The Cestius Pyramid is an ancient pyramid in Rome, located next to the gates of Porta San Paolo and the Protestant cemetery. It stands at the fork of two ancient roads - Via Ostiensis and the road leading west along the modern Via della Marmorata. Since the pyramid was part of the city's fortifications, it has been perfectly preserved to this day.
The Cestius Pyramid was built around the 18-12th centuries BC. like the grave of Guy Cestius, a magistrate and a member of one of the four ancient Roman colleges. It is made of bricked concrete and covered with white marble slabs. The base of the pyramid is 29.6 square meters. m., and its height reaches 37 m.
Inside the pyramid is a burial room - a simple rectangular room with cylindrical vaults about 6 m long, 4 m wide and 4.8 m high. When the pyramid was explored in 1660, the inner burial room was decorated with frescoes, from which, unfortunately, almost nothing has been preserved. When the grave was created, it was sealed, and it was not possible to get into it. And today you can get inside only by special permission, which is usually issued only to scientists.
The shape of the Cestius pyramid resembles the pyramids of Nubia, especially those that stood in the ancient Egyptian city of Meroe, captured by the Romans in 23 BC. Perhaps Cestius took part in that campaign - this can explain the similarity of buildings. During the erection of the walls of Aurelian between 271 and 275 years, the pyramid was "built" into the walls and became part of the bastion. And today it is part of a well-preserved series of walls.
The origin of the Cestius pyramid was forgotten in the Middle Ages - the inhabitants of Rome began to consider it the tomb of Remus (at that time the Vatican had a similar pyramid, but of a large size, which was considered the tomb of Romulus). The true history of the pyramid was rediscovered only in the second half of the 17th century, when the ancient monument was cleared. In the 18-19 centuries, the inspection of the Cestius pyramid was one of the obligatory points for the participants of the Grand Tour - trips to Europe. Percy Bysshe Shelley and Thomas Hardy wrote about the monument.
In 2001, the restoration of the entrance to the pyramid and its interior was carried out. The next restoration work started in 2013.
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The monument most resembles the Nubian pyramids in Meroe with their large angle of inclination. This suggests that Cestius participated in the fighting of the Romans in those parts in 23 BC. e. In ancient times, the grave was carefully sealed, which did not prevent its plunder in subsequent years. During the construction of the Aurelius walls in 271-275. a pyramid was built into them as a triangular bastion.
The Cestius pyramid was not the only one in Rome. An even larger construction until the sixteenth century. preserved in the Vatican (Cestieva and Vatican pyramids (Italian) Russian., Apparently, are the first and last attempts in the ancient world to build smooth-walled pyramidal burials outside the Egyptian-Nubian cultural region). In the Middle Ages, it was believed that Rem was buried in the Cestius pyramid, and his brother Romulus was buried in the Vatican pyramid. About this, in particular, wrote Petrarch. Only in the 1660s. during excavations undertaken by order of Pope Alexander VII, the entrance to the pyramid, traces of frescoes and marble inscriptions on the foundations of statues testifying to the circumstances of its construction were discovered.
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The Cestius Pyramid has long attracted the attention of foreigners visiting Rome. Especially popular were paintings and engravings with her image. Perhaps the most famous image belongs to Piranesi.
On the model of this pyramid in Tsarskoye Selo, the architect Cameron built the Pyramid, which served as a tombstone of the beloved Italian Greyhounds of Empress Catherine II, including Zemira.
On the eastern and western faces of the pyramid, to be visible on both sides, the inscription is carved:
C · CESTIVS · L · F · POB · EPULO · PR · TR · PLVII VIR EPOLONVMGuy Cestius, son of Lucius, of the Pobilia clan, member of the College of Epulon, praetor, tribune of the people, Septemvir Epulon .
On the eastern side of the pyramid below is a text with the circumstances of the construction:
OPVS · APSOLVTVM · EX · TESTAMENTO · DIEBVS · CCCXXXARBITRATVPONTI · P · F · CLA · MELAE · HEREDIS · ET · POTHI · LThe work was done according to the will, for 330 days, by decision of the heir Lucius Pontus Mela, son of Publius from the clan Claudius and Potus freedman
Another inscription on the eastern side - of modern origin - was applied by order of Pope Alexander VII in 1663: INSTAVRATVM AN AN DOMINI MDCLXIII. She marked the excavations and restoration work of the graves in 1660-1662.
History of the Cestius Pyramid
The pyramid was built approximately in 18-12 years. BC. according to the will of the Roman praetor, member of the priestly collegium and wealthy Citizen Guy (or Kai) Cestius Epulon. Yielding to fashion trends, this Roman aristocrat wished to be buried in a mausoleum, which would completely repeat the forms of the tombs of the great Egyptian pharaohs. Since Guy took part in the conquests of the Nubian kingdom, the Cestius pyramid bears traces of the influence of the Nubian tradition.
Initially, the chamber in which the embalmed praetor’s body lay was carefully sealed. But after centuries, it was opened and ravaged, like many Egyptian and Nubian pyramids.
In the years 271-275. around Rome began to build an external defensive cordon - the walls of Aurelius. Then the Cestius pyramid was included in the general building and became a kind of triangular bastion. The Middle Ages brought new legends to Roman soil: for some reason, it was believed that Rem himself, one of the twin brothers who founded the Eternal City, was buried in the mausoleum of Kai Cestius. Only in the 17th century were archaeological excavations undertaken that helped establish the truth. By enough
How to get to the cestius pyramid
The tomb of Cestius is located in the southern part of Rome, in Piazzale Ostiense, at Via del Campo Boario. Next to it is the wall of Aurelian. Behind it is a cemetery where you can find the graves of such great people as Shelley, Keats and K.P. Bryullov.
To get there to the cestius pyramid can Metro, choosing line "B", exit should be at the station, which is called "Piramide".
Everyone can visit the tomb, but exclusively accompanied by a guide. Entrance ticket costs 5.5 euro. Visiting this ancient architectural monument is allowed twice a month: on the second and fourth Saturdays. Excursions are held from 11 hours.
Cestius pyramid on a map of Rome:
The historical past of the pyramid
She is not as ancient as her "brothers" from Egypt or Mexico, but she also boasts her rich historical past. This monument saw the light, according to scientists, in the period between 18-12 years BC
The customer of such a building in those distant years was the "politician" known at that time - a member of the priestly collegium, he was also a wealthy citizen Guy (or Kai - in other editions) Cestius Epulon.
In honor of him, the pyramid was named, from the moment of its construction it did not change the names and practically did not undergo any changes, like other architectural structures.
The construction of such a monument was associated with a certain tribute to fashion.. The rich resident of the Eternal City wished to be buried not somewhere else, but in a pyramid, like the Egyptian pharaohs. The aristocrat could afford such a whim, because he was not only immensely wealthy, but also was considered a hero. Guy Cestius Epulon took an active part in the conquests of the Nubian kingdom. And the pyramid erected by his order becomes a kind of personification, an imprint of Nubian traditions.
The sad fate of the Egyptian pyramids befell this special structure - it was ruined. Initially, the body of a member of the chamber of priests, as followed by the will, was embalmed and buried in a special chamber. It remained closed for a long time, but after some time it was still printed by thieves.
The Cestius Pyramid in Rome was not just a landmark and a peculiar tribute to fashion. When in the years 271–275 the inhabitants of the city had to build defensive structures - an impressive external cordon (Aurelian walls) - the pyramid did not stand aside. It entered part of such a cordon and was used for external viewing - as a triangular convenient bastion.
Over time, the pyramid tomb has overgrown with legends and even incredible myths. So, in the Middle Ages, people sincerely believed that the founder of the city, Rem, was buried in her cells. This legend lasted about 7 centuries! The myth was dispelled only in the 17th century, when the city's architects attempted to figure out the true historical past of the building. It was then that excavations were carried out, which shed light on the truth. It turned out that the pyramid is a custom-made project of an extravagant person who wished to be buried in the mausoleum.
Unique features of the Cestius pyramid
The unique structure is located near the wall of Aurelian, in the southern extremities of Rome. The height of the building is considerable - a little more than 36 meters. The pyramid rests on a stable square base, and the length of each side reaches 30 meters. For the construction, brick and concrete were used, but for the facing of an unusual building in Rome, more expensive and durable material was used - marble.
But even more impressive is the foundation, consisting of travertine. Inside, a crypt was constructed for the tomb of the priest, to which a tunnel was made. Initially, the pyramid rose in the middle of the hill, but over time, when Rome grew, it became part of the architecture of the city. Today it is surrounded by modern buildings, but does not lose its authenticity.
On the south side of the pyramid there are frescoes and even several inscriptions that have been preserved intact and indicate that the monument was built according to the will of Guy Cestius in 330 days.