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Set 53 miles (85 kms) outside of Beirut in the fertile Beqaa Valley, the ancient city of Baalbek is inarguably Lebanon’s greatest Roman treasure. An architectural pinnacle of empire known to the Romans as Heliopolis, this UNESCO World Heritage site has served as a center of worship for a staggering number of millennia.

Civilizations as old as the Phoenicians worshiped here and themselves built massive stone structures to “Baal”, revered Phoenician deity and possible subject for the town’s name of Baalbek. With the arrival of the Romans in 64 BC, Baalbek was converted to a pagan center of worship and work was begun on the massive Temple of Jupiter, a hulking structure of granite columns which would eventually become the largest temple ever built in the history of the Roman Empire. While many of the columns have crumbled and eight were even relocated to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, six columns still remain standing and provide a relevant framework.

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