The Obelisco Flaminio (23.20 m), which stands in the centre of Piazza del Popolo, was the first Egyptian obelisk to be brought to Rome.
The obelisk was first erected in Heliopolis by the pharaoh Ramesses II (r. 1279-1213 BCE). Three faces of the shaft were decorated by his father Seti I (r. c.1294-1279 BCE) and one by his son.
Following his defeat of Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BCE, the emperor Augustus (r. 27 BCE - 14 CE) decided to transport the obelisk to Rome. It arrived in 10 BCE and was placed on the spina in the centre of the Circus Maximus, where it remained until it was toppled, possibly by the Goths, in 547. More than a millennium later, in 1587, the obelisk was unearthed. Broken into several pieces, it was duly repaired and two years later Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-90) had the architect and engineer Domenico Fontana set it up in the centre of Piazza del Popolo.
One of the Latin inscriptions on the base (south face) dates back to when the obelisk was erected in the Circus Maximus and declares: IMP CAESAR DIVI / AVGVSTVS / PONTIFEX MAXIMVS / IMP XII COS TRIB POT XIV / AEGVPTO IN POTESTATEM / POPVLI ROMANI REDACT[A] / SOLI DONVM DEDIT. (The Emperor Augustus, son of the Divine Caesar, Pontifex Maximus, acclaimed emperor for the twelfth time, and Consul for the eleventh, vested with the power of the Tribune for the fourteenth, upon the subjection of Egypt to the power of the Roman people, gave this as a gift to the sun.)
Pope Sixtus V added two more inscriptions. The longer inscription (west face) reads: SIXTVS V PONT MAX / OBELISCVM NVNC / A CAES AVG SOLI / IN CIRCO MAX RITV / DICATVM IMPIO / MISERANDA RVINA FRACTVM OBRVTVMQ / ERVI TRANSFERRI / [F]ORMAE SVAE REDDI / [C]RVCIQ INVICTISS / [D]EDICARI IVSSIT / [A M] D LXXXIX PONT I[V]. (Sixtus V, Pontifex Maximus, bade this obelisk, consecrated in the Circus Maximus by Caesar Augustus in unholy rite to the sun, broken and buried in pitiable ruin, to be dug out, moved and restored to its beauty, and dedicated to the Cross most invincible in the year 1589, the fourth of his pontificate.)
The shorter inscription (east face) reads: ANTE SACRAM / ILLIVS A[E]DEM / AV[GV]S[T]IOR / LAETIORQ SVRGO / CV[I]VS EX VTERO / [VI]RGINA[LI] / AV[GI]MPERA[N]TE / SO[LI]VSTITIAE / EXO[RT]VS E[S]T. (More august I rise, and more joyous, before the sacred shrine of she, from whose virgin womb, during the reign of Augustus, arose the Sun of Righteousness.)