Baalbek (earlier known as Heliopolis, but not to be confused with Heliopolis in Egypt), a town in the Bekaa valley of Lebanon, altitude 3850 ft, situated E of the Litani River and near where its waters meet those of the Asi. Population (in 1911) about 5000, including 2000 Metawali and 1000 Christians (Maronite and Orthodox). As of 1902 Baalbek was connected by railway with Rayak (Rejak) on the Beirut-Damascus line, and as of 1907 with Aleppo. It is famous for its temple ruins of the Roman period, before which we have no record of it, although it seems certain that Heliopolis is a translation of an earlier native name of which Baal was an element. It has been suggested, but without good reason, that this name was the Baalgad of Joshua 11:17.
Heliopolis was made a colonia probably by Octavian (coins of 1st century AD), and there must have been a Baal temple there in which Trajan consulted the oracle. The foundation of the present buildings, however, dates from Antoninus Pius, and their dedication from Septimius Severus, whose coins first show the two temples. The great courts of approach were not finished before the reigns of Caracalla and Philip. In commemoration, no doubt, of the dedication of the new sanctuaries, Severus conferred the jus Italicum on the city. The greater of the two temples was sacred to Jupiter (Baal), identified with the sun, with whom were associated Venus and Mercury as iJ5~~sot OeoL (bad OCR here???). The lesser temple was built in honor of Bacchus (not the sun, as formerly believed). Jupiter-Baal was represented locally as a beardless god in long scaly drapery, holding a whip in his right hand and lightning and ears of corn in his left. Two bulls supported him. In this guise he passed into European worship in the 3rd century and 4th century AD The extreme licence of the Heliopolitan worship was often commented upon by early Christian writers, and Constantine, making an effort to curb the Venus cult, built a basilica. Theodosius I erected another, with a western apse, in the main court of the Jupiter temple.
When Abu Ubaida (or Obaida) attacked the place after the Muslim capture of Damascus (AD 635), it was still an opulent city and yielded rich booty. It became a bone of contention between the various Syrian dynasties and the caliphs first of Damascus, then of Egypt, and in 748 was sacked with great slaughter. In 1090 it passed to the Seljuks and in 1134 to Gengis Khan; but after 1145 it remained attached to Damascus and was captured by Saladin in 1175. The Crusaders raided its valley more than once, but never took the city. Three times shaken by earthquakes in the 12th century, it was dismantled by 1260. But it revived, and most of its fine mosque and fortress architecture, still extant, helt-meq (bad OCR???) to the reign of Sultan KalaŁn (1282) and the succeeding century, during which Abulfeda describes it as a very strong place. In 1400 Timur pillaged it, and in 1517 it passed, with the rest of Syria, to the Ottoman Empire. But Ottoman jurisdiction was merely nominal in the Lebanon, and Baalbek was really in the hands of the Metawali (see Lebanon), who retained it against other Lebanonese tribes, until Jezzar Pasha, the rebel governor of Acre province, broke their power in the last half of the 18th century. The anarchy that succeeded his death in 1804 was ended only by the Egyptian occupation (1832). With the treaty of London (1840) Baalbek became really Ottoman, and since about 1864 has attracted great numbers of tourists.
Originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.