Cagliari Turismo, the tourist portal of the City of Cagliari
This element belongs to the categories: Archaeological areas
On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm.
Closed on December 25th and January 1st.
In order to ensure the respect of social distancing measures, we recommend to book your visit in advance.
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Full price ticket: €1,00
Free for children under 6 years old, people with disabilities and their carers.
The Viper's Cave is a funerary hypogeum located in Viale Sant'Avendrace. It was built by the Roman Lucio Cassio Filippo in honour of his wife, Atilia Pomptilla, between the second half of the first century AD and the first half of the second century AD. The presence of two snakes carved on the pediment, which has had various interpretations by scholars, gave the name to the site: among the various interpretations, they would represent the divine figures of Iside and Osiride, according to others they would represent Lucio Cassio Filippo and Atilia Pomptilla and their conjugal devotion; some scholars, finally, find an analogy with the myth of Cadmo and Armonia. The tomb is decorated on the outside by a facade with two columns (of which one capital is still visible) and it has two burial chambers. On the atrium's walls there is the engraving, now barely legible, of the Latin and Greek metric inscriptions, through which it is possible to recreate the story of the two spouses exiled to Sardinia, according to which Atilia offered his own life to the gods in exchange to that of her beloved husband, who was suffering from a serious illness. The scholar Alberto Della Marmora, during the construction of the Royal Road Cagliari-Porto Torres, in 1822, prevented the destruction of this monument (you can still see the holes in the rock wall for the mines, which remained unused ).
The general, in his “Itinerario dell’isola di Sardegna”, wrote about this monument:
“This tomb ( the Viper's Cave ) is no longer in its original state of integrity, because for a long time it had been digging around, to extract from the rock the cut stone, which here is of good quality. I can say, without boasting too much, that in 1822, I stopped the destructive hand of the works supervisors. They had already wiped off a grave nearby and they would have done the same with the other, if I did not make intervene the authority of the viceroy to prevent the complete destruction.“
(A. Della Marmora , Itinéraire de l'Ile de Sardaigne, Torino 1860).
Thanks to this prompt intervention, nowadays the access to the Viper's Cave is open to the public, who can visit the tomb accessing from the outside courtyard .