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date: 29 November 2020

Vaticanlocked

  • Bryan Ward-Perkins

Extract

Vatican, an extramural area of the city of Rome, on the right bank of the *Tiber around the mons Vaticanus. In the early empire the Vatican was the site of an imperial park (the horti Agrippinae); and of entertainment structures, the Naumachiae (see naumachia), where mock sea-battles were exhibited, and the Vatican *circus, where *Gaius(1) set up a great obelisk from Heliopolis and which was traditionally the site of the martyrdom of St Peter. There was also an important shrine of *Cybele (or the Magna Mater) attested in inscriptions; and along the two roads that crossed the area, the via Cornelia and the via Triumphalis, were cemeteries. A group of mausolea on the foot-slopes of the mons Vaticanus were excavated under St Peter's in the 1940s, and within this cemetery (directly under the high altar of St Peter's) was found a small 2nd-cent. shrine, marking the probable burial-site of Peter, apostle and first bishop of Rome.

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