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ὀβελίσκος). Literally, a small spit, diminutive of ὀβελός; whence applied to other things which possess a sharp or pointed extremity, like a spit; and especially to the tall, slender, rectangular columns, upon a narrow base, and terminating in a point at the top, which were originally invented by the Egyptians, and retain their ancient name with us (Pliny , Pliny H. N. xxxvi. 13; Ammian. xvii. 4, 6). The obelisk served in Egyptian art the same purpose as the στήλη of the Greeks and the columna of the Romans, marking the triumphs or the honours of some prince. They are monoliths, cut in four faces, and are broader at the base than at the top, near which the sides form the base of a pyramid in which the obelisk terminates. The sides are very slightly concave, in order to increase the impression of height, which varies from 25 1/2 inches to a hundred feet. Upon them are usually cut inscriptions in hieroglyphics and pictures recording the names and titles of kings. They were transported in rafts from their quarries at the time of the inundation of the Nile, and raised by means of inclined planes aided by machinery. Some of the obelisks give evidences of having originally had their tips covered with gilded bronze or gold. The use of obelisks antedates history, and has continued to modern times. Most of the Egyptian obelisks date from the eighteenth and nineteenth dynasties (B.C. 1800-1300). The most famous two once stood at Heliopolis, whence they were brought by Rameses II. to Alexandria. These are the ones

Ancient Obelisk.

popularly known as “Cleopatra 's Needles,” of which one was taken to London in 1878 and set up on the Thames Embankment, and the other to New York in 1881, where it is now one of the ornaments of Central Park. There are several at Rome—in the Piazza della Trinità, the Piazza di Monte Citorio, the Piazza del Quirinale, the Piazza dell' Esquilino, the Piazza della Minerva, the Circo Agonale (Piazza Navona), the Piazza di San Giovanni in Laterano, the Piazza del Popolo, and the Piazza di San Pietro, and others of no historical importance. The last named was brought from Heliopolis by Caligula, and is the only one at Rome that has never been broken. Its height is 132 feet. There are also ancient obelisks at Florence, Constantinople, Arles, Catana, and Paris, and one (Lepsius's) at Berlin, this being at once the oldest and the smallest of all, having a height of only 2 feet 1 1/2 inches. Of these small obelisks other specimens are to be seen in various European museums. No ancient obelisk ever attained the height of the modern American obelisk at Washington, though this, of course, is not a monolith. See Birch, Notes upon Obelisks (London, 1853); and Gorringe, Egyptian Obelisks (New York, 1885).

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