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Monarchs, too, have entered into a sort of rivalry with one another in forming elongated blocks of this stone, known as "obelisks,"1 and consecrated to the divinity of the Sun. The blocks had this form given to them in resemblance to the rays of that luminary, which are so called2 in the Egyptian language.

Mesphres,3 who reigned in the City of the Sun,4 was the first who erected one of these obelisks, being warned to do so in a dream: indeed, there is an inscription upon the obelisk to this effect; for the sculptures and figures which we still see engraved thereon are no other than Egyptian letters.5

At a later period other kings had these obelisks hewn. Sesosthes6 erected four of them in the above-named city, forty-eight cubits in height. Rhamsesis,7 too, who was reigning at the time of the capture of Troy, erected one, a hundred and forty cubits high. Having quitted the spot where the palace of Mnevis8 stood, this monarch erected another obelisk,9 one hundred and twenty cubits in height, but of prodigious thickness, the sides being no less than eleven cubits in breadth. (9.) It is said that one hundred and twenty thousand men were employed upon this work;10 and that the king, when it was on the point of being elevated, being apprehensive that the machinery employed might not prove strong enough for the weight, with the view of increasing the peril that might be entailed by due want of precaution on the part of the workmen, had his own son fastened to the summit; in order that the safety of the prince might at the same time ensure the safety of the mass of stone. It was in his admiration of this work, that, when King Cambyses took the city by storm, and the conflagration had already reached the very foot of the obelisk, he ordered the fire to be extinguished; he entertaining a respect for this stupendous erection which he had not entertained for the city itself.

There are also two other obelisks, one of them erected by Zmarres,11 and the other by Phius;12 both of them without inscriptions, and forty-eight cubits in height. Ptolemæus Philadelphus had one erected at Alexandria, eighty cubits high, which had been prepared by order of King Necthebis:13 it was without any inscription, and cost far more trouble in its carriage and elevation, than had been originally expended in quarrying it. Some writers inform us that it was conveyed on a raft, under the inspection of the architect Satyrus; but Callixenus14 gives the name of Phœnix. For this pur- pose, a canal was dug from the river Nilus to the spot where the obelisk lay; and two broad vessels, laden with blocks of similar stone a foot square, the cargo of each amounting to double the size, and consequently double the weight, of the obelisk, were brought beneath it; the extremities of the obelisk remaining supported by the opposite sides of the canal. The blocks of stone were then removed, and the vessels, being thus gradually lightened, received their burden. It was erected upon a basis of six square blocks, quarried from the same mountain, and the artist was rewarded with the sum of fifty talents.15 This obelisk was placed by the king abovementioned in the Arsinoœum,16 in testimony of his affection for his wife and sister Arsinoë. At a later period, as it was found to be an inconvenience to the docks, Maximus, the then præfect of Egypt, had it transferred to the Forum there, after removing the summit for the purpose of substituting a gilded point; an intention which was ultimately abandoned.

There are two other obelisks, which were in Cæsar's Temple at Alexandria, near the harbour there, forty-two cubits in height, and originally hewn by order of King Mesphres. But the most difficult enterprise of all, was the carriage of these obelisks by sea to Rome, in vessels which excited the greatest admiration. Indeed, the late Emperor Augustus consecrated the one which brought over the first obelisk, as a lasting memorial of this marvellous undertaking, in the docks at Puteoli; but it was destroyed by fire. As to the one in which, by order of the Emperor Caius,17 the other obelisk had been transported to Rome, after having been preserved for some years and looked upon as the most wonderful construction ever beheld upon the seas, it was brought to Ostia, by order of the late Emperor Claudius; and towers of Puteolan18 earth being first erected upon it, it was sunk for the construction of the harbour which he was making there. And then, besides, there was the necessity of constructing other vessels to carry these obelisks up the Tiber; by which it became practically ascer- tained, that the depth of water in that river is not less than that of the river Nilus.

The obelisk that was erected by the late Emperor Augustus in the Great Circus,19 was originally quarried by order of King Semenpserteus,20 in whose reign it was that Pythagoras21 visited Egypt. It is eighty-five feet22 and three quarters in height, exclusive of the base, which is a part of the same stone. The one that he erected in the Campus Martius, is nine feet less in height, and was originally made by order of Sesothis. They are both of them covered with inscriptions, which interpret the operations of Nature according to the philosophy of the Egyptians.

1 "Obelisci." So called from ὀβελισκὸς a "small spit," in consequence of their tapering form.

2 Meaning, probably, that in the Egyptian language, the same word is used as signifying a "spit" and a "ray" of light; for it is generally agreed that the word "obeliscus" is of Greek origin.

3 He does not appear to have been identified; and the correct reading is doubtful.

4 Heliopolis, or On. See B. v. c. 11.

5 These figures or hieroglyphics did not denote the phonetic language of Egypt, but only formed a symbolical writing.

6 Perhaps the same as "Sesostris." The former reading is "Sothis."

7 Ajasson identifies him with Rameses III., a king of the eighteenth dynasty, who reigned B.C. 1561. This was also one of the names of Sesostris the Great.

8 The name of the bull divinity worshipped by the people of On, or Heliopolis; while by the people of Memphis it was known as Apis.

9 This, Hardouin says, was the same obelisk that was afterwards erected by Constantius, son of Constantine the Great, in the Circus Maximus at Rome; whence it was removed by Pope Sextus V., in the year 1588, to the Basilica of the Lateran.

10 This, Hardouin says, was the same obelisk that was afterwards erected by Constantius, son of Constantine the Great, in the Circus Maximus at Rome; whence it was removed by Pope Sextus V., in the year 1588, to the Basilica of the Lateran.

11 This name is probably mutilated: there are about twenty different readings of it.

12 This name is also very doubtful. One reading is "Eraph," and Hardouin attempts to identify him with the Pharaoh Hophra of Jeremiah, xliv. 30, the Ouafres of the Chronicle of Eusebius, and the Apries of Herodotus.

13 The Nectanabis, probably, of Plutarch, in his Life of Agesilaüs, and the Nectanebus of Nepos, in the Life of Chabrias.

14 Callixenus of Rhodes was a contemporary of Ptolemy Philadelphus, and was the author of a description of Alexandria, and of a catalogue of painters and sculptors.

15 Egyptian talents, probably. See. B. xxxiii. c. 15.

16 Evidently a stupendous monument, or rather aggregate of buildings, erected by Ptolemy II., Philadelphus, in memory of his wife and sister, Arsinoë. See B. xxxiv. c. 42.

17 Caligula.

18 See B. xvi. c. 76, and B. xxxv. c. 47.

19 Or Circus Maximus; in the Eleventh Region of the City. According to Kircher, it was this obelisk that Pope Sextus V. had disintereed, and placed before the church of the Madonna del Popolo.

20 There are sixteen various readings to this name.

21 Diogenes Laertius says that he arrived in Egypt in the reign of King Amasis.

22 Boscovich and Brotero would read here "eighty-two feet and three quarters," which is more in accordance with its height, as measured by Kircher.

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