The Great Pyramid of Giza is undoubtedly one of the most well-known icons of ancient Egypt. Nevertheless, similar pyramids are found scattered all throughout Egypt and beyond. Egyptian-style pyramids have been found south of the border in modern day Sudan.
These pyramids were built by the rulers of the Kingdom of Kush. In 30 BC, Egypt became a province in the Roman Empire, and the Romans even launched a military expedition into Kushite territory in 23 BC. It is possible that the encounter with the Egyptian pyramids, or the Kushite ones, or both types, influenced the construction of the Pyramid of Cestius in one of the most unlikely of places, Rome.
It should first be pointed out that the Pyramid of Cestius was not the only Egyptian-style pyramid in Rome. There was also another pyramid, known as the ‘Pyramid of Romulus’.
Incidentally, during the Middle Ages, the Pyramid of Cestius was known as the ‘Pyramid of Remus’, and it was believed that these two pyramids were the tombs of the legendary founders of Rome. The larger ‘Pyramid of Romulus’, located between the Vatican and Hadrian’s Mausoleum (known also as the Castel Sant’Angelo), was dismantled sometime during the 16th century so that its marble could be used in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Pyramid of Cestius was built along the Via Ostiensis sometime between 18 and 12 BC. The pyramid has a nucleus of concrete with a curtain of brick, and its exterior is covered with Luni marble. The base of the structure is a square measuring 29.5 m on each side, whist its height is measured at 36.4 m. Within the pyramid is a barrel-vaulted burial chamber measuring about 23 square metres, and was walled up in accordance with Egyptian custom at the time of entombment.
During the 3rd century AD, the pyramid was incorporated into the circuit of walls known as the Aurelian Walls. One of the southern gates, the Porta San Paolo is just a stone’s throw away from this monument.
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