Have you noticed the obelisks that are scattered around the city of Rome? Have you ever wondered why some of the squares in the city have an obelisk in the middle of it? Are they fake or real ones? Where do they come from? When were they brought here and why? But mostly how? These questions are the ones I often get when I take people around. Well, let’s start from the beginning. As most know or at the least, they have heard the saying, Rome was not built in a day.
This saying is to emphasize to length of the Roman hegemony.
In fact the building of Rome took many, many centuries and many Emperors and rules.
But let’s keep it to the obelisks. After Cleopatra and Antony were defeated at thelatest stage of the Roman republic, Augustus ordered the obelisk that you now see in Piazza del Popolo, to be brought to Rome. This monolithic is the 2nd oldest, and one of the tallest ones to be found in Rome, at 24m high, and weighing approximately 200 tons. How could such a giant object be brought here? The answer is by boat and with the effort of thousands of slaves. From Egypt, through the Nile, the Mediterranean sea to the port of Ostia and then to Rome through the river Tiber.
In the three centuries to follow, many more obelisks were taken from the land of the pharaohs. At that stage in history, obelisks were carved from a single piece of stone, monolithic, often stone of red granite, or from other harder stones like diorite. The original purpose of these giants were for religious reasons, while the reasons why they were taken to Rome was only for decoration and celebration. Romans liked that very much. It was a way to show off their power.
Now, 13 of them can still be seen in Rome, though they are not placed where they were originally erected by the Emperors, as they were moved in the renaissance period. I know where all of these are located though, and I’ve taken many of my guests to see these impressive structures, to learn of the history and of the Emperors whom ordered for them to be brought here. So if you need some help to locate them, let me help!