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Small at a distance yet gigantic up close. This is how the Pyramid of Cestius was labelled. The Pyramid of Cestius is so large that you keep looking upward. Spectators did not expect that it would be as big as those pyramids in Egypt but then it has a length of 36.5 meters.
The pyramid is an odd duck in the Roman area. Yet little did people know that many Romans were fanatics of Egypt, especially of its superb structures. Similarly, Emperor Cestius left on his will record that he wanted to be buried in a pyramid.
And so the Pyramid of Cestius was built in 12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius with memorial inscriptions: “C (aius) Cestius L (ucii) F (Ilius) Epulo (nius) POB (lilia) PRAETOR tribune plebeians (September) VIR EPULORUM” which meant that “Gaius Cestius Epulo, son of Lucius, praetor, tribune of the plebs, septemvir epulonum“. It tells that he was a Praetor and tribune. The pyramid was built in less than 330 days, according to his will. On the west side of the pyramid was another inscription that said “The work was completed, in accordance with the will, in 330 days, by the decision of the heir Pontus Mela, son of Publius of the Claudia and Pothus, freedman”.
The pyramid consists of bricks built into a solid travertine foundation. On the outside, marble slabs were set. Unlike the pyramids in Egypt, the pyramid of Cestius is much more pointy at the top. This was because the Romans knew how to use the bricks and make it more edgy than the pyramids of Egypt. Also, many artists of the past used the Giza pyramids as a model for their paintings. Hence, it was often painted more pointed than what they really are.
The Pyramid of Cestius is contained within in the Aurelian wall. This wall was built between 271 and 275. Since the wall was well preserved over the years, the Pyramid of Cestius was also well maintained.
In the Middle Ages, this pyramid was not yet known as the Pyramid of Cestius. The pyramid was used to be called as Meta Remi, where the Romans thought that the pyramid was the tomb of Remus. Remus is the twin brother of Romulus, the founder of Rome. The inscription became unreadable probably because of the overgrowth of plants, which was the long hidden identification of to whom the tomb was built for.
The burial chamber is not open publicly. Some remains of ancient frescoes are found here.
During the 17th century, two bronzes were seen on the pyramid of Cestius and were transferred to the Capitoline Museums. Today, the pyramid is mainly used as a sanctuary for stray cats. The pyramid of Cestius is located at Piazza di Porta San Paolo.
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