BMCR 2022.06.05

Il Mausoleo di Giuliu Cesare a Roma. Ricerche storiche e topografiche

, Il Mausoleo di Giuliu Cesare a Roma. Ricerche storiche e topografiche. Antichita’ Romane, 35. Rome: Arbor Sapientiae, 2020. Pp. 62. ISBN 9788831341141. €18,00.

Il Mausoleo di Giulio Cesare a Roma. Ricerche storiche e topografiche presents a well-illustrated argument for the location of the tomb of one of the best-known figures of the Roman world: Caius Julius Caesar. The first version of the book was published in 2001 and has now been enriched with new illustrations and corrected (although the parts of the book that have been changed are not specified in the preface). Peter Caligari uses literary, archaeological, and epigraphic sources to propose a new theory about the location of the tomb. The twelve chapters follow Caligari’s thought: the book starts with Caesar’s death, continues with the literary and archaeological evidence the author examines, and finishes with the presumed location of the tomb.

The first two chapters present the literary sources. He introduces the different passages in Suetonius (Lives of the Caesars, Caius Julius Caesar, LXXX-LXXXIX) that refer to the last moments of Caesar’s life, at the Curia of Pompey on the day of the Ides of March, and the first moments after his death. Using Dio Cassius, Livius, Plutarch and Suetonius, he discusses the hypothesis that Caesar was buried, together with his daughter Julia, in the Campus Martius.

In subsequent chapters Caligari attempts to determine the exact position of the Sepulcrum Iuliorum. He understands a fragment of the marble Forma Urbis to show the location of Agrippa’s funerary monument, near the Via del Gesù[1] and suggests that Caesar’s tomb could not have been placed in this area, because two funerary monuments of this importance are unlikely to have been placed next to one another. He reduces to two the possible locations: Monte Cenci and Monticello. In subsequent chapters, Caligari explores these two hypotheses to finally associate a walled area at Monte Cenci with the remains of a portico and the discovery of two monumental statues of the Dioscuri (later placed at the top of the stairs of the Capitoline) in the zone, and proposes that the structure and the statues were part of the tomb of the gens Iulia.[2] Moreover, Caligari adduces a statue of Caesar on Tiber Island mentioned by Tacitus and Suetonius, the use of the place name “In Iulia” in the area of Monte Cenci in the Middle Ages, and inscriptions referring to the gens Iulia to argue that Caesar’s funerary monument must have been located in the area.

Furthermore, the author connects the Mausoleum of Augustus with the presumed location of Caius Julius Caesar’s tomb. He observes that Monte Cenci is located on the same axis as the hill of the Mausoleum of Augustus and argues that the distance between these two hills is precisely one Roman mile. For Caligari, these are not coincidences; the choice of this precise location for his tomb must have been a way for Augustus to show the continuity of the dynasty. The last chapter focuses on a hypothetical description of the tomb of Caius Julius Caesar. Finally, Caligari insists that the evidence enumerated in the book must be taken as a whole and cannot be examined separately, and he hopes that future archeological researches will confirm his hypothesis on the location of the Sepulcrum Iuliorum.

Caligari presents an interesting theory about the location of Caius Julius Caesar’s funerary monument, but some of his statements are not based on reliable archaeological evidence. For example, he concludes too positively that the two statues of Castor and Pollux originally belonged to Caesar’s mausoleum simply because they have a funerary connotation and were found at Monte Cenci. His arguments sometimes contradict one another. For example, in the second chapter, Caligari states that Caesar’s ashes were placed in the family tomb where his daughter lay on the Campus Martius. In chapter five, however, he says that the Caesar’s tomb was separate from that of his daughter, when he mentions the miraculous episode on Augustus’ return after Caesar’s death, in which a bolt of lightning struck Julia’s tomb.

Due to the briefness of the chapters and lack of evidence, it becomes sometimes difficult to understand the author’s point. The bibliography should have been expanded to include more recent literature both about Caesar and the topography of Rome (especially as this is a reprint of a book published almost two decades ago). Although interesting, the book only presents one theory about the location of this tomb and does not engage in a discussion on the subject, leaving no place for an alternative answer to the research question.

Table of contents

Premessa, p. 7
I. Le Idi di Marzo, p. 9
II. Il sito del Campo Marzio, p. 19
III. La Forma Urbis, p. 25
IV. Il Monte Cenci ed il Monticello, p. 27
V. Il « Vicus Aescleti », p. 34
VI. Le notizie degli scavi, p. 38
VII. La Cripta Balbi ed i Dioscuri capitolini, p. 44
VIII. La statua di Cesare sull’Isola Tiberina, p. 50
IX. La contrada « in Iulia », p. 51
X. Le iscrizioni funerarie dei Giulii, p. 52
XI. Il Mausoleo di Augusto, p. 53
XII. Il Mausoleo di Cesare, p. 58
Indice e didascalie delle illustrazioni nel testo, p. 61
Referenze bibliografiche, p. 63
Referenze fotografiche, p. 64


[1] The location of Agrippa’s tomb is still object of an on-going debate by scholars. Carandini argues that it would have been placed in Piazza del Popolo, in the exact location of Santa Maria dei Miracoli Church (Carandini, A., La Roma di Augusto in 100 monumenti, Novara, De Agostini libri – Utet, 2014, pp. 410-412).

[2] Another hypothesis for the interpretation of the remains of the portico in Via di Santa Maria de’ Calderai suggests that this structure might actually belong to the reconstruction of the Villa Publica after the fire of 80 AD in the Campus Martius (in Coarelli, F., Rome and environs. An Archaeological Guide, University of California Press, 2007, p. 273).