Cleopatra's Needle

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New York's Central Park, just outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Cleopatra's Needle is the popular name for each of a pair of ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London and New York City in 1877 and 1881 respectively. The removal of the obelisks from Egypt was presided over by Isma'il Pasha, who had greatly indebted the Khedivate of Egypt during its rapid modernization.

The London and New York needles were originally made in Heliopolis (modern Cairo) during the reign of the 18th Dynasty Pharaoh Thutmose III. More than 1,000 years later they were moved to the new Caesareum of Alexandria, which had been conceived by Ptolemaic Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt. They stood in Alexandria for almost two millennia.

The London needle was presented to Great Britain in 1819, but remained in Alexandria until 1877 when Sir William James Erasmus Wilson, a distinguished anatomist and dermatologist, sponsored its transportation to London. In the same year, Elbert E. Farman, the then-United States Consul General at Cairo secured the other needle for the United States – the needle was transported by Henry Honychurch Gorringe. Both Wilson and Gorringe published books commemorating the transportation of the Needles: Wilson wrote Cleopatra's Needle: With Brief Notes on Egypt and Egyptian Obelisks (1877)[1] and Gorringe wrote Egyptian Obelisks (1885).[2]

The London needle was placed on the Victoria Embankment, which had been built a few years earlier in 1870, whilst the New York needle was placed in Central Park just outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, also built just a few years earlier in 1872.

Alexandria[edit]

Aiguilles de Cleopatra (Cleopatra's Needles) in Alexandria, from the 1809 Description de l'Égypte.
Modern photograph of the Alexandria location of the needles, now containing a statue of Saad Zaghloul

The name Cleopatra's Needles derives from the French nickname, "Les aiguilles de Cléopâtre", when they stood in Alexandria.[3]

Images from 18th and 19th century Alexandria show two needles, one standing and the other fallen. The London needle was the fallen needle.

The location is now the site of a statue of Egyptian statesman Saad Zaghloul.[4]

London needle[edit]

The London needle is in the City of Westminster, on the Victoria Embankment near the Golden Jubilee Bridges. It was originally erected in the Egyptian city of Heliopolis on the orders of Thutmose III, around 1450 BC.

In 1819, Muhammad Ali Pasha gave Britain the obelisk as a gift. However, Britain's prime minister at the time, Lord Liverpool, hesitated on having it brought to the country due to shipping expenses.[5]

Two prior suggestions had been made to transport the needle to London - in 1832 and in the 1850s after the Great Exhibition; however, neither proceeded.[6]

In 1867, James Edward Alexander, was inspired on a visit to Paris' Place de la Concorde to arrange for an equivalent monument in London.[6] He stated that he was informed that the owner of the land in Alexandria where the British needle lay had proposed to break it up for building material. Alexander campaigned to arrange for the transportation.[6] In 1876 he went to Egypt and met Isma'il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt, together with Edward Stanton then the British Consul-General. Alexander’s friend, William James Erasmus Wilson, agreed to cover the costs of the transportation, which took place in October 1877.[6]

New York needle[edit]

In 1869, at the opening of the Suez Canal, Isma'il Pasha suggested to American journalist William Henry Hurlbert the possible transportation of an obelisk from Egypt to the United States.[7]

The New York City needle was erected in Central Park, just west of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, on 22 February 1881. It was secured in May 1877 by judge Elbert E. Farman, the then-United States Consul General at Cairo, as a gift from the Khedive for the United States remaining a friendly neutral as the European powers – France and Britain – maneuvered to secure political control of the Egyptian Government.

The lobster claws on the bottom suggest a sort of tribute to the sea, a paean to the fisherman.

[8][9]

Galleries[edit]

In Alexandria[edit]

In London and New York[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wilson, Erasmus (1877). Cleopatra's Needle: With Brief Notes on Egypt and Egyptian Obelisks. Brain & Company.
  2. ^ Gorringe, Henry Honychurch (1885). Egyptian Obelisks. Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO): Photography: The World through the Lens. John C. Nimmo.
  3. ^ Lucas, Paul (1724). Voyage du sieur Paul Lucas, fait en MDCCXXIV, &c. par ordre de Louis XIV dans la Turquie, l'Asie, Sourie, Palestine, Haute & Basse Egypte, &c. Vol. 2. Rouen. pp. 24–25.
  4. ^ DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Egypt: Egypt. DK Eyewitness Travel Guide. Dorling Kindersley Limited. 2013. ISBN 978-1-4093-4045-4.
  5. ^ "Egyptians are upset by Britain's disregard for a gift". The Economist. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  6. ^ a b c d Gorringe, Henry Honychurch (1885). Egyptian Obelisks. Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO): Photography: The World through the Lens. John C. Nimmo. p. 199.
  7. ^ Gorringe, Henry Honychurch (1885). Egyptian Obelisks. Nineteenth Century Collections Online (NCCO): Photography: The World through the Lens. John C. Nimmo. p. 2.
  8. ^ "Obelisk". The Official Website of Central Park NYC. Central Park Conservancy. February 12, 2015. Retrieved April 15, 2019.
  9. ^ Farman, E.E. (1908). "Cleopatra's Needle - Negotiations by which it was secured". Egypt and Its Betrayal: Personal Recollections by Elbert Farman. ISBN 978-1-63391-136-9.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]