SOLAR OBELISKS IN ANTIQUE AND CHRISTIAN ROME
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The article is devoted primarily to five of the twelve obelisks surviving in Rome until the present time. The objects in question, imported from Egypt, since the times of Augustus were set in Roman circuses in the middle of the arena used for chariot races. All the Roman obelisks were made of the same kind of red granite quarried in Aswan, but in different periods.The two oldest obelisks (bearing hieroglyphs referring to the pharaohs PsamEtik II and Seti/Ramses II) were transferred to Rome from Heliopolis in 10 BC by Augustus, who made one of them the gnomon of his sundial on the Field of Mars and the other a monument devoted to the Divine Sun in Circus Maximus. The next obelisk from Heliopolis (of the pharaohs Totmes II and IV) was brought to Rome in 357 AD by Constantius II and set in Circus Maximus to commemorate his father Constantine. Yet another obelisk from Heliopolis, lacking any hieroglyphs, was imported to Rome by Caligula in 37 AD, but it was erected in another circus, on the Vatican hill. All the obelisks except this last one collapsed and were saved by Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590), who had them unearthed, repaired and installed in new places: Augustus's obelisk was moved to piazza del Popolo, Constantine's obelisk to piazza del Laterano, and the Vatican obelisk, the only one that had survived until that time unbroken and standing upright in its original location, to piazza San Pietro. All the obelisks received new inscriptions, whose form and contents were modelled after antique ones. Also the closing formula used, S.P.Q.R.D.D. ('offered by the Senate and People of Rome'), was adopted from antique inscriptions.In the 1st and 2nd century AD two other obelisks were imported from Egypt, but their hieroglyphs were carved in Rome, to commemorate Caesar Domitian and Hadrian's favourite, Antinous. Their original location in Rome is uncertain.Both monuments were transposed in the 17th c. The former was set by Pope Innocent X as a part of Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers.The latter was transferred by cardinal F. Barberini to the vicinity of his palace in the centre of Rome, from where it was later moved to the Vatican, and finally, in the 20th c., to the Pincio.The article briefly mention also seven other obelisks, which were not originally placed in circuses, and which were found and restored to various squares of Rome by various popes.
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