The Temple of Bacchus is considered one of the best preserved Roman temples in the world

 
 

The ancient city of Baalbek, also called Heliopolis or City of the Sun, located in what is now modern-day Lebanon, north of Beirut, in the Beqaa Valley, reached its apogee during Roman times. From the 1st century BC and over a period of two centuries, the Romans built three temples here: Jupiter, Bacchus, and Venus.

Its colossal constructions make it one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Roman world and a model of Imperial Roman architecture.

When this area of the Middle East was part of the Roman Empire, Baalbek was known as Heliopolis.

When this area of the Middle East was part of the Roman Empire, Baalbek was known as Heliopolis. Photo Credit

 

The Temple of Bacchus (left) and the medieval fortifications of Baalbek in front of the city in 1959. Photo Credit

The Temple of Bacchus (left) and the medieval fortifications of Baalbek in front of the city in 1959. Photo Credit

Next to the Jupiter complex, which was created to be the largest temple in the Roman Empire, is a separate building known as the Temple of Bacchus. The temple is slightly smaller than the Temple of Jupiter, and is 66m long, 35m wide, and 31m high.

Although it is sometimes called “The Small Temple, it is larger (and better preserved) than the Parthenon in Athens. Photo Credit

Although it is sometimes called “The Small Temple, it is larger (and better preserved) than the Parthenon in Athens. Photo Credit

 

Temple of Bacchus entrance. Photo Credit

Temple of Bacchus entrance. Photo Credit

 

Propylaea at the entrance of the site. Photo Credit

Propylaea at the entrance of the site. Photo Credit

The temple was commissioned by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius and designed by an unknown architect around 150 A.D., after the cult of Bacchus had become popular in the empire. Antoninus Pius had the intention of making the people of the Baalbek region have great respect for the Roman rule.

Dedicated to Bacchus (also known as Dionysus), the Roman god of wine, but traditionally referred to by Neoclassical visitors as the “Temple of the Sun”, it is the best-preserved structure at Baalbek and the most beautifully decorated temple in the Roman world.

The period of construction is generally considered between 150 AD to 250 AD.

The period of construction is generally considered between 150 AD to 250 AD. Photo Credit

 

A temple most probably dedicated to the Roman Wine God Bacchus. Photo Credit

A temple most probably dedicated to the Roman Wine God Bacchus. Photo Credit

 

The best preserved Roman temple of its size. Photo Credit

The best preserved Roman temple of its size. Photo Credit

 

Ornamented ceiling. Photo Credit

Ornamented ceiling. Photo Credit

 

The wall inside. Photo Credit

The wall inside. Photo Credit

 

Corner details. Photo Credit

Corner details. Photo Credit

 

Temple of Bacchus pilasters. Photo Credit

Temple of Bacchus pilasters. Photo Credit

The reason why it is so well preserved is because it is part of the Baalbek’s Medieval Fortifications. The main entrance is decorated with grapes and vines, and is an impressive eleven meters high. Some of the carvings on the ceiling include different versions of what worshippers believed Bacchus to have looked like. Other sculptures include rituals, practices, people, and creatures.

A series of earthquakes over the centuries further damaged the site, and nothing was done in the area of preservation or excavation until 1898 when a German expedition began to reconstruct the ruins. Some figurative reliefs depicting Greek gods have survived, though in a very damaged state.

Over the centuries Baalbeck's monuments suffered from theft, war and earthquakes, as well as from numerous medieval additions. Photo Credit

Over the centuries Baalbeck’s monuments suffered from theft, war, and earthquakes, as well as from numerous medieval additions. Photo Credit

 

Temple of Bacchus columns. Photo Credit

Temple of Bacchus columns. Photo Credit

 

Detail underneath. Photo Credit

Detail underneath. Photo Credit

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In 1984, several ruins of Baalbek, including the Temple of Bacchus, were inscribed as a World Heritage Site. The temple allures people with its impressive dimensions, richly decorated stone work and monumental gate with Baccic figures.