Snuggled deep within the scenic Beqa’a Valley is an age-old acropolis devoted to, at different times, a wide variety of gods and goddesses. It was originally dedicated to Semitic divinities: El; Ba’al; and his goddess partner Astarte, whose cult involved prostitution and sacred orgies. Next came the Greek temples of Zeus, Aphrodite, and Hermes. The Romans built right on top of the Greek locations but changed the deity names to Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury. Biblical sources attribute the founding of Ba’albek to Cain after his banishment by Jehovah. The three Roman temples are the only to survive largely intact, and the Venus monument is regarded the most complete Roman temple in the world.
In times of antiquity, large numbers of pilgrims came from Mesopotamia and the Nile Valley to visit the legendary Ba’al–Astarte complex and its oracle. The Bible mentions Ba’albek in the Book of Kings. Underneath the temple complex is a vast network of underground tunnels, which were likely intended to provide shelter for the multitudes of pilgrims. Ancient Arab writings tell that the Temples of Ba’al–Astarte were constructed a short time after the Great Flood. According to legend, the structures were built at the order of the renowned King Nimrod and a “tribe of giants.”
The acropolis of Ba’albek, with its massive temples and imposing ruins, is one of the most enigmatic sites in the world. The Roman sanctuaries were located upon earlier Greek temples, and those were built upon much older Semitic ruins. While the Roman and Greek architectural wonders do not pose archaeological problems, the earlier Semitic ruins certainly do. Most confounding is the enclosure wall called the Trilithon, composed of three hewn blocks of stone each weighing more than 750 tons (680,000 kg)!
The Trilithon wall is an amazing feat of construction. The colossal blocks of stone were raised 22 feet (6.6 m) above slightly smaller blocks. There is no crane in the modern world that can lift even half the weight of these Trilithon stones. Furthermore, not even a knife blade can be inserted between these gigantic blocks because they are so expertly fitted together. Another stone called Hadjar el Gouble, Arabic for “Stone of the South,” is in a nearby quarry and is even larger than the Trilithon stones. The Stone of the South is 13 by 13 feet (4 m) and nearly 70 feet (21 m) long, and is estimated to weigh at least 1,000 tons (907,000 kg)! It is the largest hewn stone in the world.
Although Ba’albek contains a large amount of Roman ruins, it is very unlikely the Romans or the Greeks constructed the Trilithon, but merely ‘piggybacked’ on an already sacred site as is common worldwide. The Greeks called the site “Heliopolis,” which means “Sun Temple” or “Sun City,” yet this prehistoric Sun Temple was built on the ruins of a much older Semitic structure. The massive platform was constructed by an ancient race of highly sophisticated builders, who, it has been suggested, employed a sort of sound harmonics to render the stones weightless in order to set them into place