Ancient Rome discovers the charm of Egyptian culture in the first century b.C. , after the conquests of Julius Caesar and Augustus.
Since that time, the Egyptian evidences in the city multiply. .and we are not only talking about the obelisks.
Lets think of the Cestia Pyramid, the tomb of a rich politician; covered in Carrara marble, has survived to marble looters because it belongs within the defensive walls, as a fortified tower. But this was not the only pyramid in Rome.,
One stood in the area now occupied by the church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Piazza del Popolo. Another pyramid was in the Vatican area, at the beginning of the current Via della Conciliazione, it was demolished in 1499, but appears in the bronze doors designed by Filarete for the St. Peter’s Basilica and in the fresco “The appearance of the Cross” by Giulio Romano in the Sala di Costantino in the Vatican Palaces.Obelisks and pyramids: a corner of Egypt on the Tiber. But in the city there were also temples and sacelli (shrines – small sacred buildings ) dedicated to the Egyptian gods , especially Isis and Serapis. Unfortunately, very little remains.
The most important temple, of Isis and Serapis Campense, was located in the area of the Pantheon. The remains lie beneath the palace of the seminary and the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and Santo Stefano del Cacco. The strange name of this church comes from the discovery of a statue of the Egyptian god Anubis with the head in the shape of dog: the Romans , thinking it was a monkey, had called the ” macacco ” following “cacco”..that actually in Italian sounds a bit wacky 😉
The obelisks of Piazza Navona, Piazza della Rotonda , Piazza della Minerva and Piazza dei Cinquecento come from the Campense temple.
On the slopes of the Quirinale’s hill there was the temple of Serapis: the remains are still visible between the Palazzo Colonna and the Gregorian University in Piazza della Pilotta.
Even on the Aventine, there was a temple dedicated to Serapis; what remains is lying beneath the church of Santa Sabina.
Among via Labicana and the Colosseum , is positioned piazza Iside, an important place of worship, you can admire today the impressive remains inserted between the Roman buildings of 19th century.
There are numerous Egyptian sculptures in the city: the statue of the Nile, now in the Chiaramonti Vatican Museum; the two lions that decorate the “Fontain dell’acqua Felice” at the corner in Via XX Settembre; lions at the foot of the steps of the Campidoglio (Capitol); a statue in Piazza San Marco (the Roman one!), adjacent to Piazza Venezia, depicting Isis or a priestess (the Romans, who rank among the so-called talking statues , call her Madama Lucrezia – See our previous post: https://seadreamsexcursions.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/the-talking-statues-of-rome/ ).
Still, a large marble foot gives its name to the homonymous street, a statue of the Egyptian cult; and , finally, a marble cat walled on the ledge of Palazzo Grazioli: Of course, we are in Via della Gatta (the street of the cat).
I find this Egyptian presence into one of the world’s richest Capital a really interesting story! Too bad not much remains.. but it’s like a city treasure hunt and it fits very well with ancient Egypt; it enriches the Eternal City of charm and mystery!