Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Brief History of Baalbek - Travel Guide

The city of Baalbek is located in Lebanon, Bekaa Valley, about 85 kilometers northeast of Beirut and 75 km north of Damascus ( Syria) . Today the city is famous for its exquisitely detailed Roman ruins that attract thousands of tourists to the country each year and also hosts the annual Festival of Baalbek.

The site of Baalbek is thought to have been originally Phoenician , with settlement dates back to the 3rd millennium BC . In the first millennium BC , the site was chosen as the site of a temple dedicated to the god Baal , from which the city takes its name. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the Near East and the town was renamed Heliopolis, a name which was retained by later Roman conquerors - Helios , Greek for sun and Polis, Greek for city - City of the Sun ' .

In 64 BC Pompey the Great traveled through Baalbek and made the town part of the Roman Empire - this act was one that saw the city prospered occasioned enormous. Just 17 years later in 47 BC Julius Caesar established a Roman colony Heliopolis and construction works started soon . Only a few years later became known as Heliopolis, the most important city in Roman Syria . The construction of the temple was a large company that took many years . The Great Temple of Jupiter is said to have had 120 years to complete , however, under subsequent rulers like Antoninus Pius and Caracalla a series of expansions and elaborate extensions were added. An estimated 100,000 slaves worked in construction throughout the centuries .

At the time of Constantine the Great came to power in 324 , Christianity had reached Rome and pagan worship was suppressed , and as a result , construction was suspended Baalbek . Later, in 361, Julian the Apostate became emperor and turned back to paganism and tried to restore the entire Roman Empire . This act saw mass martyrdom throughout the Christian community and when the Christian emperor Theodosius took power in 379 , Christianity was reinstated again in Baalbek. This time the temples of Baalbek became Baalbek basilica but remained the center of pagan worship. This was enough for during the reign of Emperor Justinian , all pagan worshipers were forced to be baptized into the Christian faith to avoid secret pagan rites . Parts of the pagan temples were demolished and some of the greatest temples pillars were taken to Constantinople and used in the construction of Hagia Sophia .

When Muslim Arabs invaded Syria Roman temples of Heliopolis became a citadel and restored the original name of the city - Baalbek. In the following centuries the city was invaded by many empires . In addition to the devastation caused by humans, a string of earthquakes in 1158, 1203, 1664 and 1759 brought down many buildings , including 3 of the huge pillars of the temple of Jupiter. Many of the Roman ruins of the city can now be found in Arab fortifications - when Arabs built their walls inadvertently helped preserve Roman ruins that lie within.

While under Ottoman rule , Baalbek was virtually forgotten and few people have visited this once magnificent city. In 1751 two British architects - James Dawkins and Robert Wood rediscovered this ancient site , however , it was not until 1898 when Kaiser Wilhelm II was on a tour of the Middle East that a serious study of the site began . The Kaiser immediately contacted the Sultan of Turkey for permission to excavate the site completely. The next seven years saw Baalbek begin to return to its former glory with continuous excavations and documentation takes place and a steady stream of tourists who come to see this ancient city.In parts of the city, the work continues today !

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