Isn’t it sad that more people in the world know about the Parthenon in Athens than Baalbek Lebanon? Pictures usually speak louder than words, so today’s mini photo essay is about the most impressive UNESCO site in this Middle Eastern country: some of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in the world today! SO, before you have something negative to say…
Baalbek Lebanon history
Baalbek Lebanon is known for its impressive Roman ruins, but the settlement itself is prehistoric, having been almost continually inhabited for over 9,000 years. Some of its original temple ruins from Canaanite times precede its Roman counterparts by more than 2 millennia. Furthermore, archaeologists have also found the largest, heaviest stones ever worked on Earth in Baalbek: the largest waiting in about 2,000 tons. Even with our current knowledge of engineering and science, it remains a mystery how such heavy, perfect rectangles could have been moved to the site:
As far as the religious Roman complex itself is concerned, construction began on top of earlier ruins during the reign of Augustus toward the end of the 1st century BC and lasted almost 2 centuries (Wikipedia). Interestingly enough, though? It was never completed.
But that shouldn’t matter much to history buffs. Why? Because Baalbek Lebanon houses the largest religious building of the entire Roman Empire, making it a must-visit when traveling the Middle East.
Baalbek temple complex: Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus
Eastern gods and goddesses were worshiped here under Roman disguise: “Jove, the god of storms, stood in for Baal-Hadad, Venus for ‘Ashtart and Bacchus for Anatolian Dionysus.”
Interestingly, only 6 columns of the Temple of Jupiter remain erected, as Justinian ordered 8 of them to be disassembled and shipped to Constantinople for the construction of the Haghia Sofia — SO cool that part of Baalbek is essentially built within this other Middle East landmark in Turkey!
Personally though, the structure that I find the most interesting within the Baalbek complex is the Temple of Bacchus. Why? Albeit it was only the “lesser temple,” the Temple of the Sun is not only considered to be the best-preserved Roman temple in the world, but also happens to be larger than the Parthenon in Athens!
Baalbek Lebanon as UNESCO World Heritage Site
In 1984, Baalbek Lebanon received the honor of being named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, flushing in restoration funds from all over the world. As the organization best put it: “Baalbeck, with its colossal structures, is one of the finest examples of Imperial Roman architecture at its apogee.”
Baalbek Lebanon: Beyond the ruins
Still need some convincing to head to this Middle Eastern site? Then get this: the city of Baalbek itself has gorgeous mosques, a nice museum (Beqaa plain) and even an internationally-recognized music festival held right at the Roman site every year. In fact, the Baalbek International Festival happens to be the most popular, oldest cultural event in the entire region!