The Tomba degli Scipioni is located near the Porta San Sebastiano in Rome. It is the family burial place of the Scipio family. Many of the sarcophagi and objects found in the tomb are on display in the Vatican Museums.
Tomba degli Scipioni Rome
Address: Via di Porta San Sebastiano, 9 – Rome.
Phone: (+39) 060608. (Information number of the city of Rome.)
Opening hours: Only for groups with a guide. The cost of the guide is not included in the ticket. Booking is mandatory.
Closed: January 1, May 1, December 25.
Admission: 4 Euros (discount 3 Euros)
Public transport: Bus 118, 218.
Wheelchair access: The monument is only partly accessible.
History and description
The Scipio were a family of war heroes and generals and had fought, and won, many battles, especially in what is now Algeria. The burial place was founded by the consul Lucio Cornelio Scipione Barbato, in the 3rd century BC.
The most famous general was called Scipione Africano Maggiore, notorious for having defeated Hannibal in the Battle of Zama (202).
The monument is square and consists of six hallways. Four of these run along the sides and the other two meet in the middle. The sarcophagus of Scipione stood at the end of the central hallway. The alcoves containing the other tombs were dug out into the tuff stone walls.
Around the year 150 BC, a new hallway was excavated on the Via Appia side. It had its own entrance. At the same time the building got a new facade, with statues of Publio and Lucio Scipione, plus the poet Ennio, who had written many eulogies of the family.
The last burials took place in the early 1st century AD. By then the Scipio themselves were extinct, but the Corneli Lentuli, a side branch of the family, decided to utilize the sepulchre.
The sarcophagi that can be seen are all copies, since the originals were moved to the Vatican Museums.
In 1780, the family owning the land on top of the sepulchral area, during excavations to enlarge their cellar, found one of the entrances to the sepulchre. This was not the first time the archaeological area was “discovered”, but it was the first time the monument was thoroughly searched. The objects and inscriptions that were found were also brought to the Vatican Museums.
Between 1926 and 1929 the area was further excavated. The tomb was restored and a public park was created behind the area. The entrance to this Parco degli Scipioni is in the Via Latina.
There are traces of later buildings in the archaeological area around the Scipio Tomb. One of these is a medieval calcara, a circular space where mortar was made. The still visible three floor building on top of the sepulcher was built during the imperial period.