Pompey's Pillar (column)

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Pompey's Pillar
British Naval Commander John Shortland atop the pillar (1803)

Pompey's Pillar is a Roman triumphal column in Alexandria, Egypt, and the largest of its type constructed outside the imperial capitals of Rome and Constantinople.[1] The only known free-standing column in Roman Egypt which was not composed of drums,[1] it is one of the largest ancient monoliths and one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected.

The monolithic column shaft measures 20.46 m in height with a diameter of 2.71 m at its base.[2] The weight of the single piece of red Aswan granite is estimated at 285 tonnes.[2] The column is 26.85 m high including its base and capital.[2] Other authors give slightly deviating dimensions.[A 1]

Erroneously dated to the time of Pompey, the Corinthian column was actually built in 297 AD, commemorating the victory of Roman emperor Diocletian over an Alexandrian revolt.[2]

Ibn Battuta the Muslim traveler visited Alexandria in 1326 AD. He describes the Pillar and recounts the tale of an archer who shot an arrow tied to a string over the column. This enabled him to pull a rope tied to the string over the pillar and secure it on the other side in order to climb over to the top of the pillar.[3]

In early 1803, Commander John Shortland of HMS Pandour flew a kite over Pompey's Pillar. This enabled him to get ropes over it, and then a rope ladder. On February 2, he and John White, Pandour's Master, climbed it. When they got to the top they displayed the Union Flag, drank a toast to King George III, and gave three cheers. Four days later they climbed the pillar again, erected a staff, fixed a weather vane, ate a beef steak, and again toasted the king.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ According to Thiel, the single-piece column is 20.75 m high (28.7 m including base and pedestal), with a diameter of 2.7–2.8 m (pp. 252f.).

Coordinates: 31°10′56.98″N 29°53′47.23″E / 31.1824944°N 29.8964528°E / 31.1824944; 29.8964528


  1. ^ a b Thiel 2006, pp. 251–254
  2. ^ a b c d Adam 1977, pp. 50f.
  3. ^ "Ibn Battuta’s Rihla". 1 January 1904. 
  4. ^ Naval Chronicle, Vol. 27, p.111.


  • Adam, Jean-Pierre (1977): "À propos du trilithon de Baalbek: Le transport et la mise en oeuvre des mégalithes", Syria, Vol. 54, No. 1/2, pp. 31–63 (50f.)
  • Thiel, Wolfgang (2006): "Die 'Pompeius-Säule' in Alexandria und die Viersäulenmonumente Ägyptens. Überlegungen zur tetrarchischen Repräsentationskultur in Nordafrika", in: Boschung, Dietrich; Eck, Werner: Die Tetrarchie. Ein neues Regierungssystem und seine mediale Präsentation, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, ISBN 978-3-89500-510-7, pp. 249–322

External links[edit]

Media related to Pompey's Pillar at Wikimedia Commons