The large mausoleum of Emperor Augustus in Rome, located between the central shopping street Via del Corso and the river Tiber, is finally open to the public after fourteen years of restoration. The cypress-surrounded mausoleum can now be viewed at the top for the first time.
During a guided tour we see how huge the circular tomb is, which was built just before the beginning of the era. With its diameter of 90 meters, it is even the largest in the world. It is a complex structure, full of thick round walls, corridors and stairs.
Guide Ersilia Maria Loreti tells, as we walk in, about all sorts of different functions that the mausoleum of the first emperor of Rome has had. It was once a quarry. “Later it became a private garden of a family, then it became an amphitheater where bullfights were even held in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Then it became a theatre and then in the twentieth century it became an auditorium where concerts were held and important conductors performed,” says the guide.
But the fascist regime of Benito Mussolini wanted the mausoleum to regain its original function. Emperor Augustus had to be restored again, for fascism liked to hold back on the cult of the Roman Empire. Mussolini even thought it would be a good idea to be buried there, with a large image of himself as Duce on the spot where once a statue of Emperor Augustus had stood. But that wouldnt happen.
A lot changed under fascism. The entire area of the mausoleum was demolished from 1936. Two years later, a new square was built around the mausoleum, the current piazza Augusto Imperatore (Emperor Augustus Square, red.). On the side of the square is also the Ara Pacis, the Altar of Peace. It was built in honor of peace in the Roman Empire that had been achieved after Emperor Augustus returned from campaigns on the Iberian Peninsula and in Gaul.
But over the past decades, the mausoleum has depoverished. Remarkable, because Augustus was such an important emperor. Another mausoleum, that of Emperor Hadrian, is more famous. The building known as Castel SantAngelo is beautifully located on the Tiber River. From there you have a magnificent view over Rome, the river and the nearby St. Peters Basilica. The view of the mausoleum of Augustus, which is larger and has now been restored, cannot be compared to that.