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 p484  Sepulcrum Scipionum

Article on pp484‑486 of

Samuel Ball Platner (as completed and revised by Thomas Ashby):
A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome,
London: Oxford University Press, 1929.

Sepulcrum Scipionum: * the family tomb of the Cornelii Scipiones near the via Appia, about 400 metres south-east of the point where the via Latina branched off to the east, and at the intersection of a cross road that connected the two great viae. The importance of the family made this one of the most notable monuments of the kind in Rome (cf. Cic. Tusc. I.13: an tu egressus porta Capena, cum Calatini Scipionum Serviliorum Metellorum sepulcra vides, miseros illos putes?). Ennius was buried in this tomb, and his marble statue erected by Africanus (Cic. pro Arch. 22; Plin. NH VII.114; Suet. de poet. 8; Liv. XXXVIII.56).  p485 The statues of Publius and Lucius Scipio are also said to have been placed in the tomb (Liv. loc. cit.).

As the Scipios regularly followed the practice of inhumation and not cremation (Cic. de legg. II.57), the tomb was filled with sarcophagi, arranged for the most part in loculi cut in the tufa rock. (It is probable that there was a quarry here before the tomb was made.) The tomb was opened early in the seventeenth century, and one sarcophagus, that of L. Scipio, consul in 259 B.C., was broken and its inscribed lid removed, but the final excavation of the monument was carried out in 1780 (Piranesi e Visconti, Monumenti degli Scipioni, Roma 1785 = Visconti, Opere varie, Milan 1827, I.1‑70; Nibby, Roma Antica, II.561‑575). Many of the sarcophagi were then broken and their contents scattered (CIL I2. pp373‑375), though Hülsen, to whom the description of the tomb in CIL cit. is due, considers that much of the damage had already been done in the fourth century; but one, that of L. Scipio Barbatus, consul in 298 B.C., and apparently the first to be buried there, was preserved and is now in the Vatican, together with portions of several others and their original inscriptions. These inscriptions (CIL I2.6‑16 = VI.1284‑1294) record the burial of eight members of the family, from Barbatus (vid. sup.) to Paulla Cornelia, wife of a certain Hispallus of unknown date but probably later than 150 B.C. (RE IV.1600, No. 445). Some of them are written in the Saturnian metre and are extremely valuable for the history of Latin literature and phonology, but they are probably later than the date usually assigned to them. That of Barbatus, for instance, is probably not earlier than the second Punic war (Bücheler, Carm. Lat. Epig. I. Nos. 6‑9; Wölfflin, Bayr. Sitz.-Ber. 1892, I.188‑219). Of the sarcophagi, that of Barbatus alone was decorated with a Doric entablature with Ionic volutes. The others were perfectly plain. See LR 323‑329; HJ 200, 211 and reff.

The tomb has quite recently been completely cleared, and restored as far as possible to its original condition, facsimiles of the sarcophagus of Barbatus and of the inscriptions having been put in their proper places. Its façade lay on the cross-road already mentioned, and consisted of the natural rock, which had been hewn vertically and coated with plaster for a length of some 25 m. The paintings with which this façade was decorated are fragmentary. In it are two openings — the main entrance, the ancient form of which has completely disappeared, and what has generally been believed to be an arched doorway, but is far more likely to be a window. Within the rock are passages, originally quite regular, but much altered in the third and fourth centuries A.D. (when a house was built over the tomb, and the rock consequently needed reinforcement) as well as in modern days:​1 an idea of their original form may be  p486 gained from the restoration (p10) in Ephemeris Dacico-Romana, I. (1923), 1‑56, which contains a careful account of the tomb before the recent excavations, with illustrations, and a plan which supersedes all previous ones. To the south-west of the tomb are rooms belonging to the house already mentioned (Capitolium, II.24‑31; III.27‑32; YW 1927).

The Authors' Note:

1 Nibby, cit. 562, wrongly attributes the supporting walls entirely to modern reconstruction. The plan he gives of the tomb (engraved by Cottafavi) served as the basis of the plan in CIL cit.

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