones were in the vestibule. The entablature was of very profuse and rich ornamentation.

The whole was reached from the east by a magnificent flight of steps no longer standing, 150 feet in breadth. The scope of the entire group of structures may be judged from the fact that from the east porch of the hexagonal court to the west wall of the temple of the sun is 900 feet, while the breadth of the great court was 400 feet.

In connection with recent study of these ruins two interesting questions have been answered. On the soffit of the temple of the sun, now hidden by the braces sustaining it, is a figure in relief of an eagle carrying in his talons a caduceus and in his beak a garland, the ends of which are held by two putti. It is believed that the eagle represents Jupiter, the caduceus Mercury, and the putti represent the evening and morning star, i.e., Venus, all of whom received worship at the place. Mr. Rich in the article cited shows that great masses like the megaliths were moved by a sort of crane, V-shaped, socketed on metal, to one end of which was attached a cradle in .which stones were put until the mass to be moved was counterbalanced.

Geo. W. Gilmore.

Bibliography: Wood and Dawkin, The Ruins of Balbec, London, 1757 (still very valuable); E. Robinson, Later Biblical Researches, 505-527, New York, 1856; W. M. Thomson, The Land and the Book, iii, New York, 1886; H. Frauberger, Die Akropolis von Baalbek, Frankfort, 1892; C. A. Rich, in American Architect, xlvii (1895), 3 sqq.; M. M. Alouf, Geschichte Baalbeks, Prague, 1896; Jahrbuch des kaiserlichen deutschen archäologischen Instituts, xvi (1901), 133-160, xvii (1902), 87-123; Biblia, March, 1903, 387-393; American Journal of Archeology, new series, vi (1902), 348-349, vii (1903), 364, viii (1904); PEF, Quarterly Statements, Jan., 1904, 58-64, July, 1905, 262-265.

« Baal Baalbek Baasha »
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