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Roman structures atop massive pre-Roman stones of Baalbek (Enlarge) The first-century AD Jewish historian Josephus tells of Alexander's march through the Beqa'a on his way to Damascus, during which he encountered the city of Baalbek.Following the death of Alexander in 323 BC, Phoenicia was ruled successively by the Ptolemaic kings of Egypt and the Seleucid kings of Syria until the arrival of the Romans.If Solomon had really erected the site of Baalbek, however, it is astonishing that the Old Testament has mentioned nothing of the matter.After the time of Solomon, the Phoenicians became masters of Syria and chose the site of Baalbek for a temple to their Sun-god Baal-Hadad. The late 11th century BC witnessed the arrival of an Assyrian army on the Mediterranean coast but because Baalbek is not mentioned alongside the names of other Phonecian cities, it has been assumed that Baalbek was an obscure religious center with no political or trading importance.Roman structures at pre-Roman site of Baalbek (Enlarge) Approximately 86 kilometers northeast of the city of Beirut in eastern Lebanon stands the temple complex of Baalbek.
Within the sprawling complex are a profusion of temples and platforms filled with a stunning collection of fallen columns and sculptures.Biblical passages (I Kings, IX: 17-19) mention the name of King Solomon in connection with a place that may be ancient Baalbek (“And Solomon built Gezer and Beth-Horon, the lower, and Baalath and Tadmor in the wilderness”), but most scholars are hesitant to equate this Baalath with Baalbek and therefore deny any connection between Solomon and the ruins.Because the great stones of Baalbek are similar, though far larger, than the stones of the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, archaic myths had arisen that Solomon erected both structures.The golden age of Roman building at Baalbek/Heliopolis began in 15BC when Julius Caesar settled a legion there and began construction of the great Temple of Jupiter.During the next three centuries, as emperors succeeded one another in the imperial capital of Rome, Heliopolis would be filled with the most massive religious buildings ever constructed in the far reaching Roman Empire.
Long before the Romans conquered the site and built their enormous temple of Jupiter, long even before the Phoenicians constructed a temple to the god Baal, there stood at Baalbek the largest stone block construction found in the entire world.