Sunday, November 27, 2011

To the pyramid of Cestius please !

There is no such thing as coincidence
In my previous post I portrayed the Romans as Egyptomaniacs. While doing some research for that article I found out about the pyramid that was built in Rome as a tomb for Caius Cestius. Shortly after the post was published, I continued reading the Women in Finance exhibition catalogue. To my big surprise, the catalogue showed that pyramid depicted on a share certificate. Well, some people say that coincidence does not exist. Wow !

S.A. per il Servizio Delle Automobili da Piazza in Roma e Altrove
Share of 100 Lire, Rome 1908

image source Wertpapierwelt, Olten
The share was issued by the Italian Public-Auto company in 1908. Lovely designed in Stile Liberty, the Italian version of Art Nouveau,  the shares of this public transport company show two of the attractions in Rome that every tourist was supposed to see : the Castel Sant'Angelo and the Pyramid of Cestius.

Piramide Cestia
We already know the pyramid was built as a tomb for the Roman Caius Cestius, a Roman magistrate. It was built around 12 BC outside the city walls. It measures almost 30 m square at the base and is 37 m high. Like many ancient Egyptian pyramids, also this one was already plundered in Antiquity. In the year 270 the Vandals and the Juthungi, Germanic tribes, invaded northern Italy. The Roman emperor Aurelian responded with the construction of the Aurelian Walls, a 19 km long line of defensive walls around the city. In order to save expenses and speed up the completion existing buildings were incorporated into the structure. The Cestius pyramid was one of these and that explains largely why it is one of the best-preserved ancient buildings in Rome.

In the Middle Ages, people forgot about the origins of the pyramid. Overgrown with vegetation, the citizens of Rome believed it to be the tomb of Remus.  Between 1660-1662 Pope Alexander VII ordered the excavation of the pyramid upon which the ancient Roman inscriptions were rediscovered. The pope would later order Bernini to create an obelisk for him.

Today, Cestius pyramid is more than 2000 years old. It is located near the Porta Ostiensis, perhaps these days better known as the Porta San Paolo. Clearly Cestius wanted to be commemorated forever. I'm pretty sure that he'd loved to know about this remarkable piece of scripophily.


Reference link : Wikipedia's Pyramid of Cestius

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