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THE EARLIEST SURVIVING PHOTOGRAPHS OF BAALBEK
Baalbek, formerly Heliopolis, and now in Lebanon, was ruled by the Romans from 64BC. They held power for 700 years, after which the city fell under Arab rule. It was one of the most important cities of the region during the Roman period and the monumental temple complex constructed by the Romans was one of the largest and most impressive. The temples, predominantly from the 2nd - 3rd centuries AD, are considered along with such buildings as the Pantheon and Hadrian's Villa, to represent the ultimate in Roman architecture. They combine grand and elaborate spatial compositions with rich decoration, at a time when architects were increasingly modifying the strict orders and other ornament inherited from Greece.
There are three main temples on the site. The largest is known as the Temple of Jupiter, titled Le Grand Temple by Girault de Prangey. It had an entranceway leading to an unusual hexagonal forecourt and a large rectangular main court (over 100 x 100 metres). The rectangular court opened onto a portico with 84 granite columns brought from Aswan in Egypt. At the western end of the main court was the sanctuary, another building with a Corinthian colonnade, each column almost 20 metres high. The temple known as the Temple of Bacchus, stands on a high podium with a colonnade and porch composed of fifty tall, unfluted Corinthian columns. This is the temple described as Le Petit Temple by Girault de Prangey. It has a portico with a richly detailed convex ceiling in a distinctive triangulated pattern framing busts of various gods including Mars. The smallest of the three main buildings, known as the Temple of Venus, is a small circular shrine, so perfect it inspired the lantern of Borromini's church of St. Ivo in Rome in the 17th century, the artist's Temple Circulaire. Among the lesser remains are parts of the town walls, traces of another temple, important Roman mosaics from private homes, a ruined mosque and extensive Arab fortifications.
The first major excavation of the two larger temples was conducted between 1898 and 1903, more than fifty years after Girault de Prangey photographed the site in 1843-44.