Columbarium Pomponius Hylas – Underground Rome

Columbarium Pomponius Hylas, a perfectly preserved family tomb of the first century AD

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Half Day

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  • Columbarium Pomponius Hylas


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Reposing like in a dovecote

Discovered in 1831 by Pietro Campana, the Columbarium of Pomponius Hylas is a Roman columbarium of the first century, completely intact, located near Porta Latina on the Via Appia.

The columbarium is a special type of tomb widely used in Rome by those who couldn’t afford the luxury of a large tomb, but wanted that their ashes were still preserved in a decent way. So, they were given the opportunity of joining a funerary association that, through the payment of a sum, guaranteed the preservation of the ashes of the deceased in one of the many niches, purpose-built, of which the columbarium was provided. It is by the appearance of these semicircular niches and similar to the nests of pigeons, that the name of this type of tomb derives from.

The environment of the columbarium is carved into the rock: the style of the decoration and inscriptions allows to ascribe this remake to the Flavian age: the original building and the rest of the decor are therefore more ancient. Some inscriptions are of the Julio-Claudian period, the years between Tiberius and Nero.

On the wall in front of the access staircase there is a mosaic and the names of both spouses, Pomponio Hylas and his wife. Under the inscription two griffins with a harp are represented. After the staircase on the right there is the underground environment, here there are frescoes depicting grape vines, birds and cupids. In the aedicule in the apse, consisting of two columns, ornament and tympanum, are represented two characters, Granius Nestor and Vinileia Hedone, which are thought to be the founders of the tomb. In the tympanum of the aedicule is depicted a naked young man, identified with Dionysus.


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