Half-way up the road leading from Jbeil to Qartaba, at a height of 950m, at the crossroads marking the direction of the village Aalmat Torzaya situated at the place called Mashnaqa, the Gallows, a road on the right leads to a plateau known as Shir el Meidan, the Rock of the Race Track! From here one has a striking view of the gorges cut by the river Nahr Ibrahim, the River of Weeping, the latter name being an echo of the ancient ceremonies of the Weepers mourning the god Adonis.
Here one can find the ruins of a Roman temple, comprised in an enclosure 95m long and 50 wide with a monumental doorway still held up by the wall of imposing stones. At the far end of the courtyard facing the entrance there stands a square structure surrounded by columns and near it are two altars which can be approached by going up some steps. The whole layout appears to have formed a cenotaph dedicated to Adonis, whose death resulting from the fierce charge of a wild boar gave rise to yearly ceremonies of mourning for his death and joy for his resurrection, ceremonies known as the Adonisia or Bacchanalia. As they stood around the cenotaph facing the mythical valley, the faithful who had come from Byblos and from all the surrounding region heard the priests reading the story of the legendary event and then gave themselves over to its re-enactment and to funerary dances at which the Mourners of the God excelled. One may note here that the name Mashnaqa is not as one may think an Arabic word but a Phoenico-Aramæan one meaning Place of Tears. Behind and to the west of the above-mentioned monument a kind of tomb was placed reaching under the block with its columns where the faithful deposed flowers and mementoes or requests and condolences. The nature of the ceremonies reminds one of processions around the Qaaba of Mecca. It is quite likely that on the parapet dominating the columns, architraves and table block sacrifices were offered and fires lighted in response to other fires lit at the other cenotaphs in this holy valley.
Among the rocks dominating the road leading to the site one may find sarcophagi some of which still have their massive covers. Above or beside almost every one of them stand sculptures related either to the funeral rites or to the achievements of the defunct.
Some 120m to the north of the cenotaph one may see seven rather crude sculptures hewn out of the rocks and surrounded by rustic cella of Ionic order with medallions. One of them shows a man standing proudly up and another a woman who is seated and in tears.
Just below this group one can visit a very old Christian church, obvious built with fine hewn stones from the Roman monument above.
- A Roman Temple at Mashnaqa: >> View Movie << (2007-06-01)