I first saw this rather exotic ancient Roman pyramid on my second visit to Rome, on my way to Ostia Antica. The nearby Metro station is, inevitably, called 'Piramide'.
I returned in July 2012 to have a proper look at it and, on my 2016 visit, was pleased to see that it has been scrubbed-up and returned to its original white. The removal of centuries of Roman grime has made the pyramid even more of a 'sight'.
The pyramid is the tomb of Caius Cestius. It stands at the junction of two ancient Roman roads. It was forbidden to bury the dead within the walls of any Roman settlement (except for babies under 10 days old), so the approach roads to all towns and cities were lined with tombs large and small.
The rich, of course, made sure their tombs were magnificent enough to be noticed by travellers. And Caius Cestius' pyramid is certainly impressive. He was a magistrate in ancient Rome and, on his death, his will freed all his slaves. It was the (ex) slaves who raised the pyramid to mark his burial spot.
It was built 12-18 BC/BCE, not of stone blocks (which is what it looks like from outside) but of brick, faced with concrete and then faced again with marble slabs. Each side of the square base measures almost 30m and the whole structure is around 37m high. It is interesting to note that the white facing reflects exactly how the Gaza pyramids would have looked at that time. Their stunning white limestone facing was almost all removed over later centuries to build the growing city of Cairo.
There is a burial vault inside (although it was robbed in ancient times) and some frescoes. The pyramid was included in the Aurelian Walls (built in the 200s AD/CE) and you can still see lengthy chunks of those walls in this area. For centuries, Medieval Romans thought the pyramid was the tomb of Remus (joint founder, with his brother Romulus, of the city) but investigations in the 1660s (courtesy of Pope Alexander Vll) revealed its inscriptions.
The pyramid is not generally open to the public, although it is possible to pre-book individual tours at 11am on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month. You can pre-book your tickets on the Co-op Culture website (English version available):
On the first and third Saturdays of the month a ticket for the Museo del Via Ostiense includes a guided tour of the pyramid leaving at 10.30am. The website below has detailed information (and an English version).
If you have time to spare, especially if you are on your way to Ostia Antica, it is worth crossing the busy roads to get a closer look at Cestius' tomb. It is as impressive now as it must have been when first constructed, and even more so since it's been cleaned-up.
The pyramid of Cestius is an ancient pyramid in the Testaccio area in Rome. It has been built about 18 BC and 12 BC as the tomb for Gaius Cestius. The similarity of this pyramid and the pyramid of Nubia, makes historics think that Cestius took part in the campaign against the kingdom of Meroè which was attacked by Rome in 23 BC. He could have intended the pyramid as a commemoration of that victory.
Back in Rome's early empire days Cleopatra was the Kardashian of her times. Julius Caesar was on the Maury Show getting paternity tested for her first child while Marc Anthony copped to child support for Cleo's kids Alexander Helios, Cleopatra Selene, and Ptolemy Philadelphos. Egypt and all things Egyptian became the craze once Cleo and Marc's reality show was cancelled and Augustus Caesar annexed Egypt to the Roman Empire. So some time around 18 BC–12 BC, the stage was set for Gaius Cestius, a Roman magistrate, to build himself a fashionable pyramid tomb. Lacking access to an Egyptian rock quarry, Gaius built the tomb using good old Roman bricks and cement and then veneered it in white marble. And there the pyramid sits to this day. Almost. Seems Rome had an illegal alien problem and decided to build a wall to keep out the barbarians and used the lowest cost bidder to build that wall in the early 270's. Naturally, the bidder cut corners and the pyramid became part of the wall. This was fortunate as the barbarians would stop and stare at the pyramid in the wall, scratch their heads and say "What the heck?" while the Roman archers would then pick them off. You too can say "What the heck?" and visit the pyramid today. You could not go inside during my last visit, but since May 2015, the pyramid is open to the public every second and fourth Saturday each month, but you have to give advance notice so they can dig up some archers.
With so many Egyptian obelisks all over Rome it was no surprised that we also saw a Pyramide! :)
It was actually the tomb of Gaius Gestius Epulo who was just a rich (ok, very rich) man (ok again, not a simple man but a praetor) that wanted something different for his last stop on earth(he died in 12BC).
The pyramide is 36m high made by brick concrete and slabs of white marble. We took some pictures of it (pics 1-3) and went at the corner to visit the cemetery of the Protestants(Cimitero Acattolico) but unfortunately it was closed. It’s open daily 9.00-17.00 except Sundays when it closes at 13.00 (but I didn’t know that). There are many non catholics buried here since 1738.
Right next you can visit Museo della Via Ostiense-Porta San Paolo(pic 4) a small museum with large scale models of Old Ostia and artifacts from via Ostiense and the port of Trajan.The entrance is free and it’s open 9.30-13.30 daily (on Tuesday and Thursday also open 14.30-16.30).
So we missed this one too and we decided to return back to the city. Before we take the train we took a picture of this weird structure(pic 5) outside the station.
Near Porta San Paolo
Metro station:Pyramide (line B)
This unique structure built into the Aurelian Walls was built as a tomb for Gaius Cestius Epulo, an important magistrate during the period of the early empire. It was erected in part by the slaves who he freed in his last testament. It is truly a unique building, as if it was transported from Egypt and placed in its home in Rome.
I wouldn't make a special trip just to see Rome's only pyramid; however, if you are traveling to Ostia Antica or spending a day in Testaccio, it is worth a quick visit. Take the Metro B (Blue) Line to the Pyramide stop. Go up the stairs out of the Metro station and it is right there. We stopped to see it on our way to Ostia Antica.
This pyramid was built by a rich citizen of ancient Rome (Gaius Cestius) and now serves as his tomb. You can't go inside, but it is nice to see and get a quick picture of.
We didn't spend any additional time in Testaccio; however, I wish we had.
"He was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the Protestants, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now moldering and desolate, which formed the circuit of ancient Rome. It is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place."
— Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), in the preface to his "Adonais: An Elegy on The Death of John Keats"
PYRAMID TOMB The Pyramid of Cestius is a funerary monument built in 12 BC as a tomb for Gaius Cestius Gallus, the son of a Roman consul, and himself a consul in AD 42. It is made of brick-faced concrete covered with slabs of white marble.
The peculiar conceit of a pyramid in Rome can be explained by Rome's conquest of Egypt in 30 BC; the new province's culture became fashionable in the capital.
In the third century AD, the pyramid was included in the Aurelian Walls. The towers of Porta San Paolo, also part of the Aurelian Walls, can be seen behind the 88.5-foot-tall tomb. Fittingly, the Cimitero Acattolico (Non-Catholic Cemetery), more commonly known as the English, or Protestant, Cemetery, stretches out at the base of Cestius's pyramid-shaped tomb.
Our visit to the Pyramid of Cestius was combined with a visit to the Cimitero Acattolico on a sunny day in late May 2007, which made for very good conditions for good photos.
This Pyramid was built for Caius Cestius. It has a marble exterior and was erected to hold his ashes.Part of the pyramid is incorporated into the city walls, and can be seen clearly from the non-catholic Cemetery
A remarcable monument. In Rome it is well
known since a metro station is named after
this building. When it was build it must
already have been an eye catcher.
Who are we talking about?
Gaius Cestius - He was praetor (judge) and
tribuun. He was alos a member of the
'septimviri Epulones' - the council of seven
that had to survey the holy festivities.
Also written on the piramid is that it was
build in only 330 days.
Pitty that the monument is only open for public
once in every five years.
Anyway - was this an important person.
Not really. You need to know that at that time
in Roma about 1% of the population was
aristocratic , had a high position...
and was stinking rich. To be noticed those
rich people spend huge amounts of money
to build a remarcable monument.
This white marble tomb set next to the Aurelian wall is an umissable landmark. Its occupant Caius Cestius was a wealthy Roman magitrate, who died in 12BC. You liked the pyramids in Egypt so much that he decided he'd want one for himself.
This was my very first pyramid and it wasn´t even in Egypt. A very rich man who died in
12 BC is the person whos tombe this is. It sort of bursts out of the Aurelian Wall and it´s a strange sight with all the white marmer flickering in the sun light.
The pyramid is 36 meters high and was finished in 330 days.
Pyramid of Gaius Cestius
The Pyramid was erected in 330 days at the end of the 1st Century BC as a sepulcher for Caius Cestius Epulone, Praetor of the Tribune of the plebs and member of the College of Septemviri Epulones, in charge of solemn banquets, who died in 12 B.C. It is one of the better conserved monuments of ancient Rome. It has a base measuring 22 metres square and a height of 27 metres with a covering in white marble from Carrara. It was completed at the corners with 4 columns of which the two remaining can be found on the sides of the cemetery.
Near by is the Protestan Cemetery and also a small church, Basilica Sta Sabina which is early Christain basilica survived 5-6th century Christians.