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Augustus Mausoleum - Largest Circular Tomb On Earth To Reopen In Rome

Augustus Mausoleum - Largest Circular Tomb On Earth To Reopen In Rome

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The massive tomb of Augustus, will reopen in March after a 10-million-euro ($12.25 million) project, which includes a virtual reality plug-in and has restored the ancient building to its former glory. Built by Rome’s first emperor, the Augustus tomb is the largest circular tomb in the world.

With Julius Caesar  as his great-uncle, Augustus reigned over the empire for four decades from 27 BC. At 35 years old he commissioned the construction of a massive burial tomb on the Campus Martius, at the heart of Rome, Italy. The Mausoleo di Augusto (Mausoleum of Augustus) was built in 28 BC.

The Augustus tomb has received a much needed new lease of life, thanks to a multi-million Euro investment. (Sovrintendenza Capitolina / Rome Culture)

The Augustus tomb has received a much needed new lease of life, thanks to a multi-million Euro investment. ( Sovrintendenza Capitolina / Rome Culture)

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the mausoleum became a castle and military look-out. Later it was used as an auditorium for bull fighting and then for operas. However, having deteriorated so badly it had become extremely dangerous and it was closed fourteen years ago. But now, after a 10-million-euro ($12.25 million) restoration project , the ancient tomb will reopen to the public on March 1st 2021.

 

 

Still Standing after 2000 Years of Turmoil

After Augustus’ massive ancient tomb had become a castle and military look-out, Roman elites used it to host lavish parties. According to an article in The Daily Mail it became “a hanging garden and then an auditorium for bullfighting and firework displays.” It was repurposed for concerts and operas before Benito Mussolini , Italian prime minister from 1922 to 43 and the first of 20th-century Europe's fascist dictators, ordered it to be dismantled.

Latterly, nature reclaimed the site and trees began growing through the floors and walls, and the public had treated it as a dumping site for many years. So, fourteen years ago Italian authorities closed it down. Now, after a three-year-long restoration project, and a costly one at that, the massive tomb is set to reopen in March 2021.

After years of misuse, and being taken over by nature, the Augustus tomb was closed to the public more than fourteen years ago. It has now been rehabilitated thanks to a costly investment. (TIMnewsroom / CC BY 2.0)

After years of misuse, and being taken over by nature, the Augustus tomb was closed to the public more than fourteen years ago. It has now been rehabilitated thanks to a costly investment. (TIMnewsroom / CC BY 2.0 )

Reopening the Largest Circular Tomb Ever Built

Augustus’s mausoleum in Rome is the largest circular tomb in the world. The massive sepulchral structure stands 42 meters (137 feet) high and measures 90 meters (295 feet) in diameter. According to British historian Anthony Everitt in his 2006 book, Augustus: The Life of Rome's First Emperor , in 31 BC Augustus’ forces battled with the armies of Antony at Actium, and the former pursued the later to Alexandria, Egypt. After successfully “dispatching” Antony and Cleopatra , Augustus became the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire, and fittingly, he visited the tomb of another such man: Alexander the Great .

Alexander was thirty-three when he died and Augustus was thirty-three when he ridded himself of Antony, essentially uniting the east with the west. Thus, Alexander's tomb inspired Augustus to build his own grand mausoleum in Rome. Everitt describes the impact this building had on the young Roman. After gazing at Alexander's body for a time, Augustus was asked, “would you now like to visit the Mausoleum of the Ptolemies?” He retorted, “I came to see a king, not a row of corpses.”

Respiritualizing Rome in the Face of Pandemic Fears

A Wanted In Rome article quotes Rome Mayor, Virginia Raggi, as saying that “we need to work for the future and maintain our traditions.” Reopening a monument like this, according to Raggi, “is a signal of hope as we look with good faith towards the future despite the uncertainties of the pandemic.” Italian officials have now confirmed that the site will reopen to tourists on March 1, with free entrance for all until April 21, the day the city marks its founding in 753 BC.

The original Augustus tomb was build in solid marble, that was destroyed and robbed many centuries ago. With the restoration a virtual reality reconstruction at the ancient site will now allow visitors to interact with it as it was 2,000 years ago. At the center of the structure, visitors will see chambers that once held the cremation urns of the Imperial family and Augustus' heirs, and in the very innermost chamber of the ancient mausoleum they will see the sacred spot were the emperor's remains were held, just like Alexander’s.

Top image: Augustus tomb is set to reopen to the public in March 2021. Source: Sovrintendenza Capitolina / Rome Culture

By Ashley Cowie

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