It was not only Cleopatra's Egypt and its grain that Octavian was after. Cleopatra's pearls were not the only trophies he coveted. He wanted to own Cleopatra's monuments—monuments that had inspired Caesar to redesign Rome. As Octavian contemplated his own renewal of Rome, he wished to punctuate his refurbishment with reminiscences of his Egyptian conquest.
After Octavian became Augustus, he began to transform Rome from a city of brick to one of marble. He decided that Egypt's singular marble obelisks with their exotic hieroglyphs would not only add an attractive profile to the skyline of Rome but could also serve as permanent monuments to his subjugation of Egypt. Augustus began to transport these Egyptian monoliths and set them up in key locations around Rome; he placed them in close proximity to many of his most significant monuments, such as the Ara Pads Augustae and even his own tomb.
Although stocky monoliths were erected in Egypt during the Old Kingdom, what we think of today as the typical Egyptian obelisk was a New Kingdom phenomenon. It had a slender profile and was carved from a single block of stone, with a pyramid-shaped lip that was probably gilded. The obelisk commemorated the Egyptian benben, the primordial mound upon which the legendary phoenix (benu), an incarnation of the sun god, was said to have perched. The mythological phoenix was worshipped at Heliopolis in Egypt as the incarnation of the sun god Re. According to