BAALBEK (bāl'bĕk, city of Baal). A city of Coele-Syria, about forty miles (sixty-seven km.) NW of Damascus, celebrated for its magnificence in the first centuries of the Christian era and famous since then for its ruins. Because it was early identified with the worship of the sun god Baal, the Greeks named it Heliopolis, “City of the Sun.” It cannot be identified with any Bible locality. It became a place of importance only after it was made a Roman colony. Chief of the ruins is the great Temple of the Sun, 290 feet (90.6 m.) x 160 feet (50 m.), built of incredibly huge stones from nearby quarries. The city was completely destroyed by earthquake in a.d. 1759. The Prussian government undertook its excavation in 1902.

BAALBEK bāl’ bēk (Baal of Beqa’a, Lord of the Valley). Ancient city in the valley of Beqa’a, which separates the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountains. The Gr. name for it was Heliopolis, “city of the sun.”

The city stood on an acropolis which commands a view of the very fertile valley. The sanctuary flourished during earlier times, declined during the Hel. and early Rom. periods, only to revive in importance during the later Rom. empire.

The ruins of the city cover a vast area and are world famous. Trial soundings in the vicinity of the Rom. temples have revealed foundations of numerous earlier buildings. The temple of Jupiter, originally built to the stormgod Hadad, was a massive building 290 ft. long by 60 ft. wide. It was surrounded by a peristyle of nineteen Corinthian columns on each side and ten each on the front and rear. The columns were 62 ft. high and 7 1/2 ft. in diameter. The temple was built on a large artificial terrace twenty-four to forty-two ft. high. Part of the wall of the enclosure is made up of massive blocks approximately sixty-two ft. by fourteen ft. by eleven ft.

The temple of Bacchus, forty yards to the S, is a smaller but better preserved example of the Corinthian style of architecture. In the vicinity of the temples are a propylea, forecourt, and grand court, all of which contain numerous ancillary buildings. In the middle of the modern town, a quarter of a mile from the Acropolis, there is a small, round temple which was dedicated to Venus or Fortuna.

The great builders of Rom. Baalbek were the emperors Antoninus Pius and Caracella, the latter perhaps because his mother was Syrian.


T. Wiegard, Baalbek, 3 vol. (1921-25).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

bal’-bek, bal-bek’. See AVEN; ON.