Pyramid of Cestius to be Restored

The incipit of an item from the Telegraph:

The marble pyramid, which dates from 12BC and adds an incongruous touch of ancient Egypt to the Italian capital, is grimy from traffic fumes and festooned with weeds and bushes growing from the cracks between its enormous stone blocks.

The project will include efforts to determine whether, as legend has it, there are secret chambers built into the pyramid.

“A few years ago ultrasonic testing found anomalies within the structure,” Maria Grazia Filetici, a Rome cultural official, told La Repubblica newspaper. “We want to investigate them further with probes.”

The unusual monument was constructed of brick and marble following Rome’s conquest of Egypt, which initiated a fashion for all things Egyptian.

It was a must-see sight during the Grand Tour and inspired Shelley and, a century later, Thomas Hardy.

Yuzo Yagi, the owner of a fashion business, has agreed to donate one million euros for the restoration of the 2,000-year-old monument, which forms part of Rome’s ancient walls and overlooks the Protestant Cemetery, the burial place of Shelley and Keats.

Mr Yagi, from Osaka, has had business connections with Italy for more than 40 years and wants to fund the restoration of the monument as a way of commemorating his links with Rome.

He is due to sign the agreement next month, with work expected to start in April. In return for his donation, he has asked that a plaque inscribed with his name be placed near the monument.

“His dream is to leave a mark in our country. Last year, he visited the pyramid and was struck by how remarkable it was,” said Rita Paris, who manages the monument.

The 118ft-high monument was built as the burial chamber for a Roman magistrate, Gaius Cestius.

The chamber was once frescoed but is now bare and empty, after its contents were plundered in the Middle Ages.

The pyramid was incorporated into the Aurelian Walls, which were built to protect Rome in the 3rd century AD, helping to ensure that it was never damaged or demolished. […]

More news coverage:

From the Italian press:

Pyramid of Cestius links:

3 thoughts on “Pyramid of Cestius to be Restored

    1. According to Bill Thayer at*/Sepulcrum_C.Cestii.html

      “Tobias Smollett, in Letter 32 of his Travels through France and Italy (1765), states that this chamber was painted with frescoes, pretty much effaced by his time. It is not clear that he saw them himself: I suspect he is reading from the Grand Tour or a similar guidebook.

      “I see it stated on the Web that the frescoes are still there, but Richardson (A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, p354) writes that the stucco and painting decoration of the chamber was “all but invisible a hundred years ago (Middleton 2.433)”, confirming Smollett; and then goes on to record such disparity of opinion as to their style, from the 18c to the 20c, as to suggest much the same thing.”

      I fear that this is true.

  1. In one way this is great news, but I wonder how Romanophiles and Italians feel about the plaque and the fact that Italy and Rome can’t fund their own restoration projects. It has to be somewhat disheartening.

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