Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas

Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas

The Parco degli Scipioni, located between the Via Appia, the Mura Aureliane and the Via Latina, It hides in its basement the most suggestive Roman sepulchral monuments: The columbarium of Pomponio Hylas. This collective tomb, discovered in 1831 by Pietro Campana, is decorated with frescoes, stucco and rock paintings in excellent state of preservation, and is datable from the first half of the first century A.C. The tomb was constantly used for more than a century.

The most importants colombaria date from Augustus' Age to Tiberius' Age (31 B.C - 37 A.D.). They were collective graves, usually realized by cooperatives of small independent entrepreneurs or sole entrepreneurs (that was set free slaves, who established successful commerce activities). Colombaria consisted of hypogean chambers composed of numerous niches containing the funerary urns and, at the bottom, the engraved inscriptions (or simply painted) of the names of the deaths. They were reused several times, so that under the influence of Claudio, (41-54 A.D.) they did not build it almost any more and from the IIth century, with the gradual passage from the funeral rite of the incineration to the burial, it began to appear sarcophagus and also tombstones. The masonery techniques was almost always brick: then, walls were dressed again of marble plates, small columns or eardrums or simply with colored fillers decorated with polychromatic putties. The Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas does not make an exception, although its scheme and its extension are much wider.

The tomb was reached by a steep staircase, still preserved. On the wall opposite the stairs there is a niche with an apse decorated with calcareous concretions that must contain the cineraria (recently recognized in the Cathedral of Ravello). On the niche are engraved the names of the past owners of the columbarium: Cn(aei) Pomponi Hylae e Pomponiae Cn(aei) l((ibertae) Vitalinis. Under the names, two griffins joined with a central lyre. The letter "v" above the woman's name means that the widow was still alive when he composed the inscription, which dates back to the Flavian Dynasty (79-96 A.D.).

Among the magnificent decorations of the columbarium and the numerous inscriptions with formulas aimed at Gods hands, we see two characters painted on the gable end niche, Granius Nestor e Vinileia Hedone probably the first owners of the columbarium.


And then various background mythological scenes to accompany the last trip the ashes of people who were laid here over time and movingly shed light on the relationship that the ancient Romans had with death. Thus we find Dionysus and Orpheus, Achilles educated by the centaur Chiron, the rare myth Ocno and the donkey which bites him the rope, Hercules and the three-headed dog Cerberus, and the time of the columbarium a fine rural landscape painting stucco with geniuses, funerals, cupids, birds and even small insects.



duration 1 hour
type hypogeum
entrance ticket not included entrance ticket not included
special opening special opening (please let me know a few days in advance, because we need to ask for a special permission to the superintendence)



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