ERM - Cleopatra's Needle In New York




These obelisks stood before the great pylon of the temple at Heliopolis, which was dedicated to Harakhthes, a form of the Sun-god in the morning, and to Tem, a for of the Sun-god in the evening. They were set up by Thothmes III to commemorate his celebration of the great festival of Set for the third time; the exact year of his reign in which he did this is unknown. There they stood until the reign of Augustus, who removed them to Alexandria, where they were set up before the great temple in the 18th year of Augustus Caesar's reign, i.e. 13-12 B.C. The architect was one Pontius, and the perfect of the day was P. Rubrius Barbarus. Both obelisks were standing when 'Abd al-Latif visited Egypt towards the close of the XIIth century A.D., for, speaking of Alexandria, he says that he saw two obelisks in the middle of the building, which were larger than the small ones of Heliopolis, but smaller than the two large ones. He calls them 'CleopatraUs big needles.' One of them fell down, probably during the earthquake which took place in 1301, when the Nile cast its boats a bowshot on the land and the walls of Alexandria were thrown down. The obelisk lay where it fell until Mr. John Dixon removed it to London at the expense of Sir Erasmus Wilson, as has already been stated. The best copy of the text of Thothmes III is that of Sethe; of the additions by Rameses II no good copy has been published, but their non-historical character is evident from the photograph of two sides of the obelisk published by Gorringe.

The second obelisk stood on the pedestal on which the Roman engineers had placed it until it was transported in masterly fashion to New York and set up in 1880 in the Central Park by Lieut. Commander H. H. Gorringe of the U.S. Navy. This obelisk weighs about 220 tons, and was mounted on bronze supports, one under each angle, each bar projecting from the body of a bronze crab about 16 inches in diameter. One of these was seen in position by Mr. John Dixon, and Commander Gorringe found two, the other two having been stolen. The crab was associated with Phoebus Appolo, the Sun god of the Greeks, who was identified with Ra, the Sun-god of the Egyptians. That the use of the crab had a religious significance which appealed to both Egyptians and Greeks seems clear. For a full account of the means used in transporting the obelisk and erecting it, and numerous plans, photographs, etc., see Gorringe, Egyptian Obelisks, London, 1885. The inscriptions of Thothmes III on both obelisks are here given.



FRONT------Horus of the Double Crown, Bull mighty, crowned one in Thebes, King of the South and North, Men-kheper-Ra. He made as his monument for Father Horus Ra of the two horizons He set up a pair of obelisks great, the pyramidions of electrum, at his third time of the Set Festival, through the greatness of his love of Father Tem. He made [them], the son of Ra, Thothmes, Nefer-kheper, of Ra-Harakhthes, beloved, living for ever.

RIGHT------Horus of the Double Crown, Beloved of Ra, King of the South and the North, Men-kheper-Ra. The monuments of the gods the lover, supplying with meat and drink the altar of the Souls of Heliopolis, making to be satisfied their Majesties at the two seasons (i.e. morning and evening). His...[is] with them with life [and] serenity for hundreds of thousands of the Set Festival, many, great, son of Ra, Thothmes, governor of the god, of Ra-Harakhthes beloved, living for ever.

BACK------Horus of the Double Crown, Bull mighty of Ra beloved, King of the South and the North, Men-kheper-Ra. Established Father Tem his name great of cartouche with enduring sovereignty in the Great House of Anu, when he gave to him the throne of Geb [and] the rank of Khepera, the son of Ra, Thothmes, righteous governor, of the Souls of Heliopolis beloved, given life for ever.

LEFT------Horus of the Double Crown, Bull mighty crowned by Truth, King of the South and the North, Men-Kheper-Ra. Multiplied for him the Lord of the gods Set Festivals on the Ashet tree holy within the House of the Soul, knowing that his son was I, flesh proceeding from Neb-er-tcher, the son of Ra Thothmes, governor of Heliopolis, of Ra-Harakhthes beloved, living for ever.


THE OBELISK IN NEW YORK AT CENTRAL PARK. FRONT------Horus. Mighty Bull, beloved of Ra. Nesubati. Men-kheper-Ra. He made [them] as his monument to Father Tem, Lord of Anu. He set up two great obelisks [with] pyramidions of electrum. The son of Ra, Thothmes,..... the ever-living, did [this].

RIGHT------Mighty Bull, crowned in Thebes. Nebti. Whose sovereignty flourisheth like Ra in heaven. Son of Tem, of his body. Nebt-Ant brought him forth, Thothmes. He was created by them in the Great House with the beauties of their limbs, they knowing that he would reign with a sovereignty that would flourish for ever. King of the South and North, Men-kheper-Ra, beloved of Tem the great god and the Company of his gods, to whom are given life, stability and all serenity, like Ra for ever.

BACK----Horus. Exalted one of the White Crown, beloved of Ra. Nesubati. Men-kheper-Ra. Golden Horus. He who reposeth on strength, smiter of the governors of the mountains and deserts remote (?) from him, according as his father Ra hath decreed for him victories over every land whatsoever, and the valor of the scimitar by the mouth (i.e. act) of his two arms, to increase the extent of the frontiers of Egypt. Son of Ra, Thothmes [governor of Anu], to whom everlasting life hath been given.

LEFT------Besides the Horus and Nesubati names of the king, little else of this column remains. On each side of the shaft of each obelisk Rameses II added two columns of hieroglyphs, one on each side of the column of hieroglyphs cut for Thothmes III. The inscriptions added by Rameses have no historical importance and contain nothing but his official names and high-sounding titles and epithets. The have been published, but these copies are very incorrect in places and useless for study. Photographs of the inscriptions on the New York obelisk have been published by Gorringe, Egyptian Obelisks, together with a reprint of Brugsch's translation, which first appeared in the New York Herald, February 22, 1880. The general character and contents of the inscriptions on obelisks of Rameses II are well illustrated by the inscriptions of the Paris Obelisk, of which a full translation is given later in this Book.