Augustan Obelisk from the Circus Maximus

Piazza del Popolo

Photo by Vincent de Groot

The Augustian Obelisk from the Circus Maximus (Flaminio Obelisk) was brought from Heliopolis in 10 BC by Augustus and set up on the spina of the Circus Maximus as a monument to the conquest of Egypt and a dedication to the sun. It is 23.70 meters high and made of Aswan granite. It dates to the 13th century BC and has hieroglyphs from both Seti I and his son Rameses II. It was discovered in 1587 and then moved to the Piazza del Popolo. In 1818, copies of Egyptian lions were added to Valadier. 
It was one of two carried off by Augustus in 10 BC with identical inscriptions - the other being the obelisk at the Obelisk of Horologium Augusti.

Inscription
IMP(erator) CAESAR DIVI F(ilius) 
AUGUSTUS
PONTIFEX MAXIMUS
IMP(erator) XII CO(n)S(ul) XI TRIB(unicia) POT(estate) XIV 
AEGUPTO IN POTESTATEM 
POPULI ROMANI REDACTA
SOLI DONUM DEDIT

The emperor Caesar Augustus, son of the deified Caesar, Pontifex Maximus, triumphing general 12 times, consul 11 times, with tribunician powers 14 times, gave this obelisk as a gift to the Sun after Egypt had been brought under the power of the Roman people.

Circus Maximus depicted on Sestertius of Trajan

Circus Maximus from the Atlas van Loon (1649)

Piazza del Popolo by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1741)

Piazza del Popolo by Giovanni Battista Piranesi  (ca. 1750)

Sources

A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome by Platner
A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome by Richardson
Rome: An Oxford Archaeological Guide by Claridge
The Egyptian and Egyptianizing Monuments of Imperial Rome by Roullet

  • Facebook Social Icon
  • Twitter Social Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
The Byzantine Legacy
Created by David Hendrix Copyright 2016