Project Description

Underground Rome: The Sepulcher of the Scipios on the Via Appia

Both the Sepulcher of the Scipios and the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas sit between the Via Appia and the Via Latina.  This was prime real-estate for a family tomb, especially because the Via Appia had just been inaugurated as a major “highway.”  The Scipios didn’t mind the expense and it only brought their prestigious family more prestige.  While the famous war-hero Scipio Africanus was probably buried at his country estate in Liternum, the Sepulcher still hosts several generations of his relatives and descendants.  For the most part, the tombs and their inscriptions have been looted.  For example, you’ll find Scipio Barbatus’s tomb in the Vatican Museums.  Yet those that survive in situ help document the Scipios’ political achievements as well as changes in culture and language towards the the end of the Republic.

inside the sepulcher of the scipios

Changes over the Centuries…

The Scipios could have hardly imagined that the neighborhood would go to Hades in a hand-basket after several hundred years! First, a group of liberti (ex-slaves) invested in property–right next-door.  (The nerve!)  They used it for their columbarium (seen in the picture)–a high density solution to burial that cut costs.  Soon after that, however, building contractors erected an apartment building on the Scipio family’s forgotten plot!  After all, Rome was bursting at the seams with one million or more inhabitants.  And multi-story concrete and brick apartment buildings sprouted along the Via Appia and the Via Latina as they became heavily developed residential areas.  And then, as the late Empire feared enemy invasions, the Aurelian Walls encircled apartment buildings and tombs alike…

the columbarium or multi-occupant underground tomb near the scipios

The Sepulcher of the Scipios on the Via Appia is a short visit and pairs up nicely with the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas.  While it also complements other underground attractions (like San Clemente, Vicus Caprarius, and/or the Nymphaeum of Annibaldi), visitors are welcomed to pair it up with any other tours they think appropriate.  Since the site is not central, visitors may want to get there by cab.  Otherwise, if this visit is paired up with the Via Appia, the nearby hill-towns of Frascati, or other attractions outside of the historic center, using a private driver may make more sense.  Please ask for more information!

Visiting the site requires a special permission and a timed (private) entrance.  Visits are limited to an hour.  Besides a 4 euro / per person ticket, there is a one-time euro 25 reservation surcharge.  For more information, please see “the costs” section of this webpage.

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