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Pompey's Pillar (The Memorial Of Diocletian)

Pompey's Pillar (The Memorial Of Diocletian)

 

Pompey Pillar is the largest memorial column in Egypt. Its made of red granite, with a total height of about 28m with a diameter at the base of 2.7m, and towards the top, it tapers to 2.3 m.

 

On the upper part at the western side is an inscription in Greek, which reads:

 

"To the most just Emperor, tutelary of Alexandria Diocletian, the invincible, Postumus, the Prefect of Egypt (has erected this monument)."

 

The Roman ruler of Egypt, during the reign of the Roman Emperor Diocletian, erected this memorial column between 284-305A.D in honor of the Roman Emperor as a sign of gratitude. A serious revolt had earlier taken place in the city took place and Diocletian himself came, ordering the city to be besieged. After 8 months of resistance, the city finally surrendered. The siege caused a famine in the city; therefore the Emperor ordered that a portion of the corn, which was sent to Rome annually, be given to the people of Alexandria. He exempted them from paying taxes during these hard times. For that, they erected, in his honor, this memorial column. In the middle ages, the Crusaders believed, mistakenly, that the ashes, or the remains, of the great Roman general Pompey, were in a pot at the top of the column. Thus today it is called "Pompey's Pillar".

 


Certain monuments can be seen around the commemorative Column of Diocletian. On the backside are the badly-damaged remains of a Serapium, or a temple of the God Serapis. It was built during the reigns of Ptolemy II and Ptolemy III but was damaged due to the revolts of the Jewish population in Alexandria, during the reign of Emperor Trajan (89-118 A.D). It was rebuilt again during the reign of Hadrian (117-137 A.D). It was likely was destroyed, once more, after the appearance of Christianity. It consisted primarily of a high platform accessed by a staircase of 100 steps. 100 steps? Think about how many are in your house. It is quite a sight to behold!

 

At one side of the platform was a basin, which was used for purification. There were 2 galleries at the back of the temple, cut completely into the rock.

 

In the 1st gallery, a black statue of basalt, dating back to the reign of Hadrian, was discovered. It represents the God Serapis, in a shape of a bull, and it is now exhibited in the Greco-Roman Museum in Alexandria. The 2nd gallery is known mistakenly as the Daughter Library, but it seems that it was an Anubidiun, or a burial for the mummies of Anubis, which would have been used until the reign of Ptolemy IV, a member of the Pantheon of Alexandria.

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