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Notes on the Geography of Italy: Rome's Future in the Past: Photo 12

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Closer still.  After promising Ethiopia as early as 1947 that the stele would be returned, the authorities took action in May, 2004. The stele was sliced in three, packed in boxes, and sent to Fiumicino airport.  Vittorio Sgarbi, an art critic and deputy minister for culture in the Berlusconi government, explained to a reporter that "Ethiopia was part of Italy at the time, so the obelisk can't have been stolen, can it?"  Then why return it?  His reply: "we are only giving it back to them because they are pathetic paupers."   

In April, 2005 the stele arrived at Axum. Ethiopia's Culture Minister Teshome Toga said, "This is a very historical moment for us, we have waited so long to have the obelisk back," he said. The BBC also quoted Abebe Alenayehu, 81, who had watched Italian troops take the obelisk and who said he never expected to see its return. "The memory still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth," he told the Associated Press news agency. "Every day for the last 67 years I have thought about the obelisk."

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