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Temple of Jupiter in Heliopolis

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

The six remaining columns of the Jupiter temple
The six remaining columns of the Jupiter temple

A rich spectre of ancient Roman architectural achievements is reflected all over the Empire’s former territory. The largest ever-built Roman temple is located in today’s Lebanon, in the Bekaa Valley.

The temple of Jupiter in Heliopolis was built over the span of over two centuries and its construction began as early as 1st age BCE. It was completed during the reign of Philip the Arab when the propylaea and the hexagonal courtyard were added to the complex. The temple in the form of a peripteros was placed on a raised platform and consisted of 54 Corinthian columns with a diameter of almost 2.5 metres and almost 20 metres high – 10 columns in the front and back and 19 on each side. Because of earthquakes only six columns remain standing today. Due to one of the quakes, three columns fell in the late 18th century.

There is one of the largest stones ever used for building purposes in the base of the temple – three of them weigh around 800 tonnes each. Moreover, in the quarry located 800 metres away, there are two stones which were not completely extracted from the site, weighing 1,000 and 1,200 tonnes. It remains unclear until today how exactly the stones were transported and placed in their locations. It is only clear that the fact that the quarry is located above the temple complex could help in the process.

In front of the temple, there is a rectangular courtyard with a sacrificial altar and pools for ablution. It was surrounded by a portico with niches for statues and a colonnade of 84 columns – part of them was stolen over the centuries and some were used in the construction of Hagia Sophia and Süleymaniye Mosque. Below the raised platform and on a side of the Jupiter temple there is a temple of Bacchus from the 2nd century CE which remains in a much better condition. Not far from the two temples, there is also a small temple dedicated to Venus from the 3rd century CE, separated from the complex with a small sideroad.

Author: Jakub Ernt
  • Paul Doyle, Lebanon, Chesham, 2012, Bradt
  • Author's own photos - August 2022

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