The great temple at Baalbeck or Heliopolis has stood since the beginning of our era when it was one of the wonders of the world. It and the second temple, with its cellar almost intact, make up one of the most beautiful and famous of ancient monuments. Baalbeck is indeed a place where the visitor can still recapture the fascination and atmosphere of the past.
There are legends to explain its exceptional size, its gigantic proportions and huge blocks, particularly the three which each measure between 19-20 m. by 4.50 m. by 3.60 m.
An even greater block still lies in the quarry. An archaeologist has declared that this block alone would make a visit to Baalbeck worthwhile.
For centuries popular fancy connected the place with biblical figures, mankind before the flood, with giants and djinns, and even recently an apparently serious scientist attributed the platform on which the great temple stands to beings who had landed from another planet in remote times.
Baalbeck suffered with the passage of time. Its history disappeared in legend and its temples became unrecognizable through Byzantine and mediaeval additions, ravages of war, earthquakes and vandalism. But now, thanks to the work of excavation, consolidation and restoration carried out since the beginning of the century, we can see the buildings of Baalbeck almost as they were in their prime with the later additions removed.
The way into the sanctuary is once more through the propylaea and hexagonal forecourt. The visitor now reaches the vast court of sacrifice, once encumbered by a Byzantine basilica, and now cleared to show its original state with the monumental altar and second altar flanked by ornamental pools for ritual washing.