This was first posted on May 15, 2012:
As the fighting increases between pro and anti Assad forces in Lebanon and that country approaches what may be another civil war, I’m reflecting on my travels there during more peaceful times. The Roman ruins, such as the Temple of Jupiter at Baalbek, Lebanon, are an astounding treasure that I think most Americans would love to see and most Lebanese would love to have them see, leaving their dollars behind. There is a Lebanese currency, I forget whether it’s denoted as pounds or lira, but it doesn’t matter because nobody wants it, at least not when I was there. I had no need to change dollars into it, that would have been foolish. American dollars are what they wanted then, and a single dollar usually bought quite a bit. Everything seemed to be a dollar, whether an ice cream cone, newspaper, cab ride from Jounieh to Beirut (2.3 km), or a cup of coffee in an internet cafe. I don’t know about now.
This is a photo I took of ruins of the Temple of Jupiter (also, Temple of Bacchus) at Baalbek, in the Bekaa Valley. It is majestic as you can see by the tiny human figures in the foreground (click photo to enlarge):
Jupiter was the king of Roman gods and was the god of rain, thunder and lightening. The Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek was completed about 150 A.D. The Roman Empire converted to Christianity in 313 A.D. Syria and Lebanon were added to the Roman Empire in 64 B.C. After about 395 A.D. the Romans were in chaos and confusion and anarchy ruled the region until a series of severe earthquakes in the 6th Century destroyed much of the remaining temples and other structures built by the Romans. Beirut was a thriving city at this time, however, and was the site of a famous law school. The earthquakes destroyed the school and pretty much leveled the city. The damage seen in this photo of the Temple of Jupiter probably occurred at that time. It was also then that the region came under Arab rule, as it remains today.
Lebanon has Roman ruins literally everywhere. This photo I took in Beirut shows Roman columns through which an inviting sidewalk cafe can be seen in the background (click photo to enlarge).