Have you ever wondered how the ancients actually set up an obelisk? In the Late Roman/Byzantine hippodrome in Byzantium/Constantinople/Istanbul there is still standing the top third of an obelisk of the Egyptian ruler Thutmose III (r. 16th century B.C.). This obelisk was brought from Egypt to Constantinople and erected by the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius around A.D. 390.
One of the reliefs on its marble base depicts the erection of the obelisk with the emperor and his family watching.
For additional images of the obelisk and the hippodrome area Click Here.
Today we spent time in Istanbul visiting the Hippodrome, the Blue Mosque, the Hagia Sophia, and the Archaeological Museum.
Istanbul: from the south end of the hippodrome looking north. The obelisk of Thutmose III and in the foreground the “Serpents’ Column” from Delphi. On the right is one of the six minarets of the “Blue Mosque.” In the distance are two minarets of the Hagia Sophia.
When visiting the Hippodrome we “ooh and ah” at the obelisk of Thutmose III and south of it the “Serpentine Column.”
A detailed view of the “Serpentine Column” from Delphi that is now located in the Hippodrome in Istanbul.
Constantine brought the Serpentine Column from Delphi (Greece) to his New Rome (Constantinople/Istanbul) after he had established his capital there.
An artist’s drawing of what the original column may have looked like. Note the “tripod” on top of the three serpents’ heads.
This column/tripod had three intertwined heads (see diagram above; two heads are now missing). It originally stood near the Temple of Apollo at Delphi (Greece; see picture below).
Delphi (Greece): view looking down on the remnants of the altar associated with the Apollo (just to the left of the two people in the lower right portion of the image). Just to the left of the altar is a square base on top of which a circular base rests. This is where the Tripod (Serpentine Column”) of the Plataeans rested.
The column and tripod were dedicated in 479 B.C. They commemorated the victory of 31 Greek cities over the Persians in the battle at Plataea in 479 B.C. One of its surviving heads is in the Archaeological Museum in Istanbul.
One of the three Serpents’ Heads that graced the Bronze Serpent Column that originally formed the base for a “trophy” that was dedicated to the god Apollo after the victory of the Greeks over the Persians in the battle of Plataea in 479 B.C.
The Archaeological Museum in Istanbul has been under renovation for over three years. And during that time selected artifacts are on display in a narrow winding maze. Unfortunately, most people pass by, without even noticing, the one remaining serpent’s head from the Serpentine Column.