The Roman temple complex of Baalbek


Inside the temple of Bacchus, Baalbek


The night before
After a long drive from Les Cedres to Baalbek over Beirut, we were happy to arrive in Baalbek. It had rained or snowed for most of the journey and driving in the dark on the most slippery roads we have ever seen was not particularly enjoyable. The road surface is so poor that Troopie would spin its wheels in 2nd and 3rd despite the fact it was far from freezing temperature ! We dropped Martin at the 120 year old Palmyra hotel overlooking the ruins where Christian, as the driver of the distinguished guest, was invited to sleep behind the reception on a sofa ! During WW I, the hotel was the German HQ, during WW II it was the British army HQ in the area. We were shown the room in which General de Gaulle stayed and the walls are peppered with drawings by Cocteau, a French writer. We drove to the entrance of the temple complex and slept like babies in our tent under the rain whilst Martin was enjoying the luxury of a paraffin heater and cold water ! 



The temple complex
As we woke up the next morning it was sunny but windy, cold and even snowing ! Despite the weather, Baalbek must be one of the most impressive sights we have ever seen. The Heliopolis or Sun city of the ancient world was made on a scale that outshone everything including Rome. The small temple of Bacchus is both bigger and better preserved than the Parthenon in Athens. The "immensity has to be seen to be believed" (LP). "It was thought in the old days that Baalbek had been constructed by giants and a quick look over the side of the (Jupiter) temple to the foundation stones reveals some of the largest building blocks to be found anywhere on earth. On of these megalithic blocks measures 19.5 x 4.3 meters and estimated to weigh over 1000 tons - how it was moved and positioned so precisely remains a mystery."  (Lonely Planet Lebanon). The complex has two main temples : the temple of Jupiter and the temple of Bacchus.


The temple of Jupiter
The largest of the two temples is the temple of Jupiter Baal. Jupiter was the God of the gods for the Romans as was Zeus for the Greek or Baal for the local people. Many parts of the temple that is built on a 300m long structure have now disappeared. Only 6 columns remained to give us an idea of its original size. The columns are the largest in the world : 22 m high with a girth of 2.2 meters. Every time the sun shone, Christian would rush back to them to have another look and each time he was amazed.



Baalbek's temple of Jupiter


The temple of Bacchus (the small temple)
Meant to be the most beautifully decorated temple in the Roman world, the "small temple" as it was called in antiquity is larger than the Parthenon ! 




Kathleen dressed in red at the side of a column gives an idea of the size of the "small temple" (left), the extensive decoration has remained more or less intact


A reconstruction showing what Baalbek's temple of Bacchus looked like in Roman times



As in Persepolis, the need to leave a mark... (left) and the temple of the Muses (centre & right)


Martin : gymnastics at an advanced age !


We are all doing well !

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