( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Obelisks.— The word is from the Greek, and signifies a prismatic monument of stone or other material terminating in a pyramidal or pointed top. They are found principally in Egypt, and date back to the most remote periods of antiquity. They were placed before the gateways of the principal temples, and correspond in Egyptian art to the columns of the Romans and stelae of the Greeks, and appear to have been erected to record the honors or triumphs of the monarchs. They are also called "monoliths," being cut out of a single piece of stone, and have four faces, broader at the base than at the top, the width at the base being one tenth the height of the shaft to the beginning of the pyramidion, or cap, which is also one tenth of the same height. The sides are generally sculptured with one vertical line of deeply cut hieroglyphs and representations. Some of them were originally capped with bronze or gold. Their height varied from a few inches to upward of one hundred feet, the tallest known being that of Karnuk, which rises to 105 feet 7 inches. A number of them were removed to Rome by Augustus and later emperors, and they were afterwards transported to various cities of Italy and France and used to adorn squares and public parks. Among the most notable of these relics of ancient art are the two known as Cleopatra's Needles, which, from the inscriptions on them, appear to have been set up at the entrance of the Temple of the Sun, in Heliopolis, Egypt, by Thothmes III, about 1831 B. C. Two centuries after their erection the stones were nearly covered with carvings, setting out the greatness and achievements of Rameses II. Twenty-three years before the Christian era they were moved from Heliopolis to Alexandria by Augustus Caesar and set up in the Caesarium, a palace which now stands, a mere mass of ruins, near the station of the railroad to Cairo. In 1819 the Egyptian Government presented one of them to England, but it was not taken to London until 1878. The other was transported to New York in 1880, it having been presented to the United States, and was raised on its pedestal in Central Park, New York, January 22, 1881. The material of these, and indeed of most of the obelisks, is granite brought from Syene, near the first cataract of the Nile. They were cut at the quarry, and floated into and down the Nile during one of the annual overflows.