Read quickly, Modern One. I have but scant faith in your paper or your computer screens. They are but transient conveyors of words. In a more advanced civilization, you would be reading this on stone. I know from long experience that for serious record-keeping, no “information technology” has ever rivaled solid rock. Yet, most of you Modern Ones prefer texts that travel—your mail, your faxes, your downloads—rather than ones that endure the centuries. So be it. I reluctantly commit this memoir to an ephemeral medium not of my monumental choosing.
I, the obelisk of Seti I and of his son Ramses II, was born and raised a devoted Egyptian in spite of my current address…
“I, the obelisk of Seti I and his son Ramses II, have risen and fallen like the pendulum of history itself. Up I swung at Holy Anu* when my fathers ruled all the lands. Down I pivoted and up again when the Romans took over the world. When their empire fell, I tilted, too. When the Middle Ages passed, I swept upright again to announce the dawn of Europe’s Renaissance. Now I wait tirelessly for the next downbeat, for surely I must signal someday another age yet unimagined…
One of the worst things the Romans ever did, they at least did well. Taking me down, transporting me across the sea and setting me up again was a remarkable feat of engineering. By the time it was done, Octavian had taken the new name Augustus, and he had established himself as the first emperor of Rome. He had me hauled to the Circus Maximus, where I was raised on the infield of the racecourse. There, I bestowed fame on the emperor as I once had the pharaohs.
The Romans could not read my hieroglyphs, but they busied themselves between races by mouthing the words inscribed in Latin on two sides of my base. Augustus listed there his numerous titles followed by the obvious boast: “Having brought Egypt under the dominion of the Roman people, I dedicated this gift to the Sun.” Since the Circus Maximus was itself originally designed for solar worship, I was indeed a fitting adornment. My popularity was such that I set a trend that eventually brought many of my brother obelisks to Rome: There are now more of us here than in any other city in the world. Only one still stands in Heliopolis, a lonely sentinel of Ra, while a few more live solitary lives in a kind of obeliskoid diaspora in places like Paris, London, Istanbul and New York.”I, Obelisk, by Frank L. Holt, Saudi Aramco World, September/October 2007
* Anu is the ancient Mesopotamian divine personification of the sky, supreme God, and ancestor of all the deities. Anu briefly appears in the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh with his daughter Ishtar (Ashtoreth, Astarte) “Queen of Heaven“.
Babylon is the most famous city from ancient Mesopotamia whose ruins lie in modern-day Iraq.
Because of the continual prostitution of the prostitute,
the attractive mistress of sorcery,
who betrays nations by her prostitution
and clans by her witchcraft,
I am against you.
This is the declaration of Yehowah Sabaoth.
I will lift your skirts over your face
and display your nakedness to nations,
your shame to kingdoms.
I will throw filth on youNahum 3:4-6
and treat you with contempt;
I will make a spectacle of you.
“I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of God’s holy people and of those who testify about Jesus. I was very surprised when I saw her.”
Guide: Come, and I will show you the true nature and God’s judgment of the great whore who is sitting on the many waters. She has seduced all the kings of the earth into committing lewd, sexual acts; and most earth dwellers have become intoxicated with the wine of her harlotry.
3 Immediately I was in the Spirit, and the guide picked me up and carried me off. In the middle of a vast desert, I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet-colored beast covered with blasphemous names. The beast had seven heads and ten horns like the beast I had seen earlier rising out of the sea. 4 The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet fabrics; she shimmered with gold and jewels and pearls. I looked closer and saw that her hand held a golden cup brimming with abominations, bubbling over with the impurities of her sexual exploits. 5 On her forehead was inscribed a name, a mystery: “Babylon the great, the mother of whores and the abominations that defile the earth.” 6 I looked and saw that the woman was drunk because she had gorged herself on the blood of the saints and the blood of those people who refused to deny Jesus even to save their own lives. When I saw her, I was filled with wonder.
Guide: 7 Why are you so amazed? I will reveal to you the mystery of this woman and of the beast with seven heads and ten horns that carries her. 8 The beast you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go away into eternal destruction. And the earth dwellers, whose names have not been inscribed in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will be astonished when they see the beast because it was and is not and is to come.
9 Here is the mind possessing wisdom: The seven heads signify the seven mountains where the woman is seated. They also stand for seven kings.
“Ay, an Rome has become the fairest of created thingsVirgil
And though a single city has encircled seven heights for herself with a wall.”
10 Five have fallen, one is alive, and the last has not yet come to reign. But when he does come, he will be allowed to reign only a short time. 11 Regarding the beast that was and is not, it is actually an eighth ruler that springs from the seven and goes away into eternal destruction. 12 The ten horns you saw stand for ten kings who have not yet ascended to power, but they will be invested with royal authority for a single hour and will reign together with the beast. 13 These come together for one purpose and one purpose alone: to yield their power and authority to the beast. 14 Together they will make war on the Lamb, and the Lamb will be victorious over them because He is the Lord over all lords and the King over all kings; and those who stand with Him are called, elect, and faithful.
15 (continuing to speak to me) The waters you saw, where the whore is seated, represent the peoples and multitudes, ethnicities and languages. 16 The beast and the ten horns you saw will despise the whore; they will make her a wasteland and strip her naked. They will gorge themselves on her flesh and incinerate her with fire. 17 For God has placed in their hearts to do what He has purposed, that is, to become one in mind and to surrender their kingdoms over to the beast until the words of God accomplish their end. 18 And the woman you saw—she is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth.
Then the angel carried me by his power into the wilderness. I saw a woman sitting on a bright red beast covered with insulting names. It had seven heads and ten horns. The woman wore purple clothes, bright red clothes, gold jewelry, gems, and pearls. In her hand she was holding a gold cup filled with detestable and evil things from her sexual sins.
A name was written on her forehead. The name was Mystery: Babylon the Great, the Mother of Whores and Abominations of the Earth.”