In alternative history circles there's a frequent claim that the massive trilithon at the temple to Jupiter in Baalbek is evidence of a lost civilization or alien interference.

A less fantastic claim is that the stones were simply there from a previous temple structure.

The stones are among the world's largest moved monoliths.

Contrary to common usage of trilithon – forming a kind of doorway looking structure, usually free-standing – these stones are laid flat, in a row, integrated and forming part of the temple's foundation:

enter image description here

Wikipedia claims:

It is not known who commissioned or designed the temple, nor exactly when it was constructed. Work probably began around 16 BC and was nearly complete by about AD 60. […]

The original method of construction remains an archeological mystery.

While I definitely doubt the more fantastic claims, and I can find archeological writings that attribute the stones to the Romans and how they likely achieved it, I can't find anything that states how the stones were dated to the Roman period.

  • 3
    It seems like reading further down in the WP article answers this question: "construction probably started soon after c. 16 BC, when Baalbek became a Roman colony... It was largely completed by AD 60 as evidenced by a graffito located on one of the topmost column drums." Basically they can put an upper bound on the date of the building by the first appearance of graffiti on it, and a lower bound by when the area became colonized by the culture that used that architectural style. Does that answer the question?
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 9, 2022 at 14:11
  • 2
    ...as for the question in the title, architectural styles are like cultural fingerprints. Why would anyone else in the ancient world spend that much effort to build a Roman-style temple? If the Greeks had built it, they would have built a Greek-style temple. Persians would have built a Persian-style temple. If I'm going to a lot of effort to make something myself, I'm making it my way.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 9, 2022 at 14:19
  • @T.E.D. The 'trilithon' is just a part of 3 very big stones in that temple structure. I guess the Q is who made/quarried and transported them? That 'the Romans' used them for the temple seems 'clearer' than who quarried it, when, how, why, although how Romans put them into their present place if they didn't/couldn't quarry them is still unclear then. That Romans tried their luck there with some biggy stones seems not impossible (darn alt-hist angle here), but providing a convincing A here does, imo. Sep 9, 2022 at 14:36
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    @LаngLаngС - Seems like the WP page answers that too. They do admit some specific construction details are unknown, but "that's unknown" is an answer too. But the fact that the quarry was uphill certainly makes the whole thing feasible, even if we have no way of figuring out the nitty details.
    – T.E.D.
    Sep 9, 2022 at 14:39
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    I should state that the claim that's made is the the Roman era temple is built on the foundations built by an earlier civilization, possibly Babylonian. Echoes similar claims concerning South American architecture. I can find information about those sites fairly easily. The is statements that for example looking at the foundation the blocks rest on turn up Roman material. But I can't find a source for the claim.
    – Mike
    Sep 9, 2022 at 22:25

1 Answer 1


According to Daniel Lohman's work, the three stones are dated based on their arrangement in a "fashionable Roman manner".

Lohman shows that the lower levels are an older temple (e.g. they have stairs that now go nowhere), with the famous giant stones placed on top. He then cites Hoffman, and refers to the "fashionable Roman manner". I have not read the Hoffman article, but presumably this refers to the many examples of Romans building on top of earlier temples. For example, Herod built a new gigantic foundation for his Jerusalem temple, but built it on the site of the older temple.

Given that we have many examples of the Romans doing this, and the foundations have a Roman temple, and there are no other obvious candidates, it is therefore most likely that the large stones are Roman.


Lohmann, Daniel (2010), "Giant Strides towards Monumentality: The architecture of the Jupiter Sanctuary in Baalbek/Heliopolis", Bolletino di Archaologia [Bulletin of Archaeology], vol. Special Volume, pp. 29–30

Lohman quotes HOFFMANN A., 1998. Terrace and Temple: Remarks on the Architectural History of the Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek. In H. SADER, T. SCHEFFLER and A. NEUWIRTH (eds), Baalbek: Image and Monument, 279–304. Stuttgart.

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