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Vatican City is a special location. The city is surrounded by the larger region of Rome, Italy, which serves as both the nation and the seat of the Catholic Church. Within the walled city itself, as new construction projects are undertaken, a wealth of ancient history that has been unearthed over time is layered atop monumental architecture created by Renaissance and medieval architects. A necropolis, or ancient city of the dead, was one of these discoveries; its vast extent has since been made known. As of November 2023, the public can visit the ancient buildings that once flanked the Via Triumphalis, which is covered in sarcophagi and mosaics. 

The city walls of ancient Rome forbade the burial or cremation of deceased people's bodies. Thus, a number of necropolis—where the ancients were buried—formed on the outskirts of the city. Numerous rest in modest mausoleum buildings arranged along Rome's famous thoroughfares, such as the Via Triumphalis. The 10,764-square-foot necropolis, which is currently officially part of Vatican City, is located along this road. The Saint Rose Gate allows visitors to enter the Vatican's walls. The remains of the necropolis are then accessible for exploration via a network of ramps and paths that lead through the ruins that were long ago preserved from a mudslide. This exhibit is called Life and Death in the Rome of the Caesars.

Numerous mosaics with geometric patterns and Roman god motifs are on display. One gets a sense of the complete structures that formerly stood thanks to niches and arches. There are even frescoes that adorn the final resting places for all time. Between the first and the fourth centuries CE, the deceased were interred. Some uncovered skeletons and sarcophagi are still present. Funeral stelae provide insight into the daily lives of these individuals. A "saltuarius," who maintained woodlands, and the manager of a Pompeii theatre are buried with them.

Giandomenico Spinola, the deputy artistic-scientific director of the Vatican Museums, says, "We begin to learn about people we did not know, particularly about rituals that seem more related to family, neighbourhood, town, or personal traditions than to official religion." The majority of the graves are attributed to "slaves [of Emperor Nero], freedmen, [and] artisans of the city of Rome," according to Leonardo Di Blasi, archaeologist of the Vatican Museum's Ancient Greek and Roman section. This makes the exhibit an intriguing look into the social structure and religious background of Roman burials. 

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