An obelisk-like, triangular, Roman tomb of impressive size, is situated high up above the city of Hierapolis of Phrygia (Asia Minor). Its epithet ‘Tomba del Solitario’ speaks of its solitary placing at a distance from other tomb structures, and maybe also of its uniqueness in form. The obelisk’s position provides a splendid panorama of the city and the Lykos valley below, and it was likewise clearly visible from the city. Two obelisk-tombs in Nikaia (Bithynia), the Philiskos-tomb and the Sacerdos-tomb, are the only other confirmed tombs of this kind in Roman Asia Minor. The Philiskos-tomb is still standing, while the Sacerdos-tomb is documented only through the tomb inscription.
The Nikaian and Hierapolitan obelisks seem to represent a unique type of triangular, composite monument of an as yet unknown tradition. The study examines whether these three tombs share a similar cultic content and whether the triangular form further may be connected with the expression of religious and political power and control.
Considerations are based on a general comparison of obelisk- and pyramid-tombs in the Mediterranean area and a specific comparison of the three obelisk-tombs in Asia Minor. The aim is to reveal possible cultic similarities and the Hierapolitan obelisk’s significance on more levels in the Hierapolitan society.
There are no inscriptions connected with the tomb, and the tomb’s place in the cityscape will tentatively be seen in relation with the specific religio-political situation of Hierapolis in the first centuries AD. The triangular form’s possible symbolic connotation will tentatively be added to the results of the comparative study and to the results of the landscape analysis in order to propose the tomb’s cultic significance.