Mystery of the Stones at Baalbek (1)
By Alan F.
of 'Gods of the New Millennium', 'The Phoenix Solution' and 'When The Gods
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Part 1 of 5
mysterious ruins of Baalbek. One of the great Power Places of the ancient
world. For thousands of years its secrets have been shrouded in darkness,
or bathed in an artificial light by those who would offer us a simplistic
solution to its mysteries.
You are looking at the columns of the Temple of Jupiter - the grandest
temple that the Romans ever built - one of the wonders of the ancient
world. To this remote location in the Bekaa Valley of modern-day Lebanon,
Roman emperors would travel 1,500 miles to make offerings to their gods
and receive oracles on the destiny of their empire.
Much has changed in two thousand years. The magnificent temple is
ruined, its gods abandoned, its secrets forgotten. Even the ruins have
been neglected, wiped off the tourist map by twenty years of terrorism,
war, hostages and hijackings.
archaeologists might well wish that Baalbek had been buried forever. For
it is here that we find the largest dressed stone block in the world - the
infamous Stone of the South, lying in its quarry just ten minutes walk
from the temple acropolis. This huge stone weighs approximately 1,000 tons
- almost as heavy as three Boeing 747 aircraft.
Back at the temple acropolis, three stones not much smaller than this,
weighing 800 tons each, have been miraculously fitted together in a wall,
forming a Trilithon at a height of 20 feet.
I personally seized the opportunity to visit Baalbek in May 1995,
shortly after tourists began returning to the bombed-out ruins of Lebanon.
This e-tour will mirror my real life tour, which climaxed at the mighty
Trilithon and the Stone of the South. In due course I will attempt to
provide some personal insights into the enormous scale of this
construction and the motivations of its builders.
First, however, I offer you the rare opportunity to see the entire
Baalbek, of which the mighty Trilithon is only a part. As we progress
through our e-tour, reflect on the glorious splendour that was once here
and ask yourself "why here?". What was it that caused the
original sanctity of this remote site? What was it that prompted the
Romans to quarry, move and erect literally millions of stone blocks?
begin at the main acropolis by considering first this bird's eye view of
how it might have looked in Roman times, before its fortification by the
Muslims. A monumental staircase leads up to the entrance or Propylaea,
beyond which we find the Hexagonal Courtyard, the Great Courtyard, the
Temple of Jupiter, the smaller Temple of Bacchus, and the much smaller
Temple of Venus. Note the unusual fact that the acropolis of Baalbek is
not aligned to the cardinal points of the compass.
Temple of Venus can be dealt with briefly. Situated in what is now a field
of rubble, its former elegance can no longer be seen, and only four of its
ten columns remain standing. Being outside the fortified acropolis, this
temple was swallowed up by an Arab town, to such an extent that the German
Archaeological Mission had to remove five metres of debris to clear the
first step of the monumental staircase at its entrance. The remains of the
temple were dismantled and re-erected in the early 1930s, but they now
threaten to collapse again.
now enter the main acropolis via the Propylaea - what we see here is a
reconstruction by the German archaeological expedition in 1905. The
original staircase was destroyed by the Arabs to fortify the site and they
dismantled the 12 granite columns which they re-used for defensive
purposes. Only the bases of those columns survived, and they bore
inscriptions identifying their Roman origin.
come through the entrance, we find ourselves in the middle of the
impressive Hexagonal Courtyard, which is a unique feature for a temple of
this period (it may well have been a concession by the Romans to local
customs and traditions). Roman inscriptions are found here in abundance,
but the purpose of the Hexagonal Courtyard remains unknown.
We now proceed into the Great Courtyard...
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