Abstract: Symbols of Victory and Colours of Power: Egyptian Stones for the City of Rome


Egypt, both the land and the culture, fascinated the Romans and once conquered furnished them with a whole array of resources, including stones for building and sculpture. The quarrying and use of stone had a very long tradition in Egypt, involving the transport of blocks 50-60 tons in weight over hundreds of miles. Red granite for the obelisks, such a characteristic type of Egyptian monument, was quarried by the pharaohs at Aswan in Southern Egypt. Obelisks were set up at sites all along the Nile valley, at Luxor, Karnak and Heliopolis. After the Roman conquest of Egypt, obelisks were the first large-scale physical pieces of Egypt to be transported to the imperial capital, where they were erected both as victory monuments and symbols of imperial ideology. Other stones shared in this ideology, in particular two stones which the Romans quarried in the Eastern Desert of Egypt the grey granite from Mons Claudianus and the purple porphyry Mons Porphyrites. This lecture will examine both the evidence from the quarries in Egypt and the effects of this phenomenon on the city of Rome.


Short bibliography and/or website on lecture topic (for lay reader):

Jackson, R. B., At Empire’s Edge. Exploring Rome’s Egyptian Frontier, New Haven and London 2002

Klemm, R. and Klemm, D., Stones and Quarries in Ancient Egypt (London 2008)

Sidebotham, S. E. , Hense, M.  and Nouwens, H. M. , The Red Land. The Illustrated Archaeology of Egypt’s Eastern Desert, Cairo and New York 2008

Habachi, L. 1984: The Obelisks of Egypt. Skyscrapers of the Past, Cairo

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