BAAL'BEK, the name of a ruined city in the ancient Ccele-Syria, signifies the "city of Baal," the sun-god, and was by the Greeks, during the Seleucide dynasty, converted into Heliopolis. Let. 34°1'30' n., long. 36° 11' e. It is situated in the plain of Bukira, "at the northern extremity of a low range of bleak hills, about 1 m. from the base of Anti lebanon," in a well-watered and delightful locality, rather more than 40 m. n.w. of Damascus. It was once the most magnificent of Syrian cities, full of palaces, fountains, and beautiful monuments. It is now only famous for the splendor of its ruins, of which three deserve special notice. The most imposing is that of the great temple of the Sun, which was a rectangular building, 290 ft. by 160, having its roof supported by a peristyle of 54 Corinthian columns, "19 at each side, and 10 at each end." Of these, 6 are yet standing. The circumference of these columns is about 22 ft., and the length of the shaft 58; with pedestal, capital, and entablature, they measure about 89 ft. in height. The approach to this temple was through two spacious courts, surrounded on all sides with porticoes and other buildings. Except the columns mentioned, little of the great temple, or of the buildings in front of it, is left standing, but the ground is covered with their ruins. The vast size of the stones used in the substructions is remarkable, some of them being 60 ft. long and 12 thick. South from the great temple is a smaller one, known as the temple of Jupiter. It is similar in form, having its peristyle and the walls of its cella still mostly standing. Its dimensions are 227 ft. in length, by 117 ft. hi breadth, being thus larger than the Parthenon at Athens. Both temples, as well as the surround ing structures, are built of limestone, in a richly decorated somewhat fantastic Corinthian style. Besides these, there stands at the distance of 300 yards from the others a circular building, supported on six granite columns; style, mixed Ionic and Corinthian. It was once used as a Christian church.
The early history of B. is involved in darkness; but it is certain that, from the most distant times, it had been a chief scat of sun-worship, as its name implies. Julius Ca:sar
made it a Roman colony, and under Augustus it was occupied by a Roman garrison. B. had an oracle held in such high esteem that, in the 2d c. A.D., it was consulted by the emperor Trajan prior to his entrance on his second Parthian campaign. To test the prescience of the oracle, Trajan sent to it a blank piece of paper, which was returned to him blank. This gave him a high opinion of its powers, and he consulted it in all serious ness .a second time. The response was some dead twigs from a vine, wrapped up in cloth. Trajan's decease some two years afterwards, and the transmission of his bones to Rome. was deemed a sufficient interpretation of the symbolical utterance, and confirmed the celebrity of the oracle. Antoninus Pius (138-161 A.n.) built the great temple, which the legend current among the modern inhabitants counts a work of Solomon. This temple is said to have contained a golden statue of Apollo, or of Zeus, which on certain annual festivals the chief citizens of Heliopolis bore about on their shoulders. When Christianity, under Constantine, became the dominant religion, the temple became a Christian church. In the wars that followed the taking of the city by the Arabs, who sacked it in 748 A.D., the temple was turned into a fortress, the battlements of which are yet visible. The city was completely pillaged by Timur Bey, or Beg, in 1400 A.D. Both city and temple continued to fall more and mote into decay under the misery and misrule to which Syria has been subject ever since. Many of the magnificent pillars were over turned by the pashas of Damascus merely for the sake of the iron with which the stones were bound together. What the Arabs, Tatars, and. Turks had spared, was destroyed by a terrible earthquake in 1759. B. is now an insignificant village, with a pop. of some few hundreds. See Wood and Dawkins's Ruins of Baalbee (1757); Cassas, Voyage Pitto rcsque de la Syrie (1799); .Murray's Handbook for Travelers in Syria and Palestine; Baedeker's Syria and Palestine (187,5).