Obelisk of Montecitorio

Last updated
The obelisk in a print by Giuseppe Vasi of 1738 Obelisco cavato di sotto le ruine - Plate 021ii - Giuseppe Vasi.jpg
The obelisk in a print by Giuseppe Vasi of 1738

The Obelisk of Montecitorio (Italian : Obelisco di Montecitorio), also known as Solare, is an ancient Egyptian, red granite obelisk of Psammetichus II (595-589 BC) from Heliopolis. Brought to Rome with the Flaminio Obelisk in 10 BC by the Roman Emperor Augustus to be used as the gnomon of the Solarium Augusti, it is now in the Piazza Montecitorio. It is 21.79 metres (71 ft) high, and 33.97 metres (111 ft) including the base and the globe.

Contents

History

First construction

Obelisk of Pharao Psamtik II, not called "Obelisk of Montecitorio", used as a Roman sundial, the famous Horologium Augusti, in Rome. In the background is the Italian Chamber of Deputies building Obelisk of Psamtek II, Horologium Augusti, Rome.jpg
Obelisk of Pharao Psamtik II, not called "Obelisk of Montecitorio", used as a Roman sundial, the famous Horologium Augusti, in Rome. In the background is the Italian Chamber of Deputies building

Augustus erected it as the gnomon of the Solarium Augusti, his giant sundial (or horologium) in the Campus Martius. The meridian, worked out by the mathematician Facondius Novus, was placed in the center of a surface measuring 160 by 75 metres (525 by 246 ft), constructed from slabs of travertine, on which a quadrant was marked out with bronze letters, with indications of the hours, months, seasons and signs of the zodiac. Besides its function as a solar clock, the obelisk was oriented in such manner so as to cast its shadow on the nearby Ara Pacis on 23 September, Augustus's birthday, which coincided with the autumnal equinox.

A detailed description that gives us the typology, appearance and formal operating procedure of this imposing solar meridian is supplied from Pliny the Elder (Naturalis Historia 36, 71–72). [2]

The inscription written on two sides of the obelisk's base runs as follows:

IMP. CAESAR DIVI F.

AVGVSTVS

PONTIFEX MAXIMVS

IMP. XII COS. XI TRIB. POT. XIV

AEGVPTO IN POTESTATEM

POPVLI ROMANI REDACTA

SOLI DONVM DEDIT

Imperator Caesar, son of the deified (Julius Caesar), Augustus, Supreme Pontiff, proclaimed Imperator twelve times, Consul eleven times, holding Tribunician Power fourteen times, having reduced Egypt into the sovereignty of the Roman people, gave this gift to the sun.

However, according to Pliny, the original horologic stopped working 30 years after its construction (that is, by the 40s AD). [3]

Later history

The base of the column of Antoninus, with the personification of the Campus Martius, reclining, left Antoninus Pius Columna.jpeg
The base of the column of Antoninus, with the personification of the Campus Martius, reclining, left

Between the 9th and 11th centuries, probably because of fire, earthquake (perhaps the earthquake of 849) or war (e.g. during the siege of Rome of 1084 by Robert Guiscard), the obelisk collapsed and then, progressively, became buried. Pope Sixtus V (1520–1590) made some attempts to repair and raise the obelisk, reassembling some pieces that had been found in 1502 in a cellar off the "Largo dell'Impresa", the present Piazza del Parlamento. After this fruitless attempt, some traces of the meridian were recovered during the pontificate of Benedict XIV in 1748, who found parts of it under the main entrance of Piazza del Parlamento 3, sited just as in Pliny's description. The obelisk and the meridian were not originally located in the position in which they were re-erected by the popes, but in the space behind the Curia innocenziana (now called Palazzo Montecitorio). Under the cellar of a stable on a street in the Campus Martius, a piece of the meridian was excavated, with the markings for various months in Greek letters set into the travertine slabs. Another fragment was hypothesized to be contained in the mosaic still visible in the foundation of the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina.

From 1789 to 1792, Pope Pius VI carried out intensive works to repair the obelisk, which was later raised and restored as a solar clock. The direction of the restoration work was entrusted to the architect Giovanni Antinori, who restored the obelisk using granite from the Column of Antoninus Pius. This column's base, with its famous relief showing the Solar obelisk held as a symbol of the Campus Martius regio by a personification of the Campus, is still preserved in the Vatican Museums.

In the new layout of Piazza Montecitorio (inaugurated on 7 June 1998), a new meridian was traced on the pavement in honor of Augustus's meridian, pointing towards the main entrance of the palazzo. Unfortunately, the shadow of the obelisk does not point precisely in that direction, and its gnomonic function is definitively lost.

See also

Notes

  1. Nasrallah, Laura Salah (2019). Archaeology and the Letters of Paul. Oxford University Press. p. 205. ISBN   978-0-19-969967-4.
  2. is autem obeliscus, quem divus Augustus in circo magno statuit, excisus est a rege Psemetnepserphreo, quo regnante Pythagoras in Aegypto fuit, LXXXV pedum et dodrantis praeter basim eiusdem lapidis; is vero, quem in campo Martio, novem pedibus minor, a Sesothide. inscripti ambo rerum naturae interpretationem Aegyptiorum philosophia continent. — Ei, qui est in campo, divus Augustus addidit mirabilem usum ad deprendendas solis umbras dierumque ac noctium ita magnitudinis, strato lapide ad longitudinem obelisci, cui par fieret umbra brumae confectae die sexta hora paulatimque per regulas, quae sunt ex aere inclusae, singulis diebus decresceret ac rursus augeresceret, digna cognitu res, ingenio Facundi Novi mathematici. is apici auratam pilam addidit, cuius vertice umbra colligeretur in se ipsam, alias enormiter iaculante apice, ratione, ut ferunt, a capite hominis intellecta.
  3. haec observatio XXX iam fere annis non congruit, sive solis ipsius dissono cursu et caeli aliqua ratione mutato sive universa tellure a centro suo aliquid emota (ut deprehendi et aliis in locis accipio) sive urbis tremoribus ibi tantum gnomone intorto sive inundationibus Tiberis sedimento molis facto, quamquam ad altitudinem inpositi oneris in terram quoque dicuntur acta fundamenta. (Naturalis Historia, XXXVI, 73).

Related Research Articles

Augustus First Roman emperor

Augustus was a Roman statesman and military leader who became the first emperor of the Roman Empire, reigning from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. His status as the founder of the Roman Principate has consolidated an enduring legacy as one of the most effective and controversial leaders in human history. The reign of Augustus initiated an era of relative peace known as the Pax Romana. The Roman world was largely free from large-scale conflict for more than two centuries, despite continuous wars of imperial expansion on the Empire's frontiers and the year-long civil war known as the "Year of the Four Emperors" over the imperial succession.

This article concerns the period 19 BC – 10 BC.

Year 10 BC was either a common year starting on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday or a leap year starting on Tuesday or Wednesday of the Julian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday of the Proleptic Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Maximus and Antonius. The denomination 10 BC for this year has been used since the early medieval period, when the Anno Domini calendar era became the prevalent method in Europe for naming years.

Lucius Verus Roman emperor, 161–169

Lucius Verus was the co-emperor of Rome with his adoptive brother Marcus Aurelius from 161 until his own death in 169. He was a member of the Nerva-Antonine dynasty. Verus' succession together with Marcus Aurelius marked the first time that the Roman Empire was ruled by multiple emperors, an increasingly common occurrence in the later history of the Empire.

Campus Martius public proving ground in ancient Rome

The Campus Martius was a publicly owned area of ancient Rome about 2 square kilometres in extent. In the Middle Ages, it was the most populous area of Rome. The IV rione of Rome, Campo Marzio, which covers a smaller section of the original area, bears the same name.

Naumachia show

The naumachia in the Ancient Roman world referred to both the staging of naval battles as mass entertainment, and the basin or building in which this took place.

St. Peters Square plaza in Vatican City

St. Peter's Square is a large plaza located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City, the papal enclave inside Rome, directly west of the neighbourhood or rione of Borgo. Both the square and the basilica are named after Saint Peter, an apostle of Jesus considered by Catholics to be the first Pope.

Temple of Caesar building in Roman Forum, Italy

The Temple of Caesar or Temple of Divus Iulius, also known as Temple of the Deified Julius Caesar, delubrum, heroon or Temple of the Comet Star, is an ancient structure in the Roman Forum of Rome, Italy, located near the Regia and the Temple of Vesta.

Imperial fora Series of monumental squares in Rome

The Imperial fora are a series of monumental fora, constructed in Rome over a period of one and a half centuries, between 46 BC and 113 AD. The fora were the center of the Roman Republic and of the Roman Empire.

Mausoleum of Augustus Tomb built by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 28 BC

The Mausoleum of Augustus is a large tomb built by the Roman Emperor Augustus in 28 BC on the Campus Martius in Rome, Italy. The mausoleum is located on the Piazza Augusto Imperatore, near the corner with Via di Ripetta as it runs along the Tiber. The grounds cover an area equivalent to a few city blocks nestled between the church of San Carlo al Corso and the Museum of the Ara Pacis. The mausoleum is currently in the process of a restoration, upon the completion of which it will open to the public.

Colonna, City of Rome Rione of Rome in Latium, Italy

Colonna is the 3rd rione of Rome, identified by the initials R. III and located at the city's historic center in Municipio I. It takes its name from the Column of Marcus Aurelius in the Piazza Colonna, the rione's main piazza.

Imperial cult of ancient Rome Identification of emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority of the Roman State

The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority (auctoritas) of the Roman State. Its framework was based on Roman and Greek precedents, and was formulated during the early Principate of Augustus. It was rapidly established throughout the Empire and its provinces, with marked local variations in its reception and expression.

Palazzo Montecitorio palace in Rome

The Palazzo Montecitorio is a palace in Rome and the seat of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

Column of Antoninus Pius

The Column of Antoninus Pius is a Roman honorific column in Rome, Italy, devoted in AD 161 to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius, in the Campus Martius, on the edge of the hill now known as Monte Citorio, and set up by his successors, the co-emperors Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus.

Temple of Apollo Sosianus building in SantAngelo, Italy

The Temple of Apollo Sosianus is a Roman temple dedicated to Apollo in the Campus Martius, next to the Theatre of Marcellus and the Porticus Octaviae, in Rome, Italy. Its present name derives from that of its final rebuilder, Gaius Sosius.

Solarium Augusti Roman solar marker in the Campus Martius

The Solarium Augusti was an ancient Roman monument in the Campus Martius constructed during the reign of Augustus. It functioned as a giant solar marker, according to various interpretations serving either as a simple meridian line or as a sundial. The obelisk belonged to Egyptian Pharaoh Psamtik II.

Mars (mythology) Roman god of war, and guardian of agriculture

In ancient Roman religion and myth, Mars was the god of war and also an agricultural guardian, a combination characteristic of early Rome. He was the son of Jupiter and he was the most prominent of the military gods in the religion of the Roman army. Most of his festivals were held in March, the month named for him, and in October, which began the season for military campaigning and ended the season for farming.

History of sundials All about types and history of sundials

A sundial is a device that indicates time by using a light spot or shadow cast by the position of the Sun on a reference scale. As the Earth turns on its polar axis, the sun appears to cross the sky from east to west, rising at sun-rise from beneath the horizon to a zenith at mid-day and falling again behind the horizon at sunset. Both the azimuth (direction) and the altitude (height) can be used to create time measuring devices. Sundials have been invented independently in every major culture and become more accurate and sophisticated as the culture developed.

The Temple of Isis and Serapis was a double temple in Rome dedicated to the Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis on the Campus Martius, directly to the east of the Saepta Julia. The temple to Isis, the Iseum Campense, stood across a plaza from the Serapeum dedicated to Serapis. The remains of the Temple of Serapis now lie under the church of Santo Stefano del Cacco, and the Temple of Isis lay north of it, just east of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Both temples were made up of a combination of Egyptian and Hellenistic architectural styles. Much of the artwork decorating the temples used motifs evoking Egypt, and they contained several genuinely Egyptian objects, such as couples of obelisks in red or pink granite from Syene.

References

Coordinates: 41°54′02″N12°28′43″E / 41.9006°N 12.4787°E / 41.9006; 12.4787