This pyramid stands in Rome on the Via Ostiensis near the San Paolo Gate. It was erected under the first Roman emperor, Augustus, sometime between 18 and 12 B.C.E., for a certain Gaius Cestius. Like its Egyptian templates, this pyramid is a tomb.
The structure measures about 97 by 97 feet at its square base, and its height of about 120 feet corresponds exactly to 100 Roman feet. Built on a brick-faced concrete core, it is covered with white slabs of Carrara marble. It contains a single barrel-vaulted burial chamber about 19.5 feet long, 13.5 feet wide, and 15.5 feet high. This chamber is painted with simple but elegant frescoes in Pompeian style and is now accessible through a passageway carved out by tomb raiders in the 17th century. Originally self-standing, the pyramid was incorporated within the city’s walls between 271 and 275 C.E., to which we can attribute its survival.
While the Pyramid of Cestius ranks among the best known monuments in Rome, we know very little about its owner, who should not be confused with Cestius Gallus, the Roman governor of the province Syria at the beginning of the first Jewish rebellion against the Romans in 66 C.E. The names and titles recorded on the eastern and western side of the monument and on two statue bases tell us that Gaius Cestius was “the son of Lucius, from the voting tribe Publilia, praetor, plebeian tribune, one of the seven state priests in charge of public religious banquets.” A separate inscription informs that the construction was directed by his heir, Pontius Mela, and a freed slave, Pothos.
Cestius’s choice of a pyramid as his funeral monument reflects the general Roman fascination with Egypt. Much steeper than most ancient Egyptian pyramids, though, the Pyramid of Cestius is more reminiscent of the tombs in Meroe in modern Sudan.
A Fayum Oasis, Egypt
B Meroe, Sudan
C Rome, Italy
D Teotihuacan, Mexico
E Mycenae, Greece
Answer:(C) Rome, Italy
You have already read your free article for this month. Please join the BAS Library or become an All Access member of BAS to gain full access to this article and so much more.