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  • The Pyramid of Cestius

    By Anthony Parente

    The Pyramid of Cestius, Rome
    Pyramid of Cestius - Larry Koester
    Located near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery is the Pyramid of Cestius, which is one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in Rome. The pyramid was built sometime between 18 and 12 BC, during the reign of Emperor Augustus, and was the tomb for Gaius Cestius a magistrate and member of one of the four great religious corporations in Rome.

    From an inscription later uncovered it took 330 days to complete this pyramid that is approximately 36 meters (118 feet) tall and 29.6 meters (97 feet) wide. It was believed this was based off the pyramids in Giza, Egypt, but this one was narrower and had a steep incline that lead to a point resembling the Nubian pyramids in Africa. It was constructed with brick and concrete covered with Carrara marble and the burial chamber was adorned with frescoes. The burial tomb was rediscovered during restoration in the 17th century. Unfortunately, the tomb was empty and the frescoes were in bad shape. Fortunately, restoration has restored some of the frescoes.

    This was not the only pyramid in Rome. Located between the Vatican and Hadrian's Mausoleum was the much larger Pyramid of Romulus. This pyramid was dismantled during the 16th century and the marble was repurposed in the construction of St. Peter's Basilica. The Pyramid of Cestius survived because it was incorporated within the Aurelian walls during the end of the 3rd Century.

    This is a unique and well-preserved monument and worth a visit when you travel to Rome. The Pyramid is only open during the 3rd and 4th Saturday and Sunday of every month by guided tour. Tickets must be purchased in advance from CoopCulture.

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