Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Note on the Vatican Obelisk

Last week, after my meetings in the Vatican, I had the chance to wander around St. Peter's Square. In the middle of that plaza stands an Egyptian obelisk. Of all the inscriptions on the obelisk I was most struck by three. The first is this Egyptian inscription, on the south side:
The south face of the Vatican Obelisk
This needs to be read in conjunction with the Latin inscription on the base of the north side:
The inscription on the base of the north side of the obelisk
This inscription from 1586 explains the Egyptian one on the other side. To understand the rest of the Latin inscription, you need to consider this view of the obelisk, which explains the second line:
The Vatican obelisk from the northeast
All of this is fairly discouraging, and about makes one want to weep. Fortunately, there is an another inscription on the west side of the base:
The inscription on the west end of the base of the obelisk

That inscription is the only encouraging inscription on the obelisk.

(Now, before you complain that you cannot read any of the inscriptions, I will point out that competence in Latin used to be required in order to get into college. As far as the Egyptian inscription, if you can't read it, I can't help you there.)