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Is there a pyramid in Rome?

The Pyramid of Cestius in the center of Rome

Visiting the historic center of Rome you will surely be surprised by the large number of obelisks, some really colossal, that we will meet in our itinerary.

These monuments decorate the most beautiful squares of the city.
Rome is the place, outside Egypt, where the highest number of obelisks in the world is concentrated: there are 13!

Roman emperors brought obelisks to Rome as a symbol of the greatness of their empire. To transport them it was necessary to build ships of extraordinary size.

With the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the conquest of Egypt by Octavian (who later became the future emperor Augustus), in the capital of the Roman empire many Egyptian cults spread: temples appeared dedicated to Isis, one of the main deities of ancient Egypt.

There was also an Egyptic fashion that led to the construction of very special monuments such as a pyramid.

Pyramid of Cestius in Rome
Pyramid of Cestius in Rome

Pyramid of Cestius is located in the heart of the city, along the road that in the past led to Ostia, the ancient port of Rome.

The monument stands out with its characteristic shape a few meters from Porta Ostiense, also known as Porta San Paolo for the proximity of the Basilica of San Paolo fuori le Mura, one of the doors that opened in the circuit of the Aurelian Walls (third century AD)

Porta San Paolo in Rome
Porta San Paolo in Rome

When Emperor Aurelian decided to defend Rome from the threat of the barbarians, the new walls incorporated the pyramid, which was located right on the perimeter of the fortifications, turning it into a defensive bastion. 

This circumstance saved the monument from the marble dispossession that occurred in the Middle Ages.

Pyramid of Cestius and the Aurelian Wall in Rome
Pyramid of Cestius and the Aurelian Wall in Rome

Pyramid of Cestius and the Aurelian Wall in Rome
Pyramid of Cestius and the Aurelian Wall in Rome

The pyramid was commissioned by Caius Cestius Epulo, a magistrate of ancient Rome, as his funeral monument. 

The architects called to work on this unusual project (they had never built a pyramid!) managed to complete the work in a year, indeed in 330 days.

A curiosity: as the inscription on the eastern side of the monument reminds us, it seems that it was Caius Cestius who asked his heirs, in his will, that the monument be completed within that period in order not to lose the rich inheritance.

The building measures at the base 30 meters and is more than 36 meters high. The current elevation of the road level reduces the original height of the monument.

Pyramid of Cestius and the Aurelian Wall in Rome
Pyramid of Cestius and the Aurelian Wall in Rome

The pyramid is covered on the outside with blocks of white marble from Carrara

But how is it made inside?
Unlike the Egyptian pyramids made of gigantic blocks, the Pyramid of Cestius is made with an immense casting of concrete that encloses a burial chamber decorated with frescoes.

The original entrance is unknown; the small door that opens on the western side is of the modern age.
The tomb was looted at the beginning of the Middle Ages by looters who managed to enter by drilling a hole in the wall, still visible today.

Believing that there was a treasure inside, they made many more holes, damaging the paintings, but in addition to the urn that kept the ashes of the deceased they found nothing else to take away.

In the period when Caius Cestius was buried, in fact, a law had been enacted prohibiting him from being buried with too many precious objects.

Fortunately other decorations of Pompeian style are saved and we appear in all their beauty after two thousand years. We just have to visit this site!

A few meters from the Pyramid and close to the walls, from the eighteenth century began to bury non-Catholic foreigners who died in the city. The Non-catholic Cemetery or English Cemetery, known as Protestant Cemetery, is one of the most evocative places of the city not far from Monte Testaccio, a unique archaeological site.

It is in fact an artificial hill composed of numerous layers of terracotta amphorae arranged there in Roman times.

What is the opening time of the pyramid of Rome?

The pyramid of Rome has a very limited visiting hours. The pyramid is located near the monumental heart of the city, why not to live with us a personalized tour that includes the pyramid and the nearby monuments of international interest as the Protestant CemeteryCircus Maximus and the Mouth of Truth? 

Our guided tours give you the opportunity to live the tourist experience without hassle to save time and optimize your journey.

Please feel free to contact us at, we will be happy to help you in case you desire to take part in our customized guided tours in Rome or are looking for inspiration to plan your next travel experiences to Italy.

We will continue to talk about these places in the next Roman itineraries. 

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