The Pyramid of Cestius

Episode 32,   Sep 26, 2020, 10:12 PM

The Pyramid of Cestius was built during the reign of the emperor Augustus, probably between 18 and 12 BCE. It’s surface is white Carrara marble and the tip is exactly 100 Roman feet (30 meters) high.

At the time of its construction, Ancient Rome was heavily influenced by Egyptian architecture after the conquest of Egypt by Augustus in 30BCE. Obelisks and other monuments where being imported from this new province to decorate Rome’s buildings, piazzas and its major sporting venues. Despite this fashion, only two pyramids are known to have been built in Rome and the only one left standing is the Pyramid of Cestius.  

Caius Cestius was a tribune, a plebian and member of the religious corporation of the Septemviri Epulonum. The epulones formed one of the four core religious organizations of ancient Roman priests. The Epulones were tasked with arranging feasts and public banquets at festivals and games, duties that had originally belonged to the pontiffs. 

In his will, Cestius asked his heirs to construct a tomb in the form of a pyramid and, if that wasn’t an odd challenge enough, he required that the project be completed within 330 days.

On the east and west sides, about halfway up, is the inscription recording the names and titles of Cestius, and below, on the east side only, more text that tells the circumstances of the erection of the monument. 

Note that access to the interior of the pyramid is limited to just a couple of days each month and will require you booking tickets in advance that said, it is worth travelling to see this quite remarkable monument even if you don’t go inside.