Baalbek

BAALBEK (previously called Heliopolis), a town of the Buka‛a (Coelesyria), altitude 3850 ft., situated E. of the Litani and near the parting between its waters and those of the Asi. Pop. about 5000, including 2000 Metawali and 1000 Christians (Maronite and Orthodox). Since 1902 Baalbek has been connected by railway with Rayak (Rejak) on the Beirut-Damascus line, and since 1907 with Aleppo. It is famous for its temple ruins of the Roman period, before which we have no record of it, certain though it be that Heliopolis is a translation of an earlier native name, in which Baal was an element. It has been suggested, but without good reason, that this name was the Baalgad of Josh. xi. 17.

Heliopolis was made a colonia probably by Octavian (coins of 1st century A.D.), and there must have been a Baal temple there in which Trajan consulted the oracle. The foundation of the present buildings, however, dates from Antoninus Pius, and their dedication from Septimius Severus, whose coins first show the two temples. The great courts of approach were not finished before the reigns of Caracalla and Philip. In commemoration, no doubt, of the dedication of the new sanctuaries, Severus conferred the jus Italicum on the city. The greater of the two temples was sacred to Jupiter (Baal), identified with the Sun, with whom were associated Venus and Mercury as σύμβωμοι θεοί. The lesser temple was built in honour of Bacchus (not the Sun, as formerly believed). Jupiter-Baal was represented locally as a beardless god in long scaly drapery, holding a whip in his right hand and lightning and ears of corn in his left. Two bulls supported him. In this guise he passed into European worship in the 3rd and 4th centuries A.D. The extreme licence of the Heliopolitan worship is often animadverted upon by early Christian writers, and Constantine, making an effort to curb the Venus cult, built a basilica. Theodosius erected another, with western apse, in the main court of the Jupiter temple.

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Source : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 3, Part 1, Slice 1 "Austria, Lower" to "Bacon"
Available from www.gutenberg.org

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