Obelisk of Theodosius – Istanbul, Turkey - Atlas Obscura

Obelisk of Theodosius

This remarkably well-preserved Egyptian plinth is pretty well traveled for a giant piece of stone. 


Originally built at the Temple of Karnak, the Obelisk of Theodosius traveled all over the ancient world before ending up in its current Turkish home. 

The hieroglyphics-covered spire that now sits in a square in Istanbul was originally carved between 1500-1400 BCE in Egypt. The red granite spire sat unmolested near the Temple of Karnak for hundreds of years, and it wasn’t until the mid-300’s CE that a Roman emperor had the obelisk transported down the river Nile to Alexandria. The huge artifact remained there for only a scant few decades before it was once again moved. This time the stone tower was moved to what was at the time Constantinople where it resides today.

As the famous song says, Constantinople is now Istanbul which is where the Obelisk of Theodosius still sits. The spire is remarkably well maintained for being thousands of years old and the columns of hieroglyphics on each of the four sides are still sharp and clear. The pictograms describe the obelisk’s creator’s (Tutmoses III) victory during a battle on the Euphrates.

Now the obelisk rests on bronze blocks in a public square which is regularly crowded with musicians, artists, street performers, and tourists who are blissfully unaware of the stone tower’s journey.   

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