Friday, October 06, 2006

Pyramid of Gaius Cestius

Piramide of Gaius Cestius

This image of the Pyramid of Caius Cestius is part of one of the panoramic images found on the Tour of Rome. There are over 100 images taken from around Rome linked to an interactive map.

Full panorama of the Pyramid of Caius Cestus

Rome has a pyramid. This was a surprise to me as it may be to some of you. However, there it sits 37m high and incorporated into the Aurelian Walls just beyond the Porta San Paolo in the south of Rome. So how did a pyramid come to be in Rome? It is quite a Roman oddity being built by Gaius Cestius in 12 BC. Gaius Cestius was a wealthy Roman praetor and tribune of the people. He spent time in Egypt at the height of the Roman post-Cleopatra craze when, just like their European counterparts centuries later, the Romans were wondering off with huge obelisks like there was not tomorrow and immersing themselves into the Isis cult.

The pyramid is his tomb, is made of brick and then covered in white marble form Luni. It was reported to have taken 330 days to construct. Unlike many of the tombs for the Emperors which have crumbled to dust, this remains as intact as the day it was made. The original entrance is through an descending shaft half way up the north face. Excavations show that originally the interior was decorated with stuccoes and frescos of female figures, but these are very badly degraded and barely visible now. Outside the pyramid are two statue bases also dedicated to Cestius, though the statues themselves are long gone.

Nowadays the pyramid in adjacent to a very busy main road and while traffic speeds past on one side, the other forms part of the border to the Protestant Cemetery.

In this image you can see both the pyramid and the outside of the Porta San Paolo to the left. The full panoramic image showing views both up- and down-river is found on the Rome tour by For better appreciation of this image go to the collection on Flickr.

For more articles on Rome see the Rome Index or select one of the labels at the bottom.

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