The Middle East has a deep, rich history, with many famous empires rising and falling in the area. The site of Baalbek in modern-day Lebanon is a great example of this. The city was on the periphery of the great Mesopotamian civilizations before the coming of the Romans. Baalbek was certainly occupied during the Bronze Age, as civilizations like the Egyptians and Assyrians battled for control of the region.
During the conquests of Alexander the Great, Baalbek came under the control of the Greeks, straddled between the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms. In 64 BC, the Roman statesman Pompey annexed Syria, bringing Baalbek under Roman control. The city was briefly held by Cleopatra and Marc Anthony during the civil war with Octavian but reverted to Roman control after Octavian's victory.
At some point in the Roman period, a colony of legion veterans was also settled in Baalbek. This colony was called Colonia Julia Augusta Felix Heliopolitana and is believed to have been established during the reign of Augustus. However, the Romans shortened the name and simply called the city Heliopolis.
Since the Bronze Age, Baalbek had been celebrated as a religious or spiritual center by several civilizations. The Romans were no different, and many prominent Roman figures consulted the oracles at Heliopolis – including Emperor Trajan. During the reign of Septimius Severus, Baalbek was recognized as an ius Italicum city – essentially allowed to consider itself “on Italian soil”.