"Via di Porta San Sebastiano and Burial Tomb of Scipio (Scipioni)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Sunday 10th July 2011
Before arriving at Porta San Sebastiano - the ancient Porta Appia in the city walls built in the second half of the third century A.D. by the Emperor Aurelian - there existed (and still exists under the names of Via delle Terme di Caracalla and Via di Porta San Sebastiano) the initial stretch of the road, almost a mile long that, starting off from Porta Capena in the walls of the republic dating from the fourth century B.C., became incorporated in the city with the building of the Aurelian Walls, through which the Via Appia, now the Via di Porta San Sebastiano at that location, left the city in a southeasterly direction.
From Porta San Sebastiano, inside which is located the interesting Museum of the Walls, the road runs down slightly following the ancient Clivo di Marte thus called after the sanctuary arising there and of which a number of remains were recently unearthed.
At present, Via di Porta San Sebastiano is a busy street with quick traffic, which, as everywhere in Rome, destroys the atmosphere of history and beauty. On both sides of the street there are gardens, most of them are private and closed for public, ancient doorways, ruins and beautiful vegetation.
Along Via di Porta S.Sebastiano, nearly in the end of it is a famous Sepolcro degli Scipioni (Tomb of Scipio) or Sepolcreto degli Scipioni (Burial of Scipio), the family cemetery of the noble Scipione family. It was discovered in 1780 and arranged in 1929. It represents a number of galleries where for a long time were preserved the remains of the family. The first tomb belonged to consul Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus in 298 b.C. The last tomb was made here in the middle of the 2nd century b.C.
This burial ground is situated near the Via Appia, just off Porta San Sebastiano (the entrance is from street number 9 of via di Porta San Sebastiano) in an area that includes several funeral complexes. The tomb was discovered in 1780 by the Sassi brothers, who were the owners of the land at the time.
In 1926, the Sovraintendenza del Comune di Roma consolidated the monument, systemized copies of the funerary inscriptions and connected them with the sarcophagi, the originals of which were removed. The tomb, dug out of a natural bank of cappellaccio, belonged to the family of Cornelius Scipioni, one of the most ancient and celebrated patritian families of ancient Rome. It was constructed in the early decades of the third century BC by Lucius Cornelius Scipione Barbato, who was consul in 298 BC; to emphasize his importance as family founder, his sarcophagus was placed in a dominant position at the back of the central corridor (The original is found in the Vatican Museums together with other funerary inscriptions).
Around the middle of the second century the tomb was enlarged by digging out a smaller single room next to the first one. The external facade also dates back to this period. It consists of a high base with a moulded frame and is surmounted by a prospect of six semicolumns that framed three niches, where the statues of the poet Ennius, Scipio Africanus and Scipio Aemilianus were probably placed.
The tomb, nearly squared in form, has vaults supported by four large pilasters which divide the sides into four galleries; two additional galleries cross perpendicularly at the center. The sarcophagi of the Scipioni were placed around the walls and encased in them (third to the mid-second century BC), excluding Scipioni Nasica and Scipione Africanus (buried in the villa di Literno) who were not remembered by the inscriptions.
The base was decorated with paintings of historical scenes and a stylized wave motif. Traces of the decorations remain. Three arched doors open on the same base: a blind door (now replaced by a passage that leads to a medieval calcar that has partly damaged the tomb), a central door that led into the more ancient tomb and a door on the right (the only one still preserved) that accesses the more recent tomb. When the Cornelii Scipiones family died away at the beginning of the empire, the tomb was reused shortly in the Julian-Claudian Age (beginning of the first century AD) by their heirs the Cornelii Lentuli that used some of the loculi for cremations.
NOTE: The monument is closed for maintenance until further notice.
Via di Porta San Sebastiano and Burial Tomb of Scipio (Scipioni)
Via di Porta San Sebastiano, 9 (Rione XIX - Celio, Municipio I, Regio I - Porta Capena)
00179, Rome, Lazio, Italy
Zone: Rione Celio (Terme di Caracalla) (Roma centro)
Via di Porta San Sebastiano and Burial Tomb of Scipio (Scipioni) is Shown By "Map K Zone" As "91"