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Balbec or Bal Bekaa
a deeper look at the stones
Baalbek - by David Roberts, 1839.
the remote Bekaa Valley of Lebanon stand the ruins of what was once the
most important temple in the Roman Empire. Here stood the Temple of
Jupiter, and the great oracle upon whose words decisions of the Empire
This dusty hilltop was known to the ancients as Heliopolis, and the temple complex there was probably founded by a group of priests from Heliopolis in Egypt.
Baalbek lies at the ancient crossroads of Palestine in the south, Damascus in
the east, the sea in the west and Hamath in Upper Syria to the
north-east. There is the possibility that it is the Biblical city of
Dan, center of worship of the Northern tribes of Israel and a thriving
center 800 years before Christ.
known, existing ruins - the massive ruins of the Temple of Jupiter, the Temple of
Bacchus, and the small Temple of Venus, are believed to be from Roman
times by historians and, although the site is known to have been
occupied as long ago as 2900 BC, the story ends there in the
A number of factors argue for an earlier
date. There are no substantial records of the construction of Baalbek,
a surprising omission for the Roman bureaucracy. The giant stones
of the Jupiter Temple do not look like Roman stonework and are much
larger than those used elsewhere. Baal is not a Roman god - some believe it is the
golden calf of the Bible.
The famous oracle, as valued to the Romans as that at Delphi, was the centerpiece of Baalbek. Oracles are not created by Emperors. One must go to the place chosen by
And why would the Romans build a temple of Jupiter -
god of thunder - in a place they called City of the Sun, Heliopolis?
--- by David Roberts, 1839.
Baalbek - the eastern portico
by Lady Catherine Tobin, 1855.
The Bacchus TempleGod of wine, his temple is set a little lower than Jupiter's.
The keystone of the entrance to the Bacchus Temple
slipped during the 1759 earthquake.
A pedestal of brick was built in the 1860s
to hold it in place.
(left) by David Roberts, 1839.
(right) By John Woodward, 1881.
Interior of the Bacchus Temple.
Baalbek from the NW, by John Woodward, 1881.
The Circular Temple
The Temple of Venus or the Nymphasum
Built by Emperor Septimius Severus in the early 3rd century AD.
Circular Temple at Baalbek - by David Roberts, 1839.
Location uncertain, captioned:
Entrance, Temple of the Sun,
probably rear of the Bachus Temple
drawing by Johnstone, 1881.
The Jupiter Temple Built around 60 AD, possibly on an earlier foundation.
previously thought to be the Temple of the Sun
Jupiter Temple Columns
Photograph by Maxime DuCamp 1852-5
The Trilithon and the Stone of the Pregnant Woman
There are those who believe the site is far more ancient than Roman times, indeed, that the giant 800 ton stones used here (and nowhere else) were re-used from a previous structure, one so ancient that we have no knowledge of who built it or the culture it represents.
Scholars insist that evidence of only Roman occupation has been found here. Perhaps they are correct. Yet the only other stones in Roman works approaching this size are three found near the base of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, also a site that may have roots much older than known history.
Here is an old photo of a portion of the rear wall of the Temple of Jupiter:
This image shows two distinctive styles of stone blocks - the stones at the top left are regular shaped and beveled at the edges. This was noted by von Richter and S. Wolcott in the early nineteenth century as similar to stonework in the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, which would place the age of that portion of the structure at something like 3000 years. It must be noted that the Romans did extensive construction in Jerusalem also. The large blocks are not beveled at the edges. Baalbek was a fortress in the middle ages and was rebuilt several times.
The scale of this photograph is much larger than it appears at first glance. Near the center of the picture is a single block of limestone 14 X 12 X 64 feet and weighing an estimated 800 tons (700,000 kg). A second block is shown in part. These are two of the famous Trilithon - three enormous stones that are the largest used in any building, anywhere. Below is a row of 300 ton stones that circles the ruins of the temple.
Baalbek - the Hajr el Hubla
(the stone of the Pregnant Woman).
It appears the builders of Baalbek had planned to place more giant stones in their temple. The stone pictured above, known to the local people today as Hajr-el-Hubla, the Stone of the Pregnant Woman, weighing about 1000 tonnes. The stone is about 800 meters (half mile) from the temple and slightly higher. It is probable that the stone was being moved to the temple when the road it was on collapsed, causing the angle at which it now rests. Lifting a stone is much harder than moving it horizontally, the road was blocked. Perhaps the accident that stranded the monolith was dangerous enough that the workers refused to continue.
Two additional even larger monoliths have been recently discovered nearby, the largest estimated at 1600 tonnes. Perhaps building stalled for a while, when it continued it was with much smaller stones. Which leaves unanswered why the three monoliths that remained in the quarry were not cut into smaller blocks to build the temple. That would be easier than cutting fresh rock as they did. Indeed, the Hajr-el-Hubla blocked the route from the quarry to the temple. Superstition, perhaps? The local women rub the Hajr-el-Hubla to gain fertility. Anyone who could place such stones surely must have great power.
BaalBek plan, from the Puchstein expedition, 1911.
None of this, of course, gives any indication of when the large blocks were cut. Was the Jupiter Temple of Baalbek built upon an earlier Egyptian temple of Ra, the Sun? Are remnants of earlier temples still buried in the area?
Ancient Mystery . info
Introduction, Aborigine paintings
The hidden jewel: Petra
The Roman oracle at Baalbek (you are here)
Anomalous Gobekli Tepe
Music, Myth and Number in Ancient Sumer (text).
The Ancients knew Egypt as the very source of Mystery.
There are countless beautiful 19th century images
of ancient Egypt in Ascending Passage,
with information and links to three websites and 75 pages
of architecture, art and secrets,
covering the length of Ancient Egypt and a bit beyond.
The Egyptian Secrets Library
Egypt's Age of Pyramids