ARVISE ARMELLINI –
The resting place of Augustus, the first emperor of ancient Rome, will be restored and opened to the public within the next two years, putting an end to decades of neglect, local authorities said on Tuesday.
“Rome is once again taking care of the heritage left to us by the past and making it available to its citizens and visitors from allover the world,” Mayor Virginia Raggi, a leading member of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, said in a statement.
Augustus, who lived from 63 BC to 14 AD, is credited for bringing peace and stability to the Roman empire after the assassination of his great uncle, Julius Caesar. He avenged the death by defeating Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 AD.
His mausoleum, a circular structure 87 metres wide and 45 metres high, survived through the centuries as it was put to different uses,such as a garden and a theatre. In the early 20th century, a concert hall was built on top of the monument.
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, who saw himself as a modern-day emperor, had the concert hall destroyed in the 1930s as part of his grand designs to dig up the vestiges of Rome’s ancient civilization.After World War II, the site gradually fell into disrepair.
The monument has been closed for years and was often held up as an example of Italy’s inability to properly look after its vast heritage. The late heritage campaigner Antonio Cederna used to call it Rome’s “rotting tooth.”
It will be restored thanks to a 4.3-million-euro (4.7-million-dollar)public grant and a 6-million-donation from TIM, an Italian telecoms firm, in a deal that follows other private sponsorships benefiting the Trevi Fountain and other prime Roman landmarks.
Claudio Parisi Presicce, Rome’s chief superintendent for monuments,said restoration works carried out so far have led to fresh archaeological findings, including of a statue presumed to be of an empress from the Severan dynasty of the second to third century AD.
“We think there may be still other discoveries,” he said.
Rome’s city hall faced a barrage of criticism for failing to spruce up the monument in time for the 2,000th anniversary of Augustus’ death, which fell in 2014. It organized limited openings of the site,marred by flooding caused by a burst water pipe.