Baalbek, Lebanon

Baalbek, Lebanon

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Baalbek is a town in the Anti-Lebanon foothills east of the Litani River in Lebanon's Beqaa Valley, about 85 km (53 mi) northeast of Beirut and about 75 km (47 mi) north of Damascus. It has a population of approximately 82,608, mostly Shia Muslims, followed by Sunni Muslims and a minority of Christians. It is reckoned a stronghold of the Hezbollah movement. It is home to the annual Baalbeck International Festival.In Greek and Roman antiquity, it was known as Heliopolis. It still possesses some of the best-preserved Roman ruins in Lebanon, including one of the largest temples of the empire. The gods that were worshipped there (Jupiter, Venus, and Bacchus) were equivalentsof the Canaanite deities Hadad, Atargatis, and another young male fertility god. Local influences are seen in the planning and layout of the temples, as they vary from the classic Roman design.

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Baalbek City and Its History – Lebanon

This region, which has hosted many civilizations in history, has been continuously developed and in constant change in terms of architecture. It was named Sun City because of the temple built in the name of the Sun God during Roman rule, but the real owner of this city is the Phoenicians.

This region, which has been home to many civilizations in history, has been constantly developed and in constant change in terms of architecture. During the Roman rule, it was named Sun City because of the temple built in the name of the Sun God, but the real owner of this city is the Phoenicians.The period referred to as the Golden period was lived thanks to the Romans, brought many riches in terms of architecture and had many activities. But later wars and invasions brought this city to the point of extinction.

Baalbek is referred to as the city in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon. In 1984, this beauty was realized and protected by Unesco. The Greeks ended the life of the Phoenicians, but their life was not very long. The Romans constantly worn and struggled to take this city and they succeeded. It witnessed many wars and struggles of civilizations during the Roman period. We can say that it was finalized by the Byzantines Emperor Teodosius destroyed a large part of Jupiter temple and made it a church …

This city and the Crusaders, who destroyed the architecture the most, were busy destroying the areas they conquered, and then Timur’s attacks began. Since the Crusaders used this place as a fortress, the architecture was completely destroyed. This region was also conquered by the Ottomans, but when the Ottomans dominated it, Jupiter was now buried in the ground. Currently there are 3 temples in this area, the temples of Jupiter, Bacchus and Venus can be seen and studied. The largest of the temples is the temple of Jupiter, but it cannot be said that this temple is very well preserved, on the contrary, the Baku temple stands out with its well-preserved and well-maintained appearance.

After the region came under Ottoman rule, it was closed to tourists for a while because the soldiers were in this area, but over time, the region was visited by tourists. He could easily stop by and had the opportunity to visit and see. Earthquakes damaged the architecture, but did not wear them too much. The vibrations caused the bombing of the Israeli city of Baalbek in 2006 to damage the architecture and Unesco offered for maintenance.


Before the Christian faith reached the territory of Lebanon, Jesus had traveled to its southern parts near Tyre where the scripture tells that he cured a possessed Canaanite child. [nb 1] [7] [8] Christianity in Lebanon is almost as old as gentile Christian faith itself. Early reports relate the possibility that Saint Peter himself was the one who evangelized the Phoenicians whom he affiliated to the ancient patriarchate of Antioch. [9] Paul also preached in Lebanon, having lingered with the early Christians in Tyre and Sidon. [10] Even though Christianity was introduced to Lebanon after the first century AD, its spread was very slow, particularly in the mountainous areas where paganism was still unyielding. [11]

The earliest indisputable tradition of Christianity in Lebanon can be traced back to Saint Maron in the 4th century AD, being of Greek/Eastern/Antiochian Orthodox origin and the founder of national and ecclesiastical Maronitism. Saint Maron adopted an ascetic and reclusive life on the banks of the Orontes river in the vicinity of Homs–Syria and founded a community of monks which began to preach the gospel in the surrounding areas. [9] By faith, liturgy, rite, religious books and heritage, the Maronites were of Eastern origin. [11] The Saint Maron Monastery was too close to Antioch to grant the monks their freedom and autonomy, which prompted Saint John Maron, the first Maronite patriarch-elect, to lead his monks into the Lebanese mountains to escape emperor Justinian II's persecution, finally settling in the Qadisha valley. [9] Nevertheless, the influence of the Maronite establishment spread throughout the Lebanese mountains and became a considerable feudal force. The existence of the Maronites was largely ignored by the western world until the Crusades. [9] In the 16th century, the Maronite Church adopted the catechism of the Catholic Church and reaffirmed its relationship with it. [11] Moreover, Rome dispatched Franciscan, Dominican and later Jesuit missionaries to Lebanon to Latinise the Maronites. [9]

Due to their turbulent history, the Maronites formed a secluded identity in the mountains and valleys of Lebanon, led by the Maronite patriarch who voiced his opinion on contemporary issues. They identify themselves as a unique community whose religion and culture is distinct from the predominantly Muslim Arab world. [11] The Maronites played a major part in the definition of and the creation of the state of Lebanon. The modern state of Greater Lebanon was established by France in 1920 after the instigation of ambitious Maronite leaders headed by patriarch Elias Peter Hoayek, who presided over delegations to France following World War I and requested the re-establishment of the entity of the Principality of Lebanon (1515AD-1840AD). With the creation of the state of Lebanon, Arabism was overcome by Lebanism, which emphasizes Lebanon's Mediterranean and Phoenician heritage. In the National Pact, an unwritten gentleman's agreement between the Maronite President Bshara el-Khoury and Sunni Prime Minister Riad as-Solh, the seats of presidency were distributed between the main Lebanese religious denominations. According to the pact, the President of the Lebanese republic shall always be a Maronite. Furthermore, the pact also states that Lebanon is a state with an "Arab face" (not an Arab identity). [12]

The number of Christians in Lebanon has been disputed for many years. There has been no official census in Lebanon since 1932. Christians were still half the country by mid-century, but by 1985, only a quarter of all Lebanese were Christians. [13] Many argue over the percentage and population of Christians in Lebanon. One estimate of the Christian share of Lebanon's population as of 2012 is 40.5%. [14] Therefore, the country has the largest percentage of Christians of all the Middle Eastern nations.

The Maronite Church, an Eastern Catholic church in full communion with the Catholic Church, is the largest and politically most active and influential denomination of Lebanon's Christians. The Catholic Church also includes other Eastern Catholic churches, such as the Melkite Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church forms the second largest proportion of Lebanese Christians. The Armenian Apostolic Church also forms a large portion of the Christian population in Lebanon.

In the Lebanese Parliament, Lebanese Christians hold 64 seats in tandem with 64 seats for Lebanese Muslims. The Maronites holds 34 seats, the Eastern Orthodox 14, Melkite 8, the Gregorian Armenians 5, Catholic Armenians 1, Protestants 1, and other Christian minority groups, 1.

The head of the Maronite Church is the Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, who is elected by the bishops of the Maronite church and now resides in Bkerké, north of Beirut (but in the northern town of Dimane during the summer months). The current Patriarch (from 2011) is Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rahi. When a new patriarch is elected and enthroned, he requests ecclesiastic communion from the Pope, thus maintaining the Catholic Church communion. Patriarchs may also be accorded the status of cardinals, in the rank of cardinal-bishops. They share with other Catholics the same doctrine, but Maronites retain their own liturgy and hierarchy. Strictly speaking, the Maronite church belongs to the Antiochene Tradition and is a West Syro-Antiochene Rite. Syriac is the liturgical language, instead of Latin. Nevertheless, they are considered, with the Syro-Malabar Church, to be among the most Latinized of the Eastern Catholic Churches.

The Seat of the Maronite Catholic Church is in Bkerké. Monasteries in Lebanon are run by both the Maronite and Orthodox Church. The Holy Monastery of Saint George in Deir El Harf and Saint John the Baptist Monastery in Douma both date back to the 5th century. The Balamand Monastery in Tripoli is a very prominent Orthodox monastery that has a seminary and a university associated with it.

Under the terms of an agreement known as the National Pact between the various political and religious leaders of Lebanon, the president of the country must be a Maronite, the Prime Minister must be a Sunnite, and the Speaker of Parliament must be a Shiite.

The Taif Agreement helped establish a power sharing system between the Christian and Muslim Lebanese political parties. [21] The political and economic situation in Lebanon had improved greatly. Lebanon had rebuilt its infrastructure. Historical and contemporary conflicts between Hezbollah and Israel have threatened to deteriorate Lebanon's political and economic situation, with growing tension between the 8 March and 14 March alliances and threatening Lebanon with renewed strife. The Christian community is currently divided, with some aligned with the Kataeb party, Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement, the El Marada Party headed by Suleiman Frangieh, Jr., the Lebanese Forces Movement Samir Geagea, and others within the collection of various 14 March Christian leaders. Although the Taif agreement was widely considered by Christians to degrade their role in Lebanon, by removing much of the President's role (which is allocated to the Maronites), and bolstering the roles of the Prime Minister (a Sunni) and the Speaker of Parliament (Shia), the Lebanese President nevertheless still wields considerable power. [ citation needed ] The constitutional remit of the president includes the role of Commander in Chief of the armed forces, as well as the sole ability to form and dissolve governments. Many Lebanese leaders, as well as global powers, continue to lobby to roll back features of the Taif Agreement that eroded the constitutional powers of the president of the republic. [ citation needed ] The role of president of the Lebanese Central bank is also a position reserved for Lebanese Christians. [ citation needed ] This is due to the historical and contemporary influence of Lebanese Christians among the key bankers of the Middle East region.

Although Lebanon is a secular country, family matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance are still handled by the religious authorities representing a person's faith. Calls for civil marriage are unanimously rejected by the religious authorities but civil marriages conducted in another country are recognized by Lebanese civil authorities.

Non-religion is not recognized by the state. But the Minister of the Interior Ziad Baroud made it possible in 2009 to have religious affiliation removed from the Lebanese identity card. This does not, however, deny the religious authorities' complete control over civil family issues inside the country. [22] [23]

In a 1976 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks, a US diplomat stated "if I got nothing else from my meeting with Frangie, Chamoun and Gemayel, it is their clear, unequivocal and unmistakable belief that their principal hope for saving Christian necks is Syria. They sound like Assad is the latest incarnation of the Crusaders." [24]


Roman structures at pre-Roman site of Baalbek ( Enlarge)

Approximately 86 kilometers northeast of the city of Beirut in eastern Lebanon stands the temple complex of Baalbek. Situated atop a high point in the fertile Bekaa valley, the ruins are one of the most extraordinary and enigmatic holy places of ancient times. Long before the Romans conquered the site and built their enormous temple of Jupiter, long even before the Phoenicians constructed a temple to the god Baal, there stood at Baalbek the largest stone block construction found in the entire world.

The origin of the name Baalbek is not precisely known and there is some difference of opinion among scholars. The Phoenician term Baal (as the Hebrew term Adon) simply means ‘lord’ or ‘god’ and was the title given to the Semitic sky-deity worshipped throughout the archaic Middle East. The word Baalbek may mean 'God of the Bekaa valley' (the local area) or ‘God of the Town’, depending on different interpretations of the word. Ancient legends assert that Baalbek was the birthplace of Baal. Some scholars have suggested that Baal (the Assyrian Hadad) was only one of a triad of Phoenician deities that were once venerated at this site - the others being his son Aliyan, who presided over well-springs and fecundity, and his daughter Anat (Assyrian Atargatis).

In the Seleucid (323-64 BC) and Roman (64 BC-312 AD) periods, the town became known as Heliopolis, the ‘City of the Sun.' The sky/sun god Jupiter became the central deity of the shrine during this time. Arguably the most important deity of the Romans and taking over the role of Zeus in the Greek pantheon, Jupiter was probably chosen to replace the much earlier worship of the Phonecian god Baal who had many characteristics in common with the Greek Zeus. Many Roman emperors were of Syrian birth, so it would not have been unusual for them to have promoted the worship of the country's indigenous deities under their adopted Roman names. Whatever the nature of the pre-Roman worship at Baalbek, its veneration of Baal created a hybrid form of the god Jupiter, generally referred to as Jupiter Heliopolitan. The Romans also assimilated the worship of the goddess Astarte with that of Aphrodite or Venus, and the god Adonis was identified with Bacchus.

Roman structures at pre-Roman site of Baalbek ( Enlarge)

The origin and development of Baalbek may be considered from two quite different paradigms of prehistory, one the conventional approach that views civilization as having only begun in middle Neolithic times and the alternative approach which suggests that developed cultures existed in what is archaeologically known as the Paleolithic period. Let us first examine the chronology of Baalbek from the conventional interpretation, following which I will discuss some amazing site anomalies that can only be explained by recourse to a far older and now lost civilization.

According to theories stated by the mainstream archaeological community, the history of Baalbek reaches back approximately 5000 years. Excavations beneath the Great Court of the Temple of Jupiter have uncovered traces of settlements dating to the Middle Bronze Age (1900-1600 BC) built on top of an older level of human habitation dating to the Early Bronze Age (2900-2300 BC). Biblical passages (I Kings, IX: 17-19) mention the name of King Solomon in connection with a place that may be ancient Baalbek (“And Solomon built Gezer and Beth-Horon, the lower, and Baalath and Tadmor in the wilderness”), but most scholars are hesitant to equate this Baalath with Baalbek and therefore deny any connection between Solomon and the ruins. Because the great stones of Baalbek are similar, though far larger, than the stones of the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, archaic myths had arisen that Solomon erected both structures. If Solomon had really erected the site of Baalbek, however, it is astonishing that the Old Testament has mentioned nothing of the matter.

After the time of Solomon, the Phoenicians became masters of Syria and chose the site of Baalbek for a temple to their Sun-god Baal-Hadad. Little is known of Baalbek from this period. The late 11th century BC witnessed the arrival of an Assyrian army on the Mediterranean coast but because Baalbek is not mentioned alongside the names of other Phonecian cities, it has been assumed that Baalbek was an obscure religious center with no political or trading importance.

Roman structures atop massive pre-Roman stones of Baalbek ( Enlarge)

The first-century AD Jewish historian Josephus tells of Alexander's march through the Beqa'a on his way to Damascus, during which he encountered the city of Baalbek. Following the death of Alexander in 323 BC, Phoenicia was ruled successively by the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt and the Seleucid kings of Syria until the arrival of the Romans. The name Heliopolis, by which Baalbek was known during Greco-Roman times, derives from Greek association with the site beginning in 331 BC. Meaning ‘City of the Sun’, the name was also used by the Ptolemies of Egypt between 323 and 198 BC, in order to express the importance this holy site held for the Egyptians. A sacred site with this same name already existed in Egypt and the new Ptolomaic rulers may have found it provident to link the ancient sky-god of Baalbek with the Egyptian god Re and the Greek Helios in order to establish closer religious and cultural ties between their newly established Ptolomaic dynasty in Egypt and the eastern Mediterranean world. In the historical writings of Ambrosius Theodosius Macrobius, a Latin grammarian who lived during the 5th century AD, the god of the holy place was called Zeus Heliopolitanus (a Greek god) and the temple was mentioned as a place of oracular divination, similar to such sites as Delphi and Dodona in Greece and the temple of Amun at Siwa in Egypt.

The golden age of Roman building at Baalbek/Heliopolis began in 15BC when Julius Caesar settled a legion there and began construction of the great Temple of Jupiter. During the next three centuries, as emperors succeeded one another in the imperial capital of Rome, Heliopolis would be filled with the most massive religious buildings ever constructed in the far reaching Roman Empire. These monuments functioned as places of worship until Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman Empire in 313 AD, following which the Byzantine Christian emperors and their rapacious soldiers desecrated thousands of pagan sanctuaries. At the end of the 4th century, Emperor Theodosius destroyed many significant buildings and statues, and constructed a basilica with stones from the Temple of Jupiter. This signaled the end of Roman Heliopolis. The city of the sun declined and lapsed into relative oblivion.

In the year 634, Muslim armies entered Syria and besieged Baalbek. A mosque was built within the walls of the temple compound, which was itself converted into a citadel. Over the next several centuries, the city and region of Baalbek were controlled by various Islamic dynasties including the Umayyads, Abbasids and Fatamids as well as the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks. During these years, Baalbek was ravaged by the Tartars in 1260, Tamerlane in 1401 and was also shaken by numerous powerful earthquakes.

At the base of the far wall, the great stones of Baalbek ( Enlarge)

In the 1700’s, European explorers began to visit the ruins and in 1898 the German emperor, William II organized the first restoration of the ancient temples. Following the lead established by the Germans, extensive archaeological excavations were carried out by the French government and later the Lebanese Department of Antiquities. While a great deal of much needed restoration work was performed by these archaeologists, the analysis of the ancient origins and use of the site was limited by the prevailing academic view of prehistory which does not recognize the possibility of sophisticated civilizations in early Neolithic or pre-Neolithic times. Particular structures at the Baalbek ruins can, however, only be explained by recourse to such extremely ancient cultures.

The ruins of Baalbek, situated on a large hill (1150 meters) with an expansive view over the adjoining plains, are bordered on two sides by the town of Baalbek and on the other sides by agricultural land belonging to local farmers. Within the sprawling complex are a profusion of temples and platforms filled with a stunning collection of fallen columns and sculptures. The primary structures at the ruins are the Great Court the Temple of Baal/Jupiter situated upon the massive pre-Roman stone blocks known as the Trilithon the so-called Temple of Bacchus and the circular temple believed to be associated with the goddess Venus. Let us briefly discuss the Roman constructions first.

The Great Court, begun during the reign of Trajan (98-117), measured 135 meters by 113 meters, contained various religious buildings and altars, and was surrounded by a splendid colonnade of 128 rose granite columns. These magnificent columns, 20 meters tall and of enormous weight, are known to have been quarried in Aswan, Egypt but how they were actually transported by land and sea to Baalbek remains an engineering mystery. Today, only six columns remain standing, the rest having been destroyed by earthquakes or taken to other sites (for example, Justinian appropriated eight of them for the basilica of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople).

Massive foundation stones of Baalbek ( Enlarge)

The Temple of Baal/Jupiter was begun during the reign of Emperor Augustus in the late first century BC and completed soon after 60 AD. The single largest religious edifice ever erected by the Romans, the immense sanctuary of Jupiter Heliopolitanus was lined by 104 massive granite columns, imported from Aswan in Egypt, and held a temple surrounded by 50 additional columns, almost 19m (62ft) high. The Temple is believed to have been consecrated to a triad of deities: Hadad (Baal/Jupiter), the god of Heaven Atargates (Astarte/Hera), the wife of Hadad and Mercury, their son.

As the vast temple complex expanded throughout Roman times, the so-called Temple of Bacchus was constructed in the middle of the 2nd century BC. It is called the Temple of Bacchus (the god of fertility and good cheer) mainly because a number of its sculptured reliefs have been interpreted by archaeologists as scenes from the childhood of this god (although some scholars argue this temple was dedicated to Mercury, the winged god of communication). The best-preserved Roman temple in the world, it is sixty-nine meters long by thirty-six meters wide and is surrounded by forty-two columns nineteen meters in height.

At the beginning of the 3rd century a lovely circular temple was added to the Baalbek complex. While early European visitors assumed it was a Venus temple due to its ornamentation of seashells, doves and other artistic motifs associated with the cult of this goddess, it is not known for certain which deity the shrine was actually dedicated to. During Byzantine Christian times the temple was used as a church by Greek Catholics and dedicated to the early Christian martyr Saint Barbara.

Stone of the Pregnant Woman, weighing approximately 1000 tons ( Enlarge)

The great mystery of the ruins of Baalbek, and indeed one of the greatest mysteries of the ancient world, concerns the massive foundation stones beneath the Roman Temple of Jupiter. The courtyard of the Jupiter temple is situated upon a platform, called the Grand Terrace, which consists of a huge outer wall and a filling of massive stones. The lower courses of the outer wall are formed of huge, finely crafted and precisely positioned blocks. They range in size from thirty to thirty three feet in length, fourteen feet in height and ten feet in depth, and weigh approximately 450 tons each. Nine of these blocks are visible on the north side of the temple, nine on the south, and six on the west (others may exist but archaeological excavations have thus far not dug beneath all the sections of the Grand Terrace). Above the six blocks on the western side are three even larger stones, called the Trilithon, whose weight exceeds 1000 tons each. These great stones vary in size between sixty-three and sixty-five feet in length, with a height of fourteen feet six inches and a depth of twelve feet.

Three other even larger monoliths are found in a limestone quarry a quarter of a mile from the Baalbek complex. The first, called the Stone of the Pregnant Woman (Hadjar el Hibla in Arabic) or Stone of the South (Hadjar el Gouble in Arabic) is sixty-nine feet by sixteen feet by thirteen feet ten inches and weights an estimated 1000 tons. This stone lays at a raised angle with the lowest part of its base still attached to the quarry rock as though it were almost ready to be cut free and transported to its presumed location next to the other stones of the Trilithon. A second stone was discovered nearby in the 1990’s and weighs an estimated 1200 tons. A third, only recently discovered beneath the Stone of the Pregnant Woman, may exceed 1200 tons but its size and weight are estimates because its base has not yet been excavated.

Why these stones are such an enigma to contemporary scientists, both engineers and archaeologists alike, is that their method of quarrying, transportation and precision placement is beyond the technological ability of any known ancient or modern builders. Various ‘scholars’, uncomfortable with the notion that ancient cultures might have developed knowledge superior to modern science, have decided that the massive Baalbek stones were laboriously dragged from the nearby quarries to the temple site. While carved images in the temples of Egypt and Mesopotamia do indeed give evidence of this method of block transportation - using ropes, wooden rollers and thousands of laborers - the dragged blocks are known to have been only 1/10th the size and weight of the Baalbek stones and to have been moved along flat surfaces with wide movement paths. The route to the site of Baalbek, however, is up hill, over rough and winding terrain, and there is no evidence whatsoever of a flat hauling surface having been created in ancient times.

Baalbek Aerial View

Next there is the problem of how the mammoth blocks, once they were brought to the site, were lifted and precisely placed in position. It has been theorized that the stones were raised using a complex array of scaffolding, ramps and pulleys which was powered by large numbers of humans and animals working in unison. An historical example of this method has been suggested as the solution for the Baalbek enigma. The Renaissance architect Domenico Fontana, when erecting a 327-ton Egyptian obelisk in front of St Peter's Basilica in Rome, used 40 huge pulleys, which necessitated a combined force of 800 men and 140 horses. The area where this obelisk was erected, however, was a great open space that could easily accommodate all the lifting apparatus and the men and horses pulling on the ropes. No such space is available in the spatial context of how the Baalbek stones were placed. Hills slope away from where lifting apparatus would need to have been placed and no evidence has been found of a flat and structurally firm surface having been constructed (and then mysteriously removed after the lifting was done). Furthermore, not just one obelisk was erected but rather a series of giant stones were precisely put in place side-by-side. Due to the positioning of these stones, there is simply no conceivable place where a huge pulley apparatus could have been stationed.

Great foundation stones at Baalbek

Archaeologists, unable to resolve the mysteries of the transportation and lifting of the great blocks, rarely have the intellectual honesty to admit their ignorance of the matter and therefore focus their attention solely on redundant measurements and discussions regarding the verifiable Roman-era temples at the site. Architects and construction engineers, however, not having any preconceived ideas of ancient history to uphold, will frankly state that there are no known lifting technologies even in current times that could raise and position the Baalbek stones given the amount of working space. The massive stones of the Grand Terrace of Baalbek are simply beyond the engineering abilities of any recognized ancient or contemporary builders.

Great foundation stones at Baalbek

There are several other matters about the Baalbek stones that further confound archaeologists and conventional theories of prehistoric civilization. There are no legends or folk tales from Roman times that link the Romans with the mammoth stones. There are absolutely no records in any Roman or other literary sources concerning the construction methods or the dates and names of the benefactors, designers, architects, engineers and builders of the Grand Terrace. The megalithic stones of the Trilithon bear no structural or ornamental resemblance to any of the Roman-era constructions above them, such as the previously described Temples of Jupiter, Bacchus or Venus. The limestone rocks of the Trilithon show extensive evidence of wind and sand erosion that is absent from the Roman temples, indicating that the megalithic construction dates from a far earlier age. Finally, the great stones of Baalbek show stylistic similarities to other cyclopean stone walls at verifiably pre-Roman sites such as the Acropolis foundation in Athens, the foundations of Myceneae, Tiryns, Delphi and even megalithic constructions in the ‘new world’ such as Ollyantaytambo in Peru and Tiahuanaco in Bolivia.

Martin Gray is a cultural anthropologist, writer and photographer specializing in the study and documentation of pilgrimage places around the world. During a 38 year period he has visited more than 1500 sacred sites in 165 countries. The World Pilgrimage Guide web site is the most comprehensive source of information on this subject.

Baalbek Quarry In Lebanon: Enduring Megalithic Mystery

Much has been written about the enigmatic site in Lebanon called Baalbek one of the most controversial of ancient places on the planet. Recently, our Russian friends at the Laboratory Of Alternative History made a study of the quarry from which the megalithic stones were cut. All of these are their photos with thanks and deep gratitude.

Rather than those that simply speculate the weights of the enormous stones in the quarry, LAH actually measured them. In the case of the Southern Rock, which goes by various other names, they calculated the weight at about 900 tons. The obvious questions are: why would such huge stones be needed, who cut them, when and how did they plan to move them.

The so called Western Stone, seen above was calculated at being 1100 tons, and you can see the flat surfaces of the quarry as well in this photo. Both were supposedly destined to be put into place at the Trilithon at Baalbek, but clearly never made it there. What could have caused the work stoppage?

The smaller cutting we see in the above 2 photos may have been a “fine tuning” process to make the stone fit into a specific place at Baalbek, however, the crudeness of the cuts look more like a later culture, perhaps the Romans, were attempting to recycle this massive monolith, abandoned by the original masons.

The sheer scale is astounding. Most historians would have us believe that this stone, and many more like it were quarried in Roman times, in order to build the base for a nearby temple that was dedicated to Jupiter. The Romans were great builders, but they were also sensible. The effort necessary to cut and move stones of this size is way beyond anything seen anywhere else across the Roman world and was simply not necessary. And would be profoundly difficult today.

What we see above could be the bedrock itself. We will be visiting the site in late March 2015, and rather than sit on the sidelines, why not come with us? The complete itinerary of our exploration is HERE. As well, our third annual Lost Ancient High Technology Tour of Egypt will precede the Baalbek adventure.

Full tour details HERE

Or should you be interested in the Elongated Skulls of Peru and Bolivia, join us in May 2015 HERE.

In June 2015 we will have authors Andrew Collins and Hugh Newman with us exploring the megaliths and elongated skulls of Peru and Bolivia. Full itinerary and details HERE.

Baalbek Reborn: Take a Virtual Tour of Baalbek Ruins

Germany has a long tradition of working at the archaeological site of Baalbek in Lebanon. In November 1898 Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife passed through on their way to Jerusalem. The Kaiser was no stranger to Roman ruins, just a year earlier he had ordered the reconstruction of Saalburg, the Roman fort near Bad Homburg in German. Within a month he had archaeologists working at Baalbeck. And German archaeologists have been excavating the site on and off ever since. Now, after more than two decades of research, the German Archaeological Institute in collaboration with Fly Over Zone and the Lebanese General Department of Antiquities have produced an engaging virtual tour of the extraordinary temple complex at Baalbek.

If these are not the most famous ancient columns in the world, at a height of 40 metres above the ground level they are certainly the tallest.

Disclaimer: As this post is about a product that is available free of charge for all, we did not receive payment in cash or kind for writing this review. We only recommend services and products that we have used and/or would use ourselves. Read more about our policies in our Code of Ethics.

The temple complex of Baalbek had been attracting tourists long before Kaiser Wilhelm&rsquos visit in 1898. In providing information for those travelling from Damascus to Beruit, Cook&rsquos Tourists&rsquo Handbook for Palestine and Syria, published by Thomas Cook & Son in 1876, suggests overnighting in Baalbek. &ldquoIt is usual for the camp to be pitched in the court of the Great Temple, where it presents a curiously-picturesque effect.&rdquo As wonderful as that experience must have been, I hasten to add that camping amongst the ruins now is not allowed.

We now call that &lsquogreat temple&rsquo the Temple of Jupiter, as it was dedicated to Jupiter Heliopolitanus. It is the largest temple ever constructed by the Romans. Although very little of it remains standing today it is still well known for its six surviving colossal columns. These columns are the largest single pieces of carved stone ever quarried by humans anywhere in the world, past and present. They stand on a large podium, which is itself around 15 m high, and are 25 m high with a diameter of 2.5 m. When the temple was complete there were 54 of these columns.

The Myth of the Megalith

Baalbek, Lebanon, is the site of one of the most mysterious ruins of the Roman Empire, a monumental two-thousand-year-old temple to Jupiter that sits atop three thousand-ton stone blocks. (The pillars of Stonehenge weigh about a fortieth of that.) The blocks originated in a nearby limestone quarry, where a team from the German Archaeological Institute, in partnership with Jeanine Abdul Massih, of Lebanese University, recently discovered what they are calling the largest stone block from antiquity, weighing one thousand six hundred and fifty tons and matching those that support the temple. Its provenance is more shadowy than one might expect of a three-million-pound megalith. Nobody seems to know on whose orders it was cut, or why, or how it came to be abandoned.

Baalbek is named for Baal, the Phoenician deity, although the Romans knew the site by its Greek name, Heliopolis. The historian Dell Upton has noted the unusual lack of documentation regarding who might have commissioned, paid for, or designed the temple. For Upton, the site is a metaphor for the role of imaginative distortion in architectural history. In the absence of concrete information, he writes, Baalbek has become “a very accommodating screen upon which to project strikingly varied stories.” There are many local legends about the origin of the temple: Cain built it to hide from the wrath of God giants built it, at Nimrod’s command, and it came to be called the Tower of Babel Solomon built it, with djinns’ assistance, as a palace for the Queen of Sheba. (It is said that the reason some blocks were left in the quarry is that the djinns went on strike.)

Testimony to Baalbek’s flummoxing properties can be found in the 1860 diary of the Scottish traveller David Urquhart, whose mental capacities were “paralyzed” by “the impossibility of any solution.” Urquhart devotes several pages to the “riddles” posed by the giant stones—“so enormous, as to shut out every other thought, and yet to fill the mind only with trouble.” What, for example, was the point of cutting such enormous rocks? And why do it out there in the middle of nowhere, instead of in a capital or a port? Why were there no other sites that looked like Baalbek? And why had the work been abandoned midway? Urquhart concludes that the temple must have been built by contemporaries of Noah, using the same technological prowess that enabled the construction of the ark. Work was halted because of the flood, which swept away all the similar sites, leaving the enigma of Baalbek alone on the face of the earth.

Scholars today like to laugh at Urquhart, particularly at his alleged belief that mastodons transported the stones. (I didn’t see any reference to mastodons in his diary.) But archaeologists are still trying to solve the riddles that he posed. Margarete van Ess, a professor from the German Archaeological Institute, told me that the purpose of the investigation that turned up the new stone block was precisely to ascertain how the three temple blocks were transported, and why two others like them were left in the quarry. (One of these previously discovered megaliths, known as the Hajjar al-Hibla, or Stone of the Pregnant Woman, turned out to have a crack that would have impeded its transport.)

Van Ess added that the blocks were probably cut in much the same way as the masonry used in the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct in southern France, with each piece split from a larger expanse of limestone along natural fissures between the rock strata. Too heavy to lift, the blocks would then have been dragged from the quarry, probably using a capstan, a kind of human-driven winch—though the possibility of a sledge is also under discussion.

According to van Ess, the temple of Jupiter was definitely built by the Romans, in at least four phases. Construction began around 15 B.C., when the region first became a Roman province the last remodelling would have taken place at the beginning of the third century A.D. Some non-Roman features, including “water basins in front of the temple” and “very high altars,” suggest that the temple might have been used “for local religious traditions,” in addition to the Roman rites.

But perhaps the biggest mystery is the question of size. Nothing puzzles archaeologists so much as impracticality, and although the karst topography of Baalbek demands strong foundation stones, and although one big stone is easier to move than many smaller stones, the pillars holding up the temple’s podium, van Ess says, are bigger than they need to be. In fact, Baalbek is one of a series of ancient projects that are under rigorous study by the Germans for being unnecessarily large. Van Ess and her colleagues are currently working to determine “the border between a ‘normal’ but expensive project”—a palace, for example—and a “giant one.”

I decided not to ask van Ess about an alternative theory that was proposed by the late author Zechariah Sitchin: that the podium at Baalbek had to be big enough to serve as an intergalactic landing pad, as documented in the Epic of Gilgamesh. I have found that archaeologists are seldom receptive to the notion of ancient astronauts—although one could argue that, when the archaeologists went looking for answers, all they managed to find was an even bigger and more mysterious stone block.

I think that it must be the unknowability of Baalbek that Proust had in mind when he gave the fictional sea resort in “In Search of Lost Time” the name of Balbec. (According to the art historian Mary Bergstein, Proust would have known Baalbek as “one of the most photographed of all archaeological sites in the nineteenth century.”) Before visiting Balbec, young Marcel becomes obsessed by the name and by Swann’s description of the local architecture: “The church at Balbec, built in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, still half Romanesque, is perhaps the most curious example of our Norman Gothic, and so singular! It’s almost Persian in style.” The church of Balbec, like the temple of Baalbek, is a monument to the mystery of place, to the synthesis of West and East, real and imaginary, present and past.

In recent months, archaeological research around the site has been blocked by clashes between Syrian militants, Lebanese Sunni, and the Shiite group Hezbollah. Two weeks ago, in Ras Baalbek, about twenty-five miles north of the temple of Jupiter, six Lebanese soldiers were ambushed and killed by Syrian gunmen. Last Sunday, Syrian refugee tents in the Baalbek region were set on fire. When I expressed surprise that excavations could continue under these circumstances, van Ess explained that the archaeologists left the site some time ago. The giant stone was discovered in June, during a “period of ‘silence’ ” in the fighting, though the team waited until December to make an announcement. It isn’t clear when the dig will resume.

Baalbek, Lebanon - History

Ancient Aliens: &ldquoEastern Lebanon &ndash the Bar Car Valley. Here, at this archaeological site stand the ruins of Heliopolis built in the fourth century BC by Alexander the Great to honour Zeus. But beneath the Corinthian columns and remnants of both Greek and Roman architecture lie the ruins of a site that is much, much older. According to archaeologists it dates back nearly 9,000 years. The ancient city of Baalbek, named after the early Canaanite deity Baal.&rdquo

AA: &ldquoAnd so because it was already sacred to the god Baal then later the Greeks and the Romans would build temples on this very same spot.&rdquo

AA: &ldquoArchaeological surveys have revealed that the enormous stone foundation that lies at the base of the site dates back tens of thousands of years, but even more significant to ancient astronaut theorists is their belief that the colossal stone platform may once have served as a landing pad for space travellers.&rdquo

The idea that Ancient Aliens will try to convey is that underneath the Roman ruins lies a very old platform that was once used to launch spacecraft.

As we watch the next clip, listen for the first thing they site as evidence for this claim.

AA: &ldquoBut what was originally there before the Roman temple was this space-board platform that was apparently used for extra-terrestrials coming and going on planet Earth.&rdquo

AA: &ldquoAs evidence researchers point to the gigantic megalithic stones incorporated into the foundation. Each weighing between 800-1200 tones and perfectly fitted together.&rdquo

These three stones they are referring to are called the Trilithons and the heaviest of the three is 800 tons, not 1200 tons as they say. [1] There are two other stones that are heavier than this around the area [2] , but they are unused [3] and still connected to the bedrock in the quarries, and thus are obviously not a part of the trilithons.

The way the information is presented about these three stones leads the viewer to believe that they are part of the foundation, or platform of the Baalbek site. What they want the viewer to think is that spacecraft lifted off and landed on the stones of this platform.

They also claim that these three stones cannot be of Roman construction, as the mainstream archaeologists believe, but that they were a part of the earliest structure at the Baalbek site, and that the Greeks and Romans only built on top of this ancient foundation.

And it is true that there was a very old pre-Roman temple at this site, but we will learn more about that later.

Our focus at the moment is the Trilithons stones. Ancient Aliens says these three stones are the real mystery of Baalbek.

AA: &ldquoThis is the real mystery of Baalbek. How these stones came to be there why they were placed there and specifically how they were transported into place, because some of the stones are of such magnitude that modern machinery isn&rsquot capable of putting them there, but somehow our ancestors were able to do this.&rdquo

To solve this mystery we need to first understand that these three stones do not form the foundation of Baalbek as is so often suggested.

The Trilithon stones lay end to end or long ways, and are part of the narrow wall on the western end of the complex. They are most certainly not the foundation, nor do they constitute a platform, and it would be very awkward for a spaceship to land on top of them considering the space on top is so narrow.

Ancient Aliens tries to make it seem like no one knows the purpose for these stones, or why that had to be so heavy.

AA: &ldquoBut if the moving, hoisting and setting of such massive stones was so incredibly difficult, then who or what placed them there and, perhaps more importantly, why?&rdquo

The truth is that the purpose for this wall is very well known by archaeologists. It was a retaining wall. [4]

Retaining wall technology really improved with the Greeks because of the importance of the amphitheatre in their culture. Because most amphitheatres were sunken into the ground and surrounded by earth, they needed to construct retaining walls to hold back the soil.

Then the Romans came along and basically perfected the practice.

The rule of thumb in retaining walls, even today is the bigger and heavier the stones the better the retaining wall. Also the stones needed to be in as big of sections as possible. in other words, huge sections of uncut stone.

It is no coincidence that some of the biggest single stones in the ancient world besides Baalbek, are also used in retaining walls, and by the Romans as well, as we will see.

Retaining walls were especially important if there was a lot of soil erosion at the site, or if the platform you were trying to build was on a steep incline.

At Baalbek the platform was built right on the side of a huge hill, so for that reason alone it would require a retaining wall if they intended to make a large level platform. But if you added to that a soil erosion problem, you would have two very good reasons for a huge retaining wall at Baalbek.

So does the area around Baalbek have a problem with soil erosion? The answer is yes, probably one of the biggest in the world. You can see evidence of soil erosion all around the Baalbek site. The soil from the top of the hill has been sliding [5] down the hill into the valley below for hundreds of years.

One of the leading causes of soil erosion is deforestation. If an area that once had trees has been completely cleared of those trees, the rain no longer will have anything to slow down its velocity. Normally the rain hits tree branches and the thick foliage that accumulates on the forest floor over time. Also the soil is kept in check by root systems of trees which hold the soil in place.

Lebanon has a picture of a cedar tree on its flag. Their trees have been a symbol of pride for millennia &ndash the so called Cedars of Lebanon. But the forests have disappeared long ago as they were one of the only sites for timber in the ancient near east, and it was massively deforested in ancient times.

In fact the soil shifting is just as bad today in the Bekka valley. The UN in 2006 [6] proposed a series of solutions to deal with this now full scale environmental disaster in the Baalbek region. Homes in the region are being abandoned as their foundations shift and they become inhabitable. But although these proposed solutions by the UN may be new, this problem is an ancient one, one the Romans would have been well aware of.

The massive Trilithon stones provided the weight needed to press down and secure the stones in the wall below.

This is why you only see these huge stones one side of Baalbek &ndash the side where the steep slope is. The idea that these stones were part of a platform and were used as a landing pad is something that requires ignorance of the layout of the site in order to believe.

Well what about the age of this wall, is it from the Roman period of construction, or is it from the pre-Roman Canaanite era?

There is a lot of confusion about this point because there was indeed a very old pre-Roman temple on this site.

The Pre-Roman Canaanite temple was a pretty standard platform and alter much like other sites built by the Canaanites, [7] [8] which were referred to in the Old Testament as &ldquohigh places.&rdquo

This original site was probably chosen by the Canaanites because it was indeed on a hill, as any good &ldquohigh place&rdquo should be, but also because it was less than half a mile from the perfect stone quarry. [9]

The early versions of this temple however did not have a retaining wall. As the different groups added to the site over the years the site changed drastically, the Romans alone spent 200 years doing construction at the site. Think of that, that would be like starting a construction project in 1812 that only just now came to completion. That&rsquos a long time to be working on a project.

So yes Baalbek is built on a very old Canaanite alter to Baal, but the Trilithon stones were not part of that site, nor are they part of the foundation as is often claimed. They are part of a very necessary retaining wall.

The question still remains however about the methods for moving and lifting these stones:

AA: &ldquoSome have suggested that this stone alone weighs in excess of 1,200 tones. How was it moved there, because obviously it&rsquos situated on top of these stone rows that we can find down here, which means that this stones had to be lifted and then set on top of these stones down here?&rdquo

So, did the Romans have the technology to move and lift such stones?

Well, all you have to do is look one country over to find out.

About the same time the Romans were beginning their 200 year project at Baalbek, another project of similar magnitude was beginning by the Roman &ldquoclient king&rdquo Herod &ldquothe great&rdquo in 19BC. [10]

Herod, using Roman techniques, renovated the temple mount to earn favour with the Jews, who viewed him as a Roman proxy and not a Jew.

The expanded version of the temple was double the size of the original, but in order to make this expansion, he had to incorporate part of the hill to the northeast, which meant that he had to construct a massive retaining wall in order to hold back the force of the earth in order to build the massive platform.

There is a portion of this retaining wall still standing today, and it contains the second largest set of single stones, next to Baalbek.

Just like Baalbek there are several of these stones lined up to form the wall and to provide the weight and size needed to hold back the earth. They call the four largest stones the &ldquoMaster Course.&rdquo [11]

The weight of the heaviest one is 630 tons, only a little over 100 tons less than Baalbek&rsquos biggest stone. And no one denies that these stones were cut, moved and lifted to perfection using Roman and local techniques. [12]

(As a side note, it&rsquos tempting to think the holes visible in theses stones were used for lifting, but these holes were cut after the stones were placed, they were used to hold plaster in place for certain water projects, and only go a few inches deep.) [13]

Anyway is it really logical to believe that the Romans could cut, move and lift 630 ton blocks for retaining walls just fine, but if you added another 100 tons, it would require alien technology?

We know that the Romans, about the same time, had taken a liking to Egyptian obelisks and they started dragging them back to Rome in large numbers, and Rome was hundreds of miles by land and sea from Egypt whereas Baalbek was less than a mile from the quarry.

Some of these obelisks were almost 500 tons. [14] So the Romans had a lot of opportunities to get good at moving stones about the same size and shape as the Trilithon stones.

There are even Roman descriptions of this process of moving Obelisks by Marcellinus Comes as well as reliefs, such as the one on the bottom of the Theodosius Obelisk in Istanbul. [15] [16] [17]

The ancient Roman writings of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio describe in detail many of the Roman technological advantages like pulleys, which would reduce the force needed by half for each pulley used. He even described their ingenious way of moving stones [18] by constructing huge oak wheels on either end of the block, whether they were round, like pillars or huge rectangular stones like the Trilithons they would then be pulled by oxen to the site.

So what about the lifting of the Trilithon stones at Baalbek?

Some make the point that the Trilithon stones do not have &ldquoLewis Holes&rdquo in them like many of the other Roman stones at Baalbek. Lewis Holes is the name for the holes the Romans would drill in stones for lifting with their cranes&hellipyes, the Romans had cranes. [19] [20] And although their cranes only had a five ton capacity, often they would combine many of them together, which would obviously give them greater capacity. [21]

So why don&rsquot these three stones contain these holes like all the rest of the stones at Baalbek? Well first of all, I wouldn&rsquot be so sure that they don&rsquot, no one has ever seen what is on the ends of these stones. It may very well be that the decided against a straight up or dead lift of the trilithon stones because of their weight, and instead decided to lift up only one side of the stone.

You would only need to lift it high enough and long enough to get even the smallest brace underneath it, because at that point you would have a number of mechanical advantages and therefore options.

For example watch as this man makes a Stonehenge in his back yard all by himself using a simple counter weight method.

&ldquoI&rsquove tried to do this without any mechanical machinery at all. I&rsquove used mostly sticks and stones for my equipment. No pullies. No hoist. No metal ladders. I&rsquom just trying to use gravity too. I believe this is my favourite tool.

Girl: The first goal is getting this block three feet off the ground.

In order to move it up at this point I just rock the block back and forth &ndash adding weight to that end &ndash and that opens a gap on this side and I just slide a board in. Then I add the weight to that end and slide a board in at this end.

Girl: This Suring box acts like a jack, slowing raising the block.&rdquo

But its not really even necessary for them to have been lifted. A French Paper written by Jean-Pierre Adam meticulously details how the stones could have been moved using the specifications provided by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio by constructing roads underneath the stones on rollers [22] , and the roads were raised to lead to the exact place of their placement, which was easy at Baalbek because of the terrain, so it wouldnt require any lifting, and then using man powered drums and a system of capstans to pull the stones along the road. This method would only require 144 workers to accomplish.

It&rsquos also helpful for people to remember that the largest stone ever moved in the world is the so called Thunder Stone in Russia, moved in the 1700&rsquos using no modern equipment [23] , and this stone is 1.5 tons larger than the largest trilithon stone, and we know that moving it didn&rsquot require alien technology.

Well what about this claim?

AA: &ldquoWhat&rsquos really interesting about Baalbek is that it&rsquos always been known as the landing place. There&rsquos an actual text from Sumerian times known as the epic of Gilgamesh. Gilgamesh actually claims to have seen rockets descend and ascend from Baalbek &ndash the landing place.&rdquo

These claims come directly from the writings Zechariah Sitchin, and they are totally untrue. Baalbek was not called the &ldquolanding place&rdquo, and the Epic of Gilgamesh never speaks of rockets ascending and descending anywhere in it. [24]

Michael Heiser: &ldquoIf you&rsquore going to make these ascertains I would want to see the passage in Gilgamesh that names Baalbek specifically. I&rsquom naturally sceptical that there is a passage, but if you&rsquore going to make this claim you have to be able to establish with certainty, not even just a general region, that these are the stones that are being referred to in any given text.&rdquo

Sitchin, when making this claim in his book, never tells the reader here they can find this in the Epic of Gilgamesh. This is probably because it makes it harder for the reader to check his facts.

Heiser: &ldquoI have personally found the writings of Sitchin very frustrating from the perspective of a scholar and an academic &ndash which is what I am. It&rsquos very hard to follow his trail because he doesn&rsquot cite sources. Even if he cites a source, for instance an ancient text, he doesn&rsquot give you the chapter and verse, he doesn&rsquot give you the tablet and line numbers. I have to look at it and say it&rsquos either really lazy or he doesn&rsquot want you to check up on him. It&rsquos one or the other.&rdquo

I will link the actual section of the epic as well as a link to the online resources to check the Sumerian texts yourselves at the website [25]

Nowadays all the Sumerian tablets, including their own dictionaries are searchable online, yes the Sumerians wrote their own extensive and detailed dictionaries, so we don&rsquot have to trust Sitchin or anyone else, we can basically just ask the Sumerians what they thought a word meant.

It becomes painfully obvious to anyone that cares enough to look that Sitchin was at best totally incompetent as a translator and at worst a scam artist. See to being your journey in losing any confidence in the so called &ldquotranslations&rdquo of Zechariah Sitchin.

In conclusion: The trithilon stones are part of a necessary retaining wall, not a foundation, and such walls were common to the Greeks and Romans. The retaining wall was not part of the simple, original, much smaller temple at Baalbek. And we know from other retaining walls of similar size, built by the Romans at the same time and in the same area, time, that they were more than capable of moving and placing stones of that size and shape, also evidenced by their ability to move Obelisks. This is especially true if you gave them 200 years, and some roman pulleys and cranes.

[1] Adam, Jean-Pierre (1977), &ldquoÀ propos du trilithon de Baalbek: Le transport et la mise en oeuvre des mégalithes&rdquo, Syria 54 (1/2): 31&ndash63

[2] Ruprechtsberger, Erwin M. (1999), &ldquoVom Steinbruch zum Jupitertempel von Heliopolis/Baalbek (Libanon)&rdquo, Linzer Archäologische Forschungen 30: 7&ndash56

[3] Alouf, Michael M., 1944: History of Baalbek. American Press. p. 139

[8] Kalayan, H., &rsquoNotes on the Heritage of Baalbek and the Beqa&rsquoa&rsquo in Cultural Resources in Lebanon, Beirut, 1969

[9] Adam, Jean Pierre Anthony Mathews (1999). Roman Building: Materials and Techniques. Routledge. p. 35.

[18] Jean-Pierre Adam, 1977, A propos du trilithon de Baalbek. Le transport et la mise en oeuvre des mégalithes, &ndash English &ndash

[20] Dienel, Hans-Liudger Meighörner, Wolfgang (1997), &ldquoDer Tretradkran&rdquo, Publication of the Deutsches Museum (Technikgeschichte series) (München)

Baalbek: Lebanon's Sacred Fortress

Only one account of Lebanon’s mythical origins has been left to posterity, and this is the work of Sanchoniatho, a Phoenician historian born either in Berytus (Beirut) or Tyre on the Lebanese coast just before the Trojan war, c.1200 BC. He wrote in his native language, taking his information mostly from city archives and temple records.

In all he compiled nine books, which were translated into Greek by Philo, a native of Byblos on the Levant coast, who lived during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138). Fragments of his translation were fortunately preserved by an early Christian writer named Eusebius (AD 264-340). 44 Some scholars look upon Sanchoniatho’s writings as spurious, but others see them as preserving archaic myths of the earliest Phoenicians.

In his long discourse on the cosmogony of the world and the history of the earliest inhabitants of Lebanon, Sanchoniatho cites Byblos as Lebanon’s first city. 45 It was founded, he says, by the god Cronus (or Saturn), the son of Ouranus (Uranus or Coelus, who gave his name to Coele-Syria, ie. Syria), and grandson of Elioun (Canaanite El) and his wife Beruth (who gave her name to the city-port of Berytus or Beirut).

Sanchoniatho goes on to say that the demi-gods of Byblos possessed "light and other more complete ships", implying they were a sea-faring nation. He also states that chief among these people was Taautus, "who invented the writing of the first letters him the Egyptians called Thoor, the Alexandrians Thoyth, and the Greeks Hermes." 46 He was Cronus’ "secretary", from whom the god gained advice and assistance on all matters.

A confusing sequence of events are described for this period, during which time Cronus is constantly at war with his father Ouranus. There are also marriages, intermarriages and incestuous relationships which produce a multitude of characters, many of whom act as symbols for the expansion of this mythical culture around the Levant and into Asia Minor (modern Turkey). For instance, there is Sidon, the daughter of Pontus, who "by the excellence of her singing first invented the hymns of odes or praises". 47 Like Byblos, Sidon was a Phoenician city-port on the Lebanese coast, while Pontus was an ancient kingdom situated on the Black Sea in what is today north-eastern Turkey.

Finally, it is said that having visited "the country of the south" Cronus "gave all Egypt to the god Taautus, that it might be his kingdom", 48 implying that he was its founder.

Sanchoniatho tells us that knowledge of the age of the demi-gods of Byblos was handed down for generation after generation until it was given into the safe-keeping of "the son of Thabion. the first Hierophant of all among the Phoenicians". 49 He in turn delivered them up to the priests and prophets until they came into the possession of one Isiris, "the inventor of the three letters, the brother of Chna who is called the first Phoenician." 50

There is much more in Sanchoniatho’s mythical history, but the basic message is that a high culture with sea-faring capabilities established itself at Byblos before gradually expanding into other parts of the eastern Mediterranean. More curious is his assertion that the god Taautus, the Phoenician form of the Egyptian Thoth or Tehuti and the Greek Hermes, was some kind of founder of the Egyptian Pharaonic culture which began c.3100 BC.

Was Sanchoniatho’s work simply fable, based on the Phoenicians’ own maritime achievements, or might it contain clues concerning an actual high culture that existed in the Levant during prehistoric times?

Journey to Byblos

Certainly, the implied link between Egypt and Byblos is real enough. In the legend of Osiris and Isis, as recorded by the Greek biographer Plutarch (AD 50-120), the evil god Set tricks Osiris into a wooden coffin which is sealed before being set adrift on the sea. It is carried by the waves until it finally reaches Byblos, where it comes to rest in the midst of a tamarisk bush, which immediately grows to become a magnificent tree of great size. Inside it the coffin containing the body of Osiris remains encased. The king of that country, on seeing the great tree, has it cut down and made into "a pillar for the roof of his house". 51 Isis learns of what has happened to her husband and is able to attain entry into the palace as a handmaiden to one of the king’s sons. Each night she takes on the form of a swallow to fly around the pillar. After a fashion she convinces the queen to give her the pillar, which is then opened to reveal the body of Osiris. 52

Byblos is the clear name used in Plutarch’s account, but for some reason noted Egyptologists such as Sir E.A. Wallis-Budge have seen fit to identify this place-name with a location named Byblos in the Nile Delta, even though Plutarch himself adds that wood from the pillar, which was afterwards restored by Isis and given to the queen, "is, to this day, preserved in the temple of Isis, and worshipped by the people of Byblos". 53 In my opinion, setting this story in the Nile Delta makes no sense whatever, especially as the coffin was said to have been "carried (to Byblos) by the sea". 54

Lucian, the celebrated Greek writer (AD 120-200), spoke of the Isis-Osiris legend and connected it specifically with Byblos in Lebanon, adding that "I will tell you why this story seems credible. Every year a human head floats from Egypt to Byblos". This "head" apparently took seven days to reach its destination. It never went off course and came via a "direct route" to Byblos. Lucian claimed that this once yearly event actually happened when he himself was in Byblos, for as he records "I myself saw the head in this city". 55

What exactly Lucian witnessed, and what was really behind this head tradition is utterly unfathomable, particularly as Lucian states that the head he saw was made of "Egyptian papyrus". 56 In Christian times a St Kyrillos also apparently witnessed the event, but said that "what was borne towards him by the wind looked like a small boat". 57 All that can be said with any certainty is that this peculiar tradition appeared to preserve some kind age-old twinning between Egypt and Byblos, perhaps during the mythical age of the gods, the Zep Tepi, or First Time. As has been ably demonstrated by recent works from Hancock, Bauval et al, this believed mythical age, when gods ruled the earth, appears to have been an actual stage of human development pre-dating Pharaonic Egypt by many thousands of years. 58

Yet how might this new-found knowledge of the relationship between Egypt and Byblos relate to Baalbek?

Firstly there appears to have been a strong link between Isis-Osiris legend and the mountains north-west of Baalbek. It was said that Isis took "refuge" (presumably at the point in the story when the king and queen of Byblos discover she is daily incinerating their child on a blazing fire!) in the lake of Apheca, the ancient name for Lake Yammouneh some 32km distance from Baalbek, "and thus lived in Lebanon", or so recorded the Baalbek archaeologist and historian Michel M. Alouf. 59

The more obvious answer, however, appears to be an apparent twinning that existed between Heliopolis in Egypt and Heliopolis in Lebanon. The fifth-century Latin grammarian Macrobius wrote specifically on this subject in his curious work entitled Saturnalia. He stated that a "statue" was carried ritually from Heliopolis in Egypt to its Lebanese name-sake by Egyptian priests. He adds that after its arrival it was worshipped with Assyrian rather than Egyptian rites. 60

Some authors have suggested that this statue was that of the Egyptian sun-god, presumably Re, while others say it was a representation of Osiris. 61 In addition to this statue story, there was also a strong tradition, recounted by Macrobius and others, that the Egyptian priests actually erected a temple at Baalbek dedicated to the worship of the sun. 62 If so, then what special place did this ancient location, sacred to Baal, hold to the Heliopolitan priesthood in Egypt? Might this transmission of religious ideas from Egypt to Baalbek have been connected in some way to the once yearly arrival of an Egyptian ‘head’ at Byblos, and to Osiris’ fateful journey inside a sealed coffin?

Titans and Elohim

Aside from the suggested link with the Egyptian culture, the writings of Sanchoniatho throw further light on this apparent pre-Phoenician culture existing in the Levant during prehistoric times. He says that the "auxiliaries" or "allies" of Cronus, presumably in battle, were the "Eloeim" a misspelling of the term Elohim, the sons of whom (the bene ha-elohim) were said to have been a divine race that came unto the Daughters of Man who subsequently gave birth to giant offspring known as the Nephilim, or so records the Book of Genesis and various uncanonical works of Judaic origin. 63

Elsewhere I have put forward the hypothesis that the Sons of the Elohim — who are equated with the angelic race known as the Watchers in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, as well as in recently translated Dead Sea literature — were a race of human beings. Evidence indicates they established a colony in the mountains of Kurdistan in south-east Turkey sometime after the cessation of the last Ice Age, before going on to influence the rise of western civilisation. Their progeny, the Nephilim, were half-mortal, half-Watcher, and there is tentative evidence in the writings of Sumer and Akkad to suggest that the accounts of great battles being fought between mythical kings and demons dressed as bird-men might well preserve the distorted memories of actual conflicts between mortal armies and Nephilim-led tribes. 64 [See New Dawn nos. 40-42]

Might Cronus — who or whatever he represents — have employed the services of the bene ha-elohim in the wars against his father, Ouranus? In Greek mythology the Nephilim are equated directly with the Titans and gigantes, or ‘giants’, who waged war on the gods of Olympus and, like Cronus, were the offspring of Ouranus. In many ancient writings preserved during the early Christian era, stories concerning the Nephilim, or gibborim, ‘mighty men’, of biblical tradition are confused with the legends surrounding the Titans and gigantes. All blend together as one, and not perhaps without reason. The giants and Titans are said to have helped Nimrod, the ‘mighty hunter’ construct the fabled Tower of Babel which reached towards heaven. On its destruction by God, legends speak of how the giant races were dispersed across the bible lands. 65

According to an Arabic manuscript found at Baalbek and quoted by Alouf in his informative History of Baalbek "after the flood, when Nimrod reigned over Lebanon, he sent giants to rebuild the fortress of Baalbek, which was so named in honour of Baal, the god of the Moabites and worshippers of the Sun." 66 Local tradition even asserts that the Tower of Babel was actually located at Baalbek. 67

The involvement of Nimrod in this legend is almost certainly a misnomer, born out of the belief that only super-humans of myth and fable could ever have built such gigantic stature, in the same way that either named giants or mythical figures, such as Arthur, Merlin or the devil are accredited with the construction or presence of prehistoric monuments in Britain. Moreover, stories of giants exist right across Asia Minor and the Middle East, and these are often cited to explain the presence of either cyclopean ruins (such as the Greek city of Mycenae, the cyclopean walls of which were said to have been built by the one-eyed cyclops — hence the term ‘cyclopean’ masonry) or gigantic natural and man-made features.

On the other hand, the alleged connection between giants, Titans and Baalbek is quite another matter. It is feasible that, if the Watchers and Nephilim (and therefore the Titans and gigantes) are to be seen as a lost race of human beings, any presumed pre-Phoenician culture in Lebanon could not have failed to have encountered their presence in the Near East. If so, were alliances forged with them, wars fought alongside them?

Might the ancient skills and brute strength of these human races of great stature have been employed in grand engineering projects such as the construction of the Great Platform? Remember, the Titans were said to have been born of the same loins as Cronus, and in alliance with their half-brother, they waged war against their father Ouranus. Yet family alliances of this type can go wrong, for according to the various ancient writers on this subject, 68 after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the dispersion of the tribes, a war broke out between Cronus and his brother Titan. An early Christian writer named Lactantius (AD 250-325) records that Titan, with the help of the rest of the Titans, imprisoned Cronus and held him safe until his son Jupiter (or Zeus) was old enough to take the throne. Does this imply that the Titans deposed Cronus and took control of the Byblos culture until the coming of Zeus, or Jupiter? What influence might this forgotten race have brought to bear on the development of Lebanon’s pre-Phoenician culture? More importantly, when might any of this have taken place?

Far off in Hell

According to classical mythology, the Titans were eventually defeated by Jupiter and his fellow Olympian gods and goddesses. As punishment, they were banished to Tartarus, a mythical region of hell enclosed by a brazen wall and shrouded perpetually by a cloud of darkness. The gigantes, too, were linked with this terrible place, for they are cited by the first-century Roman writer Caius Julius Hyginus (fl. c.40 BC) as having been the "sons of Tartarus and Terra (ie. the earth)". 69

Although Tartarus has always been seen as a purely mythical location, there is reason to link it with a Phoenician city-port and kingdom known as Tartessus (Tarshish in the Bible) that thrived in the Spanish province of Andalucia during ancient times.

The evidence is this — Gyges, or Gyes, was a son or Coelus (ie. Ouranus) and a brother of Cronus he was also seen both as a gigante and a Titan (demonstrating how they were originally one and the same race). 70 He seems to have been one of the main figures in the later wars between his titanic brothers and the Olympian gods under the command of Zeus, and may simply have been Titan under another name.

Classical writers such as Ovid (43 BC-AD 18) wrote that Gyges was punished by being banished to the prison of Tartarus. Yet an account of this same story given by a Chaldean writer named Thallus, states that instead of being banished to Tamrus, Gyges was "smitten, and fled to Tartessus". 71 If this is a genuinely separate rendition of the same story then it means that Tartarus was another name for Tartessus.

The immense antiquity of Tartessus is not in question. The Greek geographer named Strabo (60 BC-20 AD) claimed that it possessed "written records" going back a staggering 7000 years. As a sea-port it is believed to have been situated on a delta of the Guadalquivir River, even though no trace of it remains today. It is also synonymous with another ancient sea-port known as Gades, modern Cadiz. E.M. Whishaw in her important 1930 work Atlantis in Andalucia uses excavated evidence of neolithic and possibly even palaeolithic sea-ports, sea-walls, cyclopean ruins and hydraulic works around the towns of Niebla and Huelva on the Andalucian coast to demonstrate the reality not only of Tartessus’s lost kingdom, but also the existence of Plato’s Atlantis.

A Sea-Faring Nation

Knowledge of the apparent links between Tartessus, the gigantes/Titans and the mythical Byblos culture is compelling evidence of an as yet unknown sea-faring nation in the Mediterranean area sometime between 7000-3000 BC, the latter half of this period being the time-frame when many of the megalithic complexes began appearing in places such as Malta and Sardinia. Charles Hapgood in his 1979 book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings concluded that the various composite portolans, such as the Piri Reis map of 1513, show areas of the globe, including the Mediterranean Sea, as they appeared at least 6000 years ago. He therefore concluded that those who had originally drawn these maps must have belonged to "one culture", who possessed maritime connections all over the globe and flourished during this distant age. 72 Was he referring here to the mythical Byblos culture? Might it have been responsible for passing on these ancient maps to civilisations such as Egypt, c.3100 BC, and Phoenicia, c.2500 BC?

The early dynastic boat burials uncovered at Giza and Abydos have revealed seagoing vessels with high prows that were never intended to be sailed on the Nile this is despite the fact that Egypt had no obvious maritime tradition during this early stage in its development. Where did this knowledge come from? Was it from the remnants of an earlier culture, such as the one spoken of by Sanchoniatho as having existed on the Levant coast in mythical times? Might this sea-faring connection help explain why the wooden coffin containing the body of Osiris was carried by the sea to Byblos, and why the priests of Heliopolis in Egypt took such an interest in Baalbek during Ptolemaic times?

It is a subject that requires much further research before any definite conclusions can be drawn, but the apparent advanced capabilities of the proposed Byblos culture allows us to perceive the antiquity of Baalbek’s Great Platform in a new light. Did the legends suggesting that it was constructed by super-human giants during the age of Nimrod preserve some kind of bastardised memory of its foundation by the Byblos culture under Ouranus, Cronus or his brothers, the Titans? If so, then who were these mythical individuals and what ancient engineering skills might their culture have employed in the construction of cyclopean structures such as the Great Platform?

Stones that Moved

In surviving folklore from both Egypt and Palestine there are tantalising accounts of how sound, used in association with ‘magic words’, was able to lift and move large stone blocks and statues, or open huge stone doors. I was therefore excited to discover that, according to Sanchoniatho, Ouranus was supposed to have "devised Baetulia, contriving stones that moved as having life". 73 By "contriving" the nineteenth-century English translator of Philo’s original Greek text seems to have meant ‘designing’, ‘devising’ or ‘inventing’, implying that Ouranus had made stones to move as if they had life of their own. Was this a veiled reference to some kind of sonic technology utilised by the proposed Byblos culture? Could this knowledge help explain the methods behind the cutting, transportation and positioning of the 1000-tonne blocks used in Baalbek’s Great Platform? It is certainly a very real possibility.

Why Baalbek?

If we accept for a moment that Baalbek’s Great Platform, and perhaps even the inner podium that supports the Temple of Jupiter, might well possess a much greater antiquity than has previously been imagined, then what purpose might the Baalbek structure have served?

Zecharia Sitchin in his 1980 book The Stairway to Heaven proposes that the Great Platform was a landing site and launch pad for extra-terrestrial vehicles. Perhaps he is right, but in my opinion its high elevation hints at the fact that it once served as some kind of platform for the observation of celestial and stellar events. It is a subject I am currently investigating for a future article.

And just how old is Baalbek?

The French archaeologist Michel Alouf apparently learnt from the Maronite Patriarch of the Baalbek region, a man named Estfan Doweihi, that: ". the fortress of Baalbek on Mt. Lebanon is the most ancient building in the world. Cain, the son of Adam, built it in the year 133 of the creation, during a fit of raving madness". 74 Unfortunately this tells us very little about the site’s real age. Yet if we can accept the existence of a pre-Phoenician culture that not only employed the use of cyclopean masonry in its building construction, but also possessed sea-going vessels and flourished in the Mediterranean somewhere between 7000 BC and 3000 BC, then it opens the door to the possibility that Baalbek’s ‘fortress’ may also date to this early phase of human history.

Yet the question remains as to why this pre-Phoenician, sea-going nation should have wished to construct an almighty edifice on an elevated plain between two enormous mountain ranges. What was the reasoning behind this decision? The site undoubtedly possessed a very ancient sanctity however, the architects may well have had more pressing reasons for placing it where they did. All the indications are that Sanchoniatho’s Byblos culture eventually experienced a period of fierce wars that waged between Cronus, or Saturn, and his titanic brothers under the leadership of Titan or Gyges, and then finally between Cronus’ son Jupiter and the rest of the Olympian deities. In a strange way the fraternal conflict between Cronus and his brothers parallels the biblical struggle between Cain and Abel, suggesting that the link between Cain and Baalbek might well have some symbolic significance to the site’s early history. 75

Is it possible that Baalbek’s first ‘city’ was constructed, not just as a religious centre, but also as an impenetrable fortress against attacks by whatever we see as constituting the gigantes and Titans of mythology? If the Great Platform, and perhaps even the inner podium, really does date to this early period, then might the fortress theory explain why its architects used such gigantic stones in its construction? Were they incorporated into the design through a combination of technological capability and sheer necessity, not through "the interest of appearance" or some ancient wall-building tradition upheld by the neo-Phoenicians of the Roman era? Such ideas may even provide some kind of explanation as to why the mother of all stone blocks, the Stone of the Pregnant Woman, was left cut and ready for transportation in a nearby quarry. Did the whole building project have to be abandoned because the site was over-run, or at least seriously threatened, by invading forces? Scholars have always accredited the Romans with having built the Great Platform, with its stupendous Trilithon stones, simply because they could not conceive of an earlier culture possessing the technological skills needed to have transported and positioned such enormous weights. The Sphinx-building culture of Egypt is evidence that such technological skills may well have been available as early as 10,500 BC, while our current knowledge of the Baalbek platform gives us firm grounds to push back its accepted construction date by at least a thousand years.

Even if the dates suggested for Sanchoniatho’s Byblos culture are open to question, I believe the sacred fortress hypothesis brings us a lot closer to unlocking the mysteries of Baalbek. Both visually and in legend its ruins bear the mark of the Titans, and understanding the site’s true place in history can only help us to discover the reality of this lost cyclopean age of mankind.

1. Ragette, Baalbek, p.33.

3. Alouf, M.M., History of Baalbek, p.98.

4. Ibid., p.39, quoting a story told by Estfan Doweihi, a Maronite Patriarch.

Mysterious Ruins

The mysterious ruins of Baalbek. One of the great Power Places of the ancient world. For thousands of years its secrets have been shrouded in darkness, or bathed in an artificial light by those who would offer us a simplistic solution to its mysteries.

The Temple of Jupiter is one of the most impressive Temples in Baalbeck. It measures 88×48 meters and stands on a podium 13 meters above the surrounding terrain and 7 meters above the courtyard. It is reached by a monumental stairway. One of the most amazing engineering achievements is the Podium which was built with some of the largest stone blocks ever hewn. On the west side of the podium is the “Trilithon”, a celebrated group of three enormous stones weighing about 800 tons each.

Some archaeologists might well wish that Baalbek had been buried forever. For it is here that we find the largest dressed stone block in the world – the infamous Stone of the South, lying in its quarry just ten minutes walk from the temple acropolis. This huge stone weighs approximately 1,000 tons – almost as heavy as three Boeing 747 aircraft.

Watch the video: Baalbek Megaliths