Andrew Collins, investigates one of the world's greatest enigmas - the Great Platform at Baalbek in Lebanon and uncovers its links with giants, Titans and a previously unknown culture.



The First Phoenicians
Only one account of Lebanon's mythical origins has been left to posterity, and this is the work of Sanchoniatho, a Phoenician historian born either in Berytus (Beirut) or Tyre on the Lebanese coast just before the Trojan war, c. 1200 BC. He wrote in his native language, taking his information mostly from city archives and temple records. In all he compiled nine books, which were translated into Greek by Philo, a native of Byblos on the Levant coast, who lived during the reign of the emperor Hadrian (reigned AD 117-138). Fragments of his translation were fortunately preserved by an early Christian writer named Eusebius (AD 264-340).(44) Some scholars look upon Sanchoniatho's writings as spurious, but others see them as preserving archaic myths of the earliest Phoenicians.

n his long discourse on the cosmogony of the world and the history of the earliest inhabitants of Lebanon, Sanchoniatho cites Byblos as Lebanon's first city.(45) It was founded, he says, by the god Cronus (or Saturn), the son of Ouranus (Uranus or Coelus, who gave his name to Coele-Syria, ie. Syria), and grandson of Elioun (Canaanite El) and his wife Beruth (who gave her name to the city-port of Berytus or Beirut).

Sanchoniatho goes on to say that the demi-gods of Byblos possessed `light and other more complete ships', implying they were a sea-faring nation. He also states that chief among these people was Taautus, `who invented the writing of the first letters: him the Egyptians called Thoor, the Alexandrians Thoyth, and the Greeks Hermes.'(46) He was Cronus' `secretary', from whom the god gained advice and assistance on all matters.

A confusing sequence of events are described for this period, during which time Cronus is constantly at war with his father Ouranus. There are also marriages, inter-marriages and incestuous relationships which produce a multitude of characters, many of whom act as symbols for the expansion of this mythical culture around the Levant and into Asia Minor (modern Turkey). For instance, there is Sidon, the daughter of Pontus, who `by the excellence of her singing first invented the hymns of odes or praises'.(47) Like Byblos, Sidon was a Phoenician city-port on the Lebanese coast, while Pontus was an ancient kingdom situated on the Black Sea in what is today north-eastern Turkey.


Finally, it is said that having visited `the country of the south' Cronus `gave all Egypt to the god Taautus, that it might be his kingdom',(48) implying that he was its founder.

Sanchoniatho tells us that knowledge of the age of the demi-gods of Byblos was handed down for generation after generation until it was given into the safe-keeping of `the son of Thabion ... the first Hierophant of all among the Phoenicians'.(49) He in turn delivered them up to the priests and prophets until they came into the possession of one Isiris, `the inventor of the three letters, the brother of Chna who is called the first Phoenician.'(50)

There is much more in Sanchoniatho's mythical history, but the basic message is that a high culture with sea-faring capabilities established itself at Byblos before gradually expanding into other parts of the eastern Mediterranean. More curious is his assertion that the god Taautus, the Phoenician form of the Egyptian Thoth or Tehuti and the Greek Hermes, was some kind of founder of the Egyptian Pharaonic culture which began c. 3100 BC.

Was Sanchoniatho's work simply fable, based on the Phoenicians' own maritime achievements, or might it contain clues concerning an actual high culture that existed in the Levant during prehistoric times?

Journey to Byblos
Certainly, the implied link between Egypt and Byblos is real enough. In the legend of Osiris and Isis, as recorded by the Greek biographer Plutarch (AD 50-120), the evil god Set tricks Osiris into a wooden coffin which is sealed before being set adrift on the sea. It is carried by the waves until it finally reaches Byblos, where it comes to rest in the midst of a tamarisk bush, which immediately grows to become a magnificent tree of great size. Inside it the coffin containing the body of Osiris remains encased. The king of that country, on seeing the great tree, has it cut down and made into `a pillar for the roof of his house'.(51) Isis learns of what has happened to her husband and is able to attain entry into the palace as a handmaiden to one of the king's sons. Each night she takes on the form of a swallow to fly around the pillar. After a fashion she convinces the queen to give her the pillar, which is then opened to reveal the body of Osiris.(52)

Byblos is the clear name used in Plutarch's account, but for some reason noted Egyptologists such as Sir E. A. Wallis-Budge have seen fit to identify this place-name with a location named Byblos in the Nile Delta, even though Plutarch himself adds that wood from the pillar, which was afterwards restored by Isis and given to the queen, `is, to this day, preserved in the temple of Isis, and worshipped by the people of Byblos'.(53) In my opinion, setting this story in the Nile Delta makes no sense whatever, especially as the coffin was said to have been `carried (to Byblos) by the sea'.(54)

Lucian, the celebrated Greek writer (AD 120-200), spoke of the Isis-Osiris legend and connected it specifically with Byblos in Lebanon, adding that `I will tell you why this story seems credible. Every year a human head floats from Egypt to Byblos'. This `head' apparently took seven days to reach its destination. It never went off course and came via a `direct route' to Byblos. Lucian claimed that this once yearly event actually happened when he himself was in Byblos, for as he records `I myself saw the head in this city'.(55)

What exactly Lucian witnessed, and what was really behind this head tradition is utterly unfathomable, particularly as Lucian states that the head he saw was made of `Egyptian papyrus'.(56) In Christian times a St Kyrillos also apparently witnessed the event, but said that `what was borne towards him by the wind looked like a small boat'.(57) All that can be said with any certainty is that this peculiar tradition appeared to preserve some kind age-old twinning between Egypt and Byblos, perhaps during the mythical age of the gods, the Zep Tepi, or First Time. As has been ably demonstrated by recent works from Hancock, Bauval et al, this believed mythical age, when gods ruled the earth, appears to have been an actual stage of human development pre-dating Pharaonic Egypt by many thousands of years.(58)

Yet how might this new-found knowledge of the relationship between Egypt and Byblos relate to Baalbek?
Firstly there appears to have been a strong link between Isis-Osiris legend and the mountains north-west of Baalbek. It was said that Isis took `refuge' (presumably at the point in the story when the king and queen of Byblos discover she is daily incinerating their child on a blazing fire!) in the lake of Apheca, the ancient name for Lake Yammouneh some 32km distance from Baalbek, `and thus lived in Lebanon', or so recorded the Baalbek archaeologist and historian Michel M. Alouf.(59)

The more obvious answer, however, appears to be an apparent twinning that existed between Heliopolis in Egypt and Heliopolis in Lebanon. The fifth-century Latin grammarian Macrobius wrote specifically on this subject in his curious work entitled Saturnalia. He stated that a `statue' was carried ritually from Heliopolis in Egypt to its Lebanese name-sake by Egyptian priests. He adds that after its arrival it was worshipped with Assyrian rather than Egyptian rites.(60)

Some authors have suggested that this statue was that of the Egyptian sun-god, presumably Re, while others say it was a representation of Osiris.(61) In addition to this statue story, there was also a strong tradition, recounted by Macrobius and others, that the Egyptian priests actually erected a temple at Baalbek dedicated to the worship of the sun.(62) If so, then what special place did this ancient location, sacred to Baal, hold to the Heliopolitan priesthood in Egypt? Might this transmission of religious ideals from Egypt to Baalbek have been connected in some way to the once yearly arrival of an Egyptian `head' at Byblos, and to Osiris' fateful journey inside a sealed coffin?

Titans and Elohim
Aside from the suggested link with the Egyptian culture, the writings of Sanchoniatho throw further light on this apparent pre-Phoenician culture existing in the Levant during prehistoric times. He says that the `auxiliaries' or `allies' of Cronus, presumably in battle, were the `Eloeim' a misspelling of the term Elohim, the sons of whom (the bene ha-elohim) were said to have been a divine race that came unto the Daughters of Man who subsequently gave birth to giant offspring known as the Nephilim, or so records to the Book of Genesis and various uncanonical works of Judaic origin.(63)

Elsewhere I have put forward the hypothesis that the Sons of the Elohim - who are equated with the angelic race known as the Watchers in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, as well as in recently translated Dead Sea literature - were a race of human beings. Evidence indicates they established a colony in the mountains of Kurdistan in south-east Turkey sometime after the cessation of the last Ice Age, before going on to influence the rise of western civilisation. Their progeny, the Nephilim, were half-mortal, half-Watcher, and there is tentative evidence in the writings of Sumer and Akkad to suggest that the accounts of great battles being fought between mythical kings and demons dressed as bird-men might well preserve the distorted memories of actual conflicts between mortal armies and Nephilim-led tribes.(64)

Might Cronus - who or whatever he represents - have employed the services of the bene ha-elohim in the wars against his father, Ouranus? In Greek mythology the Nephilim are equated directly with the Titans and gigantes, or `giants', who waged war on the gods of Olympus and, like Cronus, were the offspring of Ouranus. In many ancient writings preserved during the early Christian era, stories concerning the Nephilim, or gibborim, `mighty men', of biblical tradition are confused with the legends surrounding the Titans and gigantes. All blend together as one, and not perhaps without reason. The giants and Titans are said to have helped Nimrod, the `mighty hunter' construct the fabled Tower of Babel which reached towards heaven. On its destruction by God, legends speak of how the giant races were dispersed across the bible lands.(65)

According to an Arabic manuscript found at Baalbek and quoted by Alouf in his informative History of Baalbek `after the flood, when Nimrod reigned over Lebanon, he sent giants to rebuild the fortress of Baalbek, which was so named in honour of Baal, the god of the Moabites and worshippers of the Sun.'(66) Local tradition even asserts that the Tower of Babel was actually located at Baalbek.(67)

The involvement of Nimrod in this legend is almost certainly a misnomer, born out of the belief that only super-humans of myth and fable could ever have built such gigantic stature, in the same way that either named giants or mythical figures, such as Arthur, Merlin or the devil are accredited with the construction or presence of prehistoric monuments in Britain. Moreover, stories of giants exist right across Asia Minor and the Middle East, and these are often cited to explain the presence of either cyclopean ruins (such as the Greek city of Mycenae, the cyclopean walls of which were said to have been built by the one-eyed cyclops - hence the term `cyclopean' masonry) or gigantic natural and man-made features.

On the other hand, the alleged connection between giants, Titans and Baalbek is quite another matter. It is feasible that, if the Watchers and Nephilim (and therefore the Titans and gigantes) are to be seen as a lost race of human beings, any presumed pre-Phoenician culture in Lebanon could not have failed to have encountered their presence in the Near East. If so, were alliances forged with them, wars fought alongside them?

Might the ancient skills and brute strength of these human races of great stature have been employed in grand engineering projects such as the construction of the Great Platform? Remember, the Titans were said to have been born of the same loins as Cronus, and in alliance with their half-brother, they waged war against their father Ouranus. Yet family alliances of this type can go wrong, for according to the various ancient writers on this subject,(68) after the fall of the Tower of Babel and the dispersion of the tribes, a war broke out between Cronus and his brother Titan. An early Christian writer named Lactantius (AD 250-325) records that Titan, with the help of the rest of the Titans, imprisoned Cronus and held him safe until his son Jupiter (or Zeus) was old enough to take the throne. Does this imply that the Titans deposed Cronus and took control of the Byblos culture until the coming of Zeus, or Jupiter? What influence might this forgotten race have brought to bear on the development of Lebanon's pre-Phoenician culture? More importantly, when might any of this have taken place?

Far off in Hell
According to classical mythology, the Titans were eventually defeated by Jupiter and his fellow Olympian gods and goddesses. As punishment, they were banished to Tartarus, a mythical region of hell enclosed by a brazen wall and shrouded perpetually by a cloud of darkness. The gigantes, too, were linked with this terrible place, for they are cited by the first-century Roman writer Caius Julius Hyginus (fl. c. 40 BC) as having been the `sons of Tartarus and Terra (ie the earth)'.(69)

Although Tartarus has always been seen as a purely mythical location, there is reason to link it with a Phoenician city-port and kingdom known as Tartessus (Tarshish in the Bible) that thrived in the Spanish province of Andalucia during ancient times.

The evidence is this - Gyges, or Gyes, was a son or Coelus (ie. Ouranus) and a brother of Cronus; he was also seen both as a gigante and a Titan (demonstrating how they were originally one and the same race).(70) He seems to have been one of the main figures in the later wars between his titanic brothers and the Olympian gods under the command of Zeus, and may simply have been Titan under another name.

Classical writers such as Ovid (43 BC - AD 18) wrote that Gyges was punished by being banished to the prison of Tartarus. Yet an account of this same story given by a Chaldean writer named Thallus, states that instead of being banished to Tartarus, Gyges was `smitten, and fled to Tartessus'.(71) If this is a genuinely separate rendition of the same story then it means that Tartarus was another name for Tartessus.

As a sea-port Tartessus it is believed to have been situated on a delta of the Guadalquivir River, even though no trace of it remains today. It is also synonymous with another ancient sea-port known as Gades, modern Cadiz. E. M. Whishaw in her important 1930 work Atlantis in Andalucia uses excavated evidence of neolithic and possibly even palaeolithic sea-ports, sea-walls, cyclopean ruins and hydraulic works around the towns of Niebla and Huelva on the Andalucian coast to demonstrate the reality not only of Tartessus's lost kingdom, but also of its links to Plato's story of Atlantis.

A Sea-faring Nation

Knowledge of the apparent links between Tartessus, the gigantes/Titans and the mythical Byblos culture is compelling evidence of an as yet unknown sea-faring nation in the Mediterranean area sometime between 7000-3000 BC, the latter half of this period being the time-frame when many of the megalithic complexes began appearing in places such as Malta and Sardinia. Charles Hapgood in his 1979 book Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings concluded that the various composite portolans, such as the Piri Reis map of 1513, show areas of the globe, including the Mediterranean Sea, as they appeared at least 6000 years ago. He therefore concluded that those who had originally drawn these maps must have belonged to `one culture', who possessed maritime connections all over the globe and flourished during this distant age.(72) Was he referring here to the mythical Byblos culture? Might it have been responsible for passing on these ancient maps to civilisations such as Egypt, c.3100 BC, and Phoenicia, c. 2500 BC?

The early dynastic boat burials uncovered at Giza and Abydos have revealed sea-going vessels with high prows that were never intended to be sailed on the Nile; this is despite the fact that Egypt had no obvious maritime tradition during this early stage in its development. Where did this knowledge come from? Was it from the remnants of an earlier culture, such as the one spoken of by Sanchoniatho as having existed on the Levant coast in mythical times? Might this sea-faring connection help explain why the wooden coffin containing the body of Osiris was carried by the sea to Byblos, and why the priests of Heliopolis in Egypt took such an interest in Baalbek during Ptolemaic times?

It is a subject that requires much further research before any definite conclusions can be drawn, but the apparent advanced capabilities of the proposed Byblos culture allows us to perceive the antiquity of Baalbek's Great Platform in a new light. Did the legends suggesting that it was constructed by super-human giants during the age of Nimrod preserve some kind of bastardised memory of its foundation by the Byblos culture under Ouranus, Cronus or his brothers, the Titans? If so, then who were these mythical individuals and what ancient engineering skills might their culture have employed in the construction of cyclopean structures such as the Great Platform?

Stones that Moved
In surviving folklore from both Egypt and Palestine there are tantalising accounts of how sound, used in association with `magic words', was able to lift and move large stone blocks and statues, or open huge stone doors. I was therefore excited to discover that, according to Sanchoniatho, Ouranus was supposed to have `devised Baetulia, contriving stones that moved as having life'.(73) By `contriving' the nineteenth-century English translator of Philo's original Greek text seems to have meant `designing', `devising' or `inventing', implying that Ouranus had made stones to move as if they had life of their own. Was this a veiled reference to some kind of sonic technology utilised by the proposed Byblos culture? Could this knowledge help explain the methods behind the cutting, transportation and positioning of the 1000-tonne blocks used in Baalbek's Great Platform? It is certainly a very real possibility.

Why Baalbek?
If we accept for a moment that Baalbek's Great Platform, and perhaps even the inner podium that supports the Temple of Jupiter, might well possess a much greater antiquity than has previously been imagined, then what purpose might the Baalbek structure have served?

Zecharia Sitchin in his 1980 book The Stairway to Heaven proposes that the Great Platform was a landing site and launch pad for extra-terrestrial vehicles. Perhaps he is right, but in my opinion its high elevation hints at the fact that it once served as some kind of platform for the observation of celestial and stellar events. It is a subject I am currently investigating for a future article.

And just how old is Baalbek?

The French archaeologist Michel Alouf apparently learnt from the Maronite Patriarch of the Baalbek region, a man named Estfan Doweihi, that: `... the fortress of Baalbek on Mt. Lebanon is the most ancient building in the world. Cain, the son of Adam, built it in the year 133 of the creation, during a fit of raving madness'.(74) Unfortunately this tells us very little about the site's real age. Yet if we can accept the existence of a pre-Phoenician culture that not only employed the use of cyclopean masonry in its building construction, but also possessed sea-going vessels and flourished in the Mediterranean somewhere between 7000 BC and 3000 BC, then it opens the door to the possibility that Baalbek's `fortress' may also date to this early phase of human history.

Yet the question remains as to why this pre-Phoenician, sea-going nation should have wished to construct an almighty edifice on an elevated plain between two enormous mountain ranges. What was the reasoning behind this decision? The site undoubtedly possessed a very ancient sanctity; however, the architects may well have had more pressing reasons for placing it where they did. All the indications are that Sanchoniatho's Byblos culture eventually experienced a period of fierce wars that waged between Cronus, or Saturn, and his titanic brothers under the leadership of Titan or Gyges, and then finally between Cronus' son Jupiter and the rest of the Olympian deities. In a strange way the fraternal conflict between Cronus and his brothers parallels the biblical struggle between Cain and Abel, suggesting that the link between Cain and Baalbek might well have some symbolic significance to the site's early history.(75)

Is it possible that Baalbek's first `city' was constructed, not just as a religious centre, but also as an impenetrable fortress against attacks by whatever we see as constituting the gigantes and Titans of mythology? If the Great Platform, and perhaps even the inner podium, really does date to this early period, then might the fortress theory explain why its architects used such gigantic stones in its construction? Were they incorporated into the design through a combination of technological capability and sheer necessity, not through `the interest of appearance' or some ancient wall-building tradition upheld by the neo-Phoenicians of the Roman era? Such ideas may even provide some kind of explanation as to why the mother of all stone blocks, the Stone of the Pregnant Woman, was left cut and ready for transportation in a nearby quarry. Did the whole building project have to be abandoned because the site was over-run, or at least seriously threatened, by invading forces? Scholars have always accredited the Romans with having built the Great Platform, with its stupendous Trilithon stones, simply because they could not conceive of an earlier culture possessing the technological skills needed to have transported and positioned such enormous weights. The Sphinx-building culture of Egypt is evidence that such technological skills may well have been available as early as 10,500 BC, while our current knowledge of the Baalbek platform gives us firm grounds to push back its accepted construction date by at least a thousand years.

Even if the dates suggested for Sanchoniatho's Byblos culture are open to question, I believe the sacred fortress hypothesis brings us a lot closer to unlocking the mysteries of Baalbek. Both visually and in legend its ruins bear the mark of the Titans, and understanding the site's true place in history can only help us to discover the reality of this lost cyclopean age of mankind.


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