Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ancient war heroes' tomb reopens to public in Rome

Ancient war heroes' tomb reopens to public in Rome

ROME- The Roman tomb of the Scipioni, a family of war heroes and generals, the most famous being Scipio Africanus, who beat Hannibal, is set to open to the public again after twenty years of restoration.

The family's sarcophagi are spread out along a series of underground tunnels dug out of a hill of volcanic tuff near the Baths of Caracalla on the outskirts of the eternal city, which criss-cross a site 11 metres across.

The tomb, which originally lay under a temple, was built at the beginning of the third century A.D by the consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbato, whose elegant sarcophagus holds pride of place at the end of the central gallery.

The Scipio family held high political and military positions, but its most famous member, Scipio Africanus, is absent from the tomb.

The general, who was hailed for defeating Hannibal to end the second Punic War against Carthage, was later accused of stealing public money and he left Rome for Liternum, in the modern-day region of Naples.

The epitaph on his tomb outside Rome says: "Ungrateful fatherland, you will never have my bones."

"At school children learn about the Punic wars - here we have all the protagonists!" said Rita Volpe, the archaeologist responsible for the site in the Roman countryside, surrounded by pine trees and cypresses.

"There is still a lot to do in this archaeological area, it is one of the least known in Rome," she said.

The Scipioni tomb is open to visitors who book a guided tour.