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Baalbec

Baalbec, or Baalbek (city of the sun or of Baal, Gk., Heliopolis), an ancient city of Syria, situated in a fertile valley at the foot of Anti-Libanus, about 4,500 feet above sea level, 35 miles N.N.W. of Damascus. Being on the route from Tyre to Palmyra, it acquired in very remote times vast wealth and splendour, but is not mentioned by name in the Bible, or in any author earlier than Josephus. The city was made a colony of Rome under Julius Cassar, and was occupied by a garrison under Augustus. In the first three centuries of Christianity it was the scene of fierce opposition to the new faith. The Moslems captured it after a severe struggle in 638, and the Caliph of Damascus in 748 A.D. sacked and dismantled it, inflicting a heavy blow on its prosperity. In the 11th century the Seljukian dynasty were masters here till dispossessed by Genghis Khan, and in 1145 it was again subject to Damascus. Earthquakes inflicted much damage in the 12th century, and in 1400 it was pillaged by Timur, and afterwards became incorporated in the Turkish empire. The old walls, four miles in circumference, can still be traced; but the present population is housed in a miserable collection of huts. The Great Temple of Baal is one of the most magnificent ruins of the East, standing on a lofty artificial platform, and covering an area of some four acres. The temple itself, with its peristyle of fifty-four columns 62 feet high, measured at least 250 feet in length and 140 in breadth. Not far from this majestic structure stands the Temple of the Sun, exceeding in size and proportions the Parthenon at Athens. The Circular Temple is comparatively small, but is a finished specimen of architecture. These ruins have not yet been fully explored. Two mosques of a much later date, and the traces of Saracenic fortifications deserve notice.

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