The Emperors' Needles

BookThe Emperors' Needles

The Emperors' Needles

Egyptian Obelisks and Rome


February 5th, 2010



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Obelisks, originally associated with the sun cult, had their heyday between 2000 and 1500 BC, when they adorned the Nile’s banks and proclaimed the splendour of the pharaohs. Today, only twenty-seven Egyptian obelisks remain standing and they are scattered in various locations throughout the world. Rome, with thirteen, boasts more than anywhere else, including Egypt itself. These monolithic structures can be seen in every corner of the ‘Eternal City’ and still hold a fascination for all who gaze upon them. This book is intended as a general guide to the obelisks that have found their way to the four corners of the earth. It examines the interest shown in them by the Roman emperors; it discusses each obelisk in detail, and traces individual histories and anecdotes concerning their journeys from Egypt. The work is illustrated throughout and translations of some of the relevant historical texts are supplied.

... a very readable and accessible book that will be enjoyed by anyone who seeks something more than the basic comments one might find in a generic guidebook.

Archaeology Travel,

Author Information

Susan Sorek teaches in the Classics Department at Lampeter University and is Associate Lecturer with the Open University. Her books include 'Ancient Historians' (2005).

Table of Contents

Section TitlePage
List of Illustrations
Standing Obelisks and their Present Locations
Introduction: The History of the Pharaonic Egypt
1. The Cult of the Sun Stone: The Origins of the Obelisk
2. Created from Stone: How Egyptian Obelisks were Made
3. Contact with the West: Greece and Rome
4. Roman Annexation of Egypt
5. Egyptian Influences in Rome
6. Augustus and the First Egyptian Obelisks to Reach Rome
7. Other Augustan Obelisks
8. Augustus' Successors: Tiberius and Caligula
9. Claudius and Nero: The Last of Augustus' Dynasty
10. The Flavian Emperors and the Obelisks of Domitian
11. The Emperor Hadrian: A Memorial to Grief
12. Constantine and the New Rome
13. From Rome to Constantinople
14. An Obelisk in France
15. Obelisks in Britain
16. From the Old World to the New: An Obelisk in New York
17. The Obelisk Builders and the Standing Obelisks of Egypt
Appendix: Translations of Two Obelisk Inscriptions