Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Long-Awaited Scipio Tombs Reopen in Rome

NYTimes.com
http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/19/long-awaited-scipio-tombs-reopen-in-rome/

The founder of one of ancient Rome's most illustrious clans, consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbato, began building monumental tombs for his relatives in the third century B.C., and the family continued to use the site as a place of rest until the first century A.D. The site was forgotten, then made into a public park in 1929 and shuttered for restorations in 1992. This week, for the first time in two decades, the tomb of the Scipios has been reopened to the public (Via di Porta Sebastiano 9, www.060608.it).

Among the Scipios entombed there were two of the Punic War's greatest Roman heroes: Scipio Africanus Major, the general who defeated Hannibal and ended the Second Punic War, and Scipio Africanus Minor, who destroyed Carthage and ended the Third Punic War.

Today, the tombs' detailed inscriptions and fine sarcophagi, including the elaborate tomb of Lucius Cornelius himself, have been removed for safekeeping to the Vatican museums (copies remain at the site). But the sepulcher, just off the Appian Way, still has niches for the tombs, tunnels and even fresco fragments.

The work on the tomb included strengthening the tufa it was carved into, since landslides had threatened the site and earlier metal structures were in decay, as well as making the site more understandable to visitors. Thanks to the work, the sepulcher is now open to visitors every Saturday morning, on guided visits only, with a maximum of 12 people per group. So far, the tours are only in Italian. To book the eight-euro visit, call 39-060-608.