The Pyramid of Caius Cestius is one of the most unlikely and surprising architectural landmarks of Rome. First of all, we clearly speak of a structure typical of a whole different cultural space than the ancient Rome and less common to the old European world, and secondly, it bears the name of a little known figure, in the context in which, as a rule, most of the ancient edifices which can be spotted throughout Rome were commissioned and financially supported, at the moment of their construction, by emperors, popes, cardinals and the like.

Caius Cestius (also spelled Gaius Cestius) was instead a mere magistrate filling an official position in the so-called Septemviri Epulonum, a group of four important religious brotherhoods, in the late 1st century BC. Yet, Caius Cestius is not remembered as an important public figure of ancient Rome, but for the pyramid which served as tomb for his mortal remains (at present, its interior no longer serves to such purposes). The pyramid was built in a time when, after the conquest of Egypt, somewhere in the 1st century BC, the Romans would relate to everything Egyptian as to an exotic fashion. Hence, they would import a lot from that far fascinating cultural space, including architectural examples.

The pyramid was built during the reign of Emperor Augustus, between (approximately) 18 BC and 12 BC (though, by sundry other accounts, it took only 330 days for the pyramid to be constructed). The pyramid is 37 meters high, with a base measuring almost 30 square meters. The foundation is entirely built of travertine, and the facades are covered with white marble. Inscriptions can be observed on all the facades of the monument.

What is truly notable about this pyramid (except, of course, its uniqueness in the dense architectural landscape of Rome) is it counts as one of the best preserved ancient edifices of the capital. This situation is explained, at least in part, by the fact the pyramid was included, after the construction of the Aurelian Walls, inside the city limits, which helped to its protection against the barbarian incursions. A legend popular in the Middle Ages (and partially promoted by the literates of the time) said this was the tomb of Remus (the twin brother of Romus, the mythical founder of Rome), but, of course, the account is unfounded.

Located in the proximity of the Protestant Cemetery of Rome and near Porta San Paolo, the Pyramid of Caius Cestius is an excellent sight to photo while in the capital of Italy, in particular by tourists who want to bring home a unique and strange souvenir. Keep in mind that mere tourists can not enter the pyramid, since the admission is granted only to scholars authorized to enter it. Yet, no one forbids visitors to simply admire it from the outside and marvel at the diversity of the architectural heritage left by the ancient Romans.

Pyramid of Caius Cestius (Piramide di Caio Cestio / Piramide Cestia)
Piazza di Porta San Paolo, 00153, Rome, Italy