Thursday, January 3, 2013

Walk like an Egyptian

There's not a lot of pyramids around these parts, so where there is one a viewing is demanded. It's actually quite old (18BC) and not that pretty, but it makes quite an impact in what is now a very urban environment. Cestius was a prominent magistrate and this is his burial tomb. It was originally sealed but now, with special permission, it's possible for scholars to go inside. Built in the countryside it gradually became surrounded and for a while it was overgrown with vegetation. Even now, tourists miss out on something of a curiosity. Following Rome's incursions into Egypt, things Egyptian were rather popular and so it was fashionable for the wealthy to use Egyptian designs to make an impression. Probably Cestius' contemporaries thought the whole thing quite vulgar. Nowadays, pyramids are felt by some to have healing powers, but I doubt if there's much healing to be had from this one. Rather the opposite if you stand around in the rush hour! City pollution has made the marble tiles used to cover the brick-faced concrete of the pyramid quite dirty, but refurbishments are underway to restore it to the original - it would have been nearly white. It's well worth a visit and there's a nice, friendly and free museum next door. The Museo della Via Ostiense di Porta San Paolo offers the best view of the structure.