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Baalbeck Temple


Baalbek is a town in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon, altitude 3,850 ft (1,170 m), situated east of the Litani River. It is famous for its exquisitely detailed but monumentally scaled temple ruins of the Roman period, when Baalbek, known as Heliopolis was one of the largest sanctuaries in the Empire. It is located about 200 km east of Beirut.

19th century Bible archaeologists wanted to connect Baalbek to the "Baalgad" mentioned in Joshua 11:17, but the assertion has not been taken up in modern times. In fact, this minor Phoenician city, named for the "Lord (Baal) of the Beqaa valley" lacked enough commercial or strategic importance to rate a mention in Assyrian or Egyptian records so far uncovered, according to Hélène Sader, professor of archaeology at the American University of Beirut.

Nevertheless, it must have been the site of an oracle from earliest times, for oracles are not lightly founded. It retained its religious function during Roman times, when the sanctuary of the Heliopolitan Jupiter-Baal was a pilgrimage site. Trajan's biographer records that the Emperor consulted the oracle there. Trajan inquired of the Heliopolitan Jupiter whether he would return alive from his wars against the Parthians. In reply, the god presented him with a vine shoot cut into pieces. Theodosius Macrobius, a Latin grammarian of the 5th century AD, mentioned Zeus Heliopolitanus and the temple, a place of oracular divination.

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