The Piazza del Popolo in Rome and Its Augustan Obelisk

A view of the Piazza del Popolo in Rome, with the Augustan obelisk in the center.

The obelisk in the piazza, once dedicated to an Egyptian pharaoh, but “repurposed” by Augustus to glorify himself. This was once in the Circus Maximus in Rome, but was moved to its current location in the sixteenth century.

A closeup of the inscription on the base of the obelisk. This was added by Augustus. It reads:

IMP . CAESAR . DIVI . F
AVGVSTVS
PONTIFEX . MAXIMVS
IMP . XII . COS . XI . TRIB . POT . XIV
AEGVPTO . IN . POTESTATEM
POPVLI . ROMANI . REDACTA
SOLI . DONUM . DEDIT

In English, this would be translated:

“Emperor Augustus Caesar, son of the divine Caesar, Supreme Pontiff, given the title of imperator [a former word for emperor and also meaning Supreme Chief] for the eleventh time, and, after subjecting Egypt to the Romans, entitled to represent the people [Tribunicia Potestas] for the fourteenth time, offered this obelisk as a gift to the sun.”


  • Usa2008

    Ok, interesting! And where did the cross come from? Who added it?
      Joe

  • Anonymous

    Good question. I’m not sure of that. Sorry.

  • Linda

    I wish to know who and when the cross was added.

  • Anonymous

    Good question. I’m not sure of the answer. Sorry.

  • Scott

    Looks like this was erected in this location by Pope Sixtus V in the 1500s. I would guess the cross could have be added then.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_obelisks_in_Rome

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. That sounds right.

  • Joe

    I recall early Christian teaching that Jesus carried and was nailed to a tree, (Stavos) stake..upright, “curseth is he who hangeth from a tree..Gal 3:13)
       And that the “cross” was a pagan symbol, adopted by early Roman churches, from the tradition that Jesus was on an actual cross came from the sign,”INRI” nailed to that upright tree therby obviating a + cross? So maybe that cross atop the Disqus was original?? Anyone?

  • Anonymous

    The cross was used by Rome for crucifying people. Crosses came in a variety of forms and shapes, actually. The symbol of the cross was used ironically by Christians. It would have been scorned by pagan Romans.