Tomb of Caecilia Metella history
The great tomb is believed to have been built for a woman named Cecilia Metella. She was the daughter of a consul of Rome and was born into a wealthy family known as the Caecilius Metellus family. This family was one of the most important and wealthiest families in the Roman Republic during the 3rd century BC and all the way to the end of the republic.
The Caecilius Metellus
They held both important political seats as well as several military positions. By comparing Caecilia Metella’s name to her family name, one will see that they are practically the same. Caecilia Metella was actually the name of all women in the Caecilius Metellus family, since feminine names were often taken from the father’s family tree.
This particular Caecilia Metella is believed to have been born around year 100 BC. She was later married to a powerful legate to Julius Caesar. The exact reason and time of her death is still unknown. Exactly when this tomb was raised is also unknown, but it is believed to have been built towards the end of the Roman Republic, around year 50 BC.
Why visit Tomb of Caecilia Metella ?
The tomb of Caecilia Metella, located along the Appian Way, is hard to miss as it dominates the surroundings with its massive tower.
Even though the tomb itself is more or less in ruins, it is still an inspiring structure. The tomb stands roughly 20 meters tall, as the tower itself measures 11 meters while the base is almost 7 meters. The tower is constructed by beautiful tight fitting Tiburtine stone, fixed together without any use of mortar.
The upper level of the tower is decorated with a marble freezing, depicting ram and oxen heads surrounded by flowers. These oxen images have actually given the area its nickname, Capo di Bove – The head of the ox.
The sarcophagus of Caecilia Metella was placed in a central funerary cell within this massive tower. By looking at the cylindrical body, about halfway up, visitors can see an inscription facing the Appian Way. Translated, this inscription says “”To Caecilia Metella, daughter of Quintus Creticus and wife of Crassus”.
The Caetani Castle
However, visitors to the site will quickly discover that the tomb of today consists of more than just the cylindrical tower. These other parts make up the Caetani Castle. These fortifications, stretching along both sides of the Appian Way, defended this important road and thus the southern entrance to Rome.
It was built in the early 14th century by the Caetani, also known as the Gaetani family, by which they incorporated the tomb into their castle. The castle ruins provide an excellent example of medieval Italian architecture.
A popular site
Today, the sarcophagus of Caecilia Metella is no longer inside the tower, but has been moved to the Palazzo Farnese in Rome. Despite this, the tomb is still a very popular place.
It not only visited by thousands of tourists, but it is also a loved picnic place for locals. A lot of locals also come to the Tomb of Caecilia Metella to have their wedding pictures taken.
Tomb of Caecilia Metella location
The whole area is well served by public transport, but is also easily accessed by foot or bicycle, as the Appian Way is a popular hiking road.
For the exact location of the Tomb of Caecilia Metella, check out the location map to the right.