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Sallustian Obelisk

Present Site:  Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, Top of the Spanish Steps, Rome
N 41°54'22.2"(41.906146) E 12°28'59.6"(12.483221)
Pharaoh:  Unknown.
Probably the Roman Emperor made it in the 1st or 2nd century.
Measurement:  14.92 meters high for obelisk itself, another sources say: 13.92 meters (L. Habachi: The Obelisk of Egypt), 13.91 meters (Wikipedia: List of obelisks in Rome), 13.9 meters (Andrea Pollett: Virtual Roma).
30.45 meters high including pedestal
Weight:  Unknown

About The Site:
This obelisk stands at the top of Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti). Spanish Steps is one of well-known tourist destinations of Rome, it always crowded with sightseers. Also it's known as an impressive scene (see photo below) in the movie "Roman Holiday" (1953), and the obelisk and the church behind of obelisk (Trinità dei Monti) are clearly took in the movie.
The name of "Spanish" step is derived the fact that the Spanish Embassy was at the south side of slope in 17th century (the slope at that time was not paved, and steps were not constructed yet). Currently, the Spanish Embassy is 500 meters west through Via dei Condotti, which is told later.
This unique design of the steps was created by unknown architect named Francesco De Sanctis in 18th century, and was completed in 1725. Then, the obelisk was erected at the top of the steps in 1798, which is just a year of French Revolution.
It's said that many Romans were afraid that the obelisk is unstable and may topple when the obelisk is erected here, and other Romans also didn't agree with setting up here because the obelisk would harm the beautiful environment. However, these were unnecessary concern. At present, the Spanish Steps is one of well-known tourist destinations of Rome for sightseers. The view from the obelisk site is splendid.

An impressive scene from Roman Holiday An impressive scene
from "Roman Holiday"

By the way, in the movie "Roman Holiday", Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) was eating gelato at the Steps. However, by enacted regulations in 2004, food and drink at the Spanish steps [and the Trevi Fountain] is prohibited.

For women, the Spanish steps is rather known as an entrance for the "brand stores street". The street Via dei Condotti extending to the west from the Spanish Steps is lined with retail stores of the world-famous fashion brand, it has become a top-class shopping area in Rome. The head offices of Bulgari, Fendi, Valentino are located along Via dei Condotti. Other brands such as Prada, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana which are originated in Milan (Milano), Gucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Richard Ginori which are originated in Florence (Firenze), Bottega Veneta and United Colors of Benetton which are originated in Vicenza and Treviso, near of Venice (Venezia), Furla which is originated in Bologna, have of course their own shops along Via dei Condotti.

How To Get There:
Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, top of the Spanish Steps is above the Metro Station "Spagna" on Line "A". Although we get out to the Piazza di Spagna and climb up the Steps, but it's more convenient that going up by an elevator from the Metro Station. From the place went up by the elevator is less than 200 meters to the Obelisk.
There is a street called Viale della Trinità dei Monti, north-west direction from the Piazza della Trinità dei Monti. It's about 600 meters to the Pincio Obelisk through this street. Also in the movie "Angels and Demons" had been used as the material of the background. Since we can look the panoramic views of Rome from this street, the sidewalk is well-maintained, and it does not have so large volume of traffic, it is recommended as the walking route to the Pincio Hill.

Flaminio Obelisk Sallustian Obelisk
West side of Flaminio Obelisk (Left)
and South side of Sallustian Obelisk (right)

About The Obelisk:
This obelisk is considered to have been made in ancient Rome. Although it's unknown who made this obelisk, but probably copied the Flaminio Obelisk at Piazza del Popolo. In fact, the inscription of South side of this obelisk [right of the pictures] is quite same to the West side of Flaminio Obelisk [left of the pictures]. But it's quite poor comparing with the neat engraving of Flaminio Obelisk.
Since this was found from the underground of the site which had been the Sallust Garden where was in around the Pincio Hill. this obelisk is called as Sallustian Obelisk.
This obelisk has once carried to the Piazza di San Giovanni (Current square where the Lateran Obelisk stands. That obelisk was already standing here at that time.) in 1734, the era of Pope Clemens XII, but this has been left for 55 years.
In 1789, then Pope Pius VI erected it in front of the Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti, where is the current site. Although this was not erected in the Piazza di San Giovanni, but if it was erected there, two obelisks were side-by-side.

The question is why this obelisk was imitated the Flaminio Obelisk.
Since the Sallust Garden was probably destroyed at the time of "Sack of Rome" when the Visigoths led by King Alaric attacked Rome in 410, the obelisk was made in between 1st century and 4th century. At that time, the obelisk without inscription such as Vatican Obelisk was standing. Also since the obelisk with inscription was made by Roman Emperor Domitian (Agonalis Obelisk in Piazza Navona) in 1st century, some people were able to read/write the Hieroglyph. If the people can use the Hieroglyph, they can understand what was written on the Flaminio Obelisk, and it must be unnecessary to imitate the inscription. Therefore, it would be nonsense to create a large obelisk, almost 15 meters, with imitating other obelisk.
The hint of a solution would be the fact that Sallust Garden was a private land of Roman Emperor, not a public space such as the hippodrome and/or the temple. In other words, it can be understand the reason of making the imitation if it was a private purpose.

Notes For Pictures:
Compared to the Piazza di Spagna, although the Piazza della Trinità dei Monti, top of the Spanish Steps, is not crowded, but because of busy in the afternoon when many people come here, in the morning would be good if you take a picture.
I have visited here almost every year, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017. The best pictures are posted below. Since there is no space between the church of Trinità dei Monti and the obelisk, I couldn't take a picture of east side including the pedestal.

South Side
Aug. 11, 2014

East Side
May 3, 2016

West Side
May 8, 2017

North Side
May 8, 2017

by Hiroyuki Nagase    (For high definition image, please click the picture)

Copyright Hiroyuki Nagase nagase@obelisks.org and Shoji Okamoto okamoto@obelisks.org