| |

The Egyptian Pyramid In Rome Is Well Worth A Visit

The Egyptian Pyramid in Rome was built as a tomb for Caius Cestius and is one of two tombs built 2,000 years ago when Rome was in the grips of Egyptomania.

egyptian pyramid in rome - Cestius

The Pyramid of Cestius

The Architecture of The Egyptian Pyramid In Rome

More than 2,000 years ago, between 18 and 12 B.C., a magistrate and tribune of the lower class plebs, Caius Cestius, had his tomb built in the shape of a pyramid, which was very trendy at the time. This burial monument, which is the only pyramid remaining in Rome, has a height of 118 feet and almost 100 feet wide at its base. The pyramid seems a little smaller than these dimensions because the roads surrounding it have been raised over the years.

The dimensions of the pyramid are different from the famous pyramids in Egypt. The sides rise at much sharper angles, which may have been due to either incorrect information from the Egyptians, Roman innovation by using concrete that allowed for steeper sides, or they may have been inspired by the steeper Nubian pyramids.

The Pyramid of Caius Cestius (Piramide Cestia) is constructed of brick and cement, with a bright white cover made from large blocks of Carrara marble, which are in stark contrast to the darker surrounding Aurelian Walls. Originally the interior of this tomb was decorated with frescoes, which were written about by early travelers, but now are gone. Later, it was built into the Aurelian walls, which likely helped it survive the centuries.

egyptian pyramid in rome - Inscription

You Can Read The Inscription

One notable historical fact about the construction is known because on the façade of the pyramid there is an inscription which says that the construction work lasted 330 days. More fully, the inscription on the southeast side of the pyramid that reads: 

“Gaius Cestius Epulo, son of Lucius, of the Poblilian district, praetor, tribune of the people, official of the public banquets. According to his will, this work was completed in three hundred and thirty days; it was executed by his heirs L. Pontus Mela, son of Publius, of the Claudian district, and his freedman Pothus”

Visiting The Egyptian Pyramid In Rome

You will find conflicting information on whether or not you can go inside the temple. Unfortunately, my understanding is that the site is closed to tours on the inside and as of today the only access to the Pyramid of Cestius is from the outside. It is still a pretty interesting site from the outside, and near some other interesting sites, like the Protestant Cemetery, the Basilica of San Saba and Eataly.

egyptian pyramid in rome - Roman Pyramid

Pyramid In The Middle Of The Street

You should definitely take an afternoon in the Ostiense area, close to Porta San Paolo. For a great view of the Pyramid, go inside the Aurelian walls to the Protestant Cemetery to the northwest side. If you are traveling by the Metro, take Metro line B to the Piramide station.

History of The Egyptian Pyramid In Rome and The Love of Egypt

Egyptomania swept Rome after the conquest of Egypt in 30 BC. After Egypt became a Roman province, Romans found ancient Egypt an intriguing and distant land that influenced and inspired them to adopt astrological practices and Egyptian religious ideologies, like the Cult of Isis. It also led to the relocation of Egyptian Obelisks around Rome, and eventually the building of this pyramid. Massive original Egyptian artifacts and inspired copies started cropping up all over Rome, but only two actual pyramids were known to have been built and only one remains available to visit.

egyptian pyramid in rome - Egyptomania

Egyptomania Swept Rome

During this period of love of all things Egyptian, obelisks began to appear in the city. While there are many more obelisks around Rome, some of which are only copies of real Egyptian obelisks, two of them from this specific period are still in prominent place in Rome, with one obelisk in the center of Piazza del Popolo and the second in the Piazza di Montecitorio.

In addition to obelisks, the other, larger pyramid that was built in Rome was known as the “Pyramid of Romulus” and was near the Castel Sant’Angelo. Sadly, this pyramid did not survive later generations, and like many of the amazing sites around Rome, like the Colosseum, its marble was stripped on the orders of the Pope and reused in the building of the stairs at the Vatican And St. Peter’s Basilica.

Who built the Pyramid of Cestius?

The Pyramid of Cestius is believed to have been built between the years 18 and 12 BC. The almost 120 foot high pyramid was built as a tomb for a wealthy Roman, Caius Cestius following the trend of all things Egyptian sweeping Rome at the time. Not very much is known about the man who might have been buried there because the tomb was ransacked and the surrounding land has changed over the years.

By the middle ages, stories about the Pyramid of Romulus and the Pyramid of Cestius actually being the tombs of the legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus. The actual tomb and inscriptions were not discovered until the 1600s.

Why Is The Pyramid In Rome Important?

The Pyramid of Cestius is an interesting building to me mostly because of its uniqueness and its somewhat remote location which is rarely visited by first-time visitors to Rome. How important it is to visit, or not, depends on how much time you have in Rome and which sites you have already seen. In other words, the Pyramid of Cestius is important to see if you are in the neighborhood also visiting some other sites, like Testaccio, the Basilica of San Saba, the Protestant Cemetery or even Eataly.

Saving Cats At The Pyramid In Rome

Rome’s love for its feline friends is on display near the Pyramid, just like at Largo di Torre Argentina, because Rome has special laws protecting stray cats. An area around the pyramid, called I Gatti della Piramide, is one of the areas where they can roam undisturbed! When you visit this cat sanctuary, you will likely encounter the cats and possibly the volunteers feeding them! For cat lovers, this is a great place to visit, especially with kids.

egyptian pyramid in rome - Cat Sanctuary

Cat Sanctuary In Rome

This cat colony, found in the grounds of the Pyramid of Cestius, next to the Protestant Cemetery can be visited each afternoon at Viale del Campo Boario each day of the week, including Sundays, from 2:00 PM until 4:00 PM.

Other Reasons To Visit The Egyptian Pyramid In Rome

Similar Posts