One of Rome's most uncommon monuments is in Piazzale Ostiense: the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, also known as the Pyramid of Cestius.

One of Rome's most uncommon monuments is in Piazzale Ostiense: the Pyramid of Caius Cestius, also known as the Pyramid of Cestius.

Credits: Lalupa - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5238613

 

Built in 12 BC, it was the tomb of a wealthy magistrate, which his heirs had had built in just 330 days. They were following his will and would have lost their inheritance otherwise!

The white marble pyramid is about 36 meters high, and has a frescoed burial chamber inside in the fashion of Egyptian pyramids.

Credits: Di Torquatus - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=49833217

Construction started on the Pyramid shortly after laws had been enacted against the ostentation of wealth, which is why no fine tapestries were hung on the walls. Grave robbers stole other valuable items.

Carrara marble was used for the roof, as it was considered especially prestigious (Michelangelo used for his sculptures in later centuries.)

The pyramid was restored in the 2000s. Most notably, it was "whitened" a few years ago through generous funding from a Japanese donor (€2 million!) to return it to its original color from millennia ago.

Credits: Rabax63 - Opera propria, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36867666

At the time that the pyramid was built, Egypt and everything "exotic" was hugely popular. The Egyptian province had become part of the Roman Empire a few years earlier, and the worship of Isis had spread throughout ancient Rome.

What to see nearby:

  • Porta San Paolo marks the start of the ancient Via Ostiense that led to Ostia. The gatehouse holds a small museum with models showing the ancient port.
  • The Protestant cemetery was built to bury those who could not be buried in Catholic cemeteries because they were of other faiths. It holds the graves of illustrious figures, such as the English poets Keats and Shelley.

Underground: Piramide.

Guided tours available on request.

Credits cover image: Di Sergio D’Afflitto, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20142239


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