BAALBEK, is a village in eastern Lebanon famous chiefly for the magnificent Roman temple ruins west of the village. Its Arabic name is Baalabakk. The village is attractively situated in an oasis high on the slopes of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains, about 53 miles (85 km) northeast of Beirut.
Baalbek’s early history in obscure. It was a flourishing town of ancient Syria when the Greeks occupied it in 331 b.c. They renamed it Heliopolis (City of the Sun). About the beginning of the 1st century a.d. the Romans colonized the town. In the course of the next three centuries they constructed on the nearby acropolis a monumental ensemble of two temples, two courtyards, and an enclosing wall built of gigantic stones.
The chief temple, which may have been started in Nero’s reign (54-68 a.d.), was dedi-cated to Jüpiter. It was surrounded by a portico of 54 columns. Ali that remains of the great temple are six of these columns. Each column is about 65 feet (20 meters) high. The other main temple, which was smaller, is the excellently preserved Temple of Bacchus, built about 100 a.d. A tiny round Temple of Venüs near the acropolis dates from about 245 a.d. During the decline of paganism, in the 4th century, Emperor Theodosius built a Christian basilica (later destroyed during excavations) in the great court of the Temple of Jupiter.