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Did you know...? Rome is home to a pyramid

Elaine Allaby
Elaine Allaby - [email protected]
Did you know...? Rome is home to a pyramid
Have you visited Rome's ancient pyramid? Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP.

You've heard of Roman temples, amphitheatres and aqueducts... but an ancient Roman pyramid?

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Coming out of Ostiense train station in Rome and heading down towards Via Marmorata, you'll be struck by the sight of an imposing marble pyramid jutting out of the ancient Aurelian city walls.

It's not an optical illusion or a modern art installation: Rome really does have its own ancient pyramid.

The Piramide Cestia (Piramide is also the name given to the neighbouring metro stop) was built as a tomb for the politician Gaius Cestius in around 18-12 BC.

Rome was experiencing something of a fad for all things Egyptian at the time, as Julius Caesar and Augustus had conquered Egypt just a few years earlier, in 30 BC.

Bear in mind that while ancient Rome was founded in around the 8th century BC, the Egyptians as a civilisation date all the way back to 3,000 BC - so ancient Egypt held as much fascination for the Romans as the Romans do for us.

During the conquest, the Romans plundered numerous ancient Egyptian relics. While Piramide Cestia, built in Rome, is more of an homage to Egypt, the city to this day has a number of original Egyptian artifacts looted back in antiquity.

Today you'll find as many as eight ancient Egyptian obelisks around the Eternal City, including the Vaticano obelisk in St Peter's Square, the Flaminio obelisk in Piazza del Popolo, and the Lateranense obelisk, taken from the temple of Amun in Karnak and originally displayed in the Circus Maximus racetrack.

READ ALSO: Did you know...? These parts of Italy were once part of ancient Greece

Piramide Cestia wasn't the only pyramid in ancient Rome, though it's the only one still standing; there were two more in what's now Piazza del Popolo. Another, the Pyramid of Romulus, was demolished by Pope Alexander VI in 1499.

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After being closed for many years, the Piramide Cestia reopened to visitors in 2015 following a major restoration project. While it's not a site you can visit every day, Rome's cultural heritage authorities occasionally put on free guided tours of its frescoed burial chambers.

If you manage to make one of those slots, you'll be one of the small group of people who can say they've been inside an ancient Roman pyramid.

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