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"Obelisk: A History" is written by four U.S. scholars. The text is divided into 12 chapters which follow a chronological line from ancient Egypt to the beginning of the 21st century. At the end of the book there are notes with references, a bibliography, and an index. There is also a section called "The Wandering Obelisks: A Cheat Sheet" which gives basic information about (most of) the obelisks which are mentioned in the text.

The book is illustrated with numerous drawings and photos in black-and-white. The illustrations are helpful. They raise the quality of the book.

Here is some information about the contents:

Chapter 1 presents the obelisk in its original setting, ancient Egypt.

Chapter 2 presents the obelisks which were transported out of Egypt in antiquity. More than ten obelisks were sent to Rome, while one was sent to Constantinople (today Istanbul).

In 1586 the Vatican obelisk was taken down, moved a short distance and re-erected in its present position in front of St. Peter's Church. Moving the Vatican obelisk was a difficult and delicate task which is described in chapter 5.

Many obelisks are inscribed with hieroglyphs. But for more than one thousand years nobody could read these inscriptions. The German scholar Athanasius Kircher, who was born around 1600, and who believed he could read hieroglyphs, is presented in chapter 7.

The famous French scholar Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), who broke the code in 1822, is presented in chapter 10.

In modern times - during the 19th century - three ancient obelisks were transported from Egypt to foreign lands. The first was sent to Paris. It arrived in 1833. Three years later it was erected in the Place de la Concorde (chapter 10).

The second was sent to London. Transportation began in September 1877. In September 1878 it was erected on the embankment of the river Thames. The third was sent to New York. It was taken down in 1879, transported to the US in 1880, and erected in Central Park in 1881 (chapter 11).

Chapter 12 presents the so-called Aksum obelisk. It is not from Egypt, it is from Aksum, Ethiopia; it is not an obelisk, it is a stele. But it looks almost like an Egyptian obelisk, so it is known as the Aksum obelisk.

In 1935 Mussolini decided to invade Ethiopia, also known as Abyssinia. Victory was declared in 1936. The fascist leader wanted to bring a stele from Ethiopia to Rome in the same way as Augustus and other Roman emperors had brought Egyptian obelisks to Rome almost two thousands years before. In 1937 the Aksum obelisk was erected in Piazza di Porta Capena, near the Circus Maximus.

In 1947, after World War II, the new Italian government admitted that it was wrong to remove the Aksum obelisk and promised to return it, but there was a long way from words to action. Finally, in 2005 the obelisk was returned to Ethiopia - on a plane! And three years later it was re-erected in Aksum. It was - as the authors explain - "the very first wandering monolith ever to return home."

This book is written by four scholars, but even scholars can make mistakes. They seem to have some problems with Roman history (chapter 2) and Italian history (chapter 12):

** On page 52 they say Constantine "emerged as the sole emperor of the west in 313." The correct year is 312 (after the defeat of Maxentius).

** On page 53 they say Constantine "established a new imperial city at Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) in 324." Constantine announced his plan for the new capital in 324, but it was not dedicated until 330.

** On page 55 they say Theodosius I "ruled the eastern empire from 379-395 CE." In fact, Theodosius was the last Roman emperor who ruled the whole empire. When he died in 395, the empire was divided between his sons. Honorius received the west, while Arcadius received the east. Arcadius is mentioned on page 57. Honorius is not mentioned at all.

** On page 290 they say: "There had been no country of Italy at all until the 1870s, when Giuseppe Garibaldi united a fractious group of principalities into an equally fractious kingdom." In fact, Garibaldi's campaign began in 1860, and the Italian kingdom was proclaimed in 1861.

** On page 291 they say that Italy "acquired both Eritrea and what is now the southern part of Somalia." They continue with the following words:

"The Italians tried to conquer Ethiopia as well, but met with an embarrassing defeat in 1896. There matters remained until Mussolini came to power in the 1920s. He renewed Italy's push for empire, and in 1935 managed to defeat Ethiopia."

This passage is unfortunate. The authors seem to forget that Italy invaded Libya in 1911 and declared this territory an Italian colony in 1912, ten years before Mussolini came to power. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, as mentioned earlier, and victory was declared in the following year.

** On page 291 they describe the EUR district as "a model city of fascist planning to the west of Rome's center." In fact, the EUR is south of Rome.

** On page 295 they mention the obelisk in Rome's Piazza del Popolo, which was erected there in 1589, and they say: "The obelisk has stood there now for more than four centuries - four times longer than the Republic of Italy itself." How old is the Republic of Italy? The authors seem to think the answer is about one hundred years. But this is not true. The Republic of Italy was created in 1946 following a post-war referendum which rejected the monarchy. When this book was published (in 2009), the Republic of Italy was only 63 years old. Not quite one hundred!

In spite of these unfortunate flaws I want to recommend this book because it is interesting, comprehensive and well documented.
0Comment| 4 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
"Obelisk: A History" (published by the MIT Press in 2009) is written by four U.S. scholars. The text is divided into 12 chapters which follow a chronological line from ancient Egypt to the beginning of the 21st century. At the end of the book there are notes with references, a bibliography, and an index. There is also a section called "The Wandering Obelisks: A Cheat Sheet" which gives basic information about (most of) the obelisks which are mentioned in the text.

The book is illustrated with numerous drawings and photos in black-and-white. The illustrations are helpful. They raise the quality of the book.

Here are some notes about the contents:

Chapter 1 presents the obelisk in its original setting, ancient Egypt.

Chapter 2 presents the obelisks which were transported out of Egypt in antiquity. More than ten obelisks were sent to Rome, while one was sent to Constantinople (today Istanbul).

In 1586 the Vatican obelisk was taken down, moved a short distance and re-erected in its present position in front of St. Peter's Church. Moving the Vatican obelisk was a difficult and delicate task which is described in chapter 5.

Many obelisks are inscribed with hieroglyphs. But for more than one thousand years nobody could read these inscriptions. The German scholar Athanasius Kircher, who was born around 1600, and who believed he could read hieroglyphs, is presented in chapter 7.

The famous French scholar Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), who broke the code in 1822, is presented in chapter 10.

In modern times - during the 19th century - three ancient obelisks were transported out of Egypt to foreign lands. The first one was sent to Paris. It arrived in 1833. Three years later it was erected in Place de la Concorde (chapter 10).

The second one was sent to London. Transportation began in 1877. In the following year it was erected on the embankment of the river Thames (chapter 11).

The last one was sent to New York. Transportation began in 1881. In the following year it was erected in Central Park (chapter 11).

Chapter 12 presents the so-called Aksum obelisk. It is not from Egypt, it is from Aksum, Ethiopia; it is not an obelisk, it is a stele. But it looks almost like an Egyptian obelisk, so it is known as the Aksum obelisk.

In 1935 Mussolini decided to invade Ethiopia, also known as Abyssinia. Victory was declared in 1936. The fascist leader wanted to bring a stele from Ethiopia to Rome in the same way as Augustus and other Roman emperors had brought Egyptian obelisks to Rome almost two thousands years before. In 1937 the Aksum obelisk was erected in Piazza di Porta Capena, near the Circus Maximus.

In 1947, after World War II, the new Italian government admitted that it was wrong to remove the Aksum obelisk, and it promised to return it, but there was a long way from words to action. Finally, in 2005 the obelisk was returned to Ethiopia - on a plane! And three years later it was re-erected in Aksum. It was - as the authors explain - "the very first wandering monolith ever to return home."

As stated earlier, this book is written by four scholars, but even scholars can make mistakes. They seem to have some problems with Roman history (chapter 2) and Italian history (chapter 12):

** On page 52 they say that Constantine "emerged as the sole emperor of the west in 313." The correct year is 312 (after the defeat of Maxentius).

** On page 53 they say that Constantine "established a new imperial city at Constantinople (today Istanbul) in 324." Constantine announced his plan for the new capital in 324, but it was not dedicated until 330.

** On page 55 they say Theodosius I "ruled the eastern empire from 379-395 CE." In fact, Theodosius was the last Roman emperor who ruled the whole empire. When he died in 395, the empire was divided between his sons. Honorius received the west, while Arcadius received the east. Arcadius is mentioned on page 57. Honorius is not mentioned at all.

** On page 290 they say: "There had been no country of Italy at all until the 1870s, when Giuseppe Garibaldi united a fractious group of principalities into an equally fractious kingdom." In fact, Garibaldi's campaign began in 1860, and the Italian kingdom was proclaimed in 1861.

** On page 291 they say that Italy "acquired both Eritrea and what is now the southern part of Somalia." They continue with the following words:

"The Italians tried to conquer Ethiopia as well, but met with an embarrassing defeat in 1896. There matters remained until Mussolini came to power in the 1920s. He renewed Italy's push for empire, and in 1935 managed to defeat Ethiopia."

This passage is unfortunate. The authors seem to forget that Italy invaded Libya in 1911 and declared this territory an Italian colony in 1912 - ten years before Mussolini came to power. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, as mentioned earlier, and victory was declared in the following year.

** On page 291 they describe the EUR as "a model city of fascist planning to the west of Rome's center." In fact, the EUR is south of Rome.

** On page 295 they mention the obelisk in Rome's Piazza del Popolo, which was erected there in 1589, and they say: "The obelisk has stood there now for more than four centuries - four times longer than the Republic of Italy itself." How old is the Republic of Italy? The authors seem to think the answer is about 100 years. But this is not true. The Republic of Italy was created in 1946 following a post-war referendum which rejected the monarchy. So when this book was published (in 2009), the Republic of Italy was only 63 years old. Not quite one hundred!

In spite of these unfortunate flaws I want to recommend this book because it is interesting, comprehensive, and well documented.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
"Obelisk: A History" (published by the MIT Press in 2009) is written by four U.S. scholars. The text is divided into 12 chapters which follow a chronological line from ancient Egypt to the beginning of the 21st century. At the end of the book there are notes with references, a bibliography, and an index. There is also a section called "The Wandering Obelisks: A Cheat Sheet" which gives basic information about (most of) the obelisks which are mentioned in the text.

The book is illustrated with numerous drawings and photos in black-and-white. The illustrations are helpful. They raise the quality of the book.

Here are some notes about the contents:

Chapter 1 presents the obelisk in its original setting, ancient Egypt.

Chapter 2 presents the obelisks which were transported out of Egypt in antiquity. More than ten obelisks were sent to Rome, while one was sent to Constantinople (today Istanbul).

In 1586 the Vatican obelisk was taken down, moved a short distance and re-erected in its present position in front of St. Peter's Church. Moving the Vatican obelisk was a difficult and delicate task which is described in chapter 5.

Many obelisks are inscribed with hieroglyphs. But for more than one thousand years nobody could read these inscriptions. The German scholar Athanasius Kircher, who was born around 1600, and who believed he could read hieroglyphs, is presented in chapter 7.

The famous French scholar Jean-François Champollion (1790-1832), who broke the code in 1822, is presented in chapter 10.

In modern times - during the 19th century - three ancient obelisks were transported out of Egypt to foreign lands. The first one was sent to Paris. It arrived in 1833. Three years later it was erected in Place de la Concorde (chapter 10).

The second one was sent to London. Transportation began in 1877. In the following year it was erected on the embankment of the river Thames (chapter 11).

The last one was sent to New York. Transportation began in 1881. In the following year it was erected in Central Park (chapter 11).

Chapter 12 presents the so-called Aksum obelisk. It is not from Egypt, it is from Aksum, Ethiopia; it is not an obelisk, it is a stele. But it looks almost like an Egyptian obelisk, so it is known as the Aksum obelisk.

In 1935 Mussolini decided to invade Ethiopia, also known as Abyssinia. Victory was declared in 1936. The fascist leader wanted to bring a stele from Ethiopia to Rome in the same way as Augustus and other Roman emperors had brought Egyptian obelisks to Rome almost two thousands years before. In 1937 the Aksum obelisk was erected in Piazza di Porta Capena, near the Circus Maximus.

In 1947, after World War II, the new Italian government admitted that it was wrong to remove the Aksum obelisk, and it promised to return it, but there was a long way from words to action. Finally, in 2005 the obelisk was returned to Ethiopia - on a plane! And three years later it was re-erected in Aksum. It was - as the authors explain - "the very first wandering monolith ever to return home."

As stated earlier, this book is written by four scholars, but even scholars can make mistakes. They seem to have some problems with Roman history (chapter 2) and Italian history (chapter 12):

** On page 52 they say that Constantine "emerged as the sole emperor of the west in 313." The correct year is 312 (after the defeat of Maxentius).

** On page 53 they say that Constantine "established a new imperial city at Constantinople (today Istanbul) in 324." Constantine announced his plan for the new capital in 324, but it was not dedicated until 330.

** On page 55 they say Theodosius I "ruled the eastern empire from 379-395 CE." In fact, Theodosius was the last Roman emperor who ruled the whole empire. When he died in 395, the empire was divided between his sons. Honorius received the west, while Arcadius received the east. Arcadius is mentioned on page 57. Honorius is not mentioned at all.

** On page 290 they say: "There had been no country of Italy at all until the 1870s, when Giuseppe Garibaldi united a fractious group of principalities into an equally fractious kingdom." In fact, Garibaldi's campaign began in 1860, and the Italian kingdom was proclaimed in 1861.

** On page 291 they say that Italy "acquired both Eritrea and what is now the southern part of Somalia." They continue with the following words:

"The Italians tried to conquer Ethiopia as well, but met with an embarrassing defeat in 1896. There matters remained until Mussolini came to power in the 1920s. He renewed Italy's push for empire, and in 1935 managed to defeat Ethiopia."

This passage is unfortunate. The authors seem to forget that Italy invaded Libya in 1911 and declared this territory an Italian colony in 1912 - ten years before Mussolini came to power. Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935, as mentioned earlier, and victory was declared in the following year.

** On page 291 they describe the EUR as "a model city of fascist planning to the west of Rome's center." In fact, the EUR is south of Rome.

** On page 295 they mention the obelisk in Rome's Piazza del Popolo, which was erected there in 1589, and they say: "The obelisk has stood there now for more than four centuries - four times longer than the Republic of Italy itself." How old is the Republic of Italy? The authors seem to think the answer is about 100 years. But this is not true. The Republic of Italy was created in 1946 following a post-war referendum which rejected the monarchy. So when this book was published (in 2009), the Republic of Italy was only 63 years old. Not quite one hundred!

In spite of these unfortunate flaws I want to recommend this book because it is interesting, comprehensive and well documented.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on 28 May 2016
Anything you need to know about Obelisks you will find in this book. Its a fantastically written resource with a great bibliography for onward reading.
0Comment|Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse


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