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Pompey's Pillar (Arabic: عمود السواري‎) is a Roman triumphal column in Alexandria, Egypt, the largest of its type constructed outside the imperial capitals of Rome and Constantinople,[1] located at the Serapeum of Alexandria. 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.

Pompey's Pillar
Alex Sawary.jpg
Pompey's Pillar
Pompey's Pillar (column) is located in Egypt
Pompey's Pillar (column)
Shown within Egypt
LocationAlexandria, Egypt
Coordinates31°10′56.98″N 29°53′47.23″E / 31.1824944°N 29.8964528°E / 31.1824944; 29.8964528Coordinates: 31°10′56.98″N 29°53′47.23″E / 31.1824944°N 29.8964528°E / 31.1824944; 29.8964528
TypeRoman triumphal column
British Naval Commander John Shortland atop the pillar (1803).
Pompey's Pillar in 1911.



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]


Muslim traveller Ibn Battuta 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][4]

In early 1803, British 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 Jack, 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.[5]

See alsoEdit


  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.).


  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. ^ Battutah, Ibn (2002). The Travels of Ibn Battutah. London: Picador. p. 7. ISBN 9780330418799.
  5. ^ 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