During a guided tour we see how gigantic the circular tomb is, which was built just before the beginning of the era. With a diameter of 90 meters, it is even the largest in the world. It is a complex structure, full of thick round walls, corridors and stairs.
As we walk inside, guide Ersilia Maria Loreti tells about all kinds of different functions that the mausoleum of the first emperor of Rome had. It was once a quarry. “Later it became a private garden of a family, then it became an amphitheater where bullfights were even held in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Then it became a theater and then in the twentieth century it became an auditorium where concerts were held and important conductors performed, ”says the guide.
The mausoleum can now be viewed from the top for the first time.
Ⓒ Dutch Height / AFP
But Benito Mussolini’s fascist regime wanted the mausoleum to return to its original function. Emperor Augustus had to be restored, because fascism liked to fall back on the cult of the Roman Empire. Mussolini even thought it would be a good idea to be buried there himself, too, with a big picture of himself as Duce on the spot where a statue of Emperor Augustus had once stood. But that would not happen.
A lot changed under fascism. The entire area surrounding the mausoleum was demolished from 1936. Two years later a new square was built around the mausoleum, the current piazza Augusto Imperatore (Emperor Augustus square, ed.). On the side of the square is also the Ara Pacis, the Altar of Peace. It was built in honor of the peace in the Roman Empire that was achieved after Emperor Augustus returned from campaigns in the Iberian peninsula and Gaul.
The building is full of corridors and stairs.
Ⓒ Dutch Height / AFP
But in recent decades the mausoleum has become impoverished. Remarkable, because Augustus was such an important emperor. Another mausoleum, that of Emperor Hadrian, is more famous. The building, better known as Castel Sant’Angelo, is beautifully situated on the Tiber. From there you have a magnificent view over Rome, the river and the nearby St. Peter’s Basilica. The view of the mausoleum of Augustus, which is larger and has now also been restored, cannot match that.