The Obelisk of Theodosius, Istanbul
The Obelisk of Theodosius is a startling example of ancient memorial art with a very rich ancient and modern history. The Obelisk is named after the emperor Theodosius, the same emperor who ruled the eastern Roman Empire from 378 CE to 392 CE (AD). The Obelisk of Theodosius stands near the center of modern Istanbul, Turkey. When the Obelisk was moved there in 390 CE, the city was known as Constantinople and was the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.
Obelisk History: The Obelisk was one of two that the people moved from the original sites, which were located south of the fabled temple of Karnak, in 357 CE by Constantius II. He was the Emperor of the Western Roman Empire at the time. The second Obelisk was moved to the Circus Maximus in Rome for the 20-year celebration of Constantius II’s rule. It remains there to this day and is known as the Lateran Obelisk. The Obelisk of Theodosius remained in Alexandria until it was transported to its final location in modern day Istanbul, where it stands to the present day.
Obelisk Origins: The Obelisk’s origins date back to the reign of Pharaoh Tutmoses III, who ruled Egypt from 1479 BCE (BC) to 1425 BCE. He had it set up to commemorate his military victories. The obelisk was installed south of the seventh pylons of Karnak. Tutmoses III had fought a series of battles near the river Euphrates in 1450 BCE, of which the details were immortalized on the Obelisk. Those inscriptions are carved on the monument’s four sides and they are still visible today. Like the Lateran Obelisk, the Obelisk of Theodosius was carved from Aswan red granite. When it was originally carved, the Obelisk of Theodosius was 30 meters high, the same as the Lateran Obelisk.
The Obelisk as it appears today is not whole and current speculation is that it was damaged during its transportation to Alexandria or Constantinople. As a result of the damage caused by the movement and the process of its re-erection, the current Obelisk is only 18.5 meters high. It currently rests on a base with four bronze cubes raising it to nearly 27 meters.