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The Lateran Obelisk is the largest obelisk in Rome. Brought to the city in 357 CE by emperor Constantius II, it was erected in the Circus Maximus as a turning post. After falling down in the medieval period, it was rediscovered in 1587 and moved to the Lateran Palace by Pope Sixtus V, where it stands today.

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

The obelisk which is now standing at the Lateran which was brought to Rome by Constantius in 357 A.D., and set up on the spina of the circus Maximus (Amm. Marcell. xvi. 10. 17; xvii. 4. 12; Cassiod. Var. iii. 51. 8). 

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It was erected by Thutmose III in the fifteenth century B.C. in front of the temple of Ammon at Thebes. Augustus thought of bringing it to Rome, and Constantine did bring it down the Nile to Alexandria. Its transportation to Rome and erection by Constantius are described by Ammianus (xvii. 4. 13-16) and in the inscription cut on four sides of the base, which has now disappeared (CIL vi. 1163; cf. 31249=AL 279). The obelisk is of red granite, 32.50 metres high (cf. Cur. Brev.; Jord. ii. 189; HJ 132)-the largest in the world and the last brought to Rome. Its surface is covered with hieroglyphics (BC 1896, 89-115, 129-144=Ob. Eg. 8-50). It is mentioned in the twelfth century (Mirabilia 25), and again in 1410-17 (Anon. Magi. 17, ap. Urlichs, 159; LS i. 45), and by Du Perac (Roxburghe, p. 107), but in 1587 it was found, broken into three pieces and buried about 7 metres in the ground. It was excavated by Sixtus V and erected in 1587 on its present site (LS iv. 148-151; BC 1917, 23).

Where in Rome is the Lateran Obelisk?

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Cite this page as: Darius Arya, The American Institute for Roman Culture, “Lateran Obelisk” Ancient Rome Live. Last modified 01/24/2023.


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