The City of Gods

post 45/365


The first glimpse of Baalbek when you walk in is that of the six Corinthian columns of the Great Temple thrusting 22 meters into the skyline. Towering high above the Beqaa plain, their monumental proportions proclaimed the power and wealth of Imperial Rome. Baalbek exerts a fascination unparalleled, for among all the remains scattered here and there throughout what was once the Roman Empire, there is none quite like it.

Baalbek is unique, not only because it shows signs of almost continual habitation over the last 8–9000 years, but also because it was a place of worship for two different cults. The Greek temple, which stood on the same site as Baalbek, then called Heliopolis (city of the sun), was one of the wonders of the world. Hence the profound originality of Baalbek, it gathers cultures and civilizations all in this complex of temples. The Roman gods became assimilated with the local deities. Ba’al, lord of natural forces, became the Greek god Zeus and then his Roman equivalent, Jupiter. Ashtart, goddess of fertility, became the Greek Aphrodite and later the Roman Venus. As for Adon, the demi-god became the Greek version Hermes and later on the Roman Mercury. Baalbek is a unique artistic creation, which reflects the amalgamation of Phoenician beliefs with the gods of the Greco-Roman pantheon through an amazing stylistic metamorphosis.

Daybreak and dusk have a special charm on this site, with the slanting rays of the sun bathing the temples and the wild mountains behind them in soft pastel light fading in the distance. Each moment of the day brings a change in shade and light, moving from beauty to ever more mysterious beauty. You can stand there for hours and behold its enigmatic magnificence. This Temple that was ravaged by time, and re-built by different civilizations, its aura of power and its bright shining ray still linger in the breeze that whispers around it. To think that there, all assembled to celebrate life, love, wine, power, sun, and land. The things that still make Lebanon unique in my eyes. How befitting and symbolic for two cultures, East and West, to mingle in the land of plenty and richness, amongst the fertile plains of the Beqaa valley, overlooking the stout eastern mountains, and where rivers flow like an endless soul.

Standing there, exposed to the skies, one can’t help but wonder if we are all but gods that crumble into a temple of bodily ruins just like Baalbek. One marvels at how those beautiful temples survived, harmed, but survived centuries of human practice. To think of the greatness it once was and how majestically humbled it stands now, more pervasive than a wind, a bounty of its spirit enlivening, riotous, beautiful, commanding, and humbling. It stands there for us, facing us, reminding us to celebrate life, in all its glory.

Because Baalbek is just pure magnificence, a treasure handed to us by 9000 years of civilization and rumor has it that it was build by an unearthly civilization, aliens, I #livelovelebanon and I will #fighton

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