An obelisk is a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape or pyramidion at the top. These were originally called tekhenu by their builders, the Ancient Egyptians, the Greeks who saw them used the Greek obeliskos to describe them, and this word passed into Latin and ultimately English. Ancient obelisks are monolithic, that is, they consist of a single stone, though this technological capacity exists today, most modern obelisks are made of several stones, some, like the Washington Monument, are buildings. The term stele is used for other monumental, upright. Obelisks were prominent in the architecture of the ancient Egyptians, who placed them in pairs at the entrance of temples. The word obelisk as used in English today is of Greek rather than Egyptian origin because Herodotus, a number of ancient Egyptian obelisks are known to have survived, plus the Unfinished Obelisk found partly hewn from its quarry at Aswan. These obelisks are now dispersed around the world, and fewer than half of them remain in Egypt, the earliest temple obelisk still in its original position is the 68-foot 120-metric-ton red granite Obelisk of Senusret I of the XIIth Dynasty at Al-Matariyyah in modern Heliopolis. The obelisk symbolized the sun god Ra, and during the religious reformation of Akhenaten was said to be a petrified ray of the Aten. It was also thought that the god existed within the structure, Benben was the mound that arose from the primordial waters Nu upon which the creator god Atum settled in the creation story of the Heliopolitan creation myth form of Ancient Egyptian religion. The Benben stone is the top stone of the Egyptian pyramid and it is also related to the Obelisk. The pyramid and obelisk might have inspired by previously overlooked astronomical phenomena connected with sunrise and sunset. The Ancient Romans were strongly influenced by the form, to the extent that there are now more than twice as many obelisks standing in Rome as remain in Egypt. All fell after the Roman period except for the Vatican obelisk and were re-erected in different locations. The largest standing and tallest Egyptian obelisk is the Lateran Obelisk in the square at the west side of the Lateran Basilica in Rome at 105.6 feet tall, not all the Egyptian obelisks in the Roman Empire were set up at Rome. Herod the Great imitated his Roman patrons and set up a red granite Egyptian obelisk in the hippodrome of his new city Caesarea in northern Judea and this one is about 40 feet tall and weighs about 100 metric tons. It was discovered by archaeologists and has been re-erected at its former site and this one stood 95 feet tall and weighing 380 metric tons. Its lower half reputedly also once stood in Istanbul but is now lost, the Istanbul obelisk is 65 feet tall. Rome is the capital of the world
Image: Louxor obelisk Paris dsc 00780
Pylon of the Temple of Luxor with the remaining obelisk (of two) in front (the second is in the Place de la Concorde in Paris).