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.
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.
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 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.
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.