Vatican Opens Ancient Roman Necropolis of Nero's Era to Visitors After 70 Years of Research [PHOTOS, VIDEO]
The Vatican has finally unveiled the results of excavations that lasted from the 1950s to 2003. Starting November 17, every Friday and Saturday, visitors can explore the Via Triumphalis Necropolis in Rome by prior reservation on the Vatican Museums website.
As reported on the official Vatican website, while the necropolis was previously accessible only to certain groups of scholars and specialists, it is now open to all visitors for an exhibition titled 'Life and Death in Caesar's Rome.'
In preparation for the anniversary, the Vatican has opened the gates of Santa Rosa near Piazza Risorgimento to tourists, usually closed to visitors as they are used by staff entering the parking area.
This unique archaeological site sheds light on the lives of the lower and middle classes of Roman society.
Within its boundaries, marble sarcophagi stand next to open graves, surrounded by stunning Roman mosaics and frescoes. Since Roman law prohibited cremation and burial of the deceased within the city for safety and hygiene reasons, cemeteries were located along roads outside the city limits.
The newly revealed details allow for schematic biographies of modest individuals who lived almost two thousand years ago. For instance, Bitus, a slave who died at the age of 23 and six months, or Alcimus, a decorator in the Pompey Theatre, is depicted with work tools in hand, including a triangle and other measuring instruments.
'The first core of this necropolis,' says Claudia Valeri, curator of the Greek and Roman Antiquities Department at the Vatican Museums, 'was found between 1956 and 1958 during the construction of the underground car park. These were the excavations of Filippo Magi, the then inspector of antiquities and head of the excavation department.'
More than just a visit to the necropolis, this is a journey through time that helps us understand who the working class of Ancient Rome was, how they lived, and how they envisioned family and societal relationships during the transition from paganism to Christianity.
A virtually unique river, capable of reviving the memory of people usually forgotten by history, giving them identity and place: stonemasons, labourers, former slaves, tanners, knights, craftsmen, artists with their families, slave-lantern bearers with their task of carrying lamps when the master went out in the evening, accompanying him on the road, providing light.