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

 
 

Located in modern-day Lebanon (north of Beirut) in the Beqaa Valley, the ancient city of Baalbek, also called Heliopolis or City of the Sun, notes its heyday during the Roman period. Its colossal constructions make it one of the most famous sanctuaries of the Roman world and a model of an 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. Baalbek was Hellenized after the conquests of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. The Greeks named it Baalbek “Heliopolis” Photo Credit

From the 1st century BC and over a period of two centuries, the Romans built three giant temples here: Jupiter, Bacchus, and Venus. Next, to the Jupiter complex, which was created to be the largest temple in the Roman Empire, there is a separate building known as the Temple of Bacchus. The temple is slightly smaller than the Temple of Jupiter, but it became one of the most celebrated sanctuaries of the ancient world.

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 the 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 intended to make the people of the Baalbek region have great respect for the Roman rule, so he built two towers on the eastern edge of the Temples’ entrance way to create a more familiar building that the locals could relate to and recognize.

The massive structure was dedicated to the Roman god of the wine, Bacchus (also known as Dionysus) 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 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 interior wall  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 that has been a part of the Baalbek’s Medieval Fortifications. A series of earthquakes over the centuries had further damaged the site, and it wasn’t preserved or excavated until 1898 when a German expedition began to reconstruct the ruins. Extensive clearings and repairs were accomplished under the French mandate and, later, by the Lebanese government. Some figurative reliefs depicting Greek gods have survived, though in a pretty deteriorated condition.

The main entrance is decorated with grapes and vines, and some of the carvings on the ceiling include different versions of the image of Bacchus. Other sculptures include rituals, practices, people, and creatures, and its ornamentation served as an important model for Neoclassical architecture.

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  Photo Credit

In 1984, several ruins of Baalbek, including the Temple of Bacchus, were inscribed as a World Heritage Site.

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The temple allures people with its impressive dimensions, richly decorated stonework and monumental gate with Bacchic figures.