Temple of Bel (Palmyra)

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The Temple of Bel (معبد بعل), also spelled as B'al, sometimes also referred to as the "Temple of Baal", was an ancient temple located in Palmyra, Syria. The temple of Bel was considered among the best preserved first century CE buildings in ancient Palmyra. It was destroyed by the Islamic State during the Syrian Civil War in August 2015 CE.

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The temple precinct was aligned along the eastern end of the Great Colonnade at Palmyra.

The temple, situated in the south-eastern sector of the city, was aligned along the eastern end of the Great Colonnaded decumanus at Palmyra.

The temple showed a remarkable synthesis of ancient Near Eastern and Greek cultures.

Brief History

circa 30 CE

The temple, consecrated to the Mesopotamian god Bel, worshipped at Palmyra in triad with the lunar god Aglibol and the sun god Yarhibol, formed the center of religious life in Palmyra and was dedicated in 32 CE.

The temple would have been closed during the persecution of pagans in the late Roman Empire in a campaign against the temples of the East made by Maternus Cynegius, Praetorian Prefect of Oriens, between 25 May 385 to 19 March 388.

The Temple of Bel in ancient Tadmor was converted into a Christian church during the Byzantine Era.

Parts of the structure were modified by Arabs circa 1132 CE which preserved the structure and converted the Temple into a mosque. The mosque in the temple proper and the dwellings remained in use until the 1920s CE when Franco-Syrian archaeological missions cleared the temple grounds of its postclassical elements.

The names of three Greeks who worked on the construction of the temple of Bel are known through inscriptions, including an architect named Alexandras (Greek: Αλεξάνδρας).


circa 30 CE

Temple Sanctuary
The temple sanctuary of Bel was situated on a podium in the middle of the court.

circa 30 CE

Cella Interior
The cella of the temple's sanctuary was rectangular in shape and was oriented north–south. The cella was entirely surrounded by a prostyle of Corinthian columns, only interrupted on the long side by an entrance gate with large steps leading from the court. The cella was unique in the fact that it had two inner sanctuaries, the north and south adytons, dedicated as the shrines of Bel and other local deities. The northern chamber was known for a bas-relief carving of the seven planets known to the ancients surrounded by the twelve signs of the Zodiac and the carvings of a procession of camels and veiled women. The cella was lit by two pairs of windows cut high in the two long walls. In three corners of the building stairwells could be found that led up to rooftop terraces.

circa 30 CE

Fortified Entrance or the Propylaea
Although walled up today, the arched main entrance into the temple precinct is still intact, as well as parts of its exterior walls and fortified gate. The walls of the temenos and propylaea were constructed in the late first and the first half of the second century AD.

circa 30 CE

The enormous temple courtyard (approximately 200 x 200 meters) held mud-brick houses among the ruins, and served as a fortified citadel for the village of Palmyra (known as Tadmur during the 1100s CE). In the court there were the remains of a basin, an altar, a dining hall, and a building with niches. And in the northwest corner lay a ramp along which sacrificial animals were led into the temple area.

circa 30 CE

Precinct Wall
The temple precinct or temenos was constructed on a paved court surrounded by a massive 205-metre (673 feet) long wall with a propylaeum on the western side.

Destruction During the Syrian Civil War

circa 2015 CE

On August 30, 2015, the Associated Press stated that ISIS had used explosives to partially destroy the temple, based on accounts from eyewitnesses. The bricks and columns were reported to be scattered on the ground, with only one wall remaining, according to a resident of Palmyra. Following the recapture of Palmyra by the Syrian Army in March 2016 CE, director of antiquities Maamoun Abdelkarim stated that the Temple of Bel, along with the Temple of Baalshamin and the Monumental Arch, will be rebuilt using the Anastylosis method (rebuilding the structure using the surviving material).

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