Cleopatra’s Needle

Cleopatra's Needle

Hi all,

You may remember this stone dude from my British Museum post:

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His name was Thutmose I and he was a renowned warrior Pharaoh, pushing Egypt’s boundaries further than ever before. Some reckon that he was also probably the first Pharaoh buried in the Valley of the Kings. Thing is, he had a grandson who would turn out to be even more ferocious. The Royal Egyptian family displayed unusual flare and originality in naming this grandson Thutmose III. Wikipedia (“all hail Wikipedia, source of absolute unchangeable truth!”) has this to say:

Widely considered a military genius by historians, Thutmose III made 16 raids in 20 years. He was an active expansionist ruler, sometimes called Egypt’s greatest conqueror or “the Napoleon of Egypt.”[He is recorded to have captured 350 cities during his rule and conquered much of the Near East from the Euphrates to Nubia during seventeen known military campaigns.

So what does this have to do with Cleopatra and her outsized sewing kit?

Well, about three and a half thousand years ago Thutmose III set up this obelisk at Heliopolis. He was obviously having a “look at me” moment. A few hundred years later Ramses II had his own moment and had some victory hieroglyphics carved on it, and then over a thousand years after that Cleopatra (the one who liked Roman generals so much) used the obelisk for her own constructions.

OK – so we have Cleopatra finally associated with it. How did it get to London?

Well, the English had beaten Napoleon at the beginning of the Nineteenth century and towards the end of the same century felt that the best way of celebrating beating a French General was by placing an Egyptian obelisk on the banks of the Thames river. An obvious gesture.

Well, Wikipedia (“O how I praise thee”) explains a bit differently:

It was presented to the United Kingdom in 1819 by the ruler of Egypt and Sudan Muhammad Ali, in commemoration of the victories of Lord Nelson at the Battle of the Nile and Sir Ralph Abercromby at the Battle of Alexandria in 1801.

This said, none in Britain was interested in taking the thing until 1878 when suddenly it became a “must have” for reasons that I have already stated.

So after a long and apparently difficult sea journey the English plonked it down as shown in my Google maps screenshot below:

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And that is precisely where I found it. :)

I did take photos, but they all look fairly similar. So here is just one.

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The other interesting things here were the big black sphinxes on either side. Wikipedia (“What would lazy buggers like me do without your brilliance?”) states that these were:

designed by the English architect George John Vulliamy. The sphinxes are cast in bronze and bear hieroglyphic inscriptions that say netjer nefer men-kheper-re di ankh, which translates as “the good god, Thuthmosis III given life”.

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Personally I reckon that they make a great frame for a photo. See here, Big Ben and Westminster can be seen poking up behind the sphinx while Nicole grins broadly at the camera (is she hoping for a coffee?).

Anyway, that’s today’s travel post. As per normal a jumble of facts with facetious comments. :) Hope you found it vaguely interesting :)

Greg

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11 Comments


  1. Love the brand new look to the site Greg. Your comments in this post made me smile.

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    1. Thanks :) Glad I put a smile on your dial. I was raised on British humour and find it very difficult not being light-hearted. Unfortunately this is not a good thing in business, but for a blog it is perfect :)

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  2. I wish I had a history teacher at high school who were as funny as you’re being here =)

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    1. Interestingly enough I am a qualified Computer Teacher. Hence a decade ago I taught History for a year. :) Thanks :)

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  3. Cool =) Was it general history (like in the post) or computer history?

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    1. I taught Australian History. My response had a certain degree of irony in it (which was not really obvious to anyone but me). I found it strange that a school would employ a computer teacher to teach English and History. This said, I guess I do actually have a degree in History and English, as well as one in Computing, and another in Education, and yet another in Management. :)

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      1. The cynic in me supposes it may’ve been cheaper that way…
        And it’s cool you have so many degrees. Could I ask if you were enjoying the process of studying for all of them, or did it become boring towards the end?

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        1. Probably right about the costing :)

          Well, I thoroughly enjoyed the study. I am not particularly clever, but I love learning new things. If I could I would just go from degree to degree, covering as broad a range of topics as possible. :)

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          1. Yeah, learning new stuff is fun… but to think all the tests and exams that so many degrees entail! How did you feel about them?

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          2. Funnily tests don’t bother me much :) Rather exciting :)

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