Obelisk of Theodosius
The Obelisk of Theodosius is the Ancient Egyptian obelisk of Pharaoh Tutmoses III re-erected in the Hippodrome of Constantinople by the Roman Emperor Theodosius I in the 4th century AD.
The obelisk was first set up by Tutmoses III (1479–1425 BC) to the south of the seventh pylon of the great temple of Karnak. The Roman emperor Constantius II (337-361 AD) had it and another obelisk transported along the river Nile to Alexandria to commemorate his ventennalia or 20 years on the throne in 357.
The other obelisk was erected on the spina of the Circus Maximus in Rome in the autumn of that year, and is today known as the Lateran obelisk, whilst the obelisk that would become the obelisk of Theodosius remained in Alexandria until 390, when Theodosius I (378-392 AD) had it transported to Constantinople and put up on the spina of the Hippodrome there.
The Obelisk of Theodosius is of red granite from Aswan and was originally 30m tall, like the Lateran obelisk. The lower part was damaged in antiquity, probably during its transport or re-erection, and so the obelisk is today only 18.54m (or 19.6m) high, or 25.6m if the base is included. Between the four corners of the obelisk and the pedestal are four bronze cubes, used in its transportation and re-erection.
Each of its four faces has a single central column of inscription, celebrating Tutmoses III's victory on the banks of the river Euphrates in 1450 BC.
The marble pedestal had bas-reliefs dating to the time of the obelisk's re-erection in Constantinople. On one face Theodosius I is shown offering the crown of victory to the winner in the chariot races, framed between arches and Corinthian columns, with happy spectators, musicians and dancers assisting in the ceremony. In the bottom right of this scene is the water organ of Ctesibius and on the left another instrument.
|A recreation of the Hippodrome of Constantinople and
the Obelisk of Theodosius.
Chariot Race at the Hippodrome
The Obelisk of Theodosius is featured in these videos.
|Bottom of the inscription (south face).
The pedestal's east face bears an inscription in five Latin hexameters. This is slightly broken at the bottom but it was transcribed in full by travellers in the 16th century. It reads:
- DIFFICILIS QVONDAM DOMINIS PARERE SERENIS
- IVSSVS ET EXTINCTIS PALMAM PORTARE TYRANNIS
- OMNIA THEODOSIO CEDVNT SVBOLIQVE PERENNI
- TER DENIS SIC VICTVS EGO DOMITVSQVE DIEBVS
- IVDICE SVB PROCLO SVPERAS ELATVS AD AVRAS
- "Though formerly I opposed resistance, I was ordered to obey the serene masters and to carry their palm, once the tyrants had been overcome. All things yield to Theodosius and to his everlasting descendants. This is true of me too - I was mastered and overcome in three times ten days and raised towards the upper air, under governor Proculus."
- KIONA TETPAΠΛEYPON AEI XΘONI KEIMENON AXΘOC
- MOYNOC ANACTHCAI ΘEYΔOCIOC BACIΛEYC
- TOΛMHCAC ΠPOKΛOC EΠEKEKΛETO KAI TOCOC ECTH
- KIΩN HEΛIOIC EN TPIAKONTA ΔYO
- "This column with four sides which lay on the earth, only the emperor Theodosius dared to lift again its burden; Proclos was invited to execute his order; and this great column stood up in 32 days."
|Top of the inscription (south face).
|The Emperor and his court. (north face).
|Submission of the barbarians (west face).
(Obelisk of Theodosius)