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Piazza del Popolo

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Piazza del Popolo (People's Square) in Rome, Italy as seen from the Pincio.

The Pharaohs really liked obelisks. The Romans liked to copy other people's obsessions, so they too became obsessed with the obelisks, spending fortunes to bring them from Egypt to Rome, erecting them all over the place. There are 8 ancient Egyptian obelisks in Rome now, plus a number of the Roman period obelisks, manufactured in Egypt (authentic) or in Rome ("cheap" local copies), at the request of the wealthy Romans. When the British came to Egypt they could only take a few remaining small artifacts, like mummified cats - all the good stuff was already whisked away by the Romans and the pyramids were way too big. I'm surprised that Egyptians did not sue Italy over all the stolen artifacts yet, although I can see it coming - after all Israel was recently sued for the Exodus and I just heard about some African guy who is suing Israel and Italy for the unlawful crucifixion of his best friend, Christ.

Try to imagine what would it take to bring a 24 m long granite obelisk weighing over 230 tons from Egypt to Rome 2000 years ago? No regular ship could carry such weight, so the Romans built special Obelisk ships, a pair of which carried each obelisk, hanging between them under water.

The obelisk at the center of piazza del Popolo was originally carved out by the slaves of Sety I, who died before it was completed. His son and successor Ramses II, whose "monuments are as innumerable as the stars of heaven", erected it in the temple of Sun in Heliopolis, around 1300 BC. The founder of the Roman empire and first emperor Augustus brought the obelisk to Rome in 10 BC, setting it up in the middle of Circus Maximus. 15 centuries later it was found broken into three pieces and Papa Sixtus V has ordered it to be restored and moved to its current location on piazza del Popolo in 1589.

The irony is that with all the arab springs and summers (that would soon turn into equally joyful autumns and winters), Rome is the best and safest place to study the ancient Egyptian civilization today.

An additional bonus - you can also study the Roman empire while eating the best icecream in the world (I highly recommend Giolitti, just 5 min walk from the piazza).

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