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UNESCO World Heritage Site
Temple of Ba'al
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Temple of Baal-Shamin, Palmyra.jpg
The temple of Baalshamin in Palmyra before its destruction in August 2015.

Location Syria
Type Cultural
Criteria i, ii, iv
Reference 23
UNESCO region Arab States
Inscription history
Inscription 1980 (1980) (4th Session)
Endangered War
Aglibol, Baalshamin (center), and Malakbel (1st century; found near Palmyra, Syria)

Baalshamin or Ba'al Šamem[1] (Aramaic: ܒܥܠ ܫܡܝܢ), lit. 'Lord of Heaven(s)', is a Northwest Semitic god and a title applied to different gods at different places or times in ancient Middle Eastern inscriptions, especially in Canaan/Phoenicia and Syria. The title was most often applied to Hadad, who is also often titled just Ba‘al. Baalshamin was one of the two supreme gods and the sky god of pre-Islamic Palmyra in ancient Syria (Bel being the other supreme god).[2] There his attributes were the eagle and the lightning bolt, and he perhaps formed a triad with the lunar god Aglibol and the sun god Malakbel.[3]

In August 2015, Syrian officials and activists reported that ISIL had "placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baalshamin... and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple," and killed Khaled al-Asaad, a prominent Syrian archaeologist who worked at the site.[4][5] Later, photographs emerged of the destroyed structure which were confirmed by satellite images.[6]


This name was originally a title of Baal Hadad, in the 2nd millennium BCE, but came to designate a distinct god circa 1000 BCE.[7] The earliest known mention of this god or title is in a treaty of the 14th century BCE between Suppiluliumas I, King of the Hittites, and Niqmaddu II, King of Ugarit. Although this could be a reference to Baal Hadad, and again when the name appears in a Phoenician inscription by King Yeḥimilk of Byblos, other texts make a distinction between the two.[citation needed]

In the treaty of 677 BCE between King Esarhaddon of Assyria and King Ba‘al I of Tyre, a curse is laid against King Baal if he breaks the treaty, reading in part:

"May Baal-sameme, Baal-malage, and Baal-saphon raise an evil wind against your ships, to undo their moorings, tear out their mooring pole, may a strong wave sink them in the sea, a violent tide [. . .] against you."[citation needed]

The god Baal-malage is otherwise unexplained. Baal-saphon here and elsewhere seems to be Ba'al Hadad, whose home is on Mount Ṣaphon in the Ugaritic texts. But interpreters disagree as to whether these are here three separate gods or three aspects of the same god, a god who causes stormy weather on the sea.[citation needed]

In any case, inscriptions show that the cult of Ba'al Šamem continued in Tyre from Esarhaddon's day until towards the end of the 1st millennium BCE.[citation needed]

In Sanchuniathon's main mythology the god he calls in Greek 'Uranus'/'Sky' has been thought by some to stand for Ba'al Šamem. Sky is here the actual father of Baal Hadad (although Baal Hadad is born after his mother's marriage to Dagon). As in Greek mythology and Hittite mythology, Sky is castrated by his son, who is in turn destined to be opposed by the thunder god. In Sanchuniathon's story, Sky also battles Sea; Sky finds himself unable to prevail, so he allies himself with Hadad.[citation needed]

In Nabatean texts in Greek, Baal Shamin is regularly equated with Zeus Helios, that is Zeus as a sun-god. Sanchuniathon supports this:

"... and that when droughts occurred, they stretched out their hands to heaven towards the sun; for him alone (he says) they regarded as god the lord of heaven, calling him Beelsamen, which is in the Phoenician language 'lord of heaven', and in Greek 'Zeus'."[8]

Unfortunately, it is not clear whether Baalshamin is here regarded as a sun-god and the bringer of rain, or whether he is regarded as the cause of drought.[citation needed]

Writers in Syriac refer to Baalshamin as Zeus Olympios.[citation needed]

The temple was discovered in the 1970s by the French archeologist Robert du Mesnil du Buisson.[9]

On 24 August 2015 (or possibly within the previous month), the temple was destroyed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This is what he is called in books most often as a Syrian god and as a Phoenician god, respectively. Other versions used frequently are: Ba'al Shamin, Ba'al Samin, Ba'al-Shamem, Ba'al Shamim, Baal Shamem, Ba'alsamem, Baal Shamin, Baal-Samin, Beelsamen, Ba'alsamin, Baal-Samen, Baal-Shamen, Baalsamin, Baalsamen, Baal-shamim, Ba'alshamin, Baal-Samim, Baal-Samem, Baalsamem, Baalsamim, Baalshamem, Beelsamin, Beel-Samen, Beelshamen, Baal-Shamayim, Ba'alsamen, Beel-Samin, Baalshamim, Baalshamen, and about as many more which are less frequent.
  2. ^ Dirven, Lucinda (1999). The Palmyrenes of Dura-Europos: A Study of Religious Interaction in Roman Syria. BRILL. p. 76. ISBN 978-90-04-11589-7. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  3. ^ Kaizer, Ted (2002). The Religious Life of Palmyra: A Study of the Social Patterns of Worship in the Roman Period. Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 87, 88, 140. ISBN 978-3-515-08027-9. Retrieved 17 July 2012. 
  4. ^ a b "Palmyra's Baalshamin temple 'blown up by IS'". BBC. 2015-08-23. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  5. ^ "He looked after the ancient ruins of Palmyra for 40 years. Now ISIS has killed him.". PRI. 2015-08-23. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  6. ^ "Satellite images confirm Palmyra temple razing.". Times of Israel. 2015-08-30. Retrieved 2015-08-30. 
  7. ^ Healey, John F. (2001). The Religion of the Nabataeans: A Conspectus. BRILL. p. 124. ISBN 978-90-04-10754-0. Retrieved 21 June 2012. 
  8. ^ Eusebius of Caesarea, Praeparatio Evangelica 1:10.
  9. ^ "Robert du Mesnil du Buisson", in Je m'appelle Byblos, Jean-Pierre Thiollet, H & D, 2005, p. 255. ISBN 2 914 266 04 9

External links[edit]