Saturday, January 11, 2020


Via di Porta S. Sebastiano 9

Beginning of the third century BC for Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbato, consul in 298 BC, whose sarcophagus, the only one of this family grave to remain intact, occupied the place of honor and it is now in the Vatican Museums together with the original inscriptions

Thanks to the numerous ancient citations, and especially thanks to Cicero’s writings, we know that it was in use until the beginning of the first century BC and that the main body of the structure was virtually complete by the first half of the second century BC

Rediscovered, even though the approximate location was known thanks to the sources, on two occasions, in 1616 and in 1780, during works for the construction of a cellar
It was devastated by the excavations conducted with the destructive methods of those times and it was fully restored in 1926

It is known that here were also the remains of a stranger to the family: the poet Ennius, of which Cicero says there was also a marble statue

None of the Scipios more familiar to us, the African, the Asian and Hispanic were buried here, but, according to Livy and Seneca, they were buried in their villa in Liternum

The inscriptions on the sarcophagi (only on seven) allow us to date the use of the hypogeum until the year 150 BC, when the structure was complete and was joined by another room, of square shape but not in axis with the first, where a few other family members were buried

In that same period a solemn “rocky” FAÇADE was built, when the tomb became a sort of family museum
The decoration is attributed to the initiative of Scipio Aemilianus, and it is a prime example of the Hellenization of Roman culture during in the second century BC

The last known use of the tomb took place in the period of Claudius and Nero (41/68), when were buried here the daughter and granddaughter of Cornelius Lentulus Getelicus determined by ideological reasons related to their descent from the Scipios

It is divided into two distinct parts:

1) The main body dug in tufa stone with a plan more or less square

2) A connecting tunnel of a later period, built of brick, with a separate entrance

The regularity of the system leads to believe that the excavation was done specifically for the tomb and the possibility that it could have been the recycling of an old tufa quarry does not seem plausible
By the third century AD the tomb was obliterated and embedded in other buildings

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