A view of the Mausoleum of Augustus in Rome during a special opening for the press, Tuesday May 2, 2017. (Ettore Ferrari/ANSA via AP)
Ancient Roman monument-turned-eyesore gets needed makeover
May 09, 2017
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The mausoleum of Emperor Augustus was a towering monument. That was in 28 B.C. Now the decrepit eyesore in Rome's historic center is being restored. The work is a $10.9 million public-private facelift and is expected to be completed in 2019.
The structure is located along the Tiber River. It is made up of circular, vaulted corridors with the sepulcher in the center. It has been covered with trees, weeds and garbage and closed to the public since the 1970s because of safety concerns.
Its restoration is being financed by the city of Rome, the culture ministry and a donation from the TIM phone company.
On May 1, Mayor Virginia Raggi donned a protective helmet and paid a visit.
"I hope the mausoleum will be given back as soon as possible to the people," she said.
Augustus had the mausoleum built for himself and the imperial family. It also houses the bones and ash of Emperors Vespasian, Nero and Tiberius, each indicated with a marble plaque.
The structure was originally 295 feet in diameter and 147 feet high. It originally featured a bronze sculpture of Augustus on the roof. Its location is a stone's throw from the Tiber, giving it maximum visibility around the city of Rome.
Over the centuries it was used as a fortress, for bullfights and for concerts. Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini restored the area, eager to revive Roman imperial glory. He built a square piazza around it called Piazza Augusto Imperatore. Today it houses upscale restaurants and shops.
But the mausoleum itself was shut down in the 1930s. Since then, it's been fenced off. It has been left in disrepair.
In the first phase of the restoration, workers cleaned out the garbage. They cut back the trees and weeds that grew up inside. Phase two involves installing electricity and a cover.
The restored mausoleum will have an adjoining museum, elevators and a shop. It will be a convenient stop alongside the nearby Ara Pacis altar. It received a protective covering. This was a decade ago.
Augustus was 35 when he had the mausoleum built. It was shortly after his victory in the naval Battle of Actium. That is where he defeated the fleets of Antony and Cleopatra. The victories consolidated his power and made him the undisputed leader of the Roman Empire.
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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
The mausoleum is very old. Why is it still standing?
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