Baalbeck Things to Do

  • Stairs leading to the entrance of the Roman Ruins
    Stairs leading to the entrance of the...
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  • The six standing columns of the Temple of Jupiter
    The six standing columns of the Temple...
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Most Recent Things to Do in Baalbeck

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    The Temple of Bacchus

    by MM212 Updated Oct 4, 2012
    The impressive Temple of Bacchus (Dec 09)
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    By far one of the best preserved temples from the Graeco-Roman world, perhaps second only to the Pantheon in Rome, the Temple of Bacchus is the gem of Baalbek today. Despite its great proportions, larger than the Parthenon of Athens, the Temple of Bacchus was dwarfed by its neighbour, the Temple of Jupiter, and was thus known as the "small temple." Regardless of its size, it is considered one of the most beautifully decorated ancient temples still in existence today. It was completed in 150 AD and is thought to have been dedicated to the god of wine, Bacchus (equated with Dionysus), though some scholars differ and attribute the temple to Venus/Astarte instead. Although it is part of the overall Acropolis, the Temple of Bacchus had its own entrance and enclosure. When the Arabs converted the entire Acropolis into a citadel, the Temple of Bacchus served as a military barracks, which saved it from destruction. The current state of preservation of both the interior and exterior of the temple is astonishing! For more photos, check out the travelogues: "The Temple of Bacchus" and "Bacchus - Architectural Details".

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    The Propylaea

    by MM212 Updated Oct 4, 2012

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    Leading up to the Propylaea (Mar 05)
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    A grand (restored) stairway leads up to the Propylaea, the impressive entrance to the Baalbek Acropolis and its Temple of Jupiter. The Propylaea is set between two towers and had a colonnaded portico within it, which was once covered with a wooden ceiling, probably made from cedar wood, and paved with mosaics. Only a few upright columns from the Propylaea have survived. Unfortunately, the modern ticket booth was built immediately outside the Propylaea and partially obstructs the view. Beyond the Propylaea is the Hexagonal Court.

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    The Oval Forecourt

    by MM212 Updated Oct 4, 2012
    The Oval Forecourt - Dec 09
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    A large paved Oval Forecourt preceded the Propylaea and the entrance to the Acropolis of Baalbek. This forecourt functioned as a gathering place before entering the temple's enclosure when important religious processions honouring the deity took place. For anyone who has visited Jerash in Jordan, an oval forecourt preceding a temple dedicated to Jupiter (i.e., Zeus) would sound quite familiar, but this should not be a surprise given the proximity of the two cities and the likelihood of shared religious practices. Unlike in Jerash, however, where the Oval Plaza is perfectly preserved, in Baalbek about a third of the Oval Forecourt lies under the modern road and buildings. What is exposed is visible in an inaccessible archaeological area, located to the right of the ticket booth. This area also contains additional ruins, and beyond it lies the Omayyad Mosque which occupies the site of the Roman Forum.

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    Temple of Bacchus

    by zuyao Written May 16, 2012
    Temple of Bacchus

    Adjacent to the Temple of Jupiter is the Temple of Bacchus. Although it is known as the Small Temple, it is actually bigger that the Parthenon in Greece. There are marvellous carvings that still remains in pretty good condition. In fact the Temple of Bacchus is acclaimed to be the most beautifully decorated temple of the Roman Empire.

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    Entering Balbeck's Roman Ruins

    by zuyao Updated May 16, 2012

    As you alight from your car to enter Baalbeck's Roman ruins, you'll be surrounded by street vendors offering you souvenirs, guide books, Lebanese costumes, antique coins etc. Indulge them if you will or else head straight to the entrance. The ticket costs US$10. Keep it with you as you'll need to present the ticket at the exit.

    There is likely to be tour guides around offering you services for an informative tour of ruins for US$20. It might be a good idea to engage one rather than just staring at stones!

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    The Trilithon Legend

    by MM212 Written Jan 30, 2010
    Notice the large stones at the bottom (Dec 09)

    One of the astonishing facts about the Temple of Jupiter is that it sits on top of the largest building stones ever used in our history. Not seen from within the temple, but supposedly visible from outside beneath the walls, are three massive blocks named by archaeologists "Trilithon". Each one is about 20 x 4 x 3 metres and measures up to 1000 tonnes! Above the Trilithon is a layer of building blocks said to be the second largest stones ever used by man, after the Trilithon, each about 10 metres in length. These 'smaller' stones are visible from within the Acropolis, underneath the Temple of Jupiter, and are known to have come from a nearby quarry where one block has remained (see attached photo and compare the size of the people).

    It is known that the Greeks had begun to build a temple dedicated to Zeus on the site of the Temple of Jupiter before the arrival of the Romans, but archaeologists believe that the foundation was probably laid out well before the arrival of the Greeks. When exactly and by which civilisation is rather unclear. There had been numerous legends surrounding these large stones, some even involving 'giants'!

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    Churches of Baalbek

    by MM212 Written Jan 29, 2010

    Despite being a majority Shiite town, Baalbek does have a Christian presence. There are a couple of noticeable churches (and a convent?), at least one of which is dedicated to Saint Barbara, the patron saint of Baalbek. Attached is a photo of one church I encountered in Baalbek. It is located close to the Acropolis, but I failed to note its name when I took the photo (Saint Barbara?). If you have the answer, then please drop me a line. Thank you!

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    The Town of Baalbek

    by MM212 Written Jan 29, 2010
    Baalbek - Dec 09

    Beyond the impressive archaeological ruins and few historic buildings, Baalbek seems to have little to offer the visitor (One exception is the Baalbek International Festival, which takes place in the summer). A number of beautiful late Ottoman buildings, such as those in the attached photo, seem to have survived, but otherwise, the city's architecture is rather bland. There are a few hotels for those who wish to stay overnight, and some local eateries that serve shawarma and other local dishes, but nothing to write home about (at least in my experience). Nevertheless, a stroll through parts of town is interesting to see a different part of Lebanon.

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    Another Roman Colonnade

    by MM212 Updated Jan 28, 2010
    Corner of the intersection of the roads - Dec 09
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    The remains of yet another colonnaded road can be found in the archaeological area just outside the Acropolis. This one is a corner and represents the intersection of two roads; the straight road that cuts through modern Baalbek and the continuation of the colonnade found south of the Acropolis (described earlier on this page). The corner colonnade has survived rather well (see attached photo), but the rest of it less so.

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    Baalbek's Roman Colonnade

    by MM212 Updated Jan 28, 2010
    Baalbek's colonnade (Dec 09)
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    A well preserved section of a double colonnade of Corinthian columns, dating from Roman times, lies to the south of the Acropolis of Baalbek. The beautiful colonnade is visible from the car park by the ruins, as well as from the southern end of the Acropolis. Likely, it was part of a road that led right up to the entrance of the Acropolis and joined the colonnade whose ruins one can still see in the area just outside the entrance. Beyond this double colonnade lies a large archaeological area of ancient foundations still under excavation. Unfortunately, both the colonnade and the archaeological area are closed to visitors. The attached distant photos had to suffice.

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    Baalbek In 250 AD

    by MM212 Updated Jan 28, 2010

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    At the entrance of the site, you will find a poster showing a drawing of what the Acropolis of Baalbek might have looked like in its glory days. It was sketched by German archaeologists who first visited Baalbek at the end of the 19th century. The drawing gives an excellent perspective on the Acropolis, so make sure you study it before entering the site. However, keep in mind that the drawing seems to omit a few details, such as the Temple of the Muses and the Colonnaded Roads that existed just outside the Acropolis.

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    The Temple of Venus in 250 AD

    by MM212 Written Jan 28, 2010
    The Temple of Venus in 250 AD

    A sketch of the Temple of Venus, as it might have been in 250 AD, can be found just outside the archaeological area. It was drawn by German archaeologists in the 19th century and gives a good perspective - see attached photo.

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    The Temple of Venus

    by MM212 Updated Jan 28, 2010

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    The Temple of Venus (Dec 2009)
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    Just outside the Acropolis of Baalbek is a separate archaeological area. In the back of it rises the small, yet beautiful, Temple of Venus. Completed in the 3rd century AD, this interesting temple was constructed on a pentagonal podium and decorated with sea shells and pigeons, symbols of the goddess of love, beauty and fertility, Venus (equated with Astarte). Despite the clear homage to Venus, some archaeologists still believe this temple may have been dedicated to Fortuna, rather than Venus. During Byzantine times, the Temple was converted into a church dedicated to Saint Barbara, the patron saint of Baalbek, which helped to preserve the structure. Unfortunately, this little archaeological area with numerous ruins, is not accessible, though the temple could be admired from the road along the edge. The back side of the temple is stunning and worth the detour around the site (see attached photos). Note that also within this archeological area are the remains of an earlier Roman structure belonging to the Temple of the Muses, as well as a colonnaded street.

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    Baalbek's Graffiti

    by MM212 Written Jan 28, 2010
    Graffiti from 1882
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    In the late 19th century, Baalbek began to draw travellers from Europe and around the region. These earliest tourists left their mark on the stone structures, particularly the Temple of Bacchus, by etching their name and date of visit. You will notice many Arabic and English signatures dating from the 19th century, when beautiful calligraphy was the norm. Although graffiti is a form of vandalism, the 19th century ones in Baalbek have become part of the Acropolis and its history. Please do not try this!

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    Omayyad Mosque of Baalbek

    by MM212 Updated Jan 28, 2010
    The Omayyad Mosque of Baalbek - Dec 09
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    Dating from the early 8th century, the Omayyad Mosque of Baalbek is the only structure remaining from the first Moslem dynasty in Lebanon, outside of Aanjar. It replaced a church dedicated to Saint John, which in turn had been built on the site of the Roman Forum of Baalbek. The mosque's square minaret with an octagonal top, along with the Corinthian columns and arches of the interior, have all survived intact. The entire mosque was constructed with fallen stones and columns from Roman Baalbek, as evidenced by the Roman decorative carvings in the mosque's exterior walls (see attached photos). In the early 20th century, the mosque was in ruins and without a roof, but it has since been restored to its former self and brought back to use. Although the mosque is open to visitors, it was closed when I visited in Dec 2009, but I managed to take the attached photographs from the street. The mosque is located just east of the Propylaea of the Acropolis of Baalbek. Judging by the green flags at its entrance, the Omayyad Mosque appears to serve the small Sunni community of Baalbek in this Shia dominated city.

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