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The Pyramid of Cestius is an ancient pyramid found in the city of in Rome, Italy, near the Porta San Paolo and the Protestant Cemetery. It stands at a fork between two ancient roads, the Via Ostiensis and another road that ran west to the Tiber along the approximate line of the modern Via della Marmorata. Due to its incorporation into the city's fortifications, it is one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in existance in Rome today.
The pyramid was built about 18 BC–12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a magistrate and member of one of the four great religious corporations in Rome, the Septemviri Epulonum. It is of brick-faced concrete covered with slabs of white marble standing on a travertine foundation, measuring 100 Roman feet (29.6 m) square at the base and standing 125 Roman feet (37 m) high.
A dedicatory inscription is carved into the east and west flanks of the pyramid, so as to be visible from both sides. It reads:
C · CESTIVS · L · F · POB · EPULO · PR · TR · PL
VII · VIR · EPOLONVM
Caius Cestius, son of Lucius, of the gens Pobilia, member of the College of Epulones, praetor, tribune of the plebs, septemvir of the Epulones.
Below the inscription on the east-facing side is a second inscription recording the circumstances of the tomb's construction. This reads:
OPVS · APSOLVTVM · EX · TESTAMENTO · DIEBVS · CCCXXX
PONTI · P · F · CLA · MELAE · HEREDIS · ET · POTHI · L
The work was completed, in accordance with the will, in 330 days, by the decision of the heir [Lucius] Pontus Mela, son of Publius of the Claudia, and Pothus, freedman
At the time of its construction, the Pyramid of Cestius would have stood in open countryside as tombs were forbidden within the city walls. However, Rome grew enormously during the imperial period, and by the third century AD the pyramid would have been surrounded by buildings. It originally stood in a low-walled enclosure, flanked by statues, columns and other tombs.Two marble bases were found next to the pyramid during excavations in the 1660s, complete with fragments of the bronze statues that originally had stood on their tops. The bases carried an inscription recorded by Bartoli in an engraving of 1697:
M · VALERIVS · MESSALLA · CORVINVS ·
P · RVTILIVS · LVPVS · L · IVNIVS · SILANVS ·
L · PONTIVS · MELA · D · MARIVS ·
NIGER · HEREDES · C · CESTI · ET ·
L · CESTIVS · QVAE · EX · PARTE · AD ·
EVM · FRATRIS · HEREDITAS ·
M · AGRIPPAE · MVNERE · PER ·
VENIT · EX · EA · PECVNIA · QVAM ·
PRO · SVIS · PARTIEVS · RECEPER ·
EX · VENDITIONE · ATTALICOR ·
QVAE · EIS · PER · EDICTVM ·
AEDILIS · IN · SEPVLCRVM ·
C · CESTI · EX · TESTAMENTO ·
EIVS · INFERRE · NON · LICVIT ·
The sharply pointed shape of the pyramid is strongly reminiscent of the pyramids of Nubia, in particular of the kingdom of Meroë, which had been attacked by Rome in 23 BC. The similarity suggests that Cestius had possibly served in that campaign and perhaps intended the pyramid to serve as a commemoration. His pyramid was not the only one in Rome; a larger one—the so-called "pyramid of Romulus"—of similar form but unknown origins stood between the Vatican and the Mausoleum of Hadrian but this was demolished in the 16th century.
During the construction of the Aurelian Walls between 271 and 275, the pyramid was incorporated into the walls to form a triangular bastion. It was one of many structures in the city to be reused to form part of the new walls, probably to reduce the cost and enable the structure to be built more quickly. It still forms part of a well-preserved stretch of the walls, a short distance from the Porta San Paolo.
The origins of the pyramid were forgotten during the Middle Ages. The inhabitants of Rome came to believe that it was the tomb of Remus (Meta Remi) and that its counterpart near the Vatican was the tomb of Romulus, a belief recorded by Petrarch. Its true provenance was clarified by Pope Alexander VII's excavations in the 1660s, which cleared the vegetation that had overgrown the pyramid, uncovered the inscriptions on its faces, tunnelled into the tomb's burial chamber and found the bases of two bronze statues that had stood alongside the pyramid.
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Based on an article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_of_Cestius
Photos care of me and http://blog.artviva.com/2011/08/11/visiting-the-pyramids%E2%80%A6-of-rome/