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The obelisk by the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore was one of two that originally flanked the Mausoleum of Augustus. It was brought here and erected in 1587 by Sixtus V.

From Platner & Ashby’s (1929) Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome:

OBELISCI MAUSOLEI AUGUSTI, two obelisks that stood in front of the mausoleum of Augustus in the campus Martius (Amm. Marcell. xvii. 4. 16; Not. Brev.). As they are not mentioned by Pliny (NH xxxvi. 69-73) nor by Strabo in his description of the mausoleum (v. 3. 8), they probably were not brought from Egypt before the time of Domitian.

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One of these obelisks, which are a little over 14 metres high, was excavated before 1527 behind the church of S. Rocco 1 and set up behind S. Maria Maggiore in 1587; the other was found at the same time, but was not excavated till a little before 1550 (compare Fulvio, Antiquitates Urbis lxxi’, with Aldrovandi, Statue di Roma 314; cf. LS ii. 15), and was not moved until 1782, when Pius VI placed it in the Piazza del Quirinale (LS iv. 152; BC 1914, 382). They are without hieroglyphics (BC 1897, 223-225=Ob. Eg. 147-149).

1 See JRS 1919, 189.

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Cite this page as: Darius Arya, The American Institute for Roman Culture, “Esquiline Obelisk (Santa Maria Maggiore)” Ancient Rome Live. Last modified 05/01/2020. https://ancientromelive.org/esquiline-obelisk-santa-maria-maggiore/

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