Italy is back in lockdown again, but the good news is that the Mausoleum of Augustus reopened on 1 March.
The Mausoleum is situated just behind the Ara Pacis, which you will find on the Lungotevere, nearly opposite the Law Courts (Corte Suprema di Cassazione) at the end of Ponte Cavour – head for Ponte Sant’ Angelo and you will see the impressive Law Courts to the right of the fortress. Walk along the Lungotevere without crossing the road to the bridge and you will find Ara Pacis and behind it, the Mausoleum.
before it was restored, the Mausoleum was used as a refuse tip and was buried for around one hundred years – not a very dignified end for Rome’s first emperor, Augustus.
Augustus was the great nephew of Julius Caesar and was also his adopted son and named successor. He had been born Gaius Octavius Thurinus on 23 September 63 BC. He ruled from 27 BC – 19 August AD 14. Caesar had been assassinated in 44 BC.
Augustus defeated the combined forces of Antony and Cleopatra at the naval battle of Actium in 31 BC. The battle signalled his supreme power over the Roman empire and he took the title of emperor in 27 BC.
The Mausoleum is a rotunda, the entrance to which is situated near the corner of Via di Ripetta, a little farther along the Lungotevere. Excavations of what was essentially a rubbish dump began in 2007. It is thought to be the largest circular tomb in the world – and measures an impressive 87 metres in diameter and 42 metres high. It was constructed by Emperor Augustus after he came to power, with building works starting in 28 BC.
The Mausoleum is thought to be on such a grand scale to house the tombs of the dynasty Augustus would found when he became emperor. His wife Livia was interred in the Mausoleum, as well as his successors, Tiberius, Caligula and Nerva. The famous general Agrippa, who was a friend of Augustus, was also buried in the Mausoleum.
Augustus had testimony of some of his many triumphs inscribed on the interior walls, which reflect some of the inscriptions on the Ara Pacis Augustae, which he built. His reign heralded a time of peace for the Roman Empire, after many years of strife – and the Ara Pacis Augustae (Peace Altar of Augustus) had images of the goddess of harmony and marriage, Concordia, and Mother Earth embellished on it.
The Mausoleum fell into disrepair after WWII – the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had identified himself with Emperor Augustus during his rule and had been responsible for moving the Ara Pacis, which stands in front of the Mausoleum, to its current position. The association with Fascism post-war cast a shadow over the peaceful reign of Emperor Augustus. Before its excavation and restoration, it was used by rough sleepers, as well as a refuse tip, despite the fact it is in an exclusive area of Rome, near designer stores.
Now visitors to Rome will be able to see the Mausoleum restored to its former glory and celebrate the peaceful reign of the first emperor of Rome, who finally brought to an end the turbulent years of his predecessors.
Until travel and visiting restrictions are lifted, you can visit the Mausoleum of Augustus online.