OBELISKS AND VALENTINES
RISE OF THE OBELISK
And in passing I note with interest, that for the first time in over 2,000 years, the Egyptians have raised a new Obelisk in Cairo. This Obelisk, a monument commemorating the recent Revolution, is inscribed with the names of all those who died in that struggle for Freedom. This in itself is a bit of a novelty, as in the old days the general custom with Obelisks was to cover them with a lot of fawning adorations of the gods and grovelling obeisance to the king.
Nonetheless it must be admitted that as an artifact the Obelisk is a singularly striking piece of Design. Generally carved out of a single piece of granite up to 32 metres tall, the Obelisk seems to split the sky itself and level a commanding finger at the Gods. Often set in pairs at the end of grand processional roads, they served as Gateways to the Transcendent, marking the temple zone beyond as Holy Grounds dedicated to the God. They were also a potent political symbol of totalitarian power. Every self-aggrandising Pharaoh who wanted to leave their mark on Eternity put up a taller Obelisk than the Pharaoh before. The phallic sub-text is self apparent.
Ancient Egypt was the home of the monolithic Obelisk, but they didn’t stay there for long. Egypt’s power waned but the Pharaohs’ long and absolute dominion was remembered fondly and with awe by every wannabe founder of a dynasty. Subsequently, every self-respecting Empire worth their eagles has looted an Obelisk or two to give their Reign a bit of class. Yes, and from Augustus to Napoleon, every conqueror who rolled across Egypt wanted to take back a souvenier.. “Captain.. that Monolith..it would look splendid in the gardens back home.”
To set up an ancient Obelisk in your new capital is like saying. “Behold my mighty Empire is heir to the Pharaohs!” The Obelisk’s sheer ancientness gives your Administration an aura of legitimacy. Hence today we find Obelisks scattered all over the world, the cast-offs of Empires past. In London and Paris, New York and Constantinople, these mighty monoliths of the Pharaohs still cast their shadow across the globe as a symbol of Empire and absolute political domination..
The Romans were the first of the Imperial Obelisk Looters and were also perhaps the most enthusiastic collectors. As a result, even today, Rome has more of these granite titans (around 13) than anywhere else in the world. Caligulae brought one in and so did Elagabalus. Augustus set one up as a public sundial. Even in the declining days of Roman power Constantius II still felt he had enough wealth and power to spare to erect Rome’s largest Obelisk yet. When the centre of political power shifted to Constantinople, Emperor Theodosius the Great followed the path of his pagan predecessors and likewise sent for an ancient Egyptian Obelisk to put the symbolic seal on his reign.
And so it went down the years. Later in the Christian era when the power of the Popes was at its peak, Sixtus Vth was fond of them and had many fallen and forgotten Obelisks rescued and raised to mark the temporal power and spiritual glory of his reign. Although now of course they were topped with Crosses and other signs & symbols of the Christian New World Order.
There still weren’t enough Obelisks in Rome though for Mussolini‘s taste, and so he ordered an invasion of North Africa in the footsteps of Caesar. Sadly for Mussolini, there were none to be found in Libya, so he had his sculptors mock up up a copy in concrete.
Now however, for the first time in two millennia, a new Egyptian obelisk has been carved by Egyptian hands and raised beneath the cloudless Egyptian skies. It carries not the names of monstrous Gods and cruel Tyrants, but the names of those who died in the name of Liberty.
Perhaps this symbolizes the beginning of a new, better Age for Humanity, the dawn of bright and happy days.
But History being what it is so far, I can’t help but wonder where that Obelisk will be in five hundred years time. In Moscow perhaps, or Bagdhad, or Bejing maybe, or some undreamed of Metropolis yet to be built, appropriated by a Tyrant yet to be born.
Will they still be able to read the names carved upon the sides,
the future people, read the names and know why they died?
Or will they see but the mysterious hieroglyphs of a lost language.
And I offer up the following poem as a belated valentine to my Beloved..
MY FAITHFUL FRIEND
All ends are bitter,
I warned you,
but still you stuck by me
and that was good,
for most of the way was sweet.
Constant where I was unfaithful,
you followed my fickle paths
and found the good
in everything I did.
I could never write a poem
as true as you.
The Reverend Hellfire is a practising Performance Poet and an Ordained Minister of the Church oif Spiritual Humanists AND the Church of the Universe.
His Achilles heel is his Feet of Clay.