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In this Second Edition English translations in full of the Egyp- 
tian Hieroglyphics on the more important of the Obelisks are 
added ; the substance of these only was given in the first instance, 
as that was all that seemed necessary at the time. Now that so 
much more attention has been called to the subject, it seems ex- 
pedient to add more details. 

The translations of those previously published have now been 
corrected by Dr. Bu-ch, and a new translation of the hierogl3rphic 
inscription on the one made in Egypt for the Emperor Hadrian has 
been also made by Dr. Birch expressly for this work. He has also 
at the last moment sent me an impression from an Egyptian Scara- 
bseus, with a representation of an Obelisk upon it This is very 
small, but Professor Donaldson has kindly made an enlarged draw- 
ing of it, on the same plan as his excellent Architedura Numis- 
maiica^ from which our lithograph is taken. English translations of 
the chapters from Pliny in the first century, and from Ammianus 
Marcellinus in the fourth, are also added, so that all the authentic 
information on the subject that is extant is now given in this work. 

The collection of Obelisks in Rome is the finest now remaining 
anywhere, even in Eg3rpt itself there is no place where twelve 
Obelisks are collected, and some of them are remarkably perfect, 
so that the hieroglyphics can be read by those who understand the 


This concise account of the Egyptian Obelisks in Rome is drawn 
up entirely from the inscriptions on them. Those of the Popes, 
record when each was placed in its present situation. Those of the 
Emperors, state on what occasion each was brought to Rome. The 
hieroglyphics give the original history of each in Egypt. Two of them 
only were made for the Romans, or are of their time ; the others 
are much older, and belong to the history of Egypt, as will be seen 
in reading the account of them. These were brought to Rome as 
trophies of conquest only, and were erected in the most public 
places to commemorate the triumph of the Roman arms. 

The hierogl3rphic inscriptions have been kindly translated for 
me by an eminent Egyptian scholar residing in Rome during the 
winter, who declines to have his name published; but I am per- 
mitted to state that the translation has been compared by Dr. Birch, 
of the British Museum, and Mr. Bonomi, of the Soane Museum, and 
they agree that it is done in an accurate and careful manner. Their 
names are a guarantee to the public that this portion of the work 
can be fully depended on. 


I. and II. The pair once before the Mausoleum of Augustus, now 
one before the Quirinal Palace, the other behind S. Maria 
Maggiore, originally made c, B.C. 2000 . . .1 VI. 

III. The one at the Lateran, originally made c. B.c. 1660 ; brought 

to Rome by Constantine, A.D. 311 . • . . lb. I. 

IV. At the Porte del Popolo . • . . . a V. 
V. At the Trinita de Monti • . . . . ib. 

VI. Before the Pantheon . . • . . . ib. 

VII. Inthegardenofthe Villa Mattel, on the Coelian . . ib. VIIL 

Numbers IV. to VII. bear the name of Rameses II., and 
were made between i486 and 1490 B.C. 

^III. The one now in front of S. Peter's was made about B.C. 1400, 

and brought to Rome by Caligula, a.d. 40 . • .3 

IX. The one near the Monte Citorio, formerly placed near the site 
of the church of S. Lorenzo in Lucina, and then used as the 
pointer to a great sun-dial. It was originally made c. B.C. 
590, and was brought to Rome by Augustus • . 4 IL 

X. The small Obelisk placed on the back of a bronze elephant 
in the Piazza della Minerva, was made c, B.c. 580, and Wks 
put up in its present place by Bemini, in the time of Pope 
Alexander VII. . . . . . .5 III. 

XI. The one on the Piazza Navona was made in Egypt for the 
Emperor Domitian. It was placed in the Circus of Maxen- 
tius, and set up in its present place by Bernini, A.D. 165 1 . 6 IV. 

XII. The one now in the public garden on the Pincian Hill was 
made in Egypt for the Emperor Hadrian, in honour of his 
favourite, Antinous. When brought to Rome it was placed 
in the Circus Varianus, near the Sessorium, in which the 
church of S. Croce in Gerusalemme was made by S. Helena. 
It was placed on the Pincian in 1822 • ' • .8 VII. 

English translation of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, by Dr. Birch, of the 
one at the Lateran ..... 9 — 14 

. of the one at the Porta del Popolo, by the 

Rev. G. Tomlinson ..... 15 — 18 

- of the one now on the Pincian Hill, made by 

Dr. Birch, for this work . . . . . I9f 20 

Pliny's account of the Obelisks in Rome in the first century, translated 
from that chapter of his Natural History . . . 21 — ^23 

The account of them in the fourth century, by Ammianus Marcellinus, 
translated from the seventeenth chapter of the Res Gestae 24, 25 

Professor Donaldson on Obelisks ; their Purpose, Proportions, Mate- 
rial, and Position . . .... 27 — ^40 

Dr. Birch's Notes upon Obelisks, reprinted from the Museum of 
Classical Antiquities, with corrections by the Author . 41 — 62 

An Egyptian Scarabseus, with a representetion of an Obelisk upon it 64 


I. and II. The pair oncel)efore the Mausoleum of Augustos, and 
now before the Quirinal Palace and behind S. Maria Maggiore, were 
perhaps originally set up by Papa Maire, the Mceris of Herodotus, 
the first king of Egypt who did anything remarkable, and the pre- 
decessor of the earliest Sesostris. He lived to the age of loo, being 
bom in B.a 2074, about the time when Abraham was in Egypt, and 
dying in b.c. 1975, when Jacob was nineteen years old. He b^;an 
to reign as a subordinate king in Central Egypt when only six years 
old ; but all the monuments which he has left, and so also these two 
obelisks, are to be referred to the last twenty or twenty-one years of 
his life, when he was suzerain of all Egypt The rescue of Lot by 
Abraham (in b.c. 2070 or thereabouts), the meeting of Melchisedec 
and Abraham (at the same date), the birth of Ishmael (in B.a 3068), 
the apparition of the three men, or angels, under the oak at Mamre, 
and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (in b.c 2055), the birth 
of Isaac (in B.a 2054), his subsequent marriage, and the birth of 
Jacob (in B.a 1994), are all events covered by the one hundred 
years of the life of Papa Maire ; the last of them, viz. the birth of 
Jacob, being nearly coincident with the beginning of his reign as 
suzersdn, and so nearest to the precise date at which these two 
obelisks were set up. 

III. The obelisk now at S. John Lateran was set up by Thothmea 
III., the great oppressor of the Hebrews in Egypt, from whose death 
in B.C. 1655 the narrative of the Exodus (which took place April 5 
in the next year) commences. Having been brought to Rome by 
Constantine and his son after the edict of a.d. 311 had at length 
given peace to the Church, it stands now as a trophy before the 
chief basilica of Christendom, marking both the first and the second 
Exodus, the beginning and the end of Uiat long period of above 
2,000 years during which the Church was generally oppressed and 
held in bondage by the idolatrous empires of the heathen world ; 
till at length, after passing through a new Red Sea of blood in the 
persecutions of the first three centuries after Christ, the new Israel 
saw their Pagan persecutors dead on the sea-shore, to tyrannise over 
them openly no more for ever. This obelisk has on it also the 
names of lliothmes IV., the grandson and next successor but one 

2 The Egyptian Obelisks. 

of Thothmes III. ; and there is a notice on its lower part that it 
remained in the hands of the sculptors thirty-six years, from a date 
near the end of the reign of Thothmes III. to another near the 
end of that of his grandson. It was set up too at -Heliopolis, from 
the neighbourhood of which the Hebrews set fortli ; so that it was 
having the central lines of its hieroglyphics cut a little before* the 
Exodus, and it had the lateral lines cut, and was set up before the 
temple of the Sun, five or six years before the death of Moses and 
the entry of the Hebrews under Joshua into Canaan. 

IV. The obelisk at the Porta del Popolo, and that at the Triniti 

de' Monti, that before the Pantheon, and that in the Villa Mattel on 

the Ccelian, all four bear the names of Rameses IL, the king who 

was the greatest of all Egyptian conquerors and builders, who has 

left the most numerous monuments, and whose historical reign is 

the principal of those which are blended and confused together in 

the fabulous accounts of Sesostris. But the obelisk at the Porta del 

Popolo bears also the name of Seti, the father of Rameses II., who 

seems to have made at the opening of his reign two campaigns 

in Mesopotamia with such brilliant success as to have gained a r^ 

nown equal to that of any other Egyptian conqueror, though he 

was wounded in his second year, and lost his sight, so that his reign 

is marked as having lasted less than two years, while his son 

Rameses II. reigned sixty-six years and some months. But the 

magnificent tomb of Seti, discovered by Belzoni, proves that though 

he may have been incapacitated from reigning, he really lived on 

after the apparent accession of his son, who seems to have put his 

father's name on no fresh monuments, but only on those which were 

already commenced when he lost his sight, and to have been too 

selfish to allow any other compensation for the loss of actual power, 

than that of continuing to increase the magnificence of his tomb, 

a monument hidden from the eyes of all contemporaries in the bowels 

of the rock. The inscription of the name of Seti on the obelisk at 

the Porta del Popolo must have been cut in B.C. 1487. 

v., VI., VII. The other three obelisks mentioned above as belong- 
ing to the reign of Rameses II. after the blindness of his father, 
must have been erected at dates lying between the years i486 and 
1420 B.C. During this period it Was that Ehud and Shamgar judged 
Israel ; and during the same period, near its beginning, after 
Rameses II. had in nine years overrun Western and Central Asia, 
certain colonists from Egypt, especially Danaus, the father of a line 
of Argive kings, settled in Greece. 

Rameses II. is the historical source of the fabulous king called 

Ttie Egyptian Obelisks. 

Egyptus by the Greeks ; and a brother whom he had left to govern 
Egypt as deputy or viceroy during his own absence, and who took 
advantage of the length of that absence to set up for himself,. is, in 
part at least, the historical source of Danaus. 

The Greek fable, too, of the fifty sons of Egyptus, and the Danaides, 
the fifty daughters of Danaus, is founded upon facts relating to this 
same king. For besides his conquests in Asia and Afirica, and the 
length of his reign, which would be spoken of among all the neigh- 
bouring peoples, the prodigious number of his children must have 
attracted equal or even more attention, and may have given rise 
to more febles than that of the Danaides ; as for instance, to the 
story of Priam, who, when king, had fifty sons and fifty daughters- 
in-law in his palace. For the monuments shew that Rameses II. 
had not fifty only, but one hundred and thirteen sons ; and not fifty 
only, but between sixty and seventy daughters; so that both the 
feimilies of fifty, each which the Greeks divided between two bio- 
thers, belonged to Egyptus alone ; and the number, instead of being 
exaggerated in the fable, was very much curtailed , only instead of 
cousins who were to fly to Greece, and there murder their husbands, 
they were all brotliers and sisters who remained in Egypt, and were 
married there, no doubt, to suitable consorts. 

VIII. The obelisk now standing in front of S. Peter's was erected, 
according to Pliny, by the son of the king who went blind, which 
last was in truth Seti I., the father of Rameses 11. ; but these two 
kings were confounded and blended together ; so what is meant is, 
that it was set up by Menephthah, the son and successor of Ra- 
meses II. ; (he was originally the thirteenth of his sons of the first 
rank, by queens, but the first twelve had died before the father). 
This king reigned from B.C. 1420 to b.c. 1400; and it was during 
his reign that Jabin, king of the Canaanites of the north of Syria 
and Palestine, and Sisera the captain of his host, were overthrown 
by Deborah and Barak. Jabin was the ally or tributary of the king 
of Egypt, and nearly connected with him, the mother of Menephthah 
having been a Canaanitish princess. 

This obelisk was brought to Rome by Caligula in the year 40 of 
our era, so marking the date when S. Peter is related to have baptized 
the centurion Cornelius, and in him, and his kinsmen and fiiends 
of the same cohort of Italian volunteers, to have opened the Gospel 
to the Gentiles, and more particularly to the Italians and to Rome. 
It was set up by Claudius a little later, (about the time that S. Peter 
is said to have come to Rome, and to have been delivered firom 
prison A.D. 42, reaching Rome Jan. 18, a.d. 43), on the spina of his 

The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Circus on the Vatican ; and it was standing there in a.d. 65, a silent 
witness of the first persecution of the Christians by Nero, and of the 
crucifixion of the Apostle, as it has since been a witne^ of the con- 
course of the Christian world to the triumphant festivals celebrated 
at his tombr 

IX. We now pass over eight centuries, from b.c. 1400 to b.c. 594, 
(a space including the times of the later Judges, of Eli and Samuel, 
of the first three kings of all Israel, and of their successors of the 
divided kingdom of Judah and Israel,) and come to an obelisk 
exhibiting the family name Psammeticus, the first king of which 
name was the founder of an Egyptian dynasty at Sais. Before his 
time Egypt had long been subject to great calamities and oppression, 
had been invaded and conquered both by the Ethiopians and by the 
Assyrians, and in particular by So, or Sabaco, and Tirhakah of 
Ethiopia, and by Sennacherib of Assyria ; and it had been torn and 
wasted by native dissensions. Psammeticus I. obtained the victory 
over all his rivals, who had leagued together against him, chiefly by 
the aid of certain Greeks — Carian and Ionian pirates — ^who had been 
wrecked upon his coasts. And from the time of his establishment 
on the throne he maintained permanently a large corps of Greek mer- 
cenaries, and opened Egypt through the Canopic branch of the Nile 
to Greek commerce and enterprize, giving them the city of Naucratis 
for a port and factory. So under the d3masty connected with this 
obelisk Egypt was first brought into contact with the peoples of the 
West, and became accessible to them ; and some of Psammeticus' 
Greek mercenaries were even sent by him up the Nile far into 
Nubia, where they have left an inscription, legible at this day, at 
Abou-Simbel, on the leg of a colossus, which had been already, as 
it seems, in their time thrown down from the front of a rock-temple 
of Rameses II. by some earthquake, and lay when it was inscribed 
by the Greeks as it lies still Psammeticus I. reigned fifty-four years, 
firom B.C 663 to B.C. 609, and so was contemporary with Manasseh, 
Amon, and Josiah, kings of Judah. 

It was his son Pharaoh Necho who slew Josiah at Megiddo. And 
it was during the reign of his grandson, Psammeticus II. (e.g. 594 
to 588) that this obelisk was set up. It was brought to Rome by 
Augustus after the reduction of Egypt and the deaths of Antony and 
Cleopatra in b.c. 30, and was set up near the present church of 
S. Lorenzo in Lucina, as the gnomon or pointer to throw the shadow 
on the great sun-dial or town-clock which he made there. From that 
time it was that the Romans, following the custom of their Egyptian 
subjects, began to deify and worship their Emperors, not only after 
their deaths, but even while they were still living : and the com- 

The Egyptian Obelisks. 

monest test which was applied to Christians in the persecutions was 
that of rendering to the Emperor, or refusing to render, this honour. 
The obelisk of Seti I. and Rameses II. in the Piazza del Popolo» 
was brought by Augustus at the same time with this, aller the con- 
quest of Egypt, to be set up on the spina of the Circus Maximiis ; 
and, like this, it bears the date B.a lo, when he held the Tribunicfan 
power for the fourteenth time. On the Vatican obelisk there is an 
inscription of Caligula dedicating it to ^the god Augustus, son of 
the god Julius, and to the god Tiberius, son of the god Augustus ;" 
but it is now surmounted by the Cross. 

The small obelisk which was set up by Bernini on the back of an 
elephant in the Piazza della Minerva (from which Bernini himself had 
the nickname of the Elephant) has upon it the cartouches of Apries or 
Pharaoh-Hophra, who reigned from b.c. 588 to 569, and to whom, 
in his second year, the Jews fled for protection, in spite of the warn- 
ings of the Prophet Jeremiah, carrying the Prophet himself by force 
with them. So it is a monument which dates from about the time of 
the burning of the temple of Solomon, and the commencement of the 
Babylonian captivity of seventy years, beginning from the capture 
of Zedekiah on the extinction of the kingdom of Judah, and ending 
with the fourth year of Darius son of Hystaspes, when the Altar 
and Temple were restored. But as set up at Rome in its present 
place, under Alexander VII., it marks the date of the completion of 
the present church of S. Peter's, which, for its magnificence, is for 
Roman Catholics now something like what the temple of Solomon 
was for the Jews. And, if we think of Roman history, then, while 
the other eight obelisks mentioned above belong to ages far more 
remote than the foundation of Rome, or even those of the founda- 
tion of Alba or of Lavinium, more remote than the war of Troy, or 
the earliest fables connected by Roman poets and historians with 
their ancestry, the last two— the ninth, that is, of Psammeticus II., 
and the tenth, of Pharaoh-Hophra, — belong to the time of the 
Roman kings ; that of Psammeticus II. (b.c. 594 to 588) to the time 
of Tarquinius Prisons, the fifth king, who reigned from B.c 637 to 
579 : so it is contemporary with the construction of the walls of old 
Rome, with the <^ger^ and with the lower dungeon of the Mamertine 
Prison, which are all works ascribed to Servius Tullius: and the 
obelisk of Pharaoh-Hophra (b.c. 588 to B.C. 569) belongs to the 
time of the same king, Servius Tullius, who reigned from b.c. 579 
to 535) or it may be to one of the last years of his predecessor, 
Tarquinius Prisons : and so we may associate it with the formation 

The Egyptian Obelisks. 

of the Circus Maximus, and the first foundation of the temple of 
Jupiter Capitolinus. 

XI. In the Piazza Navona, opposite the church of S. Agnes and 
the spot of her martyrdom, there is now an obelisk cut in Egypt for 
the Emperor Domitian and inscribed with his name, and with all 
those blasphemous titles of deification (though he was still living) 
which are joined with the names of the earlier Pharaohs : "Sun-god, 
Son of the Sun-god, Supporter of the World, Giver of Life to the 
World, the Man -god Horus, the Son of the Woman Isis, who is 
to come and avenge the death of his ancestor Osiiis, tlie King 
Living for Ever," such are the titles or epithets, or their sense, if they 
were explained in full, which appear on the latest monuments cut in 
Egypt for any sovereign, and removed to Rome, in connection with 
an Emperor whose father and brother were the instruments of God 
to destroy the murderous and unbelieving Jews and to bum their 
Temple and city, and whose cousin was himself a Christian martyr, 
being beheaded about the same time that S. John was put into the 
boiling oil and banished to Patmos, and that S. Clement was banished 
to the Crimea, and that Flavia Domitilla the younger, with her 
freedmen and attendants, were banished to Pandataria and after- 
wards martyred. 

Of the obelisks thus described five were set up in their present 
positions by, or under, Sixtus Quintus, who sat firom a.d. 1585 to 
159O1 viz. those of the Lateran^ of the Vatican^, of the Porta del 































* The one in the garden of the Vati* 
can, brought from me Circus of Nero, 
was erectSl by Sixtus V. in 1586, with 
this inscription on the base. 


The cross at the top was placed 
there by Sixtus V. ; the history of the 
removal, and some other particularsi 

The Egyptian Obelisks. 


Popolo% of S. Maria Maggiore*, and that in the Villa Mattei* on 
the Coelian. That in the Piazza Navona (brought from the spina 

are recorded in the following inscrip- 
tions on tlie base. 
On the west side : — 






On the south side : — 








On the east side :^ — 



On the north side : — 








On the summit of the obelislc towards 
S. Peter's :— 







• This obelisk stands in front of the 
church of S. Maria del Popolo, and has 
the following inscriptions on the base \-^ 














































On the other side : — 









On the third side : — 










On the east side : — 



« It is related of this obelisk that 
when it was being placed, the architect 
directing the works had incautiously 
placed his hand on the pedestal at the 
moment when the cords were rdaxed 


The Egyptian Obelisks. 

of the Circus of Maxentius and Romulus) was set up by Bernini 
in A.D. 165 1, under Innocent X. (Pamphili), who built the church 
of S. Agnes and the adjoining Palazzo Pamphili (and who is buried 
himself in the church). Inscriptions on the base record the histoiy K 
That in the Piazza della Minerva* was also set up, as has been 
already said, by the same Bernini, in a.d. 1667, for Alexander VIL 
That before the Pantheon had been removed from the site of the 
Circus Maximus, and set up earlier in the Piazza di S. Martino by 
Paul v., but it was set up in its present place in a.d. 17x1, by 
Clement XI., and the three remaining obelisks, of the eleven, were 
set up by Pius VI. before the Quirinal, at the Trinita de' Monte, 
and on the Monte Citorio, in the years 1786, 1789, and 17921 
respectively. A twelfth obelisk, erected in honour of their favourite 
Antinous by Hadrian and Sabina, and so of less public interest, was 
set up in 1822, by Pius VII. on the Pincian. 

to let it &U to its place, and as it was 
impossible to move the obelisk aeain, the 
hand was obliged to be cut off ; the bones 
aie pointed out as remaining there. 

■Bernini had rebuilt the fronts of the 
other principal bnUdings round the 
Piazza Navona, or Forum Agonale^ and 
erected the very fine fountain there, and 
the placing of'^this obelisk was consi- 
dered the completion of the work. 
These works are recorded in the in- 
inscriptions on the four rides of the 
pediment or base. 

On the south ride : — 
iNNOcsirrivs . z. font. max. 










On the east ride : — 








On die west ride : — 









On the north side : — 











On this occarion a medal was struck^ 
with the obelisk in the middle of adrdc^ 
and the inscription,^- 


t This obelisk stands in front of the 
church of S. Maria Super Minervam^ 
and on the ride of the base which fiwet 
the church is this inscription ^— 










■On the bpporite ride of the base :— 










The Lateran. 

The history of the Obelisk now at the Lateran is given on p. i. 
The following is the English translation of the Egyptian Hiero- 
glyphics given by Dr. Birch : — 

Central line. 

•'The Harmachis •, the living sun, 
The strong bull, beloved of the sun, 
Lord of diadems, very terrible in all lands, 
The golden hawk, the very powerful, the smiter of the Libyans, 
The king Ra-men-kheper, 
The son of Amen-Ra, of his loins. 
Whom his mother Mut *• gave birth to in Asher, 
One flesh ^ with him who created him, the son of the sun, 
Thothmes (III.) the uniter of creation, beloved of Amen-Ra, 
Lord of the thrones of the upper and lower country, 
Giver of life like the sun for ever." 

South side^ central line, 

** The Har-em-akhu, the living sun. 
The strong bull, crowned in Thebes, 

Lord of diadems, augmenting his kingdom like the son in heaven. 
The hawk of gold, the arranger of diadems. 
Very valiant, the king Ra-men-kheper •*, 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 

Thothmes (III.) has made his memorial to his father Amen-Ra, 
Lord of the seat of the upper and lower countries, 
Has erected an obelisk to him 
At the gateway of the temple before Thebes^ 
Setting up at first an obelisk in Thebos 
To be made a giver of life." 

' Harmachis was the divine name of « " Of the same substance as his 

the sun-god Ra, a.« Ra in the horizon. father god." 

* Mut or Maut, was the great mother <* ** Ra the giver of Life," prenomen 

goddess of the Theban triad. Amen of Thothmes III. 
Ka-Mut, and Chonso. 


to The Egyptian Obelisks — The L ateran. 

East sidCf central line. 

** The Har-^m-^Jdni, the lawmg son, bdoved of the son, 
liaring the tall cravn of the upper regioiii. 
The \j:nA of dadam, celebrating the festival in troth. 
Beloved on earth, the golden hawk, 

Vrersdhng by strength, the king of the upper and lower coaiOTjy 
Ra^men-kheper, beloved of the son, 
Giring memorials to Amen in Thebes, 
Aogmenting his memorials^ 
Making them as they were before. 
So that each should be as at first ; 
Never was the like done in fanner times for Amen 
In the house of his iathers. 
He made the son of the son, Thothmes C^TL)^ 
Ruler of An, giver of life." 

fViist side^ central line. 

** The Har-em-akhu, the living sun, the strong bull. 

Crowned by truth, Ra-men-kheper, 

Who adores the splendour of Amen in Thebes, 

Amen welcomes him in ... his heart 

Dilates at the memorials of his son. 

Increasing his kingdom as he wishes. 

He gives stability and cycles to his Lord, 

Making millions of festivals of thirty years. 

The son of the sun, Thothmes (III.), 

Uniting existence (giver of life)." 
The two lines on each of the following sides refer to Thothmes IV. 

North sidcy right line. 

*' The good god, the image of diadems. 
Establishing the kingdom like Tum, 
Powerful in force, expeller of the nine-bow foreigners. 
The king of the upper and lower country, 

Taking by his strength like the Lord of Thebes, 
Very glorious like Mentu % 

Whom Amen has given strength against all countries ; 
The lands came in number, 
The fear of him was in their bellies. 
The son of the sun Thothmes (IV.), 
Diadem of diadems, beloved of Amen-Ra, 
The bull of his mother'." 

* Mentu, a form of the sun-god, as the Eg3rptian Mars. 
' ''The husband of his mother." 

The Egyptian Obelisks — The Later an. ix 

North side^ left line. 

** The king of the upper and lower country, 
Beloved of the gods, adorer of the circle of the gods, 
Welcomed by the sun in the barge, 
And by Turn in the ark, 
The Lord of the upper and lower countries, 
Ra-men-kheperu ', who has ornamented Thebes for ever. 
Making memorials in Thebes. 


The circle of gods of the house of Amen 

Delight at what he has done. 

The son of the god Tum, of his loins, 

Produced on his throne, Thothmes (IV.), diadem of diadems." 

South side^ right line. 

" The son of the sun, Thothmes (IV. ), 
Diadem of diadems, set it up in Thebes, 
He capped it with gold, 
Its beauty illuminates Thebes ; 
Sculptured in the name of his father, the good god 
Ra-men-kheper (Thothmes III.), 
The king of the upper and lower country. 
Lord of the two countries, 
Ra-men-kheperu (Thothmes IV.), did it 
Wishing that the name of his father should remain fixed 
In the house of Amen. 
The son of the sun, Thothmes (IV.), giver of life did it." 

S(nith side^ left line. 

** The king of the upper and lower country. 
The Lord doing things, Ra-men-kheperu, 
Made by the sun, beloved of Amen. 

His Majesty ordered that a very great obelisk should be completed 
Which had been brought by his father Ra-men-kheper (Thothmes III.) 
After His Majesty died. 
This obelisk remained 35 years and upwards 
In its place in the hands of the workmen 
At the Southern quarters of Thebes. 
My father ordered it should be set up. 
I his son succeeded him." 

8 Ra-men-kheper, singular, was the men-kheper« the same in the plural 
prenomen of Thothmes III., more ge- number, was the prenomen of his suc- 
nerally written Men-kheper-Ra ; Ra- cessor Thothmes IV. 

C 2 

12 The Egyptian Obelisks — The Lateran. 

East side^ right lim» 

" Ra-men-kheperu (Thothmes IV.) 
Multiplying memorials in Thebes cf gold, 
LApis lazuli, and jewellery, 

And the great barge on the river (named) Amen-user-ta, 
Hewn out of cedarwood which His Majesty cut down in the land of Raten 
Inlaid with gold throughout, 
And all the decorations renewed. 
To receive the beauty of his fother Amen-Ra 
(When) he is conducted along the river. 
The son of the sun, Thothmes (IV.), diadem of diademS| did it** 

East sidCy left line^ 

** The good god, the powerful blade, 
The prince taking captive by his power. 
Who strikes terror into the Mena ^, 
Whose roarings are in the Anu \ 
His father Amen brought him up, 
Making his rule extended, 
The chiefs of all countries 
Are attentive to the spirits of His Majesty, 
To the words of his mouth, the acts of his hands, 
All that has been ordered has been done. 
The king of the upper and lower country 
{la-men-kheperu, whose name is established in Thebes giver of life." 

West side^ right line^ 

** The king of the upper and lower country. 
The Lord of the upper and lower world, 
Ra-men-l(heperu son ... it making peaceful years. 
Lord of the gods, who knew how to frame his plans 
And bring them to ^ good end, who subdued (he niQe-bow foreigners 

under his sandals, 
The king of the upper and Iqw^r country • • . 
Watched to beautify the monuments. 
The king himself gave directioAs, for the wor]( 
Like ' Him who is Southern Rampart \* 

He set it up, it remained for a while, his heart wished to create it* 
The son of the sun Thothmes (IV.), diadem of diadems." 

^ Asiatic shepherds. ' The Lybians 

^ This IS a title of the god Pthah of Memphis. 

TJte Egyptian Obelisks— The Lateran. 13 

West side^ left line, 

" The king of the upper and lower countries 
Ra-men-kheperu (Thothmes IV.), approved of Amen, 
Dwelling amongst the chiefe. 
Bom in . . . him than ev^y king, 
Rejoicing at seeing the beauty of his greatness ; 
His heart desired to place it 

He gave him the north and south submissive to his spirits, 
He made his monuments to his father Amen-Ra, 
He set up a great obelisk to him 
At the upper gate of Thebes, facing western Thebes. 
The son of the sun whom he loves 
(Thothmes IV.) diadem of diadems, giver of life he did it." 

North sidey inscription on pyramidion. 

** The good god Ra-men-kheper like the sun. Amen, Tum 
The king of the upper and lower country, 
Ra-man-kheper, son of the sun, 
Thothmes like the sun, immortal. 

Amen-Ra Lord of the seats of the upper and lower countries^ 
Gives all life, stability, power." 

South side^ inscription on pyramidion. 

** The king Ra-men<kheperu (Thothmes IV.) 
Giver of life, beloved of Amen-Ra, 
Lord of the thrones of the two Countries. 
The son of the sun Thothmes (III.) 
Giver of life like the sun for ever. 
The king Ra-men-kheperu, son of the sun 
Thothmes (HI.) giver of life like the sun for ever. 
The goddess Uat ^ gives a good life, 

Amen-Ra Lord of the seats of the upper and lower country. 
Gives life, power and stability. 
The good god Ra-men-kheperu 
Giver of life like the sun. 
Amen-Ra king of the gods (says) 
' Thou hast received life in thy nostril.' " 

* Uat or Buto was the goddess of the upper country. 

14 The Egyptian Obelisks— The Lateran. 

East side, pyramidion^ 

** The good god Ra-men-kheperu, 
Giver of life like the sun, 
The king Ra-men-kheperu, son of the sun, 
Thothmes giver of life like the sun, gives water ; 
Amen-Ra king of the gods 
Gives life, stability and power : 
The good god Ra-men-kheperu, 
Giver of life. 

Gives a pyramidal cake of white bread 
That he may become a giver of life." 

West side, pyramidion. 

*' Amen, Tum the good god, 
Ra-men-kheper giver of life like the sun immortaL 
The king Ra-men-kheper, son of the sun, 
Thothmes (III.)t ^1^^ ^^^ sun immortal gives wine. 
Amen-Ra Lord of the seats of the upper and lower countries. 
King of the gods, ruler of An. 

The good god, the Lord doing things, Ra-men-kheperu, 
Giver of life like the sun, gives incense 
That he may be made a giver of life." 

At the base, 

' ' Amen-Ra, Hor ; Lord of heaven Ra-user-ma, 
Approved of the sun, Rameses (II. ) beloved of Amen, 
Giver of life like the sun Amen-Ra, Lord of the seats of the upper and 

lower countries, 
Har-em-akhu, grtat god. Lord of the heaven. 
The king of upper and lower Egypt, 
Lord of the two countries, Ra-user-ma, 
Approved of the sun Rameses (II.), beloved of Amen"." 

The Latin inscription of Sixtus V., who had this obelisk erected 
on its present site, is given on p. 5 ; a translation of this is not 

"■ This records the restoration by gating to himself the honours of his 
Rameses II, , and is a rare example predecessor, 
of an Egyptian sovereign, not arro- 

The Egyptian Obelisks — Porta del Popolo. 15 

The obelisk at the Porta Flaminia, or del Popolo, was also erected 
by Sixtus V., and an account of it is given on p. 2, and the Latin 
inscription of the Pope at p. 7. The following is the £nglish trans- 
lation of the Hieroglyphics, by the Rev. G. Tomlinson : — 

Centre column^ East side. 

•* The Horas, the powerful, beloved of justice, 
King Pharaoh, guardian of justice, approved of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, 

He erected edifices like the stars of heaven. 
He has made his deeds to resound above the heaven. 
Scattering the rays of the sun, rejoicing over them in his house of 

millions of years. 
In the . . . year of His Majesty, 

He has made good this edifice of his father, whom he loved, 
Giving stability to his name in the abode of the sun. 
He who has done this is the son of the sun, Amen-Mai Rameses, 
The beloved of Tum, Lord of Heliopolis, giving life for ever." 

Centre column. North side. 

** The Horns, the powerful. 
Sanctified by truth ■, 

Lord of diadems. Lord of upper and lower Egypt, 
Month " of the world, possessor (?) of Egypt, 
The resplendent Horns, the Osiris (?), the divine priest of Totanen, 
The king, Pharaoh, the establisher of justice. 
Who renders illustrious the everlasting edifices of Heliopolis, 
By foundations (fit) for the support of the heaven. 
Who has established, honoured, and adorned the temple of the sun. 
And of the rest of the gods. 

Which have been sanctified by him, the son of the sun, 
Menephtha-Sethai, the beloved of the spirits of Heliopolis ^ 
Eternal like the sun." 

Centre column, South side. 

•• The Horns, the powerful. 
The piercer of foreign countries by his victories ; 
The Lord of diadems. Lord of upper and lower Egypt, 
The establisher of everlasting edifices ; 

■ Or justice. ' The spirits or local deities were 
" An allusion to the sun-god Mentu sometimes represented as birds, a spe- 
or Month, who was particularly favour- cies of bennu, or phoenix, but the trans- 
able to Rameses II. at the second battle lation is obscure. 
of Kadesh. 

1 6 The Egyptian Obelisks — Porta del Popolo, 

The resplendent Horns, 

Making his sanctuary in the sun who loves him 

The king, Pharaoh, establisher of justice. 

The adomer of Heliopolis, 

Who makes libations to the sun, 

And the rest of the Lords of the heavenly world, 

Who gives delight by his rejoicings and by his eyes. 

He does it, the son of the sun, Menephtha-Sethai, 

Beloved of Horns, the Lord of the two worlds, 

Like the sun, everlasting.'' 

Centre column. West side. 

** The Horns, the powerful, 
The beloved of the sun and of justice, 
Lord of diadems. Lord of upper and lower Egypt, 
Source of foreign countries, piercer of the Shepherds % 
The resplendent Horus, 
Beloved of the sun, whose name is magnified ; 
The king, Pharaoh, establisher of justice, 
Who fills Heliopolis with obelisks. 
To illustrate with (their) rays the temple of the sun ; 
Who, like the phoenix ', 

Fills with good things the great temple of the gods, 
Inundating (?) it with rejoicings. 
He does it, who is the son of the sun, 
Menephtha-Sethai, beloved of the rest of the gods 
Who inhabit the great temple giving life." 

East side, Right column. 

•* The Horus, the powerful. 
The beloved of the sun, the Ra, 
The ofispring of the gods, the subjugator of the world. 
The king, the Pharaoh, guardian of justice^ 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, 

Who gives joy to the region of Heliopolis, 
When it beholds the radiance of the solar mountain. 
He who does this is the Lord of the world. 
The Pharaoh, guardian of justice. 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, giving life like the sun." 

4 Doubtful translation, probably "smiter of the Asiatics." 

' Doubtful translation. 

The Egyptian Obelisks — Porta del Popoh. ' 17 

East side, Left column. 

" The HoTUS, the powerful, the beloved of justice^ 
The resplendent Horus, 

The director of the years, the great one of victoriesy 
The king, Pharaoh, guardian of justice, 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, has adorned 
Heliopolis with great edifices, honouring the gods 
By (placing) their statues in the great temple. 
He, the Lord of the world, 
Pharaoh, guardian of justice. 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, giving life for ever." 

North side, Right column, 

** The Horus, the powerful, the beloved of the sun. 
The Ra, begotten of the gods, 
The subjugator of the world. 
The king, Pharaoh, approved of the sun, 
Son of the sun, Amen-Mai Rameses, 
Who magnifies his name in every region 
By the greatness of his victories, 
The Lord of the world, 
Pharaoh, guardian of justice. 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, giving life like the sun.** 

JVbrth side, Left column. 

" The Horus, the powerful, the son of Set •, 
The resplendent Horus, 

The director of the years, the great one of victories, 
The king, Pharaoh, the guardian of justice, 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, 

Who fills the temple of the phoenix with splendid objects, 
The Lord of the world, Pharaoh, the guardian of justice. 
Approved of the sun, the son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, giving life for ever.'' 

■ Rather, descendant of Set-i-pet-i-Nubti, the first of the shepherd-kings, who 
was named after his local deity. 

1 8 The Egyptian Obelisks — Porta del Popolo. 

South side^ Left column, 

" The Horus, the powerful, the beloved of justice, 
Lord of the panegyries, 
Like his father Ptah-Totanen ; the king, 
Pharaoh, guardian of justice, approved of the sun. 
Son of the sun, Amen-Mai Rameses, 
Begotten and educated by the gods, 
Builder of their temples. Lord of the world ; 
Pharaoh, guardian of justice, approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, giving life like the sun." 

South sidcy Second left column, 

** The Horus, the powerful, the son of Ptah-Totonen, 
Lord of diadems. Lord of upper and lower Egypt, 
Possessor of Egypt, chastiser of foreign countries. 
The king, Pharaoh, guardian of justice. 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, who causes rejoicing in Heliopolis 
By displaying his royal attributes. 
Lord of the world, Pharaoh, guardian of justice, 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, giving life for ever." 

West sidCy Left column, 

** The Horus, the powerful, the beloved of the sun, 
Lord of the panegyries, like his father Ptah-Totanen, 
The king, Pharaoh, guardian of justice. 
Approved of the sun, son of the sun, Amen-Mai Rameses, 
Lord of diadems, possessor of Eg3rpt, 
Chastiser of foreign countries, Lord of the world ; 
Pharaoh, guardian of justice, approved of the sun, son of the sun, 
Amen-Mai Rameses, son of Totanen, giving life." 

Right column^ West side. 

" The Horus, the powerful, the son of Tum, 
The Ra, offspring of the gods, subjugator of the world 
The king, Pharaoh, guardian of justice, approved of the sun ; 
The son of the sun, Amen-Mai Rameses, 
The resplendent Horus, the director of the years, 
The great one of victories, the Lord of the world ; 
Pharaoh, guardian of justice, approved of the sun, the son of the sun; 
Amen-Mai Rameses, the son of Totanen, etemaL" 

Egyptian Obelisks* 19 


North Side, Pyramidion, 

Ra or the Sun hawk-headed seated on a throne having before him a jar and 
water-plants. Before him stands the Emperor Hadrian offering Truth (a figure 
of) on a pedestal. The inscriptions are, " Says Harmachis [Ra] I gire thee all 
life and healA for ever." Hadrian says, ^ Said by the son of the Sun Hadrianus 
the ever4iving I give thee glory which thy heart loves." 

The first line on this side reads, 

** A made the Osirian (deceased) Antinous the justified his heart reign- 
ing in the two great horizons he depicted his name by his own form alone, he 
walks alive, he sees the solar disk, he goes saying Oh Sun Har-Khuti ^ over the 
gods, listening to the prayers of gods, m^i, spirits, (and) dead. Thou hearest 
prayers, thou hast returned a recompense to those which made to thee thy be- 
loved son the king of Southern and Northern Egypt having honour in the midst 
of the lands and places, pleased are all districts of them at the lord of the world 
the beloved of the Nile and the gods the Lord of Diadems Hadrianus the 
Pharaoh the ever-living." 

The second line, 

" The chief of the South and North, being the great lord of every country, the 
ruler of the tributaries of Egypt, Libya being entirely subdued under his sandals, 
likewise the captives of the two lauds they were submissive at his feet daily. He 
reaches everywhere, he brought the tributes of this world out of its four quarters. 
Bulls and their numerous cows multiply their produce for him making him to 
rejoice with the great royal lady loving him the ruler of the countries, Sabina of 
life and health established, Augusta the ever-living. Hail father of the gods pro- 
ducing the horizons of the earth for them, making the celestial waters for them 
to drink at the time." 

East Side, Pyramidion, 

The god Thoth ibis-headed wearing on his head the moon seated on a throne 
giving life and health, having an altar placed before him bearing cakes and vases 
before which stands Antinous wearing the head-dress of Socharis offering vase and 
holding an emblem of life. Thoth says "I give thee festivals of hundreds of 
thousands of years." (The speech of Antinous is indistinct.) 

The first line on this side reads, 

*' The Osirian Antinous was a youth making to celebrate his memorials .... 
his heart triumphant letting fall the arms he received the commands of the gods 
as it were his joy, renewed were all the forms in him of each of the gods, and all 
his actions for unknown is the (extent) of the circulation of his name in the whole 
earth for exploring the men and adjusting speech. Never was done like by 
those who were before, daily his altars, his tonples, his titles upon them. He 
breathed the breath of life, he was esteemed in the hearts of men (Thoth) the 
lord of Hermopolis, lord of the divine words, made his soul young like the 

• Ungarelli Int. Ob. Tab. vi *» Form of Harmachis 

2Q Barberini Obelisk. 

Second line, 

" In their time night and day constantly. He was beloved in the hearts of 
youths he came in all . . . his praises to intelligent beings making him go to his 
place in the temples, amongst the followers, and wise spirits who are in the power 
of Osiris iti the land of the Hades divine for ever. They made hiiA justified, 
they set up his words in the whole earth they delighted in him, he went where- 
ever he liked. The doorkeepers of the regions of Hades said to him, Glory to 
thee • they drew their bolts they opened their doors before him m the course of 
every day, his time of existence was not cut short." 

South side. Pyramidion. 

The god Amen Ra under his usual attributes seated on a throne holding 
a notched palm-branch terminating in a tadpole emblem of iOo,oco of ypars, 
before him an altar of cakes and jars and Antinous standing wearing the head 
attire of Socharis offering a symbolic eye. The god says " I give thee thy titles." 

First line. 
"The Osirian Antinous is justified as a spirit « having rested within his city of 
Aann devoted is its name to his name by the multitudes who are in this land, 
and the crews rowing (boats) in the whole country and all the persons likewise 
who are at the place possessed by the god Thoth. We give (they say) an orna- 
ment and crowns of flowers to his head very often and additional things to his 
shrine, he has been given the peace offering of a god before him m the course 

of every day." 

Second line. 

«' He has been adored by workmen of Thoth by whose spirits he goes to in . . , 
his temples of the whole country to hear the requests addressed to him to remedy 
that which was unsound •* watching over what he has done working for beings he 
has made the transformation of his heart being transformed a god engendered 
.... the belly of his mother completed through his birth . . . ." 

West side. Pyramidion. 

The scene is incomplete the figure of the god being wanting but there remains 

the notched palm-branch and tadpole which he has held in his hand, the altar 

and the figure of Antinous. 

First line. 

♦* Spiritualized as a spirit at rest within the limits of the countries of the 
powerful lady Hruma (Rome) he has been recognised as a god in the divine 
places of Egypt which have been founded for him he has been adored as a god 
by the prophets and priests of the South and North of Egypt, likewise they gave 
the title of a city to his name proclaiming him to be highly honoured of the 
Greeks of Ra and Set who are in the temples of Egypt they offered." 

Second line. 
" Their towns and territories to make good their life .... great opening the 
temple of this god, which was t<t his name for the Osirian (deceased) Antinous 
the justified, built of good white stone sphinxes round it, and figures and numer- 
ous columns, as were made to ancestors in time past so did the Greeks also to 
every god and goddess who give the breath of life, for he has breathed again 
renewed with youth." 

« Or fUiam^ divum^ " divine," "being as divine." 
^ Alluding to miraculous cures. 

The Egyptian Obelisks. 
The following is Pliny's account ol them in the first century :— 

"Monarchs, too, have entered into a sort of rivalry with one another in form- 
ing elongated blocks of this stone, known as 'obelisks,' and consecrated to the 
divinity of the Sun. The blocks had this form given to them in resemblance to 
the rays of that luminary, which are so called in the Egyptian language. 

"Mesphres », who reigned in the city of the Sun, was the first who erected one 
of these obelisks, being warned to do so in a dream : indeed, there is an inscrip- 
tion upon the obelisk to this effect ; for the sculptures and figures which we still 
see engraved thereon are no other than Egyptian letters. 

"At a later period other kings had these obelisks hewn, Sesosthes erected 
four of them in the above-named city, forty-eight cubits in height ». Rhamsesis 
too, who was reigning at the time of the capture of Troy, erected one, a hundred 
and forty cubits high* Having quitted the spot where the palace of Mnevis 
stood, this monarch erected another obelisk, one hundred and twenty cubits in 
height, but of prodigious thickness, the sides being no less than eleven cubits 
m breadth T. It is said that one hundred and twenty thousand men were em 
ployed upon this work, and that the king, when it was on the point of beinc 
elevated, being apprehensive that the machinery employed might not prove strong 
enough for the weight, with the view of increasing the peril that might be entailed 
by due want of precaution on the part of the workmen, had his own son fastened 
to the summit, in order that the safety of the prince might at the same time ensure 
the safety of the mass of stone. It was in his admiration of this work that, when 
King Cambyses took the city by storm, and the conflagration had already reached 
the very foot of the obelisk, he ordered the fire to be extinguished ; he entertain 
ing a respect for this stupendous erection which he had not entertained for the 
city Itself. ^^^ 

l'^^^""^^!^ ^^'° ^'^'^ ""^^^^ obelisks, one of them erected by Zmarres. and the 
other by Phius ; both of them without inscriptions, and forty^g^^cuSs t 

l"t% I'lTr' ^^^^^^^^P^-^ ^^d --^ er^^ted at Alexandria, eighty cubite 
high, which had been prepared by order of King Necthebis : it was without any 
inscnpt ion, and cost far more troubl, in its carriage and elevation, than had been 
originally expended in quarrying it. Some writers inform us that it was conveyed 
on a raft, under the inspection of the architect Satyrus ; but Callixenus gives the 
nanae of Phoenix For this purpose, a canal was dug from the river Nilus to the 
spot where the obelisk lay; and two broad vessels, laden with blocks of simUa^ 

T^^ rVTr' '^" "^"^'^ ^^ '"'^ amounting to double the size, and conse- 
quent y double the weight, of the obelisk, were brought beneath it • the extZr 
ties of the obelisk remaining supported by the opposL sides of t^; cLal "t 
blocks of stone were then removed, and the vessels, being thus gradually li^ht- 
ened, received their burden. It was erected upon a basis of six square blocks 
quarried from the same mountain, and the artist was rewarded with the smn of 

by\?e^^dott° TeTp "f"^'' '"^ "^""'^ \ One-hundred-and-eighty feet high, 
- Seventy. ;of^^^ ^°^ ^^^^^^^ ^^^^^ "^^^ i^^^es wide. ^ ' 

« T;ra:d^^^^^ high. ' Seventy-two feet high. 

22 The Egyptian Obelisks — Pliny. 

fifty talents. This obelisk was placed by the king aboye-mentionecT in the Arsi- 
nooeum, in testimony of his affection for his wife and sister Arsinoe. At a later 
period, as it was found to be an inconvenience to the docks, Maximus, the then 
praefect of Egypt, had it transferred to the Formn there, after removing the sum- 
mit for the purpose of substituting a gilded point ; an intention which was ulti- 
mately abandoned. 

'' There are two other obelisks, which were in Caesar's Temple at Alexandria, 
near the harbour there, forty-two cubits in height ', and originally hewn by order 
of King Mesphres. But the most difficult enterprise of all, was the carriage of 
these obelisks by sea to Rome, in vessels which excited the greatest admiration. 
Indeed, the late Emperor Augustus consecrated the one which brought over the 
first obelisk, as a lasting memorial of this marvellous undertaking, in the docks 
at Puteoli ; but it was destroyed by fire. As to the one' in which, by order of the 
Emperor Caius, the other obelisk had been transported to Rome, after having 
been preserved for some years and looked upon as the most wonderful construc- 
tion ever beheld upon the seas, it was brought to Ostia, by order of the late Em- 
peror Claudius ; and towers of Puteolan earth being first erected upon it, it was 
sunk for the construction of the harbour which he was making there. And then, 
besides, there was the necessity of constructing other vessels to cany these obelisks 
up the Tiber ; by which it became practically ascertained, that the depth of water 
in that river is not less than that of the river Nilus. 

"The obelisk that was erected by the late Emperor Augustus in the great 
Circus, was originally quarried by order of King Semenpserteus, in whose reign 
it was that Pjrthagoras visited Egypt It is eighty-five feet and three quarters in 
height, exclusive of the base, which is a part of the same. stone. The one that he 
erected in the Campus Martius, is nine feet less in height, and was originally 
made by order of Sesothis. They are both of them covered with inscriptions, 
which interpret the operations of Nature according to the philosophy of the 
Egyptians ^" 

'*The one that has been erected in the Campus Martius has been applied to 
a singular purpose by the late Emperor Augustus ; that of marking the shadows 
projected by the sun, and so measuring the length of the dajrs and nights ^ With 
this object, a stone pavement was laid, the extreme length of which corresponded 
exactly with the length of the shadow thrown by the obelisk at the sixth hour on 
the day of the winter solstice. After this period, the shadow would go on, day 
by day, gradually decreasing, and then again would as gradually increase, cor- 
respondingly with certain lines of brass that were inserted in the stone ; a device 
well deserving to be known, and due to the ingenuity of Facundns Novus, the 
mathematician. Upon the apex of the obelisk he placed a gilded ball, in order 
that the shadow of the summit might be condensed and agglomerated, and so 
prevent the shadow of the apex itself firom running to a fine point of enormous 
extent ; the plan being first suggested to him, it is said, by the shadow that is 
projected by the human head. For nearly the last thirty years, however, the 
observations derived from this dial have been found not to agree : whether it is 
that the sun itself has changed its course in consequence of some derangement 
of the heavenly system ; or whether that the whole earth has been in some degree 
displaced from its centre, a thing that, I have heard say, has been remarked in 

■ Sixty-three feet »> Pliny's Natural History, bk. xxxvi ch. 14. 

* See p. 4. 

The Egyptian Obelisks— Pliny. 


othw places as well ; or whether that some earthquake, confined to this city only, 
has wrenched the dial from its original position ; or whether it is that in conse- 
quence of the inundations of the Tiber, the foundations of the mass have sub- 
sided, in spite of the general assertion that they are sunk as deep into the earth 
as the obelisk erected upon them is high. 

" The third obelisk at Rome is in the Vaticanian Circus ', which was constructed 
by the Emperors Gains and Nero ; this being the only one of them all that has 
been broken in the carriage. Nuncoreus, the son of Sesoses, made it : and there 
remains another by him, one hundred cubits in height % which, by order of an 
orade^ he consecrated to the Sun, after having lost his sight and recovered it'." 

"There was a fir, too, that was particularly admired, when it formed the 
mast of the ship, which brought from Egypt, by order of the Emperor Caius, 
the obelisk that was erected in the Vaticanian Circus, with the four blocks of 
stone intended for its base. It is beyond all doubt that there has been seen 
nothing on the sea more wonderful than this ship : one hundred and twenty 
thousand modii of lentils formed its ballast ; and the length of it took up the 
greater part of the left side of the harbour at Ostia. It was sunk at that spot by 
order of the Emperor Claudius, three moles, each as high as a tower, being built 
upon it ; they were constructed with cement which the same vessel had conveyed 

** See p. 3. The circus was no doubt 
made in the great foss at the foot of the 
Vatican Hill, according to the usual 
custom of the Romans. A circus was 
necessarily in low ground, not on the 
slopes or hills. Some modem authors 
ignorantly say that it is on the site of 
the Sacristy of S. Peter's, which is on 
a steep slope. 

• One-hundred-and-fifly feet high. 

' Pliny's Natural History, bk, xxxvi. 
ch. 15. 

8 Pliny's Natural History, bk. xvi. 
ch. 76. The account of the wooden 
vessel made by the Romans to bring 
this great obelisk to Rome, may be 
compared to the iron vessel made to 
bring Cleopatra's Needle to London* 

The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Ammianus Marcellinus, in the fourth centuiy, relates as follows 
respecting the obelisks then in Rome : — 

" Because the flatterers, who were continually whispering into the ear of Con- 
stantius, kept always affirming that when Augustus Octavianus had brought two 
obelisks from Heliopolis, a city of Egypt, one of which was placed in the Circus 
Maximus, and the other in the Campus Martius, he yet did not venture to touch or 
move this one which has just been brought to Rome, being alarmed at the great- 
ness of such a task ; I would have those, who do not know the truth, learn that 
the ancient emperor, though he moved several obelisks, left this one untouched, 
because it was especially dedicated to the Sun-god, and was set up within the 
precincts of his magnificent temple, which it was impious to profane ; and of 
which it was the most conspicuous ornament. 

** But Constantius deeming that a consideration of no importance, had it torn 
up from its place, and thinking rightly that he should not be offering any insult 
to religion if he removed a splendid work from some other temple to dedicate it 
to the gods at Rome, which is the temple of the whole world, let it lie on the 
ground for some time while arrangements for its removal were being prepared. 
And when it had been carried down the Nile, and landed at Alexandria, a ship 
of a burden hitherto unexampled, requiring three hundred rowers to propel it, 
was built to receive it. 

'* And when these preparations were made, and after the aforenamed emperor 
had died, the enterprise began to cool. However, after a time it was at last put 
on board ship, and conveyed over sea, and up the stream of the Tiber, which 
seemed as it were frightened, lest its own winding waters should hardly be equal 
to conveying a present from the almost unknown Nile to the walls which itself 
cherished. At last the obelisk reached the village of Alexandria, three miles 
from the city ; and then it was placed in a cradle, and drawn slowly on, and 
brought through the Ostian gate and passing by the Piscina Publica, or great 
public swimming-bath, to the Circus Maximus. 

* * The only work remaining to be done was to raise it, which was generally 
believed to be hardly, if at all, practicable. And vast beams having been raised 
on end in a most dangerous manner, so that they looked like a grove of machines, 
long ropes of huge size were fastened to them, darkening the very sky with their 
density, as they formed a web of innumerable threads ; and into them the great 
stone itself, covered over as it was with elements of writing, was bound, and gra- 
dually raised into the empty air, and long suspended, many thousands of men 
turning it round and round like a millstone, till it was at last placed in the middle 
of the square ; and on it was placed a brazen sphere, made brighter with plates 
of gold : and as that was immediately afterwards struck by lightning, and 
destroyed, a brazen figure like a torch was placed on it, also plated with gold 
^to look as if the torch were fully alight. 

''Subsequent ages also removed other obelisks ; one of which is in the Vaticaiit 
a second in the garden of Sallust ; and two in the monument of Augustus. 

The Egyptian Obelisks — Ammianus Marcellinus. 2$ 

** But the writing which is engraven on the old obelisk in the Circus, we have 
set forth below in Greek characters, following in this the work of Hermapion :— 



*'The first line, banning on the south side, bears this interpretation — 'The 
Sun to Ramestes the king — I have given to thee to reign with joy over the whole 
earth ; to thee whom the Sun and Apollo love — to thee, the mighty truth-loving 
son of Heron — ^the god-bom ruler of the habitable earth ; whom the Sun has 
chosen above all men, the valiant warlike King Ramestes. Under whose power, 
by his valour and might, the whole world is placed. The King Ramestes, the 
immortal son of the Sun.' 

"The second line is — 'The mighty Apollo, who takes his stand upon truth, 
the lord of the diadem, he who has honoured Egypt by becoming its master, 
adorning Heliopolis, and having created the rest of the world, and having greatly 
honoured the gods who have their shrines in the city of the Sun ; whom the sos 

'* The third line — ' The mighty Apollo, the all-brilliant son of the Sun, whom 
the Sun chose above all others, and to whom the valiant Mars gave gifts. Thou 
whose good fortune abideth for ever. Thou whom Ammon loves. Thou who 
hast filled the temple of the Phcenix with good things. Thou to whom the gods 
have given long life. Apollo the mighty son of Heron, Ramestes the king of the 
world. Who has defended Egypt, having subdued the foreign enemy. Whom 
the Sun loves. To whom the gods have given long life — the master of the world 
^the immortal Ramestes.' 

"Another second line— 'The Sun, the great God, the master of heaven. 
I have given unto thee a life free from satiety. Apollo, the mighty master of 
the diadem ; to whom nothing is comparable. To whom the lord of Eg3rpt has 
erected many statues in this kingdom. And has made t^e city of HeUopolis as 
brilliant as the Sun himself, the master of heaven. The son of the Sun, the king 
living for ever, has co-operated in the completion of this work.' 

" A third line — " I, the Sun, the god, the master of heaven, have given to 
Ramestes the king might and authority over alL Whom Apollo the truth-lover, 
the master of time, and Vulcan the father of the gods hath chosen above others 
by reason of his courage. The all-rejoicing king, the son of the Sun, and beloved 
by the Sun.' 

" The first line, lookmg towards the east—* The great God of Heliopolis, the 
mighty Apollo who dwelleth in Heaven, the son of Heron whom the Sun hath 
guided. Whom the gods have honoured. He who ruleth over all the earth : 
whom the Sun has chosen before all others. The king valiant by the favour of 
Mars. Whom Ammon loveth, and the all-shining god, who hath chosen hun 
M a king for everlasting. ' And so on \ " 

^ Ammianus Marcellinusi bk. svil ch. iv. | la. 


By Professor Donaldson *. 

The generous patriotism of Mr. Erasmus Wilson and the skill of 
Mr. John Dixon, C.E., have triumphed over the half-a-century of 
England's indifference, and now the monolith of Alexandria is in the 
Thames, only awaiting, after much discussion and difference of opi- 
nion as to its proper site, to be erected in the very centre of our 
Metropolis as an evidence of the grand ideas of the ancient Egyp- 
tians in regard to monumental art Considering how intimately 
obelisks are connected with our pursuit, I have felt that it would 
hardly become our Institute, if such an historical fact were unnoticed 
in our annals, and if some attempt, however brief, were not made 
by us to get together the leading points connected with the general 
sub'ect of obelisks, their purpose, proportions, material, and position, 
treated from a strictly architectural point of view, without encum- 
bering ourselves with the questions relating to precise dates, or 
intricate calculations of dynasties, or to hieroglyphics. 

They are the most simple monuments of Egyptian architecture, 
and among the most interesting that antiquity has transmitted to us, 
from the remoteness of their origin, and the doubt in which we still 
are as to the period when first set up. The oldest, which now re- 
mains to us, is still standing at Heliopolis, near Cairo— the On 
Rameses or Beth-Shemesh of the Hebrew Scriptures. Abraham was 
unborn, the Pentateuch of Moses was not written, when the inha- 
bitant of Heliopolis adored his gods in the temple of the sun, and 
read upon the obelisk still in its place the name of Harmachis 
and that of King Usertesen, who then reigned and reared it, and 
to whom Mariette assigns the date of 2851 years before Christ 
He was a powerful Pharaoh, whom eleven royal dynasties had pre- 
ceded, and who was followed by twelve more, when Alexander the 
Great, about 380 B.C., came to consult the oracle of Ammon, and 
to found at Alexandria the capital of his future Egyptian Empire. 
They are supposed to have been principally dedicated to the sun 
Horus, of whom the hawk was a symbol, on account of the eleva- 
tion to which this bird extended his flight, and of the faculty, which 
the ancients considered it to have, of looking at the sun with 

* Read before the Royal Institute of British Architects, April S^ 187& 

D 2 

28 On Obelisks: 

a steady gaze. Pliny says, " That the Egyptian term for an obelisk 
conveyed the idea of a sun's ray, which its form was supposed to 
sjonbolise." The term * obelisk' is derived from the Greek term 
obelosy which meant ' a spit,' a term which the witty epigrammatic 
Greeks gave them, with the view, like all wits in such cases, to 
cover with an air of ridicule what they could not controvert by 
. reason. 

Obelisks have been, from the earliest periods of antiquity, re- 
garded as remarkable monuments of the skill and perseverance of 
remote ages. They must ever be considered as valuable records 
of the ancient history of the Egyptians, and of the skill of those 
periods; monumental evidences of their sovereigns and of their 
warlike exploits. Extracted with vast labour from their quarries as 
monoliths, conveyed six or seven hundreds of miles down the Nile, 
and erected with difficulty in front of their temples, they are em- 
blems of the perseverance and love of glory of the Egyptians or 
their rulers. The very fact of their being transported to Europe by 
the ancient Romans under their Emperors, shews the high value 
in which they were held by that people, as witnesses of their own 
world-wide victories in remote regions, and as proofs of the estima- 
tion in which they were regarded by the very conquerors of Egypt 
They became trophies of the successes of the arms of the Romans, 
and of their determination to grace their conquests by the transport 
and erection of these huge monoliths in their central city of the 
then civilized world. Overthrown by earthquakes or the violence 
of conquerors, buried in the sands or encumbered by the enormous 
blocks of stone piled up to great heights — the city of Thebes, even 
in its dilapidated state at the present day, is the marvel of the 
traveller for the extent and dimensions of its ruins. The ancient 
city, divided in its middle by the Nile, as London is by the Thames, 
presents two gigantic towns with remains of immense temples, which 
in all their accompaniments and parts are colossal, whether in the 
dromoi or avenues leading up to their entrance portals, their statues, 
their courts and colonnades, in the hypostyle halls, and though last 
not least, as objects of wgnder, in their stupendous obelisks. These 
were lofty pillars of granite set up by the kings in front of their 
temples, and to commemorate their victories and record their various 
names and titles. I am not aware that they have as yet been found 
in front of tombs, as suggested by Mr. Basil Henry Cooper in his 
learned Paper recently read before the Society of Arts. They were 
monoliths^ consisting of a square shaft gradually diminishing towards 
its summit up to about nine diameters high, where the iisices sud- 

their Purpose^ Proportions^ Material^ and Position. 29 

denly receded up to a point, their upper portion being called a 
pyramidion from the similarity of its general form to that of a 
pyramid, though much more rapidly sloping. I have said receding 
up to a point, but the fact is> that there is authority for assuming, 
that sometimes the pyramidion had a seated figure on its top^ 
whether of the king or one of their gods. 

The Egyptians set great value upon the size of their monoliths, 
and if a large block were extracted from a quarry not quite corre- 
sponding in all its sides, whether as to size or form, they would 
without scruple use it for their immediate purpose, or shape it 
as near as possible to the object they had in view, without diminish- 
ing its size. The consequence is that many of their obelisks, 
pedestals and sarcophagi even, where one would have supposed 
the most scrupulous attention to uniformity should have existed, 
are irregular in shape. In like manner, some of the huge blocks 
intended for obelisks came out of the quarries mis-shapen at the 
smaller end, and to remedy this defect they covered it with a metal, 
capping of the required shape, rather than reduce its length by cut- 
ting off the rugged portion. 

The summit of the Parisian obelisk was irregular in shape, and 
left quite rough. There was at bottom of the pyramidion a channel 
and fillet, then a surface setting back, and the granite presenting 
an uneven face. It was in the same state previous to its being 
lowered by the French. There must have been something to cover 
this unsightly appearance. An Arab writer, Mohamed, son of Ab- 
darrahim, says, in a work entitled ^' Tohfal Allabab,'' translated by 
De Lacey : " That one of the obelisks of Pharaoh, which were at 
Mataria, near Cairo, fell down, and a great quantity of copper was 
taken firom the top." Reference is also made by Kodhai to two 
obelisks in the city of Heliopolis, as ^' being extremely wonderfuL 
On their summit are two pointed caps in copper. When the Nile 
overflows, water flows from their summits from beneath the bronze 
coverings, and descends to about the middle of the column (obe- 
lisk) ; this part is green.'' And again : " This obelisk is square, 
formed of a single block, pointed at the top, which is a covering 
of copper as yellow as gold, above which is the figure of a man 
sitting in his chair, looking at the rising sun." Our obelisk has an 
inscription, translated by M. Chabas from the transcript of Burton's 
" Excerpta Hieroglyphica," pi. 51. In it is the following line : — 

"he erected two very great obelisks capped with gold." 
Mariette Bey mentions that round the lowest part of the obelisk 

30 ' On Obelisks: 

of Hatasou runs an inscription in horizontal lines covering the whole 
of its four sides, which states that the summit of the obelisk was 
covered over with pure gold, taken from the chiefs of the nation ; 
and he observes that, unless this expression simply implies an apex 
overlaid with a casing of gilded copper, as the top of the obelisk 
must have been, this inscription possibly refers to the sphere of 
gold(?) which is represented on certain bas-reliefs at Sakkarah. 
He further says: "The obelisk was no doubt gilded from top to 
bottom." In examining closely, one may notice that the hieroglyphs 
were carefully polished, and moreover that the plain surface of the 
monument was left comparatively rugged, from which it may be 
inferred that it had been covered with a coating of white stucco, 
as so many Egyptian monuments were, which alone received this 
costly embellishment of gilding, the hieroglyphs themselves retain- 
ing the original colour and actual surface of granite. Dr. Birch 
mentions (p. 103) that the tombs in Libyan range behind Goumah 
and El-Assasif " are full of scenes of the reign of Thothmes. Two 
great obelisks of 188 cubits high, with gilded tops 1 are recorded in 
these sepulchres." Mariette Bey also says that "the inscription 
further states that the two granite obelisks of Heliopolis were ac- 
tually completed and erected in seven months from the very begin- 
ning, when first extracted from the quarry in the mountain." This 
use of bronze caps seems to justify the practice in modem times, 
as the ancient Romans possibly adopted in certain cases the same 
practice; and this has been handed down traditionally to our 

When the pyramidion was perfect in its shape, and required no 
artificial capping, it was sculptured in sunk relief, with a representa- 
tion, as on the Alnwick Obelisk, of the god to whom the monument 
was dedicated, before whom was the king kneeling and presenting 
his offering, or by a group consisting principally of a sphinx on a 
pedestal in front of a deity seated on a throne. A very fine example 
of the apex of an obelisk, at Kamak, is to be seen in the full-sized 
cast of one side of a pyramidion, on the landing at the top of the 
staircase leading to the Egyptian Room, in the upper gallery of the 
British Museum. Imposing from its size and execution, it shews 
the bold depth of the hieroglyphs and rounded surface of the sunk 
character, polished, as Mr. Erasmus Wilson suggests, like the deli- 
cate carving of a gem. 

The next division of our subject relates to the shaft of the obelisk. 
The sides were not always equal in their width, varying a few inches. 
In the exceptional instance of the obelisk of Biggeg or Crocodilo- 

their Purpose ^ Proportions, Material, and Position. 3 1 

pblis in the Fayoum, called by Mr. W. R. Cooper an obeliscoid 
monolith in his able book on this subject, the faces are 6 ft. 9 in. 
broad, the sides only 4 ft. thick. Our London obelisk is at the base 
7 ft. 10.3 in. by 7 ft. 8 in. ; at the summit, 5 ft. 1.3 in. by 4 ft. 10.25 
in., — an inappreciable difference. The four sides or faces of obe- 
lisks were usually square, but occasionally they are convex ; a fact 
proving the nice perception for effect, which prevailed in the minds 
of the ancient Egyptians, as thus the light was much softer upon 
the surface, the shades less crude, and the angles less cutting. 
Whether there is in any an entasis in the upright line has not yet 
been precisely ascertained, but perhaps this fact may now be set at 
rest in respect of our Alexandrine obelisk. 

Usually obelisks had one, two, or three vertical lines of hieroglyphs. 
Originally it may be assumed that only one central series was con- 
templated by the original Pharaoh ; but it appears that his son, suc- 
cessor, or successors, added a line on each side : and it is remarkable 
that earlier hieroglyphs were much deeper cut than the more recent 
ones. Occasionally some of the hieroglyphs have been altered or 
erased, more or less deeply cut, and the names of other gods or 
Pharaohs have been substituted, like the inscriptions upon some of 
the Roman triumphal arches. I just now noticed the mention made 
by Mariette Bey of the faces of obelisks having been gilt, the hiero- 
glyphs themselves retaining their original colour and actual surface 
of granite. It is not impossible that occasionally the hollows of the 
hieroglyphs may have been fiUed-in with some coloured substance, 
in like manner as we see on the frescoes the hieroglyphs painted in 
different colours, like those preserved in the Egyptian Hall of the 
British Museum. These inscriptions are generally trivial and mean- 
ingless, recording little more than the names and patronymics of the 
king, his relationship to the gods, and list of his virtues and of the 
peoples he may have subdued in battle; sometimes with maxims 
and blessings of the gods. One of the inscriptions on the obelisk 
of S. John the Lateran, Rome, is rendered in Dr. Birch's " Records 
of the Past," vol. iv. p. 8 : — 

" The Har-em-akhu, the living Sun — the strong bull crowned in 
Thebes — lord of diadems augmenting his kingdom — the hawk of 
gold — the arranger of diadems — very valiant, the King Ra-men- 
Kheper — ^approved of the Sun, son of the Sun, — ^Thothmes (III.) 
has made this memorial to his father Amen-Ra — lord of the seat of 
the upper and lower countries — has erected an obelisk to him — at 
the gateway of the Temple in Thebes." 

The obelisk of Alexandria, now lying in our Thames, contains 

32 On Obelisks: 

similar inscriptions ; but I have preferred giving this from thq, 
Lateran monument, as it refers more directly to the obelisk erected 
by the king, Thothmes III., and to the Temple at Thebes before 
which it stood. 

We have now to consider the dies, pedestals and steps upon 
which the obelisks were anciently raised. On this subject we have 
very little reliable information, for the bottom portion of those now 
left standing in Egypt are encumbered and surrounded by huge 
fallen blocks of stone, preventing their full size from being ascer- 
tained ; and on those transported to Constantinople or Rome or 
elsewhere from their original sites no reliance can be placed. Our 
late friend, Mr. Joseph Bonomi, may be considered a great veteran 
authority on the subject of obelisks, as he made it an especial 
object of study when in Egypt and in Rome ; and there is a very^ 
complete enumeration and analysis of existing monoliths by him 
in voL i. of the Second Series of the Transactions of the Royal 
Society of Literature, 1843, ^^nd a description of the Alnwick Obe- 
lisk, p. 170 of the same volume. To his liberality we owe the two 
fine models, now on the table, of obelisks at Kamak and Luxor. 
In a private letter to myself he says, that he had seen the upper 
part of the block of granite on which that of Kamak stands — it is 
cubical ; on two sides the surface is vertical, on the two other sides 
the surface inclines very much, but the exact angle I do not know, 
nor do I know how high the block is, for the lower part is en- 
cumbered by laige masses of stone ! The model was made for the 
late Duke of Northumberland (Algernon Percy). This divergence 
of the faces of the die is a remarkable confirmation of my previous 
remark as to the irregularities existing in large blocks of granite, 
from the desire of the Eg}'ptians to retain, as far as possible, the 
cubical mass entire. Mr. Bonomi concludes his note by stating, 
that he had measured and drawn the base of the obelisk at Luxor ; 
that it was composed of several pieces of granite, and on the north 
and south sides had four statues of monkeys cut out of two or three 
blocks of granite in alto relievo. On the east and west sides are 
sculptured in Egyptian cavo relievo ^hieroglyphs) figures of Nilus 
bringing in the productions of the country. This extraordinary, 
mode of embellishing the pedestals of obelisks seems almost in- 
credible, were it not for this instance, which is illustrated and de- 
tailed by M. Le Bas the engineer, who transported the Luxor obe- 
lisk to Paris, where, however, the original pedestal forms no part 
of its present composition in the Place de la Concorde. 

their Purpose, Propvriions^ Material, and Position, %^ 

The obelisk, as described by M. Le Bas, deserves our special 
notice, on account of its individual peculiarities. 

Rameses II., whose reign began 1388 b.c., extracted the monoliths 
from the quarries of Syene, and transported them to Thebes, and 
partly incised the hieroglyphs of the middle column. His brother 
and successor, Sesostris, whose reign began 1328 B.a, completed 
the inscriptions. It thus appears that the hierogl)rphs were exe* 
cuted before the erection : for Rameses II. set up the obelisks 1388 
B.a, and had his name engraved on the base as an historical record. 
The total height of the shaft is 75 feet at its base, 8 feet wide, at the 
top an average of 5 feet In its elevation the opposite faces in their 
height have a different curvature — on the one side being convex 
and the other concave, to the extent of about a couple of inches, an 
imperceptible difference from a straight line ; but it is remarkable 
that the two obelisks coincide in this detail. I imagine that the 
first block must have been irregularly marked out and worked, and 
the second one compelled to follow the faulty line in the quarry. 
The pedestal -of each obelisk is composed of two distinct parts, 
its base and its die. The base or plinth resting on the pavement 
consists of three horizontal blocks of three courses of sandstone— 
the central die is a granite monolith, supporting the weight of the 
obelisk — and has on two of its sides four projecting monkeys in 
high relief; the other sides being plain, with the exception of in-' 
dsed hieroglyphs; one side of the die with four of the monkey 
figures was a slab-facing of the die, and it consequently did not 
contribute to its solidity. The entire monument was erected on' 
the grey stone paving, and was sunk into the paving blocks 
a few inches. Such is the ;^eiy remarkable construction and 
decoration of these, I presume, very exceptional instances. As 
to the pedestals of the obelisks, we may infer that in other 
cases, the monoliths rested on one or more steps, and that 
they did not rise at once without any substructure or plinth 
from the level of the pavement. Sometimes bronze balls or 
other supports at the angles, raised the monolith a few inches 
above the slab or block beneath. Mr. Dixon discovered an 
inscription engraved in Greek and Latin on the bronze crabs 
supporting the standing obelisk of Alexandria, having the words, 
**Anno VIII. Caesaris, Barbarus Prsefectus -^gypti posuit; Archi- 
tectore Pontio" (see E. Wilson's " Cleopatra's Needle," p. 1 1). This 
explains the reason why some of the obelisks at Rome have the 
like angular supports. 

We will now turn aside from our immediate subject to consider 

J4 On Obelisks : 

a class of monolithic pillars in Ethiopia, erroneously termed obe* 
lisks by travellers in that country. 

M. De Cosson, in his work entitled " The Cradle of the Blue 
Nile," 8vo., London, 1877, in his 11 ch. vol. i., gives an account of 
his visit to Axum in Abyssinia and the ancient capital of Tigre, 
supposed to have been formerly the metropolis of the Troglodyte 
{Ethiopians or Cushites. Bruce said that he saw a stone with an 
inscription of the Ptolemies on it, but this M* de Cosson did not 
succeed in finding. In the plain near he saw an obelisk of stone 
standing upright, near the ruins of the Temple of Axum, the width 
of which was greater than its depth ; there was no carving on any 
of its sides, but the lines were straight and sharp, as if they had just 
been cut by the chisel. At Axum are a number of gigantic mono- 
liths of grey granite, which seem to have formed part of some great 
early Ethiopic temple, of which little or nothing is now known. 
The great stone near the ruins of the temple is said to be 70 ft. high, 
its width nearly twice as great as its depth ; it has four parallel sides 
forming four right angles, tapering gradually towards the top, and 
finally ending in a pointed ornament somewhat resembling an ace 
of spades. The firont or smoothed side is carved with a regular^ 
pattern, dividing it into little panels, and near the base is the carved, 
representation of a locked door of ordinary dimensions. The lock 
carved is exactly the same as the wooden locks still used in Egypt 
and Palestine, but which are never seen in Abyssinia. In front of 
this door is a great square block of granite placed against the base 
of the stone, and having four little hollows scooped in the upper 
side about the size and depth of a finger bowl. The surface of this 
block is quite smooth, and has a scroll pattern carved round the 
edge, but the underpart is rough and irregular in shape. Probably, 
says our author, it was used as an altar, and the blood of the sacri- 
fices was collected in the little basins described. 

These pillars, so essentially different from the obelisks of Egjrpt, 
must only be considered of the same class as the Stele of the Greek, 
and of no more affinity with the Pharaonic monoliths, than the 
pillars round the temples in Ceylon. 

The erections on the banks of the Nile were constructed of the 
sand and limestones extracted from the quarries near. The pink 
granite was only used for the obelisks, statues, sarcophagi, casings 
of the pyramids, sanctuaries in temples, and linings of some special 
tombs, and for other precious or sacred purposes. The positioa 
of the quarries of Syene must have been of the utmost importance 
in facilitating the application of that fine material Situate below 

their Purpose, Proportions, Material, and Position. "^J 

the rapids — or, as they are generally called, the cataracts — when 
once the masses were extracted from their beds, no obstruction pre- 
sented itself in their course down the river to their destination, 
whether to Memphis, Heliopolis, or the Delta. Mr. W. R. Cooper 
(p. 3) states, that twenty-seven of the forty-two now known were 
from Syene, and they are doubtless the largest. An unextracted 
block still remains at Syene, 95 feet long by a diameter of 11 feet, 
with the quarrymen's marks upon it 

Sir Gardner Wilkinson mentions that the final operation of ex* 
traction, when three sides of a mass had been worked round, was 
by cutting a groove or channel about a couple of inches in depth, 
and kindling a fire along its whole length. When the stone was 
intensely heated, cold water was poured into the groove, and the 
block detached itself with a clear fracture. Wedges of wood were 
also inserted, saturated with water, then exposed to heat, and the 
expansion rent the mass asunder. Thus detached it was drawn 
down to the river, where it was encased, or upon a galley or raft 
floated down the Nile to near the spot where it was ultimately to 
be set up. From the river bank it was hauled to the Propyla, in 
front of which it was to be erected, as shewn on the illustration 
before you, representing in a sculpture on the wall of a hypogee at 
Beni-hassan the transport of a colossal statue. One at Goumah 
measured 57 feet 5 inches high, and, according to Mariette, weighed 
not less than 1,198 tons ! The colossus on the illustration is sup- 
posed to be about 20 feet high, and the monolythic block rests on 
a species of sledge, or cradle, to which it is securely fixed by cables. 
There are four lines of eighty-six men hauling the load with cables ; 
the men are in couples. In the front part of the statue, standing at 
its feet, is a man pouring water upon the ropes to prevent their 
chafing and catching fire by friction. On the knee is a man with 
outstretched arms beating time with his hands, that the efforts 
and action pf the haulers might be uniform. At top are six com- 
panies of soldiers of ten to each company, carrying in one extended 
hand a palm-branch, in the other a club. Beneath the cradle or 
sledge of the statue are three water-carriers with their jugs, and 
three men carr)ang blocks, and three officers with wands. Behind 
the statue are three other rows of men — twelve in all — ^to act as 
relays. Under the sledge there is no appearance of rollers. We 
have no hieroglyphs or painting on the walls of the pyla, or tombs, 
shewing how the obelisks were raised and placed in their final 
position. That the erection of the monolith on its pedestal was 
a most critical operation is sufficiently obvious, and its difficulty is 

36 On Obelisks^ 

illustrated by an anecdote related by Pliny : Rameses erected aui 
obelisk 140 cubits high and of prodigious thickness. It is said 
J 20,000 men were employed on the work. To ensure the safety of 
the operation by the extremest skill of the architect, he had his own 
son fastened to the summit while it was raised. Our obelisk weighs 
187 tons. 

But on a small illustration before you there is represented a mu- 
ral painting in a hypogee, or underground tomb, at Goumah, with 
three men polishing a column of no great size ; but that may be 
conventional. The column rests on blocks ; the polishers are astride, 
or seated on the column, with rubbers rubbing the surface ; another, 
from the same tomb, shews a colossal upright figure surrounded 
by scaffold poles ; five artisans are chiselling, rubbing and polishing 
the surface. Another small illustration represents a mason carving a 
many-coloured sphinx ; he is chiselling the paw of the animal ; he 
has a wooden mallet in his right hand, and in his left a steel chisel, 
unmistakingly indicated by the deep blue colour of the tool. We 
know not whether emery or what other powder was used by the 

I have not yet alluded to the masons' and carvers* operations 
of cutting the hard materials used in their obelisks, statues, sarf 
cophagi, &a, such as the pink and black granite, black marble, 
basalt, &C. Hardly any iron tools have been preserved among the 
relics of the tombs. With what materials did the ancient £g}'ptians 
carve with such refined delicacy and exquisite sharpness the mouth, 
eyes, and other features of their statues, or what Mr. Erasmus 
Wilson calls the gem-like surfaces of the in cavo relievo of the hiero- 
glyphs ? I do not know that we are possessed of any process, 
by which brass may be sufficiently hardened for the purpose, and 
we have not specimens enough which have survived the oxydation 
of the iron, to satisfy us on the point as to that material. Could 
they prepare and soften the surface by some chemical application 
on the harder elements of their hard stones ? No one as yet has 
been able to inform us ; but the secret mystery of the execution of 
the Egyptian sculpture still evades our wonder, and admiration of 
their skill Our own granite merchants have achieved wonders 
by means of steam machinery, in working out by rotary motion 
the shafts and bases and caps of certain columns and curcular 
pedestals ; but the refined sharpness of the lips, eyebrows, and 
other delicate features of the Egyptian heads, as they appear even 
upon the lids of the sarcophagi, or the busts, in the British Museum^ 
has yet to be attained. 

their Purpose^ Proportions^ Material, and Position. 37 

^ - 

• I have before observed that the Egyptians were less careful as 
regards any fixed proportions of their monoliths, but were more 
anxious to use up the blocks as it came firom the quarry, whether 
as to the height or uniformity of shape. The sides of an obelisk 
rarely correspond exactly with the breadth of its face, or the height 
of the shaft to any fixed relation with the width at the base, and 
there is a like disregard in the height of the pyramidion, which, 
however, was high-peaked and never stunted. Nevertheless we may 
generally assume, that the shaft varied from eight to nine diameters 
high up to the pyramidion, which itself was from sixty to seventy- 
five himdreds of the breadth at the base. Too few of the pedestals, 
plinths, or steps, have been ascertained or measured to afford any 
general law of proportion whether as to their breadth or height 

The positions of obelisks were before the gigantic pylons, which 
formed the entrance-gateways to the forecourts of their temples ; and 
they were, I think, without exception, always in pairs. At Kamak 
the situation of the two lofty ones erected by Queen Hatasou (one 
of which still stands, and is, according to Mariette Bey, p. 370, 
108 ft. 6 in. high, the loftiest one known) was between two lofty 
pylons only 40 or 50 ft. apart ! Those in front of the outer pylon 
are not so distant in advance of it. Consequently the Egyptians 
disregarded the immediate proximity of a lofty wall, backing them 
up, and none are known situate in wide open spaces. I have 
grouped together in a drawing the various objects which occupied 
the approaches to the temples, and formed an assemblage that was 
calculated to impress with awe the dignity of the fane of their god* 
The sacred way led up from the river, flanked on each side with 
variously-headed sphinxes. At Kamak the dromos is one mile and 
one-third long, with a line of sphinxes on each side. Approaching 
nearer, the worshipper finds two obelisks on the right and left not 
fiecessarily of the same height. At Luxor one is seven or eight feet 
higher than the other, and to diminish the appearance of disparity 
in size, the shorter one is raised on a lofty pedestal, and brought 
some feet in advance of its companion. Attached to the face of the 
pylon are six sedent gigantic statues of kings, majestic as to size, 
and seated in the hieratic posture. Lofty coloured poles, similar to 
the standards at Venice, are inserted in sinkings chased into the 
walls, surmounted with the expanded banners of the kings, or 
heraldic bearings of the temple floating in the wind. The pylon 
itself, perhaps 200 ft wide and 100 ft high, forms the background 
of the whole, crowned by its cavetto cornice, and its surface covered 
with coloured sculptures of the victorious Rameses in his chariot^ 

38 On Obelisks: 

with upraised ami, slaying his enemies, tramplmg them under his 
horse's hoofs, and alone dispersing them in flight ! a grand scene of 
one of the dramas in the reign of a victorious monarch. In the 
centre of the structure is the portal, 56 ft high, and through it the 
sacred or triumphal procession passes in all its gorgeous majesty to 
within the sacred precincts, there to observe the ritual ceremonials 
of the mysterious Egyptian cult of one or more of their eight great 
divinities (see Birch, p. x.), or animal gods. 

Having thus given a slight sketch of the architectural magni- 
ficence of the Egyptians, allow me to offer a tribute of respect to 
a brother architect ; his name, as given by Mariette Bey, is inscribed 
on the Temple of Edfou. It was Ei-em-hotep Oer-si-Phtah. Imouthes, 
the great son of Phtah, the only one yet discovered on the monu- 
ments of Eg)rpt I am afraid we are too late for its insertion in the 
colossal architectural dictionary of our times, unless it finds its way 
into an appendix. 

The chronology of the Bible, as assumed by some learned men, 
gives the age of the world before the Christian i£ra as 4004 years. 
Mariette Bey (p. 22), under reservation^ founding the calculations 
upon dates afforded by inscriptions upon tombs, temples, obelisks, 
and other monuments, gives the date of the Egyptian empire alone 
and its dynasties as 5004. Bunsen assumes a still remoter period ; 
and my friend Lesueur, our Honorary and Corresponding Member, 
in his Chronologic '' Les Rois d'Egypte," commences with 20,000, 
which latter is to be considered as an imaginary datum, from which 
to start in computing the history of the world. But adopting 
Mariette Bey's comparatively moderate number of 5004 for the 
beginning of the Thinite dynasty, as the historic date of the com- 
mencement of Egypt's national existence, it fills one with wonder 
when we consider how many gaps occur in the continuous rule of 
Egypt's autonomy. How could the very existence of her nationality 
and arts be maintained, even with periods of more or less purity, 
when we know that for about 1200 years, or nearly one-fourth of 
her existence, she was at various times ruled and overrun by the 
hykshos or shepherds, the Ethiopians and the Persians, under 
Cambyses, Darius, Xerxes. At last she was conquered and ruled 
for 332 of those years by the Greeks and Romans, from the time of 
Alexander and his successors to that of the Romans. Could any 
other people under such crushing circumstances have maintained 
their identity on their own native soil ? 

I will not further trespass on your time and patience but by one 
more remark arising out of our subject I cannot but think that 

their Purpose^ Proportions^ Material^ and Position, 39 

— ■ *-i ^^ ■ II ■ II . ■ ■ II ■ I __ . .- ^ ^ ^ 

the arrival and erection of the Alexandrine obelisk among us may 
produce veiy notable results in regard to our knowledge of ancient 
Egyptian history, and connected as it is with our Bible. The old 
Greeks and Romans, the Classics of our boyhood, have had their 
annals duly chronicled and reduced to elaborate histories by the 
learned. These, it is true, have been turned upside down by recenb 
erudite enquiries, substituting a different and new chronology, and 
an assumed rational statement of facts. Egypt, till very recently, 
had no consecutive accepted history in our language that I know of, 
until our learned Dr. Birch, of the British Museum, a name honoured 
and esteemed by all Egyptologists, whether British or foreign, com- 
piled for the Christian Knowledge Society his summary of the 
ancient history of Egypt from the monuments (onfe of a series), 
putting together with vast knowledge and most critical acumen an 
admirable history. There cannot be a doubt that our countrymen, 
as they pass by our obelisk, will have their curiosity excited by the 
sight of hierogl3rphs which may have been seen and' read by 
the Jews at the time of Moses, or when our Saviour was taken 
by His parents to Egypt as a place of refuge from Herod's rage. 
They will seek in Dr. Birch's book the solution of the mysteries 
revealed in those enigmatical sculptures, and the history of that 
ancient people, 


Consult Champollion-Figeac, ''L'Egypte andenne" (rUniTers pittoresque). 
Sir Gardner WUkinson's Works. H. Bmgscli, «*Histoire de I'Egypte." Dr. 
Birch, **The Monumental History of Egypt." Mariette Bey, "Itineraire de la 
haute Egypte." W. R. Cooper, "Egyptian Obelisks." And other publications 
on Egypt bearing the authoritative names of Lepsius^ Ch. Lenonnaat, Chabas, 
De Saulcy, &G. 


Present Bite. 



By or to wliom Dedioated. 

ft. in. ft in. 

ft in. 

ft in. 

Heliopolis • • 


68 2 or 66 6 

ASERTISEN, 2851 B.a 



Biggeg-Crocodopoli8 • 




Karnak . • • 

8 i\ 

93 6 or 90 6 

Thothmes L 

Idem • • , 




Hatasov, B.C. i66q» 

Lateran, Rome < 

98 X 9 10 

107 or 

105 6 

Thothmes III. 

Vatican, Idem , 

8 10 



No Hieroglyphs. 

Alexandria • < 



Thothmes IIL 

London • • « 

7 loj X 7 8 




Constantinople , 









Thebaid, Alnwick 

9t X 9 



Amanotep II. 

Porta del Popolo, Rome 

85 X 8 5 



Seti Menepthab L 

Trinjta DEI Monti, Idem 

4 3 




Luxor • • • . 

• » • 


Rameses IL 

Paris . . . . 





SAN,/0rTANI8 . • 

• • • 

» 1 



MoNTE-CiTORio, Rome . 

» • • 




Piazza Navona, Idem 

4 5 



Pantheon, Idem • 



Villa Mattei, Idem 

8 3 

PIAZZA Minerva, Idem . 



British Museum, 2 





Constantinople , 



Nectancho L 

CoRFE Castle, PniLiB . 

2 % 



Ptolemy EvergetesIL, 

Benevento • • . 

• • • 


[150 B.a 

Monte Pincio, Rome . 

• • • 



Erasmus Wilson (p. 178) 
Italy, in addition, 4 ; Egypt, 

enumerates the existing Obelisks as follow : — Rome, 12 ; 
6 ; Constantinople^ 2 ; France, 2 ; England, 6 ; Germany^ !• 


In the year 1852, Dr. Birch communicated to the "Museum of 
Clo-ssical Antiquities, or Quarterly Journal of Ancient Art," some 
"Notes upon Obelisks," including those in Rome. That Journal 
has long been discontinued, and the back numbers are out pf print 
and scarce. Dr. Birch is now acknowledged to be the highest living 
authority on the subject; any work on the Egyptian Obelisks in 
Rome would now be ipcpmplete if i|: did not include Dr. Birch's 
Notes on them. They are therefore here reprinted, along with cor- 
rectipns and the new translation that he has kindly made for this 
work of the hieroglyphics on the one made in Egypt for the Emperor 
Hadrian ^nd his fg-vourite Antinous, to be placed in Rome. 

Dr. Birch's translations are made from the admirable edition of 
the text of th? Hieroglyphic^ fey yngarelli, with a Latin version 
published in Rome ip a fp}iQ vplume in 1842 \ 

Notes upon the obelisks of Thothmes III. His accession to 
power materially altered the position of Egypt ; and the long annals 
of his reign exalt him far ^bove the supposed Rame^e^ II., or 
Sesostris. Throughout his rule, deputations and tribute-bearers 
of the different tribes came to Egypt, offering the rich products 
of their lands, and amongst other objects obelisks were of course 
included, from the granite quarries of the vicinity of Syene. Hence, 
in the tablet of Kamak, 1. 26, after mentioning the setting up of 
tablets in the land of Naharaina, in order to extend the frontiers 
of Egypt, it states, " sledges coming from the land o( P'unt in that 
year," which, notwithstanding the mutilated condition of the monu- 
ment, must be 32nd or 33rd. In the pictorial representation of 
this tablet, in the tomb of the officer Rekmara, the people of F'unf 
are represented offering two obelisks of red Syenitic granite amidst 
the other products of the country. The general inscription calls 
it at\f m kept [en ur nu\ F'unt m kes her tehan kar nen sen r bu kar 
chen ef su cheb Ra ifien cheper anch feta md neb nefer, n kah sn, 
"The coming in peace of the chiefs of P'unt, prostrate on their 

\ • Interpretatio Obeli^cor^m Url^is thutaei. 5. Campensis. 6. Minervei. 

ad Gregorium XVI. Pont. Max. di- 7. Pamphilei. 8. Beneventanonim. 

gesta per Aloisium Mariam Ungarel- 9. Barberini. These are engraved on 

lium, sodalem Barnabitam. Romse, seven large plates, some of them folded 

MDCCCXLII. Contents : I. Lateranen< into the i olio volume. 
sis. 2. Flaminii. 3. Mattheiani. 4. Ma- 


42 Dr. Birch's Notes upon Obelisks. 

foreheads (submissively) bearing their offerings to his majesty the 
king, the sun, the placer of creation (Thothmes III.), ever living, 
all the true things of their lands ^" Various explanations have been 
given of the position of the P*unt, supposed to be the Poeni S the 
Libyans^, the people of Punon, or the south-eastern borderers of 
Egypt • ; but it is evident that they must be in the vicinity of the 
Syenitic quarries \ and the red figures who accompany the blacks 
are their Egyptian masters. 

These two obelisks given by Thothmes III. ^, to the granite 
sanctuary, are again represented in the numerous offerings which 
that monarch presented to the temple of Amon. The picture on 
the top of the obelisk is erased. On each is one vertical line con- 
taining the name and titles of the king ; and '' that he has set up 
two great obelisks capped (ben ben am nub) with gold;" i i 

which, on one, are stated to have been " at the two gates ^ 

of his temple." 

In a fragment from the temple of the El Assasif, amidst a list of 
offerings which this monarch presented to the temple of the god, 
collars, pectoral plates, and other gifts for the clothing of the deity, 
are described some of the more solid gifts of the edifices: "two 
obelisks (of granite) rising to a height of io8 cubits, inlaid with 

gold throughout their length, made in their rays *" These 

obelisks have long disappeared. The other obelisks of this king 
which remain, are those of Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. 

The one in the earliest part of the reign is that of the Atmeidan, 
or Hippodrome of Constantinople, erected in the time of Theo- 
dosius. It would appear from the inscriptions that it was probably 
set up before the granite sanctuary of Karnak ; for besides the titles 
of the king, it states that '^ he made it as a gift to his father Amon- 
Ra, lord of the foundations of the earth," or to the Theban Jupiter, 
The political information it affords is, that the king "has gone 
round (the great waters of) Naharaina," or Mesopotamia, and that 
"he has made his fi:ontiers to the tips of the earth, his seats to 
Naharaina **," or Mesopotamia, which coincides with the account of 
the statistical tablet thence taken. 

This obelisk is probably the first erected by this monarch, be- 

^ Hoskins, Ethiopia, 4to., Lond., Champollion, Mon. , torn. iv. pi. cccxvi. 

1843 ; plate, tomb at Thebes. » Lepsius, Abth., iii. tab. 27, 11. 

• Birch, Tr. R. Soc. Lit., vol. ii. •» Trans. Roy, Soc. Lit. , New Series, 
p. 356. vol. ii. p. 218 ; Kircher, CEdipus, iii. 

• Wilkinson. p. 305 ; Niebuhr, Reise nach Arabien, 

• Lepsius, Einleit, s. 286. I774» tab. 4. 
' Burton, £xc. Hier., plate xxix. ; 

Dr, Birch's Notes upon Obelisks* 43 

cause it has no lateral inscriptions or restorations by subsequent 
kings ; and it mentions the conquest of the Naharaina as a novel 
event, which could not have happened earlier than the thirtieth 
year, as appears from the Karnak tablet It is imperfect, the lower 
half not having been set up, and probably still remaining under 

Of the other obelisks, the priority must probably be given to 
those of Alexandria, one of which is erect ; the others follow because 
they are restored by later kings. 

On the pyramidion of the erect obelisk, the so-called Needle of 
Cleopatra, Thothmes is represented as a sphinx adoring the Ra, 
and Tum, the midday and the setting sun, the two deities of Heli- 
opolis. No important political information is mentioned, except 
" that he has smitten the numerous lands of the Heka," or Hyk- 
shos; there is a general allusion to an extension of the frontiers 
of Egypt From the text of the restoration of Rameses, it must have 
been placed at one of the gates s>i Heliopolis ^ 

The most remarkable and best known of the two is the fallen 
one, three sides of which are alone visible, two only legible, the 
third being in a very bad state. It was originally erected by 
Thothmes III., who is again here seen on the pyramidion, under 
the form of a sphinx seated on a tall pedestal, offering wine and 
water to the god Tum, or Tomos, and incense to Ra*'. The obe- 
lisk again indicates that it was set up on the occasion of some 
festival ; for besides the usual name and titles, the legend on the 
first side declares that the king ** erected it as a gift to Ra ; that 
he set up two obelisks capped with gold, when he celebrated the 
festival as he wished." Upon the next it is declared that the god 
" has given him the celebration of festivals upon the noble persea 
{a^t)y in the midst of the garden," or "abode of the Phoenix" (m 
chennu bak). On the third, the legend states that the king " has set 
it up to Tum," or Tomos, " who has given to him a great name, 
augmenting his kingdom in Petenu, in that he has placed to him the 
throne of Seb, the dignity {aau) of Cheper,^^ Even of the fourth side, 
what remains alludes to " the celebration of very many festivals." 
This shews that the obelisk was set up late in the king's reign, pro- 
bably not earlier than the thirtieth year. On the Karnak tablet, in 
the account of the twenty-ninth year of Thothmes, mention is made 
apparently^ of a daily sacrifice, "as it is in the festivals of Egypt,*' — 

* Norden, pi. viii., ix., Descr. de cher, CEdipus, iii. 341, for north-west 
TEgypte, A. vol. v. pi. 33. side ; Norden, pi. vii. 

* Burton, Exc. Hier. , pi. li. ; Kir- * Auswahl. , taf. xil 1. 7. 

E 2 ' 

44 -^^- BircKs Notes upon Obelisks, 

the word heby or " festival," being given by M. Lepsius from Cham- 
pollion's copy. It is singular to find this account in a narrative of 
what the king is represented doing out of Egypt, and it probably 
relates to his triakonteris, or circle of thirty years, religiously cele- 
brated abroad. That the hierarchy attached the utmost importance 
to the due performance of the rite is clear; and the elevation of 
triumphal obelisks gave idat to the epoch. 

Last, but not least, of the obelisks of this monarch, is that at 
present on the Lateran hill at Rome, generally called the Obelisk 
of St. John of the Lateran. Like all its fellows, it has suffered 
much from its removal, and, transplanted from the ever -serene 
skies of Thebes to even the Italian atmosphere, has lost much of 
its original colour. It is placed on a high pedestal not well adapted 
for displaying its beauty. It has been often published ; and there 
is no obelisk, the inscription of which is more curious and histori- 
cally important. It was commenced by Thothmes, but not set up 
by him, the glory being reserved fof his son and successor, who is 
by no means slow to claim the honour. This obelisk was a Theban 
one. The king appears on the cap, or pyramidion "*, receiving life 
from Amon-Ra and Tum, while on the base he offers wine and 
water to the god. The central line alone refers to his erection of 
the work, the lateral ones being added by his son. Thothmes III. 
gave it ^* as a gift (men) to Amon-Ra." It also seems not to have 
been in the Kamak quarter, but upon the western bank of the 
river, either at Medinat Haboo or Goumah. On the south side 
the inscriptions allude to the height of the monument: "he set 
up an obelisk, towering on high above the other edifices of Thebes, 
when he first set up an obelisk in Uas." On the eastern side it 
mentions, "presenting it to Amon-Ra, in his house belonging to 
his gifts, beyond what had been given before." On the western 
side, **the lord celebrated millions of festivals" is mentioned. 
This closes the obelisks of the great Thothmes; and it is sin- 
gular that none of his successors of this dynasty erected any obe- 
lisk worthy of the name, for they either only completed the others 
which he had commenced^ or left the erection of such monuments 
to their successors. One obelisk, indeed, of very small propor- 
tions, exists of Amenophis II., discovered in a village of the 
Thebaid, and presented by the Pasha, in 1838, to the Duke of 
Northumberland. It is of the usual red syenitic granite, and is 
inscribed upon its front face. Immediately under the pyramidion, 

"* Uogarelll, Ii^terpreUtip Obeliscoruxn, 8vo, Romie, i$42, tab, i. ; Kircher, 
(Ediptts, iii. 164. 

Dr, Birch's Notes upon Obelisks^ 45 

Amenophis II. is represented offering upon his knees a conical 
cake to the god Num-Ra, the Chnumis, Chnemis, or Ammon' 
Chnebis» Down the shaft is a perpendicular line of hieroglyphs, 
stating that the king has made two obelisks to his father, Num-Ra, 
either at a place called " Sha-t^' or " at the altar." This obelisk 
also bears traces of the violence of the Sun-worshippers, the name 
of Amenophis has been anciently obliterated; but those who re~ 
inserted it, substituted for that of Amenophis II., the divine ruler 
of An, "that of Amenophis III., the divine ruler of Uas," or the 
western bank, for some reasons not known ; either in fotgetfulness, 
or in the hurry of some great public change ". 

The great obelisk of the Lateran was not finished by Thothmes ;. 
and Amenophis II. does not appear to have taken any part in its 
completion. Thothmes IV., who is commonly supposed to be the 
grandson of the great Thothmes, however, terminated the work, 
adding lateral inscriptions, in which he not only mentions this, but 
also some other curious facts. On the left line of the south side 
he states : '' When his majesty finished the great obelisk brought 
by his father, the king, the Sun establisher of creation (Thoth- 
mes III.) when his majesty found this obelisk it remained till 
the thirty-fifth year in its place, in the hands of the workmen 
at the southern quarter of Thebes ; as ordered by my father to 
set it up, I, his son, assented." On the line of the right side he 
states that he '' set it up in Thebes, capping it with gold, illumi-^ 
nating Uas with its beauty, cut in the name of his father, the 
perfect god, the Sun placer of creation (Thothmes III.)> in order 
that the name of his father should remain placed {;uah) at the 
temple of Amon-Ra." The inscriptions on the east side are still 
more remarkable; for there the king speaks of his gifls to the 
temple of Amon-Ra. On the left columns he mentions, "multi- 
plying gifts^ in Thebes, of gold, tin (chesbet\ copper, and precious 
stones, and a great barge (pari) (called) Amen-User-hau, on the 
river, produced from the true acacia {ai) wood, which his majesty 
cut in the land of Rutecn, inlaid through its length with gold: 
all its decorations being of gems, to receive the beauty of father 
Amon-Ra, when he goes on the river, made by the son of Tum 
Thothmes, the crown of crowns"." Of these barges, or rather 

' M. Bonomi, Trans. Roy. Soc. Lit, barge of Sesoosis, made of cedar, gilded. 

New Series, vol. i. p. 170; M. Prisse, outside and silvered inside, 280 feet 

Rev. Arch., iii. 731. long, which he dedicated with an obe- 

• Cf. Ungarelli, Int Ob., tab. i., lisk, 120 cubits high, and other gifts, 

and the unintelligible translation he has (Diod. ii. 57. ) 
given, pp. 37—41. This is probably the 

46 Hr, Birch's Notes upon Obelisks. 

floating shrines of the gods, much is already known. Although 
in hieratic strain, the inscription on the right side is equally 
remarkable; and, as no very intelligible translation has been 
given of it, I here venture to do so. It calls the king "the 
good god, powerful warrior, the chief who leads those who belong 
to him, who sends terror into the Mena (Shepherds), who roars 
in Phut, whose kingdom is permanent, brought up by his father 
Amon : the chiefs of all lands dance to his spirits, speaking with 
his mouth, making with his hands, he has ordered all of their 
creation; the king, the Sun establisher oi created beings, estab- 
lishing, as king, his name in Thebes." Hence it appears that this 
monarch also had signally embellished Thebes. On the north side, 
indeed, the notions are rather religious than historical. It calls 
him " the king, beloved of the gods, honoured by the spirits, the 
excellent, who hails the sun in the cabin, and adores Tum in the 
ark; the lord of the earth, building Uas for ever; making his 
monuments in Thebes, to the gods of the temple of Ammon. 
Moreover, he was made the veritable son of Amon-Ra, crowned 
on his throne; Thothmes (IV.), crown of crowns, beloved of 
Amon-Ra, the everliving!" The line on the right side also con- 
tains the title of king, " the perfect god, the image of rulers, whose 
dominions are established like those of Tum, the powerful soldier, 
afflicter of foreigners. Sun placer of creation, who captures by his 
power, like the lord of Uas, very glorious like Mentu (Mars), to 
whom Amon has given his power over every country ; the bar- 
barian lands come to him, his respect is in their bellies, the son 
of the sun, Thothmes (IV.), croAvn of crowns, beloved of him who 
is the male and female, living like the sun for ever !" This was, 
probably, the last side executed, for while on all others Thoth- 
mes III. offers to the hawk of the Horus, on this, the offering is 
made by Thothmes IV. On the western side more information 
is accorded of the position of the obelisk, the king again alluding 
to his constructions, to the usual trampling of his enemies under 
his sandals, and his going in a good path ; " his majesty is proved," 
it states, " how beautiful are his memorials ; he is the king himself, 
who gives the choicest of his works, like the wall of the south 
(Phtha) ; he has set it up in the region of the Hours," i.e., the 
heaven: "he has rejoiced his heart in making it." In another 
part it states that "he has reckoned what he has planned." On 
the right lateral line, it states that "every one rejoices in seeing 
its great beauty, he has given it from his heart, the chiefs dance 
to his spirits ; he has made it as a memorial to his father Amon-Ra, 

Dr, BircKs Notes upon Obelisks, 47 

erecting a very great obelisk at the upper gate of Thebes, facing 
Uas p, or the western bank. 

None of the monarchs of this d)masty, who succeeded, have left 
obelisks behind them. This is the more extraordinary, because 
one, Amenophis III., executed architectural works of equal mag- 
nificence and difficulty, and the temples of Luxor and Goumah 
ought to have been provided with them. It is, indeed, possible 
that the rival sects of Amon and Aten, who succeeded him, may 
have destroyed all such, and that in the confiision which followed 
there was no time for aught but public disturbance and religious 

But as the fortunes of the monarchy once more revived, the de- 
sire to perpetuate the memorials of great deeds on imperishable 
monuments re-appeared also ; and conquests and the arts marched 
hand in hand. The time of the first monarch was amply en- 
gaged in chasing the enemies of Egypt from her soil, and he left 
the unfinished task to his successor, who once more restored the 
limits of the empire and who undertook public works on a style 
still more magnificent. One obelisk, the Flaminian**, remains of 
Sethos I., and that he did not live to complete, for the inscriptions 
of three sides only bear his name, those on the fourth being added 
by the great Rameses, his successor, who also placed lateral lines 
to the other, to shew that he had dedicated the monument. On 
the north, south, and west sides, the scenes of the pyramidion repre- 
sent Sethos, as a sphinx, worshipping, either Ra, or Tum, the gods 
of Heliopolis ; in the scenes below and at the base he repeats the 
offerings. In this obelisk there is nothing of a political interest, 
except that the king has " afflicted the Mena or Shepherds," and of 
the position of the obelisk, only general terms alluding to An or 
Heliopolis occur : " glorious are his gifts in Annu, placed for ever, 
opening to the props of the heaven, remaining perpetually to . , . the 
temple of the Sun," which is detailed on the north side. On the 
west is mentioned his "filling Annu with obelisks in the light of 
the beams of the temple of the Sun," a second allusion to the mono^ 
liths, considered as the sunbeam. 

The greatest number, however, were erected by the great Rameses; 
and the consideration of his works re-opens the question of whether 
there were two or three monarchs of that name in the 19th dynasty; 

P Conf. M. De Roug€, Tombeau found from its variants to be Uas, 

d*Ahmes, p. 73, reads TAme for the 1 Bp. Gibraltar, Tr. R. Soc Lit., 

name of this region. This word, for- vol. i., New Series, p. 176, and fol- 

merly read T^am or Naser^ is now lowing; Ungarelli, Int. Ob., tab. ii. 

48^ ^ Dr. Birch* s Notes upon Obelisks, 

to settle which it is necessary to commence with those of Luxor. 
Now, it will be remembered that there were two obelisks before the 
propylsea at Luxor, one bf which has been removed to Paris, the 
other still remaining in its pUce. Both differ considerably from 
those of the eighteenth dynasty. On three sides Of the Paris obelisk 
there is a cetitral line, which is always that of th^ original dedicator^ 
flanked by two oth^fs^ in the name which supplies the triple inscrip- 
tion on the fourth side. Yet the difference is wholly iii the pre- 
nomen, or solar name, of the king, for both were called Rameses, 
the one of the original legends, Ra user ma, which Hermapion has 
translated for 6» SXKifios ^Aprfs ibmprffraroy while the subsequent form^ 
which appears in the cartouches of Rameses, sdffi d J?5, is trans- 
lated by the same Iv ^HXios wpofkplvfVi It is difficult to cbnceive, if 
the central ahd lateral dedications ire by the same monarch, why 
the same king fehduld haVe add^d the lattet, contrary to the prin- 
ciple of evefy ob^liisk eictaht ; and this obelisk, ih fact^ eitadtly resem- 
bles th6 Flartiihiata, the original dedications of which were by Sethos 
I., with the restorations of Rameses II; The pyramidion of this 
obelisk is imperfect ; but the scenes dri the top of the shaft shew 
Rameses (Ra user^ma), offering wine td AitidA-Rai and Rameses 
{Ru user-ma satp en Ra\ offering water. Vely little information is 
afforded, either of a political or architectural nature, by thi^ inscrip- 
tion. In one standard the king mentions his conquests over the 
Mena, ot "Shepherds;" in a religious style he is flattered as "being 
bf the same substance as Tum ; " or, " the matter (maai) divine of 
his father Amon Ra'." There is, indeed, on the south side, a re- 
markable Expression, fbr in it the king has made " the place of the' 
great Soul tb rejoice," possibly alluding to Amon-Ra, who, as Num, 
was the greatest of created beings, the soul of the universe, and 
that "he has rejoiced the gods of the great temple." All this,^ 
however, contains little or nb ihfotmation as to the obelisk or its 
site ; but these will be fouftd in the entire legends of the west, and 
in the lateral ones of the other side* Iti the central line of this 
side, the king, Rameses II., particularly refers to "building a house 
for periods of years," i.e., for the celebration of the festivals; and 
** making his work in southern Thebes," the name of the Karnak 

As before^ he states that " he has been crowned by Amon, on 
his throne upon eafth> for a great lord to take every country." 

' Chattipollion, Mon., tokn. iv. pi. pi. cvi., Descr. de TEg., A. vol. iiu 
cccix. ; Sharpe, Egyptian Inscr. ; Ro~- pi. ii, i8« 
iellini, M. K., No* cxviL ; Norden, 

Dr. BiHKs Notes upon Obelisks. 49 

The allusidhs to his cbhiquests are comparatively vague and in- 
significant On the eastern side, it is stated, "the chiefs of all 
countries are under his sandals," and oh the liorth, "that every 
country comes bearing gifts." Even the hatred of the disk seemiS 
forgotten ; " thy naitie remains," sdys the West sidd, " ^% the hedveHj 
thy ddy like the disk {at en) in it" Oh a band rouhd the line of 
the obelisk, it is said, that Rameses II. made it 

The standing obelisk • contains more information. On the shafts 
below the pyramidion, the king kneels, and offers incense, wine^ 
and a figure of Truth to Amon-Ra. On the first face on the north, 
the king is described as " the constructor of memorials, in South- 
em An, to his father Amoh, who has allowed hirh to bfe on his 
throne;" also, that he "has miade it as ^ memorial td his fathef, 
Amon*Ra ; he has set up two obelisks of granite, placing thefn i6t 
• millions of years at the divine residence of Rameses, whom Amon 
loves, at the house of Amon-Ra," It also makes allusidil t<5 his 
cbnsthictions at Uas, on the western bank, and the vagUet ex- 
pression, of niaking edifices in Thebes. On th^ thii'd side he statfes 
"that he has arranged the temple of Amon, and purified Uas^ 
placing his name for ever in Thebes, and to remain perpetually 
in Apt;" and on thfe fourth side, that "he delivers the intelligence 
of his father, Amon^ frofti the place of ttuth (tribunal), he makes 
all in Uas stand astonished at his monuments for eVer;" also, 
he ''has made monuments ill Uas for the children of his father, 
Amon-Ra." This obelisk, perhaps, was erected later in the reign, 
for "he is called lord of thi^ triakonteris, like Phtha^ having been 
a long time lord of the triakonteris ; ai\d that Phtha has placed 
his kingdom on the great persea, in the temple Of Ha-ka-ptah 
(Memphis), for a king to take all countries." 

Although Rameses II. is, perhaps, the king whose name ocCiift 
the most frequently upon obelisks, he is rather distinguished as 
a restorer or completer, than an actual maker of obelisks. In 
Egypt there are two obelisks, at San, the ancient Tanis, and thfe 
standing obelisk of Luxor still remaining of this king ; in Europe, 
that of the Boboli gardens at Florence, and the Mattheian (1 *) and 
Mahutaean obelisks at Rome (2). Besides these, are restorations made 
by Rameses It. of the Flaminian and the Alexandrian. The in- 
scriptions of the Luxor obelisks have been already analyzed, and 
it is now necessary to enter upon a consideration of the obelisks 

■ ChampoUion, Mon. , t. iv, pi. cccxx., * ( i ), (2), (3), &c. » refer«to the present 
cccxxi. topographical arrahgiemetit, p. 62v 

50 Dr. Birches Notes upon Obelisks, 

at San, both which, now fallen, were originally erected by Ra- 
meses II. 

Under the pyramidion of one side, the king adores the god Mau^ 
or Su^ "light" The inscriptions state, in general terms, that "he 
makes his frontiers wherever he wishes, none stand before him, 
he guides his soldiers, all lands come in submission to his power." 
At the foot are two scenes, the king giving wine to Mau or Su^ 
and a viand, called s^ens^ to Tum ', the Tomos of the Greeks, the 
local deities. 

The other obelisk at this site is broken and imperfect. On the 
pyramidion is seen the king adoring Ra and Turn, One vertical 
line descends each side of the shaft, containing the usual names, 
and titles, and certain indications of conquests. On the first face 
the king is said to be " the smiter of the shepherds of the waste 
(Mena nu sha)y bruiser of foreigners, making all lands as if they, 
were not" On the second the king is styled "the excessively 
youthful" (renpa en her en her); and on the third, "him, whose 
heart prevails on the day of battle, Mentu (Mars) in his slashes," 
{suak) "the hero (mahur) of Anta," or, Anaitis, and "king over 
Kami and Tesher\" 

Less information is afforded by the Mahutaean * obelisk, which, 
after all, is a truncated shaft, the lower part imperfect. There are 
no pictures on the pyramidion, it has instead only the name and 
prenomen of the king. There is no trace on this, as upon the 
other obelisks, of the monarch being in his youth, iot he is called 
" the chief of festivals (jir en hebi), like Ra, upon the throne of 
Tum ;" also, that he has " made many gifts to the house of the 
Sun." This obelisk, consequently, must have been placed before 
one of the gates of the temple of the Sun. Still less important 
are the inscriptions of the Mattheian obelisk 7, containing only the 
name and title of the king. 

I now pass to the inscription of the obelisk of the Boboli 
gardens, at Florence. At the apex is a winged scarabaeus thrust- 
ing forward the Sun. Below are the name and prenomen of 
Rameses II., by whom the obelisk was erected. The inscriptions, 
his titles, are "great master, powerful in all countries, the king, 
the son of Tum, and the intelligent son of Ra." The king is also 
said to be "beloved" by Tum and Ra. This shews that the obe- 

■ Burton, Exc. Hier., pi. xxxviii. — ^ Burton, E. H., xxxix. pi, xl. 
xl. ; D^scr. de TEgypte, A. vol. v. ' Ungarelli, Int. Obel., tab. iii. 
pi. 29. 7 Ibid. 

Dr. Birch s Notes upon Obelisks. 5 1 

lisk came from HeliopoHs. There is only one line, and the tip 
is wanting *. 

Both the erect and the fallen obelisk at Alexandria were restored 
by Rameses II., probably during his youth; at all events it is 
difficult, even as honorary epithets, to understand such phrases in 
the lateral inscriptions as, ** he has come out of the body, to take 
the crowns of the sun, bom to be great lord," which occurs on the 
right flank inscription of the second side ; and " the noble youth, 
much beloved, like the disk when it gleams out of the horizon," 
an allusion to the nascent sun*. On the third side, indeed, the 
king is called " the lord of the triakonteris, like Phtha, whom the 
sun has produced to make the festivals of An-nu, and supply 
the temple, bom lord of the earth;" but these may be merely 
general expressions. Rameses II. also restored the fallen obelisk of 
Alexandria: the inscriptions, however, do not throw much light upon 
its object, being filled with the usual flattery of the king. On first 
side, left lateral line, he is said "to make his frontiers wherever 
he likes, being at peace through his might;" on the other side, 
"his eyes annihilate those he looks at, none can speak to his 
brow;" on the next side it is stated that, "he is a powerful hero, 
like the son of Nupe (Osiris), none stand before him ^," in the left 
line; while the right states that "he has chased the southern 
foreigners to the sea, the north to the poles of heaven." In the 
left lateral line of the third side, the inscriptions state " that he has 
brought his work into the house of his father Tum, never was such 
seen in the house of his father." The inscriptions of this obelisk, 
as given by Burton ^ and Champollion •*, are so widely different, as 
regards this last side, that it is impossible to reconcile them. I 
have followed Burton. A mere fragment of another obelisk (3) of 
this monarch, containing his name and titles, existed at the Col- 
legio Romano in the time of Kircher ®. 

As in the case of the standing obelisk of Luxor, the Flaminian 
obelisk has the triple inscription of the fourth side, and the lateral 
ones of the rest, added by Rameses II., in his second prenomen. 
Now it is natural to conclude that this must have been done early 
in his reign, when he was busied with finishing what his predecessor 
had already left unfinished, as he proceeded with the temples of 
Heliopolis and Thebes, The inscriptions, however, of Rameses 

■ Migliarini, Annali, 1S42, pp. 161 — ^ Ibid. 

187. * Exc. Hier., li. 

' Champollion, Monumens, t. iv. * Mon., torn. iv. pi. ccccxliv. 

pi. ccccxliv. • Kircher, CEdipus, iii. p. 383. 

52 Dr, B trek's Notes Upon Obelisks: 

are neither illustrative of the object of the obelisk, nor of the 
political period'. On the pyramidion, Rameses adores Atum, or 
Turn, as a sphinx ; on the shaft, he offers truth to the god. In 
very pompous style he speaks of "making monuments like the 
stars of heaven, his deeds surpassing heaven, shining rejoicing 
over them at his house of millions of years of his majesty ; beau- 
tiful has been this monument for his father, as he wished, placing 
his name on the house of the Sun." In the line on the left, the 
king is said " to ennoble An with great monuments, bom of the 
gods, in their shape, in the great house." The right line states, 
that " all in Egypt {Kami) will rejoice ^ at the beams of the hori" 
zon, when they see what he has done." From this, indeed, it 
may appear that it was set up at Heliopolis. The inscriptions, at 
the other sides are of less precise interest. On the left line of 
the side he is called " the youth whom the gods have led, build- 
ing their temples;** on the right line, "he gives joy to An while 
he reigns ;" on the western side there is none, except the set 
phrases of " ruler of Egypt, chastiser of foreigners, greatest of the 
powerful." On the north side, indeed, some similar ideas occur : 
" great is his name in all lands, through the power of his might, 
and he has filled the abode of the Phoenix with his glories**." 

Every king of Egypt especially prided himself upon his obelisks, 
in the Sallier Papyrus*, containing the poem of Pentaur on the 
grand campaign of Rameses II. against the Khita, the king, ad- 
dressing Amon, says: "Do I not make for thee edifices, and 
tablets very many .... filling thy temple with captives, building 
up for thee a place for a million of years, placing altars in the 
temple, entirely giving first-fruits of all lands .... supplying thee 
thy sacred food, sacrificing to thee thousands of bulls. I build 
for thee great pylons of stone, storing for thee eternal granaries, 
leading thee obelisks from Abu (Elephantina).'* 

After the death of Rameses II., none of his successors appear 
to have had either time or inclination for such works ; and if the 
great builder of Medinat Haboo lived to erect such shafts of stone, 
none have survived the devastations of time. Under the reign 
of his successor, Menephtha, however, they are mentioned. In 
an historical papyrus of the British Museum, of this date, the 

' Ungarelli, Interp. Obelise, tab. i. ; ^ Or "made it by his wisdom," or 

Kircher, (Edipus, iii. p. i8o. **h\Qssitig,*' shetta em naif bask L This 

« Ibid., cf. Choeremon in Tszetzes part is much mutilated. 

Exeg. ad Homer., a H6rtnann in Draco. » Select Papyri, pi. xxv. 1. 8, 9. 
8vo. Ltpsiae, 181 2, p. 99^ 

Dr. Birch's Notes upon Obelisks, 53 

details of an obelisk are described, of no cubits. It was cut, 
according to the writer, in the name of his majesty. The height 
of its shaft was no cubits; that of the pedestal, lo cubits; the 
circuit from its base, 7 cubits, in all directions, going to a point 
for two cubits. Its cap was one cubit in the perpendicular; its 
slope was . . . . ^. One of the successors of Rameses, Miammum, 
the Rameses (vi. of Rosellini ^, and the v. of Bunsen), made an ad- 
dition to the inscriptions of the obelisk of Thothmes I., standing 
at Kamak. The inscriptions upon the east side are the usual 
set phrases, except that the king particularly alludes to Uas, 
or the western bank; *Moing things in Naser" is the expression. 
On the south side left lateral line, he speaks of ** rejoicing," or 
"raising up Uas like the heaven, giving temples to the earth;" 
while on the right line he states that "he makes S. An (Kar- 
nak) like heaven's horizon." He repeats the same on the left 
lateral line of the western side ; " making monuments," he states, 
" in Uas, Thebes is like the heavenly horizon," i.e, shining, lucid. 
At the head of this line he states that "he rises to open the 
eyes of the good'"." Interesting as all this is, little more can 
be gleaned from it than that the king executed some repairs 
upon both banks of the river; but the temples must have been 
always being added to. A long interval now divides us from 
any obelisk. An unknown king, probably one of the twenty-first 
d)masty, has cut, in a very humble manner, his name on the stand- 
ing obelisk at Alexandria ". No room remained for any elaborate 
statement, so he just endorsed his name and prenomen on the 
monument : the name is gone, and the prenomen, which, accord- 
ing to Burton, reads Ra usr cheper satp en Ra^ "the sun who 
defends creation, whom the sun has chosen;" is, according to 
Mr. Harris, who has most kindly inspected it for me, Ra neter 
cheper^ satp en Ra^ *^ the sun god of creation, whom the sun has 
selected" This is, however, unknown. Hence, till the time of 
^he twenty^sixth, there are no obelisks; and the first which 
we have is that of the Campus Martins at Rome, called the 
Obeliscus Campanensis (4), erected by Psammetichus II., a great 
reviver of old usages at the time of the Egyptian renaissance. 
It dififers from those as yet described, by having a double line 

* Select Papyri, xlix. 1$ !•» qy* S 5 ^ Rosellini, M. R., No. xxx. 
Dr. Hincks, Brit. Archaeol. Assoc. , " Some such expressions probably 

Winchester Meeting, p. 253. All these gave rise to the story of Pheron. 

technical details are difficult to make Herod, ii. 1 10 ; Diodorus, i. c. 59. 
out. ' Burton, E. H., li. 

54 ^^' Birch! s Notes upon Obelisks, 

of hieroglyphs down each side, three of which, much mutilated, 
only remain. On the pyramidion, the king, figured as a sphinx, 
adores Ra and Turn, the gods of Heliopolis, where the obelisk 
was set up. He is styled, on the south side, "beloved of Tum^ 
lord of Annu," and "of the spirits of Annu\" He seems also 
to allude to his taking (/i) of the crown, and of the pschent, 
referring to the extinction of the dodecharchy ; and again occurs 
that ever-mentioned " first time of celebrating the festival." 

Sais was also embellished with obelisks, — the one called the 
MinerveusP, at Rome, small, indeed, but highly interesting (5), 
being dedicated to Tum, who dwells in Sas or Sais, and in what 
was called the region AncA, or "life," the mystical name of the 
west, and to Nit or Neith, also indwelling in the same region, 
and in the royal residence of Northern Egypt, which means Sais. 
Henceforth there are no extant obelisks till the reign of the 

Let us pause awhile, as we have reached the period of the Per- 
sian conquest, and the opening of Egypt to the Greeks. What 
the age wanted in skill, if Theophrastus is to be believed, it made 
up for in material, for the king of Babylon sent an obelisk of 
emerald, 40 cubits high, composed of four pieces. It requires 
great feith in the authors to believe if*. According, indeed, to 
Herodotus', Pheron, the son of Sesostris, dedicated two obelisks, 
on account of the recovery of his eyesight, at the temple of the 
Sun, but whether at Heliopolis or Thebes, is not stated. Hero- 
dotus also saw two large obelisks at the temple of Sais, in 
the courtyard, which he calls the temenos*. This Greek, as 
usual, follows the legend which he heard from the interpreters, 
and has confused even what he heard. 

There are, however, between the period of the Greek and Per- 
sian rule two small obelisks, formerly removed from a house in 
Cairo, and now in the British Museum ^ They were erected by 
a monarch named Nechtharhebi, or Nectanebes, to the Tris- 
megist Hermes, or Tot; and these have been either taken from 
the small pylon of an ancient temple of the god at Memphis, 
or from some other neighbouring site. As the last of the Phar 
raonic obelisks, they are interesting. On two sides of each, the 

» Ungarelli, Int. Ob., tab. iii. ; Pliny, N. H., xxxvii. c 5. 
Zoega, pi. I, 2, 6. ' ii. no. 

' Ungarelli, tab. iii. ; Kircher, CEdi- ■ ii. 170. 
pus, iii. p. 379. » Nos. 523, 524 ; D&cr. de VEgypte, 

« Theophrastus, De Lapid., i. c. 2 ; A. vol. v. pi, 21, 22. 

Dr, BircKs Notes upon Obelisks, 55 

king speaks of himself as " beloved of Tot," or " Thoth, who is 
set over pure spirits," and "the lord of hieroglyphs." On the 
other he mentions that "he has set up an obelisk in his house 
of basalt ; it is capped with black metal (iron), they have given 
him all perfect life, like the sun^" On the other obelisk* the 
king states that he is " beloved of Tot," or " Thoth, lord of hieror 
glyphs, who dwells in the city of Hesar;" and in some other 
place, "presiding over truth, giving honour to the gods;" and 
the dedicatory inscriptions again mention their being " capped with 
black metal that he may be safely crowned with a perfect life." 

After this period, no obelisks of sufficient consequence to attract 
the attention of travellers have remained, if, indeed, any were 
erected in the period ; for Egypt, as a conquered province, had 
all her revenues carried out of the country, and nothing left for 
public improvement. These great works were connected with the 
national feeling, and required the energies and resources of the 
people to execute. Even the Ptolemies, the earlier of whom were 
deeply imbued with the love of art, were unable to execute these 
works, so low had taste declined. According to Pliny, Ptolemaeus 
Philadelphus erected one at Alexandria, of 80 cubits in height, 
which Nectabis had cut in the quarry, but not sculptured with 
hieroglyphs. This obelisk was transported by the architect, Satyrus. 
It was placed in the Arsinoeum, by the king, as a mark of con- 
jugal affection y. The Ptolemies, indeed, were more distinguished 
as renewers of obelisks than makers of them ; at all events none 
remain of their temples, although they have raised some that vie 
with those of the older dynasties. One perfect obelisk, and the 
broken base of another, remain of those set up at the temple of 
Philae, which stood at the entrance of the propylon, and which 
bear the names of Ptolemy Euergetes II., and his wife Cleopatra*. 
A copy of them was first published in a privately-printed plate, 
by Mr. Bankes, which has been subsequently given by M. Lepsius 
in his Auswahl*^^ from collations and corrections made with the 
text. Each side has carved upon it a single line of hieroglyphs, 
which offer the curious anomaly of facing two ways, those which 
allude to the king, one way, and those referring to the deities, 
another. On it are the names of Ptolemy Euergetes and his wife 
Cleopatra; but the inscriptions are loaded with religious phrases, 

" D&cr. de I'Egypte, A. vol. v. ^ Piny, N. H., xxvi. s. 14. 

pi. 21. » See M. Lepsius, Lit. Gaz., May, 

* Ibid., pi. 22 ; Bp. Gibraltar, in the 1839, p. 279. 

Trans. Roy, Soc. Lit., vol. ii. p. 457. ■ Tab. xvii. 

S6 Dr. Bird* s Notes upon Obelisks. 

and scarcely express more than that the king has set up this 
obelisk to his mother, Isis. On the base is a petition, in Greek, 
to relieve the priests from charges made upon them by 
the different officers of stated and the rescript of the monarch. 
The inscriptions of this obelisk have a qertain interest, from the 
part th^y play in the decipherment of hieroglyphs, as it was from 
the joint names of Ptolemy and Cleopatra they were first dis- 
covered. In th^ religious portion of the inscriptions there is little 
of interest, 

From this time till the Augustan age there is nothing relating to 
obelisks, except that Strabo*, who visited Egjrpt at the period, 
mentions obelisks at the tombs of the kings, and those of Helio- 
polis ^. The idea of transforming them into tbe gnomons of dials 
thence commenced, an id^a whiqh originated with the Alexandrian 
school, a great departure from their original scope. Augustus trans- 
ferred to Rome the obelisk of Semenpserteus, removed by Ptolemy 
Philadelphus to the Arsinoeum at Alexandria ; and Pliny speaks of 
the two obelisks of Alexandria, whiqh were the work of the ancient 
king, Mesphres, by whom h§ means the king of Manetho's, eigh- 
teenth dynasty, Thes^ he reckons at 82 cubits ; and, in his time, 
they stood in the Port at the Temple qf Caesar ^ The obelisk 
which was erected in the Campus M^rtius at Rome, also removed 
by Augustus, wa3 nine Roman f(?et less, and made by Sethosis. 
This obelisk was converted into a gnomon of a dial by the skill 
of Facundus Novus, a mathematician of the time ; but, after thirty 
years, it performed incorrectly'. These obelisks were dedicated to 
the Sun. Tiberius dedicated another to Augustus. 

Caligula remqved g^nother pl)elisk from Heliopolis, and placed 
it on the extremity of the circles of the Vatican (6), at the end of 
the Spina «. According to Pliny, this obelisk had been erected by 
Nuncoreus, the son of 3esQsis, for the recovery of his sight ^ ; but 
he merely repeats the story of Pl^eron, To it Nero hung the crowns 
which he had gained in the chaript-races of Qreece *. 

The first Caesars were cgntent to transport, as has been shewn, 
the magnificent obelisks of the pld Egyptian period, and use them 
as meta or spinae in the hippodromes \ but tbe l^st of the twelve, 
Domitian, who possessed a certain t^ste for the arts, allied with 

^ Letronne, Inscript., Georg. i. p. ' Ibid., xxxvi. c. ix. s. 15. 

303. I Ibid,, xyi. c. 40. 

* Lib. xviii. p. 1171, ^ Ibid., xxxvi. c. 14. 
•* Ibid., xvii. 1158. * Dio., Ixiii. c 21. 

• Pliny, N. H. , xxxvi. c. 9, s. I4. 

Dr. Birch's Notes upon Obelisks. 57 

superstition, revived the Isiac worship at Rome. The rites of this 
goddess had, indeed, been introduced under the republic ; but they 
were distasteful to the sterner spirits of the republic, and abolished. 
Under the empire the worship again revived, but it does not appear 
that it was well received by the state. Domitian, however, became 
attracted by its rites and doctrines, and in a spirit of paneclecticism 
built a Serapeum and Iseum in the Campus Martins, instituted 
a college of priests, had daily offerings of Nile-water made to the 
goddess, set up at least an obelisk, which still remains at Rome, — 
the one called the Pamphilian Obelisk, which formerly stood in the 
circus of Maxentius, near the Appian way. The pyramidion is 
much destroyed; and upon each side the emperor stood adoring 
Ra (Serapis) and Isis. On each side is one perpendicular line of 
hieroglyphs, quite different from those of the Pharaonic time, dis- 
tinguished by their leanness and the admixture of new and unusual 
signs. An attempt is, however, kept up to follow the ancient 
Pharaonic style of five titles ^, It also appears to have been set 
up early in the reign, for on the eastern side he commences by 
stating that " he received the kingdom of his father Vespasian, in 
the place of his true brother, when his soul mounted on high " 
(ter ap ba f er hri^). He also claims to be "lord of festivals, like 
Phtha,'* and "beloved of Phtha and Isis." The expression is the 
standard of the north side, " the powerful youth," shews the com- 
mencement of the reign; he also states that "he has been crowned 
with the dominions of his father;" and, that "he has set up an obe- 
lisk of granite to his father, who allows those that have eyes to 
see, he has done all that he wishes, establishing the name of the 
kings of the upper and lower world on the great throne, on the 
throne of Horus, with those for the Kans Huia {gens Flavid), in- 
scribing the victories of his ancestors." The rest of this inscription 
is not very intelligible, and is rather in a religious than historical 
strain. The general information is, that Domitian erected it at the 
Serapeum (7). 

A further proof of the devotion of Domitian to the Isiac worship, 
will be seen in the obelisks erected before the temple of Isis, at 
Beneventum. They were a pair ; one, the most perfect, still remains 
in the town ; the other fragment at the Bishop's palace. The first 
side of the perfect obelisk is probably that marked 11 in Ungarelli ™, 
which contains in itsielf the purport of the whole, stating, that " the 

* Ungarelli, tab. iv, Zoega, p. 84 ; also a private plate of 

* Ibid., p. 143. Cardinal Borgia. 
™ Ibid., Int. Ob., tab. v. A. ; 


58 Dr. Birch's Notes upon Obelisks, 

noble temple of Isis, mistress of Benemts/* or, " Beneventum, and 
of the parhedral gods, was founded by one Lucilius Lupus," or, 
"Rufus*^, an imperial officer °;" the same idea, with variations, 
occurs on the other sides, " whose good name," or appellation, is 
" Lucilius," etc. " To all the gods and the gods of his country of 
Benemts," or, "Beneventum." The second, or mutilated obelisk, 
has four lines, one upon each side, repeating the same idea p. The 
emperor is called the ruler of all the tribute countries coming to his 
house, who takes the country of Rome. 

There are two other obelisks of this age, one called the Borgian, 
the other the Albani, which are scarcely known, except from the 
plates of Kircher « and Zeoga ' ; the first is in the Museo Borbonico 
of Naples, but the second has unfortunately disappeared. There is 
every reason to believe that they were a pair, which stood before 
some temple. The Borgian obelisk bears the Roman name Tacitus', 
or Severus Tacitus*, perhaps the prefect of Egypt; while other 
names, Sextus and Africanus, are legible upon both obelisks ^ It 
is impossible, however, from mutilated inscriptions, to make out 
the reason of the erection of these obelisks, although it is probable 
that, like those of Beneventum, they were destined for some temple 
erected in Italy. 

The aged Nerva, and the rude Trajan, seem to have cared little 
for the religion of Egypt, which continued to draw forth the sarcastic 
bitterness of the Roman aristocracy ; and was regarded as the most 
degraded form of pantheism, notwithstanding the philosophical ex- 
planations. Even caricatures were indulged in against the Egyptian 
gods in Egypt itself. The sceptical Hadrian mourned his deceased 
favourite upon an obelisk. His death in Egypt, upon the Nile, 
suggested the idea, and the emperor, who probably looked upon 
the religion as a policy, endeavoured to revive the decaying feeling 
for paganism by imposing it in all points of view. 

It is much to be regretted that the critical knowledge of the 
hieroglyphs is not so far advanced as to clear up the mystery which 
envelopes the death. This monument must have been erected about 

■ This name has been hastily read < Obeliscus Minerveus, p. 176. 

Rufus (Champollion, Pr^is, p. 95) ; ' De Obelise, p. 192. It is only 

but the sound of the standing lion is followed by the expression S'haf^ ** sets 

by no means known. The seated lion up." 

is, of course, an L or R. ■ Champollion, Precis, p. 98, pi. vii. 

° UVa nen^ &c., on side ii., ill., IV., 9 — 11. 

literally, "bringer forth of what is * So, I think, is to be restored the 

brought ;" but whether in the active or mutilated group, Sev, Tkts, 

passive sense is uncertain. " Champollion^ /. c, 

• Ungarelli, tab. v. B. 

Dr. Birch's Notes upon Obelisks. 59 

A.D. 122, and it is the taste of its age. The hierogl)^hs are in two 
vertical lines, like those of the obelisk of Psammetichus, but of an 
execution far inferior. This obelisk is said to have been discovered 
on the site of the circus of Aurelian ; but it was probably removed 
there, for its legends point to another destination. 

It is rather difficult perhaps to decide which side commences this 
inscription j but the north, which, although mutilated, contains the 
titles of Hadrian, and which has the emperor represented on its 
pyramidion, is the first to all appearance. The emperor has a pre- 
nomen of some significance, "beloved of the Nile and the other 
gods." In the second line, which continues with the titles, are 
some remarkable expressions : — " he has penetrated {pek-naf) every 
where {au-ateru)^ he has trod this earth in its four directions {chent 
nafta pen her afif) ; the bulls and their cows {females) responding 
with joy; he rejoiced his heart with his dearly-beloved empress, 
the regent of the earth, Sabina, the ever-living Augusta." After this 
occurs, " the Nile, the father of the gods "..,.: {au ter sau) " it 
was the time of pouring forth the water," refers, undoubtedly, to the 
inundation "" ; but why mentioned is by no means clear ; whether 
describing the death, or festival, of Osiris-Antinoos. The eastern 
side commences with the name of " Osiris-Antinoos, the justified," 
coming out of the flesh ; the good youth lamented, or " feted daily," 
must allude to his death : as that " letting fall his arms he received 
the commands, which are those of the gods," may to his throwing 
himself into the Nile, at Besa, for the welfare of Hadrian and the 
empire ^ ) and there is an allusion in it to Thoth, as lord of Hermo- 
polis, near which he perished. The remaining expressions of this 
side allude to his condition in the future state ; " in," it says, " their 
time of the night, constantly and daily, as he wishes in the heart of 
his (Osiris) servants, he has gone discoursing all that he thinks or 
wishes, like the beatified souls {reck) offering his adorations, taking 
his place in the fields of the wise spirits {ach akar)^ who belong to 
(em necht) Osiris, in the midst of the hills (iaser^). They make his 
justification, they make his words true in the whole earth, they de- 
light him, allowing him to go wherever he wishes. The doorkeepers 
of hell say to him, Hail to thee ! they draw their bolts, they open 
their doors. He begins to be in millions of millions of years, his 
time is. ..." In the southern inscription the apotheosis of Antinoos 
is more distinctly described. He is there called Ntiam or Divom. 
The part immediately following this is not very clear; it states that 
Antinoos "has made his. . . . (heka) in the midst {em chen) of the 

' Ungarelli, Int. Ob. , tab. vi. ; Kir- * Dio Cassius, lib. Ixix. 

cher, iii. p. 371 ; Zoega, pi. 3. ' Fart of Hades. 

6q Dk BircKs Note,s upon Obelisks, 

city", which is is its name, is his name td numbers in 

this earth, with the leaders of the boat, with the ....... of the 

earth, throughout all mankind, as it were . . . /* This is followed 
by the speech of Thoth and Truth, who announce that they have 
conferred the usual benefits at his tomb. The left line continues, — 
that he has been adored by the influence of Thoth and Truth going 
by his spirits he has gone in his city .... of the whole earth because 

he has heard the lament (?) neh^ he has cried, he has . . . . , he has 

not failed in his career, holding up his head, doing his work while 
being; he has made all the transformations to offer his heart, be- 
cause he has made himself a god, he is the issue of . . j . Subse* 
quently it mentions his mystical birth from his mother. The trans- 
formations to offer the heart is a purely Egyptiati notion, often fouuci 
in the ritual '. 

The western side contains information of a more important cha- 
racter, and it is remarkable that no previous decypherer has dis- 
covered its meaning. This part commences with "the Antinoos 
divine, who is at rest in this city, which is in the midst of the fields 
of the district of the powerful lord of Harama (Rome). He is recog- 
nised for a god in the divine city which is in Egypt. Temples have 
been built to him ; he is adored as a god by the prophets and 
priests of the upper and lower country of Egypt. Likewise a nome 
has been inscribed to his name, he has been called most honoured 
(atimiti) of the Greeks of Seth and Ra {Sethroites\ who are in the 
city Baka [Egypt]. Those who come to this nome have given to 
them splendid fieldsj they are good, and live, opening the temple 
of this god, which has been made to him under his name of the 
Osiris Antinoos, the justified^ built of good white stone, surrounded 
with sphinxes, having very many caryatid statues ^ both those made 
of great men before (Egyptians), and of the Greeks^ and of all the 
goddesses, who gave him the breath of life which he breathed in 
his youth." 

On the northern side of this obelisk the emperor is seen adoring 
Amon ; on the others, Antinoos, wearing the head attire of Phtha 
Socharis, worships Amon and Ra. 

The fields of the tash^ or quarter, of the powerful lord, are pro- 
bably the Campus Martius, and it is evident, from the expression, 

» If this ambiguous part referfed to he shbuld keep the heart (c. 29), or 

Hadrian and Sabina, as Ungarelli, p» detain it (taf» xvi. c. 30) ; also taf. 

180, supposes, it would connect it with xxviii. c. 76. 
the north side, but it cannot. '' Tut^ uck, or chu^ determined by 

• Cf. Lepsius, Todt, tab. xv. c. 26. a sceptre. The meaning of this is un- 

The chapter of taking the heart in the certain, but perhaps it is the Coptic 

Hades, and of avoiding that the heart shan^ ** a trunk," "columnar statues," 

bhuuld bj taken away, c. 27, 28 ; that or " statues and columns." 

Dr. Birch's Notes tipon Obelisks. 6x 

" he is at rest," that the ashes of Antinoos were carried back to 
Rome and deposited in a sepulchre of the most magnificent de- 
scriptionj surrounded with statues, but of what nature it is not 
quite certain. The probability is, that the statues of the Villa 
Albani, which are portraits of Antinoos, are thence derived. 

Another obelisk stood in the circus of Caracalla °. Very con- 
flicting statements are found in the Roman topographers as to 
the nuiiiber of obelisks extant in the city. According to P. Victor ^ 
there were two in the Circus Maximus, the one erect, the other 
fallen. In the recapitulation* he gives six great obelisks: two 
in the Circus M^iximusj otie of 120 feet^ Another of 88^- feet; one 
in the Vatican of 72 feet; one in the Campus Martius of 72 feet; 
two at the Mausoleum of Augustus 42^ feet ; and another in the 
Insula Tiberina ; besides forty-two small obelisks with inscriptions. 
An uncertain author, in the description of Rome, mentions Jive 
obelisks : One in the Circus Maximus, 88J feet high ; one in the 
Vatican, 71 feet high; one in the Campus Martius, 82 J feet; the 
pair at the Mausoleum of Augustus, 82 J feet. Another gives six 
obelisks: the two in the Circus Maximus of 122 and 88 J feet 
high; the one in the Campus Martius, 75 feet high; two in the 
Mausolelitn of Augustus, 42^ feet high. Another version is two in 
the Circus Maximus, 122 and 79 feet : dtie in the Campus Martius^. 

In the reign of Constantius, a.d. 354, another obelisk was brought 
from Thebes, arid etected in the Circus Maximus, and set up with 
a brazen sphere upon its apex. Ammianus Marcellinus* gives 
the translation of this obelisk from Hermapion ; but its description 
does not at all coincide with any of the Roman obelisks, and rather 
resembles that of the obelisks at Luxor. 

The last of the obelisks is the so-called Sallustian (8), which was 
found in the gardens of Sallust. It looks like a barbarous imita- 
tion of the Flamihian shaft, probably cut in Egypt, but the 
hieroglyphs executed by unskilled hands at Rome. As to inter- 
preting its legends, it is an insult to the imagination to attempt 
them \ Strange notions, indeed, prevailed amongst the later phi- 
losophical writers as to the nature of obelisks. Porphyry^ states 
that they referred to fire, and that they were therefore dedicated 
to the Olympian gods. Cyrill thinks that they touched on scientific 

' Dio, lib. Ixxviii. 9. * Lib. xvii. 4 ; for its metrical in- 

^ De Rec, Graevius, Thes. iii. p. scription in Greek and Roman, see 
108. Zoega, p. 53. 

* Ibid., iii. ^ Ungarelli, tab. vi. ; Zoega, tab. iv. 

' Zoega, p. 29; Inc. Auct. Descr. * Apud Euseb., Praepar. Evangel., 

urb. Rom. apud Bandinium de Obelise, iii. c. 2, 7. 
Caes., p. 64. 

62 Dr, Birch's Notes upon Obelisks. 

matters \ In the false book of the Kore kosmou of the Trismegist 
Hermes \ the god says that his learning is inscribed upon obelisks. 
Tertullian" mentions an obelisk which was in the Circus of the 
Sun: "this enormous obelisk," says he, "as Hermoteles affirms, 
has its sculpture dedicated to the Sun, which gives a notion of the 
superstition of Egypt" 

An obelisk appears to have existed in the Strategeura, or hip- 
podrome, of Constantinople, removed from Athens by Proclus, 
a Patrician, under Theodosius the Younger ^ In the fourth con- 
sulate of Valentinian, and the first of Neoterius, a.d. 390, an 
obelisk was placed in the Circus. According to Cassiodorus ®, 
the greater was dedicated to the Sun, the lesser to the Moon. 
Julius Valerius mentions two obelisks, dedicated by Sesonchosis 
to Serapis, in the temple ^ of that god at Alexandria. 

The present topographical arrangement of the Obelisks in Rome. 

1. The Mattheian Obelisk was so called because it stood in the 
garden of the Villa Matthei ; the name of that Villa has now been 
changed to Celimontana. 

2. Mahutean Obelisk — this name was formerly given to the 
Obelisk which stands in front of the Pantheon. 

3. The .Kircherian Museum is now contained in the great 
National Museum of the Collegio Romano. 

4. The Obeliscus Campanensis is so called because it once 
stood in the Campus Martius, it is now on Monte Citorio. 

5. The Obeliscus Minerveus is so called because it stands in 
the Piazza della Minerva. 

6. The Vatican Obelisk now stands in front of S. Peter's in the 
Vatican, but the Circus was in the valley at the foot of that hill. 

7. The Obelisk brought to Rome by Domitian is now in the 
Piazza Navona. 

8. The Sallustian Obelisk is now opposite the church of Trinita 
de* Monti, on the top of the Spanish steps. 

9. The Barberini Obelisk was so called from Pope Barberini 
(Urban VIII.), in whose time it was brought into Rome, from the 
Circus Varianus, near S. Croce, but outside the walls. It was erected 
on the Pincian Hill in 1823, by Pius VII. 

^ Adv. Julian., lib. ix. p. 299. " Inc. Auct. Descr. Const, a Guid. 

* Fo. 1791 ; Stobaeus, Eclog. Phys., PanciroUo, 8vo. Venet.. 1602; Banduri 

p. 124. Imp. Archiv., iii. pp. 28 — 42. 

■* De Spectacul., c. 8, p. 418; Obe- •* Variar. iii. c. 

lisci enormitas, ut Hermoteles affirmat, p Mai, Auct. Class., vii. pp. 99, 

Soli prostituta. 100. 


In this list references are given to the pages of the text where 
each is described, also the numbers in Mr. Parker's Catalogue of 
the Photographs from which the Plates are taken, as some persons 
prefer seeing the photographs themselves to any reproduction of 
them. It is certain that there is a clearness and delicacy in the 
nitrate of silver of an original photograph, that cannot be repro- 
duced by any process yet known '. But it must be acknowledged 
that for reading the hieroglyphics, there is nothing like the fine 
series of engravings of them in folio, edited by Ungarelli, and pub- 
lished at Rome in 1842 ; but this is a cumbersome and expensive 
work, and for ordinary use the Photographs or Photo-engravings are 

Plate I. The Obelisk at the Lateran, pages i and 41 ; Photos., 
Nos. 760 and 1342. The English translation of the hieroglyphic 
inscription is given at pages 9 to 14. 

Plate II. The Obelisk on Monte Citorio, pages 4 and 53 ; 
Photos., Nos. 646, 1448, 1449. 

Plate III. The Obelisk on the back of a bronze elephant, 
pages 5 and 54; Photos., Nos. 382, 648. 

Plate IV. The Obelisk in the Piazza Navona, pages 6 and 57 ; 
Photos., Nos. 1302, 1303, 1304. 

Plate V. The Obelisk in the Piazza del Popolo, pages 2 and 56 ; 
Photos., Nos. 766, 1119, 1299, 1351. The English translation of 
the inscription is given at pages 15 to 18. 

Plate VI. The Obelisk on Monte Cavello, opposite to the en- 
trance to the Quirinal Palace, page z ; Photos., Nos. 1087 a, 1087 b. 

' These Photographs can be seen in seum, and in the library of the Fine 

the Bodleian Library, Oxford, where Arts at South Kensington. They can 

they are arranged in numerical order in also be had, if required, by ordering the 

volumes ; and in the Ashmolean Mu- numbers, of Mr. Stanford, at Charing 

seum, where they are in portfolios Cross, at the price of One Shilling 

according to the subjects. Most of each, 
them can be seen in the British Mu- 

64 L ist of Plates, 

Plate VII. The Obelisk on the Pincian Hill, page 8 ; Photos., 
No. 1636. The English translation qf the inscription is given at 
pages 19, 20. 

Plate VIII. The Obelisk in -the garden of the Villa Celin^ontana, 
page ? ; Phgto^., No. 3003. 

In addition to these Obelisk? wHich ajre h^re engraved, there are 
four others not engraved, because there are either no inscriptions 
upon them, or none that are legible, but the Photographs of them 
can be had if required. They are the one behind the great church 
of S. Maria Maggiore, Nos. 2124 a, 2124B; the one at the Trinita 
de* Monte, at the top of the Spanish steps. No. 659; the one in 
front of the Pantheon, Nos. 649, 767, 1350 ; and the one in front 
pf S. Peter's in the Vatican^ Nos. 1308, 1308 ^. 


In the upper compartment is a Sphinx, bearded, wearing an 
uraeus and beard, g.nd collar round the neck* This represents 
Thothmes III. in the character of the god Harmachis, one pf the 
types of the Sun; before the Sphinx is the title " good god »." Beneath 
is the obelisk, on its pedestal, and on the shaft of the obejisk is the 
prenomen of Thothmes III., the king of the obelisks of Alexandria 
and Ronae. On each side of the obeli§k is the king, Thothmes III., 
in a royal garment, worshipping the obelisk. The hieroglyphs in 
this portion, distributed throughout the field, read, "courageous 
against all countries," alluding to the campaigns of th^ king. The 
Scarabaeus is of steatite, covered with a bluish gre^n glaze, and 
about I in. long, pierced for setting as a ring. 

• Behind the Sphinx is a winged disk, the Har-Hut. 




The Egyptian Obeusks. 

Description of Plate I. 


This Obelisk was originally set up in Egypt by Thothmes the 
Third, the great oppressor of the Hebrews, B.C. 1655. It was 
brought to Rome by Constantius, a.d. 357, and it now stands 
as a trophy before the earliest, and in some respects the chie( 
Basilica or cathedral church in Christendom. (See p. i.) 





The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Description of Plate II. 


This bears the name of Psammeticus, and was executed in Egypt 
by PsAMMETicus II., B.C. 594 — 588. It was brought to Rome by 
Augustus, after the reduction of Egypt, and the deaths of Antony 
and Cleopatra, b.c. 30, and was first set up near the present 
church of S. Lorenzo in Lucina, to serve as the gnomon or pointer 
to throw the shadow on the great sun-dial, which Augustus made 
there for a sort of town-clock. It was not removed to Monte 
Citorio until a comparatively recent period. (See p. 4.) 







The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Description of Plate III. 


This was originally executed in Egypt, by Pharaoh-Hophra, who 
reigned from B.C.. 588 — 569, to whom in his second year the Jews 
fled for protection, in spite of the warnings of the Prophet Jeremiah, 
carrying the prophet himself by force with them ; it is therefore of 
about the time of the burning of the Temple of Solomon, and the 
commencement of the Babylonish captivity of seventy years. It 
was set up in Rome by Pope Alexander VII., a.d. 1667, and marks 
the date of the completion of the great church of S. Peter, which 
for Roman Catholics is something like what the Temple of Solomon 
was for the Jews. It was placed on the back of an elephant by 
Bernini, from which Bernini himself had the nickname of the 
Elephant. (See p. 5.) 





The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Description of Plate IV. 


. This Obelisk was made in Egypt for the Emperor Domitian, and 
is inscribed with his name, and with the blasphemous titles of 
Deification which are joined with the names of the earlier Pharaohs : 
Sun-god, Son of the Sun-god, Supporter of the World, Giver 
OF Life to the World, the Man-god Horus, the Son of the 
Woman Isis, who is to come to avenge the death of his ancestor, 
Osiris, the King Living for ever. 

This inscription was actually incised on the Obelisk during the 
lifetime of Domitian, for whom it was made, and to whom these 
titles were applied It now stands in the great market-place, oppo- 
site to the church of S. Agnes, and on the supposed spot of her 
martyrdom. (See p. 6.) 





The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Description of Plate V. 


This bears the names of Rameses 11. and his father, Seti, b.c. 
1487. It was brought to Rome by Augustus, b.c. 10, and was ori- 
ginally placed on the spina of the Circus Maximus. It was set up 
in its present situation under Pope Sixtus V., c, a.d. 1590, at the 
northern entrance to his new city of Rome. This is considered the 
finest of the Egyptian Obelisks in Rome, and it is covered with 
hieroglyphics on all sides ; to shew these, which are very important 
and interesting to Egyptian scholars, photographs have been taken 
of it on three sides. The same has been done with the obelisk in 
Monte Citorio, where the hieroglyphics are all very good and 






The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Description of Plate VI. 


The ObeUsk now standing in front of the Royal Palace on the 
Quirinal was originally erected by Psammeticus XL, b.c, 590. It 
was brought to Rome by Augustus, b.c. 30, and was erected by him 
as the gnomon or pointer to a sun-dial, in the Campus Martius, 
nearly on the site of the present Piazza di S. Lorenzo in Lucina, in 
front of the church. It was removed to its present site in 1786, 
under Pius VI. Round the base of it are placed the celebrated 
colossal statues of horses, with men holding them, called by some 
Castor and Pollux, but without any authority; the group was found 
in the Thermae of Constantine, near this spot, but they are Greek 
sculptures. That part of the Quirinal Hill is called Monte Cavallo, 
from these horses; an inscription on the pedestal attributes them 
to Phidias and Praxiteles, but this is also without any authority. 



The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Description of Plate VII. 


The Eg3q)tian Obelisk which now stands in the public prome- 
nade and garden on the Pincian Hill * was brought to Rome by the 
Emperor Hadrian, about a.d. 130, and was placed on the spina of 
the Circus Varianus by Heliogabalus, about a.d. 220. This circus 
was connected with the Amphitheatrum Castrense and the fortified 
palace of the Sessorium, the residence of the family of Varius, to 
which Heliogabalus belonged ; and both of these appendages to the 
palace were for the amusement of the soldiers of the Praetorian 
Guard. The fortified camp, usually called the Praetorian Camp, 
was connected with the Sessorium by an ancient earthwork, or high 
bank of earth, which was used to carry the aqueducts upon in the 
time of the Republic, and that part of the great Wall of Aurelian 
was also made out of the aqueducts. The guards could go along 
the top of the bank (and over the two gates) from one camp to the 
other ; but the connection with the circus was cut off by Aurelian, 
and it was long out of use. The obelisk was found buried on the 
site of it in the time of Pope Pius VII., and was removed to its 
present site by him about 1820. 

• Hist. Photos., No. 1636. 






The Egyptian Obelisks. 

Description of Plate VIII. 


The Obelisk which now stands in the garden of the Villa Celi- 
montana (now occupied by Baron Hoffman ^) — ^formerly called the 
Villa Mattel, from the family of that name who built the present 
villa on the site of an ancient Cohors VigHuniy or fortified camp of 
the night-guardSy where many remains of ancient art have been 
found, most of which are still used as ornaments to it — ^is one of 
the four that had been erected in Egypt by Rameses II., between 
i486 and 1420 B.C (mentioned at page 2). They were taken to 
Rome by Augustus. Another of them is that now standing in the 
Piazza del Popolo (as before mentioned, see Plate V.). They were 
set up in their present position by Sixtus V., a.d. 1585 — 90. The 
painful accident which happened to the architect, who was directing 
the placing of this obelisk on its present site, is related at page 7, 
in note e. All the other obelisks of Rameses II. have been already 
described, and this completes the account of all the Twelve Egyp- 
tian Obelisks in Rome. There is one other obelisk in the garden 
of Mr. Esmeade, close to the Porta del Popolo, on the site of the 
Villa of the Domitii, the family to which Nero belonged, and where 
his body was buried. But probably this obelisk is a rude imitation 
of the eighteenth century. 

^ Hist. Photos., No. 3003.