Obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus – Munich
The Obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus, also referred to as the Obelisk of Munich was quarried in Egypt, during Roman rule to adorn the temple of Isis of the Champ de Mars, in Rome. Made up of three red granite fragments at the combined height of 5.60m, it honours the Roman senator Titus Sextius Africanus, with its inscription in hieroglyphic text.
After the vandalism of the Champ de Mars, the obelisk was later displayed at various Italian piazzas and villas before it was sent to Paris by Napoleon. After its restoration in Paris, it was sent to Munich, where today it has a replica on a modern base displayed outdoors in front of the Staatliches Museum Ägyptischer Kunst (State Museum of Egyptian Art), and the original is exhibited in the museum.
The inscription in hieroglyphics mentions Titus Sextius Africanus, it is, however, uncertain which of two men bearing this name, who were also Roman senators, this obelisk honours. One of the men named lived during Claude and Nero’s era, the other during Trajan’s period. Considering that this obelisk maybe one in the same series as two others coming from the temple of Fortune in Préneste, and belonging to the time of Claude, it is more likely the obelisk refers to the Titus Sextius Africanus who was a Roman senator and who served as Roman consul in 59 AD.
An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. The Ancient Egyptians initially created Obelisks for religious purposes, and when the Ancient Greeks saw them, they used the Greek term ‘obeliskos’ to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and ultimately English. Ancient Egyptian obelisks were monolithic and consisted of a single stone. Most modern obelisks are made of several stones and some, like the Washington Monument, are buildings.
Obelisks played a vital role in Egyptian religion and were prominent in the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, who placed them in pairs at the entrance of the temples. The earliest temple obelisk from 1971 – 1926 BC, symbolised the sun god Ra, and during the religious reformation of Akhenaten, it was said to have been a petrified ray of the Aten, the sun-disk. It was also thought that god existed within the structure.
Many Egyptian obelisks are now dispersed around the world, and fewer than half of them remain in Egypt. The largest standing and tallest ANcient Egyptian obelisk is the Lateran Obelisk in the square across from the Lateran Basilica in Rome at 105.6 feet (32.2 m) tall and a weight of 455 metric tons (502 short tons).
Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for three Ancient Egyptian obelisks erected in London, Paris, and New York City. The obelisks in London and New York are a pair from the same original site in Egypt. The one in Paris is also part of a pair initially from in Luxor, where its twin remains. All three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, but their nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with the Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. They obelisks were created over a thousand years before Cleopatra.
The London and New York obelisk pair were initially made during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III( 1458-1425 BCE). The Paris needle dates to the reign of the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses II (1279–1213 BC) and was the first to be relocated and re-erected. Thus Paris created the fashion that others followed.
The origins of the nickname, “Cleopatra’s Needle” relate to the circumstances in which Queen Cleopatra had an obelisk from Heliopolis moved to Alexandria, shortly before the time of Christ, for the decoration of a new temple but it was never erected, and it lay buried in the sand on the shore until it was acquired by the British in 1820.
- Why has Washington, London and other world capitals erected obelisk monuments that originally honoured Ancient Egyptian god?
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Obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus
- Title: Obelisk of Titus Sextius Africanus – Munich
- Deutsch: Obelisk des Titus Sextius Africanus
- Date: 50 -100AD
- Medium: Red granite
- Origins: Made in Egypt and displayed in Rome
- Period: Roman
- Dimensions: 5.60 m high
- Museum: Staatliche Sammlung für Ägyptische Kunst
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“People bring about their own undoing through their tongues.”
– Egyptian Proverb
Photo Credit: State Museum of Egyptian Art [Public domain]