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Temple of Jupiter, Baalbek, Lebanon

Baalbek settlement is located in the Beqaa Valley at the foot of the Anti-Lebanon Mountains and was considered to be one of the holiest places in the world. Centuries of wars and numerous earthquakes have taken their toll on this historical complex, of which only ruins remain today. Although it is often supposed that the Baalbek area was settled thousands of years ago, there exists no solid historical evidence to support the claim of settlement prior to the conquest of Syria by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C.

Baalbek translates as "Baal (lord) of the Beqaa Valley." After Alexander the Great conquered the area, the settlement was renamed Heliopolis (City of the Sun), the local deities were equated with Greek gods, which later, following the arrival of the Romans, were replaced by their Roman counterparts. The temple complex of Baalbek includes temples dedicated to Jupiter, Mercury, Bacchus and Venus. With superhuman in scale structure elements, this colossal and awe-inspiring temple is notable for its massive base, the columns that can be seen from miles away and stairs made of enormous blocks.

Mythological sources attest to the construction of Baalbek settlement in times preceding the Deluge. An ancient Arabic manuscript unearthed in Baalbek mentions that Nimrod sent giants to restore Baalbek after a flood.

The temple of Jupiter has a rectangular layout and measures 90m in length and 50m in width. The original number of Corinthian columns was 54, of which only six remain standing today. They are 2.5m in diameter and 20m in height. The base of the southeastern wall consists of 9 rows of stone blocks, each measuring 11x4 6x3,3 m and over 300 tons in weight. At the same level, next to the southwestern wall, there are located six additional 300- ton stones, above which lie three colossal megalithic blocks, named the Trilithon. Each of these enormous stones is 21.3m in length, 4.8m in height and 4 m in width, and weighs 800 tons. They fit together so precisely that one cannot drive a needle between them. The platform of Baalbek is considered to be incomplete, to which testifies a large block by the name of the "southern stone"(or the Stone of the Pregnant Woman), which lies near the quarry and weighs 1000 tons. This is the largest processed stone in the world and it can hardly be moved even using today's technologies. A certain part of the catacombs under the temple of Jupiter is used as a museum.

Baalbek is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By Ruzanna Mkrtchyan,



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