If you were a dead president, what kind of monument would you want made for you? A few presidents have their faces carved into Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota of all places. Kennedy has the ever-burning torch at Arlington. Roosevelt and Lincoln have memorial buildings. Our founding father George Washington however, has an obelisk, among many others. Why of all these options was an obelisk chosen to memorialize our greatest president?
The name obelisk actually is a Greek term, which has stuck with the structure since our boy Herodotus dubbed it so when he started writing about ancient Egypt. It is believed that obelisks in egyptian times were a representation of a ray of sun descending from Ra, the egyptian sun-god. It is in essence an elevated pyramid, the pyramid structure being the just the top stone.
Obelisks were common throughout ancient Egypt usually in pairs at the entrance of a complex or structure. The romans really liked them and apparently littered them throughout Rome because of how nice they look, not for any significant purpose as in Egypt.
What I found interesting after researching a bit is that the obelisks in Egypt and Rome and elsewhere in the world were all less than 200 feet high. The Washington monument is 555 feet tall, and a little over 55 feet square at the base. It is massive in comparison with those found in antiquity, and as we learned in today’s lecture, it also happens to be taller than Khufu’s pyramid.
This brings up many questions for me, first of all why an Obelisk? My sources (wikipedia, national park service) say that it is to mimic the timelessness of the great ancient civilizations. Those of you who are conspiracy inclined may also draw a connection between George being a freemason and the use of the pyramid as their symbol. It is also the highest point in Washington D.C. to this today which is also intentional as no man in american history has been as influential.
Tying this all back to Egypt brings up a few more points. One being that egyptian obelisks, as I know them, were usually carved from one solid piece of stone much like the sphinx, then transported to their final site. The Washington monument would have been near impossible to create in this manner and is in fact constructed of individual bricks. Score one for the egyptians.
Last interesting point for me are the inscriptions at the top of the Washington monument, on the eastern sunrise facing side, which say in latin “Laus Deo.”
I’ll let you check out the source article to figure out what it means. Its short and pretty interesting.