LA TOMBA DI CICERONESS7, 04023 Cicerone, Formia LT, Italia
Cicero’s Tomb is one of the most significant monuments of the town of Formia and it is situated along the Appian way direction Rome (km. 139). The mausoleum dates back to the Augustan Age and the attribution of the burial site to Cicero still remains incertain today, even if some clues would confirm this hypothesis. One among these is the presence of one of his great villas in the area , the massive dimensions of the funeral monument and the fact that in 43 b.C. Cicerone died there.
Cicero’s Tomb is 24 meters high overall; it’s composed by a square base 18 meters each side, surmounted by a cylindrical tower stone rings, covered with marble slabs. The function of this tower was most likely just to increase the size and visibility of the monument. Inside the big square base there is a large circular funeral cell, covered by a ring vault and surrounded by six perimetral niches.
A stone pylon is also located at the center of the cell. The tower, instead, is composed by one high vault which stands on a pillar. This would have been the natural extension of the pylon set below supporting all the entire structure. The surrounding area, adds further impressiveness to the monument which is already 24 metres tall. This squared space has actually the Appia side 80 metres long and 70 metres deep with two side doors still visible today; the visitor remains fascinated by the massiveness of the Tomb that, initially, had a squared first floor and a cylindrical second floor . The west side door is currently well preserved and contains a particular “Hellenic” beauty as it appears in two published photos. The east side door instead, even it is complete in the elements , was not recomposed ? the ’50s – ’60s when the global area has been restored. The architrave was found in more pieces and for this reason it was not possible to reproduce the original placement of the gate. The last three photos show the actual position of the east gate with its scattered parts on a perimeter wall “opus incertum” mostly rebuilt during a restoration already mentioned. From the Appia way , if you look carefully , you can see a stretch of paved road with limestone slabs, more than two meters wide, that seems to point towards Vindicio’s coast.
We can generally say that the fencing wall of the area surrounding the Sepulcher of Cicerone was quite intact and this gives further charm to Formia’s Mausoleum; built for the greatest orator and solicitor of all times.
Ciceone’s Mausoleum, called also Cicerone’s Tomb, dates back to the Augustan age and is located on the outskirts , in a so called “Acervara” area, right along the Appia way, this last one giving celebrity to the town itself.
Cicerone’s Mausoleum is marked from a grid wall 3 meters wide, refined with a corrugated limestone; it is certainly, one of the most important archeological complexes in the area.
The tower has a circular shape and it stands upon two sets of stone steps, on which is laid a square cemented stone 50 feet high , with its external facade made of limestone blocks. Once, the tower was covered in marble and was about 24 meters high. The interior part , as the tower, has a circular plan too: it was divided into five areas where there were supposed to be some statues and other objects.
It’s still uncertain that Cicerone’s Mausoleum was the real place where the greatest Roman orator was buried. Certainly, this is where Cicerone died in 43 B.C by Mark Antony’s act of revenge and will.
It was in Formia that Cicerone loved spending most of his time, in the luxurious villa in Vindicio. This is how an archaeological site on a private property became accessible to the whole world. Another speculation identifies Cicero’s domus in the current Villa Rubino also set in Formia. Until 1938, Cicero’s Tomb was accessible to all private citizens of our territory. The history of the public acquisition of this extraordinary site, although accompanied by numerous documents, is quite complex and should be told in two parts to make it easier to read. It all started in 1887, when the mayor of Formia, Pasquale Spina, commissioned to the engineer Erasmo Giannattasio to evaluate the site, including the entire surrounding burial area, in order to purchase it from the real owner. At that time, an attempt to put it on sale was made to convince Mr Erasmo Scarpato, Mr Antonio Scarpato’s son, who lived in Formia owner of the land surrounding the area of Cicero’s Tomb located in the district of “Vendice”. Mr .Erasmo Giannattasio’s report valued the entire complex at 5,840 lire, which, however, was not considered congruous by the owner Erasmo Scarpato. Actually in the dossier a property belonging to the brothers Erasmo and Giovanni Scarpato, both citizens of Formia, it’s mentioned . In another documents, however, the property is only referred to Erasmo Scarpato. Therefore the negotiations stopped just for a while and they only carried on in 1896 when Mr. Pasquale Occagna, Erasmo Scarpato’s lawyer, in a letter dated 12th July 1896, tried to reopen the question of transferring the property to the municipality of Formia, at the same time asking for an appropriate increase to the original offer. Pasquale Occagna’s letter was not followed up for a number of reasons: other mayors had taken over from Pasquale Spina but they did not deal with the problem much, partly because of the war, and so it was not until 1930 that the mayor Felice Tonetti, thanks to his friendship with the Director of the Archaeological Museum of Naples, Amedeo Maiuri, took a series of ventures that led directly to an expropriation procedure for the land concerned, which in the meantime had passed to other successors. In particular the Mausoleum (part 126) became property of Mr.Di Crasto Cosmo, Salvatore Di Crasto’s son , while the surrounding funeral area, divided into various other areas, belonged to other Gaetan citizens.
The entire property was used as vegetable garden , while the inside of the funeral structure was used as stable for the harness animals used as means of transport for the Gaeta- Formia route .
But I will speak about this in the second part full of further documents preserved in the Historical Archives of Formia, which only recently has been reordered chronologically and set up in files by Mrs Noemi Adipietro.
This helped me in research , despite my previous and difficult approach.
What determined an important and decisive turning point of the expropriation of the lands in the area of Cicero’s Tomb was an article on the Giornale d’Italia(Italian Review) of the 30 th August 1934 .
In this article there was an unbelievable piece of news for the entire world: in the area around Cicero’s sepulcher there was usually a donkey during the day !
The next day, the 31st of August 1934, Amedeo Maiuri told his friend Tonetti that the expropriation of all the interested area around the tomb would immediately start and in conclusion, jokingly referring to Felice Tonetti, mayor of Formia said : “in the meantime take care of…… the braying of the donkey.”
I have published, in two articles, twenty-six documents on this expropriation affair. I would invite you to read them all. You can perceive an extraordinary euphoria for this operation, necessary to show up to everyone that, thanks to people like Mr.Amedeo Maiuri- Mr Felice Tonetti-Mr. Mario Di Fava- and Mr Pietro Fedele(I’ve mentioned all), everything would be done quickly and Cicero’s sepulcher would be showed off to many tourists and scholars.
The entire expropriation process, with the numerous actions brought by the interested parties, ran out in about three years and ended the 30th of August 1938, by the juridical approval of the municipality of Formia signed by the mayor Tito Rubino (picture 3) that a few months earlier had replaced Felice Tonetti.
This one was the real architect of this result, deeply fond to his town.
To the Minister Pietro Fedele who wrote “…………. the Tomb of Cicero, which is certainly not Cicero’s, we must talk about it …… “, he replied: “The Tomb of Cicero, which is certainly not Cicero’s, is the tomb of the greatest orator of all time. he replied in writing:
“….. and as not being Cicero’s Tomb, we will talk about it again; …… you will tell me how many more arguments prove that the so-called Tomb of Vergil is indeed the Tomb of Vergil.
Mind you, for me the Tomb of Vergil is your own, as long as you are kind to us as regards that of Cicero, OK? In any case, many affectionate greetings and we’ll talk again about it. Your Felice Tonetti”.
In another document, Mario Di Fava also wrote:
“As for the Tomb of Cicero in Formia, as well for the Tomb of Virgil in Naples, many archaeologists advance their orthodox doubts….
The epigraphic title is missing – they say – and one should be wary of legends …….
It could be argued that we had to preserve all the anepigraphic tombs of the ancient times, we might also make speculations of the Mole Adriana’.
The Mole Adriana in Rome is the Castel S. Angelo on the bank of the Tiber.
Returning to the expropriation, which had a total cost of 20,000 lire, of 10,000 lire of which paid by the Municipality of Formia, it engaged the owners of single parcels:
– Di Crasto Cosmo Salvatore’s son
– Perrone Giuseppe
– D’Accone Antonio Luigi’s son
– D’Accone Salvatore – Pasquale Erasmantonio’s son
– Uttaro Antonio, Salvatore’s son
– Uttaro Antonio , Agostino, Francesco, and Filippo brothers Salvatore’s sons
– Uttaro Agostino Salvatore’s son
– Uttaro Francesco, Salvatore’s son
I will talk about Perrone Giuseppe Salvatore’s son in a future article because one of his sons wrote directly a three-page letter to the Duce Benito Mussolini, asking to apply guardian of the Tomb of Cicero in Formia, owned by his father before being sold to Mr. Di Crasto Cosmo.
The report on the expropriation drawn up by the Honorary Inspector of Formia , Mario Di Fava, ends thus:
” …… an American journalist ……..published in the Chicago Tribune an article in five columns entitled : A mule inhabits the Tomb of the famous Orator.
The Regime immediately put an end to the smut. The monument whose expropriation has been decreed, will be visited in the Bimillenary Augusteo by the pilgrims of the Roman world. They will not find there reconstructions more or less guessed and wise, but decorum, silence and an austere green frame.
Acknowledges are due to Dr. Noemi Adipietro for her work of arrangement and digitization of an incredible number of documents related only to this specific topic of expropriation.