Baalbek in Arabic
book of Lina Murr Nehme - 'Phoenician Baalbek',
'A visit to the Temples of the Roman Epoch', translated by
Alfred Murr, is a treasure of Lebanese History!
Characteristic of the book: Beirut, Aleph and
104 pages with many images and illustrations - 16 x 11.4 cm
from the book:
‘Dated graffito proves that the Romans could not have built
or financed Baalbek.’
When the peristyle
of the sanctuary of Baal was finished, a mason carving the top
of one of its columns engraved on it a graffito that began with
these words: "To good Fortune! In the year 371, the second
day of the month of Lôos (August 60 AD), the katochoi put
off their beards". (Above)
later, the column that bore this graffito fell off and broke.
A fragment containing the writing and a piece of astragal (see
glossary) ended up in the sacrificial court of the temple of Baal,
where archaeologists found it before World War 2.
and astragal shoed that it came from the top of a column belonging
to the peristyle of the sanctuary of Baal (see opposite).The ritual
it seems to refer to is unknown, but the date implies that the
peristyle was finished in the year 60 (in the time of Nero).
Baalbek, were carved and dressed from top to bottom, after the
end of the construction only. (See the unfinished niche, image
In this case,
the building of the sanctuary could not have begun later then
the year 20 B.C.
turned archaeological beliefs upside down by proving that it was
a mistake to attribute this construction to Antoninus Pius (note
p. 16), proving also that the Roman emperors neither built nor
even financed the greater sanctuary of Baalbek. For if the Roman
emperors had had something to do with the construction and financing
of Baalbek, they would have been interested in it before, not
after, its temples and theatre became famous. And above all (considering
the cost of these works and the centuries they have lasted), they
would have mentioned it in many texts and inscriptions.
But they became
interested in Baalbek only in the second century AD. One of them,
Septimus Severus, even gave Baalbek the jus italicus, or status
of "Roman" city, making its people Roman citizens.
It was as
good a way as any other, to endow Rome with treasures that belonged
in fact to the provinces and were impossible to move.
was to call upon Phoenician architects, and have them build in
Rome monuments on the scale of those of the Levant. This is what
the emperor Trajan, who is considered as the greatest builder
among the Roman emperors, did. By taking Apollodorus of Damascus
as his architect, he made this Phoenician the Father of Roman
architecture - as historians call him.
of Baalbek was, therefore, provided by its worshippers: in three
and a half centuries, an internationally frequented religious
centre like Baalbek attracted enough rich pilgrims to make it
very wealthy. (Concerning the nationality of Baalbek, other proofs
can be found in Baalbek Monument Phénicien.)
Complex of Baalbek
the religious complex of Baalbek consisted of three temples and
of the sanctuary of the biggest of these temples was, as we said,
finished in the year 60. But the general work remained unfinished
in 391 (see p. 74), and it still is.
went on, therefore, for more than three centuries and a half,
which is far too much for one single temple. This can only be
understood if the three temples were being built at the same time.
That is the
case. What proves it is, first, the fact that the three temples
are in the same state of completion - or incompletion. Second,
they were constructed in the same way, their stones cut and dressed
in the same way, with the same finish. Finally, they have the
builds three temples of this importance (see following pages)
at a time, in order to put the three gods of the city together
in one of these temples, while comfortably accommodating one accessory
god in each of the two other temples. Rather, he dedicates each
temple to one god, seeing that the size and decoration - and the
price - of each temple match the supposed importance of this god.
Now, who were
these three gods of Baalbek? We often find their portraits in
Lebanon (below, relief of Fneidek), and abroad (as far as Rome
god of the first temple:
The most important
god of Baalbek is called Jupiter in Longinus' inscription... ...
goddess of the second temple: etc....
god of the third temple: etc...
twin towers of Baalbek: etc...
Sacrificial Court or Great court: etc...
theatre of Baalbek: etc...
world's three greatest stones ever built: etc...
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