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THE COLUMBARIUM OF HYLAS

written by Rosie Lehmann with Sergio Cagga and  Paul Gwynne for Nerone the Insider's Guide to Rome

 

When the Spring blows in all its lively beauty the only thing I feel like doing is riding my bike among the wonders of the historical centre watching the people enjoying Rome. But another of my favourite destinations is the beautiful ancient Appian Way. There, surrounded by the evocative remains of when it was the most important road of the Roman empire I stop for a sandwich, a beaker of wine and afterwards a little nap! Can you think of anything any closer to paradise? 

 

The Colombari, collective sepulchres that often contained hundreds of graves, generally belonged to a modest class of people that could not afford individual monuments. An association, collegia that accepted monthly payments and guaranteed a decorous and dignified burial, was organized to build and to care for the colombari. Those along the Appian Way were built in the first century A.D. THE COLUMBARIUM OF POMPONIUS HYLAS by Rosie Lehmann Although called the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas who lived in the Flavian period (69-117A.D.) it was actually constructed in the time of the Emperors Tiberius and Clodius (14-54 A.D.) as inscriptions on two of the niches containing cinerary urns show. One is dedicated to a freed slave of Tiberius and the other to a freed slave of Octavia daughter of Claudius and Messalina, who must have done very well for themselves to have been interred in such a pretty columbarium. 

 

The columbariun was discovered in 1831, completely intact, even the steep narrow steps leading down in to it are original. If you can, pause to get a good look of the mosaic panel which reads CN(aei) POMPONI HYLAE E(t) POMPONIAE CN(aei) L(ibertae) VITALINIS (To Cnaeus Pomponius Hylas and Pomponia Cnaeus the freed woman of Vitalinus). There is a V (standing for vivit) over the name of his wife Pomponia which indicates that she was living at the time the monument was put up. The panel is decorated with two griffons. It is thought that Pomponius bought the columbarium not only to insure a place for his own remains but also as a financial investment as he could sell off the vacant spaces. The Columbarium is very small, indeed ten people are more that a crowd. Permission is needed for a visit which is conducted by the custodian who will provide a leafled of information in Italian.