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HELIOPOLIS (Baalbek) Lebanon.

The site on the elongated high plain, between the mountain chains of the Lebanon and the Antilebanon E of Beirut, was occupied from prehistoric times on, but Heliopolis did not become important until late Hellenistic times. It was the holy town of the Ituraean tetrarchs of Chalcis in the 1st c. B.C. Under the Roman Empire it was a flourishing colony, and during the Byzantine period remained a center of pagan resistance. It was conquered by the Moslems in A.D. 637; the sanctuaries were transformed into a citadel, and Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent ordered some of the columns to be brought to Istanbul to build his mosque. In 1759 an earthquake damaged the ruins.

The site, known since the 17th c., consists primarily of the complex of the great sanctuary of Heliopolitan Jupiter and the so-called Temple of Bacchus which adjoins it to the S. They were built on imperial initiative, perhaps begun by Augustus himself. Enlargements and improvements were carried out over three centuries. The dimensions are vast and the decoration sumptuous. The architectural and decorative forms belong largely to the repertory of Roman art of the W, but the plan (with its successive enclosures and the importance given to the courts), the cult installations, and the arrangement of the cellas conform to ancient Oriental traditions.

On a single E-W axis almost 400 m long, the sanctuary of Heliopolitan Jupiter includes monumental propylaea, a hexagonal court, a large rectangular court, and the temple proper, where the cult idol was enthroned under a canopy in the cella.

The sanctuary occupies an ancient tell, artificially enlarged by enormous works of terracing and masonry. At the W end near the N corner, the supporting walls contain three colossal quadrangular stones, called the trilithoi, each one nearly 20 by 4.5 by 3.6 m. Another even larger stone was left in a quarry at the foot of the hill W of the town. Two long vaulted galleries running E-W correspond at the basement level to the peristyle of the central court. They are open at the ends and joined by a transverse gallery. Some of their keystones carry Latin inscriptions. The S gallery is matched on its outer side by rooms and a large square exedra, which open on the court of the so-called Temple of Bacchus. These arrangements date from the 2d c. A.D.

The propylaea consisted of a colonnade of 12 columns of Egyptian granite, flanked to N and S by a tall tower adorned on the outside by pilasters. The coins of Heliopolis struck under Philip (A.D. 244-249) show the central intercolumniation wider than the others and topped by a semicircular Syrian facade, which broke the horizontal line of the entablature, and by a triangular pediment. This arrangement can be observed in the other porticos on all the intercolumniations on the long axis of the sanctuary. A great stairway, bordered by two massive antae forming parapets, gave access to the colonnade over its entire width. Inscriptions on three bases indicate that the columns supported Corinthian capitals with acanthus leaves of gilded bronze, dedicated under Caracalla (A.D. 212-217).

A monumental gate and two narrow lateral corridors led from the propylaea to the flagged hexagonal courtyard. A stylobate, two steps higher, encircled the court, supporting porticos beneath which were exedras. This remodeling of an originally square plan dates to the middle of the 3d c. A.D.

The rectangular court in front of the temple in its final state probably dates from the 2d c. A.D. On its N, E, and S sides it was surrounded by porticos with 128 columns of pink Egyptian granite, raised three steps above the paving of the courtyard. Only the NE corner of the peristyle, which has been restored, still stands. Exedras, alternately rectangular and semicircular, opened beneath the porticos; they are separated by large masonry blocks adorned with two superimposed niches between corner pilasters with Corinthian capitals. The walls of the exedras are decorated with two stories of niches, conch apses, and shallow niches with straight lintels and either triangular or segmental pediments.

In the middle of the courtyard, which corresponds to the middle of the ancient tell, stood a great altar, a fourstory tower 18 m. high. Only the lowest parts are now visible, with the door jambs, the corridors, and the beginning of two interior staircases which led to the terrace where the sacrifices were offered. The outside walls were covered with marble slabs, the doors with bronze.

To the W of the great altar stands a smaller and older one with a niche on each side, on the inside (which was found filled with ashes from sacrifices) a staircase ascends to the top. The location of the altar is visible and also of the gutters, which run along one of the walls and over the flagging of the court to drain water and the blood of the victims.

On each side of the court is a large lustration basin with delicately carved edges, and on each side of the great altar stands an isolated column on a high base. The columns are Egyptian granite, the S one pink, the N one gray. Because of an oracle of Heliopolitan Jupiter, a statue was erected on the S column, probably in the Severan period. Small votive chapels and statues—of emperors from Titus and Vespasian to Diocletian, kings, and other important personages—also stood in the courtyard. Their bases, with dedicatory inscriptions, can still be seen.

A great staircase with three divisions or flights leads to the temple, W of the court. The 38 steps are made of enormous limestone blocks, which bear traces of the apse of a Christian basilica set up in the court during the 5th c. (its remains were removed by modern archaeologists).

The great temple was peristyle, 10 columns by 19; only the six columns to the S still stand. They have considerable entasis and consist of only three drums. They are 19 m high with Corinthian capitals and a carved entablature: heads of bulls and lions alternate between the acanthus leaves of the frieze, above a Greek key pattern and a cable molding. Construction was started possibly as early as the time of Augustus and was well on the way to completion in the reign of Nero, as a graffito dated A.D. 60 demonstrates. The temple was probably inaugurated under Vespasian. It replaced a Hellenistic building, which seems to have had a crepis, a peristyle with more numerous and smaller columns, a double portico for a facade, and a larger cella. The sanctuary was never finished: the terrace which should have surrounded the temple was not built.

Another temple, built in the Antonine period, stands to the S, lower than the Temple of Jupiter. It is remarkably well preserved and is usually called the Temple of Bacchus. It stands on a high podium, approached from the E by a staircase with three flights between two antae. The peristyle consists of 8 by 15 Corinthian columns with unfluted shafts. The portico of the facade included a double colonnade. The walls of the cella ended in pilasters with Corinthian capitals. The severity of the exterior contrasts with the magnificence of the interior decoration. The stone ceilings of the peristyle, still largely in place, consist of compartments of sculptured limestone in which busts of divinities and mythological scenes appear in a network of hexagons, lozenges, and triangles on a field covered with scroll patterns and interlacing figures.

The cella is reached by a huge door, by two shallow, delicately carved bands. One has vine scrolls in which individuals and animals frolic (especially Dionysiac panthers). The other depicts kantharoi from which birds drink and poppies and ears of wheat (the attributes of the great divinities of Heliopolis) emerge. The soffit of the enormous lintel depicts an eagle holding a caduceus in its claws between two winged Cupids displaying garlands. On each side of the large entryway a smaller door led to a small staircase, inside the partition walls, leading to the upper parts of the building. Above the N side door a sculptured frieze illustrates episodes in the life of Dionysos.

On the inside the cella is a square chamber with the W side ending in a staircase going up to the adytum. The first three steps extend along the S and N walls, along which fluted, engaged Corinthian columns stand on high pedestals, which carry heavy blocks on their capitals. Two rows of shallow niches open between the columns, the lower ones topped by segmental arches, the upper by triangular pediments. In the middle, the staircase goes up to the platform of the adytum; on each side the wall of the podium is adorned by sculptured friezes illustrating the legend of Dionysos. At the ends two small doors lead to a vaulted crypt extending under the entire length of the adytum. The temple was undoubtedly used for the celebration of mysteries and for ceremonies of initiation. There was no access from the Temple of Jupiter; the court was reached by staircases to the E, where the level of the ancient streets and squares was ca. 3 m below present ground level.

A stretch of a wide, flagged street bordered by porticos has been partially cleared SE of the sanctuaries; at right angles to it another street with porticos, of late date, has a mosaic pavement. In this area there is also a small 3d c. A.D. temple of central plan. Wide staircases with three flights ascend to a high podium on which is a circular cella open to the NW. The outside walls are decorated with five apsidal niches, framed by six Corinthian columns which stand well out from the cella wall. Their bases and entablatures form five concave bays tangent to the central rotunda. The door opens onto a porch bounded by two antae that end in engaged columns. Along the entire width of the facade, a portico of four columns carried a pediment whose roof joined the dome of the cella. This last was crowned by a cone or small pyramid.

To the SW in the Bostan el-Khan gardens, between the great sanctuaries and a tall isolated column which bore an honorific statue, is a colonnade of 12 tall Corinthian columns with a Syrian arch over the central intercolumniation. It stands between two walls which end in pilasters cut out from superimposed niches with sculptured decoration. To the E a part of the colonnade with a semicircular arch returns towards the S, where a high wall meets the long colonnade. The wall is pierced by two gates extended by four columns on each side. Not far to the NW a sort of small theater may be the council hall or Senate.

The hippodrome must be under the orchards farther to the NW. To the S, against the hill dominating Baalbek, a theater lies under modern buildings. A temple of Mercury stood on top of the hill outside the ramparts. A long staircase led up to it from the town, as is shown on coins of Heliopolis struck under Philip. Remains of the temple, the line of the staircase, and parts of its parapet have been found.

A huge statue of a seated female divinity of Roman empress (now in the Istanbul museum) was found E of the town. A temple of Venus was also in that area: inscriptions on rocks mark the boundaries of its property.

In a suburb to the SE between river and vineyards, a series of houses and villas has produced fine mosaic floors (in the Beirut museum). They date from the middle of the 3d c. A.D. to the end of the 4th. Some are in Classical style (Socrates, Kalliope, and the Seven Wise Men, the Seasons), others in an orientalizing style (illustrating the childhood of Alexander the Great).

A well-preserved Roman gate stands at the N end of the town: it has three bays and a figure of Hercules on the central lintel. From there to the E the mediaeval ramparts run parallel to the axis of the great sanctuary. This may be their ancient course, but the ramparts of the Roman town are not precisely known. The necropoleis, which have produced a few stelai, have not been excavated. Fragments with inscriptions and sculptured decoration were collected long ago on the NW slope of the hill which dominates Baalbek. They came from a mausoleum of the family of the tetrarchs of Chalcis and Abilene.


R. Wood, The Ruins of Baalbec (1757, repr. 1971)I; T. Wiegand, Baalbek, Ergebnisse der Ausgrabungen und Untersuchungen 1898-1905 I-III (1921-25)MPI; D. Schlumberger, “Le temple de Mercure à Baalbek-Héliopolis,” BMBeyrouth 3 (1939)I; C. Picard, “Les frises historiées autour de la cella et devant l'adyton, dans le temple de Bacchus à Baalbek,” Melanges syriens offerts à René Dussaud (1939)I; R. Amy, “Temples à escaliers,” Syria 27 (1950); P. Collart & P. Coupel, L'autel monumental de Baalbek (1951)PI; H. Seyrig, “Questions héliopolitaines,” Syria 31 (1954); M. Chéhab, “Mosaïques de Liban,” BMBeyrouth 14-16 (1958-60)I; A. von Gerkan, Von antiker Architektur und Topographie, Gesammelte Aufsätze (1959)PI; J. Lauffray, “La Memoria Sancti Sepulchri du Musée de Narbonne et le Temple Rond de Baalbeck,” MélStJ 37 (1962); R. Saïdah, “Chroniques, Fouilles de Baalbeck,” BMBeyrouth 20 (1967); J.-P. Rey-Coquais, Inscriptions grecques et latines de la Syrie. VI. Baalbek et Beqa (1967)MI.


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