About 30 km east of Tartous; Husn Suleiman (Suleiman’s Castle) is one of the most extraordinary set of ruins in Syria. The remains are exceptional for the juxtaposition of the gigantic and the aesthetic: the cyclopean scale of the component blocks set against the tranquility and beauty of the setting in one of the remote stretches of the Jebel Ansariye.
The present remains are Roman. The Roman construction probably began in the first century AD but the greater part of the effort to monumentalize the cult center took place at the end of the second century, under Severan rules.
A cult center has existed here for millennia. The first temple was probably constructed under Persian domination when the area known now as the Meshta was settled. The present remains are Roman but occupy the site of a Semitic/Canaanite cult to the local version of Baal whose worship was later merged with the Greek equivalent, Zeus, under the title Zeus Baotocecian. Astarte was associated with the center, maybe because of the spring flowing through the site.
The Roman construction probably began in the 1st century AD but the greater part of the effort to monumentalize the cult center took place at the end of the 2nd century , under Severan rule.
The enclosure consists of a large compound open to the sky with a small central cella to house the altar. The same plan is employed in the Bel Temple of Palmyra. There are four gates centrally placed in each face of the outer wall. The propylaeum (Latin name for what comes before any gateway; the name is based on the original Propylaea that serves as the entrance to the Acropolis) in front of the north gateway is the most elaborate with porticos of eight columns on each side of the triple entrance doorway. The outer portico was adorned with two niches, two side entrances and a Syrian styled relieving arch over the elaborate lintel.
On the eastern doorway, there’s a Greek inscription dated 171 which records the dedication of the complex by the local people. At the four gates, the figures of eagles were adorned, remains of which are still seen in different stages of preservation.
Hosn Suleiman (حصن سليمان) is a magnificent ancient temple complex located in a remote stretch of mountains. Although this had been a religious center for centuries before, most of the current construction dates from the Roman period. Most impressive, perhaps, is the size of the stones used to construct the outer walls of the complex, which are similar in size to those found in Baalbek, Lebanon.
Getting There: Getting to Hosn Suleiman (حصن سليمان) is relatively easy even given the remote location, though it is first necessary to travel to Safita (صافيتا). There are very frequent microbuses between Tartus (طرطوس) and Safita (صافيتا). These microbuses depart from Tartus (طرطوس) on the northbound (eastern) side of the main boulevard, just south of the main bus station. There will generally be a long line of microbuses bound for Safita (صافيتا) waiting there. The trip takes about 30 minutes. From the microbus station in Safita (صافيتا), microbuses travel directly to Hosn Suleiman (حصن سليمان), another 30 minutes further. Be aware: drivers on this route seem to have developed a habit for overcharging foreigners. The temple is located at the far end of the village (the microbus should take you within 50 meters of the ruins).