Temple of Bacchus

Coordinates: 34°00′22″N 36°12′15″E / 34.006079°N 36.204038°E / 34.006079; 36.204038
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Temple of Bacchus
General information
TypeRoman temple
Architectural styleClassical
LocationBaalbek, Lebanon
Heliopolis, Roman Phoenicia
Completedlate 2nd or early 3rd century
Height31 m (102 ft)
Technical details
Size66 by 35 m (217 by 115 ft)

The Temple of Bacchus is part of the Baalbek archaeological site, in Beqaa Valley region of Lebanon.[1] The temple complex is considered an outstanding archaeological and artistic site of Imperial Roman Architecture and was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.[1] This monument to Bacchus is one of the best preserved and grandest Roman temple ruins; its age is unknown, but its fine ornamentation can be dated to the second century CE.


The temple was probably commissioned by Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (r. AD 138-161). No information was recorded about the site until a 4th-century Greek conquest, by which point the temple would likely have been closed due to the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire. When the complex fell into disrepair, the Temple of Bacchus was possibly protected by the rubble of the rest of the site's ruins.

It was not until 1898–1903 that a German expedition excavated two of the large temples and began reconstructions on the site.[2] In 1920, the State of Greater Lebanon was proclaimed and protections and repairs of the site were mandated by the Lebanese government.

In the mid-1970s the Lebanese civil war broke out and protections of the site ceased as Al-Biqā became a stronghold for Palestinian and Syrian forces. [3] In 1984 the ruins at Baalbek were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[1] Preservation of the site began in the 1990s following the end of the war.

The German Archaeological Institute's Orient Department has done a number of archaeological excavations and research on The Temple of Bacchus and the entire temple complex.[4] The site is continually being researched and assessed, such as documentation of reliefs and sculptures, archaeozoological research on fauna in the ruins, urban development and its relationship to Baalbek.


The entrance to the Temple of Bacchus in the 1870s
Corinthian capitals ornamenting the columns of the Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek

The temple is 66 m long, 35 m wide and 31 m high, making it only slightly smaller than the Temple of Jupiter.[5] The podium on which the temple sits is on an East-West axis. The peripheral wall is adorned by a colonnade of forty-two unfluted Corinthian columns with Ionic bases, nineteen of which remain upright. There are eight columns along each end and fifteen along each side —nearly 20 m (66 ft) in height. These were probably erected in a rough state and then rounded, polished, and decorated in position. The columns support a richly carved entablature, which includes an architrave with a three-banded frieze that is decorated with alternating bulls and lions and cornice ornamented with geometric and floral patterns.

Inside, the cella is decorated with Corinthian pilasters flanking two levels of niches on each side. The parapets are decorated with dancing Maenads, supporting the attribution of the temple to Bacchus. The interior of the temple is divided into a 98 ft (30 m) nave and a 36 ft (11 m) adytum or sanctuary [6] on a platform raised 5 ft (2 m) above it and fronted by 13 steps.

The entrance was preserved as late as the 16th century, but the keystone of the lintel had slid 2 ft (1 m) following the 1759 earthquakes; a column of rough masonry was erected in the 1860s or '70s to support it. The earthquakes also damaged the area around the soffit's famed inscription of an eagle,[7] which was entirely covered by the keystone's supporting column.[7] Some historic Roman coins depict the structure of this temple along with Temple of Jupiter.[8]

The Temple is enriched by some of the most refined reliefs and sculpture to survive from antiquity.[9] There are four sculptures carved within the peristyle that are believed to be depictions of Acarina which would make them the first recognizable representations of mites in architecture.[10]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b c UNESCO World Heritage Site
  2. ^ Seyrig, Henri (1929). "La Triade héliopolitaine et les temples de Baalbek". Syria. 10 (4): 314–356. doi:10.3406/syria.1929.3414. ISSN 0039-7946. JSTOR 4236962.
  3. ^ Britannica Baalbeck
  4. ^ German Archaeological Institute
  5. ^ Sear (1982), p. 247.
  6. ^ Jessup (1881) p. 458
  7. ^ a b Chisholm (1911), p. 90.
  8. ^ Kevin Butcher, p 366
  9. ^ Jessup (1881) p. 459 459
  10. ^ Gorirossi-Bourdeau, F. (1995). "A documentation in stone of Acarina in the Roman Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek, Lebanon, about 150 AD, it will soon return into the hands of the new Roman Empire". Bull Ann Soc Ent Belgique.


  • Gorirossi-Bourdeau, F. (1995). "A documentation in stone of Acarina in the Roman Temple of Bacchus in Baalbek, Lebanon, about 150 AD". Bull Ann Soc Ent Belgique.
  • Jessup, Samuel. Ba'albek (Picturesque Palestine, Sinai and Egypt) Ed. Appleton & Co. New York, 1881 ([1])
  • Lewis, Norman N. (1999). "Baalbek Before and After the Earthquake of 1759: The Drawings of James Bruce". Levant. 31 (1): 241–253. doi:10.1179/lev.1999.31.1.241.
  • Sabel, Pennie (2002). "Baalbek Keeps its Secrets". Stone World. 19 (9): 156–162. ProQuest 213631469.
  • Segal, Arthur (2000). "Colossal Engimas". Archaeology Odyssey: 50–53, 56, 58, 60–61.
  • "Lebanon: Baalbek Festival". The Globe and Mail (1936-Current). May 7, 1997. ProQuest 1400733423.

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Baalbek". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

External links[edit]

34°00′22″N 36°12′15″E / 34.006079°N 36.204038°E / 34.006079; 36.204038