Seven Egyptian obelisks are the most ancients structures brought to Rome during the times of the Empire. The largest of them, originating from Karnak, weights 230 tonnes, is 32 meters tall and is now mounted in front of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. In February 1587 the obelisk that was broken into three parts was found buried 7 meters deep on the territory of the ancient Circo Massimo. After being put together, the obelisk reached 32,18 meters in height. It was installed in front of the Lateran palace. Ancient craftsmen began the work on it during the rule of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmose III (1490вЂ” 1486 BC). It was the first time that the obelisk was created as a sole вЂњspecimenвЂќ, as it was customary at the time to make obelisks in pairs.
On the piazza della Minerva stands a curious sculpture of an elephant by Bernini that supports the second obelisk. On piazza Navona the impressive sculptures serve as a pedestal for the third obelisk, 16,54 meters tall, that was made by the decree of the emperor Domitian (82-96 AC) who wanted the obelisk to be mounted in front of the temple of Isis. The obelisk is quite unique in the regard that it depicts Roman emperors dressed as Egyptian pharaohs at the festive sacrificial offerings.
The fourth obelisk was installed on piazza del Popolo, near the basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. This church was built in 1472 AC over the Domitian familial crypt where, according to the legend, the emperor Nero was buried. This obelisk was brought to Rome by Augustus and judging from the hieroglyphic marks on the facets of it it was created during the times of Ramses II (1223вЂ”1211 BC). Initially the obelisk was installed in Heliopolis, the religious center of the ancient Egypt. In 30 BC after conquering Cleopatra the future emperor Augustus ordered to transfer the obelisk to Rome and devote it to Apollo who brought him the victory.
After the construction of the majestic St. Peter's Cathedral on the Vatican hill it was clear that the fifth obelisk should stand in the center of the square in front of the cathedral. It was the same obelisk that was brought to Rome during the rule of Caligula to be installed at the hippodrome. According to Christian legends, Saint Peter was executed beside this obelisk.
The sixth obelisk, 13,91 meters tall, was erected in 1789 at the top section of the Spanish Steps in front of the church of the Santissima TrinitГ dei Monti. It is agreed that this one was carved out in Egypt, but вЂњcommissionedвЂќ by Romans. In 200 or 300 AC it was delivered to Rome to be the decoration of the gardens of Sallust, and in the same year its sides were adorned with hieroglyphs, directly copied from the piazza del Popolo obelisk.
The seventh obelisk on Parliament square was installed in 1792. Its story began at the times of Psamtik II (594-588 AC), the pharaoh of the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty, who ordered to erect a granite obelisk in Heliopolis that would be 21,79 meters tall and would weigh 250 tonnes. In 10 BC Augustus celebrated the victory over Cleopatra by taking the obelisk to Rome. It became a pedestal for a giant sun-dial, whose dial plate was measuring 170 by 180 meters. This spot, however, suffered from Tiber inundations annually and after only a few decades the obelisk became lopsided and the dial plate scribing turned undecipherable. The emperor Domitian had ordered to straighten the obelisk, and yet it had fallen soon after.